Winter is quickly closing. The air is warming in Southern California. The Jasmine fragrantly blooms. The Sweet Peas dapple the trellis in purples, whites, and pinks. The pruned rose bushes push out their new growth like an arm pushing through a freshly starched sleeve. Spring is coming. Spring also means deadlines for Jonalyn, so I have approached the winter seasonal from a Dale-perspective.
In November, I talked about the great thaw of the Witch's winter when I presented The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to a year-round public middle school. This was followed by the same presentation a couple of weeks later to a total of 1,300 students. The principal had copies of the book on hand for every student. I signed some of them. "Remember Peter! Have integrity! And Long Live Aslan!" On follow-up, the principal reported that after the cliff-hanger presentation, he saw students all afternoon reading their new books around campus.
One week later a public elementary school invited me to give the same presentation. So far, there have been seven presentations of the Narnian story to public school and library audiences. It is amazing to us how such a story can open what are usually very closed doors.
Youth and Truth
Also in November, I presented in Ohio at two venues, including for the Fellowship for Christian Athletes. I addressed youth culture, how they think, and what leaders to can do to grow their minds and reach out to them. A perplexing question was raised during my talk about the difference between "truth" and "absolute truth." The latter is a term that has received a lot of capital in Christian writing, but when it comes down to a definition, many are unsure what it really means in contrast to "truth" itself. Yet, at the same time, many of our statistics regarding our youth and their belief in truth is hung up on that word "absolute." At present, I am working on an article about this and will post it online when it becomes available.
Throughout the Fall semester at Biola University, Jonalyn audited a class on Theology of Gender. This was in part as research for her book. Because of her input into class and her book project, the professor slotted out a generous portion of a December class period for Jonalyn to share about her book. Jonalyn's editor secretly attended as a "friend." Since then, Jonalyn has had opportunity to meet with several of the undergrads from that class for further discussion.
Besides meetings with professors, interested friends and visiting authors, Jonalyn has helped organize a group called "Women Philosophers" at Talbot School of Theology. (Jonalyn designed the logo at right.) They meet once a month to share their experiences of humanity and femininity in a mostly male dominated field.
Entering the New Year, we installed a new feature for our website. We found that real-time interaction with web users would allow them a safer place to ask their questions in a dialogue fashion. Not only is it private, but it also allows the user to save the entire transcript of the chat session for later review. You can find this feature on the opening page of our website.
Misconceptions About ID
At the turn of the year, the country witnessed the courtroom case in Pennsylvania regarding Intelligent Design (ID). Making headlines from sea to shining sea, the prospect of Evolution fought to more deeply entrench itself within the education system. While I personally believe this will be a short-lived victory for Philosophical Materialists, I do think those involved and interested in ID need to...
One misconception, for example, is that ID is just "Christian creation-science" dressed up in new clothing. Unfortunately, in reading the actual court case, I discovered some pro-ID witnesses on the stand took this stance.
Another misconception is the role "faith" has in our daily lives. One journalist said it is "anti-faith" for religious people to say there is evidence for their religion. Yet, this isn't at all what "faith" means. On January 1, I spoke on this very issue, giving an accessible definition of faith to use in our marketplace dialogues.
A Little More Narnia
Also in January, I delivered Narnia again at two public libraries on the eastern edge of the urban sprawl of the Los Angeles area. Adults and children came to the afternoon events and sat around the stage. One young girl in particular watched attentively from the front. When Edmund fell victim to the White Witch, this girl's eyes grew wide as she covered her mouth. When Aslan rose from the dead, she moved her arms with victorious triumph followed by a "Yesssss!" When the performance was over and after many of the adults gave their courteous compliments, this same girl approached and said... well, I caught it on recording. She saw something in the story that that many people missed. Listen.
Into The Midwest
February met us with a special invitation to Grace College in Indiana for a week of speaking. I shared in chapel all week and covered topics such as an artistic look at our Messiah, the problem of petitionary prayer, and spiritual formation through the lens of C. S. Lewis. During our time off, we'd informally meet with students in the cafeteria and coffee shop.
One student approached me in a quiet way. He pulled up to my table and told me about his own struggling search. "I do believe in God now," he said. "I'm still unsure if the Christian God is the one that exists." A born philosopher, he dialogued with me for nearly an hour. I thanked him for his honesty. And he was grateful for some new tools in his intellectual pocket.
In a mid-week evening session, Jonalyn delivered her first official talk covering material in her book. Roughly 60 women attended to hear about the curse in the Garden and how Christ has come to redeem women from that curse. That talk opened up the door for many conversations over the following several days. Women came out of the woodwork to express how they had heard about Jonalyn's talk, but had missed it. Could she just sum it up for them? What were the highlights? Was it recorded? One girl wrote about the new concept of soul in her blog. She shared with Jonalyn that because of her struggle over body image she was amazed and restored into dignity by learning that she was a soul with a body, a soul that made her the image of God.
This past week, a student wrote us regarding an open forum Q&A session we had in the middle of our week at Grace College. This student wrote:
You answered questions I had never asked through answers to other questions. ...I had felt like I was in a hole, and then Dale gave a piece of his testimony and I began to feel like the hole was getting shallower. And then through the questions you answered, questions that really had nothing to do with how I was feeling, some how you answered in a way the evaporated my hole so that, while I am still not sure which way I am going sometimes, I feel like I can move finally. ...Thank you so much for your ministry and for being here that week... I wish had had the chance to get to know you better.
Because the college men in the audience hadn't yet heard Jonalyn speak, they kept directing their questions to me. But when I asked Jonalyn to respond to some of them, you could see a shift in their faces, like, "Oh, she knows her stuff too!"
During that hour of questions, Jonalyn noted that the students did not ask one question that required a Bible verse to answer. We used Scripture as one of the many sources of truth, but their questions were mainly philosophical in nature. This tells us there is a large hunger for philosophical tools, even among Christian college students.
Every once in a while you meet that student that has a glint in her eye. She asks a lot of unpretentious questions. She enjoys people. We met her that week. One conversation went like this:
"Have you read, The Heavenly Man1?" she asked.
"Do you believe it?" she asked without hesitating.
"What is there not to believe?" I replied.
"You really think all those miracles are true? Why would one man experience so many miracles? Most people don't even experience one."
"Do you think miracles are possible?"
"Yes," she said.
"Just not Brother Yun's miracles?"
"Well, how can..." she rebutted without missing a beat. And the conversation went on and on into the possibilities of miracles, the reliability and unreliability of testimonies, and God's work in other nations.
We are still dialoging with her on various theological and apologetic themes. She reminded us of what a young Dorothy L. Sayers may have been like. And, of course, we recommended Sayers' books right away!
Response To The Code
Also in correspondence, we received this kind word regarding my talk online about "The Gospel & The Da Vinci Code."
Yesterday I finished listening to your talk on The Da Vinci Code and wanted to share a couple of things with you. One, it was good timing that I choose to listen to your talk when I did. Last night at the Super Bowl party I attended we started talking about early council "votes" and things that "could" be true about The Da Vinci Code. Your talk ... informed me of the approach/appeal of the book and I got to share with my friends about that a little last night. Thanks.
Moving The Pen And Moving To Prayer
Over the last couple of months, we've also been using our pens. I am finishing up my book proposal and Jonalyn is finishing up her manuscript for her book. I've also included a few new articles on our website, including "How Grace Hastens Hell" and "A Tame Movie." The Library has also been updated with some previous writings from my RZIM days (with more to come).
The article we wrote a couple of months back regarding women speaking in the church has generated some stir which has led to many fruitful dialogues. "Unmuted" has been recently revised. If you haven't read it yet, you can find it here.
Jonalyn has done the lion's share of writing as she is completing her manuscript's first draft to be on Zondervan's desk by March 15. Her completion date is on target.
But she does have special concern and asks for prayer regarding the cover of the book itself. Most people judge a book by its cover. She wants to avoid having people ignore her book because it is too stereotypical of female books or even misrepresentative of the content. This coming Monday the Zondervan marketing team will be meeting to work on it. She covets your prayers for them.
Another matter of prayer for us is that we are working on defining a few goals for 2006. We have some in mind that would be exciting to reach, but we want to make sure we are realistic yet adventurous, responsible yet spicy, and approaching it from the right angle. Being a fledgling organization, we're still learning about how to make a respectable splash in the marketplace.
Some upcoming events include heading to central California with engagements for both of us as well as another public library requesting to hear about Narnia. And not too far down the pipe is a repeat invitation to teach apologetics in Peru. God has faithfully opened doors to engage people about what it means to be appropriately human. We're excited to keep growing ourselves towards that, too.
Thank you for your encouragement and prayers as we step forward in the journey.
Dale & Jonalyn Fincher
1 Hattaway, Paul. The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregal Publications, 2002.
A publication of Soulation | www.soulation.org
© 2006 Dale & Jonalyn Fincher. All Rights Reserved.