Saturday, January 12, 2008

Christianity in another world.

One of the most important things I have gleaned from this trip is just how much we as Americans take for granted. Clean drinking water, not haggling for prices, clean streets, modern technology at our fingertips all contribute to the privileges we expect in our great country. One of these freedoms is also the free practice of our religion. We take for granted that we can choose whether or not we wish to continue to be Christians, or that Christianity is such a commonplace metaphysical and hermeneutical framework in our culture that we assume everyone can analyze it through a post-modern critical eye. From my experiences with Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo, sometimes just learning "the basics" is enough. The conflicts concerning post-modernity, soteriology, and other theological debates can become irrelevant in places where the church is struggling. ETS's mission is to teach in ways that will strengthen the church in the Arab world. This does not mean that the people who learn in this seminary will not experience critical thinking and advanced theological study, but it does mean that they do not have the luxuries that American seminarians share of having Christianity already comfortably entrenched in their social contexts. In America we take for granted that there is a church virtually on every corner, many of them rich in resources and means for helping those in need. Many churches all over the Middle East merely struggle for survival. ETS is serving to create leaders that will serve churches all over the Middle East and provide the resources it will take to continue to "Grow and Minister to the Body of Christ." Sometimes I think there is a great deal to be learned about the simplicity of the faith, works, and struggles that the people face in the Middle East. Our privilege as Americans can sometimes make us forget that religious freedom is not something that we should take lightly. My experience with Christians in Egypt made me realize just how lucky I am to be at a University that is rich in resources that will equip me not just for ministry, but allow me to think critically and analytically about my faith in many contexts. Not everyone is quite as lucky as myself, and this experience has made me count my blessings every single day. This experience will enrich the way I will serve the "Body of Christ" in America, with the realization that being able to analyze and grow in my faith is an incredible gift.

Grace and Peace,

Jim Penuel.

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