Urbana Theological Seminary


May 19, 2015

G. K. Chesterton

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By Dr. Melody Green

Gilbert Keith Chesterton has been described as “one of the most effective and entertaining defenders of the Christian Faith in the early part of the twentieth century.” Born into Victorian England and living until 1936, he was also one of the most popular journalists of his time. He influenced a large number of well-known writers, including C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ravi Zacharias. During his life, Chesterton wrote more than 80 books, 200 short stories, 4000 essays, countless poems, and a handful of plays. No matter what the genre, in all of his writing he tackled important issues with a pithy sense of humor that often allowed his readers to lower their guard enough to really begin to think. According to a book published in 1923 about “contemporary apologists,” Chesterton “has aroused the whole world to thoughtful laughter, and even his critics are agreed that he is the most likeable man in English letters.”
More recently, Chesterton has been described as a prophet, who, while writing about the issues of his day, was also writing about issues that would still be vital a hundred years later. Issues such as human interaction with technology, international relations, racism, Darwinianism, and Marxism are just a few examples of the topics that were not only relevant when Chesterton tackled them, but are still relevant issues today.
While taking on serious topics, however, Chesterton believed that a sense of wonder and a sense of humor are both vital for clear thinking as well as for the Christian life. As an adult convert to Christianity, he believed that materialism, agnosticism, and atheism, all world views that he had at one time held to, were dark and hopeless philosophies that led to nothingness and despair. Therefore, one of the steps toward becoming a Christian, he argues, is regaining the childlike ability to see the world with a sense of wonder. After all, the world is a creation that reflects the joy and wonder of its Creator.
This summer, Urbana Theological Seminary is offering an introduction to the writings and thought of G. K. Chesterton. We will be reading and discussing his best known novel, essays, and apologetic texts, while also exploring common themes that run throughout his work. And, what better way to get you thinking about taking a class in Chesterton, than to share a few thoughts from the writer himself:

“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies. That is probably because they are generally the same people.”

“To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.”

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult, and left untried.”

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be defeated.”

This summer we will read, discuss, and laugh over G. K. Chesterton’s work. Join us!


April 27, 2015

Reading and Praying Scripture for Spiritual Transformation (Lectio Divina)

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The religious poet, a worshipper of Israel’s God, YHWH, exclaimed, “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long” (Psalm 119:97).
Biblical authors commend, through command and example, sustained reflection on God, His character, His works, His ways, His plans, and His instruction as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and upon truth and wisdom discerned in human life and from the world around. This robust, full-orbed, biblical meditation results in “being transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2), and is a vehicle for communing with, and adoring, the Triune God—Father, Son, and Spirit—revealed in Scripture.
Followers of Christ throughout the centuries—Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant—developed diverse devotional practices involving biblical meditation. The shaping of each practice, and the terminology used, reflects the unique time, place, culture, situatedness, and spiritual emphases and sensitivities of the people of God in that specific setting.
The summer course, “Reading and Praying Scripture for Spiritual Transformation (Lectio Divina),” at Urbana Theological Seminary, explores a range of devotional approaches for meditating on God’s word, referred to throughout church history as “lectio divina,” a Latin phrase pronounced lex-ee-oh dih-vee-nuh, meaning sacred reading. Lectio divina refers to a reflective reading and praying of the Holy Scriptures, individually or in groups, in order to commune with God and be spiritually transformed.
A rich tradition of lectio divina is found in Benedictine spirituality (patterned after the sixth-century Rule of St. Benedict). In classical practice, there are four key aspects. The first is “lectio” (reading). We read Scripture out loud (preferably), slowly, deliberately, thoughtfully, and repeatedly. As Scripture so frequently enjoins (“Hear, O Israel!” Deuteronomy 6:4), we seek to truly listen to and receive God’s Word in our heart, mind, and soul. The second aspect is “meditatio” (meditation). We ruminate and chew on the text. We ponder it and reflect upon it, letting Scripture penetrate our heart and mind. We consider our life in all its dimensions in light of the text. We accept the content of Scripture as God’s word to us, transforming and affecting us at deep levels.
The third aspect is “oratio” (prayer). We respond to God from the heart in light of His word to us. We consecrate ourselves to Him, we lovingly yield to Him that He may transform us and draw us into greater intimacy with Himself. We “draw near to God” (James 4:8) and “abide” (John 15) in Christ. The fourth aspect is “contemplatio” (contemplation), which is an adoration of the Triune God in His manifold excellence and beauty as we rest in His presence. Contemplation of God, in vigorous, thoroughly-biblical, orthodox, Trinitarian perspective can be described metaphorically as “lovingly gazing upon” God. With the psalmist, having “calmed and quieted my soul” (Psalm 131:2), we seek to “behold the beauty of the Lord” (Psalm 27:4) and to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). We rest in and admire Christ, transfixed by His sweetness, savoring the Savior.
This devotional practice of reading and praying Scripture for spiritual transformation is a fruitful complement to a spiritual diet of regularly listening to solid, sound preaching of the Word of God, and to engaging in academically-rigorous, theologically-faithful Bible study. Lectio divina helps us fulfill the command, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). Please consider joining us for this summer course as we learn about historic Christian expressions of lectio divina. We will join the Hebrew poet in loving God’s law and “meditating on it all day long” (Psalm 119:97).
–Peter D. Spychalla, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of New Testament & Spiritual Formation


April 10, 2015

Founder’s Day and ANTIOCH 2015

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From the President’s Desk:

Every Spring Urbana Seminary observes Founders Day. For 2015 it’s tomorrow, April 11th! And of course we mark the day with this evening’s ANTIOCH celebration of God’s guiding hand and work in people’s lives.

What is Founders Day and why do we observe it? It’s a day to commemorate the hand of God in our founding as a school, to remember the people who made sacrifices and gave gifts, who prayed and created and worked. Founders Day is a time to say thank you to all who have helped and played a part, as well as to register our gratitude to God. It gives us a chance to pause and reflect as we end one school year and prepare to launch into another. It provides a time to inaugurate the new Founders Fund campaign.

In Spring 2015, what am I thankful for since last Founders Day and ANTIOCH 2014? Another class of graduates, soon to join the ranks of our alumni. A good school year coming to completion—so much learned, so much growth in the Lord and his character. The publication of two more faculty members’ books and others’ chapters. God connecting us with students for the future as we’ve seen the addition of some remarkable people to the student body this past year—keen of mind and with a heart for God and ministry.

Praise God! We celebrate his guidance and involvement in all that has happened. In the significant events of founding the Seminary, there are a number that occurred in April, hence our choosing April each year for Founders Day. And much more—each successive year Spring brings the completion of yet another year of students’ studies and life-changes, as well as another graduation (2015 is our 11th annual!).

This is a kingdom ministry to train God’s servants for His glory.
Unless the LORD build the house,
The builders labor in vain.
Psalm 127:1a
If God’s not in it, it won’t get anywhere. But if God is in it, He will prevail and work His purposes through our human efforts. Looking back it seems ever more clear that God has been in this!

Three follow-throughs to mark Founders Day 2014:
• I encourage you to join me to praise God that he has established a seminary in such a strategic location for the kingdom and to represent Christ. And look forward with real anticipation to what He will yet do through Urbana Seminary—pray for us for the future and God’s continued provision and direction.
• Come to graduation this year. It’s Friday May 15th, 7:00 PM. And you’re invited! Get the date into your calendars.
• On the Founders theme, remember the Founders Fund Campaign. You will receive more info about this in the near future. For us to move forward into the future it is essential that the Seminary have a growing circle of financial supporters to the glory of God. We cannot do it without you. This is an urgent ministry. A huge thanks to those who already give. And an encouragement to the rest to consider 2015 as the year to begin to give regularly to the Seminary’s ministry.

In Christ,
Expectantly,

Ken


April 6, 2015

ANTIOCH!

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For this week’s blog, Dr. Cuffey reflects on Easter as well as discusses our upcoming event, ANTIOCH:

“Happy Easter! I love the all-or-nothing nature of Easter. It is the vindication of all Jesus claimed about himself. Apart from the truth of resurrection, believers would be of all people “most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19) We rest our hope in the reality of a dead man returned to life . . .
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:20)

And then following Easter, we come to another very special time, also to witness to what God is doing. It’s here! Urbana Seminary’s Founders Day is this Saturday, April 11th. To mark the day, you’re each invited to the second annual ANTIOCH celebration!

ANTIOCH: The Founders Celebration of Our Graduates, Class of 2015

At 7 PM, at the Sodo Theater in downtown Champaign (111 S. Walnut Street), Urbana Seminary will host a dessert event to celebrate our grads, our current students, and to convey vision for what God can do through Seminary education.

We’re so excited for the evening! What better way for people to see what we are as a Seminary than to showcase what happens in a Seminary education, and what the graduates do with their training after they have the degree in hand? We believe that this will be a great and natural way to communicate vision and passion for what God has called us to do.”

By the way, why the name? Look at what happened in the early church at Antioch:
1 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
Acts 13:1-3
Antioch was a strategic place for the church, both to grow, to include Gentiles in the church, and to launch Paul on his missionary journeys.

Remember that you are invited. We’d love to have you come, but it would be so helpful for you to RSVP so we can finalize set up and arrangements.


February 27, 2015

Celtic Christian Service

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This coming Sunday evening, Urbana Theological Seminary will be holding this semester’s student-led worship service. Since we offered a class in Celtic Christian Spirituality last semester, this worship service will have a Celtic Christian theme. While there are many different aspects of Celtic Christianity, UTS student Margaret Shrock explains a few things that she gained from the class:
“As we reflect on Celtic Christian spirituality it gives us new perspectives that can enrich our understanding and practice of our faith in the 21st century. We, too, can realize that the spiritual is much closer than we may have been aware. God is all around us and He can be called upon at all times. Even the mundane tasks of life can be infused with spiritual meaning when viewed as done in the presence of God and with His help. We can view our spiritual life as dynamic rather than static. Viewing ourselves as travelers rather than settlers can help us as we make decisions and face difficulties and ultimately death. When we don’t see this earth as our final home, we have hope and anticipation for our true and future home. Our journey is not our destination so we can continue on in hope even when the traveling is tough. And we can incorporate prayer in our journey. Praying scripture, praying in our daily activities and praying for God’s presence and protection can enrich our awareness of God’s care. When we see God as closer than our breath it is only logical to speak to him with each breath. When we view nature as praising Him we can join in with this ongoing song of praise. I’ve enjoyed learning about Celtic Christian Spirituality. I now see the themes reflected in modern Christian writing, teaching and thoughts. It may be ancient, it may be romanticized, but it can bring a fresh perspective to our faith that can breathe new vitality into us.”
To learn more about what Celtic Christianity involves, or simply to share a worship service with other Urbana Seminary students, friends, and supporters, be sure to join us Sunday evening at 6:00 at Hessel Park Christian Reformed Church, 700 W Kirby Ave
Champaign, IL. There will be a potluck afterwards, so feel free to bring a dish to share! (But if you don’t like to cook, don’t feel that you have to–there will be plenty to go around). If you have any questions or would like to RSVP, e-mail mgreen@urbanaseminary.org We hope you can join us!


February 13, 2015

The Great Divorce

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The Great Divorce may not be C. S. Lewis’s best known work, but it provides a thought-provoking look into sin and human nature. In this symbolic story, those who live in hell are given the opportunity to take a bus ride to heaven. Anyone who chooses may, if they like, stay in heaven after they have seen it. But that is the catch: staying is going to involve changing, and they have to want to change. The Fellowship for Performing Arts has adapted this story into a stage play that will be playing in Wheaton IL in March. On Saturday March 28, a group from Urbana Theological Seminary is planning to go to see the 4:00 showing. Here is how it will work: you will need to get your tickets on your own (or find a few friends to order tickets together so you can sit with each other). The group who is going will meet together at a designated place earlier in the day on March 4. We will ride up together, then watch the play. Afterwards, we will go out to eat to discuss the play before driving back to C-U. Our student Susan Hinesly has already seen it, and here is what she has to say:

“My husband Chris & I took the opportunity to travel to Indianapolis in mid Nov to see the Fellowship for Performing Arts production of C. S. Lewis The Great Divorce. Three actors played 19 character parts as they performed many of the book’s vignettes. Following the performance we had a Q & A with the show’s Producer. I thought the performance was great and it brought to life and clarified Lewis’ book. I was certainly glad we went. Consider making the trip for yourself. It is important that we support Christian arts.
FPA is currently working on their next production Martin Luther on Trial. The Christian Reformation will celebrate it’s 500th anniversary in 2017. There is more information in the second link below. For more information on FPA or the Great Divorce, you can go to greatdivorceonstage.com
I pray our UTS community will have a remarkable and spiritual filled spring semester. God bless as you!”

For tickets, you need to go to this website: http://www.atthemac.org/events/c-s-lewis-great-divorce/

For questions, or to get in on the carpool/dinner plans, contact mgreen@urbanaseminary.org


February 6, 2015

Student ministry, Austin’s Place

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Over the next few months, we will occasionally be running blog entries about various ministries our students are involved in. The first is about Austin Place, a ministry long-time auditor Susan Hinesley is involved in. a women’s shelter called Austin’s Place. She describes it in her own words:
“Austin’s Place winter shelter for single women:
My church, the First United Methodist Church, 210 W. Church St., downtown Champaign (corner Church and State) is currently in it’s 8th year of housing single women overnight during the winter months. Austin’s Place operates from 8 pm to 7 am each evening and will remain in operation through March 31, 2015. We are providing a safe place for homeless women to rest their weary bodies and minds. Our guests often feel vulnerable because they are homeless for a variety of reasons, so we remain awake to provide them with that added layer of comfort that we will be watching over them from afar so that they may rest comfortably. Our guests are screened by the Center for Women in Transition/Courage Connections each evening.
The shelter is in need of 2 hosts to overnight during an (each) evening. This is a way that volunteers can serve with a spouse, a friend or by themselves and that we take anyone who can survive on 4 hours of sleep and, we do not limit based on gender or age. After a short training prior to your scheduled evening, the 2 hosts arrive at 7:45 pm and set up the welcome area. The hosts greet the women who arrive by an evening volunteer driver shortly after 8pm. The women set up their cots, freshen up and come out for a snack and decompression. Lights out at 10 pm, but it is often much earlier. At that time, one of the 2 hosts go 2 rooms away to sleep on a couch while the 2nd person sits up. About 2 am, they change places. At 6:30 am the women awaken. They clean up their cots, freshen up and have coffee and a snack. At 7 am, the morning driver will pick the women up and the hosts are done for the day. This is a wonderful way to offer compassion and hospitality to women in need. For more information please contact associate Pastor Cathy Minor at 356.9078 or at cbminor56@gmail.com, or her assistant, Bonnie Berner, same phone. The web information is available at shelter-austinsplace.weebly.com, or at champaignfumc.org, the ministry tab. Your help is greatly needed and appreciated. God bless.”

Dr. Green adds: “I had the privilege of visiting Austin Place one evening while Susan was volunteering. I was impressed not only with the safety measures undertaken for the sake of these women, but also with how much the smallest actions of Susan and the other volunteer mattered to the women being served. The women in the shelter were clearly at the lowest place they could possibly be, and yet these volunteers were able to speak the love of Christ into their lives in a truly tangible way.”


January 16, 2015

Exodus

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YOU SAW THE MOVIE (FROM HOLLYWOOD) . . .
NOW READ THE BOOK (FROM GOD)!!
Spring Semester 2015 is drawing near! Classes begin next week. In this week’s blog, learn why you want to take a specific class we are offering this semester: The Book of Exodus, taught by Dr. Ken Cuffey. Dr. Cuffey explains:

In December Exodus (the movie) hit the theaters. Now you have a chance to study Exodus (the book!) to find out what really happened, and what it has to do with your life. And what an adventure this will be . . . who wouldn’t want to come along for this one? Why take a class about Exodus?

It’s dramatic and exciting.
• There’s a bush that burns but won’t burn up.
• A whole series of totally devastating plagues. Do you know their theological significance? They have a very pointed message.
• A mass escape from oppression.
• A Sea whose waters part and form a pathway to freedom for a large crowd of people.
• Finding food and drink out in the desert where no one expects to find it.
• An imposing mountain where a whole people have a direct encounter with God. And thunder and lightning, quaking ground, trumpet blast, thick clouds.
• Creation of a new nation.
• An amazing story of God’s forgiveness and grace. Yes, this is the Old Testament.
• God moving into the neighborhood, just down the street.

This adventure doesn’t leave you hanging. The book of Exodus picks up the story line from Genesis and fills in how God came through on the first of his promises from Genesis 12. How, you ask? Which promise is that? Does it still apply to me?

This book has such a colorful cast of characters: two lowly Hebrew midwives who best Pharaoh, an innovative Hebrew couple, Moses, the daughter of a king, Miriam, Aaron, a harsh oppressing Pharaoh, a stubborn and hard-hearted Pharaoh, chariots chasing, an army of Amalekites attacking, birds flying over, and so much more.

Exodus is part of God’s Word, so God uses it to speak to us. It’s an ancient book describing events more than 3000 years ago, but it still is relevant to our lives—today in 2015.

Exodus tells another part of the story leading to the coming of Messiah Jesus.

It’s available for us. You can read the book. You can even study the book—together with a class of other committed followers of Christ who love God and his Word.

What a great way to spend your Wednesday nights (6-9 PM) between the end of January and beginning of May!

For more information about the class or how to register for it for credit or to audit, call the Seminary office (217-365-9005) or check out the website (start with http://www.urbanaseminary.org/courses/spring )
We hope to see you in class!


December 15, 2014

Apologetics? Why Bother?

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This week’s blog entry is from Dr. Todd Daly:

Sally has been perusing the religion section at a local book shop, and has been intrigued by the books of a New Testament scholar who, while arguing that Jesus of Nazareth was a genuine historical figure, claims to Jesus’ divinity were not a part of the earliest teaching of Jesus as found in the gospels, but reflect mythological accretions of the early church. As a result, she’s no longer so sure that we can know anything of what Jesus said, much less what Jesus did.

Ronald is increasingly disturbed by the constant reports of violence around the globe—whether between ISIS and more moderate followers of Islam, between Christians, Jews, and Muslims over holy sites and relics, numerous incidences of sexual abuse perpetrated by priests and pastors against innocent children, or fundamentalist Christians bombing abortion clinics. In the face of such atrocities, he now accepts the claims of the “new atheists,” who argue that the world would be a more peaceful place if we did away with religion, quite convincing. Not only does Ronald have no need for religion, he believes that it is down right toxic for anyone’s moral development.

Carol has been seriously thinking about becoming a Christian, but believes that her career as thinks an evolutionary biologist precludes her from embracing the Christian faith, especially since Genesis teaches that God created the earth in six days.

Frank is a devout Christian who regularly interacts with agnostics at his job. He’s had the opportunity to argue for God’s existence over the past several years, but hasn’t really gotten anywhere with his arguments. He’s beginning to wonder what good—if any—can come from defending the beliefs of Christianity by appealing to certain features of nature, or by asking where we have come from, or by engaging in philosophical arguments that always seem to end up in a stand off.

The concerns of Sally, Ronald, Carol, and Frank have a common thread: they deal with the discipline of Christian apologetics—a defense of the core claims of Christianity in the face of doubt, skepticism, and unbelief. How should we respond to their concerns? To be sure, while there are no air-tight arguments that readily elicit faithful ascent to the claims of Christianity, we are called to provide a defense—an apologia—for the hope that lies within us (1 Pet. 3:15). This Spring I’ll be offering a course that will address the issues shared above here, and several more. If you struggled in how to respond to Sally, Ronald, Carol, or Frank, you’re not alone, and you’re invited to join us as we consider how to best communicate the truthfulness of the Christian faith while remaining sensitive to both the reality of doubt, the limits to logic, and necessity of faith.

(This class will be offered in a modular system, meeting four times, one weekend a month, throughout the semester. It can be taken for three credits or audited)


December 2, 2014

Giving Tuesday

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Happy Giving Tuesday! The idea behind this day is that so many have shopped for presents avidly on Black Friday, followed by Cyber Monday. Now, Giving Tuesday is a chance to give a gift that will make a tangible difference in the lives of others outside of your usual Christmas circles.

In particular, consider making a gift that will have significant impact in 2015 and the years ahead: a donation to Urbana Theological Seminary. God has given us at this seminary the privilege of investing in the lives of these amazing people, our students, who will give back so much in years to come as they lead and serve the church. Yes, it’s the resources they garner in classes, the skills and knowledge for the challenges ahead. It’s also the relationships formed, the friendships and the mentoring. And we get to see God actively at work in and through our students today and tomorrow.

Thank you for considering this, and for your generosity!
Ken Cuffey

P. S. If you would like to make a donation to Urbana Seminary through our secure paypal site, click here: http://www.urbanaseminary.org/giving-uts/donate


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