Teaching this Semester

Created and Called

This semester, for the first time in my eighteen-year career at Messiah College, I will not be teaching any history courses.  Instead, I will be teaching three sections of a required first-year seminar titled “Created and Called for Community.”  This course, which uses a common syllabus, is designed to introduce a Messiah College liberal arts education to first-year students.  It focuses on the writing, close reading of texts, biblical and theological reflection on human dignity and community, and the meaning of Christian vocation.

I will be teaching these texts:

Stanley Hauerwas, “Go With God

John Henry Newman, “What is a University?

Ernest L. Boyer, “Retaining the Legacy of Messiah College

Genesis 1-2

James Weldon Johnson, “The Creation

Bruce Birch, “The Image of God

J.R.R. Tolkien, “Leaf by Niggle

Alice Walker, “In Search of our Mothers’ Gardens

Exodus 19-20

Matthew 5-7

 Acts 1-4

Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed

Harold Bender, The Anabaptist Vision (excerpt)

Alabama Clergyman, “A Call for Unity” and Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Robert Putnam, “Bowling Alone

Augustine, Confessions (excerpts)

Robert Frost, “Mending Wall

Luke 10:25-37

2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Desmond Tutu, “God Believes in Us

Plato, “The Allegory of the Cave” (excerpt)

Albert Schweitzer, “I Resolve to Become a Jungle Doctor

Henri Nouwen, “Adam’s Peace

Jerry Sittser, “Distinguishing Between Calling and Career

Jerry Sittser, “What We’re Supposed to Do”

Dorothy Sayers, “Why Work?

I will probably blog about these texts as the semester moves forward.  Feel free to read or follow along.

More On Trump and the Apostles Creed

Several evangelicals, of various political persuasions, have weighed in.

On the court evangelical side:

Robert Jeffress spoke to the Huffington Post:

Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas Church in Texas and another one of Trump’s evangelical supporters, told HuffPost in an email that he’s heard Trump recite the Lord’s Prayer at a White House dinner and sing a Christian hymn at Billy Graham’s funeral. The criticism over the president’s failure to recite the Apostles’ Creed was a “manufactured controversy” created by “perennial Trump haters” who want to insert a wedge between the president and “his unshakable evangelical base,” Jeffress said.

The pastor said that there are times he doesn’t recite the scriptures or sing hymns in his own church because he’s distracted.

“I imagine the leader of the free world has a few things on his mind, as well!” Jeffress wrote.

In addition, Jeffress said that Trump’s actions are ultimately what matter the most, citing a Bible verse that states that faith without works or actions is dead.

“Historic Christianity teaches that it is not the words of a creed we mouth that make us a Christian, but the faith in Christ we embrace,” Jeffress wrote. “By his works, President Trump has become the most faith-friendly president in history.”  

And here is progressive Christian Rachel Held Evans:

And others of note:

In Defense of Trump on the Apostles Creed

Trump creed

Patrick Nugent, a self-described “liberal evangelical” in the Quaker tradition, thinks Trump did the right thing by not reciting the Apostles Creed at the George H.W. Bush funeral.  Here is a taste of his piece at The Washington Post:

The Apostles’ Creed is not just a prayer one can or should recite out of courtesy for the sake of show, good manners or good taste.

The Creed — or any Christian creed — is a statement of belief and a public commitment to very specific, carefully enumerated theological doctrines. It is not a bland, generic greeting-card prayer addressing an impersonal creator, a “force,” “the universe” or “the spirit of goodness” that could conceivably be uttered by anybody of any religious perspective or none at all.

I admit entirely that the Trumps’ abstention could well have been motivated by cluelessness, inattention, bad taste, bad manners, unfamiliarity, distraction or any number of other things. But the bottom line is that they abstained from reciting aloud, in public, a personal commitment to the truth of very specific, classic, ancient Christian doctrines.

The president participated in a public ceremony in his capacity as head of state, not as a Presbyterian (which is how he has identified himself). As such, he has no obligation to declare those theological truths, or any others, aloud in public. In fact, I’d suggest, he has an obligation not to do so if he disagrees with any of them, or all of them, or doesn’t especially care, or isn’t sure, or doesn’t understand — or just thinks the president should be theologically neutral in public.

Read the entire piece here.  What do you think?

Frankly, I think Nugent thinks more highly about Trump’s theological and ecclesiastical astuteness than I  do.