So what’s it all about? Does life meander on aimlessly, or is there a point to it? And does God’s story matter at all? In fact, what is God’s story?
In this series of Theology on Tap, we will be looking at the arc of salvation history as it is broken down into its four major components – Creation, The Fall and Redemption. Each of our four speakers will pick up on one of these major themes, and bring it into dialogue with our culture and society, showing us why and how God’s story truly makes a difference in how we perceive the world and act in it. Don’t miss out on what will prove to be a very exciting and engaging series!
Creation: The Two Most Important Christian Beliefs
October 5, 2004
Dr. David Cunningham
Many people might assume that the Christian understanding of creation is a rather insignificant matter; aside from arcane debates between Darwinians and creationists, it’s just a nice children’s story — isn’t it? In this talk. Dr. David Cunningham will make the case that the Christian creation story enshrines two of the faith’s most important beliefs: creation out of nothing, and the essential goodness of the created order. A large share of Christianity’s ethical claims and liturgical structures grow out of these two beliefs. Dr. Cunningham will explain why they are so important, and how they are related to the rest of Christian belief.
Dr. David S. Cunningham is Professor of Religion and Director of the CrossRoads Project at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. He holds degrees in Communication Studies from Northwestern University, and in Theology and Religious Studies from the University of Cambridge (England) and Duke University. He has published widely in the areas of Christian theology and ethics, including two specialized books in Christian theology and two edited collections. His most recent book, Reading is Believing: The Christian Faith Through Literature and Film, makes his reflections available to a broader audience; it explores the central beliefs of Christianity through novels, plays, short stories, and films.
The Fall – The Tragedy of Deception, Pride, and Disobedience
October 12, 2004
Speaker: Dr. Elaine Phillips
In the perfect and harmonious environment of the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve encountered the master deceiver whose tactics have a soberingly familiar ring to them. We will look at the circumstances, the “characters,” and the implications of this drama as it unfolds in the text of Genesis.
Dr. Elaine Phillips is currently professor of biblical studies at Gordon College (since 1993). A transplant from the midwest, she came to faith in Jesus as an undergraduate at Cornell. After receiving an MDiv from Biblical Theological Seminary, she and her husband Perry studied and taught in Israel from 1976-79. Upon returning to the US, she taught at Pinebrook Junior College outside Philadelphia while pursuing her PhD from The Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning.
Redemption – Redemption as the Comedy of Grace
October 19, 2004
Speaker: Dr. Daniel Russ
The Bible recounts the unfolding comedy of redemption with its endless zigzags of how God created in the beginning, is redeeming in the meantime, and will consummate in the end His creation in His timing. It is both profoundly comic and really funny to believe that an infinitely wise and all-powerful God could create everything from nothing and then choose to redeem it all through graciously loving His creation back to Himself. And it takes a bit of a fool to believe that He should do this through particular persons like Sarah, Moses, Joshua, Deborah, Hannah, Ruth, David, Hosea, Mary of Galilee, and Jesus of Nazareth. And if we could swallow the story up to this point, then could we believe that a story that revealed such Truth would be turned over to a group of fishermen, obscure Jews, an excommunicated rabbi, and a motley crew of redeemed humanity called the Church? If a people began to believe that the beginning and the end and the meantime are to be seen this way, they would slowly but surely treat the lowest in society as dignitaries, they would build hospitals, create organizations to educate and honor honest workers, found schools and universities where a broad array of people could be educated, and even move nations to see that universal democracy is possible for people who are so created and so loved by God. And so they did. How does a human being hold in mind all of this confused reality with its plots and subplots, its endless array of important characters, and its wide array of critical issues and still live in the real world? The practical answer is that this confusion is the real world and that’s the world we are given. Life as comedy is, therefore, the most faithful reflection of redeemed reality as we live it. The theological answer is that we do not have to hold all of it in mind. Only God does that. We are called to know God, through Him to know ourselves, and with Him to live life gracefully.
Daniel Russ is the Director of the Center for Christian Studies at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, where he also serves on the faculty. The mission of CCS is to facilitate Christian scholarship that will gain a hearing in the larger academy and that will have an impact on the Church and the broader culture. From 2002-2003 he was the Executive Director of Christians in the Visual Arts at Gordon College, where the CIVA Office is housed. He holds a B.A. in English from the University of Evansville, a M.A. in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary, a M.A. in English from the University of Dallas, and a Ph.D. in Literature and Psychology from the University of Dallas.
Dan was Headmaster of Trinity Christian Academy, a K-12 College Preparatory School in Dallas, Texas from 1994-2002. He is a Fellow of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, where he served as Managing Director for five years. There he founded Studies in Leadership, a program that affords business, professional, and civic leaders the opportunity to re-vision their leadership in light of the wisdom of the classics. He also serves as a moderator and academic consultant for the Trinity Forum, a Christian university without walls for business, civic, and professional leaders.
Dr. Russ has contributed to a number of books on classics, biblical studies, and cultural leadership, including The Terrain of Comedy (The Bible as a Genesis of Comedy), The Epic Cosmos (Exodus as Epic), Classic Texts and the Nature of Authority, and An Invitation to the Classics. He has recently contributed an essay on the Book of Job to The Tragic Abyss, a book published early in 2004, and a the foreword to a new reprint of Dorothy L. Sayers’ essay “The Lost Tools of Learning.”
Dan and his wife, Kathy, have four grown children and live in Danvers, Massachusetts.