Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Doktors Club

Some weeks back I was asked to present a paper on any topic of my choosing for the South Asian Institute of Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACS) Doktors Club. The paper was presented to the faculty as well as DMin. and MA students who wished to attend. Of course I chose the topic that is dear to my heart, which is anthropology as it relates to communicating the Gospel. The title of my paper was:
Which is Greater, The Content or Context? Making the Case for Teaching Cultural Anthropology in Theological Education.
Yesterday I stood before the assembled of about 40 people for an hour and half fielding questions and responding to their comments, critique and concern.

It’s not often that I have an opportunity to engage in such a forum, but I enjoyed it immensely. Writing well takes work. I spent every afternoon for two weeks on the draft, rewriting, doing research and building an academic argument for my subject. The joy is in the process and rereading my thesis and analyzing so that my rationale of the paper could withstand the challenges I knew would come my way. In the end it was well received and I benefited from the criticism and suggestions that forces me to think about ways I could make my case stronger and more convincible.

Not all people are cut out for the academic life. I certainly am not. I enjoy teaching, but my satisfaction in the classroom can easily be under a tree in Kenya, a non-formal training session with no handout lecture notes in a rented hall or, among formal setting where grades matter. I actually need all of these teaching environments to keep my subject relevant. What this past weeks activity has done for me is driven me back into my library, dust off the old books, read more current material and become an earnest student again about my subject. There is nothing sadder than an old professor who has no new stories to tell or no new experience in which to make his subject more relevant. What the Dokotrs Club did was force me to review my classroom content to make sure it fits in today’s learning context. The world is not static. Cultures change and yesterday’s challenges are, in many ways the same, but packaged with a different set of symbols, values and worldview. We all need, from-time-to-time, a situation that will force us to go back to square one and evaluate our own beliefs and progress. The Doktors Club was not so much a place for me to teach, as it was a place for me to learn.