Thursday, 26 September 2013

Teaching: It's more than what you think.

A teacher imparting information to his students.

Ideas have consequences. 

It has been said before that whatever you circulate as accepted thinking will typically result in the creation of accepted culture norms and patterns of behaviour. This is to say (in some sense): You become what you think. The way we might put this in a theological jargon is to say: Our orthodoxy informs our orthopraxis. I believe this to be true, but I have discovered that it is not exclusively true. 

There was a time where I might have thought that the best, if not the only way to 'teach' (train//disciple//convince) a person would be through extensive appeal to the cognitive approach. This approach to teaching is grounded in what some scholars label the ‘Socratic method’, that is aptly named after its originator Socrates. The Socratic Method seeks to arrive at a solid, tenable conclusions by the use of critical thinking, reasoning, and logic. I get a lot of satisfaction with working out the truthfulness of an idea. It is a strong conviction of mine that change often takes place at the root of an idea. But, as we will soon discover: Logic has its limits. We cannot for instance measure the true impact of  teaching on the ability to recite information alone. Observable behaviour should also factor into our teaching methods. This is to say that learning can be manifested by a change in behaviour.

Gandhi put it this way: “Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.” I am convinced that the way to discern the effectiveness of teaching is to assess a change in behaviour. Behaviours do matter. Our actions are indicative of how well we have processed the material. This is why good theology must be lived out. 

Israel Galindo in his book, The Craft of Christian Teaching, suggests that what we learn will change us in three primary ways: knowledge, attitude, behaviour. 

L = __C__
       (k, a, b) 
L: Learning, C= Change; k= knowledge a= attitude; b= behaviour.

Learning creates changes to our cognitive, affective and effective abilities. Galindo believes that, "Knowledge is the easiest to change." We can assimilate facts, data, and concepts with relative ease and subsequently allow new information to inform and correct old information. The hardest area to change, according to Galindo, is our attitude (emotional//affective). Good teaching, according to Galindo, must seek to address our knowledge, attitude and behaviours. This will result in ‘different’ hopefully better persons. All learning, according to Galindo, should result in change. Learning is change!

A recent research paper published by  Dr. Dan Kahan, a Yale Law School professor, appears to have confirmed Galindo's hunch about attitude being the most difficult area to effect change. 
In Kahan’s experiment, some people were asked to interpret a table of numbers about whether a skin cream reduced rashes, and some people were asked to interpret a different table – containing the same numbers – about whether a law banning private citizens from carrying concealed handguns reduced crime.  Kahan found that when the numbers in the table conflicted with people’s positions on gun control, they couldn’t do the math right, though they could when the subject was skin cream.  The bleakest finding was that the more advanced that people’s math skills were, the more likely it was that their political views, whether liberal or conservative, made them less able to solve the math problem.

Dr. Kahan demonstrates in the study that, "partisanship (emotional attachment) can even undermine our very basic reasoning skills." Kaplan commenting on Dr. Kahan's study asserts, "We want to believe we’re rational, but reason turns out to be the ex post facto way we rationalize what our emotions already want to believe."

It would appear that teachers (those who desire to effect change) really do have their work cut out for them! Galindo admits this when he writes, "Change is difficult, sometimes painful, and often resisted." I believe that Dr. Kahan's research has proven that teaching must address more than just the cognitive faculties. Teaching is not merely the relaying of data. Or as Galindo puts it,  "receiving  new information is not a sufficient definition for learning." Successful teaching needs to have a holistic commitment to every faculty and component of learning. As Kaplan asserts, "When there’s a conflict between partisan beliefs and plain evidence, it’s the beliefs that win. The power of emotion over reason isn’t a bug in our human operating systems, it’s a feature." This means that teacher's everywhere must ask afresh the question, "Am I teaching to effect change in all domains of learning?" 

Guidelines to help teach for change:

  • Determine the change in the lives of your learners that your teaching will call for.
  • Write a learning objective that focuses on that change in the domains of knowledge, attitude, or behaviour
  • Teach one thing. One thing only per lesson
  • Teach to effect change in one domain. (knowledge, attitude or behaviour)
  • Use learning methods that will help the students reach that objective
  • Determine how the student will demonstrate that learning has taken place. 
In order for someone to believe (holistically learn), four components must be operative to some degree:

Affective (feeling, emotional)
Cognitive (Knowledge, understanding)             
Behavioural (Action, conduct)
Volitional (will, conviction, passion)

"Knowledge plus feeling leads to a volitional conviction that is evident in behaviour." - Galindo

Did Jesus subscribe to the idea that learning equals change? Did Jesus address the cognitive, affective, and behavioural in his teaching? Yes, I think so. There is a case to be made that the Sermon on the Mount is the culmination of effective teaching. 

Attitude ("don’t even hate your brother/sister", "do not judge", "do not worry"), 

Knowledge ("you have heard it said", "those who hear these words of mine", "therefore I tell you") 

Behaviour ("turn the other cheek", "pray for those who persecute you", "put this into practice").  

Jesus does not let us off the hook. Christ’s teaching is meant to apply to the domains of knowledge, attitude and behaviour. The call for a disciple is to follow Jesus. It is important to note that Jesus ends his body of teaching on the Mount with the example of the wise and foolish builders. The wise builder is the one who "hears Jesus' words (meaning the previous body of teaching) and "puts them into practice".  Jesus expects his disciples obey and to enact the teaching of the Sermon. Jesus does not appear to regard the discipleship of the Sermon as an 'impossible ideal'. (Luther) Jesus' last words in Matthew's Gospel are a reinforcement of the Sermon. 

When they saw him, they worshiped him (attitude//behaviour); but some doubted (attitude). Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me (attitude//knowledge). Go (behaviour) therefore and make disciples (behaviour) of all nations, baptizing them (behaviour) in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them (knowledge) to obey everything (behaviour) that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always (attitude), to the very end of the age." - Matthew 28:17-20

The early church took the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles so seriously that potential converts to Christianity were expected to practice that teaching before joining the church or having been taught the Sermon on the Mount. Alan Kreider comments:
This may seem severe and legalistic to us today, even perverse. How could a community rebuff people as potential members for not living according to the standards of the group before they had been taught? But the early Christian catechists were attempting not so much to impart concepts as to nurture communities whose values would be different from those of conventional society. Christian leaders assumed that people did not think their way into a new life; they lived their way into a new kind of thinking. [1]
The early church recognized that inhabiting a new way of thinking (indeed, a new way of living) is essential to full reception of the teaching of Jesus and genuine conversion to the way of the cross. Potential converts to Christianity were coming for baptismal instruction having their thinking already conformed to the scheme of the age. 

What would change in the church today if we "lived our way into a new kind of thinking"? (Check this video out)

May you be challenged to love the Lord your God 

With all your heart 
With all your soul 
With all your mind 
With all your strength! 

Works Cited

1. Alan Kreider, The Change of Conversion and the Origin of Christendom (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1999), p. 23.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Encountering the Holy Spirit in John 14-16

I had the great opportunity to be invited to speak at the 'Encountering the Holy Spirit' event here in Morpeth, England. The event is an ecumenical effort hosted by all the churches here in Morpeth. We gathered to worship, pray, listen and seek God. What really impressed me was the diversity of denominations represented at the event. We had Anglicans, Catholics, Pentecostals, Anabaptists, Methodists, etc... represented at the gathering. It was very encouraging to see the greater body gather in this way! 

I thought I would share the audio of the session (click here) and share my notes I made during my study time. (read below)  

The context of John 14-16

John 14-16 is a part of the “Farewell Discourses” which are found between 13.31 to 17.26. John is drawing upon a well established Jewish literary tradition. Jewish testaments imagine the dying (or departing) person surrounded by his most intimate friends and family.There is an exhortation to obey the law, to carry on, predictions of what is to come, and typically conclude with a prayer for those left behind. In some cases, the departing person passes his “spirit” to his followers or successor. The best examples of a Farewell Discourse are Moses to Joshua and Elijah to Elisha. (Deuteronomy 31–34; 2 Kings 2:9–14) 

The focus of the Farewell Discourse is always for the concern for the comfort and encouragement of those left behind. It is no surprise then that we observe the following over the next few chapters:

  • “Do not let your hearts be troubled”(14.1) 
  • Jesus speaks directly of his upcoming death, resurrection and accession.  “Where I am going you cannot follow” (13:33) 
  • Jesus is preparing his disciples for what is yet to come. “I’ve said these things to you,” Jesus went on, “ to stop you from being tripped up”. 16.1  
  • Jesus promises the Holy Spirit  (the Comforter)“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another helper, to be with you forever.” 14.16

"In the farewell of Jesus many of the traditional elements appear. He encourages his disciples and comforts them (John 14:1). He also urges them to be obedient (13:34; 15:12). Moreover, Jesus promises that his Spirit will indwell and empower his followers following his death (14:17, 26; 15:26; 16:3, 13). In other words, we have in John 13–17 all of the elements of a Jewish farewell."

 - John, NIV Application Commentary

“These chapters have often rightly been seen as among the most precious and intimate in the New Testament. They are full of comfort, challenge and hope, full of the deep and strange personal relationship that Jesus longs to have with each of his followers. We shouldn’t be surprised that they are also full of some of the richest theological insights, of a sense of discovering who the true God is, and what he’s doing in the world and in us.”  - John For Everybody, N.T. Wright 

So what does Jesus teach us about the Holy Spirit in John chapters 14-16? 

The Holy Spirit empowers us to do the work of Jesus. (Jn 14:12, Acts 1:8)

  • “I’m telling you the solemn truth, ‘Anyone who trusts in me will also do the works that I’m doing. In fact, they will do greater works than these, because I’m going to the father!” John 14.12
      • Immediately after promising the greater works, Jesus begins to talk about the Holy Spirit. 
      • If it is true that the power of God is resident in Jesus and that the disciple is invited to know Jesus and gain life from him, then in some manner the disciple will share in God’s power. It is of utmost importance to note that the astonishing promise of 14:12 points to the future. Jesus must first go to the Father before the promise of remarkable works and realized prayer can come.
  • “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” -Acts 1:8 

The Holy Spirit is our Paraclete ( παράκλητος)  

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another paraclete ”(14.16a)

  • The word used here in the Greek is ( παράκλητος)
  • This word occurs 5 times in the New Testament, all in the writings of John. (14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7) 
      • A fifth (and final) use occurs in 1 John 2:1, where Jesus is called a paraclete.
  • It can be translated as Comforter, Encourager, the Helper, the Advocate, the Intercessor. 
  • Occurs in secular Greek literature for an advocate in a court of law, who comes “alongside” a person to speak in his or her defence and provide counsel.

Jesus calls the Spirit another helper.

  • Up until this point Jesus has been walking with the disciples, teaching them, sending them out to heal the sick, bind up the broken hearted.
  • Jesus is thus a Paraclete, who is now sending a second Paraclete: The Holy Spirit. 
      • 1 John 2:1, Jesus is called a paraclete.
  • This means that the ongoing work of the Spirit will be a continuation of the work of Jesus during the disciples’ lifetime.

The Holy Spirit is with us forever.

“to be with you forever” (14.16b)

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” 14.18

Jesus does not abandon his disciples to their own devices. They are not like sheep without a shepherd, but rather the Good Shepherd calls out to his sheep, and his sheep hear his voice. The promise is that God's very breath, his Spirit, will dwell in us and with us forever. God is not far from anyone. God is with us.

Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth 
“This other helper is the Spirit of Truth” 14.17

  • We know that in context Jesus has already said that he is “the truth” (14:6)
  • Jesus is also teaching us that the Holy Spirit is Spirit of truth BECAUSE he testifies of the truth (Jesus). (16:13)
  • Holy Spirit communicates the truth about God, which is the essence of God’s work in Christ 

Holy Spirit dwells in us - John 14:17 (Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Tim. 1:14;) 
“The world can’t receive him, because it doesn’t see him or know him. But you know him, because he lives in you and will be in you” 14.17

Jesus is describing a pattern of divine life, of indwelling and mysticism, in which God and Jesus share an interiority that leads to this sharing of glory; he also anticipates that disciples will enjoy a similar unity with God (17:24; cf. 14:23) and each other (17:11, 22). Jesus here envisages a profound spiritual intimacy that changes human life. It is a unity encompassing the Father with the Son, the disciples with them both, and the disciples in union with one another.

Holy Spirit teaches us
(1)He brings things to our remembrance.

  • “But the helper, the Holy Spirit , the one the Father will send in my name, he will teach you everything. He will bring back to your mind everything I’ve said to you.” (John 14:26)

(2) The Holy Spirit speaks directly to us.

  • “I have many more things to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of Truth comes he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and will tell what is yet to come. ” - John 16:12-14

Example of the Holy Spirit teaching the church:

(See Acts 10-11)
Peter was forcefully directed by the Holy Spirit to move into new theological territory that must have seemed completely uncertain. This is what Jesus describes in John 16:12–14. The Holy Spirit will be “the Spirit of truth,” guiding his followers into all truth, which they could not then bear to hear but which Jesus no doubt wanted to tell them later.

Here is the heart of the question: Does the Spirit simply lead each generation to apply the truths of Jesus in new ways? Certainly this is true. But does the Spirit also lead into new territory, new doctrines, and new activities unknown in Jesus’ historical ministry? In the present example, one could argue that Peter’s mention of clean and unclean in Acts 10:14 may echo Matthew 15:11 (Mark 7:19; cf. Rom. 14:14), where Jesus redefines “unclean” with new parameters. The Spirit has simply pressed the apostles to apply this truth in an unexpected way.

The Holy Spirit glorifies and testifies of Christ (John 15:26; 16:14).

  • “When the helper comes - the one I shall send you from the Father, the spirit of truth who comes from the Father- he will give evidence about me.”(15:26) 
  • “He will glorify me, because he will take what belongs to me and announce it to you” (16:14)
  • Holy Spirit does not teach us something additional to Christ, but rather testifies of Christ.
  • In theological jargon, our pneumatology (doctrine of the Spirit) must have a Christo-logical basis. To experience the Spirit is to experience Jesus.

The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, justice, and judgment.

“When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin, justice (righteousness) and judgment.” (John 16.8) 

"One important issue involves the Greek verb elencho, translated “prove wrong about” in the first edition of the NIV: “[The Spirit] will prove the world wrong about sin. . . . ” Here the idea is that of convincing the world about the truth of its wrongdoing. Brown thinks this contradicts 14:17, since there the world cannot accept the Spirit-Paraclete. But this is a different matter: In 14:17 Jesus is talking about receiving the Spirit, not hearing its message." - John, NIV Application Commentary

"The Spirit will prove that the world is in the wrong, on the three counts that really matter.First, the Spirit will demonstrate that the world is wrong in relation to sin. In other words, the world is guilty of sin; and the evidence is that 'the world', as we have seen throughout this book, has not believed in Jesus . This can only be, Jesus insists, because it is bent on its own way rather than God's way. 

Second, the Spirit will demonstrate that the world is wrong in relation to justice. The world thinks it has justice on its side. But the vindication of Jesus himself- which consists of his 'going away' and being exalted to the Father- is the sign, as in Daniel 7, that the living God has already give sentence on his behalf. If it's justice you want, we already know the verdict:  God had decided in favour of Jesus as the righteous one. All those who follow Jesus share that verdict. (This is where John comes very close to what Paul means by 'justification by faith'.) 

Third, the Spirit will demonstrate that the world is wrong in relation to judgement, which here means 'condemnation'. The world supposes that is can and should pass judgement on Jesus' followers. But the events which are about to unfold, the events of Jesus' death and resurrection, indicate decisively that they are wrong. These events mean that 'the ruler of this world'- the dark power that has kept humans and the world enslaved- has been condemned. His power has been broken. Death itself, the weapon of tyrants and particularity of 'the satan', is a beaten foe. " -John For Everybody, N.T. Wright 

Jesus is convinced that it is ‘better for us’ if he goes away.

“Very truly I tell you, it is for your good I am going away. Unless I go away the Advocate will not come to you, but if I go away I will send him to you.” - John 16.7 

"'If only we'd been there when Jesus was around!' people
often say. 'It would have been much easier. He would have explained everything to us, and told us what to do. And he'd have been such an encouragement. Whatever we are doing, he'd be positive about it, and we'd want to go on and do even better.' It's a common perception but it's wrong on two counts. 

First, the evidence of the four gospels suggest that the people who were around in Jesus' day didn't see it life that themselves. Some of his closest friends betrayed and denied him. Even the beloved disciple ran away in the garden. Most people couldn't really make him out. He was compelling but puzzling. Many thought he was mad. 

Second, in this passage and several others in the next two chapters, we find that Jesus has promised to be 'around' with his people from that day to this. In fact, he's promised that it will be easier, not harder, in this new mode. His people will be able to do things they couldn't do when he was physically present. 

But how will be 'around', now? He has promised to send us his own Spirit, his own breath, his own inner life. " -John For Everybody, N.T. Wright

Questions for reflection:

1. Have you ever experienced the comfort, strengthening, empowerment of God in your life? 

2.Why is Jesus so convinced that it is 'better for us' that he goes away? 

3. Why do we have tendency to down play the role of the Holy Spirit? (e.g. The creeds have only one line for the Holy Spirit)