Call me Dan. Some weeks ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse [manbag], and nothing particular to interest me … well that’s not strictly true.
Call me Dan, I live in Sydney. My wife Emma and I moved here just before Christmas in 2006 so that I could commence studying at Moore Theological College in 2007. Previously we had been living in Canberra, where we had both moved to study at the Australian National University, and where we had a big argument about environmental conservation (i won, sorry whales), and where we fell in love.
I studied all sorts of things at Uni, some of them were even mentioned in the Curriculum, but at the end they just gave me a piece of paper that says: “BA”. I treasure my Bachelor of Attendance although I don’t actually recall attending all that much…
I studied a double major with honours in Philosophy. My major research project was into the relationship between Friedrich Nietzsche and Michel Foucault, looking at the way Nietzsche’s beliefs about the aesthetic subject could be developed through Foucault into an aesthetic politics. At least, that’s what I think I was writing about, considering that none of us seem to understand Nietzsche or Foucault, who can say?
The truth is that Uni for me was the place in which I began to move beyond my childish understanding of God, and to listen instead for God’s revelation of himself. This wasn’t a matter of eating dodgy pizza and meditating in a cave. I began to encounter God’s word in the text of the Bible, and through the text of the Bible, to encounter God’s word in the flesh of a man, Jesus.
I wrestled with God in his word. I resisted the authority that was conveyed in those words, as we all do. And as I found myself continually overmatched I began to love God in the person of his son, Jesus. I found that the more of myself that I gave to those words, the more of himself God gives to me.
When I read the Bible with all the faculties of intellect that I possess, I find words that ring with truth and beauty and wisdom and insight. I found a map of my world with accurate labels, and a clearly marked “You are here”. When I put the book down, I find that I know more,
and know that I know so little still.
When I read the Bible with my heart, reading out of the a-rational hope that sustains us through three score years and ten, I found the words of a human God. Not that God is just another man, the Father we wish we had. No! But God is not less than human. And He made us as his humanity, in his image. We share a family resemblance that includes feelings and passion and hate and love. I found in his words a God who loves me, and wants me to love him. Can you begin to imagine the significance of that last phrase? I found that God had come himself as a man, Jesus, who was fully human and fully God. That could only be true if divinity and humanity were in some way related. Jesus was not autistic, or ego-maniacal, or impartially detached. Why had I thought that God was? I found that I was reading the words of a Person.
And then I began to read the words of God with my body. I read like that because I still love this world, its beauty, creativity, and wonder, and my heart was sick with the ruination of it all. I read like that because my mind had been filled with other people’s words, and speeches, and plans that were just puffs of breath, shimmerings of molecules. I had now heard the words of God, the words of one who speaks with genuine authority, not like our philosophers, our lawyers, our politicians: “Look! I am making everything new.”
We are most ourselves when our minds and hearts and bodies are working together, and when the goal of our working is goodness. That is called worship. That’s what we are made for. It’s what I have been made for.
While I was at Uni I became involved with a group of Christians who meet together each week on the campus. The Fellowship of Christian University Students (FOCUS). Each week we would meet all together to hear a talk from a passage of the Bible and spend some time discussing and hanging out together. People also met at different times and locations around the Uni for small group Bible study. People worked together to share the words of God with others around the campus. We would even head off on camps and conferences to share in time together studying the Bible. It’s a great thing and God used it to shape my life and help me to know him better. If you’d like to know more about the work of FOCUS, visit their website , or read back through my archives of posts from 2006.
As I began to serve more with FOCUS I realised that God had fitted me out with abilities that could help people to know him better and could help his people to live out his plan for this world. And if God has made me to do these things then I shouldn’t waste time doing other things. For me, that’s meant studying the Bible to teach it to others, studying the academic discipline of Theology, and training to preach and serve the Church – God’s family.
I spent 2 years as a Ministry Apprentice with the Ministry Training Strategy working with University students at the University of Canberra. At the end of that time I was asked to take over as the leader of the ministry on that campus for a year while a full time staff-worker was being found and appointed. At the start of my second year of training Emma and I got married. It was the second most profound thing that has ever happened to me, after becoming a Christian. She can tell you more details about the wedding. It was nice.
In 2007 we moved to Sydney so I could train further at Moore Theological College. It was a challenging, disappointing, exhilarating experience – sometimes all in the space of one day. The archives of this blog chronicle my journey through College pretty well. During my time at College I held student ministry positions (‘work-experience’ minister) for two years at St Philip’s Anglican Church in the Sydney CBD, and with St Thomas’ North Sydney.
Right now I’m in ministry with the AFES at the University of Sydney Cumberland. You can read more about what this means on the Campus Ministry page, or (for more detail) by reading my article “Growing Up, Going Green”. I’m also studying a PhD in Philosophy part-time through Macquarie University. The working title is: “A communicative theory of forgiveness.”
Emma is in her second year of study toward a Bachelor of Theology through Sydney Missionary Bible College. When she finishes there… well, who knows what comes next?
What I do know, is that being loved by God is the richest experience I could ever hope to have. We plan to keep exploring that experience, to sail whereever that wind blows. And there are lots of other people on that trip, so I reckon we’ll end up sharing a boat for a while…
Maybe that’s you?
If so, call me Dan, honestly, or just call me.