Wednesday, August 24, 2011

More on Historical Theology: Why I Love It

A quote from Robert Louis Wilken, who is among the giants of my academic field:

The path to theological maturity leads necessarily through the study of the Christian past, and this requires a kind of spiritual and intellectual apprenticeship. Before we become masters we must become disciples. From the great thinkers of Christian history, we learn how to use the language of faith, to understand the inner logic of theological ideas, to discern the relation between seemingly disparate concepts, to discover what is central and what peripheral, and to love God above all things. Before we learn to speak on our own we must allow others to form our words and guide our thoughts. Historical theology is an exercise in humility, for we discover that theology is as much a matter of receiving as it is of constructing, that it has to do with the heart as well as with the intellect, with character as well as with doctrines, with love as well as with understanding.

This is excerpted from a longer article by Wilken which was assigned to me in my first history class at Yale. Upon reading that article, I promptly copied this quotation and have referred to it often to remind me why I do what I do.

There is so much I could say about it, but for now, two thoughts.

Humility. "Before we learn to speak on our own we must allow others to form our words and guide our thoughts." Could there be many more counter-cultural ideas than this one? Thinking and speaking for oneself are -- at least nominally -- among our most cherished cultural values. And I think they are good. But it is difficult to acknowledge, even to oneself, when we don't know how to think, when we lack the words to speak. No matter what era or culture you're from, I doubt being teachable comes very easily. Especially when you'd prefer to think that you've progressed way beyond what those from an essentially foreign culture or context could possibly tell you.

That's one reason I think the study of historical theology is so crucial to the health of the church. It can be an important guard against spiritual and intellectual arrogance. But I hasten to add that I don't think any period of the church was infallible. Every age has its blind spots. There are things I believe the early church got more right than we do, or at least saw more clearly. But I don't think it was a pristine golden age. Yet it has much to say to us, if we can be quiet enough to hear.

Love. Speaking of the prejudices of a given era, I think ours tends to drive a wedge between faith and practice, doctrine and behavior. People will start looking at you funny if you assert that a right understanding of the Trinity or of the doctrine of justification are vital to the pursuit of godliness. (i.e., Who needs theology if it's all about just loving Jesus? Or, why get worked up over outmoded doctrine when what's really important is Social Issue X?) I could spend a lot of time unpacking why this is the case and why I believe it's wrong; but, suffice it to say, I think it's devastating to theological learning in churches across the spectrum, and hence to people's souls.

The big reason I love studying the Church Fathers and the Puritans, in particular, is because, by and large, they more readily understood the links between heart and intellect, character and doctrine, love and understanding. We can look at, for instance, the Arian controversy in the fourth century and wonder how those guys could get into such fervent debates over a few syllables. We could take the attitude that we're much more enlightened now. And I'm not denying that there are things we know that fourth century folks didn't. But I think we should also be prompted to ask, "What did they understand about all this -- the importance of all this -- that we're not getting?"

Monday, August 22, 2011

Adventures in...Cooking?!

I tend to lack confidence in "practical" areas, I've noticed...things such as sewing (HOPELESS), driving (terrifying, though I am working on it), and cooking. Even if I'm technically capable of grasping what's going on, I tend to assume that I don't or won't get it, so I become self-conscious and anxious. Plus there's that whole lack of coordination problem.

When it comes to cooking, though, I've definitely made strides in recent years (even though Kevin does most of our cooking right now), and there has been ample evidence that I can be pretty good at it! In this case, the lack of confidence comes more from the fact that I just haven't spent enough time getting comfortable in the kitchen. (And part of that is because kitchens get messy, and I'm lazy. But I digress.)

I do get brave and try new recipes occasionally, and last night was one of those times. I decided to try this recipe (first found on Pinterest, for those who know what that is). It did indeed prove to be "pretty easy," though actually, I think that the steps could be simplified even further. The hardest part, in fact, was probably tracking down the ingredients. Who knew that dried coconut is so difficult to find? For some reason, I assumed this was a baking staple, but I didn't find any until the fourth store I tried. Not our neighborhood grocery store, not Trader Joe's (you mean TJ's doesn't have EVERYTHING?!?), not the "global market" that happened to be next door...not till Whole Foods did I find the stuff. What the heck? At least it was cheap.

The recipe also calls for shallot. I knew that was some kind of onion; what I didn't know was that it's (at least locally) a pricy type of onion. Substituted regular white onion (it calls for a tiny amount anyway), and it was more than fine.

This picture isn't very good, but it gives you an idea of the result:

The verdict: pretty tasty! Also nice and filling. The color comes from turmeric (which we actually already had among our spices because another recipe I/we make regularly is chicken tikka masala), but this is not a spicy dish; it isn't like a curry. It has a nice, mild flavor overall.

So, I expect to cook this again, though I might tweak a few steps of the preparation; and there's got to be an easier way to find dried coconut.

Slowly but surely, I'm building up my confidence and my repertoire! :-)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

ambition and discipleship

I am pretty much finished writing posts about the past ten years of my life -- and I know you've heard more introspection from me than you really need. But I came across these reflections I wrote two and a half years ago (so, about six months after I got married and had graduated from Yale) which still sum up my thoughts on my vocation as well as anything can. So I thought I'd excerpt them here:

January 24, 2009

I've been thinking that the last couple of years have been a long process of humbling for me, and while I'm trying not to be endlessly introspective about that, I have a lot to reassess. . .

In high school, for all my lack of confidence at times, I did swallow the message that I was "all that" in my field; some of it makes me laugh now--I remember a couple of the sweet nerdy guys in my graduating class asking me for my autograph, and my senior year English teacher half-jokingly told me that he expected to be buying the boxed set of my novels by the time I was 25! (Oops.) Then I got to Hollins, and it's not that I hated writing; it's just that I didn't do it anymore. The more self-conscious I became about writing as a craft, the less it felt like the passion it had once been. I found other things I loved, but I think I kept operating under the assumption that I would need to distinguish myself in order to have "succeeded" at those things. And I still carry that with me, kind of.

But honestly, after Yale, I'm not sure I have the drive or desire to be Ms. Fancy Famous Academic Theologian, either. There are a lot of brilliant thinkers out there, and I've lost--for the most part--the feeling of "needing" to be among the Names people know and discuss in intelligent circles. It would be nice I suppose, but then, I don't think the point of becoming a theologian, ESPECIALLY a historian of Christian thought, is to be "innovative." It will be fun to author a work of original scholarship if I survive to write a dissertation, but overall, I don't feel motivated by the push to produce something new and different. I don't think such a motivation is necessarily wrong. It's just not something that entices me.

I DO want to write. I trust that I have gifts that can be fruitful for the church. I guess for me, at this point, a Ph.D. feels like the next logical step and the path I've more or less locked myself into, but I think of it more as a means to an end than I used to. I want to learn to read texts deeply in order to teach others to treasure those texts and be equipped by them to abide in the Truth. That's all. I think it is terribly important work, that the church thirsts for tested, ancient wisdom, but I certainly think others can teach it just as ably, and far more so, than I could. It will be no disaster if I fail.

Truthfully, having kids is a bigger "ambition" for me right now, and I think about it at least as much as I think about going back to school. My current heroes are just as likely to be mommy-bloggers as academic theologians. I think I can end up being both, God willing. I think the twin "callings" can be complementary. Nothing in my short- or long-term "plans," such as they are, has really shifted. But if I look at my life in terms of discipleship and not mere ambition (again, not that the latter's bad), there are things that might well be more significant, eternally speaking, than where I get my Ph.D. Another way of looking at it is, how am I really going to learn to love well?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Why Academia, Part III: Why Historical Theology?

Thanks to everyone who commented on and/or shared my last post; it has been very encouraging. :-)

I am so tired today that I'm having trouble completing a thought, am valiantly resisting a nap, and unsure whether coffee would help alleviate or only worsen the situation. But I'd like to follow up on my Yale posts by getting back to some of what inspired the "Why Academia?" series in the first place: why historical theology?

I think the previous posts (four? five? I've lost track) have done a decent job of explaining how I came to love theology, as well as the steps I've taken toward building an academic career on that love. The third part of this series was going to focus on why I picked historical theology in particular. Actually, I think I've fairly well touched on that in the course of describing my various studies. But I'll offer a few additional thoughts here, for the heck of it:

  • Whether accurately or not, I've tended to think of myself as a historian of theology more than as a theologian per se. In other words, I'm more likely to write a book titled What Various Dead Guys Taught About the Trinity than one called The Doctrine of the Trinity Explained and Defended. Obviously, I think what the dead guys taught was entirely relevant to us today, and it shapes how we reason theologically about today's issues. So, there is overlap between the two. Still, the vocation of "theologian" strikes me as something a little different, perhaps loftier, than what I am really after.
  • What excites me is teaching college students -- and laypeople of all ages, really -- to dig into the ideas and writings of past thinkers. Maybe it sounds paradoxical, but I think that the Christian faith comes to life in a unique way when you realize you are a part of a much bigger, older story than you ever suspected. (My husband has written about this, too -- see this blog post.)
  • Early on, I had a special focus on wanting to help evangelicals to recover the riches of the Early Church. I still want this, since I do think Protestants often have minimal exposure to church history before Luther. But as I've become an increasingly committed Protestant myself, I hope my approach has become less arrogant -- I think I was guilty of some grandiose assumptions before, such as that I could single-handedly swoop in and rescue my peers from their historical ignorance. Yuck...not the way to go.
  • For one thing, although my primary focus remains the Early Church, my perspective has shifted in the past few years to a renewed appreciation for the historical depth of my own Protestant tradition. I have read numerous accounts of evangelicals converting to Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy, in part because they thought they had no choice if they wanted to be part of a historically rooted tradition. But Protestantism not only has its own historical heroes, it is deeply rooted in the Nicene faith of the early church, and the Reformers absolutely understood it as such. I don't think arguing this fact will stop people from leaving, necessarily. It's trickier than that. But I do think it can give Protestants a deeper love and broader perspective for where they already are.
  • For another thing, if there is reluctance among Protestants to examine parts of church history, then I understand it. History, like all of us broken, sinful human beings, is messy. It isn't easy to explain, for example, how Protestants should think about aspects of the early and medieval churches' teachings on salvation. (Ligon Duncan took a respectable stab at this recently, in a talk titled Did the Fathers Know the Gospel? That title would make my classmates' hair stand on end, but if you're a traditional-ish evangelical or confessional Protestant, it kind of needs to be asked.) Anyway, in short, this stuff's complicated, and digging deep can be painful, toilsome work. But God is sovereign over all history, including that of his Church. And all the more reason to train people -- not just seminary professors and pastors, but laypeople like myself -- to pass along the necessary digging tools.
  • Finally, I think there's a matter of basic charity at stake. I know that at various times in my life, I heard names and labels like "Saint Augustine" and "the Middle Ages" and "the Puritans" and interpreted them as shorthand for things like "legalism" and "backwardness." But learning about past figures on their own terms has made it harder to dismiss them -- or to say that they are not part of my (messy) heritage.
One of my favorite Yale profs put it like this: "It's better to dislike [the early church fathers] for what they are than to love them for what they're not." To put it differently, it's better to reject a theological figure on the basis of what he actually taught than to revile him on the basis of a caricature. Ultimately, I hope that the discipline of history helps Christians go about that task with more charity than not.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Double Whammy: Introversion and Shyness

This post has been brewing for a few weeks now, as I've been thinking about "introversion" versus "shyness" and how they differ. It's my opinion that they are different things, but they can be difficult to distinguish -- especially when, as in my case, a person is both introverted and shy.

I don't have any scientific support for what I'm about to suggest, but here are just a few initial thoughts, drawn from my experience.

1. Neither an introvert nor a shy person is likely going to love parties or other large gatherings. A shy person will likely dread parties because the thought of having to interact with people fills her with anxiety, even fear.

For an introvert, anxiety is probably not the big issue. An introvert can probably enjoy herself by spending time with a select handful of friends within the larger group, but will become exhausted and irritable if she has to socialize for a very long stretch of time -- at the very least, she will need to retreat and "recharge."

In my case
, I have become notably less shy within the past 10 years. I have less anxiety about being among groups. However, the introverted part, while I can develop strategies to better cope with it, is unlikely to change. I am pretty sure that the "too much stimulation -- must retreat!" impulse is hardwired.

2. An introvert can be a confident public speaker or occupy other leadership roles. He may or may not enjoy such roles, but being an introvert does not, in and of itself, bar a person from seeking out and excelling at them.

A shy person is likely to be terrified of such scenarios. He might want to be able to speak publicly, but it will be a significant struggle and maybe even an impossibility. A shy person faces obstacles in such settings that will not necessarily pose a problem for someone who is "only" an introvert.

To this day
, there are settings that are fear-inducing for me -- even speaking up in a larger-than-average seminar. And I don't think I have ever, for instance, raised my hand to ask a question at a conference or lecture. At the same time, I have not avoided situations, such as presenting my work at conferences, that have required me to speak publicly. While never easy, something about my confidence in my prepared comments enabled me to feel tolerably in control of the situation and to handle the inevitable nerves. Heck, I have even preached a few times. (Yes, this was before before I became a committed PCA member!)

3. Neither an introvert nor a shy person is likely to have lots of friends. This is because, in both cases, the person feels most comfortable interacting one-on-one and forming a few, deep relationships.

I sometimes feel envious of people who have lots of friends, I'll admit. And the process of making friends has sometimes been a painful one for me. Befriending a shy introvert requires a lot of patience (with the shyness) and a lot of commitment (to the introverted all-or-nothing approach to relationship-building). In short, I can be a demanding friend, and it has taken me a long time to realize that, in my fumbling attempts to befriend people, I have sometimes had unfair expectations.

4. Both introverts and shy people are best treated just like anybody else. Speaking particularly as a shy girl, I can say that talking to me as if I am fragile (or, worse, as if I'm a little kid) is only going to make me feel more self-conscious. On the other hand, being spoken to respectfully only makes me want to rise to the occasion and try harder to relate confidently to the other person.

5. Both introverts and shy people can afford to get over themselves a little bit. It's great to understand different personality types and what makes people tick. I'm a fan of those "how to care for your introvert" lists and articles I occasionally see floating around the internet. But I've come to realize that, whether it's the introverted part of me or the shy part or both, I need to make an effort, too. I cannot expect anyone to read my mind, and it's unfair to expect to be coddled. Just as I find extroverts overwhelming at times, I have to expect that my behavior is inscrutable and challenging for others sometimes, too.

I hope this has been interesting and perhaps helpful! If you have questions, disagreements, or other quibbles, feel free to comment. I know I can't presume to speak for everyone who falls into either category.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Dirty Secret, or Ideal vs. Reality

Perhaps it's not so much of a "dirty secret" as it is simply the thing I find to be the greatest letdown in academia.

It's the fact that academia is not the paradise for book-lovers that I had long imagined it to be. Well, in one way, it kind of is. I certainly get to collect and use lots of books. But I am hesitant to say that I read them, and here is why.

The career of a doctoral student is not one that encourages deep and sustained reading. Rather, one has to develop the skill of reading strategically -- of reading for the main ideas or arguments in a book, instead of reading word for word. What this comes out to, in practice, is...skimming. Lots of skimming, reading the initial and concluding sentences or paragraphs of chapters, but skipping large chunks of text more often than not. You are on a quest to discover the author's main argument and to be able to explain how he or she structures and supports that argument, nothing more nor less.

If you cringe at the thought, then you know how I feel. My idea of skimming a book is to skip the Introduction. If I can't honestly claim to have read a book cover to cover, then I don't feel I can say with integrity that I have "read" it. But there isn't room for that kind of pride in the life of a doctoral student. Because, realistically, you don't have time to read books that way. Not when each of your three professors has assigned a 300-page book to be read by next week. Then, your goal becomes, not to read the entire book, but to read enough, and well enough, that you can say something intelligent about it in the ensuing seminar discussion. Chances are, you are not going to curl up with your books and savor them in leisurely fashion.

This has been a very hard lesson for me to learn, one that I haven't yet mastered. I still take the approach to my studies that I can curl up with a patristic monograph in much the same way that I could a good classic novel. Now, occasionally, I can do something approximating that. One of my Early Church professors, for instance, tends to assign a handful of documents for us to analyze closely rather than assigning a book per week. Then, I actually stand a chance of doing some close, careful ruminating.

But, to be realistic, that is a luxury I'll rarely have until I have blown through my remaining seminars and skidded into the dissertation phase of things. And even then, when I excitedly lug dozens of volumes (of my choosing!) home from the library, I know that only a few of those will likely be read word for word, cover to cover.

So the next time you picture me, your nerdy academic relative or friend, dreamily making her way through stacks of dusty old books, remember that the reality is probably messier and more haphazard than that. And if you see upwards of 30 books teetering around my desk, bed, or cubicle, do not be intimidated and assume I have actually read them all. I can assure you: I haven't.

I'm sure you feel just horribly disillusioned. :-) I'm kidding...though, honestly, I am still emerging from a degree of disillusionment myself. It's one more reminder that this is a job, a set of skills to be mastered, and not simply a haven for a book-lover who'd much prefer to read books slowly, at her own pace and to her heart's content.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Third and Final (?) Yale Post

In May, 2006, shortly after finishing my first year of seminary, I wrote the following in a journal:

Yale is very much a “you’ve got to figure it out on your own” kind of place. That’s not a bad thing. It does make the whole package rather frustrating at times [...] You’ll get all sorts of ideas and agendas thrown at you, and it’s your job to sort through them, figure out what to keep and how to put it to work. While it’s certainly a good exercise and I’ll probably be a better person for it, it does seem a rather dodgy and haphazard way to supply the church with leaders [...] At YDS we all look at Scripture and the great tradition of the Church so differently that we mean widely different things when we talk about them, and that’s enriching to a point but quite often frustratingly evasive…to me anyway. [...] I know that I ridiculously envisioned myself sitting in a turret with cookies and tea and stacks of patristic volumes, because that’s the only way I could even begin to scratch the surface of what I want to learn…but it’s a far cry from the reality of divinity school, no matter where you go.

That seems as good a summary as any of my experience at Yale -- at least the frustrating parts. One of the differences between an ecumenical divinity school and a smaller, denominational seminary is that, by its nature, the former has no (explicit) statement of belief, and thus no common understanding of what ministry in God's church is for. That means there is little shared sense of how, or for what end, students are to "formed," or shaped, for service. And, for an evangelical, confessional, or otherwise conservative Christian, the glaring problem is that there is no shared understanding of the gospel.

I wasn't wholly unaware of these things when I started at Yale, but at that stage, I could brush them off more easily than I could later. Two major examples of what I'm talking about were biblical studies and chapel.

I had been exposed to "liberal" biblical studies before I arrived at Yale, so it came as no surprise to me that this was the predominant approach in my required Bible courses. Still, the big difference from previous Bible classes was, for me, the lifelessness of the approach. Often, we went about the study of the biblical text as if we thought it was something we could master, rather than something that was authoritative over us. There is a difference, I would like to think, between making use of modern research tools and acting as if we are cleverer and more advanced than the apostle Paul. Whether I imagined it or not, I sensed the latter attitude at times, and that's what really got to me. Besides being wrong-headed, I think it makes the study of Scripture a heck of a lot more boring than it has any right to be.

To argue with my professors or classmates that they didn't uphold the authority of Scripture, however, would have been a non-starter. When any such conversation came up, they would likely affirm that they believed in biblical authority. It's just that our understandings of that "authority" were so far apart that any starting-point for real dialogue was extraordinarily difficult to find (on other issues, too). And forget bringing in terms such as "inerrancy." That would simply be beyond the pale.

Another alienating thing at Yale was worship. Chapel was held every day, and I had hoped that it would encourage all of us to weave our spiritual and academic lives more closely together. However, it proved to be a difficult place for anyone who held to traditional views. Chapel was, first of all, meant to provide a "safe space" for anyone who would walk through the doors (to that end, for example, the table at Friday's Communion services was open to all, whether Christian or not). Though traditional language for God and the Trinity weren't completely eliminated from worship, it was used very sparingly in the effort to make the hymns and prayers "inclusive."

For another thing, the form of the services tended to be experimental. Part of the learning experience of chapel, as many saw it, was that you didn't know what to expect from day to day, that everyone was stretched out of their accustomed niches. This can be a great thing, as when you learn to sing worship songs from other cultures, for instance. But things can get stretched so far that the theology underlying worship starts to look something other than distinctly Christian. It is difficult to worship when you are scrutinizing the text of the service to figure out if, say, an "inclusive" Trinitarian formula is recognizably orthodox, or if the hymn you're about to sing is making some dubious claims about the person of Christ, or if it's okay for you to participate in the Eucharist as it's being celebrated here.

It's not that it was flagrantly heretical all of the time, or even most of the time, so I don't want you to get that impression. But, even if I agreed with the approaches taken, I don't think that Christian worship is primarily about affirming us, or about learning new stuff. Those things risk fixing our eyes on ourselves instead of where they rightly belong, on Jesus. And, in my case, the problematic elements of chapel fed a defensiveness in me that wasn't healthy. Though I attended chapel semi-regularly for a while, in the interest of being a part of the community, I gradually stopped, leaning instead on my church and the Evangelical Fellowship.

These two examples illustrate the degree to which I found myself a theological minority at Yale, more so than I had even expected. I tried not to let myself develop a bunker mentality in response to this. But it did make me more cynical about the possibility of real dialogue between traditional and progressive Christians. It is very difficult to find common ground when your founding presuppositions are so far apart.

In short, YDS contributed to my theological vocation by forcing me to figure out where I stood in my theology and my evangelical identity. I remain grateful for that, as well as for the many positive academic experiences I had there. Ultimately, as I've said, it's a great place to learn history and to establish a foundation for a PhD. As a place to prepare for vocational ministry in the church, however, I could not confidently recommend it.

Friday, August 5, 2011

everyday life stuff

+I am glad to say that I took my French translation final exam today and have already learned that I passed. That means I have just one more language exam to pass (Greek, most likely), and I'll be done with the formal language requirements for my program! In theory, there is no reason that I shouldn't have this done by Christmas...

+I had a lovely tea with a friend this week, and among other things, we talked about writing. It has been so many years since I really focused on writing any fiction; since I was a college freshman, really. I suppose there are a few reasons why I stopped, but one of them is that I felt I simply lost my creative touch. It's hard to write stories when you can no longer spin plots with the ease of an eight-year-old. I've done other types of writing (obviously...I'm a grad student, plus I've done journaling/blogging-type writing for years!), but I have never stopped imagining that someday, I'd rediscover my knack and write a novel or three. After this week's conversation, though, I just might feel inspired to tackle something less ambitious in the short term. What will it hurt to write a couple of silly short stories if it makes me happy, and gets me thinking in those ways again?

+We also talked about the need for more theologically solid devotional writing for women, by women. This is something I've been thinking about for awhile. Just because some traditional "women's ministry" types of things don't appeal to me very much doesn't give me any right to turn up my nose at such work. I know there is good stuff out there I haven't encountered yet...and I'd love to put my theological studies and writing ability to good use, for the sake of other Christian women and for the whole Church, if I possibly could.

+Speaking of Christian women I admire, my good friend Becki has also started a blog recently, which I am enjoying a lot. In time, I will certainly consider trying some of the ideas she shares...such as signing up with a local crop share to get fresh veggies. What I'd love best would be if my family could start a garden of our own. Someday!

+It is actually 79ยบ right now! I can hardly remember the last time it was this "cool," even at night. We've had temperatures in the upper 90s and even low 100s for weeks now, without rain. Today, finally, we had a most excellent downpour. I would have appreciated it even more if I hadn't been hauling two bags' worth of library books and a laptop across campus at the time.

Monday, August 1, 2011

I'm just a-passin' through?

As someone who's moved a lot in recent years, I felt compelled to read this article, U-Haul Theology: Redeeming the Pain of Moving, first published in my denomination's magazine a couple of years ago. I have some thoughts about it, sharpened by conversation with my husband, which I'll try to work through here.

If you don't want to read it, here's my summary of the article's main points:
  • Unlike previous generations, we are a mobile culture. Many of us can expect to move multiple times in our lives.
  • Moving hurts. The reason why can be traced back to the Fall, in Genesis 3, when man was driven from the Garden. "[M]ankind was not created to move. [...] The pain of moving is part of the pilgrimage of the Fall." It's exile, with all the loss of roots, relationship, and identity that comes with that.
  • There is hope in that the Son of God underwent the ultimate exile, from His Father, so that we could one day come home and be at rest.
  • We must not be world-haters. We must learn contentment wherever we are called to live, even if we hate that place, by investing in our community and loving our neighbors in that place. Choose to make yourself at home there, even in exile. See also Jeremiah 29:4-11.
  • The secret to doing this is the doctrine of the Incarnation. "In the ultimate cross-cultural move, God the Son chose to become absolutely one with those He came to reach." The Incarnation becomes our model for moving, because Christ left His home in order to identify with us utterly. When we live out this truth, the pain of our moving is not eliminated, but redeemed.
My thoughts:

I liked this article. For me, the clearest, most comforting and also most convicting part was the "exile" analogy. The time I felt most "exiled" in my life was when we lived in Berkeley. We didn't fit into the culture there, and I don't just mean politically. It was easy to grumble and wallow in my discontent, rather than to grow where God had seen fit to plant me. Compared to Berkeley, moving to St. Louis has felt like coming home. But I still appreciate the point that there must be a concerted effort to make a home wherever we are. God carries us into exile, but putting down roots in a strange land takes work.

I have some questions, too. For one, the premise of the article raised some flags. How true is it that we are, as a society, becoming more mobile? It might be true; I haven't looked at statistics. But just because it's become more common among younger people in certain industries, and among professional students like me (hence, among particular social classes) doesn't necessarily point to a large-scale societal issue. Kevin agreed with me that the author's perspective could suggest a "professional class myopia" accompanied by the projection of our angsts onto a cosmic scale.

Second, I am not sure I agree that moving proceeds from the Fall, at least not so directly as the author suggests. Banishment from the Garden was the result of human rebellion against God, but does it follow that all relocation is a product of the Fall? As Kevin put it, "human population would have outgrown the Garden at some point." The reality of broken relationships due to moving is deeply painful, but it isn't always due to sin...I wonder if it's sometimes just the reality of being creatures. We cannot be constantly present to one another because we are not God.

My biggest concern is that the author's use of the Incarnation as an analogy could risk trivializing it. The Incarnation, God becoming incarnate in the man Jesus Christ, was an utterly singular event in history. It was not a "cross-cultural" event. God and man are not different cultures, just as the inner life of the triune God is not analogous to human relationships. So, I don't think it is appropriate to look at the Incarnation as such as our model for moving.

I do agree, however, that Christ humbling Himself for our sake should put our own "humbling" in perspective -- especially when we find ourselves in an environment we think beneath us, or that just doesn't quite fit somehow. And, in the end, we should seek to identify with those among whom God plants us -- not because we have cultivated a love for their culture (though that may be good), but because, like us, they are sinners in desperate need of the Savior.

Finally, I'd just add that not moving can be good, too. Perhaps, as a culture (or as a society, a professional class, whatever) we most need to hear the message "whoever does not hate his father and mother..." But I think it can also be counter-cultural to choose not to pull up stakes; moreover, sometimes staying put, where you've always lived and where your grandparents lived before you, can be the biggest act of taking up your cross. (Not that I would feel this way about moving back to Pittsburgh!)

Again, I think this is a valuable, much-needed article, and my response is a just a little thought-exercise of sifting through theological implications that occurred to me. I'd certainly welcome others' thoughts as well.