Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Gospel.

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth."

- The Apostle Paul, Ephesians 1:2-10

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Fathers.

I've been taking this class at Harvard Divinity entitled Early Christian Thought I: The Greek Tradition. I was very excited to take this course given my limited exposure to the patristics. Thus far, we have read Origen's First Principles, The Life of St. Antony (also known as the Vita by Athanasius), and the Letters of St. Antony. For the next class, we are assigned to read Athanasius' On The Incarnation. I fell behind with the Origen reading, but I have found the writings by or about Antony to be the most fascinating thus far.

Today in the discussion group that follows Thursday's class period, I was concerned about Antony's understanding of the importance of "self-knowledge." In the Letters, Antony emphasizes that self-knowledge is important in that it is directly connected to the knowledge of God (despite their major differences, I heard Calvin echoing in the background). Knowledge of God is essential in order to produce a virtuous life and to master the desires of the body. However, I didn't think that Antony gave an adequate argument or defense for how the individual, who falls from an original state of rationality through idolatry, has the ability to be introspective. Perhaps I was asking him to be too systematic, and reading my reformed categories back onto his text. However, it was such a high view of human ability that it took me off-guard. My professor responded by stating that Antony believes the ability for self-knowledge comes through Christ (I wasn't sure my professor thought that the Incarnation or the atonement itself achieves this end for the individual). I did not see this explicitly stated in the text, which made me question him further. He then went on to explain that Antony believes that the work of Christ, prophesied in Is. 53, allowed for the will of the individual to be healed. The problem facing humanity, post-Incarnation, is now a lack of knowledge. Thus, the quest for Antony was one of internal illumination. This is why Antony, among other Eastern fathers, are charged with pelagianism since the will is seen to be perfected. The process of salvation involves not the healing of the will, but a perfection of knowledge and understanding.

This raised a tremendous amount of questions for me. In truth, I always assumed that the Reformed circles painted the Eastern fathers as pelagian for polemical purposes. Yet, my professor (not reformed from what I can gather), affirmed their pelagianism even though he did not have any pejorative connotations in using this label. After Augustine, pelagianism was condemned at the Council of Orange in 529. This council was not ecumenical so it is not formally recognized by all parts of the catholic (small c!) church. What does this mean for ecumenical dialogue? Despite my disagreements with pelagianism, is the individual Christian necessarily required to condemn pelagianism in order to be considered orthodox? How does the Church affirm that this part of the tradition is still affirmed today by various parts of the Church? If one affirms that it is heretical, especially in light of the testimony of Scripture, how does one account for the fact that the will wasn't formally assumed to be damaged until Augustine? If so, then what does this mean for the faithfulness of the Holy Spirit to the life of the Church?

Unfortunately, I didn't get the time to ask those questions. But the tradition and confessions of the Church deeply fascinate and trouble me. We must engage with
all of the tradition in order to truly understand what we have inherited. I am burdened by the amnesia of the evangelical Church, and I hope that I will continually understand the history of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church. This isn't for the aims of sheer historical studies but rather to understand the deposit of faith more deeply in order to properly engage constructive theology.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Reading Barth.

I decided that even though my project is focused upon another Barth text, I am going to read the entire Church Dogmatics before next October. I read considerable portions all throughout it last semester. However, we never touched volume I and I hope to get deeply into this first volume in the next couple of months.

There are days, like today, where all the fear, anxiety, and stress subsides for a while and I simply get excited about doctoral studies! I need these days and quite frankly, I consider them a gift.

Update: Grams came home from the hospital today - Praise be to God! She is doing much better and hopefully will continue to improve. Thank you, so sincerely, for your prayers.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


If you think of it, please pray for my Grandmother, Georgia Saylor Dugan. My Mom called and told me that my Grams has been doing and saying some bizarre things lately. The doctors detected some deterioration in her brain and gave her medicine to cure the early signs of dementia. She lives with my parents and has been asking lately where my Grandfather is and when he'll be home (he died when I was 12), and she talks about driving to the family farm and how she saw my Grandfather and her parents. My Grams hasn't driven in 3 years, the farm is 3 hours away, and her parents also died when I was a little girl.

It is difficult for my parents to navigate these waters. Even more, it is heartbreaking to hear this news and I am 6 hours from home. My Grams and I have been incredibly close since I can remember. She babysat me all the time while my parents worked. I spent almost every afternoon of my childhood in her and my Grandfather's house. We cooked together, picked raspberries in the back yard, she taught me songs on the piano, and I had to endure her horrible cooking (love you, Grams)! What makes it so incredibly difficult for me to hear this news is that not only is my Grams one of the strongest, most opinionated, most intelligent women I've ever met (she is what you'd call an old-school feminist), I would not be where I am without her financial and moral support. She funded my private school education in highschool, she funded my time at Taylor University, she bought my first car, and the financial support she has offered me during my time at Gordon-Conwell has been overwhelming. After my Dad pays all her bills, she apparently says "please send whatever is left over to Kait." Don't worry, my Dad doesn't, but just the concern on her part is a constant reminder of God's provision in my life. And I can't even begin to describe how much this woman prays for me. She prays for me everyday of my life. She has told me countless times that she prays everyday that I'll find and follow God's will for my life.

Hearing about her growing older and facing dementia makes me cry instantly. It is the heartbreaking and tangible reminder that the fall is evident in our lives. I long for the days when Grams, Grandfather, me and the entire family will be reunited in resurrected bodies. But until then, I'll keep calling her and she'll keep reminding me of the Lord's goodness. The Spirit doesn't leave her even now.

I love you, Grams.

[Uncle Paul, Grandfather, Grams, and Dad]

Monday, September 13, 2010


"Consequently, we know the most perfect way of seeking God, and the most suitable order, is not for us to attempt with bold curiosity to penetrate to the investigation of his essence, which we ought more to adore than meticulously to search out, but for us to contemplate him in his works whereby he renders himself near and familiar to us, and in some manner communicates himself ... knowledge [of God's providence], then, ought not only to arouse us to the worship of God but also to awaken and encourage us to the hope of the future life."
- John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, I.V.X

If there is one thing that my Mother constantly reminds me, it is that the Lord is providential over my life. His providence carries me, encourages me, sustains me, and humbles me in my constant times of doubt. As my faithful Mom preached the providence of the Lord to me again on the phone this evening, I sat in my kitchen feeling the overwhelming depth of God's grace. This road to doctoral studies is one long journey of faith. All I seem to do is question, worry, doubt, stress, and grow more impatient. Yet, the Lord continues to bring events, people, voices, testimonies, and countless other means of guidance and encouragement into my life daily. This doesn't even begin to include some of my closest friends who have been invaluable ears as I ponder, discuss, and work through what I should do (Josh, Jill, Joel, Ashley, David, Mary - I love you guys!). I am truly blessed. Even if this never works out, the Lord continually reveals to me His love and grace, especially through my family and friends. Their patience with me and love for me is undeserved. I am thankful.

I have come to peace with the idea of going to the UK for a degree. While I am still far from certain as to my next step, I have decided that if I forego the US system and don't go through the typical pedagogical set-up, it won't necessarily cripple me as a teacher. I have been given specific examples of professors that have gone through the UK system and are just as competent, if not more in certain instances, than their US colleagues. While the US program would be ideal for the coursework, comprehensive exams, broad education, and not to mention the funding, I know that in twenty years, I'll regret not working with the best advisor that fits me. At this point I don't know who that will be. However, I have officially opened myself up to the real possibility of studying in Scotland. That decision is another act of faith, quite seriously. I don't know why I have been given the opportunity to study theology and seek a teaching vocation, but I hope that the Lord will prepare me, focus me, sustain me, and humble me.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Doctoral Studies.

For all my more sanctified friends, the conclusion of this post will come as a no-brainer. For the fools like myself, the conclusion is just dawning on me.

As I was drying my hair this morning in deep hopes that I would have a great hair day, I suddenly became a bit nervous about all that I have to accomplish this semester. In addition to my classes, one at HDS twice a week, one Latin course, and two others with heavy reading loads, I have countless responsibilities (TA for GC's philosophy department, Byington Scholar - this actually includes work - go figure!, being a nanny, two conferences, two book reviews, etc.). But in addition to all of that, I am applying for a doctorate. This includes a lot of time and effort and, well, pain. GRE preparations, research proposals, applications, statement of purpose, etc. Then, I have to visit the schools, attend information forums at HDS, actually take the GRE, and research so I can actually write a coherent proposal. Did I mention that my topic has almost nothing written on it? Did I mention the text I am focusing upon is half Latin and unavailable in English? And let's not even mention the school selection process. I never knew that wanting to study Barth and systematic theology would be so difficult to do in the US. And for crying out loud, I don't even care if I study and work in a non-evangelical institution. At this point, I just want a solid Barth scholar who will be my advisor. I think I gave up on the whole "I want my advisor to have a prayer life and believe in the living and eternal Word of God" a long time ago. Sadly.

What makes it even more daunting is the fact that I will continue with two classes over J-Term, five in the Spring (including everything above sans doctoral applications but adding my comprehensive MAR project), and German all throughout next summer only to begin a doctoral program in the fall. This means five to seven more years of doctoral studies straight through until I finish with a published dissertation (Lord-willing), have to find a job, begin to teach, and keep publishing. The toil, loneliness, rejection, exhaustion, and frustration seems like too much to fathom at this point.

But then it dawned on me. I have a pretty blessed life. I am a Christian female trying to prepare to get a doctorate so I can study systematic theology in hopes of someday teaching. Moreover, I live a relatively pain-free existence. But it occurred to me that this future before me seems so burdensome because I'm doing it for myself. The instant I began to think of doctoral work as serving Jesus Christ, it became a joy. My pursuit of a doctorate is not and should not be for my own ambitions. The reason I began this journey was because of a simple systematic theology I class that I took my first semester of graduate school. Since then, I have become fixed, enthralled, and captured by the object of faith in Jesus Christ and His gospel. I know that I won't be able to keep sight of this truth when I'm getting four hours of sleep some nights and haven't talked to my friends in weeks because I've been engaging in what seems to be futile research. But I pray that the Spirit of God will continue to sustain me as I pursue His Word throughout my entire theological development.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Yep, I finally watched the first episode of Mad Men. I was sure that it would never live up to the acclaim.

I was wrong.

The show is fascinating, even from the pilot episode. Jon Hamm is perfect for the lead role, and I can't wait to see where this show goes. The closing scene was powerful. They are already addressing issues of race and gender, sometimes explicitly and other times with subtlety. The design of the show is brilliant. Bravo, Matthew Weiner!

Also, I finally subscribed to
The Economist magazine! I am so excited for my first subscription! Go here for a great deal - 12 issues for $12!