Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Light that seems to Sing

Here is another reading from Thomas Merton that focuses on the transformative power of contemplation on the presence of God. Authentic Leadership is formed in the presence of God:
Praises and canticles anticipate
Each day the singing bells that wake the sun,
But now our psalmody is done.

The Truth that substantiates the body's night
Has made our minds His temple-tent:
Open the secret eye of faith
And drink these deeps of invisible light.

The weak walls
Of the world fall
And heaven, in floods, comes pouring in:

Sink from the shallows, soul, into eternity,
And slake your wonder at that deep-lake spring.
We touch the rays we cannot see,
We feel the light that seems to sing.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Rediscovering Jesus

My friend, Nile Gomez blessed me with a new "Book of Hours" compiled from the writings of Thomas Merton yesterday. What a rare treat! I thought I would include in today's blog one of Merton's psalms from it:
Today, in a moment of trial, I rediscovered Jesus,
or perhaps discovered Him for the first time.
I came closer than ever to fully realizing how true it is
that our relations with Jesus are something utterly beyond
the level of imagination and emotion.

His eyes, which are the eyes of Truth, are fixed upon my heart.
Where His glance falls, there is peace:
for the light of His face, which is the Truth,
produces truth wherever it shines.

There too is joy:
And He says to those He loves,
I will fix My eyes upon you.
His eyes are always on us everywhere and in all times.
No grace comes to us from heaven except He looks upon our hearts.

The grace of this gaze of Christ upon my heart
transfigured this day like a miracle.
It seems to me that I have discovered a freedom that I never knew before in my life.

I have felt that the Spirit of God was upon me,
and I thought that,
if I only turned my head a little,
I would see a tremendous host of angels in silver armor
advancing behind me trough the sky,
coming at last to sweep the whole world clean.
It carried me along on a vivid ocean of ocean.

An the whole world and the whole sky was filled with wonderful music,
As it has often been for me in these days.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Use of Hermeneutics in Christian Scholarly Work

Roger Ebertz, a Christian Philosopher at the University of Dubuque recently published an inspiring and erudite article in the Christian Scholar’s Review[1] on the call for Christian scholarship to be Biblically grounded and engaged. Ebertz suggests that Christian scholars should extend the traditional worldview analysis methodology of research, an approach that has mostly become normative amongst Christian scholars, to include a central Biblical hermeneutical component.

Ebertz’s proposal is rooted in the conviction that Christian scholars, and for that matter any other scholars, operate within three defining contexts: (a) a specific social and cultural situation, (b) an academic field governed by specific research agendas and methodologies and finally, and (c) a particular faith tradition. His proposal consists of an integrated research approach where these three contexts work together in the pursuit of truth: “The Christian scholar, then, seeks both to interpret her subject matter and to understand the Bible as it speaks to her and to her work as a scholar in the light of historical situation, her community of scholarship and her community faith. Thus the Christian scholar’s hermeneutical task is complex. And yet she aims at the unity of understanding that affirms the sovereignty of one Lord.”

Christian scholars therefore carry a double duty in that they should not only be competent in the particular demands of their academic disciplines but also in appropriate methods of Biblical hermeneutics that fits their field of enquiry.

Casual readers of ancient texts, like the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures that make up the Bible, often make interpreting mistakes in that they do not consider the historical and cultural distance between themselves and the first authors and audiences of these texts. Biblical Hermeneutical methodology assist the serious interpreter of the Bible in reading these texts in an integrative, reflective, analytical and yet devotional manner. These models of interpretation are drawn from the conviction that what is needed is a multi-disciplinary approach to reading the Scriptures that keeps in mind at minimum the literary, social, cultural, historical and theological dimensions of the text and its people.

It might helpful here to define three of the terms that are often used to describe the process of Bible interpretation: exegesis, exposition and hermeneutics. Exegesis is the process of interpretation in which we pursue the original meaning of the text. It is the process to uncover the meaning of the message that was heard by the original recipients. Exposition is the application of the Scriptures to modern times. It is the quest to find the application or relevance of these texts to our world. It is the process that should follow exegesis. Hermeneutics is the completed process of interpreting the Scriptures. It includes all the models, rules, principles, theories, and methods of Biblical interpretation. It covers the process from trying to understand the original meaning of the text to what it means to our world.

The relationship of the terms with each other in the context of Christian scholarship can be described in the following way. To understand the Scriptures properly Christian scholars practice hermeneutics by first applying exegesis because they hope to uncover the original meaning of the text. Secondly, an exposition of the text is done where the meaning of the text uncovered in exegesis engages with the embedded tradition of the scholar as well as the subject matter of the academic field in which she works. The South African scholar Ferdinand Deist[2] succinctly describes this interpretative process in the following definition: “Bible interpretation (Hermeneutics) is therefore the circular process of understanding sacred Biblical literature, namely interpreting the component parts of the sacred text in the light of the whole and the whole in the light of the its parts. It is the ongoing dialogue between one’s initial understanding of the sacred text and the impressions of the Holy Spirit gathered from subsequent readings and reflections on it. It is the dialogues between one’s own frame of reference (one’s own sphere of existence) and the context of the text. “

As Christian scholars, may we once again discover the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures in the Bible as central to our quest for [T]ruth as we humbly, honestly and yet faithfully engage with the world we live in.

[1] Ebertz, R. P 2006. Beyond Worldview Analysis: Insights from Hans-Georg Gadamer on Christian Scholarship. Christian Scholars Review, Fall 2006; 36,1.
[2] Deist, F. 1992. A Concise Dictionary of Theological and Related Terms. Pretoria: J. L. Van Schaik.
[3] Grønvik, K. 2005. Letting Scripture read you. Conversations 3:1 (Spring 2005).

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Spirit of Understanding

I have been reading Kevin Vanhoozer's marvelous chapter entitled, "The Spirit of Understanding". The following section describes the transformative role of the Holy Spirit in hermeneutics in clear and decisive ways:

"The Spirit progressively disabuses us of those ideological or idolatrous prejudices that prevent us from receiving the message. In so doing, the Spirit renders the Word effective. To read in the Spirit does not mean to import some new sense to the text, but rather to let the letter be, or better, to apply the letter rightly to one's life. The Spirit of understanding is the efficacy of the Word, it perlocutionary power. According to John Owen, the Spirit is 'the primary efficient cause' of our understanding of Scripture. Yet the Spirit's illumining work is not independent of our own efforts to understand.' It is the Spirit's activity, effected through our own labor in exegesis, analysis, and application, of showing us what the text means for us'."

Inspiring stuff.

Further Reading:
Vànhoozer, Ken J. (1997) "The Spirit of Understanding: Special Revelation and General Hermeneutics." in Disciplining Hermeneutics: Interpretation in Christian Perspective. Foreword by Roger Lundin. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The New Friars

There is a wonderfully new inspiring book out on the emerging Christian movements to serve the poor across the world. It is written by Scott A. Bessenecker and entitled; "The New Friars". Bessenecker has many good insights on the possibility of incarnational leadership.

Shane Claiborne, founding member of Simple Way, provides the following endorsement: "Scott Bessenecker has taken the risk (or fallen to the temptation!) of putting words to a stirring of the Spirit that is both fresh and ancient. His brilliant work is a celebration of the new things God is doing, while locating these movements humbly throughout church history, as the simple renewals that the Spirit seems to bring over and over on the margins of empires and markets that threaten to infect and colonize the Christian identity. But be careful neither to hail these ragamuffin disciples as celebrities or to dismiss them as saints. Rather, allow their lives to challenge us to rethink what it means to be Christian. After all, the very fact that they seem radical or odd may only be an indictment on the sort of Christianity we have become accustomed to."

Building Community

I have been having a conversation with a good friend on the need for community in the formation of authentic Christianity. He sent me the following quote from Henri Nouwen this morning:
"The table is one of the most intimate places in our lives. It is there that we give ourselves to one another. When we say, 'Take some more, let me serve you another plate, let me pour you another glass, don't be shy, enjoy it,' we say a lot more than our words express. We invite our friends to become part of our lives. We want them to be nurtured by the same food and drink that nurture us. We desire communion. That is why a refusal to eat and drink what a host offers is so offensive. It feels like a rejection of an invitation to intimacy. Strange as it may sound, the table is the place where we want to become food for one another. Every breakfast, lunch, or dinner can become a time of growing communion with one another."

The quest in organizational leadership is make opportunities for authentic engagements where we can practice true Christian hospitality and in doing so set the stage for growing communion.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Difficult Road of Forgiveness

I had to recently forgive someone for an injustice done to me. Forgiveness is difficult. I find it hard, especially if the person is not open to any kind of honest dialogue. I like the work of Sara Paddison on this, it is very helpful:
“Sincere forgiveness isn't colored with expectations that the other person apologize or change. Don't worry whether or not they finally understand you. Love them and release them. Life feeds back truth to people in its own way and time.”

May we grow to learn the wisdom of these words as we desire to imitate the great forgiveness of God towards us in Christ.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Registration is Open for the Biblical Perspectives in Leadership Roundtable

The School of Global Leadership and Entrepreneurship will host the inaugural Biblical Perspectives in Leadership Research Roundtable on May 8, 2007 at the Founders Inn & Spa located on campus of Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA. The Biblical Perspectives in Leadership Research Roundtable aims to provide a discussion and research forum for scholars, researchers, practitioners and ministers that work in leadership from a Biblical perspective.

Representing the multidisciplinary fields of biblical, social-science, historical and leadership studies, the Biblical Perspectives in Leadership Research Roundtable hopes to explore, engage and extend the field of knowledge and understanding of the phenomenon of leadership as found within the contexts of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. The following are a few of the topics that the Biblical Perspectives in Leadership Research Roundtable hopes to explore:
  • The use of exegetical methods to explore leadership

  • The relationship between scripture, faith, theology and leadership

  • Models of biblical spirituality and leadership

  • Models of tribal and other forms of leadership in the Pentateuch

  • Models of ruling, leadership, governing and organizational structures in the history of early Israel

  • Leadership values in the wisdom writings of the Hebrew scriptures

  • The relationship between prophecy and contextual leadership in the prophetic material of the Hebrew scriptures

  • Comparative studies of leaders and leadership models across the Hebrew and Christian scriptures

  • Historical studies of leaders in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures

  • Group dynamics in the Gospels

  • Historical Jesus and leadership research

  • Pauline perspectives in leadership

  • Organizational design and dynamics in the early faith communities of the Christian scriptures

  • Follower-leader relationships in the Christian scriptures

  • Organizational and leadership values in the Christian scriptures

  • Models of spiritual and leadership formation in the Christian scriptures

  • Models of future studies and strategic foresight in the apocalyptic material of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures
Please contact me, at clbekker@regent.edu, if you need more information. I am looking forward to work and learn together.

Fresh Expressions of Christianity in England

A good friend of mine pointed me to a new initiative in England between the Methodist Church and the Church of England, called Fresh Expressions. It seems to be a bold step in the right direction and holds promise for a revitalized faith experience in the UK. Fresh Expressions described themselves as follows:

A fresh expression is a form of church for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church. It will come into being through principles of listening, service, incarnational mission and making disciples. It will have the potential to become a mature expression of church shaped by the gospel and the enduring marks of the church and for its cultural context.

There is another church in the UK that fits this bill perfectly: Carmel Christian Centre in Bristol, a ministry led by Pastors Gerri and Michelle di Somma. It is by far one the healthiest and vibrant ministries I have observed in Europe. The Di Somma's steadfast faith, enduring love and consistent desire for Gospel relevance are a witness of the transforming work of God's Spirit in the UK.


Fresh Expressions: http://www.freshexpressions.org.uk/

Carmel Ministries: http://www.carmelcentre.org/church/

Friday, February 09, 2007

Christian Monastic Values in the Building of Organizational Communities

Whilst attending the Delhi Conference on integrating spirituality and organizational leadership yesterday, I was asked by the convener of the conference, Professor Sunita Singh-Sengupta to give an impromptu talk in one of the plenary sessions on the possible contributions of the early Christian Monastic Movements in the quest to build healthy and vibrant organizations.

The Christian Desert Fathers and Mothers Movements in the fourth and fifth centuries after Christ, understood that societal and organizational development are only possible once personal inner transformation has taken place. They followed the call of the Spirit into the Egyptian and Palestinian deserts in an attempt to imitate Jesus as He faced the temptations of the devil in preparation for active ministry. These Desert Fathers and Mothers constructed a diagnostic matrix in their quest to describe an ontology of sin and in doing so provided the early Christian Communities with a list of eight prime sins (or demons/passions as they sometimes called them). This wisdom showed that these prime sins are progressive and connected; for instance gluttony leads to sexual sin, sexual sin to sloth, sloth to anger, etc. They also provided a remedy for this well-described fallen condition of humanity and actively preached that union with God through Jesus Christ brought freedom from sin and liberty in the Spirit. The word monk from this time came from the Greek word "monos" which at the same time means "one/alone" and "united". Thus, only when I am alone (one) with God can I be united with Him and then with others. In essence, solitude leads to union with God through Jesus and thus provides the freedom to be in union with others and the ability to build healthy community with others. Incorporating these early Christian monastic values to organizational leadership would mean at minimum accepting the following truths:
  • There can be no community until personal transformation takes place.
  • It makes no sense to speak about organizational values and ethics unless we understand and accept the reality of sin and how this affects organizational leadership and organizations.
  • Personal transformation comes through an encounter with God through faith in the vicarious sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ.
The early Desert Fathers and Mothers in time left the desert, transformed by their encounter with the Spirit of Jesus and went back to their cities where their witness, ministry and lives brought societal transformation and allowed for the building of healthy organizations. It might be the time to start to speak about the possibility of organizational conversions.

Integrating Spirituality and Organizational Leadership

I am currently in India at the University of Delhi attending and speaking at the First International Conference on Integrating Spirituality and Organizational Leadership. I was invited as one of the plenary speakers and presented a paper yesterday entitled: "The Role of Religion in Economic Development: A Case Study exploring the use of Religious Knowledge in the Societal and Economic Transformation of the Early Matthean Christian Communities." The paper is published in the Macmillan Advanced Research Series (2007): "Integrating Spirituality and Organizational Leadership", edited by Professors Sunita Singh-Sengupta and Dail Fields.

It has been a deeply enriching and learning experience on how to authentically present the transforming truth of the Gospel of Jesus in such a diverse cultural and religious context. I have limited access to the internet and will be back to blogging more regularly next week.

Here is a link to the conference site:

Friday, February 02, 2007

A Call to a Modern Monastic Movement

The Franciscan Leader and Songwriter, John Michael Talbot recently posted a marvelous reflection on what a contemporary renewal of monastic leadership could look like on his website. Here is a short extract:

"Looking back at Christian history one sees a monastic phenomenon of the Spirit at several stages. The original monastic phenomenon spread like a fire from east to west, originating with the virgins, widows, and ascetics of Syria and Palestine, and the hermit and cenobitic monks of Egypt. It spread west and dug its roots deep into our corporate consciousness with Celtic monasticism and finally with the near universal inclusion of the Rule of St. Benedict. A resurgence of the original fire was seen in the 11th century monastic semi eremitical and cenobitical reforms with the Camaldolese, Cistercians and Carthusians, just to name a few. Even today there is a monastic revival going on in the midst of the deserts of Egypt with the Coptic Church, right where so much of monasticism began. "

I encourage you read the whole reflection at http://www.johnmichaeltalbot.com/Reflections/index.asp?id=155

Talbot raises several important and necessary points.

Returning to our own Nature

Fish cannot drown in water,
Birds cannot sink in the air,
Gold cannot perish
in the refiners fire.
This has God given to all creatures
to foster and seek their own nature,
How then can I withstand mine?
I must to God -
My father through nature,
my brother through humanity,
My bridegroom through love,
His I am forever!
Think ye that fire must utterly slay my soul?
Nay! Love can both fiercely scorch
And tenderly love and console.
- Mechthild of Magdeburg (1210-1297)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Future of Religion in Politics

Eight leading scholars from across America will convene at the Regent University Theatre on Feb. 2 for the 2nd annual Ronald Reagan Symposium to discuss the future of religion in American politics.
Featured speakers will include Michael Barone, Senior Writer, U.S. News & World Report and Marvin Olasky, editor-in-chief of WORLD magazine. Speech topics include, “George Washington on Religion’s Place in Public Life,” “Red God, Blue God: Is There a God Gap between the Parties?” “Left Turn? Evangelicals and the Future of the Religious Right.” Also featured will be Hadley Arkes of Amherst College, Michael Cromartie from the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Daniel Dreisbach of Princeton University, Jean Bethke Elshtain of the University of Chicago, Darryl Hart from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute and Michael Novak from the American Enterprise Institute.

All speeches will address the central question: How can religion and politics become like glue bonding us together rather than like sharp scissors cutting us apart?
Link to Symposium Website:

Voices & Votes: Religious Convictions in the Public Square

The Yale Center for Faith & Culture and the Yale Forum on Faith and Politics, will be hosting "Voices and Votes: Religious Convictions in the Public Square" at Yale Divinity School. The conference will start with an evening reception on February 11, and conclude with a discussion on February 13, framing a day of panels and discussions on February 12.This symposium will provide journalists, political advisors, religious leaders and academics from across the spectrum an opportunity to step back from the fray, address important issues, and gather insights from one another through panels and roundtable conversations. It is open to the Yale community and interested members of the public. The event is free; however, registration is advised. Speakers will include Ryan Anderson, Harry Attridge, Randy Balmer, Paul Baumann, Harry Brinton, Rich Cizik, Harlon Dalton, Richard Land, Flo McAfee, David Miller, David Neff, Eric Sapp, Harry Stout, Miroslav Volf, Brent Walker, Peggy Wehmeyer.