Dr. Alastair Ager spoke at All-Seminary Chapel as part of the 2013 Missiology Lectures
The annual Missiology Lectures was off to an interesting start on November 13, 2013 as guest speaker Dr. Alastair Ager, professor of population and family health at Columbia University, spoke at All-Seminary chapel on the Bible passage from Acts that finds the Apostle Paul in Athens.
"I want to reflect on four things that Paul does that, frankly, I have failed to do," Ager revealed.
Speaking from Acts 17:16-32, which he said is "not complex but difficult in its implications and application," Ager identified four ways that Paul acted in the passage that he said is vital for humanitarian work, for integrity in the world, and for mission.
Ager noted that Paul was able to maintain his integrity in both the synagogue and in the marketplace. His voice and passion is the same though speaking to different audiences and in different ways.
"One story, two tactics," Ager said. "One consistent understanding of himself and his role in the world. Not his role on Sunday and his role during the week."
Ager admitted that it is difficult to have one identity and commitment that is worked out in different environments freely. He confessed there may have been opportunities he missed because the secular classroom in which he works doesn't draw his faith out.
"It's a challenge we all face in the world and in society," he said.
Secondly, Ager noted that people who aspire to integrity will benefit from being able to move seamlessly through scripture and the philosophy of the world-just as Paul did-with grounding in scripture but use of human insight. He hinted that in another lecture he would explore the notion of hybridicy and the way that religious framing gives people the opportunity to resist being put in a box.
Paul demonstrated great intellect by being able to also understand alternative framings and struggles that humankind have besides scripture that is often reflected in philosophy and art.
"For me the fuel of mission is in the struggles the individuals have to make sense of their world," Ager said.
Paul also had a wonderful balance of reason and faith, Ager added. Paul doesn't just show that he is clever, but he uses reason to drive people to their assumptions and to reveal faith - to push people to the point where they have to make decisions about value and to open up to dialogue and mission.
Lastly, Ager points out that in verse 32, Paul shows that he cares. One needs to be open to challenge, scorn, and dismissal and be genuine. If Paul played it safe, he wouldn't gain scorn or interest, Ager said.
Ager concluded by noting that he has identified times in which he has failed to push his students with reason toward faith. He asked the Fuller community to join in on the lectures that will explore more of these topics.
"I hope you do not make the failures and mistakes I've made," he said. "Part of these lectures is to present to you a way of seeing this challenge in the world to fight for justice and address suffering, is to put the story of faith out in the world in a clearer way."
The 2013 Missiology Lectures continues on Wednesday evening with a lecture and panel discussion with Dr. Bryant Meyers and Dr. Cecelia M. Lynch titled "Why Humanitarianism Doesn't 'Get' Religion…and Why It Needs To."
On Thursday, November 14, there is an afternoon seminar in Travis called "Exploring the Theological Imaginary: Bringing the Language of Faith into the Public Sphere." The lectures end with another panel discussion from 3:00-5:00pm with Dr. Alvin Dueck, Dr. Cynthia Eriksson, and Hana Ibrahimovic McDermott.
Go here to see the full schedule with times, locations, and lecture titles.