Spotlight: Integrative Theological Education

11.10.2020  |  Season 2  |  Episode 6



SHOW NOTES

In this episode, three of the Foreword hosts (Dr. James Arcadi, Dr. Josh Jipp, and Dr. Michelle Knight) are joined by Dr. Greg Forster, Visiting Assistant Professor of Faith and Culture here at Trinity Graduate School and Director of the Oikonomia Network at the Center for Transformational Churches.

The hosts and Dr. Forster share their thoughts on how to integrate other disciplines and sub-disciplines into their research and teaching. Be sure to tune into this rich conversation!

But first, you can catch Josh’s thoughts about what sort of sportsman the Apostle Paul would be…

Transcript

[THEME MUSIC BEGINS]

 

Intro
[00:00:00] You’re listening to Foreword, a podcast from faculty at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, hosted by Michelle Knight, Josh Jipp, Madison Pierce, and James Arcadi. Foreword invites listeners into the mission of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School through conversations with faculty, staff, and guests.

James Arcadi
Welcome to Foreword: A TEDS Faculty Podcast. I’m James Arcadi.

Michelle Knight
I’m Michelle Knight.

Josh Jipp
And I’m Josh Jipp.

Arcadi
Today’s episode is sort of a special and unique one for us. We’re…instead of our…our sort of typical faculty interview format, we’re going to have a conversation among peers—among friends—uh, trying to think together about the theme of integrative theological pedagogy. That’s kind of a mouthful, but we’re really just trying to think about, how do we, as the seminary, educate for the whole person, for the whole truth, and for the whole world, and doing this in such a fashion that it actually brings together all of the disciplines and expertises that we have on…on our campus. And…and in order to do that, we’re…we’re excited to have with us Dr. Greg Forster with us. Uh, Dr. Forster directs the Oikonomia Network in the Center for Transformational Churches here at…at Trinity, and he’s done really a lot of work on this kind of integrative question, and so he’s going to kind of help us think about things, and I’m really kind of…I’m really excited about uh, this conversation that we’re going to have.

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But before we get to that conversation, I did have an integrative question of sorts that I’m really hoping that Dr. Jipp can help us out with.

Jipp
Me? Oh.

Arcadi
Dr. Knight—Michelle—I know, yeah, I…it’s just that Michelle, we don’t—we often co-host together. It’s not often that I get—

Knight
Mmm. No, I totally get that.

Arcadi
—a real, you know—

Jipp
Mmm. I feel like you’re going to…you’re coming to get me, James.

Arcadi
—real…the real Josh Jipp—

Knight
I’m very excited.

Arcadi
—No, this is…I think this is right up your alley!—

Jipp
Alright.

Arcadi
—No, this is right up your—I hope so…it’s right up your alley. So, it’s—

Knight
But mostly I’m sad, because, like, Dr. Pierce couldn’t be here today, so I’m like, really sad she’s not going to get to, like, observe this whole phenomenon. I can’t wait.

Jipp
[LAUGHS] She can always watch it later.—

Arcadi
She can…she can listen to the podcast! [JIPP LAUGHS]

Knight
She’ll listen later. She’ll listen later.

Arcadi
So…so Josh, this is a question at the intersection of…of New Testament, um…ancient ethics—which I think you’re working on right now—

Jipp
Okay.

Arcadi
—and baseball.

Jipp
Oh, nice!

Knight
There it is. [LAUGHS]

Arcadi
So…so my question is—

Jipp
Yeah.

Arcadi
—suppose the Apostle Paul were a pitcher—

Jipp
Okay.

Arcadi
—or a pitching coach, and suppose he were facing a batter who was really crowding the plate.

Jipp
Oh, yeah.

Arcadi
Would the Apostle Paul throw inside to instill fear in that batter?

Jipp
Oh, absolutely he would.—

Arcadi
Absolutely!

Jipp
—He would throw high and tight. Um, not to…not to like, damage the guy, [KNIGHT LAUGHS] you know, or…or anything, but just to like—Paul…Paul is totally fine using fear in order…as…as long as it, you know, works towards the right end.—

Arcadi
In a pragmatic sense, though.

Jipp
—And, so yeah, I think he would…I think he would throw it high and tight, and then probably come back, you know, with a…a fastball on the, you know, low end outside for, you know, strike three or something.

Arcadi
So you think Paul would actually be loving his batter neighbor by throwing at him?

Jipp
Well, if you’re in a contest, I mean…he wants…Paul wants to win, right? [KNIGHT LAUGHS] He seems like a winner!

Arcadi
I don’t know. Is that what he says a lot in his epistles; “I’m here to win”?

Jipp
[LAUGHS] He says he “buffets his body,” right, so that he’s not going to be disqualified. That’s the…that’s…that’s the kind of, like, training of a man that is not going to lose. Um, and so, yeah! I think…I think Paul’s definitely a winner.

Knight
Cut-throat.

Arcadi
That’s a guy that throws inside.

Jipp
Yeah, if he needs to. If he needs to.—

Arcadi
Hmm. If he…if he needs to, huh?

Jipp
—He’s…he’s going to come high and tight. A little chin music. I throw at my kids once in a while if I think, like…[LAUGHTER] just like, you need to, um…you know they’re…they’re…well, I won’t go into all the details but, you know, it’s…it’s—

Knight
Parenting lessons with Dr. Josh Jipp.

Jipp
—it’s part of training them to be better baseball players—

Knight
Yeah. Hmm.

Jipp
—and I’ll…you know. So, if I would do it, certainly Paul would.

Arcadi
Oh! Is…is that how we do—

Knight
Oh! Yeah!

Arcadi
—is that how we do exegesis? [LAUGHTER]

Knight
Oh…that’s…you’re never gonna live that down.

Jipp
Yeah.

Arcadi
We’ll…we’ll see. We’ll see how…how much Paul actually creates a hospitable environment for the batters in the batter’s box. Maybe he’s not—

Jipp
Ooh. Okay. Paul is a chameleon. He can do different things at different times, depending upon the situation, as long as it’s for the glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And, in one instance, it might be high and tight, and in another instance it might be turning strangers into friends and family. Just depends on the situation.

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Knight
Wow…wow.

Arcadi
I’ll keep that in mind.

Jipp
Would you agree, Michelle?

Knight
Hospitality. I’m glad we got that back in there. [JIPP LAUGHS] Full circle.

Arcadi
Full circle.

Knight
That’s good.

Arcadi
I don’t know. We’ll see. It’s an interesting…interesting point. We’ll see if…if, you know, if in the afterlife, there is a heavenly baseball team—

Jipp
Yeah.

Arcadi
—what…what the Apostle Paul would actually…would actually do.

Jipp
I know, right?

Knight
Wow.

Jipp
Let’s…let’s just all make sure we persevere until the end so we can find out.

Knight
Can’t wait.

Arcadi
[LAUGHS] Amen. [LAUGHTER] Well, we may not have this ethical dilemma come up in our conversation, but…but we’ll have some conversation regarding our integrative theological pedagogy and we’re really excited for you to listen along with us.

[THEME MUSIC ENDS]

Arcadi
[00:05:51] Well welcome to Foreword: A TEDS Faculty Podcast. We are so excited to have Greg Forster with us today, with Michelle, and Josh, and myself, thinking about this issue of integrative theological pedagogy—sort of, how do we think about the task that we are engaging in, on the seminary campus, in the seminary curriculum, and bringing together all aspects of theological reflection, or even aspects of learning in…in general. And, so I thought I might just kind of start off asking the two biblical scholars in the room—Michelle in Old Testament; Josh in New Testament. Like, when I kind of think about biblical studies, I sort of think about that as, by nature, an integrative discipline, or an integrative sub-discipline. Do you think about it that way? Do you think about your relationship to biblical studies as akin to a historian, or a literary theorist, or a theologian, or a philosopher, or sort of, how do you think about the task of biblical studies as an integrative enterprise? Maybe Michelle, just, since you’re Old Testament, we ought to start with you, right?

Knight
Yeah, I’ll take that. I mean, you made a helpful distinction between how my discipline generally conducts itself and how I conduct myself within that discipline, so those are questions that I would answer differently. I mean, historically, biblical studies has done everything it possibly can to distinguish itself as a historical discipline over-against a theological discipline. And so, what ends up being interesting in biblical studies, whereas there are a lot of places where we’d say, “Well, theology and biblical studies are very close,” in some ways, biblical studies is trying to do what it can to…to shed that—or was, at least, in the 20th century, I would say. Maybe Josh, you can speak to whether that’s true in New Testament studies to the same degree. I think a lot of, um, Old Testament scholars still see their tasks to be primarily historical, just because the…the cultural landscape of the Old Testament is so distinct from our own, that a lot of Old Testament scholars see their role to be providing that historical context to aid in the interpretive endeavor. My, uh, inclination and my own skill set and my own interest within my discipline—perhaps sub-sub discipline, depending on what we’re calling “disciplines” at this point. I am a literary theorist at heart, and so I am borrowing from the historian’s handback, but from that of literary analysis and literary studies and narrative criticism and those sorts of tools. And so, I occasionally will sit down with an english professor and see more in common with them than with some of my colleagues that are doing something super different in Old Testament studies. That being the case, I mean, there’s also a lot of integration with the social sciences. Particularly at the end of the 20th century, there was a push toward that, in both archeology and Old Testament studies proper, and so I think that there is integration at every turn, whether it’s with history, historical studies broadly of the German variety or otherwise, or some of these other disciplines. But, I think that within the theological academy in particular, we have some room to be reconsidering, perhaps, given what’s happened in the last century, how we can do something truly integrative.

Arcadi
That’s fascinating. Josh, New Testament? Yeah.—

Jipp
Yeah, I would…I…I mean, probably pretty similar to what Michelle said. I certainly…New Testament studies has the same kind of pedigree in terms of the lore of the discipline coming out of Germany and France that really emphasizes, “This is a disinterested, historical task that maybe we can do our work and then give it to the theologians,” and then there’s even a pushback, saying, like, “You shouldn’t even think about that. You’ll contaminate the results.” And so, even if you hope to give, you know, your results to theologians, that’s going to be problematic. This should…you know, the…so much emphasis on history that at times, it can be looked at in a way that there’s a lot of shock value—

Knight
Yeah

Jipp
—so it’s unusable, you know, almost for the church. But, I would say, yeah, there’s—and Michelle, talking about like, literary turn in biblical studies, I still think…I think as people still consider themselves to be historians as biblical scholars—or at least needing to be familiar with that—most are…or many, at least, would, um…would speak to the value of literary theory and narrative analysis and so forth. Within the last 30 or 40 years, though, I think there’s been a lot of proliferation in terms of questions and different methods that are intentionally integrative. So sometimes, people might refer to those as ideological, or they might refer to them as integrative, or they might refer to those as methods that, you know, take our social-locatedness more seriously. And there’s so much there—I won’t try to get into that—but it does at minimum, for a theological institution, I think allow us to also look at different disciplines, or contemporary questions we might have, and…and ask those questions, and then say, “Can the bible help us? Is the bible a resource? Does the bible show the same sort of questions that we might be seeing pop up in sociology?” Or even if we just open our eyes and just look and see, you know, what’s…what’s going on in the world.

Arcadi
Yeah.

Jipp
So…so much of this depends on how the individual professor or scholar, I think, imagines herself in terms of, what his or her vocation is, but, um, there’s certainly plenty of space to be integrative these days, it seems.

Arcadi
[00:11:39] No that…that’s really interesting. And Greg, I’m kind of curious, both Michelle and…and Josh refer to sort of some historical trends in, you know, how one perceives biblical studies or other areas. So, you know, gross oversimplification here, but one narrative one might put out there is that, at one point in the West—maybe in the medieval period—there was this grand integration of all learning, and then modernity came around and shattered everything, and fragmented all of these things in these various discrete areas of study, and maybe we’re now just barely kind of trying to put the pieces together. That’s obviously a gross oversimplification, but do you see some truth in that, in some of these subdisciplines, or how might you sort of see the ways in which they talked about, “At one point, it was kind of like this, but maybe now we’re seeing some different…different approaches to doing integrative biblical/theological studies”?

Greg Forster
Well I will join you in shamelessly over-simplifying. As I like to say, “If you go down to the paint store, you will discover that they do sell broad brushes,” [LAUGHTER] “because they have a legitimate use.” Um, so with that caveat in place, one thing I think that’s important to recognize is that “modernity” is not an exogenous force that comes in from the outside and smashes what was a perfectly self-sustaining, perfectly harmonious, you know, harmonization that could have continued until infinity, if only this evil, nefarious force called “modernity” had not, you know, descended from Mars or something. Right?

Arcadi
Yeah.

Forster
My initial training is in social science, so I’m always looking for the endogenous cause; “Where did this begin within the system?” And if you look, you’ll discover that the…the disintegrating factors in modernity have roots in medieval theological and philosophical thought, and in developments that have nothing to do with intellectual trends whatsoever. But that…so with that caveat in place, there’s definitely a…a key shift from the premodern to the postmodern world, and the fragmentation of knowledge is a key marker of the shift into the modern, as opposed to the premodern, way of organizing our lives. It’s a way of organizing knowledge. My friend Paul Williams, who has a…a really good book out called Exiles on Mission, which is about sort of being Christian in the modern world. He once referred to this as the “Weberian rationalization of the academy.” Uh, sort of Max Weber—

Arcadi
Whoa. [LAUGHS]

Forster
—and see, and I grabbed that because…and I quote that because it’s very useful. Max Weber was a sociologist who looked at how factories worked, and he talked about how the…the division of labor on a factory line changes the nature of the work and changes the way it affects people, and in the long run, changes social organization as a whole. Now, Max Weber got a lot of particular things wrong—and I’m not here saying Max Weber got everything right—but thinking about how the division of labor affects our ability to see synoptically, when we’ve been kind of siloed, is really helpful. And the…the 18th and especially 19th century changes in the academy, that emphasized a sort of “divide and conquer,” “division of labor,” “each…each discipline gets to do its own thing,” that’s…I mean, you…you…Josh, you referred to anxieties that we might taint the scholarship if we think too much about what happens down the line, when people use the knowledge we produce. That’s the “Weberian rationalization,” right? “Stick”—on the assembly line, we need to think of it in, like, you know, “Stick to your position on the assembly line, and if you start to meddle with somebody else’s position,” you know, “in the line, the line will be disrupted, and you can’t have that,” right? “You’ve got to have your thing and stick to it.” Um, one thing that really stood out to me listening to the two of you speak is that each discipline tends to have its own narrative for what integration means and how we do it.

Knight
Yeah

Forster
It’s a positive sign, now, as we’re kind of coming out the other end of the…of the “Weberian moment,” if I could call—this is all unfair to Weber because he…he didn’t like this dynamic, right? He observed it. He wasn’t advocating it, right? But as we come out the other end of this, and we start to aspire to integration, it’s a positive development that nowadays each discipline is thinking about integration. On the other hand, each discipline’s thinking about it differently.

Knight
Yeah.

Forster
So for example, systematic theology—

Arcadi
Yeah.

Forster
—thinks of itself as an integrative discipline, but has a very different narrative about what “integration” is, and how we do it, and there are some touch points to the literary theory that you were mentioning, if we’re talking about hermeneutic theology—

Knight
Sure.

Forster
—as distinct from analytic theology, but the whole question of how you hold hermeneutics and analytics together is itself a…a perplexing problem for…for systematic theology.

Arcadi
Yeah.

Forster
Uh, so we’re…and we’re thinking about it sort of in systematic theology, using different language. And Josh, you referred to the “lore” of the discipline, right? We’ve got our own lore of the—

Jipp
Yeah.

Forster
—So on the one hand, I’m encouraged that everybody—or, “everybody”—you know, many, many people are now concerned about integration. On the other hand, we talk about integration in different languages and we have different narratives and different conceptual tools for doing it, so it just kind of reminds you what a long…what a long path we still have to go.

Jipp
Yeah.

Arcadi
[00:17:07] Well and I’m kind of curious about the point you bring up there, Greg, and…and not to like, you know, “indict” the seminary or anything, like, my…our…our point here is to kind of just think critically about what we’re doing, but I…I kind of wonder if we have this sort of, like, sometimes an “assembly line” perspective on even something like the MDiv. I mean, I sort of imagine in my own sort of area, I think, well, you know, “A student comes to…to study an MDiv and I send them off to Josh to learn their Greek and their New Testament, and they get sent off to Michelle to do some Old Testament. We send them off to the church history department to do some church history. They come to me for some theology, and then we send them off to the…the practical area to learn how to preach, or what have you. And, I mean, I don’t know. Have we…have we been conceiving the seminary as an assembly line?

Jipp
Part of that too, James—I think that’s interesting is, you know, we all do our work to pass, you know, the students off to the theologians—the “queen” of the sciences [KNIGHT LAUGHS]. But, how many in New Testament or Old Testament are going to let a theologian teach a course on Genesis—

Arcadi
Yeah.

Jipp
—or, you know, a course on Pauline Theology, then…right? Then our…then our discipline, you know, then our disciplinary instincts, at least, right, start to get really…you know, really nervous.

Knight
Yeah. Well, and I have to admit, James, I can think of, like, four different lectures—you know this because I’ve clued you into this—but I can think of, like, four different lectures where a student asked a question and I’m like, “That’s a really great question! This is what the text says, and that’s my job.” [ARCADI LAUGHS] “If you have that question, you should ask Dr. Arcadi about that.” Um, partially, not because I’m dedicated to these disciplinary, you know, lines, but the fact is, we’ve all been educated according to these disciplinary silos. So there’s also the fact that I am luckily rubbing shoulders with people who are growing my ability daily to be able to talk about these things, but I am not equipped to answer some of these questions because of the disciplinary fractures that exist in the academy. In fact, my—luckily, my education is less fractured than some because of where I studied—but…but there are just certain questions that I don’t have the historical…uh, the historical perspective, let alone kind of the systematic/analytical tools to express very well. And so, I guess, I’m just…I’m indicting myself a little bit, I suppose.

Forster
Well and, you know, to deepen the bill of indictment—before I say a few nice words about the seminary [KNIGHT LAUGHS]—

Arcadi
Uh oh.

Forster
—even the…the process of writing a PhD emphasizes a hyperspecialization, right?

Knight
Yeah.

Forster
Your professional qualification to enter academic work is the narrowest possible, you know, it really hammers you to…to specialize in something extremely narrow. Now, I’ll say two nice things about the seminary, because we all love the seminary and think the seminary’s indispensable, and that’s why we’re talking about, “How can we do better?”

Arcadi
Yeah.

Forster
Because honestly, there’s no alternative. Somebody… a friend of mine recently said, “You know, if all of the seminaries disappeared tomorrow, we would have to invent them again.” Because there…there needs to be some way to steward the theological knowledge tradition and to train people to be theological representatives and…and practitioners. So, we…it’s not going away, although it may change to any extent. So, two nice things I want to say about the seminary—one is, the division of labor has accomplished a lot. It came in for a reason. So, for example, Michelle, when you just said, you know, “If you have this question, I can talk to you about that, but if you have that question, that’s not my department.” The reason that kind of thing happens is, within your specialty, you can…you can do really, really well because you have trained to do that. And if you roll back history 200 years, the level of technical proficiency in theological scholarship is much lower.

Knight
Yeah.

Forster
You know, the…the 19th and 20th centuries have been a period of great technical advancements, and let’s acknowledge—the division of labor has been good in…in producing that tech—you know, you go back and read theology from the 17th century; they’re not careful with the way they use text, often they’re not going back to the original languages, even citations are often a mess. You know, so, we’re…we’re bashing the historians now who…who are not in the room, [ARCADI LAUGHS] you know, to…to defend themselves. But, so, you know, the division of labor has accomplished good things. Let’s not kind of paint the…the past all wrong. And then the other thing about the seminary is, this is a place where people are asking these questions and people are feeling the need for integration. And in the advanced, modern world, that’s unusual. The seminary has become kind of one of the…one of the leading places, at least in my experience, where people are asking the integration question and…and really pursuing it. And from the outside, it may not look like this is being done, because the things you see from the outside tend to be sort of the things that accreditors watch and count, or the quantitative metrics—which obviously are important—or the questions that people are asking when they’re making a decision whether to attend seminary, which is not necessarily the questions that we are asking internally. Because as the people who are in the seminary, we kind of—we’re responsible to think about the future of theological education in a way that the average incoming student is just not asked with…with—but, you know, on the website, we have to focus on the things that people are asking when they make the decision whether to come. So, you know, there…there’s a lot…you peel it back and there’s a lot more conversation about this than it may look like from the outside.

Arcadi
[00:22:37] Hmm. That…that’s really fascinating. Now, um, both Josh and Michelle, when you talked about biblical studies, you both talked about some areas which we might kind of put under the category of like, secular studies, or, you know, non-theological disciplines—whether it’s literary theory or social sciences or…or the like—and… and Greg, I’m kind of curious about your thoughts on this too. You know, what…what about not just integrating in the theological disciplines, but also the non-theological disciplines, to use that as well? Or…or maybe we might want to say that’s kind of a…an unnecessary bifurcation. Perhaps there are some other, I don’t know, antecedent commitments to the way in which all of reality works that would make this kind of an integration sort of possible. So maybe the question is like, what do we think about bringing in “non-theological disciplines” into our areas of expertise, or even into the seminary as a whole?

Jipp
Do you want…is that for anyone, or do you want to hear Greg talk about that?

Arcadi
Yeah, sure! No…no, anyone, that’s fine!

Jipp
I mean, I think…my…my dissertation director used to often say that it was incredibly important that we didn’t just only stay in “bible land” as New Testament scholars, for a variety of reasons, but one of them was, for him—and, I mean, he was certainly one that was deeply, like, trained in kind of the…the lore of the discipline, the paths that we’ve been talking about, but the…the whole reason to be proficient in knowing what the New Testament says is so that you’re able to speak to human existence. And for him, sometimes it was theology, sometimes it was just, you know, these…these authors asked the right questions about human existence that we are still asking today. And so, at least for me it’s, you know, I know I’ll never be a sociologist. I know I’ll never be a political scientist or…or whatever it may be. But…but at minimum, it felt…it felt to me as though these disciplines often are asking questions and then giving us answers, or at least sensibilities, for how to think about the world we live in that can shape the way—not necessarily the way that we read the text, but you can actually see new things in the text, or you can put the text in conversation with the world that we’re…we’re living in. So…so for me there’s, again, knowing I’ll never be, you know, trained in that discipline, as much as I can, I feel like it makes my biblical scholarship better when I’m able to draw and learn from some of the best of the insights of other disciplines.

Knight
[00:25:27] Well, and ultimately, our students, and the people they’re going to be teaching, and the people they’re going to be working alongside—they don’t, you know, bracket off their biblical knowledge from the knowledge that they have, or the questions that they have, about how the economy is working, or how voting should happen, or, you know, what Middle East peace talks should look like, or, you know—we can think of a million different situations or questions that are being posed. They don’t bracket off that knowledge in application. And so I would prefer if we at our best—when we’re writing and when we’re teaching and when we’re discussing these things—are in conversation with others who are thinking deeply in those subject areas. We have a better chance of modeling for students, for people who come to our churches, for whomever is discussing these, how to connect their Christian view of the world what the bible has said about existence to these concrete problems. And so the more integrative our work is, the more likely we are to be able to give people some methodological help in… in bringing all of these things together—which is ultimately what people do every day, all day. They don’t have the luxury of separating things out because it’s life.

Jipp
I do…I totally agree with Michelle. I also think it is hard for—and there are…there are certain challenges for us as faculty, going back to, you know, some of what Greg was saying earlier as well in terms of—but, in order…like, for us to do that, there’s also a level of like, you know—and I know this is silly, right? That’s why I’m using scare quotes—but like, “mastering your discipline.” There…there’s an expectation that you are going to be thoroughly rooted in your discipline, you’re going to know the history, you’re going to be, you know, you’re going to know the languages and so forth. You know, and then doing this extra step—while rich and beneficial, and to some extent, the whole reason we, you know, care about seminary—because we care about God and the world that he’s created—requires a lot of extra…a lot of extra—

Knight
Yes.

Jipp
—work. And you’re not always necessarily rewarded for it, you know.

Knight
Yeah.

Jipp
Stay in your lane as long as you want—

Arcadi
Right.

Jipp
—at…at most places, I think, and, you know, move up through the ranks and you’ll get rewarded for it just fine, you know, without…without the difficult work. Greg, I see you’re, you know, gonna…yeah.

Forster
Yeah, you know, I think the long-term telos of this conversation is that the…the way people are rewarded for what they do—

Knight
Yes.

Forster
—needs to…needs to include rewarding integrative work as opposed to just rewarding more and more specialized work. And the…the professions are structured, and…or the academic disciplines are structured so the professional rewards go to specialization. You know, at the same time, we are finite creatures—

Jipp
Yeah.

Forster
—and we…we can’t do it all, and organizing knowledge into some sort of structure that allows us to specialize to some extent is…is probably necessary and good. Um, you know, the old…the old medieval model of the sage who knew everything really may…may not have been adequate when it was…when it was dominant, and probably can’t…can’t handle a world of the vast complexity with all of the knowledge available to us now. I wanted to mention two quick specific examples between the theological and non-theological disciplines to show that it—

Arcadi
Yeah.

Forster
—how it can be helpful.

Arcadi
Yeah.

Forster
So one is—a friend of mine named Steve McMullen, who is the head of something—or no, he…he edits the journal of something called the “Association of Christian Economists”—

Arcadi
Okay.

Forster
—and he collaborated with a colleague at his school, Hope College, in the religion department—Todd Steen. And Steve and Todd co wrote a series of papers asking theological questions about the way the economics discipline does its work. And what’s…what’s distinctive about this is it goes beyond sort of having theology set a value system or something like that, and it actually goes to methodological questions in the discipline. So one of the papers is about work, and how the discipline of economics assumes that work is always a cost—sort of undifferentiated assumption that if you can get $1,000 without working, that’s always better than getting $1,000 by working for it, whereas a theology of work shows that work is a meaningful activity. And this explains results that economists are baffled by, that in situations where people get money without working for it, it doesn’t necessarily make them better off, which economists can’t explain. Because to have more money is an undifferentiated good, and to have to work for it is an undifferentiated evil, and yet, people thrive better when they work and achieve, and a theology of work can explain that. On the other hand, they wrote another paper on “Theology of Leisure.” The discipline of economics assumes leisure time is an undifferentiated good and it doesn’t care how you spend it. For an economist, an extra hour of leisure is equally beneficial, no matter what you do with it, whereas from a theological perspective, we know some forms of leisure, or entertainment, or self-betterment, are much more valuable than others in the sight of the Lord.

Arcadi
Interesting.

Forster
And anyway, it went beyond sort of the traditional approach, and actually critiqued methodology, and so challenged economists with findings that are anomalous in their discipline. But then on the other…on the other side, a friend of mine who’s a missiologist created a class in his seminary called “Faith, Business, and Money.” And in the thirteen weeks that it met, he had eight of the weeks set aside, and he asked eight colleagues to come in, and turned over the class for the entire meeting to each person, and they came from all of the disciplines across the seminary—just said, “Talk to us about business and money in your discipline of…of theological education.” So they had New Testament people come in, Old Testament people come in, systematics, history, etc, and just gave them an open field. And he said, “Not only did that expose the students to a wide variety of theological learning on faith, business, and money, but the…the faculty members came away having asked totally new questions.” And sort of, their awareness of the…the role of business and money in the bible was greatly increased by having someone ask, “Please come in and talk to us about this, and whatever this means in your discipline, we’ll let you kind of have the wheel.” That was beneficial to them in their work.

Arcadi
[00:31:52] Yeah, no that’s super fascinating. Thanks for…for sharing that, Greg. And I…I love, at least in those illustrations, it seems like you’re kind of painting a picture wherein it’s almost like a…a two way street, or a conversation. Like, you know, theology can actually have something to say to economics, so it’s not just like, you know, “Oh, here. You need some economic theory to help you understand your theology.” You’re…you’re saying, “You need some theology to help you understand your economics.”

Forster
Right. No that’s, uh, to get beyond sort of the…the “traditional approaches to interdisciplinary collaboration are limited”—to get beyond those limitations—the person in discipline A needs to be improved in the practice of discipline A by their encounter with discipline B. So then it’s not simply accumulating a smorgasbord of insights, but actually, “I, as a practitioner of A, am going to be improved in my doing of A by what I learn from the people in B.” That’s the goal.

Arcadi
Yeah. Yeah, that’s…that’s really cool. And I mean, I just kind of want to just pick up with a…a thread. Kind of related to that, but in conjunction with what I think Michelle was saying about kind of the questions that are rising from students and from, you know, the people that we are teaching and the people to whom they will be ministering in the future. Because it’s almost like it’s the other side of the coin that I was thinking, like, why do integration? So on one side of the coin I was thinking, maybe as a theologian, “Well, why do integration? Because God is unified, and all truth is from God, and all truth is God’s truth, and the panoply of disciplines are just different ways of reflecting how God has revealed himself in…in the world.” So that’s motivation—integrated source leads to an integrated area of discipline. But Michelle, you were kind of coming at it from the opposite side, which is also true, I think, is that, humans are integrated.

Knight
Yeah.

Arcadi
You know, I’m not just “a theologian,” you know, I also have other hats that I wear, you know, and our students are not just going to be, you know, monolithic entities. They’re going to have multifaceted vocations and they’re going to have multifaceted ways of engaging with these various vocations, and…and what have you. And so there’s…there’s integrations on both sides, like, the source of all knowledge and the recipient of the knowledge, and our kind of, you know, effort is maybe to…to bring them together—or put them together—in…in a robust fashion. But…so I kind of wonder, then, about one component that is a part of the seminary curriculum, but maybe sometimes is underappreciated, but I’m wondering if it’s actually more central than we at times think, which is like the “spiritual formation” component, or like, your actual relationship to God. So like, not just relationship to the “knowledge” stuff, but a relationship to the “person” stuff. So, I don’t know, how do…how do you all see—or maybe even in your classes or in your interactions with students—I mean, what role does like, the actual personal, transformation and…and personal spiritual formation play in how you think about doing your disciplinary work in your…in your teaching?

Knight
[00:34:50] Well, in standard, you know, university fashion, you know, the…the formation groups have a separate place in the curriculum, so if we’re not careful, we can bifurcate that into its own little silo as well.

Arcadi
Yeah.

Knight
Though, I mean, the…the newest ways of talking about education, you know, according to ATS and all sorts of places is to talk about “transformation,” and to talk about, you know, whole-person formation. And so, insofar as that is an insightful way to describe what we’re doing here, our job is to form people into certain kinds of people, and those skills are a part of that, but if we can think about that formative goal holistically, I mean—and we take that seriously—then our classes can fairly organically fit into a mold where spiritual formation is…is what every, even information-heavy element of our education is serving, um, if we are kind of thinking about that really—I mean, I’m speaking very abstractly, but if we can prioritize that and concretize that, I think that’s what we’re doing up and down, kind of everywhere.

Arcadi
Yeah. Yeah.

Jipp
I think…yeah, I…I agree with what Michelle is saying, for sure. I think there can sometimes be people that like to imagine they’re on complete opposite ends of the spectrum, where “I want to deliver my content,” and others are about, “No, it’s all about skills and virtues and transformation.” And I think all of us, you know, are—speaking especially Old Testament/New Testament—like, we want…we want people to learn and yes, have content, and grow in their ability to say, “This is what the text says,” but at the same time, I mean, when you’re teaching something like the Word of God, then to think that you could do it in a way that isn’t about, you know, trying to create space for a transformative encounter between the community and between…between God as, you know, we’re reading the text, I think would play too much into that old…old model of sort of, like, bifurcating, you know, history and exegesis from…from theology. So, yeah. In my classes, I certainly try to deliver a lot of content, but I also want them to be reading the text and asking questions about God and about their own lives and the world that we’re living in, in part also to develop a sensibility of, “This is how I read Scripture all…all the time.” But, yeah. We have such limited time in our class…classes. Sometimes it can feel easier just to want to be like, “I’ve got a lot of material that’s so good I want to share with you.” So it’s…it’s obviously challenging.

Knight
Yeah. It’s a temptation.

Forster
You know, I think the history of spiritual formation in…in the seminary is really interesting. They’re…they’re relatively new in its current form. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the…the movement was towards a more and more academic model of what the seminary was. And that’s partly because the formation task was assumed to have been done before you arrived at seminary. As one…one seminary professor said to me, “We’ve inherited a curriculum that assumes that our students are disciples of Christ in a holistic way before they step onto campus.” And I don’t know whether we were entitled to that assumption before, but we’re not entitled to that assumption now and we need to rethink.

Arcadi
Huh. Yeah.

Knight
[LAUGHS] Yeah.

Forster
But it was also a result of this division of…division of labor imperative, which—formation really falls off the radar in the division of labor model. So the adoption of spiritual formation tracks in the late 20th century was a mitigative attempt to swim…swim upstream against this academic model of what the seminary was here to do, so I think it was a step in the right direction. You’re sort of resisting the fragmentation of modernity, but now we need to be thinking—and we already are thinking—in terms of formation as an academic goal, rather than as something that exists alongside academics.

Knight
Yeah.

Forster
Sort of academics in class, spiritual formation in the track. Formation needs to be an element of academic excellence, and I think it’s partly true because you can’t do good integrative work without being formative. They’re two peas in a pod, or two sides to the coin. And so if we want—like you said, James, reality is integrated—

Arcadi
Yeah.

Forster
—and the ethical…the ethical demands we live under demand integration, so that means formation. But it also…it’s also because in the advanced modern world, we’re sending people out to an increasingly fragmented social situation. If we’re not forming them to see coherence and meaning and to have self-sustaining ways of holding onto coherence and meaning in a social environment that’s tearing them in a thousand directions at once, we’re not doing our job preparing them for…for what they’re going to face. So, I’m encouraged—I mean, Michelle mentioned the new standard from the Association of Theological Schools that are coming. There’s a big movement in theological education to own this mission, and so, I’m looking forward to what the Lord has in the coming generation in our seminaries.

Arcadi
[00:40:05] That…yeah. That’s a really provocative conversation for us to be having here, and I’m so glad that we were able to just…maybe just scratch the surface. I think there’s many more layers here for us to be thinking about, and creative ways for us to be partnering across the seminary to actually achieve some of these goals that I think we agree are…are good things, and yet we’re…we’re trying to find ways in which to bring this together across the campus and in our conversations and in our lives as well. So thanks very much, Greg, for being with us today and for helping us think through these really important topics.

Forster
Thanks for having me. I was…really had a blast.

Jipp
Thanks, Greg.

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Arcadi
And that’s just the Foreword. That was a really important and, I think, interesting conversation. It gave me a lot to think about and a lot that I’m going to continue thinking about and I really look forward to having further conversations with…with you, and Dr. Pierce, and other of our colleagues from across campus in thinking about how we do this sort of integrative work that I think is so important to what we’re doing here at…at TEDS. Really want to invite you listeners to partner along with us. Let’s have the conversation together! Feel free to jump onto Twitter or Facebook. Let us know how you’re thinking about integration—whether you’re a student or you’re faculty at TEDS—or other institutions. How do you think about bringing together all of these various theological disciplines and non-theological disciplines into the work that you’re doing in…in the seminary environment—or whatever environment you find yourself? So um, I’m grateful to Greg Forster for being with us today, of the Oikonomia Network, as well as—which is part of the Center for Transformational Churches here at Trinity. Shout out to the CTC and especially Donald Guthrie and Taylor Worley. They’ve been supporters of the podcast since its launch and we’re really grateful for the ways they’ve supported us, as well as the ways they’re doing this integrative work across our seminary and the network of seminaries they participate in as well. Also shout out to our producer, Curtis Pierce, who makes us look and sound better than we do in real life—at least me. And thanks to my co-hosts for joining in this conversation today. I’m James Arcadi.

Knight
And I’m Michelle Knight.

Jipp
And I’m Josh Jipp.

Outro
Foreword is a podcast hosted by faculty at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. You can subscribe to our newest episodes on your preferred podcast app or at forewordpodcast.com. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook @forewordpodcast to get updates and additional links to content. Trinity Evangelical Divinity School is located 25 miles north of Chicago, with extension sites across the country and online. Trinity educates men and women to engage in God’s redemptive work in the world by cultivating academic excellence, Christian faithfulness, and lifelong learning. You can find more information at teds.edu.

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