Tuesday, May 3, 2016

My First Grandparents' Day

I remember well my first Grandparents’ Day at Trinity School.  It must have been April or May of 1996, and I expect it was a Friday.  I had just returned from my hometown, Knoxville, TN, where I had been interviewing for a job as Associate Pastor at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church.  The lure of going home was strong and I was trained to be a pastor, but I was torn because there was this young school that Desiree and I, along with some others, had poured ourselves into.  There was disappointment at Trinity already over the candidates we had interviewed for Headmaster, and a good friend or two had said, “You should think about this.”

I returned to Chapel Hill and Durham just in time for Grandparents’ Day at the new school meeting at Hope Creek Church.  I remember standing in the back of the assembly hall, watching our fledgling school showcase their curriculum for an eager group of grandparents.  I was weighing options, as I am wont to do: To stay or not to stay, that was the question.  

And then came the Tallis Canon.  Music teachers Doris Stam and Mary McKinney had introduced this to the students.  I had not heard it since my friend, Brian, had introduced me to it in college.  (Brian was my Christian friend who took it upon himself to introduce this Philistine to rich, classical Christian culture.  He was, of course, Anglican.)  As the students began their refrain, deep called to deep:

All praise to Thee, my God, this night,
For all the blessings of the light,
Keep me, O keep me, King of kings
Beneath Thy Own Almighty Wings.

I’m sure it was weeks before I was offered the job of Headmaster, and (alas, as is my wont) it took me two weeks to decide.  But as I look back on it now, I think that the die was cast on that Grandparents’ Day.  I remember thinking, Why would I not want to be around this kind of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty all my days?

As we prepare to celebrate the 21st Grandparents’ Day, I hope and pray that many Trinity Grandparents will experience the transcendent tug that I felt on that day in 1996.  Trinity School has changed a lot, but this has not changed: We are a place where young minds and hearts are drawn to the beauty of God, where Christ plays in ten thousand places, where the generations see invisible faith passed like a visible torch from generation to generation.  Non nobis foreever and ever.  Amen.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Dowdy Sarvis Signs with Gardner-Webb Swim Team

Yesterday Trinity senior Dowdy Sarvis signed his commitment letter to swim at Gardner-Webb next year.  

Steve Efird, our Athletic Director, arranged a signing ceremony in the gym.  Many of Dowdy's swim team were there, along with his family, other students, and faculty.  

Coach Janet Ray spoke briefly about Dowdy's swimming prowess but more importantly about his leadership.  We are very proud of him and happy to send him off to college to represent Trinity at the next level.  

Dowdy signs his letter

Parents Ed and Angela do their part 

Dowdy's Family

US Director Warren Gould, Athletic Director Steve Efird, Dowdy, Swim Coach Janet Ray, and I (l to r)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Growing Flowers for Others

This week saw the culmination of a year-long service learning project dreamed up by our Service Learning Director, Lori Easterlin, and our Lower School Director, Robin Lemke.  It is a simple but beautiful (literally) project that involved students from TK to 6th grade and the Durham Nativity School to boot.  Even Trinity Grandparents got involved in gathering vases and putting flowers in them.

After much planning, designing, building, planting, and waiting, this week our young students (see above) cut daffodils.

On Wednesday, the 6th graders hopped on the Trinity bus and went downtown to the Senior Center to deliver the daffodils and cards made by the younger students.  They entered into conversations with seniors at the center.

Nothing complicated, but a lot of good hard work that we pray will blossom into glory for Christ and the good of the people here in Durham.

Check out the video of our sixth graders at the Center here.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Hub Dedication

On Friday, March 4, we dedicated the new Blake Hubbard Commons (The Hub) at Trinity.  Many people came to help dedicate this space.   Here are some remarks from the Headmaster, including a letter that Jeff Hubbard asked him to read.

Welcome to the HUB!  Is this not an amazing space?  Over the last few days, I’ve had the privilege of watching students, from kindergarten to our seniors, come into this space.  The looks of wonder, surprise, excitement, curiosity, awe, and joy have been overwhelming.  I’ve seen seniors rocking on the chairs in the Idea Box like kindergartners.  I’ve seen Middle School students running up and down the stairs in joyful discovery.  Yesterday, as the Lower School students were coming into the space, one fifth grade said to me, “I LOVE what you’ve done with this space!”

This is a building fraught with meaning.  And with emotion.  We would not be here today, in this beautiful new space, if not for a boy who lived among us and died, as we think, too soon.  
I want everyone to get a glimpse of the kind of person Blake Hubbard was.  

What can we say?  Maybe the best comment on this comes from Blake’s father, Jeff.  Listen to these words which he wrote this week:  

I hope that our tears today don’t disguise the fact about how excited we are as a family.  This truly is a day to celebrate!

Blake’s 14 years on this earth seem oh so short...but those 14 years were oh so meaningful.

He was a unique child that taught so many of us some important lessons about life.  As many of you know, except for the tennis courts, Blake was one who never moved very fast.  In fact, it was virtually impossible to rush him into anything.  But looking back at it all, I truly believe it was Blake’s way of appreciating the smaller things in life…..the things that most of us take for granted.
Blake also had a way to make everyone around him always feel welcome...even special, no matter the circumstances.  Blake’s happiness came from making the people around him happy.  Patty and I would often ask Blake in many different ways, “What do you want to do?”  His answer would always be “What would you like me to do?”  Making us happy made him happy.

But, without a doubt, the biggest lesson he left us all with, was the value of having a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Something he took very seriously and fortunately for him an investment that will be paying him dividends for the rest of eternity.  A lesson that I can only hope we all will take as seriously as Blake.

Lastly, over these past four years, all of you have done so much for our family, and today Patty, Robert, Lauren, and I want to personally thank you all.  The endless hours you have spent with us helping our family heal...and the generous donations which have allowed a vision turn into a reality is an amazing gift to our family.  The Blake Hubbard Commons is truly an incredible honor to our son, but even more importantly, we hope this building opens the doors to new opportunities and that new families will be excited about Trinity School and introduce the love of Christ into their homes.  
Thank you, everyone, for making this possible.  

We love you all.

Blake stories continue to come to light.  I told Holley Broughton earlier this week, “We need a picture of Blake with his friends.”  That night, unbidden, Faith Rios sent Holley a picture she had stuck on her refrigerator four years ago.  This is second grade.  Blake is the third from the left.  Look where they are standing!

And just this week one of our teachers told me a story I had not heard.  I think it captures so well Blake’s spirit, which we honor today, and which our architects and builders have embodied in this space we are calling the HUB.

In seventh grade, at lunchtime, most of the students ate quickly and hurried outside. One student always stayed behind because he didn't want to play football and had no one to hang out with.  Blake was still eating his lunch, and he made up a game and coaxed the other boy into playing with him.  Blake made a paper triangle football, and the two boys would sit on the front row.  Blake would take one bite of lunch, then he would shoot the football at the prayer request basket up front, and the other boy would take a turn as well. If Blake scored a basket, he would take another bite of lunch and move back one row. The other student would move back one row too. Then, they would shoot the football again. If Blake missed the basket and did not score, no bite, no moving back. In order to get through five bites, Blake had to score from the back row of the classroom. Within a week or so, the other boy was as enthusiastic about "their game" as Blake was. Blake drew his friend out and encouraged him to hang around with other guys.  Once other boys found out what was happening, lunchtime football in the prayer request basket became a preferred sport on rainy days.

I love this story.  I think it captures the heart of why the board of Trinity chose to name this building after this young man:
  • His playfulness.  Blake loved life, loved to enjoy games, invent games, and explore the possibilities in the world that God made.
  • His unhurriedness.  He was the quintessential Unhurried Child.
  • His capacity for friendship and building community.  
Where did all this come from?  Many of us have asked ourselves this question: How did a 14 year old boy have such a capacity for wisdom, generosity of spirit, enjoyment of God’s world, building relationships across borders, putting others first?  This is not your textbook Middle School way of being in the world.  

The answer is that Blake had a very special relationship with Jesus Christ.  As a boy, he said “Yes” to Jesus and began to trust him.  Because he knew that Jesus loved him, he was able to let go of all the Middle School angst around taking care of himself.  Jesus said to him, “I got you,” and Blake believed him and spent his energies enjoying God’s world and serving others.

Blake and this building have something in common: They are both silent, but they both speak powerfully to us.  Just yesterday every Trinity student came into this space to worship and to hear Blake’s story in the video and in our reflections.  Many hearts continue to be moved, called to Christ through the life and legacy of this young man.  May that call go on for many generations, here in this space.  And may many students, like Blake, say “Yes” to Jesus.

I said that this building speaks, even though silent.  That’s what buildings do, and the better their design, the better they speak.  I want to thank our architects at Duda Paine--three of them are here tonight--who invested deeply in this project to create a space that embodies the message of Blake’s life, which is so consonant with Trinity’s mission.

This is a building designed for play.  There is room--lots of room--for students to spread out their bodies, their books, their iPads, and their minds.  There are rooms for playing with ideas, for solving puzzles and tackling challenges.  There is a playfulness in the design of the building, from the sprawling suspension above you to the nook under the stairs to the Golden Ratio hidden right in front of you.  The space opens up to the outside, both visually and literally, inviting students to spill out for playful exploration in the world God has made.  And the Memorial at the front of the building--well, I hope you all have some time to play with the interactive digital memorial that Chris Bitsas has built for us.  A poet once imagined that “Christ plays in ten-thousand places.”  This is surely one of those, lovely in design.  We faculty and staff sit on the edges of our seats to see what they will do with this place and in this place, these students who are loved by Christ every bit as much as Blake was.

This is a building designed for community.  A community of learners.  A community of friends, hanging out in the HUB.  A community sharing meals together, planning events together.  A community of readers, gathered upstairs and down, searching for truth in books, online, and in conversation with one another.  This is not a building for any one division, but for us all.  It is located, exactly, at the HUB of the campus, at the intersection of Lower, Middle, Upper Schools, and Athletics.  We are One Trinity, and this building is meant to bring us together as a community.  I thought I saw a vision of Blake and a new friend flicking paper footballs at the cup holders in the Campfire Room.

As a community of worshipers especially, which reminds us maybe most of all of Blake Hubbard.  I can just see him now, standing with his friends in singing praises during worship, listening to God’s Word, praying with and for his friends  Just yesterday, we christened this space by bringing every Trinity student in here to worship and praise the Triune God.  Nothing would please Blake’s Lord more than to see this space used to bring students closer to Christ--in worship, in conversation, in Bible Study, in exploration, in friendship.

Jeff, Patty, Robert, and Lauren, along with nieces and nephews, are here representing the Hubbard family today.  To you all we want to say this:  We know that no building can ever embody or capture or represent the amazing person Blake was.  And we would trade this building for Blake any day.  Buildings fall apart, wear out, lose their relevance over time.  But Blake, like all of us, is an eternal soul, and though we continue to grieve his absence from us, we believe that he is with his Lord.  
Thank you for being here today for this celebration.

Thanks, also, to every one of you who made this amazing space come together in just two years.  The generosity of the Trinity community and friends from the larger community have made this possible.  A building built without any debt, paid for by many generous donors, many of whom are in this room right now.

So today, we want to dedicate this The HUB, in honor of Blake.

  • May it be the hub of much playfulness, delight in learning, and unhurried exploration of God’s world.
  • May it be the hub of a rich community of learners and friends.
  • And may it be the hub of Christian formation for many students, who worship here, are discipled here, read and hear God’s Word here.

Friday, February 26, 2016


At the beginning of this school year, Kindergarten teacher Carrie Pothoven stopped by my office to share with me a book she had read over the summer, one that had made a deep impact on her.  I get lots of book recommendations, but not many from our Kindergarten teachers, and when Carrie speaks I listen.  So I ordered the book and set it aside.  I started it sometime in the fall and finished it during my study leave.  

I recommend it highly.  I've even thought of reading it together with our entire Sr. Staff.

Dickson's thesis is simple: humility is a virtue essential to living well and to leadership.

Dickson's definition of humility is the noble choice to forgo your status, deploy your resources or use your influence for the good of others before yourself.  The humble person is willing "to hold power in service of others."  

Dickson's definition of leadership is simple and sound: the art of inspiring others in a team to contribute their best toward a goal.  

The connections to Trinity's credo of Non nobis are obvious and important, and I've been challenged by reading this book to consider the ways that we have and have not held our power in service of others.  

This is a book written not specifically for Christians, but for a wider audience.  (Some Christians may find it lacking, for this reason.  See, for instance, Andrew David Naselli's evaluation on his blog, Themelios.)  I, for one, am glad of this kind of approach, for several reasons.  It gives us Christians an example (probably not entirely successful, but serious) of how a Christian can attempt to bring Gospel truth into a secular conversation.  It also provides us with a glimpse of the riches of an approach that believes "all truth is God's truth," drawing as it does from a wide array of sources and examples.  

The independent school heads in Durham and Chapel Hill have been working on a plan to collaborate on a leadership development program for our own staff and faculty--a sort of two-year institute where we would cover some of the essentials of leadership in schools.  I was glad to be able to recommend Dickson's book to this group as a solid book on leadership, worthy of their attention, one that acquitted the Christian understanding of leadership in a way that they could all benefit from and that would gently present the beauty of Christ's humility to them.  

Because in the end, it's not easy for any of us, Christian or no, to hold power in the way that Jesus did: for others.

Measuring the Most Important Things?

We measure many things at Trinity.  Enrollment. Re-enrollment.  College Admissions.  Annual Fund and Capital Campaigns.  Faculty retention and turnover.  Operating budget vs. actuals.  Debt to Asset ratio.  Endowment.  Financial aid.  SAT and ACT means.  Athletic team records and individual performances.  Personnel budget as a percentage of overall budget.  AP scores.  Average hours of homework a night for Upper School students.  ROI for marketing dollars.  If anyone wanted to see a complete list of what we measure, she could just check out our INDEX benchmarking group annual report, which runs to 162 pages for the 2013-2014 year.  

But do we measure the most important thing at Trinity, our Christian mission and our success in delivering on that goal to our students and families?  Probably not very carefully or thoroughly.  Most of our evaluation of this vital goal is done by anecdote and loud (vs. valid) data.  Stories are important for such things, and in fact they may tell more than valid quantitative data ever can.  Still, there is a lingering question: Are there ways to measure such things?

In his 2012 Leadership Journal piece, “Measuring What Matters,” Mike Bonem surveys a host of churches and other Christian organizations to make the case of measuring our most important spiritual goals.  He lays out the sceptical questions that many people have about measuring spiritual growth: that measurement seems unspiritual, that it tells only part of the story, that measures can be misleading, that not everyone wants accountability, and that the skills for measurement may not be ready at hand.  These are all significant obstacles, but I agree with Bonem that ultimately what gets measured gets attention, and what gets attention is what changes and grows. So a Christian organization would do well to pay close attention to such measurement.  

I have been encouraged and spurred in this thinking by the work of HOPE International, a Christian ministry that aims to help spread the Gospel through savings and micro-financing.  With the help of scholars like David Bronkema of Eastern University and in conjunction with other Christian groups through the Accord Network for Spiritual Metrics, HOPE has developed an integrated approach to measuring the Christian element in their mission.  Their Director of Spiritual Integration, Matthew Rohrs, talks about three stages in their Spiritual Integration program:
  1. Inputs: Is it plausible to think that spiritual transformation can be catalyzed by a program of measuring inputs to their spiritual goals?
  2. Accountability: The inputs that HOPE has identified are summarized in their 7S framework (see the chart below).  This provides something of a roadmap and dashboard for measuring spiritual goals.
  3. Impact: Through an Impact Survey given to their clients, HOPE expects to measure change and growth in those they serve.
Here is one of the tools that HOPE uses for this kind of work, their 7S Framework.  (I have whited out the names of the countries on the far left, to guard confidentiality.)

Another Christian organization that has done a lot of thinking about spiritual metrics is World Relief, an international relief and development organization headed by Stephen Bauman.

Here is an interview with Dallas Willard on the subject of measuring spiritual growth.  Willard recommends in particular the Christian Life Profile Assessment Tool developed by Randy Frazee.  Pastor John Ortberg recommends Monvee.  Note: These are not Christian leaders with a facile and superficial understanding of spiritual formation.

This good work among churches and development and relief organizations is helpful, but it needs translating into the world of Christian K-12 education.

Here are some key questions for Trinity to consider at it embarks on a serious conversation about measuring our Christian mission:
  1. What is our leadership’s attitude toward the use of metrics for such important spiritual goals?  What has shaped that attitude?
  2. What are our key inputs?  What we start with and use along the way.  For instance, enrollment measures inputs.  A deeper dive into the data on enrollment might tell us valuable things about the kind of students and families we start with.
  3. And what are our key outputs?  What are the results and outcomes that we play an important part in producing?  For instance, alumni who are faithful members of Christian churches would be an output that we would like to see.  Alumni with a strong sense of calling to serve Christ in their vocations.
  4. What are we currently measuring?  How might some of these measurements relate to our Christian mission?
  5. Do we communicate about the results of measurements?  How?
  6. What is something we would like to know but do not have the right metric or tools to measure?  How might we create a way to measure this?

Here are a few ideas to prime the pump for us, things we might consider measuring:
  • Biblical literacy among students who enter Trinity vs. when they leave.
  • Student agreement with the school’s doctrinal commitments upon graduation.
  • Students’ self-identification as Christians.
  • Students’ stories of God’s guidance and work in their lives.
  • Students’ giving to others (financially and through service).
  • Student involvement in regular worship, Bible Study, giving, prayer.
  • Alumni involvement in Christian ministries and church during college.
  • Alumni involvement in church beyond college.
  • Alumni agreement with the school’s doctrinal statement.
  • Alumni commitment to Christian education.

What else?

We have a lot more work to do in this area, but I’m excited to think that over the next few years, we might find ways to move Trinity forward, to hold ourselves accountable for this vitally important goal.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor by James K. A. Smith

Jamie Smith has written a book about a book, and now I am writing a blog entry about Smith’s book.  That makes this something like the Spark Notes on Spark Notes about a book by a man named Charles Taylor.  But if ever there were a need for translation and popularization, Taylor’s work would be at the head of the line.  I tried my hand at his Modern Social Imaginaries a few years ago, and it nearly did me in.  Still, I had a strong sense that the fault in understanding was mine, and so when I saw that Smith had written a slim (but dense) primer on Taylor’s A Secular Age, I bought the book right away.  

I started it months ago, but put it away until my study leave, knowing I wanted to savor it and take a deep dive.  

I tried summarizing Taylor’s thesis to my wife the other night at dinner, and that did not go well.  So this blog is an attempt to redeem myself in some way.  I'll make sure she reads it before I post it.

One reason it is hard to wrap words around Taylor’s thesis is that he is talking about a feeling and a sense, something that is impossible to prove or establish.  It is like he is saying, “I smell something.  Do you smell it too?”  I do.  I smell it all the time.  And I am always amazed when others don’t.  But how do you describe that smell that others can’t smell?  And--harder still--how do you get them to smell it?

What Taylor smells he calls “the secular.”  Like a good philosopher, he defines his terms, and he actually has three definitions of secular.  (Smith’s glossary at the back of his book is one of the most helpful features of his book.)  
  • Secular1 refers to the mundane as opposed to the religious or sacred.  So a minister’s work is mostly religious and a stock broker’s is secular.
  • Secular2 is a more modern sense of a-religious, with the attendant assumption that this perspective is objective and unbiased.  So we have the debate about whether a secular or “naked” public square is possible for the religious person, and whether it is desirable or possible for everyone else.
  • Secular3 is Taylor’s real interest.  It is a shared way of imagining the world where religious belief (even belief in anything really transcendent) is not a given, where belief is contested, and where many find accounts for meaning and significance without any appeal to the divine or the transcendent.

So far maybe nothing new?  Well try this: Taylor says we are all Secular3 in some significant sense.  None of us has the option/privilege/possibility of living in a shared understanding of the world that is not battered by cross-currents of the tide surge of immanence (nothing but what we see here and now) and the undertow of transcendence (the notion that there is something else).  This means that believer and unbeliever alike live what Taylor calls “fragile” lives: our way of imagining the world is constantly challenged and dubitable.  For a Christian believer, this means that our faith in a Transcendent God is constantly battered by the clamor of a materialism that has no room for anything beyond, a “social imaginary” that is defined completely by this world and by expressive individualism.  For the unbeliever, this means that life defined entirely by the here and now is not free of the “haunting” of transcendence, the sense or feel that construals of significance without any transcendent reference are hollow and futile.  Smith paraphrases Kurt Cobain here: Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they are not after you.

To use some Taylor jargon (and he has lots of it), everyone today lives within an “immanent frame.”  Imagine that the world you see is framed in such a way that you can't see anything other than the material and the here and now.  There is no way to view the picture in another frame.

But clearly not everyone experiences the world in this way.  Here Taylor’s distinction between take and spin is important.  A take is a construal of life that is open to the viability of other takes.  A spin is a construal of life that does not understand itself as a spin and has no capacity to grant plausibility to another alternative.  So there are two primary differences: The way one imagines the world (transcendent/open to Other or immanent/closed to Other) and the way one construes one’s imagined world (take and spin).  This creates a fascinating quadrant of possibilities, which Taylor charts in this way:

Spin is smug and certain.  Take is open and vulnerable.  It is a fascinating thesis that religious fundamentalists share something deep with the exclusive humanists of the academy.  Both have a certain code fixation (“No Dancing”; “No hate speech”).  And both have a certainty of their convictions and an unwillingness to see the plausibility of another alternative.

Taylor thinks (and I tend to agree) that that is not where most of us live.  We are either transcendents who “get” how our neighbors are so unreligious.  Or we are agnostics, atheists, and nominally religious people who wonder if there is something else.  As an example of the former, I think of even C.S. Lewis who said that after his conversion he was tempted to disbelieve in God mainly when he stayed in strange hotel rooms.  And as an example of the latter, Smith cites the novelist Julian Barnes: “I don’t believe in God, but I miss him.”

There is much more to say about Taylor’s account of what it feels like to live in a secular3 space, but I will stop summarizing and start applying this.  What does all this matter?  What possible significance for a school like Trinity?  I think that there are enormous implications for how we deliver our Christian mission (“to teach within the framework of Christian faith and conviction”).  Here are a few incipient thoughts, which need much more baking:

  1. We say we want to educate within a “framework of Christian faith and conviction.”  Taylor helps us see how this cannot be done apart from thinking and addressing a Christian social imagination--that is, a way of experiencing the world together with others in a way that helps us live in the cross-currents of the immanent frame.  Worldview must involve the heart and the imagination, not just the reason and even belief.
  2. For this work, a humble and open and vulnerable posture will do more to help students live as Christians in a secular3 age than an attempt to give them certainty and the right answers.  We can give them the right answers, but we know that they will be buffeted by the wrong answers too and that it is futile to try to create a world where they will not feel that pressure. Rather, we want to help them live as Christians with a faith that is strong but also “fragile.”  Fragility is not always a sign of weakness; it is a condition of our age.  Learn to live well with it.
  3. Many of our families, both churched and unchurched, will come to us without a strong commitment to the transcendent.  Being religious or even “Christian” is no guarantee that people will understand that there is something more important than their own human flourishing.  There are Christian versions of Immanent commitment.  Our curriculum and teaching needs to address this.  This may be one of our greatest challenges, because the fundamental commitment to human flourishing in this world is a strong pull and it will not give up ground easily.  It is certain to come in conflict with a fully biblical understanding of God’s purposes in the world, which involve humanity but do not center on it.
  4. Some of our Christian families will be in the Transcendent Spin category--they will be so sure of their convictions that they will see alternatives as simply wrong and unthinkable, or maybe just straw men to take down.  We share a Christian commitment with them, but I agree with Taylor and Smith that this way of being Christian in the world will not lead us where we want to go.  We cannot go back to a world where belief is taken for granted.  We cannot shout down the other side.  Welcome to modernity. 
  5. Apologetics (or the defense of the faith) needs to be as much about listening and learning and hearing stories as about arguing and debating.  And the arts are vitally important in this work.  People do not move from the immanent to the transcendent because we have argued them into a conversion.  Rather, we need to get them to listen for the hints of eternity.  Stories, art, movies--these are important apologetic tools for this generation.  Smith also has some fascinating comments on the (inordinate?) place of theodicy in modern apologetics to the secular3 world.
  6. Strange allies.  In this crazy secular3 world, there are all kinds of new ways of trying to find meaning and significance.  And those we disagree with on one thing may actually share fundamental commitments with us.  This has enormous implications for what it means for Trinity to be a school with and for our community, while still being salt and light.  Smith shares a diagram from Taylor, parsing out three groups that inhabit the immanent frame of secular3 space:

In this scheme, Transcendents and Humanists share a concern for Transformation and stand against a will for power that is the Nietzschean commitment.  Humanists and Neo-Nietzscheans share a commitment to no Transcendence, which Christians would deny.  And Neo-Nietzscheans and Transcendents share a belief in human depravity and darkness, which Humanists gloss over.  “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  Our alliances are likely to be complicated moving forward.

In closing, I have imagined a sort of Preface to Our Christian Beliefs, one that is influenced by Taylor’s book.  It would go something like this:

We tell you what we believe in an effort to be clear and transparent about our beliefs and commitments as a Christian school.  We believe that it is both wise and charitable to communicate in this way, especially in a time of contested belief both within and outside the Christian church in general and the evangelical community in particular.  

At the same time, we recognize that our beliefs could easily be construed as smug, legalistic, or oppressive to some, and we want to acknowledge and respect the fact that Trinity lives and teaches in an age of contested belief.  This is true within the church--consensus on some of the matters we affirm cannot be taken for granted.  And it is certainly true outside the church, where faith in anything transcendent is no longer axiomatic.  Because we are a non-covenant school, one that stands open to our community at large, we know that we serve families whose way of imagining their lives in fullness and thriving has no reference to anything beyond the here and now.

We who affirm Trinity’s Christian faith share the same frame of reference as those who disagree with us and take exception to some of these claims.  We all feel the crosswinds of other beliefs and ways of imagining the world.  This means that anyone who is honest will hold beliefs in a fragile way, sensing the echoes and tugs of other ways of being in the world.  We who affirm Trinity’s Christian beliefs do so with an openness to the plausibility of other views.  We might be wrong, but it is good for us to say what we believe, holding our interpretations with humility and openness.  We hope that this take on our beliefs will make Trinity a place where those who disagree will continue to feel welcome and will experience Trinity as their school.  

We are not interested in fighting about our beliefs, though we know that they will be offensive in different ways to different people. We believe that holding them authentically and living into them with humility will be the best way we can acquit them to those who disagree.  Honest dialogue, good listening, and wise questioning will help to promote the kind of community Trinity has been and will, by God’s grace, continue to be.

Finally, we would not affirm our Christian beliefs if we did not believe that they embody a way of flourishing that transforms the human person in Christ, beyond the possibilities which this world offers.