Implications of Context, Community & Contingency, pt. 1

August 31, 2020

by David Williams, President, Taylor Seminary

We’ve spent the last three weeks talking about some key observations related to Kairos Project standards of excellence.  We have recognized the standards to be contextual, communal, and contingent.  Now, let’s explore the implications that these observations have on the Kairos Project.

When we talk about being “educators” we should recognize that we are already situated in a particular community of practitioners.  This community has a history in which the standards that govern the practice has changed as we learn better how to do what it is that we are attempting to do. The practice of education exerts a profoundly formative influence on everyone involved, whether we are aware of it or not. We want to become aware of it so that we can better achieve the ends we are striving toward and to faithfully live into our calling as educators.

In the final post in our series on Romans 12, I drew attention to some of the implications of the fact that we now live in a context in which knowledge is no longer scarce.  Recognizing that reality forces us to ask, if schools aren’t primarily in the business of providing information to those who wouldn’t have access to it otherwise, then what are we doing? What is our raison d’etre, our reason for being? Why do we exist?  The importance of answering this question simply can’t be overstated. The answers we provide to these make the Kairos Project what it is.

Some of the deepest changes embodied in the Kairos Project center around our fundamental understanding of knowledge. In the west, we have tended to identify knowledge with content. If you listen you’ll see they’re virtually synonymous in our language. We may bristle when we say it that way but it’s clearly embedded in our practice.  We treat knowledge as if it is essentially content, and then act under the assumption that the more we get the better off we are.  The problem with this reductionist approach to knowledge is that it stripes away other essential aspects of knowledge.

One sign that something was missing in our attempts to educate students came when there appeared to be little correlation between success in the classroom and success in ministry.  The unfortunate reality was that success in the classroom simply wasn’t a predictor of success in ministry.  Doing well in ministry (or doing poorly) in ministry had too little connection with doing well (or poorly) in school.  One thing that often was missing was a connection between what was being learned in the classroom and one’s ministry context.  We often heard that what was needed for ministry wasn’t being taught in seminary. Too often there was also the perception that what was being taught wasn’t really what was needed or even had a detrimental effect in ministry.

Please join us next week as we finish reflecting on the implications of context, community, and contingency.

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