These are responses to questions listed on the discussion board for Evangelical Seminary’s course CT902: The Formation of the Human Person.
Question 1: In your reading of Shults, what did you learn or notice anew about ‘relationality’? How would you characterize your overall response to using relationality as a framework for exploring the richness of what it means to be human?
The concept of theological anthropology is new to me as is the concept of relationality. I had not engaged this issue before. Some parts of the book were new, others were not new but I had not read them in light of relationality, I thought Shultzs use of Kegan and Loeder was interesting because I engage their work somewhat in my chaplain residency and had awareness of the need to self differentiate and how that would affect one’s understanding of life experiences such as being admitted to the hospital. But really how successful one is in working through relationality will depend on which “fiduciary structure” one is in. It will affect how open you are to others and to learning and growing, even having that “transforming moment.” Changing relation can be a scary thing and without good support and or fiduciary “structure,” that can be deconstructive, not re-constructive. Clearly Shultz, despite his own deconstruction is not wanting to deconstruct his reader’s understanding of relationality but to help transform it. I suppose there was some transformation in the reading process. However, it seems for that to take place at a deep level one needs to stay in it for a time. I do admit my overall response to the book was a mix of cautious and somewhat ambivalent. I don’t think this is because I am in the traditionalist fiduciary structure per se but maybe it is. I will have to consider it further.
Question 2: Employing the framework Shultzs describes in chapter three (the dialectic between theological and psychological experiences of fear), what have you found strengthens or inhibits your own transformational learning in your doctoral work/research? How might those insights inform your preparation for teaching/presenting later in this course?
I am okay with the dialogue between theology and psychology as I feel they are very closely related. As I stated already it was interesting he used Kegan’s work to talk about how people will move forward in understanding relationality. He speaks of repression and fear as if they are blockers for growth and change, even transforming change. I think that is true that they are factors. The growth and transformation often happen slowly and unnoticeably, until it is noticeable. Fear can play a role in how fast that change happens. Too much and not enough can be real issues.
As to my own experience in this program, if there has been transformational growth it is not super obvious to me right now, It has been stressful in my personal life with managing work and family, and kids. I think I have given in too much to the psychological fear of succeeding in this program. Will I pass the comp? WIll the dissertation even make sense. I feel my work hasn’t been the best that it can be and often I know it could be better and that upsets me and that hinders the growing experience a bit. Even though my learning environment has always been warm and supportive and encouraging, and I really do like the track focus, I almost literally physically and emotionally burned out at the end of the last term (which is what our ‘Rule of Life’ project was supposed to help us prevent – help us set rhythms in place to avoid burn out). I think I will be fine from here on out, but I do need to be more careful in this final term. I will need stoutness of heart and the courage I mentioned to have confidence and put that into the presentation and not let my fears and anxieties overrule me in the coming weeks.
Question 3: As you engaged with Shults’s proposals for reforming theological anthropology in Part III, which of them did you find most challenging, and why? How did you respond at first, and how has that response deepened or shifted for you as you continued to process the challenge?
Here is where I am at with this – it felt like the first two parts were the long-winded way of saying, how you think of sin, and human nature and, the imago dei is wrong. Here is a better way to look at it. I see the value of mixing theology and modern views to discern what it is we believe, but as a biblical track student, I did recoil slightly at a few places, I know that Shultz has since become an atheist and I felt this section show the path for how that may have happened for him. Even so, while there are modern concerns to consider in such a topic as human nature and sin, the Bible remains our final rule for faith life and practice. I will need to consider his definition further as he says that “sinning has to be understood in the context of its relation to the general human longing for goodness” (ch 9 kindle). Lots of people long for goodness and it’s not found in God. For others it is. Yet, it seems, maybe I see it differently than he does, but in my view while humans were made good in the beginning, they became sinful. The sin lies in disobedience, and perhaps in terms of relationality, it was changing one’s relation in the wrong direction, away from God instead of towards him.
My issue with what Shultz had presented then was, that if I disagreed with his conclusions did that mean I am not in the right fiduciary structure to be able to receive what he has to say? if I think he is wrong, is that my fear or epistemic anxiety speaking? These were some of my challenges with the book. In the end, he had some really good things to say, and some good theological assertions I liked and thought were well worded. It’s too bad he walked away from the goodness of God.