Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What's in a Name? (part 3)

Over the past two weeks I have enjoyed re-reading Robert Barclay's Apology and comparing his convictions to my own. I have identified several connecting points between the Quaker patriarch and my vision for the College which bears his name. Some of them I intend to share in this venue and invite discussion from those who care to think in a similar vain.

I have also enjoyed engaging the staff at Willoughby Hills Friends on Barclay's theology. The staff here are great thinkers and enjoy lively discussion. I will miss the day to day interaction with them when my transition to Kansas occurs in July (Lord willing). I appreciate their sense of humor as well. While discussing the Apology with our Pastor of Singles Walt Scheiman, he made the comment that maybe someday Barclay's Apology will be interpreted as "we are sorry we hired Halverstadt!" Well it seemed funny at the time. (You have got to love him!)

So what other connecting points exist between Robert Barclay and my vision for the academic endeavors of the College that bears his name? I like the way the Apology approaches and defines Truth. It seems as if Barclay defines Truth as a Person and His name is Jesus Christ.

The first class I will teach on campus next fall is Philosophy. I've facilitated the class online in the past and look forward to the f2f (face to face) interaction with the student body. One of my favorite exercises in Philosophy is to the contrast the main thinkers of yesterday and today and their quest for truth with that of Jesus Christ and the Bible. Some of them did not get very far in their search. Take Frenchman Rene Descartes for example. Basically his lifetime journey is summed up in one phrase, "I think, therefore I am." I doubt that Rene died a satisfied man.

The principle interest in life is to find truth and the field of higher education is no different. It is driven by the search for truth but it is not limited to just educators, ivory towers and philosophers. The quest for truth affects all facets of society and life, even love. Scripture teaches that "Truth" and "Love" are One in the same. Jesus Christ is both Love and Truth.

Barclay claimed that "Truth can only be embraced with the heart and the head and that he despised the schoolmen who said that you can do so with either one or the other" (Apology, pg. 1). He also framed the importance of repentance for Friends by stating that "sincere repentance leads to the acknowledgement of the Truth" (Apology, pg. 3), and "to the height of all happiness in life" (pg. 4). I concur with Barclay's definition of Truth and that the Holy Spirit as the divine Agent who leads Christians into repentance, relationship with Truth and guides one's life and transformation in accordance with the scriptures.

It would be my desire for students at Barclay College to know that the acquisition of knowledge can only be derived in the framework of Truth and Love. That the genesis of Truth is Jesus Christ and He must be central in life. Also, I would desire students to understand and experience heart purity when seeking to define truth and acquiring knowledge. Heart purity occurs through a conscious act of the will, when the Christian fully surrenders to Christ and allows the love of the Savior to purge the heart with His love and righteousness. Only then can Truth enter into the innermost parts of an individual and bring enlightenment. Only then can true happiness be experienced.

Truth and Love go hand in hand. So what good is knowledge if it does not lead to loving and serving both God and man? The glory of God is man fully alive. The life Jesus wills for humanity in John 10:10 and elsewhere is the impartation of God's life in man. Only then can Christians fulfill the Great Commandment "to love God and man unconditionally" and successfully engage the Great Commission to "go into the world and make disciples baptizing them into this very life." I want our students to know, experience and practice this reality ... and that's the truth!

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What's in a Name? (part 2)

As I discussed in my last post, the transition in name from Friends Bible College to Barclay College in 1990 was not philosophically rooted in the teachings of Quaker theologian Robert Barclay but was simply historical in nature. But what about the future direction of the College? Could God be calling the College back to a similar template forged by the founders of the Quaker movement?

Consider Robert Barclay as an example. It states in his Apology that one primary reason for writing this work was to be "uniquely personal in his thinking through of his own religious journey from the strict Calvinism of his youth to his Quaker convincement" (pg. xix). In fact, many scholars of Barclay have noted down through the centuries that "one of the most significant portions of the Apology has been his direct counter to Calvin's doctrine that was prevalent in the churches of his day" (Apology, pg. xxiii).

Could it be that through the rebirth of Barclay College over this past decade that God intends for her to offset the strong Reformed theology of the Post-Modern Church in order to balance the theological palette of His Kingdom? Other than at her conception in the early 1600's, I can think of no better time in the history of the Church for Evangelical Friends to be exclusive in her doctrinal orientation. Just as God used Quakers centuries ago to reform the Church after the Great Reformation so He may be calling Evangelical Friends to balance His Church theologically at this time.

The theological palette of God's Church is made up of a rainbow of color in which the Holiness movement of Friends is a part. My vision for Barclay College is to have our students exposed to the full theological color board of God's Church in their under graduate studies, critique His palette through our future Masters program, and contribute original expressions to it in our future Doctor of Arts degree that will support the rich theology of Friends.

In my opinion the theological expressions found in orthodox Christianity is not a matter of right or wrong, good or bad, but just simply to be viewed as different. Thus, there should be mutual respect for one another, appreciation for the differences and the contribution each one makes towards the glory of God and the good of Christ's kingdom.

However, when it comes to the future of Barclay College I think God may be leading her to be more intentional in theological focus. Maybe future hires will be men and women who are not only proven scholars but are people who are convinced that through the atonement of Jesus Christ and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, that Christians can have the life of God imparted into their very being, enabling them to live without sin and to emulate the life and teachings of Jesus.

Perhaps in the future God may lead Barclay College to people of high academics who believe and can articulate to students that at the time of full consecration a second distinct work of grace occurs and a literal transfer of nature takes place in the Christian. Through this definitive act the recipient becomes entirely sanctified which purges the conscious, perfects the heart in love, and provides Christ followers with a perfect standing and relationship with their Creator.

I believe the future educational matrix of Barclay College should not only expose students to the rich doctrine of holiness but provide practical application as well. I would like to see every student receive multiple exposure to the fullness of the Holy Spirit through their Barclay College experience, knows what the life of holiness looks like in everyday life based upon our tradition, have an understanding of how it is structured vocationally, and be committed to it's globalization for the transformation of the world and the glory of God.

Like queen Esther from the Old Testament, possibly God has raised Barclay College up "for such a time as this." I may not agree with all of Robert Barclay's propositions as defined in his Apology but concerning the doctrine of holiness we are yoke-men. This aspect of his philosophy I would like to see Barclay College expand into her future academics. Who knows, as far as the future of Barclay College is concerned, there may be several connecting points with the historical name she bears.

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What's In A Name?

In the days of old, names were often used to define an individual or a community. We find multiple examples of this in the scriptures. I have wondered the same about Barclay College. Does the fact that it bears the name of Robert Barclay mean something? Does it define who she is?

According to former president Dr. Glenn Leppert the transition in name from Friends Bible College to Barclay College in 1990 was not necessarily associated with the philosophy of Robert Barclay but was more historical in nature. Dr. Leppert states that “Robert Barclay as the first theologian, or at least the first to write on behalf of the Friends, was the one thing that led the college to use his name. We also wanted someone to combine academics with spirituality and many were impressed with his quote that no amount of education could replace the work of the Spirit” (Email, May 19, 2010).

I am encouraged by this revelation for several reasons. First, I like the idea that Barclay College seeks to align herself first and foremost with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and not with the philosophies of men. No doubt Robert Barclay was a good man and has positively impacted Friends and the Kingdom of God in some extraordinary ways but sacred literature tells us to emulate Jesus. Thank you Barclay College for your sensitivity in this matter when selecting another name.

Second, I like the dual track Barclay College follows in fulfilling her mission statement. By dual track I am referring to her emphasis on the personal work of the Holy Spirit in the academic life of the student body. I believe it is the work of the Holy Spirit which transforms lives, calls forth workers into the Kingdom and blesses the labor of Christians in their preparation and practice. To pursue academics without the unction of the Holy Spirit would not distinguish Barclay College from many other institutions nor would it adequately prepare students for engaging the demands of ministry in the 21st century.

I am excited to be joining the staff at Barclay College in the next few months. I feel honored to be a part of the narrative God is writing in Haviland Kansas. It is a new day for Barclay. In less than ten years God has raised her like a phoenix from the ashes of despair and destruction to glorify Himself and to globally resource the Evangelical Friends Church and support His Kingdom agenda in the 21st century. As Robert Barclay penned in the late 1600's, "I am confident that with God's help there is nothing that I cannot do when I have devoted myself and all that is mine to Jesus Christ" (Barclay's Apology, pg. xix). Maybe there is something in the name after all... Hmmmm ....

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