ISS 2013 Report

INTENSIVE SUMMER STUDY 2013

Review / Report

The Intensive Summer Study 2013 began on 28th May and continued till 5th July, an intense six weeks of thorough confusion, anger, contemplation, and finally an emergence of a fresh perspective and wisdom. We began with the question, “What is the Gospel?” and moved on to The Art of Interpreting Scriptures. These sessions confused us but helped us to grasp a wider understanding of what the Gospel is, and how we have diminished the Gospel today. These sessions allowed us to dig deeper into the word of God and see things afresh. We have all been infected with what Leonard Sweet calls “versitis” – reading selectively isolated Bible verses without understanding the entire story. We learned that the Bible is one continuous story; to read the New Testament without the Old Testament makes no sense, and to read the Old Testament without the New Testament is to miss out the climax of the story.

We learned to look at the person Jesus Christ from a new perspective. What does it mean when we proclaim that “Jesus is Messiah”? Did Jesus come just to die for our sins? What did he live for? How has he impacted world history? – are some of the questions we grappled with.

As the weeks progressed, our eyes were opened to the wider concerns of the nations around us. Pankaj Mishra’s book From the Ruins of Empire helped us see great people of the likes of Al Afghani, Liang Qi Chao and others, and pondered what a Biblical assessment of their lives would look like. One serious question that we pensively contemplated and pondered upon was “Why are the churches in South Asia and India unable to produce effective leaders, statesmen, thinkers…of the likes of Amartya Sen, Salman Rushdie, Nehru, etc.; and what must the church do about it that it might be able to produce avant-garde leaders and thinkers in the next 100 years?” We also looked at the life of the Prophet Jeremiah, often called the weeping prophet. Humiliated and disgraced for twenty four years, Jeremiah never stopped the task at hand—prophecy. He woke up each morning not to bear the grunt of humiliation and indifference but to spend a day with God. He was true to his calling, and lived out his vocation to be a prophet of God, speaking against the oppression and injustices of his day. We are to be no less prophetic in our own context today.

Next, we moved on to what it means to live in a postmodern, postcolonial, post–everything world? Leonard Sweet in his video lecture challenged us by saying that this is the present world we live in; that God will not commend us for living our lives well in the world of the 1950s when we are actually living in the 21st century. This enabled us to open our minds and eyes to the world where everything seems to be falling apart, when relativism is at its height, and where there is no single coherent story. However, we also looked at the positive aspects of postmodernism and how as Christians we can live wisely in this postmodern world.

If God is Lord over all creation then the created world, the environment, is our neighbour is what we learned next. If our vertical relationship is to flourish, we have to set right our horizontal relationship. To call ourselves Christians yet care nothing about the environment we live in is to fall into the error of thinking that God doesn’t care about the world he created and called it good. We learned that many of the so-called natural catastrophes happen due to human choices, and often human greed, to exploit nature for his personal comfort. Interweaving this understanding, we looked at Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae, and what the Lordship of Christ entails. A challenging book by Brian Walsh titled Colossians Remixed helped us to broaden our understanding of the inclusive nature of Christ’s earthly mission.

Finally, we looked at the power of prayer in our lives, and how, very often our prayer lives are shallow and mean nothing, if not very less. We learned that no day is an ordinary day – the challenge lies before us whether to get through a familiar day half asleep, or to be wide awake and observant even on familiar and mundane days to allow God to work out new possibilities in our lives. We learned to pray the Lord’s prayer in a fresh new way. Life in the city is a battle of busy schedules and meeting deadlines, with too many things to do, wanting too many things and having very little time. In such a busy cosmopolitan city, we were able to see another side to living our lives – the art of contemplative and meditative prayer – to take things slowly and let God work in our lives, without hurrying things. The Paraclete was what Jesus promised us before he left. We were able to examine the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. Some call themselves Charismatic or Pentecostal or Revival, whereas some at the other end, cessationist. In some, or most churches today, what Paul regarded as the least important of the spiritual gifts, namely speaking in tongues, became a rod to measure the amount of spirituality in one’s life. We also looked at the second order interpretation of what speaking in tongues would mean in today’s world. It would mean the language of the scientists, economist, biologist etc., which is found in every university, and it is our task to be able to speak and interpret them.

Last but not the least, the entire journey helped us uncover our blind spots. The Word of God opened our eyes to read our own academic disciplines in a fresh new way. The Word of God is rich in content, permeating and transforming all subjects – be it polity, economics, philosophy, mathematics, physics, and all others. This Summer Study has helped us to be people who stand at places where the world is in pain, where the world needs transforming, where we can be agents to fulfill God’s intended purpose for the world in our own capacity.

SIDE-NOTES:
→ We met as a group from Monday-Friday for six weeks from 3:00 – 7:00 pm everyday.
→ Apart from the regular study, individuals were also given the opportunity to pursue an independent study on various topics. 2-5 students clubbed together to study a particular topic. They met every Saturday for the required discussions.
→ We also played strategic games based on environmental issues as well as on money and market.

BOOKS
Week One:
1. The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight
2. How God Became King by N.T. Wright

Week Two:
1. Jesus: A Theography by Leonard Sweet
2. Who is This Man: An Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus by John Ortberg

Week Three:
1. From The Ruins of Empire by Pankaj Mishra
2. Run With The Horses: The Quest For Life At Its Best by Eugene Peterson

Week Four:
1. Church And Mission In The New Asia by Vinoth Ramachandra
2. The Ascent of Money by Niall Fergusson

Week Five:
1. Christianity, Climate Change & Sustainable Living by Nick Spencer
2. Colossians Remixed by Brian J. Walsh and Sylvia C. Keesmat

Week Six:
1. Fuelling the Fire by Dennis Lennon
2. After You Believe by N.T. Wright
3. New Life In The Spirit by Leonard Sweet

INDEPENDENT STUDY TOPICS
1. A Fresh Look at the Problem of Evil
2. Bioethics
3. Brief History of Western and Eastern Atheism
4. Economy and Culture/Religion
5. Envisioning 21st Century Postmodern Church
6. Human Rights and Human Dignity
7. Islam and Hindu
8. Science and Religion
9. Secularism, Multiculturalism and the Clash of Religions
10. Technology and Religion
11. Understanding Poverty and Deprivation
12. Women and Pastoral Leadership

MOVIES / VIDEO LECTURES / AUDIO LECTURES
1. Luther (Movie)
2. Inequality is the Issue (Interview with P. Sainath | Video)
3. People Suffer: Who Cares (Vinoth Ramachandra at Veritas Forum | Video)
4. The Story of Stuff (From Production to Distribution | Video)
5. Works of God (C.B. Samuel | Video)
6. Pray Big and Pray Bold (Sundar Krishnan | Video)
7. The Lord is My Light (Alister McGrath | Video)
8. Talking Point Forum (Leonard Sweet | Video)

INSTRUCTORS
1. Samuel Vaiphei
2. Chubamenla Jamir
3. Kanato Chophi
4. Dr. Kevisetuo Dzeyie
5. Neilenthang Kom

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