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Colossian Blog
June 28, 2017 | Trey Tirpak

Why are You Interning Here? Formation.

Information. We love it, don’t we? Just pull out your phone and explore a sea of facts and tales about the universe we inhabit. But navigating this sea of information has become quite a haunting endeavor.

For so much of my life, I’ve been driven by the narrative that “if we just get the right facts – the right information – and put it in order, then we can fix things” or “if we just put our minds to the task then we can fix things.”

This narrative also has an ultimate source where we get all the right “facts” from: the Bible. The best news about this source is that it’s simple; what we need to know is what the Bible says, plain and simple.

There’s a long list of how this narrative is chock-full of truth while at the same time chock-full of misleading, secular/modern belief about the Bible and the God of it, our world, and ourselves.

So, like many Christians who are seeking to navigate these seas well, I was asking questions like: What is truth? What is real? What is good? What is beautiful?  

But the haunting thing for me is that so many answers to those questions are determined by how I’ve been formed as a person, and so I have to first ask about how to ask methodological questions.

Like any discipline, there’s a method (a way) to inquire, investigate, inspect that’s proper, appropriate, and fitting. So, I’ve been finding myself asking questions like “what is faithful discernment?” or “what is the way that I’m going to take to answer these questions?”

It’s a good task, but also a hard one, which is how I’ve come to The Colossian Forum.

It’s discernment that draws me into The Colossian Forum, faithful discernment. You see, at The Colossian Forum, we know that the work of being a prudent, discerning Christian isn’t merely about gathering all the right information and all the right facts. Rather, it must first and foremost be about formation: who we are and who God is forging us to be. Only then can we truly address, answer, and faithfully discern questions.

What I’ve realized so far is that, in my theological journey, formation is what’s been left out of the conversations. The incarnational indwelling of the Spirit and what he is actively doing in my life has not been considered in my conversations or even considered valid. I’ve just been relying on my reasoning and my opinions and my vision of “how things are suppose to be” not even realizing how significantly these things have been formed in me by an outside world or how my disposition totally leaves God out of the picture. 

It’s because of realizing that I was my own idol – that it is my reasoning and my intellect and my vision of how things are supposed to be – that I’ve become convinced that I haven’t actually been having Christian, Christ-like conversations, and that I need to start practicing having authentically Christian discourse, especially when it comes to discerning things about the topics that The Colossian Forum engages.

So formation is why I am interning here, and why I’ve come to cherish The Colossian Forum. TCF practices faith, hope, and love, not merely thinks about them. So, if you’re wondering what it might mean to step out in faith and discern things, come join the ship that’s trying to navigate these waters.

To be theological is not just about being intellectual. It’s also about our heart. Theology is something that’s not just in my head it’s what I live…” Rev. Wayne Coleman, Millbrook CRC, Grand Rapids, MI

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Born and raised on O’ahu Hawai’i, Trey Tirpak graduated from Calvin College in May 2017 with a B.A. in Religion while minoring in Congregational and Ministry Studies in Community Development and Pastoral Ministry. He is attending Western Theological Seminary in Holland Michigan, and is pursuing a Master of Divinity (MDiv) and Master of Social Work (MSW) while also seeking ordination in the Reformed Church in America (RCA). Trey is interning this summer at The Colossian Forum.

Suggested Posts
On Loneliness and Resurrection Moments
June 12, 2018 | Michael Gulker
On Loneliness and Resurrection Moments
A year ago, I wrote a prayer letter in response to a surprising outcome of Christians engaging conflict together in the presence of God as an act of worship. Over and over, leaders trained in The Colossian Way tell us that they’re not only discovering the ability to live faithfully amidst conflict, but also how just being together through conflict reveals a deep and abiding loneliness afflicting their lives.    In a spate of recent news articles triggered by a health report, loneliness is back in the spotlight (see e.g., USA Today, US News & World Report, and Comment). In the report, the physiological effect of loneliness is equated to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness is a disease ravaging our nation, churches, and families. Especially concerning is the reality that the primary victims of loneliness are those most awash in an endless stream of digital communication—our youth.  I was struck by these articles, in part, because just the week prior my wife and I confessed to some of our closest friends that one of our deepest spiritual hurts is indeed loneliness. This seems a strange affliction for two people who constantly feel overwhelmed by endless email, tweets, posts, texts, and phone calls. How can we be lonely amidst all this noise? Loneliness, disease, poverty, sickness. These are not words we associate with America or the American church, but they afflict us nonetheless. We feel vulnerable and silly even saying them out loud. Perhaps we’re not the only ones feeling alone—oddballs who need to get it together. According to Jamie Smith’s Comment editorial: “You are alone. Except there are hundreds of thousands of you. You’re not alone in being lonely—not that that makes you any less lonely. Loneliness—often a factor of social isolation—has become a societal epidemic in late capitalist societies. The Centre for Social Justice provides a succinct snapshot in the United Kingdom, for example:       As many as 800,000 people in England are chronically lonely and many more experience some degree of loneliness. 17 percent of older people interact with family, friends or neighbours less than once a week, while 11 percent do so less than once a month. It is linked to cardiovascular disease, dementia and depression and according to some researchers, its effect on mortality is similar to smoking and worse than obesity. One study revealed that it can increase the risk of an early death by as much as 30 percent. In addition to this there is a strong link between isolation and poverty: having two or more close friends reduces the likelihood of poverty by nearly 20 percent.” So, what’s the relationship between conflict (our fear of it and our incapacity to engage it well) and loneliness? My own experience and the experience of hundreds of Colossian Way participants has been that despite ubiquitous digital communication, we are cut off from communion with those we love because of our fear of getting conflict wrong. Ironically, we are most in need of fellowship and friendship at the very places we are most afraid. Hence, we suffer spiritually, emotionally, and even physically from a poverty of friendship. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Mother Teresa said years ago that, “The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty—it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.” When asked by an American reporter to name the poorest country she’d visited, Mother Teresa responded, “I have been to many countries and seen much poverty and suffering. Everywhere I go people tell me of their hardships and struggles, and ask for help, and I give what I can. But of all the countries I have been to, the poorest one I have been to is America.” Somewhat shocked, the reporter informed Mother Teresa that America was one of the richest countries and questioned how it could be the poorest. “Because”, she replied, “America suffers most from the poverty of loneliness.” Let’s face it, our engagement with conflict as an act of worship won’t fix the world any more than Mother Teresa’s cup of water for the dying. Yet, as captives of hope we believe these small acts testify to a reality bigger and more beautiful than we can imagine. Even though we only see “as through a glass darkly” these little eschatological foretastes of what will be enable us to participate more fully in the deepest truth of the world, in contrast to the endless news cycle of violence and conflict.  We can say this with confidence because we’ve seen the kingdom break forth already through our Lord’s death and resurrection, and in multiple iterations of that resurrection in our own lives of worship and witness. As we risk laying down our lives, or at least our arguments, we become a cup of water to a dying world—marking the inbreaking of the new world. And what better way to quench the thirst for relationship hidden at the core of our deepest conflicts.
A Faith and Science Teaching Resource: Expanding the Promise for STEM Education
March 28, 2018 | Michael Gulker
A Faith and Science Teaching Resource: Expanding the Promise for STEM Education
This post originally appeared on the ACSI blog (Association of Christian Schools International). Thanks to ACSI for the chance to share our passion for faith and science learning! Since the beginning of The Colossian Forum (TCF), we’ve used the conflict between faith and science as an opportunity for virtue formation in the midst of often-heated debate. In Christian schools, this debate takes on added emotional intensity because biblical reliability, historical reality, and human value seem to be in question. It is easier to avoid these pressured conversations altogether or charge into them, guns blazing. Much is at stake when believers engage science in either of these unproductive ways. That is why TCF, along with the Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning, launched the Faith and Science Teaching (FAST) Project, which focuses on the productive relationships found at the intersection of faith and science rather than on the polarization that often occurs in Christian schools and faith communities. Faith and Science Teaching (FAST) According to project co-lead and director of Kuyers Institute, David Smith: “Teaching FASTly means allowing both faith and science to remain in play, each with its own integrity, neither canceling out the other” (CEJ, 5). Such an approach expands the conversation, allowing other interesting and fruitful questions to be explored, such as: What are the character qualities needed to be a good scientist, a good colleague, and a good learner? What virtues are involved in doing careful lab work, in measuring and writing accurately, in observing well, and in thinking rigorously? Are any of these related to Christian virtues? If so, how do we grow in them? What about collaboration? Since professional science is usually practiced in teams, what virtues are needed for collaboration and how might we teach them? How much time is given in school to considering ethical issues that arise from scientific practices? How about the impact of science and technology on society? How do applied science and technology fit into faith-framed visions of human flourishing and love of neighbor? Is there anything about how science is taught that leads students to beauty, wonder, and gratitude, rather than just task completion, deadlines, and grades? What kind of relationship between the Bible and science do we implicitly model in the classroom? Funded by the John Templeton Foundation, the FAST Project produced a website that offers free faith and science teaching resources, to equip high school teachers to broaden the faith-science conversations beyond Genesis. It guides teachers in the many ways to look at how faith and science intersect. Considering the Intersections of Faith and Science Most often we relate to the intersections of faith and science according to the truth claims each makes about the world and whether the claims conflict or are in harmony. When these claims align, we celebrate the wonders of God’s creative work and our human capacity to explore and understand it. When they don’t seemingly align, Christians often begin from the conviction that since God is the Creator, faith and science cannot, ultimately, conflict. Therefore, any current disputes between the two must be due to human error and sin. This approach encourages a tendency to think that faith and science only interact when they make conflicting claims. It also offers us little remedy for the error or sin that is causing disharmony and provides little help for relating to non-Christians who reject Christianity because it seems to conflict with science. Relating faith and science based on their truth claims is of obvious importance, but there is a larger context that must be considered if we are to do justice to either faith or science, for both are more than sets of propositions about the world. As Christians, our primary calling is to love God and our neighbors (Matthew 22:36-40), and science is one of the many arenas in which we have the opportunity to live this out. Thinking FASTly means relating faith and science not only according to their truth claims, but also as a way of practicing the virtues called for in these “greatest commandments.” The concept of virtue is a rich area to explore. We often think of virtues as moral traits, like humility, patience, or courage. But the term virtue, in its broadest sense, refers more generally to capacities or abilities acquired through repeated practice to accomplish a particular goal. Considering virtue forces us to also think about practices and our motivations. Read the full post on the ACSI blog.