Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

11/24 2011

Thanksgiving Meditation

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For Those Who Are Persecuted

Psalm 25:2

 O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me.” 

This prayer of the Psalmist is not one that most of us have needed to pray, at least very often. However, this is a daily prayer for many who follow Jesus. It is a prayer of tiny minority Christian communities in overwhelmingly Muslim countries across North Africa and throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. It is a prayer of brothers and sisters in Christ under unfriendly Communist governments in China and Vietnam. It is the prayer of Christians who stand up for oppressed minorities in the Philippines, Myanmar, Columbia, Madagascar, and elsewhere.

There have been more Christian martyrs in the 20th century than in all of the centuries since the death of Jesus. I will never forget shaking the hand of a Nepali Christian who spent three years in prison for being baptized and counted it as nothing for the sake of knowing Jesus. Nor will I forget a conversation with a Sudanese believer who lost his wife and children when he decided to follow Jesus. On this Thanksgiving day, we indeed give thanks for our brothers and sisters around the world who risk so much in order to bear witness to our Lord Jesus Christ.

 Prayer: Lord God Almighty, provide for all who are persecuted for your name’s sake. Be their strength, grant them courage, embolden them in the Spirit, give them perseverance, and bless them with joy in the midst of suffering for the sake of Jesus. Amen.

The Rev. Dr. Don Dawson, Director of the World Mission Initiative and New Wilmington Mission Conference


11/17 2011

Transhumanism and Transcendence

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The high level of scholarship on the part of the faculty at PTS never ceases to amaze and interest me. This month the Rev. Dr. Ron Cole-Turner demonstrates yet again why I make that observation—his latest book, Transhumanism and Transcendence: Christian Hope in an Age of Technological Advancement, becomes available. Even a quick review of the back-cover summary makes me eager to read the book in depth. Here is what it says:

The timeless human desire to be more beautiful, intelligent, healthy, athletic, or young has given rise in our time to technologies of human enhancement. Athletes use drugs to increase their strength or stamina and cosmetic surgery is widely used to improve physical appearance. And today researchers are exploring technologies such as cell regeneration and implantable devices that interact directly with the brain. Some condemn these developments as a new kind of cheating—not just in sports but in life itself—promising rewards without effort and depriving us most of all of what it means to be authentic human beings. Transhumanists, on the other hand, reject what they see as a rationalizing of human limits, as if being human means being content forever with underachieving bodies and brains. To be human, they insist, is to be restless with possibilities, always eager to transcend biological limits.

As the debate grows in urgency, how should theology respond? Christian theologians recognize truth on both sides of the argument, pointing out how the yearnings of the transhumanists—if not their technological methods—find deep affinities in Christian belief. In this volume, Ronald Cole-Turner has joined seasoned scholars and younger, emerging voices together to bring fresh insight into the technologies that are already reshaping the future of Christian life and hope.

Wow. What a timely, culturally relevant work of scholarship—one that Ron’s colleagues are already calling “the most important debate on Christian transhumanism that I have ever read” and “mandatory reading” on the topic. And it’s not his first such book—it’s his seventh.

Installed 15 years ago in the H. Parker Sharp Chair of Theology and Ethics at Pittsburgh Seminary, Ron Cole-Turner has for many years been a leading voice in important national and international debates at the intersection of theology and science. How privileged our students are to be preparing for Christian ministries under professors such as Dr. Cole-Turner.

Here’s to good reading,

The Rev. Dr. William J. Carl III, President


11/10 2011

Bridging the Classroom and the Community

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The academic demands of seminary have their necessary counterpart in the call of community. Ideas gleaned from books, lectures, and seminars find their outward projection in the formation of pastor-theologians in local and international mission. Often these projections find form in student organizations.

The Peace and Justice Fellowship, a student organization dedicated to raising awareness of social justice issues, has brought one such idea to the forefront of community discourse for November and December: fair trade.

What is fair trade? Fair trade is an organized social awareness movement that promotes equitable market-based solutions for goods produced in developing countries. Fair trade certifiers ensure that goods like coffee, chocolate, and crafts sell at fair market value, giving the producers of these goods an adequate, living wage. While millions of Americans purchase billions of dollars of goods in November and December, fair trade allows us to promote a changing face of the world marketplace, one that includes economic justice.

The Peace and Justice Fellowship will sponsor lectures, discussion, and opportunities for action on fair trade at its weekly meetings, Mondays at noon. Remember to look for opportunities to buy fair trade goods around campus and in your communities in the coming months. We’re always mindful that our call in the classroom leads us to enact justice in the world.

Will, Senior MDiv student

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