Faculty Posts

Shaping or Being Shaped?

Shaper

Interacting with Emerging Adults

by Jana Sundene

“More than anyone in my life, you have not only witnessed but pilgrimed with me in my singleness and now also in my relationship with my new husband. You have challenged me in sin, encouraged me to life, sharpened me through conflict, loved me deeply in listening and spoken God’s presence to me. . . . You know the beauty and the ugliness and have sacrificially loved me and paced with me in both.”

This is from a note written to me recently by an emerging adult that I have had the privilege of walking with for a good number of years now. The note honors me by sharing how I have been a shaping force in her life. What the note does not reveal, however, is how my relationship with this young woman has been a shaping force in my life! She has also been a voice of affirmation for me (as you can see by the note!). She has challenged and sharpened me through her questions and through engaging in conflict with me. She has many times ministered God’s presence to me through prayer, scripture, or listening.

So it strikes me that the name of the book Rick Dunn (PhD ’94; former chair of the Department of Educational Ministries at TEDS) and I wrote, Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults, is a bit presumptuous. Though the book is concerned with discovering how to be a transformative influence in the lives of young adults (shaping), some of the most powerful chapters to write were the chapters at the end of the book where we reflected on the personal life of a disciple-maker (being shaped). In the book, we give guiding principles for people who desire to assist emerging adults in negotiating life’s challenges. We define an emerging adult as someone between the ages of twenty and thirty-five who is in a time of identity exploration, tends to live in flux and be in transition, and probably shows a reluctance to enter what they perceive as “full-fledged” adulthood. He is well connected yet often lonely. She is adventurous and globally aware. We also discuss ways to journey with emerging adults and examine how those who disciple emerging adults are shaped in that process.

In this article, I want to comment on the shaping aspect of that process.

Yes, effective disciple-makers need to understand the world of “Emerging Adulthood.” We need to understand how growing up in this economy with the constancy of technologically mediated communication and yet the instability of relational, geographical, and vocational constants has and is affecting this generation. We need to develop compassion for their reticence to “grow up” in the same ways that generations before them have. And yes, we need a plan for how to journey alongside young adults who have a deep spiritual and relational hunger but have too often felt themselves a bit alienated by the local church. It’s true that the plan can’t just be adding a new program for this demographic. It must be personal, interactive, and responsive, yet anchored in the truths that give us direction for how to become more like Christ in our everyday lives. Those things are important. So important that the first 11 chapters of Shaping the Journey attempt to compassionately explore those areas: challenges emerging adults face, clear goals for walking alongside them for life transformation, and a rhythm of relating in order to be helpful to them as they search for the best ways to grow into adulthood in a Christ-like way.

But understanding and walking and helping others is rarely effective when it is done from a place of superiority—“I know what you need and you need what I know!” So perhaps the last few chapters of our book are some of the most important because they engage us in our own spiritual journey—our willingness to be shaped. I won’t be an effective journey companion for an emerging adult if I am trying to fit myself to the exact contour of the emerging adult’s journey—to become like them in order to reach them—I must live my own stage in the journey authentically and reflectively. This brings to mind Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:22, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” My words might seem to run counter to this advice. However, Paul was explaining that he chose not to despise or judge those who were unlike him, but to be compassionate and respectful by refraining from placing a stumbling block in someone’s way that would keep them from receiving the gospel. I do not think he was suggesting we pretend to be something we are not, but that we refrain from behaviors that might be alienating. I think this is good advice for interacting with emerging adults! In essence, what I am saying is, in order to be good “Shapers” we must be in the process of “Being Shaped.”

“Yes, of course,” most established and seasoned adults would say. But don’t misunderstand me. I’m not talking about the common formula bandied about for disciple-making where one is told, “You must be x, y, or z as a pre-requisite for reaching into the life of another.” If that was the way it went, then I would probably be tempted to think, “I am not z, so therefore I should not disciple” (the reticent disciple-maker), or “I am x, y, and z, and therefore I can tell others how to live their lives” (the arrogant disciple-maker), or I would be in denial or trying very hard to cover up that I was not x, y, or z (the disguised disciple-maker). I am talking about the willingness to be in one’s own journey as one journeys with the young adult. That’s it. It’s about my own openness to the way God is working with me presently. It’s about the way that God might choose to work in me through my relationship with this young adult. If indeed I am reticent or arrogant or often in denial, then instead of using that as a qualification or a disqualification for journeying with an emerging adult, I can see it as a connecting point.

In fact, the rhythms of discernment, intentionality, and reflection that Rick and I suggest as a good approach for walking with emerging adults have a built-in place for us to connect with our own journey. I’ll explain these relational rhythms briefly. Discernment is a look forward—listening to what will be needed in your encounter with the young adult. It is a listening time with one ear to God and one ear to previous conversations with the young adult. This time may help the disciple-maker determine where God is already moving or might want to move in the emerging adult’s life. The second rhythm is intentionality. This is a step forward with young adults to assist them where they are struggling or help them cooperate with where God is moving in their lives. In this step the disciple-maker takes action with the young adult on what has been discerned. The last rhythm is reflection. Reflection asks you to look backward—what happened when we took these steps? How did I contribute or hinder them in moving toward the goals of trust, submission, and love? This is the step that helps me learn where I can grow as a disciple-maker.

Do you want to know how to effectively interact with an emerging adult in your life? In a very real sense all you need to do is show up. Really show up. Not with your advice or the lesson you learned last year or 15 years ago, but as a fellow believer who is struggling to live into the abundance of all Christ has put before you. Let the young adult into your world, your messy and imperfect world, so you can open a dialog about how one does negotiate the challenges and adventures of adulthood as a follower of Christ.
——

Jana Sundene (MA ’00) is associate professor of Christian Ministries at Trinity College, and is also a founding and long-standing member of the Association of Youth Ministry Educators. She has written several articles and essays, including the book Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults, co-authored with Rick Dunn.

{This article originally appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of Trinity Magazine, pp. 12–14.}

 

“Beaches of Normandy” exhibit by Prof. Steven Fratt

Beaches of Normandy

Dr. Steven Fratt, professor and chair of the history department at Trinity International University, will be displaying his “Beaches of Normandy” diorama at the 1st Division Museum at Cantigny from Sunday, May 18, through Sunday, May 25. The display is located in the Visitor Center of the Museum, on Winfield Road in Wheaton, which is open Tuesdays through Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The mission of the 1st Division Museum is to preserve, interpret and present the history of the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division in the broader context of American military history. Dr. Fratt stated, “Being asked to set up my display here is quite an honor, as the 1st Division (Big Red One) and the 29th Division were the two American divisions landing at Omaha Beach during World War II, and they suffered the most casualties.”

Dr. Fratt directs the Military History emphasis in the history major and runs several war game simulations in his classes throughout the year. He explained that he and his wife, Linda, “went to Europe last August to visit Waterloo, the Bulge, and Normandy. When we got back, I was inspired to build this 16′ x 6′ diorama and war game depicting the 50 miles of Normandy where the Allies landed on June 6, 1944. The scale is 4 inches = 1 mile.”

The 1st Division Museum has several special exhibits coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, August 1914. Admission to the Museum is free, but there is a parking fee.

Dr. Fratt recently presented his “Beaches of Normandy” war game at the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society’s “Little Wars,” the Midwest’s premier historical gaming convention, held each April in St. Charles, Ill. At this event in 2013, Dr. Fratt won an award for his Gettysburg series, a large setup in 5mm scale that recreated the three days of the historic battle of Gettysburg in amazing detail. HMGS is dedicated to promoting the study of military history and its recreation in miniatures.

Motor Pool Gas Policy Change

Through an evaluation of Motor Pool over the past year, Facility Services has made a few minor changes to current procedures that we want you to be aware of.

Effective July 1, 2014, all renters of Motorpool vehicles will be asked to return the vehicle with a full tank of gas. This will greatly increase the efficiency of administering the Motorpool program. As a reminder, the usage charge helps cover ongoing maintenance and repair costs of the vehicles. When you pick up your vehicle it will continue to come with a full tank of gas and there is no increase at this time in the usage charge ($1.00 per mile). Vehicles returned with a partial tank will be filled by Facility Services and the cost of $5.00 per gallon to fill the tank will be passed on to the renter.

Facility Services will continue to offer Enterprise vehicles as an option and encourage you to consider this as a viable alternative as the Motorpool fleet continues to age. As always, we are glad to be of assistance with your department’s travel needs.

Commencement Reflection: The Word of the Lord Endures Forever

Wittenberg Door

Professor of Church History and the History of Christian Thought Doug Sweeney delivered the following address at the December 2013 TEDS Commencement. Given that this academic year is just a week from fading away, graduates, faculty, and staff alike would do well to remember that “the Word of the Lord endures forever.”

***

Congratulations, friends. This is a marvelous accomplishment. I know I speak for everyone who is dressed like me tonight when I say that we are supremely proud of you. We understand how hard you’ve worked. We’re the ones who piled it on! And as we’ve helped you reach this goal, our respect for you has grown, our gratitude to God for your gifts and diligence has deepened, and our excitement about how God will use your life in years to come is nearly impossible to contain. Thanks be to God for his provision during your time here at Trinity—and his willingness to employ you as laborers in his vineyard.

You’ve learned enough by now to know how much you don’t know, right?

If I had a dollar for every time a first-year student here at TEDS confessed her fears about fitting in, or his feelings of inadequacy to thrive as a scholar here, or a sense of insecurity when sitting next to peers who seemed more gifted or prepared, I could pay for tonight’s buffet. First-year students often feel as though they’re drinking from a fire hose, and sitting next to people who seem to be getting every drop. You graduates have learned by now that no one gets it all. Your anxiousness has waned. But I wonder if even now you feel intimidated, overwhelmed by the study of God and his world. You’ve learned enough by now to know how much you don’t know, right? You may have entered Trinity feeling pretty good about yourself and your knowledge of divinity. You may have been pretty sure about what was wrong in the church you came from, how you were going to fix it and improve upon your elders. If you majored in Bible in college, you may have arrived pretty sure that you were right about theology and that your friends were wrong. But now you’ve probably realized what a friend of mind likes saying to me: “You’re pretty dumb for a smart guy.” You really don’t know it all. You don’t even know the half of it. In fact, you’ve barely scratched the surface of the knowledge of God and the world.

If I’m right about your sense of intellectual humility (and even if I’m not, and you’re now too high on yourself), I hope you’ll listen closely to what follows. I have some parting words of encouragement that I really want you to hear. And I’m confident that I’m speaking for nearly everyone on the faculty.

FIRST, remember what Dean Tiénou said to you when you began. Not even those in the MDiv, the so-called “masters of divinity,” are meant to master divinity. You’re to be mastered by divinity, conformed to the mind of Christ. You’re to take His yoke upon you, to live your lives and do your work beneath the cross of Christ—under the Word of God. The artists of Reformation Germany depicted this notion beautifully. They painted dozens of pictures of Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon, and other evangelical leaders kneeling beneath the cross of Christ, often with Scripture or their most cherished theology books in hand. They illustrated what Luther called the “theology of the cross.” “The cross alone is our theology,” Luther declared boldly on behalf of Protestant pastors, insisting that believers kneel humbly at the condescension of God in Jesus Christ and holy Scripture. Many are tempted to make an end-run around the cross of Christ, seeking allegedly higher, seemingly more sophisticated routes to so-called genuine spirituality (“theologies of glory,” as Luther liked to say). But as Paul wrote in the second half of 1 Corinthians 1, there simply is no other route to God than Jesus and the cross. “[T]he word of the cross,” Paul wrote by inspiration of God,

. . . is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.’ Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Paul continued in this vein,

When I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

So what does this mean for us? It means that evangelical ministry has always been made effective in the most important ways by the gospel and the Bible, not scholarly pretension. You’re not smart enough to advance the kingdom of God by cleverness (or good looks, or winsomeness). You never will be smart enough. “We have this treasure in jars of clay,” as Paul reminded the Corinthians, to demonstrate that the light we share of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord in Jesus Christ has come “from God and not from us.” We’re not meant to be smart enough to take the spotlight from the Lord. Efforts to steal the gospel limelight lead to disaster.

“We are beggars. This is true,” were Luther’s final words.

Did you know that some of the greatest thinkers in the history of the church died with feelings of intellectual inadequacy? Thomas Aquinas, for example, had a vision near the end of his life that put an end to his scholarship. He left his massive Summa Theologica unfinished. “The end of my labors has come,” he said. “All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me.” Implored by his secretary, Reginald, to resume his life of scholarship, Thomas replied firmly, “I can write no more. I have seen things that make my writings like straw.” Martin Luther’s final words, “we are beggars, this is true,” carry much the same message. In a note about the profundity of the things of the Word of God, Luther scribbled this from his deathbed on the day before he died: “Let nobody suppose he understands holy Scripture well enough if he has not served the church for a hundred years alongside such prophets as Elijah and Elisha, and alongside John the Baptist, Christ, and the Apostles . . . . We are beggars. This is true.” That is, the best position for people who would know and serve the Lord is on their knees, depending on God for love and wisdom. The list of great theologians turned silent before the Lord could be extended for quite a while. And if these doctors of the church, these intellectual prodigies, felt inadequate at the end of lives of theological scholarship, perhaps it’s not so bad if we feel stupid now and again.

The second thing I want to say is that the Lord is not finished with your education yet. Don’t let feelings of inadequacy inhibit you from living a long life of Christian discipleship. We’re meant to be life-long learners, as we often say at Trinity, life-long disciples, life-long students of the Lord, his Word and his world. I hope you’ve caught the learning bug. I hope you’re humble enough to recognize you still have much to learn, but eager enough to grow that you’ll continue to apply yourself to the study of God and the world. Please don’t rest on your diploma, well-deserved though it may be. Please don’t overreact to the hardships of graduate education, or your own insecurities, behaving as though the habits you’ve developed here at Trinity are unimportant out there in the “real world” of ministry. “The church must always be learned,” Philip Melanchthon once professed, “or it will be greatly afflicted.” This was not the snooty comment of an academic elitist, but the heartfelt groaning of a godly Christian teacher. And don’t we modern evangelicals know just what he meant? How many times have you been bothered by a famous Christian leader who seemed to wallow in his ignorance and lead his people astray? Don’t exacerbate this problem. Be part of the solution. As Jonathan Edwards preached, the pursuit of divine things—whether in Scripture or in the world—is not reserved for academics, but is for all who love the Lord. God calls everyone to seek them, both the “learned and unlearned, young and old, men and women.” Not even the brightest theologian ever begins to find them all. In fact, the ones who “studied the longest, and have made the greatest attainments . . . know but little of what is to be known.” The knowledge of God “is inexhaustible,” for God “is infinite, and there is no end to the glory of his perfections.” Edwards drove this point home by recommending that his people give as much of their time to seeking the things of God as seeking Mammon. “Let it be very much your business to search” for the things of God, he said, “and that with the same diligence and labor with which men are wont to dig in mines of . . . gold.” Or as he put this in different sermon, “He that has a Bible, and don’t observe what is contained [in] it, is like a man that has a box full of silver and gold, and don’t know it, don’t observe that it is anything more than a vessel filled with common stones. As long as it is thus with him, he’ll be never the better for his treasure.” Scripture is rich enough in the things of God “to employ us to the end.” Even at death, he said, we “shall leave enough” of divinity “uninvestigated to employ . . . the ablest divines to the end of the world,” or better, “to employ the . . . saints and angels to all eternity.” Do you share his sense of wonder at the greatness of the Lord? Please don’t lose your fascination or you’ll lose the will to grow.

The third and final thing I want to say to you tonight is that the Lord has given you all you need to minister words of life to those he places in your care. It’s true: you don’t know it all. You have a lot yet to learn. The things of God are very deep. But you can be confident in the Lord, for he has condescended to give us what we need for our salvation and for godly Christian living. Be sure of the main things. You can stake your life upon them. You should ground your ministry in them. In the words of one of our early modern Protestant confessions: “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.” So spend your life as a disciple, but remember what you’ve learned. You’re entrusted with the gospel. You’re a servant of the King. You have the written Word of God. Please use it to advance God’s kingdom purposes in the world. In the words of the classic hymn, “God’s Word Is Our Great Heritage,” composed in 1817 by the Dane, Nikolai Grundtvig.

God’s Word is our great heritage
And shall be ours forever;
To spread its light from age to age
Shall be our chief endeavor.
Through life it guides our way,
In death it is our stay.
Lord, grant, while worlds endure,
We keep its teachings pure.
Throughout all generations.

May this be so in our time. May we live beneath the Word of God, and minister its words of life to those within our care. May we plant ourselves in the gospel, teaching others to do the same. Do you remember the leading slogan of the German Reformation: Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum? “The Word of the Lord endures forever.” This is our great heritage, one that is lived out much more faithfully by evangelical Protestants in the global south today than it is in German lands. It was the motto of Frederick the Wise, the prince and protector of Luther’s ministry. It soon became the slogan of the German Schmalkaldic League, the alliance of Protestant princes who promoted the Reformation. They printed it as an acronym—VDMIA, sometimes just VDMA, “The Word of the Lord endures forever”—on the coins, medals, flags, cannons and guns within their territories. In Saxony, Hesse, and Württemberg, leading Protestant officials wore it (literally) on their sleeves. People engraved it on their churches, sometimes even on their church bells. I pray tonight that God has engraved it indelibly on your heart.

In one of Luther’s classic hymns, penned in the early 1540s, people sang—and still sing—this related prayer to God:

Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word;
Curb those who by deceit or sword
Would wrest the kingdom from Your Son
And bring to naught all He has done.

Lord Jesus Christ, Your pow’r make known,
For You are Lord of lords alone;
Defend Your holy Church that we
May sing Your praise eternally.

O Comforter of priceless worth,
Send peace and unity on earth;
Support us in our final strife
And lead us out of death to life.

Will you pray this ancient prayer? May God keep you always steadfast in His Word.

Brothers and sisters, Trinity graduates, you’re not supposed to master God. You’re meant to be mastered by him, spending the rest of your life pursuing him and living as he says. The effectiveness of your ministry is not meant to be based upon your cleverness, your winsomeness, your entrepreneurial skills (as important as they will be). It is meant to be based squarely on the Lord Jesus Christ and the written Word of God. You’re not good enough, or smart enough, or skilled enough as a leader to render people right with God and grow them up in sanctification. But God himself has given you all you need for this to happen—and has promised to stay with you to the very end of the age.

Edwards spoke at several commencements, and always did so well. But my favorite of his speeches is the one he gave at Harvard College in 1731, during a time in Harvard’s history when he felt as though its people had grown too high on their own gifts, skills, and attainments. He spoke on 1 Corinthians 1, the passage I read for you tonight, and he focused on the verses at the very end of the chapter: “that no one should boast before God. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.’” Edwards argued to the Harvard boys that God is glorified through our dependence on him for all. We have everything that is truly good, everything we really need, everything that saves, sanctifies, and beautifies “of,” “through,” and “in” God. “The saints have both their spiritual excellency and blessedness by the gift of the Holy Ghost, or Spirit of God, and his dwelling with them. They are not only caused by the Holy Ghost, but are in the Holy Ghost as their principle. The Holy Spirit becoming an inhabitant, is a vital principle in the soul: he acting in, upon and with the soul, becomes a fountain of true holiness and joy, as a spring is of water, by the exertion and diffusion of itself.”

That’s my favorite commencement speech. Please don’t use its exhortation about God’s sovereignty as a crutch, or an excuse, for spiritual laziness. Work hard. Apply yourself. Invest the gifts he has given you. Share them liberally with others. But do so from the foot of the cross, under the Word of God. Depend on the Lord for everything. Meditate on his Word. Live your life in ceaseless prayer. Grow into the mind of Christ by the power of the Spirit. If you commune with God himself, he will fund your life and work, helping you spend yourself according to his purposes for you.

Don’t let your personal insecurities get in the way of this. God wants to help you get over yourself so you can share his love, grace, and mercy to those he brings your way. He gives you like-minded Christians for encouragement and support. He’s given you countless tools at Trinity for carrying out his plan. Your Trinity family will be here for you. We hope you’ll stay in touch. We want to encourage you and help you with the work that lies ahead. Most importantly of all, God has condescended to speak to you in Jesus and the Bible, and his Word has all you need to live for him.

The grass withers, the flower falls, your beauty will fade with age, your youthful energy will wane. But the Word of Lord endures forever and ever. This is your inheritance. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Fitness Center Hours

The Fitness Center will be closed May 16–18. It will re-open May 19, Monday-Friday 3PM-7PM.

We anticipate only a few maintenance days over the summer, which will be announced on MyTIU.

God, History & Evolution in the Princeton Theology

Old Princeton
by Bradley J. Gundlach

“History in all its details, even the most minute, is but the evolution of the eternal purpose of God.”

This statement comes from a surprising source: Charles Hodge’s classic Systematic Theology (1872–73). Yes, Charles Hodge, that champion of biblical authority and Calvinist orthodoxy, systematizer of the Princeton theology that influenced the fundamentalist and neo-evangelical movements of the twentieth century. Charles Hodge, author of the most famous antievolutionist statement of all time: “What is Darwinism? It is Atheism.” This same man affirmed that all history is the evolution, the unrolling, of God’s eternal purpose.

Beyond the biological question of the transmutation of species, evolution (or, as nineteenth-century writers often called it, the “development hypothesis”) had much broader meanings. One could, with Hodge, reject the idea of transmutation and yet affirm growth over time in all sorts of areas: the progressive articulation of God’s promise of a Savior in scripture; the development of Christian doctrine over centuries of controversy and consideration; the refinement of apologetical strategies; the systematization of theology. The nineteenth century was fascinated by the notion of development, and that fascination highlighted an analogy found in scripture itself, as when Jesus likened the growth of the kingdom of God to a crop of grain: “first the blade, then the ear; after that the full corn in the ear” (Mark 4:28 KJV). The theologians of Princeton, dedicated defenders of the Bible and the gospel, found the idea of process or development by natural agency over time a very enlightening one. Some of them rejected the idea of animal evolution; none was willing to give up a historical Adam and Eve; but all of them found the idea of process—growth over time from inherent potentials—illuminating of God’s ways in this world, and even useful for grounding biblical belief.

Providence and Process

The key to this interest in process is the doctrine of providence. The Westminster Confession of Faith articulates that doctrine very carefully. Written in 1647, its statements on the real efficacy of “second causes” gave Calvinists in the following centuries strong theological reasons for welcoming the discovery of natural and historical processes. Chapter V, “Of Providence,” states:

  • Section II. Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, he ordereth them to fall out according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely or contingently.
  • Section III. God in his ordinary providence maketh use of means, yet is free to work without, above, and against them, at his pleasure.

As A. A. Hodge explained in his Commentary on the Confession of Faith (1869), God “controls his creatures and their actions, and effects his purposes through them,” in a way that is “in every case perfectly consistent with the nature of the creature and of his action.” As that last personal pronoun suggests, this doctrine aimed to solve the old problem of divine sovereignty and human free agency: God works his sovereign will even by means of (not in violation of) the free choices people make. And this doctrine applies more broadly to any natural or historical causation. God ordinarily works his will not immediately, but mediately—using natural means. These means are not independent of God; he created them and he continues to govern them, bringing about his purposes even as they act according to their natures. Here is ground for confident exploration of the natural world, knowing not only that God created and governs it, but also that its properties and laws have real existence.

Section III of that chapter hastens to add, though, that God is not chained by the natural laws he made. At his pleasure God works “without, above, or against” that vast system of nature and history. The interpenetration of natural and supernatural causes in our lives is a great mystery, but it is also a cardinal truth of Christianity. Think of your own conversion. God used all sorts of natural means—a parent, perhaps, or a friend to share the gospel with you; a series of events and choices, some righteous and some not, that brought you to the recognition of your need of a savior—but he also drew you supernaturally by his Spirit and caused you to be born again, “not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:13).

God works his sovereign will even by means of (not in violation of) the free choices people make.

And so in the processes of nature and history, the Princetonians were predisposed by their Confession to think in terms of change over time, God sovereignly choosing to work through means, both in nature and in grace. The Christian life itself, they taught, involves time, effort, and process. God works in the process, and God works in addition to it. In kingdom service and in personal sanctification B. B. Warfield urged believers not to try to bypass time and demand quick fixes from God. “Men are unwilling that either the world or they themselves should be saved by God’s secular methods. . . . They ask to be made glorified saints in the twinkling of an eye. God’s ways are not their ways, and it is a great trial to them that God will not walk in their ways.” Warfield faulted such “hasty spirits” for overlooking God’s workings in the effort of everyday. “They love the storm and the earthquake and the fire,” and “cannot see the divine in ‘a sound of gentle stillness.’ . . . They look every day for the cataclysm in which alone they can recognize God’s salvation” (Works [Baker, 1991], 8:561).

Not to recognize God’s work in the everyday—what Warfield called “God’s secular methods”—results not only in our missing the blessing of perceiving God’s presence here and now; it also robs God of our worship. A. A. Hodge pointed out that “the chief end of God in his eternal purposes, and in their temporal execution in creation and providence, is the manifestation of his own glory.” The Darwinian substitution of chance for design in the origin of species is one form of such stealing from God—and if we find God only in the starkly miraculous, not appreciating his activity in nature and history, we do the same.

(from top left to bottom right): Archibald Alexander, Samuel Miller, Charles Hodge, Archibald Alexander Hodge, B.B. Warfield, Geerhardus Vos

But we can recognize God’s supernatural work in history, too, at the intersection of providence and miracle. The Princetonians were among the pioneer theologians to discern a kind of organic growth in the progress of revelation in the Bible. In his inaugural lecture at Princeton Seminary (now a classic in biblical theology), Geerhardus Vos said, “The self-revelation of God is a work covering ages, proceeding in a sequence of revealing words and acts, appearing in a long perspective of time. The truth comes in the form of growing truth, not truth at rest.” Higher criticism claimed to uncover a historical development that underlay the text of the Old Testament, as the Hebrew religion evolved from primitive polytheism to high ethical monotheism. Vos posited an alternative theory of scriptural development, one that retained the unchanging character of the biblical truth even as it observed its unfolding revelation in time. God communicated his word to us through divine actions and through human authors situated in time and place by his providence, miraculously inspired to reveal, more fully as time went on, the unchanging truths of the gospel.

Growth-analogy developmentalism cropped up in many interesting ways in the Princeton theology. Warfield celebrated the Westminster Confession itself as “the ripened fruit of Reformed creed-making,” rendering its composition at the end of the Reformation era a plus rather than a minus. J. Gresham Machen defended Paul’s religion as the legitimate growth of the perfect seed of Jesus’ teachings, countering Adolf Harnack’s claim that the Christ of the church was a departure from the Jesus of history. Warfield viewed the scientific articulation of systematic theology in his day as an advance upon earlier orthodox efforts, made possible by the conditions of the nineteenth century. In these ways and many more the Princetonians found growth-analogy developmentalism helpful both to elucidate Christian belief and to defend orthodoxy against the challenges of theological liberalism. God’s active rule over nature and history, through process and over time, was and is a thing to celebrate.

Bradley J. Gundlach (MA ’89) is professor of history at Trinity College, where he has been teaching since 1999. He currently serves as director of the Division of Humanities and as book review editor for Fides et Historia, the journal of the Conference on Faith and History. His latest book is Process and Providence: The Evolution Question at Princeton, 1845–1929, published in November 2013.

{This article originally appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of Trinity Magazine, pp. 20–22.}

Prof. Doug Sweeney Named Luce Fellow

Jonathan Edwards

The Association of Theological Schools and The Henry Luce Foundation, Inc., have named six scholars as Henry Luce III Fellows in Theology for 2014–2015. Professor Doug Sweeney is one of them, and his work will focus on Jonathan Edwards the exegete: “Biblical Interpretation and Anglo-Protestant Culture on the Edge of the
Enlightenment.”

Scholars have long recognized that Edwards loved the Bible. But preoccupied with his roles in Western “public” life and letters, and failing to see the public significance of his biblical exegesis, Sweeney notes that very little attention has been given to the thing Edwards himself took most seriously. According to Sweeney, the lion’s share of Edwards’ time during every week of his life was spent wrestling with the words of holy writ. To address this gap in Edwards studies, Sweeney plans to write a book on Edwards’ exegesis and its significance for Christian thought and intellectual history.

After reconstructing Edwards’ lost exegetical world and describing his place within it, Sweeney will summarize his four main approaches to the Bible (canonical, christological, redemptive-historical, and doctrinal) and analyzes his work on selected biblical themes that illustrate these four approaches. Sweeney will compare Edwards’ work to that of his most frequent interlocutors and place it in the context of the history of exegesis, challenging preconceived notions about the state of Christianity in the age of the Enlightenment (that it had been all but snuffed out). Dr. Sweeney’s study will provide a helpful guide to Edwards’ exegetical work and also clear a path for later specialists to follow.

Supported by grants of up to $75,000 each, the Luce Fellows engage in year-long theological research projects and present their findings for publication. The 2014–2015 Fellows constitute the twenty-first class of scholars to be appointed since the inception of the program in 1993, bringing the total number of Luce Fellows to 142.