Goal of this reflection project:
The goal of this reflection project is to gain a deeper and richer understanding of, approach to, and proposal for the spiritual transformation of students within a Campus Crusade for Christ student ministry at one of the countries highest-ranking Liberal Arts Colleges. This essay breaks out into three major sections.
A. In Section 1 I analyze the experiences, perceptions and behaviors of these and other college students with respect to spiritual transformation within the university culture. In this section I put forward three general hypotheses and report the data that factors prominently into the qualified validation of these hypotheses.
1. The students involved in CCC at one of America's most prestigious private colleges have, at best, a very vague notion of spiritual transformation.
a. Most of them believe in and practice a very individualistic approach to, or theology of, spiritual transformation.
2. The majority of Christian students in this particular CCC ministry believe the culture of this elite university socializes minds into beliefs, and bodies into practices, that hinder spiritual transformation.
a. The university culture is perceived by many students as denying the relevance of God and encouraging an emphatically individualistic and cognitive approach to spirituality.
b. The theological perspective does not show up in the readings or lectures of the students' classes.
c. The academic demands crowd out theological reflection and the kinds of Christian practices which students consider essential for spiritual transformation.
B. The next section analyzes transformation at four levels:
1. Analysis of key theological assumptions behind the notion of transformation,
2. Sociological and psychological contributions to theological thinking about transformation,
3. Overview of differing theologies (particularly evangelical theologies) of transformation,
4. Overview of biblical data on transformation.
C. The final section contains strategic recommendations for applying various insights on transformation to this particular situation.
I argue in general for the application of a more ecclesiologically nuanced theology of transformation (as opposed to the more individualistic or charismatic theology). The strategic expression of this ecclesiologically nuanced theology of transformation consists of the cultivation of a subversive culture within the broader campus culture that enhances not just the spiritual transformation of individuals, but also the growth of the whole body of believers.
Critical ingredients of a transformational culture include:
Critical practices of the community that set the stage for spiritual transformation include:
Environment, Education, Environment, Exposure, Experience and Evaluation
Prominent proposals about environment include:
a. Highlight the distinctions between the plausibility structures that exist in the University culture verses those that exist within the church.
b. Critically analyze the plausibility structures of the university.
c. Champion the virtues of building bridges between plausibility structures.
This paper represents a starting point for ongoing theological reflection on the topic of spiritual transformation. Far from exhausting the most relevant and important insights on spiritual transformation, this essay simply highlights some of the contours of a theology of transformation that emerge when someone's limited theological training and ministry experience intersects with the lived experiences of the three students above. These contours provide some initial categories into which further research can be added to a growing web of interconnected ideas that can be adapted and applied to the diverse and evolving circumstances of contemporary American culture.
In the end, the ability of this theology of transformation to serve people like Joe, Matt and Brad and the church as a whole will provide the ultimate and final test of the success this ongoing effort of theological reflection.