Brad Smith - "Innovation in Theological Education"
3:15PM Jul 9, 2020
Jonathan J. Armstrong
Today it is our huge privilege to be speaking with Brad Smith. Dr. Brad Smith is president of baki Graduate University, a board member of the world of angelical. Alliance and the board chairman for vision synergy. Dr. Smith, thank you so much for joining us today.
Thank you, Jonathan. Thanks for inviting me to be on your on your webcast.
Dr. Smith Baqi Graduate University is a pioneer in urban ministry studies and also a leader in educational innovation. What is it that you do to stay on top of the developing trends in global education?
So Jonathan, let me give you a little story while we were started, and that sometimes may help to explain that the answer. So we were started actually by the liaison movement which the liaison committee for world evangelization, as you know, was originally founded by Billy Graham and his network. My understanding that way Wasn't there but my understanding is in the 1960s he had been traveling around the world had met a lot of evangelical leaders and other places that mirrored a lot of his beliefs, and then thought he would gather them in Berlin in 1966. It was amazing people were surprised that God was working in the way that God is working in other countries. So he reassembled it in a little more format, formal fashion in mazon, Switzerland in 1974. Out of that, john Stott wrote the song covenant. Some things were organized in the liaison committee for world evangelization started. They wanted to do something in between their large meetings. So they had a large meeting and lesson and 74, Manila and 89 some other things with that Cape Town in 2010, and the next large movie will be in 220 2024. But in 1980, to have some kind of dialogue in between these large meetings, they create a series of associates. Now there was five of them that I understand In one of them was the urban associates. And after a number of years, Brian Myers with World Vision and his research capabilities were part of it. But they also had Ray baki to be a part of that. And so their their mission or their calling, was to see what is God doing in the larger cities of the world that we can report back to the liaison movement. So between 1980 and the early 2000s, they did what would be called city consultations in 200,000,250. City consultations. It wasn't in 250 cities, but it was in over 150 of the largest cities in the world. And the way a consultation would work was similar to how you would do a Billy Graham crusade. A lot of work began beforehand. So the key is not the event. The key is all the gathering the the conversations so that you would unite churches and different groups of the city and ask the question, if we're going to come to To your city and ask Where is Jesus alive? And well? What would you show us. And so these consultations were a means to help churches and businesses, nonprofits, governments, education to work together in order to create this event. And with the idea that after the event, there would be better unity and better collaboration. So when it was evaluated in the late 1990s, they said it's done amazing in terms of creating these events. They've been good and they've also created new conversations in cities. But it hasn't produced the aftermath in the cities at the level they wanted to. And so I had previously worked for government, in a political role in business, served at Dallas Seminary as the director of spiritual formation and started an organization with some others called the Center for Christian Leadership, and then had so planted a church and then had served as the president of Leadership Network, which was a collaborative peer learning organization also worked with the Drucker one to one Foundation, which was similar. So they had asked if I could be a part of helping them think about the next steps of what do we do with this lasagna, urban associates as they go to the next steps. So we hired consultants, did a lot of interviews of liaison leaders and other leaders that had been a part of that group and came back with several conclusions. One is whatever we do to complete this should not be a seminary. The thought is there's already a lot of seminaries in the world and a global seminary could not contextualize what God is doing in theology in the different continents where it was on sir The second thing they said they wanted to have a formal education degree us accredited or British accredited. And the reason is, it felt like that those that were not poor, they felt like they basically other continents really understood and received value of degrees differently. In the United States, sometimes we take them for granted in North America, in one at one, African American was part of a very large organization. It's part of our consultant group. And he explained kind of how that works in the urban context in the United States. Another man that was a leader in Africa said, I'm part of a very large organization, and I direct the country for them. And so they started actually a process to give us an accredited MBA. But I was in the second cohort, the first cohort graduated and half of them left to go to other organizations or to start their own indigenous organizations in their nations in Africa. And so they immediately pulled the program and did not allow us to have actually degrees. And his statement was it feels like I'm being recolonized you are, you are taking away from me the opportunity to actually use that degree to have influence in the way that God called me in my nation. And so his play was whatever you do because it regionally We weren't, we were not planning to actually have degrees offered, you should offer degrees and they should be credited. The reason being is that gives us an opportunity to fulfill our calling, so not a seminary offer degrees. They said, the problem we're facing in our nations and our continents, is we don't we're seeing mass migration to urban centers. And yet theology, not a lot of the theologies we inherited from the west are separatists. And you cannot use a separatist theology in urban and urban work. You have to be engaged in the culture influencing the culture. And so they said, We need a theology, we need a practice that helps us to understand this massive migration to urban centers around the world. The second thing is maps are being redrawn and they're not around political ideology. I worked for a while for a senator that was that had me in place of going to the State Department often to to talk to them and when I went to The US State Department, there's these huge maps on the wall. And this was in the early 80s. And they were asking us to, to be involved in some of their programs. But the maps had the United States and other North American, England, other countries in Europe, Western Europe, in dark blue, which indicated democracy. And anything that was leaning toward democracy was unlikely. Russia, no surprise was bright red. And anything that was leaning toward a Russian style of communism was pink. China was kind of an orange, and anything that was leaning toward that those that style of communism was kind of a lighter orange burn on it. And so the idea is they were saying the world is to fine. And also they had this thing called a bamboo curtain that was defined. They had an iron curtain that was drawn out. And back then they said, the way we define the world is how nations are aligned to political ideologies. But what this group we did the surveys with said that's no longer true. It's now about economics are we economically developed, or we economically developing or underdeveloped. And so they said, it's important for us that whatever you do, helps us to engage these new movements. So as a result, we started a university that has a college of Christian theology, a college of business, and a college of Urban Studies. And most importantly, they said, We need to make sure that each group studies with the other group. So actually, theologians have to be in school with business people in school with urban ministers, when they're actually studying. Because there's problems they don't understand each other's pacing, the language, the viewpoints, the perspectives, and if they learn that in school, then when they are going out in the urban context, then they can work together and they have learned the pacing of each other. So they said, Okay, if you're going to try to do that, because these these groups don't get along particularly well or they at least don't understand each other different languages. We should call your school paradox University. Okay, and this is the naming consultants came back. And they you know, they're all proud of their name paradox university because it's a paradox. Nobody's attempted to do this before. But like naming consultants, they give you the bad idea before they give you the good idea, and that helps you appreciate the good idea. So they said, however, you've engaged a family, and it's the baki family. Ray, Bucky was involved in the urban leadership of Busan, Denis baki, had founded the largest independently owned electricity company in the world, it was worth 40 billion market cap. The only two organizations that owned more electricity in the world were the nation of Russia, a nation of France. And yet he overtly stated the role of Christian leaders. In course it made Wall Street Journal always was controversial. But Dennis had had really had an influence in the business world. It was deeply respected in nations like China, where he had put in new coal plants. And then there were Milwaukee, a brother, who pastored a church in Washington, and he was little radical. So in the early 90s, every single Sunday, they might have a ordination or commissioning of missionaries. So one might be to Africa one Sunday, the next one would be all the teachers, and they would commission them to the schools and their community. The next Sunday might be the police, and they would commission the placement. So he understood the church gathered was really an instrument in order to breathe out to the church scattered to come back in and breathe back in for the church gathered and did that in very practical ways. And then the fourth sibling in the baki family was Marilyn baki. And she was a women's Bible teacher. And, and, and obviously, if you look at what's happening in global global movements, women's leadership is huge. So we were founded
on the idea of not being a seminary being a university, but that doesn't mean that we don't practice theology and theology is different. upon reflection, but coming from a variety of different sectors of callings and roles, and making sure it's being done in a difficult but yet very powerful way of doing it, we have business people, proud, scholarly theologians, pastors, educators, government workers all trying to do that in the same classroom in the same way. So kind of understanding that is, and then also being built on the liaison committee. That meant we started with a network of people in 65 countries. And so we were started already dispersed, which also created all kinds of needs to create innovation on how you do dispersed education, both theologically and business in urban studies. So let me stop at that point. But that's, we were forced into innovation because of the nature of how we reform and it's been a good journey. And I think in some ways, we're unique, we're a niche. We actually thrive because there's other universities in schools such as moody that really provide a groundwork, I don't think we would be that valuable if there weren't others like Dallas and moody and, and Trinity and others that he's fuller that exists to create the groundwork that we can then build upon. And some people would say, often we would be seen as a capstone. So after somebody finishes a theology degree, have strong biblical theological reflection, they would come to our school for their doctorate program in order to learn how to engage culture, but based upon the theological underpinnings they had from these other schools. So we do not see ourselves as independent. We see ourselves as really dependent upon what God has done at moody and other places.
That's really incredibly helpful. Thank you very much, Dr. Smith. And if I can ask, how is it the internet technology is changing and reshaping our global cities? It used to be that people would come to the cities for commerce and the exchange of ideas and of course that still happens, but the internet could be seen as a competitor for those functions, many of the things that we buy or communicate with others can be done now in person or virtually. How is it that the internet is changing the trajectory of global urbanization? Well, two
things. One is there's urban, which is the actual physical, urban place. And then there's urbanization, which is the influence of urban values, even in rural areas. And certainly, urbanization is pretty much pervasive in most of the world. There's obviously places where it hasn't reached, but majority of world so they say that the United Nations apparently came up with some different designations, anywhere between 2002 to 2004, depending on who counts that they said for the first time in their recounting of human history, we would might argue Tower of Babel might might be against that, but then more people live in urban centers than ever before in human history. So there is actually an urban physical change that's occurred in our world, but urbanization that spreads those values out further. And of course, the internet is huge for that, because the internet is primarily controlled by urbanization values. And it's also primarily controlled by English, just by the nature of the business commerce. And so that in itself creates a center of cultural influence through the internet. There's changes that are occurring, but that's where this started. So given that, if I live in Shanghai, and I am part of a business, I actually have more in common with people living in Chicago than I do with people in my that speak my language from my culture, they live 20 miles outside of Shanghai in a rural village. And I have a lot more contact with people in Chicago, most likely than I would with the people that 20 miles outside. And so when you look at if you had to draw the maps, you would actually draw maps that perhaps have boundaries around global cities and global multinational corporations. And frankly, they're talking to each other more, have more in common have more common values. Even if they're not anywhere near each other physically, and certainly do not have the same cultural and national boundaries. So it's massive. And so what we're seeing is formation of cultures around cities, global cities connected to each other. If a pastor in a city asked the people in their congregation, how many people have actually traveled to another nation this past week, raise your hand. It would be a lot. But then if they said, How many of you who have actually either through zoom, Skype something else have talked to somebody in another culture? In this past week, you'd be amazed how many hands would come up. And so what's happened is the technology has made almost everybody to some degree, accessible as a missionary in their own setting and their workplace calling in ways that perhaps we don't even recognize in ways that go far beyond what we could ever imagine could have happened just in the physical space. Well, Wilson, who is a board member of find it Leadership Network years ago wrote a book called The Internet church. And a great illustration. He said in the early 90s, when he was trying to smuggle Bibles into China, and best he could handle five Bibles, and he would hide them and carry one and, and so he could get five Bibles into China physically in the world of Bibles in the early 90s. But once the world became bits, all of a sudden they created and of course, he's now the head of global media outreach. You can create Bibles that are in bits, as he put it. And so now literally, hundreds of thousands of Bibles could be accessed on the internet and smuggled in to China. Because in the world of bits, you don't have to physically carry a Bible. Now that was a revelation in the 1990s. But if you think about it, that is changed the way boundaries are perceived, can certainly change how mission is perceived. And even missionaries and cross cultural missionaries are being perceived and acquired. Say changes global cities because they are again more connected to other global cities, other multinational corporations than they would be prior to that. So the nature of cities is radically changed. I don't think the internet competes with cities, they actually create more power for people that live in cities. That concern is those that don't live in cities or don't have access to the internet are being left out what is happening in our world?
Thank you very much for that very insightful analysis. What are the educational innovations that you anticipate will most deeply affect the education of the future?
And you've been engaged? No, you had an earlier one on blockchain technology. And Dr. Andrew Sears, who I deeply respect. He's one of our graduates. He's the head of President of city vision college, he graduated from our school. And of course, I was his dissertation advisor, but that's kind of funny because I feel like he was teaching me more than I was teaching in. And then your president of moody Dr. Mark job, also Graduated from baki graduate diversity. And while he was there while he was in our school, and even currently, he gives us a lot of advice on, on how to improve things and how to engage what God is doing in the world. So we have, we're very fortunate to have leaders like those two and many more, that keep us always asking the question, since about 65 of our subset of our students are not in North America, we get a lot of reflection from top leaders in education and business and urban around the world that give us insight into these innovations that are addressed to cultural changes. And so we have to be in dialogue. We'd be pretty silly if we just talked and didn't listen to what God has given us in that network. But a couple things. One is, I think we're going to see education increasingly built around the students choice. There's a group called the Western Governors University, obviously very controversial. The founder Sam Smith started introducing us to their, to what they were doing in the early 2000s. And so we have traveled into their offices in Salt Lake City and other places. And they've given us a lot of insight into the very specific ways they do what they do. And of course, they're the fastest growing university in the United States. As a result of that, one of the things they track is that increasingly, the person who owns the control of their education will be the student and less and less the faculty. And that's could be very discomforting to faculty. It also could be an opportunity to say, it puts faculty in even a greater spot of not just lecturing or determining what a student needs to learn, but in a mentoring situation to say I understand what needs to be learned. But even better, I can help that connect to where a student already is called, what they've already learned, and to help them move forward. And so there's a variety of different ways that innovation has been displayed. One is of course, assessing Based Learning where you assess where a student is what they've already learned, and then you actually teach them to the course outcomes on what is the gap between what they've already learned and need to learn. So that way you verify their education, not by that they've gone through your whole class, but they have gone to the piece they missed, and then you do a competency assessment at the end, to make sure that they have it, then you can verify they've actually achieved what the class was was promising to achieve. Although you may have only taught 25% because let's say it's a marketing class, that person has led a marketing department, most likely they don't need the full class, but they need to have it verified. So that whole approach is is there. The other thing is understanding, helping mentor students to have their understanding of their calling. What are their goals, what do they want to have, and then having clear articulation of how that can be done in the school and of course, every one of our students goes through a pretty rigorous assessment of calling and giftedness, we happen to use a variety of different tools. One of our students is Bill Hendricks, who wrote the book, you're, the person called you using a process that sometimes people are calling this system for identifying motivated abilities. Every one of our students goes through a narrative, a storytelling approach on top of other assessments, so that not only do they learn their calling and gifts, but they do it in a good environment. Every one of our students has is required to have a personal learning community. And so they come into our to our program, with the key people in their lives that pray for them care for them and given them discern that then we meet with that personal learning community so that we are working with the students goals and calling not just the way they identify it, but the key people in their life. And so the person writing community has to commit to read every one of their final papers. We grade them Papers but they have to read them. They commit to meet with that student as a group at least once a quarter. And they also commit to pray and discern and talk to those students and talk to us as faculty advisors. The point behind that is we're being very careful to say, what is God's agenda in the students life, as demonstrated in their gifts and calling, we as a school don't want to have that student jump through our hoops. Instead, we want to jump through God's hoops in their life. But in order to do that, it takes some discipline to understand their gifts, their calling, to create a community of discernment in their nation, because remember, we're 65 countries and so we've got to have it in local and then establish mentoring and discernment based upon that. But I think that's where all schools are going to have to continue to go is how do we reshape our learning goals around the students calling and then when you had your your webinar on blockchain Ideally
moody city vision, other schools that are values consistent with BG, you and others would be in an arrangement. So I come in as a student, and I'm looking for my goals, you would apply with one of those schools and a mentor, perhaps using a personal learning humanity and discernment process would define your goals that would be recorded. And we're actually building a program based upon the Western Governors student profile, and we'd love to make that available to other schools as we as we build it out. We're not trying to hog it at all. But they would have that recorded in we were calling it a passport, okay, because of our international initiatives, their goals, their gifts, their calling parts of their stories, narratives, how they've interacted, it's collected, but then they carry that passport with them and they would say, I can get two courses from baki. But frankly, Moody's got three courses that fit my goals better. And so they would take three courses for mooting and then they might have city vision might have two courses. And folder might have four courses. So at the end, blockchain allows two things. One is for there to be pre determined contracts of payment. So student can move seamlessly between schools. It's also pre determined contracts that allow us to meet our accreditation needs, goals, the outcome goals are consistent. So at the end, if baki is the one that offers to the degree, we can guarantee they've achieved the outcomes that were promised when they signed up in that degree program. But if that's the case, then to some degree, we help a student customize their education with value partners such as Moody, and so that the end the student, the student, receives an innovative education that's consistent with their gifts and calling and prepares them to do what God has called them to do in the world better. And if we try to do it ourselves,
really amazing what you're developing at baki and thank you very much for showing us the landscape that you're developing there. Dr. Smith, what are the greatest emerging challenges that you see for Christian churches operating in global cities today?
Couple of things. You know, obviously, Satan is always active. And so you always have a strategy that's happening. God is always stronger. And so we do know we win in the end, Revelation displays that to us quite clearly. But we may not win individual battles along the way. And yet God is glorified even when that happens, because of the trust and faith that comes from that. And I remember a time in China some time ago, and I was praying and said, I do not speak Chinese. So there was a interpreter. And as I prayed, I prayed that God would remove persecution from those that were in the room part of this church. And as I was praying, somebody started pounding on me really hard. And and I couldn't understand what they were saying. And the translator said, He's telling you to take that back. don't pray. The short version is he didn't want them to end up like us, right? Which we were in a comfortable situation, the persecution drove their faith. And so I think in churches that are persecuted environments, God is using that in amazing ways.
And so that's I don't pray that persecution would be removed, I pray that the gods that they would be sustained, comforted, understand God's presence and discern God's will, in wherever they whatever's happening. So as you know, one of the problems is the western Church has an emphasis on one set of gifts. And so this is and I know this sounds a little bit like a joke, but it's not it's not a happy joke. Okay, so I worked for a while for Bob Buford. And we did a whole lot through Leadership Network which work with large churches you know, and, and so the body of Christ is supposed to look like us, right sort of made a prettier version of me if certain by but we have a certain size head and arms and legs and all of that. But in the West, the church has overemphasize the mouth gifts. And so in some ways, it looks like a gigantic mouth, with little bitty arms and legs. What that means is we emphasize that the key to church is an effective orator on Sunday morning, effective band and worship. And the disciple making process seems to be basically a retail provider, that is the church staff and all of their excellence. Being retail providers to consumers sitting in the Pew consumers have religious goods and services. And if you don't provide something the consumer wants to go someplace else. What that does is you can't be a consumer and a disciple. And so we have exported a mouth centric version of Christianity. Now a lot of countries are rejecting that. And certainly there's places in the United States are reacting to that as well. But That's something that hurts the church. When we don't activate people in the Pew to be disciples and respect that respect what God is doing. We just were part of an event that was on did and then in June, and Asian people were carefully selected from around the world. 55% of those that attended this conference had workplace roles, some are blue collar, but they were in arts, oil, technology, retail, agriculture, investments. And so the rest were and they were from around the world, a variety different languages, I think 150 nations are represented. So we spent a week talking about God's calling for people in the workplace. And one of those is discussions is how does a church, a local church, because the calling of the workplace that is the church scattered? They are the church. And so how does a local church pastor in power that and understand that, and so even the word church, isn't it? word because we say we're going to church that makes no sense. We are the church. We name ourselves the church on Fourth Avenue. What does that mean? The church that meets and gathers in the location on Fourth Avenue is actually a church. It's all over the city. And so even our language has confused. So one of the challenges facing the church is how do we understand God's calling for people in the workplace, and to empower them and to equip them to do things that those that are on the pastoral staff, frankly, could never do? Most pastors in the world by vocational and to some degree that is helped this thing that we're exploiting, which is a disease to not actually be received in those in those nations. And it's very, very helpful. Another thing would be, and again, I apologize, I sometimes will say these jokes, but they're meant to hopefully illustrate something. But you ask the question, what is the institution and the whole thing To the world, that has been the greatest contributor to the growth of the church and the unity of the church. It's a trick question, of course, because it's messing around, and one might argue is the, the government of China, okay? They didn't do it on purpose. But they were used of God in spite of themselves. Because they don't allow these mega churches to occur. They don't allow denominations, and by their persecution, we have seen the fastest growth of Christianity occur in the shortest amount of time with any recorded history. In the time in China in the last century, the early part of this century. The actual Chinese would say there's 130 million Christians, and that was a study out of the University of Shanghai. But other people would argue they might be closer to 200 million other people would argue that perhaps there's more Christians in China than there is in the United States. So it might be the largest Christian nation in the world again, who knows. But the point being is that Not how we normally look as fertile ground for healthy church, yet it actually has become that. And so what is the threat to the church is defining it too narrowly. It's just the church gathered, helping not helping people empower people in the workplace, and to perhaps understand healthy fertile ground for church growth is having cultural dominance of Christianity, when actually one might argue it's the exact opposite.
Thank you very much, Dr. Smith, for that really amazing and very thought provoking response. Dr. Smith, if you had one message for those everywhere training for ministry today, what would that message be
that they just to be ready to see that the world is changing, and yet they can leave it they don't have to find it. So the word theology, okay by itself creates a problem. And so it's the study of God. But if you're going to study rocks, you would have geology, right. If you would study you know, other things in it. You don't have to you really the way if you define it is a study of God a scientific study of God, two problems. One is scientific studies would say the more objective you are, the better you can study your scientific instrument. So one would say is perhaps if you're not a Christian, you could be a better theologian, which I think is just ridiculous. And to remove yourself and intellectually study this, this object doesn't work because God engages us he's present. He's omnipresent. And so we've taken perhaps, scientific methods, and there's nothing wrong with those. But we've applied them to theology in a way that has resulted in very complicated studies, lots of jargon, getting stuck in theological systems that were made a lot of sense in previous centuries, but now we're fighting to defend them and made a lot of sense, perhaps in a certain Western context, but it doesn't make sense where God is moving the most in the global south. We have to back off and say, let's listen and maybe redefine the theological quest. Latin America has got some pretty good innovations in which they're saying, rather than using the categories of theology that came from previous centuries formed in the West, let's use the the categories of life, work, family, neighborhood, and so then less in a disciplined, academic way reflect upon how God is revealing himself in those categories and create new approaches to theology not less but knew that connect better with those people that we are trying to study to understand or try to help to understand that the ology is really more about experiencing God not removing ourselves from God. And in that we actually have make much better theologians when we loosen up and don't follow scientific methods, although science and discipline and academic scholarship should be a part of this really pursue it in the way God has revealed himself. And he reveals himself certainly through His Word inspired work, but also through the Holy Spirit and through a variety of things in the community. And so it really does change what the ology means perhaps we need a new word, because it's so connected to science like science, sociology and other things. And that's really not what it is. And so that's something certainly something we need to study. One other thing is you know that you have the quote, from previous century that mission is a mother of theology. Okay? Well, if the lead area of mission tends to actually be the workplace, if you think about it, people in the workplace interact cross culturally more than other other groups. People in the workplace can go into limited access countries much easier than if you put your missionary on your, on your visa application, and they're accepted and incorporated into the dialog. So one might argue, his mission is a mother of theology. But workplace business leaders are actually the forefront of mission. One might argue then is perhaps the business people in the workplace people might be some of the better theologians that we're finding in our world today. And it does require discipline and reflection and some some key things that occur to be a good theologian. But we're maybe it's time to equip those to listen to them. And they're going to come with very different categories of very different words, very different ways of expressing it. But it might actually be deeper than the old ones that we are trained to understand as classical theologians.
Thank you, Dr. Smith, for your willingness to share what you're doing on the cutting edge of this new wave of theological education, this new mode of theological education. Dr. Smith, if I can ask one final question that we've been asking all of the interviewees on this program, and that is this. What would it mean for the church to be united today? How would we record cognize this unity and what is it that we can do to pursue the Unity for which Jesus prayed and john 17?
So first of all it is, I really uphold the high view of Scripture, I just think if you get away from that you really don't have a source of unity. God has revealed Himself through Scripture. And he did so intentionally. He did so in historical grammatical approach. We look at scripture as something that really is our unifying factor where people have the book that we shouldn't worship scripture, and that certainly has happened. I was educated in Dallas Theological Seminary, loved it. But I do find at times I wouldn't be in thinking, wow, if I could somehow just control my understanding of Greek or Hebrew, I can control God, which is really silly, by the way. And so we don't worship scripture, but we understand God has revealed himself in a loving way, in very, very specific ways. So I do think Unity has to start with an adherence to to being People of the Book. We also have to be people, the spirit You know, there was a talk I did in the Dallas Seminary chapel some time ago. And they said, it may be that God actually has some aspect that he loves postmoderns Okay, and you'll. And I know this, it's a again saying things that raise questions that are, be careful with him, but it's a way to least ask a question I don't, I'm not gonna stand by it and go through in detail. But if God thought that we could convey knowledge perfectly through words, the words of Scripture, then why do we need the Incarnation? And why do we need the Holy Spirit? And so the words of Scripture are vital, and they are what? overwhelmed that's nothing should contradict the words of Scripture. But it's the Holy Spirit that helps us to understand that in new ways and to rely and to trust on the Holy Spirit, frankly, to look at each other and community and understand a lot of learning happens at community. And certainly the Incarnation is shared through the words of the gospel and and but yet A lot of what's going on in those stories, those narratives is understanding the character of God in seeing the human representation in Jesus. And so backing off and saying, understanding how God has revealed Himself is frankly, the best way to start unity. From there to be humble, because it's kind of like the blind man and the elephant. The first time in human history, we can actually talk to other people that have the same commitment to Scripture and Holy Spirit in the incarnation as we do, but they come from totally different cultural backgrounds. And God has revealed himself in those cultures and unique ways for thousands of years. And for the first time in human history, we can talk to them in relationship. And so one might argue is Western theologians. All we had access to in the blind men and the elephant illustration is the trunk. And we kept saying God's a snake. Everybody knows he's a snake because that's everybody we talked to, says he a snake but now We can talk to those that are in China. And they say, Well, actually, he's, he's a tree. And somebody else in Indonesia will actually use a wall. And somebody else and somebody else in another in Africa says, Well, actually, he's a little. And in that conversation because God is infinite, we're finite. We can see God still unified around how he's revealed us. But we can see God in only ways we've never had access to as a global Christian church before. And but it requires listening. It requires not demanding that our culture be preeminent. But I think and it's exploring, committed to how God has revealed himself, but also listening to how God is opening up new doors and understanding his infinite nature in new ways, for those of us that are finite by our culture, but also find out the shamans. It's an exciting time to be a theologian. But I do think that unity comes from listening in a grounded way to how God is revealing Himself through the Holy Spirit and through other cultures that are committed to certain things. A minute subscription.
We've been very privileged today to be speaking with Dr. Brad Smith, president of baki, Graduate University, board member of the world Evangelical Alliance board chairman and visit vision. synergy. Thank you so much, Dr. Smith for joining us today. Thank you.