Orientation is over! And a special message from Pres. Torrance

With our convocation ceremony tonight, orientation was officially brought to a close. It has been a rather arduous past several days. Not that sitting for hours through sessions entitled "Sexual Harassment and You" and "Seminary Procedures" is by any means taxing on the mind or body. Rather, it was the perceived endlessness of these sessions which had a number of us groaning by the end. Some of the information was important enough to merit our attention, and I am glad that the seminary at least wants all students to be unified in their expectations and understandings of policies.

One of the sessions today involved a panel of professors from the four major departments -- Biblical studies, history of religion, systematic theology, and practical theology. Unfortunately, due to the strict schedule of each session, only several questions were allowed -- and all concerned the quite minor policy of using "inclusive language" (e.g., "humanity" instead of "mankind"). All in all, it was far less interesting than I had hoped. Moreover, they had a professor of Tillich's theology speak on behalf of the theology department, which is far more concerned with Karl Barth and other more worthwhile theologians.

On the plus side, however, President Iain Torrance's convocation message tonight was quite provocative and, at times, rather profound. In his almost dangerously pleasant Scottish accent, he spoke in the vein of Barth: "with a Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other." His talk concerned the July shooting by the London police of an innocent man they (that is, the police) thought might be connected with the recent Underground terrorist bombing. He connected this to a wide range of other issues and stories, including a contemporary sci-fi novel, an old British bill concerning marriage, modern moral philosophy, the letter of the fourth PTS president to the PCUSA churches nationwide, et al. While potentially confusing (for Amy, not potentially but actually), the message centered around this question: Can we, as Christians, be passionately committed to the truth without going to war? In other words, can we believe in the truth without falling into the temptation to back up this truth with violence? Speaking to this questions, Torrance presented a strong challenge to the current political ideology which states: This nation's safety is so important, it is worth dehumanizing and even killing our own citizens (read: the unimportant and unnoticed citizens). Contrary to this, the Christian faith -- because of the life and death of Jesus Christ -- affirms that the most unnoticed and unappreciated drunk on the side of the street is worth valuing and protecting, even if it means refusing to retaliate against our perceived enemies through acts of war. Although Torrance did not actually go on to say this, I add this now as my contribution: When nation-states commit acts of war against their perceived enemies, and by so doing, dehumanize their own citizens for the sake of "safety," these nation-states in fact become their own worst enemy, greater than any terrorist force. When a nation-state is willing to overlook the needs of its own people--in fact, the very lives of its own people--the threat of terrorist attacks becomes almost inconsequential in comparison.