December 18, 2006 Sovereignty and Responsibility

The age old question of the tension between the Sovereignty of God and the responsibiity of man has become a cornerstone for more dialogue in God's community of faith than most any other topic over the centuries. Whether we admit it or not, or desire it or not. God is Sovereign and we are free. It is reasonable that this should be so. As God is the archetypal Person and the archetypal Agent, we who are created in His image are relationally bound to reflect these qualities. But we are only free to choose when there is a choice to be made. I believe God presents that choice as well as the ability to choose wisely as an outflow of His great grace. I do believe the Bible teaches this. When we get around to apprehending the mind of Christ, the perceived paradox of all this suddenly begins to be a point of no contention.

Adam had a sociocultural environment which contained real potentialities. He knew only good but was introduced to evil in a social context. Whether you ascribe to a covenant of creation or not, God was the one who a crime was committed against- He was violated and his Word, Righteous Character and Good Nature were impugned that day. God could not do this to Himself, it took a free, personal agent to accomplish this. So we are free to sin, but not free to sin with impunity. We are free but we desire to be free indeed to the glory of God. We will not desire that of our own ability.

We are free indeed when we cast ourself headlong into the obedience of faith. We are free to be crucified with Christ, (something we cannot do on our own). We are free to be conformed to the likeness of Christ, in the fellowship of His suffering. We are free to be insufficient rather than bow the knee to the world's conceptions of success. We are free to be a bondslave and to have our ears pierced at the lentil of our entry into Christ.

We are free to live abundantly, full and in the presence of the throne of Grace. We have a duty to delight in this, to submit to the Bridegroom and to also bear the rewards for such obedience. We are free to become the Righteousness of God. I would note that none of these freedoms come without the eternal weight of glory and responsibility. They would be meaningless if we are not created as personal agents in this world.

05:56pm Dec 18, 2006 EST - Before one can speak of engendering competence, one must define "competence" in the context of the learning environment. If competence defined in the classroom as the meeting of learning objectives with a prescribed amount of proficiency, such as learning to parse Greek, then that's pretty easy. If it is wisdom, or a transformed life, then the teacher must go back to the root of defining and instilling what is truly worth learning and applying in one's life.

These levels of difficulty or facility has much to do with the learning environment culture that is typically present in most churches. Reward structures have been a part of higher ed since before Skinner et. al came on the scene. Reward structures are pretty meaningless in the church if there is no level of intrinsic gratification that comes from knowing Christ. If the learner has not tasted and seen that he is good, that is the place to start, not in using learning strategies that do not address this prerequisite. The focus of teaching must ultimately point people to the unmitigated enjoyment of God and His glory, and the passionate embracing of experiencing His presence and getting wisdom. Otherwise we are wasting out time.

With that caveat, here goes:

Strategies for engendering competence most easily implemented in church ministry:

# Provide effective feedback
# Use constructive criticism
# When learning has natural consequences, help learners tobe aware of them and their impact.
# Provide positive closure

Strategies for engendering competence most easily implemented in adult classroom ministry: (Most of them are more viable in this context).
# Provide effective feedback
# Make assessment tasks and criteria known to learners
# Use authentic performance tasks
# Provide opportunities for adults to demonstrate their learning in ways that reflect their strengths and multiple sources of knowing
# Use rubrics
# Use constructive criticism
# Provide positive closure

Strategies for engendering competence that are hardest to implement in church ministry:
# Avoid cultural bias in assessment procedures- could be difficult because of the monolithic structure of church learning environments as well as the negative conception of assessment in the church setting
# Use authentic performance tasks- this is done in going out
# Use rubrics- this might work if they took an unusual form or were used by the instructor in reflection on the teaching event.
# Effective praise/reward- difficult because of the differing definitions among diverse believers

Strategies for engendering competence that are hardest to implement in adult classroom ministry:
# Use self-assessment methods to improve learning and to provide learners with the opportunity to construct relevant insights and connections - this is very difficult be very rewarding. This is also misused by constructivists.
# Use incentives: in higher ed, the grade is the motivating factor for most students.

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