Section 1: THE BIBLE AND OUR AGENDA FOR TRANSFORMATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
We approach the Bible with the agenda of Transformational Development. Everyone who draws on the Bible does it with an agenda. We are seeking from the Bible knowledge resources to address the causes of poverty, the approaches to poverty alleviation that come out of biblical view of creation, persons and communities, the place and challenge of children, the relationship between spirituality, faith and development engagement and biblically appropriate relationships and Partnerships in development action.
As Christians we draw on biblical knowledge for shaping our understanding of transformational development. Development understanding and action, in general, draws on different sources of knowledge. Development understanding has included making the benefits of scientific advances and industrial progress of the west available to the undeveloped areas of the world (President H. Truman 1949), but now centers on human persons and the institutions that shape them and which they use. Human wellbeing, capability, livelihood, security, freedom and choice are all at the heart of development understanding. Development understanding is moral knowledge and profoundly ethical. It is about moral goods, about actions and outcomes with moral worth and ethical integrity. It deals with what is true and what is not, and what is good and what is not.
As Christians we recognize the Bible as the source of authoritative knowledge, which is both historical and transcendent. Its origins are in the transcendent God who loves his creation and expresses his love in revealing himself, his plans and will in history particularly in the history of a people. God speaks in and through the Bible. We trust it to do so and we recognize it as very different from other sources of knowledge we employ in our development engagement.
The bible requires interpretation. As a human document covering a long period of history diverse people and events it is not self-evident and self-interpreting. However, the church over the years has maintained that the Bible as God’s word is accessible to all people. It’s basic meaning can be understood by any Christian believer who approaches it in humility, seeking illumination from the Holy Sprit and open to enrichment and correction from other Christians who believe and practice the faith. The church has often resisted the Bible becoming the exclusive tool of knowledge elites and people in power.
The peoples’ use of the Bible and religious material in general can become an unquestioning acceptance of someone’s dogmatic teaching. The use of the Bible in development work must be to release it to the people and facilitate them to discover God’s truth for them and their community. When released among people, particularly the poor, the Holy Spirit quickens human capacity to recognize truth from falsehood – by removing the veil and blindness that affects all humans. The Holy Spirit encourages the desire to search fro truth, to accept it and live by it. Biblical knowledge leads to awakening and strengthening of moral agency and responsibility instead of a moral intimidation where a religions truth must not be explored but only obeyed.
Human development is a field that draws on knowledge from different study disciplines seeking to explain social reality, human behavior, economic and political systems and religious belief and practice. It is also a field where technology, techniques and management processes exert powerful influence.
Biblical knowledge and truth provide a framework of assessment and direction that can lead development to transformation.
Transformation is a term that belongs to a moral category. Moral categories refer to understandings and even definitions of the good and the non-good, the true and untrue, virtues and qualities. Such terms need an appeal to an authoritative source to be legitimate and foundational. As Christians we turn to the Bible as the authoritative source for all legitimate moral and ethical knowledge. We recognize the Bible that is the common supreme authority for all Christians is understood in context and through traditions.
We must note that Transformation describes outcome of a process of Development. Shaped by the outcomes of transformation development may be termed as transformational development. It is important to distinguish between Transformation and Development. Transformation has to do with the outcomes of moral goods. Moral goods are God’s purposes for Creation and Humanity like Freedom, Wholeness, Truth, etc. Transformation is the state where moral goods flourish and sustain production of a quality of life that reflects God’s purposes for humanity and all creation.
Development refers to a different sphere to transformation. Development is essentially a sphere of facts on the ground embracing the social, economic and political. Transformation is the sphere of values and moral goods and can transcend context and be universally applicable. Development is context dependent and particular though it may share many common features across contexts.
As Christians our primary resource for the context of transformation is the Bible. But if Transformation has to do with moral goods, values and virtues do cultures not have significant differences in the priority and values of moral goods? Some cultures may place a much higher value on family, clan and community than the individual, on submission and obedience to traditional authority than individual freedom. Should we as Christians see transformation as universal and trans-cultural?
Biblical teaching looks forward to a new heaven and a new earth. (Isaiah 65). It describes the components of this transformed creation – reconciled and restored to God’s purposes for it. The Bible also pictures transformation as from one degree to another ( 2 Corinthians 13: 18) till completeness is reached.
We must attempt to recover the Biblical vision of Transformation recognizing that Biblical teaching embraces the universal and the particular that reinforce each other. The Gospel does not impose one narrative of Transformation but creates room for diverse testimonies to it, all originating from a common source of enlightenment and empowerment by the working of the same Holy Spirit.
Section 2: TRANSFORMATION AND THE FUTURE OF CREATION
Isaiah 65: 17-25; Rev 21: 1-5; Acts 1: 8-11; 1 John 3: 2-3
Jesus called his disciples to live in the light of the end of history when his purpose for creation is fulfilled. (Matt 24: 42-44). We engage in transformational development in the confidence that the future of our world is the promised new heaven and new earth – a creation restored to its purpose, a new creation reaching its fulfillment.
Different views of the future exist in our society and shape people’s actions. Fate/Kismet/ Karma is prominent in some traditional cultures a cyclical view of history repeating itself shapes others. More contemporary views see history as evolutionary a view that comes out of modernity belief in progress. History as shaped by rational choices of people is very influential today.
Jesus teaching of the Kingdome of God entering human history and moving it to fulfill God’s purposes provides the framework for our view of history and engagement in it (Mt 24: 14 – 31) The Gospel of Matthew lays out the implications by focusing on Jesus teaching about the kingdom of God. God’s rule described as God’s kingdom is present in history. The disciples are asked to see it with the inner eyes of faith. God’s rule is moving creation to its fulfillment.
HOPE AND PLANNING ACTION IN HISTORY
The restored new creation is God’s end purpose for history. The Hope God gives is the instrument of our planning action in history. Two biblical themes shape the understanding of hope. The promises of God and the providence of God.
The Providence of God is not God keeping the world going and keeping it from destroying itself till Christ returns.
The Providence of God is his action to root his promises in history and move history to its fulfillment. Christian hope makes God’s promises visible in history and ensures they are experienced.
A secular view sees hope as the human capacity to anticipate the future and take action. It sees it also as coming out of dissatisfaction with the present and a strong drive to create a better future. Secular hope is rooted in a view of human evolutionary progress and human capacity for rational choice. Hannah Arendt, a philosopher, says that such views make history a time line and use planning to control it.
A Christian view of hope sees history as the field of God’s action and human response. History is not just a time line but also the arena that the transcendent God invades and acts. God who is above history becomes incarnate in creation. The primary fact about Jesus is not God appearing in human history, but God the Creator becoming part of his creation that is presently subject to history. But the creator who is not subject to a historical time line, who is not bound by time or history became a creature and by his resurrection views human history from the tyranny of the time line. Human action through Christ need not be totally encapsulated in time. The Lord of time is here and is freed from the tyranny of such bondage – a Christian finds in hope the instrument of imagining the impossible, believing the impossible and planning the impossible. ‘No child left behind’ s a statement of Christian hope and confidence in Transformation.
KINGDOM OF GOD AND PLANNING FOR TRANSFORMATION
Jesus calls his disciples to action to go, teach and make disciples on the basis that the kingdom of God is here and will move history to its fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is here and not yet here in Jesus teaching and that gap is the basis for
Christian Mission and action. Jesus teaching affirms that God’s planned future for his creation has already invaded the present and we are given the capacity to discern its movement and plan our actions accordingly.
The kingdom is moving creation to a new heaven and a new earth we ask what of today’s kingdom action will be part of the new earth, what is preparatory for the new earth and what is provisional and will pass away. This becomes our evaluatory grid for planning. 1 Corinthians 15: 33, says we plan a seed that will be part of the new creation while the body will die and pass away. What reflects Gods’ new creation order remains and even human institutions like marriage are provisional and will not be part of the new order. However their provisionality is necessary for the new order.
The Bible equips us to discern the future by examining what of the past and present indicates the future. The biblical narratives highlight the following: the human instruments God uses are the powerless, the vulnerable, and the poor. (Luke 1.42; 1 Samuel 2. 81; Psalm113; 7-9) and the leaders of faith (Hebrews 11). The situations where God’s actions are particularly evident are bondage and oppression of people (Psalm34: 18, Isaiah 61: 1-2).
Section 3: TRANSFORMATION AND THE CREATED ORDER
The vision of transformation is the new creation which Christ brings about through this death focused incarnation and resurrection. A Christian view of transformation must focus on creation and the new creation.
An Ordered / Designed Creation (Colossins 1. 15- 20)
To speak of the world as created is to speak of an ordered creates writes Oliver O’Donovan in his very important work “Resurrection and the Moral Order”. Creation is not something which exists with various parts. It is an ordered creation designed by its creator. It is not just interconnected but designed as a moral order.
- Its order has a vertical dimension. It is created and put in place by Christ and is sustained by Christ (Col 1: 17)
- It has a horizontal dimension with a set of relations between its vertical parts. All relations are directed to a purpose larger than creations existence and continuance. “ All things were created for Him (Col 11.16). Christ did not create something that was just useful to him. Creation is designed with a dynamic purpose of fulfilling God’s purpose revealing his character as full of love, grace and truth (John 1`. 14). Creation also has generic relationships among and between its various parts. Creation abounds in identifiable groups and families sharing an identity but in reciprocal relationship with other identities. (Gen. 1.21)
- Creation order is a dynamic order. Paul identifies the dynamic of the created order as the reconciling work of the risen Christ. (Col 1: 20) 2Cor 5 17-18 and the work of the Holy Spirit.
Approaches to Creation:
- Randomness: Evolutionary approaches see nature as primarily random and not ordered by anything outside of it. Any order that is discovered is the result of the drive for survival and replication. Creation has drives that have to be managed and directed but not a received order. The inability to see any such order has led some cultures to view creation /nature as flawed temporary and an illusion (Maya). Others believe that return to an original state of nature before human action produced disorder and decay is to find an original state of order and harmony.
- Imposing order: Advances in human knowledge have produced approaches that assert that humans have the capacity and should have the will to impose order on nature by the use of human reason. Systems like Godless Capitalism and Marxism are rooted in such a view of Nature/Creation.
- Transformed Creation Order. The Bible teaches that creation was designed as a dynamic moral order to move towards fulfillment in God himself. Human sin spoilt the order and deflected it from its purpose. The death of Christ on the cross deals with the cause and effects of creations disorder. Resurrection and the power that flows from it move creation to its fulfillment of God’s purposes. The two mandates of the Kingdom and creation do not imply two moral orders. This is only one transforming moral order made possible by the death and resurrection of Christ that must shape and emerge in all spheres of creation.
God’s creation exists in different spheres. Each sphere exists in God’s continuing presence and sight and has its own integrity. Each societal sphere has an intrinsic nature and laws that govern it. Each sphere derives authority for its laws from the one authority of the sovereign God and each sphere, economic social, political and spiritual must be compatible with the one moral order of the transformed new creation.
- Features of Transformation Order
- The Centrality of Christ. Col 1. 18 describe Jesus as the first born of all creation. As creator who becomes part of his creation and a human person, Christ affirms the eternal significance of Creation particularly the human person who is made for eternal life. So a new person, a new earth and a new heaven are all realizable ends of Christ’s incarnation.
In his death Christ unites with creation as his shed blood mingles with the earth. In his resurrection we see the breaking of the bondage of creation to death and decay and the release of power for transformational mission and in the gift of the Holy Spirit we see the empowerment of people for reconciling the world to God’s purposes and establishing the wellbeing of God’s promises.
- The Dynamic of the Resurrection.
Death and distortion of the created order came through the first Adam. Paul writes in 1 Cor 15: 21, 22. That in the second Adam comes resurrection and new life. The power released by the resurrection of Christ transforms persons and the whole of creation (Romans 8: 11, 22, 23)
The resurrection creates an order that affirms life over death, freedom over bondage and flourishing of creation rather than its decay (1Cor 1: 42-46)
- Reconciliation of all things.
Col 1.20 asserts that Christ reconciles ‘all things’ in creation. The fall disconnected creation from the source of its flourishing (2Cor 15: 19). It distorted relationships within creation among persons between persons and the rest of creation from mutual well being (shalom) to violence and exploitation. The resurrected Christ’s presence begins the reconnection and restoration of all relationships making right action and right living possible.
- Human Agency
The Bible teaches the centrality of human agency in the spoiling of creation order and also its restoration. (1Cor15. 45). Human dominion/rule in the original design (Gen1.26) was corrupted by the fall and led to redirecting creation to selfish human ends and damaging all aspects of the creation order. The resurrection of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit release the power to enable people to be agents not of disorder but the resurrection order freeing creation from the effects of the fall and returning it to flourishing.
- Sufficiency of Creation
The bible teaches that creation was designed as sufficient for human flourishing and for glorifying its creator (Gen 9: 2-3, Lev 26: 3-7, Deut 8: 15). It was endowed with sufficient capital of land and knowledge with the laws of covenant and Jubilee, with the environment of Shalom and with an order of Justice and equality.
Section 4: TRANSFORMATION AND PERSONHOOD
The key focus of transformational mission is the facilitation of moral personhood and moral communities. Transformation order is predicated on the agency of moral persons and communities.
Moral personhood is directed towards ethical character and commitments. For example, a moral purpose is different from being purpose driven. The first focuses on character the other on technique. We need both.
- The nature of Persons.
- Gen 1. 26: 27 identifies humans as made in God’s image and likeness. It refers to being most like God in our capabilities (agency) freedom, reason, will and self-consciousness. Amartya Sen’s work on human functionings and capabilities has profoundly influenced development thinking and relates well to the biblical view of personhood.
Persons have material and social needs that must be satisfied but essentially as person is an agent who acts. As agent a person values certain things desires to find them, plans and acts to achieve the outcome. Things values by the person could be material, social, and psychological and spiritual all focused on reaching a state of wellbeing. Human agency does not imply equality of goods but means basic equality to allow each person to develop as an individual.
The biblical description of the human made in God’s image is about the capability and agency of personhood The Genesis story highlights the individual’s capability in relation to oneself. It is to make moral choices. It also underscores capability/agency in relation to the rest of creation – to rule, have dominion, till and keep. It is a call to stewardship of creation, maintaining, developing, creating abundance and drawing on the potential of creation. Human persons are called to bear fruit. So human agency can and should result in fruitful action rather than a futile one.
- A biblical view of persons includes the area of human personal and social identity. Paul writes in Col 3: 9-11 that a Christian must put on a new Self reflecting the renewed image of God by which particular human identities are relativised.
God gifts our human identity as persons. The communities to which we belong shape it. Identity formation is based on the knowledge of self, the world, and by truth.
Transformational mission works to restore, renew, and fulfill human identity in the image of its creator Christ himself. The identity that is able to transcend particular identities (Jew, Greek) is that we find in Christ that identity is the basis of common humanity and the basis of common human rights.
- Personhood and human rights
Rights are assumed in the bible and get highlighted when denied. (Psalm 82.3)
Human creatureliness has two dimensions in the Bible. Accountability to God as stewards of his creation and Rights as creatures reflecting God’s image. Right is what is due because of our personhood. Rights are not a gift of society or state, they are not endowed by them, they are because God made humans in his image.
God’s image is given to all humans without differentiation and establishes the universal nature of human rights. Personhood is independent of context and culture. It is also independent of physical, psychological and social characteristics, ability or disability. The universal nature of rights is founded in human personhood and not on a vague notion of humanity.
The biblical understanding of the covenant provides a framework for a Christian approach to human rights. Right as founded in personhood is integrally connected to relationships and responsibilities in the community. In the bible, covenant is not neutral, its is directed to ends; the basic sustenance of the poor regardless of their ethical status (even sinners) the basic security of the vulnerable avoiding deprivation, protecting against violence and the basic right to worship God.
- Personhood and community
Personhood is inseparable from community. The community is the context of the nourishing of personhood, well being, Shalom is the community environment in which personhood flourishes. Fellowship and Unity are community gifts that shape the relational dimensions of personhood. Forgiveness, humility grace and gratitude are virtues and moral qualities learned in community. It is in community a person begins to understand that personhood is larger than individual existence. Personhood is expressed individually and in community. One without the other is a disabled personhood.
- The falleness of Persons
Biblical teaching is clear that the fall has fundamentally damaged human personhood. Our moral agency, the ability to make moral choices freely is disabled, our capability to act in love of God and neighbor is reversed to act selfishly and our capacity to find and follow faith is distorted.
Falleness produces opacity we cannot see, recognize God’s work and God’s order. Paul writes in 2 Cor 4.4. That the God of this world has blinded human minds. We do not appreciate the consequences of creational disorder.
Truth is not self -evident. Fallen humanity assumes that even truth about persons and communities is self – evident. Declarations of Independence and Rights assume that truth about persons is self-evident. It is not.
Falleness produces incapacity. Paul writes I have the desire to do good but cannot do it (Romans 7: 16). It is incapacity to act for good for the rest and myself though I am convinced of the good.
- The Calling of Persons
The Bible teaches that all persons are called to love God and love their neighbor as oneself. This calling reflects the transcendental aspect of human personhood, and addresses human relationship to God.
The call to love God establishes a person’s relationship with the transcendent. “ Set your heart on things above not on earthly thins (col 3: 1). Modernity closes humanity to transcendence. Modernity’s exclusion of transcendence from human history forces many to discern God’s action in historical events only or in immanent order. Transcendence even if it exists is not allowed to invade history. But in prayer we find and express our love of God, we affirm his rule in our time and context and find access to his presence. In prayer we move beyond our selfhood and autonomy to dependence and accountability. In prayer our human engagement, however provisional, is asked to be connected to God’s actions.
Love of neighbor is not just recognition of the other or an abstract love of mankind. In biblical teaching it is to become neighbor to those who are proximate as the parable of the Good Samaritan aptly affirms. It focuses on our identity as neighbors, and neighbors who act in love to those in need. It means counting the neighbor as a person – worthy of equal respect, dignity, and affirmation. In establishing neighborly relationships we affirm and nourish the neighbors personhood. The challenge to transformational mission is to enable neighbor identity to transform strongly held ‘tribal’ ethnic identities.
- The Naturalistic View of Persons
Secular views of human personhood that shape developmental thinking are based on naturalistic views of personhood. Science is confident that it can explain everything a human does, thinks, or says including religious activity. Such scientism has no room for personhood, consciousness, freedom, human agency and human will. Humans are de-personalized by such scientism.
Humans according to naturalistic thinking are very smart animals who have developed capability as agents. Agency is real, but free will is an illusion. Humans are driven to make sense of things and find meaning to actions. Humans have an innate drive for the ‘good’, ‘the true’, and ‘ the beautiful’, but each term is aesthetically understood rather than ethically. Humans orient themselves in and toward the world – to live well and meaningfully by the means of the good, the true and the beautiful. Charles Darwin suggested that natural selection created moral instincts of sympathy, compassion, fidelity, and courage; so moral dispositions are the product of our evolved human nature.
The wisdom traditions of China and India also have a naturalistic view of persons. Both assume humans are innately good and human nature has qualities of compassion, loyalty, virtue, and pleasure as components of good life and also express qualities of egoism, greed, hatred and delusion.
As naturalistic view of persons sees humans as only material and physical. Qualities that are attributed to the soul of humans are simply considered as manifestations of the physical.
A Christian vision of persons drawn from the Bible whose source and authority is supernatural is very different from a naturalistic view.
Much of the universal claims of rights, of virtues like wisdom, courage, justice, and humanity are made from a naturalistic view of persons. Naturalism believes that moral sensibilities and drives for moral improvement evolved as part of human nature as it adapted to social environments.
Naturalistic explanations however, struggle to explain moral failure, conflict, and violence. They struggle to explain why when good is clearly identified persons choose the non-good, despite knowing its possible horrendous consequences.
Naturalism also struggles to justify norms such a norms that include moral judgments. It has few resources for transformation so major in managing agency, behavior and change.
It is here the Christian has a unique contribution to make in witnessing to the reality of transformation. Stephen Post in “Religion, Spirituality and Human Flourishing (2004)” summarizes the results of a study on religions and human flourishing. The survey found that most humans have a powerful inclination to worship in order to achieve union with a presence higher than one’s own. They long to touch transcendence and be embraced by it. They make space for spiritual activities and seek unselfish love for others. That reflects the image of God in persons. Christian engagement can give hope and content to that human longing for fulfilled personhood.
- The Transformation of Persons.
Our engagement of transformational mission must result in the enabling of moral personhood. The understanding of Basic Human Need has expanded significantly in the past 60 years of developmental thinking. To the physical needs, several non- physical needs have been added as basic. Security includes freedom from fear, and to livelihood activities. Cultural needs are increasingly considered as basic. The Millennium Development Goals are focused on physical needs. No development activist today believes that interventions in meeting such physical needs can be separated from the broader outcomes of wellbeing and transformation. Our focus here is on the key challenges to the transformation process.
1.Shaped by Truth
Biblical teaching makes truth central to moral formation. Jesus said that truth liberates from ignorance and blindness generated by sin. Truth quickens the will to seek and find truth. Truth empowers, as God centered knowledge truth empowers for transformation.
Transformation engagement develops capacity to recognize truth and to appropriate it. The Bible is clear that a person will not go very far in appropriating truth if he/she will not commit to live by it and publicly witness to it.
All truth is public truth. Christian truth as public truth will be recognized by the people and so must be considered not as a particular community truth but as public truth.
Christian truth about personhood, wellbeing and transformation is public truth and can resonate with the people in the public sphere.
- Nurturing Citizenship
The struggle for basic needs can preoccupy a poor community with consumption concerns. Satisfying basic personal and family needs dominates life. But poor communities need their identity as citizens developed and nurtured if they are to be subjects of transformation.
A person’s identity as steward is at the center of being made in God’s image. Stewardship of God’s creation means preserving, developing and sharing creation’s resources.
Citizenship is orientated to the community and the nation and requires a commitment to being a neighbor and a commitment to covenants. It is here that the Christian faith has unique resources for the nurturing of citizenship. A Christian bias toward the vulnerable, the alien and the voiceless is essential for developing citizenship in complex and challenging contexts where poverty and powerlessness affect large numbers of communities.
Resources from other religions need to be identified to promote citizenship. The idea of Dharma in South India is largely seen as personal but it can have social dimensions and could be used to develop citizenship. And so too the Islamic Sharia.
Citizenship development must begin with children. As we develop children’s personhood it must include their identity as citizens.
Public policy and social order are generally produced and legitimized by social and political elites. The empowerment of a citizens and the creation of space for the poor to exercise their citizenship is critical to their participation in transformational development. An empowered citizenship of the poor can contribute to public policies that will bring sustainable development.
Section 5: TRANSFORMATION AND RECONCILIATION
2 Cor 5: 16-21; 10: 2-5
Transformational Development seeks to build moral communities to sustain transformational mission.
- Broken Communities.
Our task of building moral communities is in the context of forces today that break and fragment the moral solidarity of communities. The bible identifies the forces that promote moral breakdown.
In Rom 1: 21 Paul identifies forms of knowledge that lead to darkness and bondage instead of emancipation. Such knowledge leads to depravity, decay and breakdown. It leads to willfulness that refuses to change.
In Rom 2, Paul identifies the law that leads to bondage and death rather than freedom and life. It is reversal of the purpose of the law.
In Luke 20: 46-47, Jesus speaks of the violence that devours the vulnerable. It is the failure of the community to deal with violence.
In Exodus 20, we find reference to powers that enslave highlighting the failures of political systems.
- The Work of Reconciliation
Reconciliation is the Christian response to community failure and breakdown. Reconciliation is to connect that which got disconnected it is to restore to original order and purpose. The disorder, breakdown and alienation brought about by the fall are reconciled by God in Christ (2Cor 5: 19). As ambassadors of reconciliation Christian mission communities witness to its reality and work in our community.
Reconciliation deals with exclusion. The poor are excluded from resources and opportunities. It often creates in them an identity rooted in exclusion and continually fed by that sense of alienation and exclusion. The work of reconciliation includes connecting people to resources and opportunities. It also goes deeper to deal with stigmatized identities and excluded identities. The inclusion and embrace that Christ offers through this death and resurrection is extended through the life and work of Christian communities.
It is here partnership with Churches is of critical significance. Recent research by Harvard University’s sociologist Robert Putnam confirms how evangelical churches in multiracial and deprived urban neighborhoods in the USA deal effectively with racial and cultural exclusion and difference. They tend to be multiracial unlike suburban churches and develop both bonding capital (capital of people with similar social status and commitments) and bridging capital (capital of people from different social backgrounds).
Partnership with churches is essential for building moral communities. The church must be encouraged and equipped to be a moral community nurturing citizenship among its members, engaging in sharing Christian truth and public truth, challenging and influencing public policy and discourse.
Reconciliation addresses issues of stigma and violence in communities. Forgiveness and repentance are part of reconciliation processes and necessary for moral ordering. It is in the environment of reconciliation human passions and desires are disciplined and transformed. Again partnership with churches ensures that churches can be facilitated to create and sustain environments of reconciliation to address issues of stigma and violence.
Peace and wellbeing are characteristics of moral community. Shalom is a space, an environment and activities. It is a space for building relationships that build wellbeing. It is a space for conversation not dialogues with political agenda. Contemporary societies crowd out such spaces. State created spaces have no moral communities that sustain them. Partnership with churches can create such spaces and maintain them.
Businesses talk of Gross Domestic Wellbeing (GDW), as more important than Gross Domestic Product. Wellbeing is about quality of life and includes physical health, mental health, social connectedness, environmental factors and spiritual and moral sense (Robert Cummings). It includes material, social, and emotional and spiritual/moral dimensions and involves relationships, intimacy, safety, order, pattern and hopes.
Again Churches can be effective partners as role models of communities of wellbeing. Transformational understanding of wellbeing sees it as a product of moral communities. Wellbeing is birthed and sustained in moral communities.
Moral Communities are characterized by hope. Christians are driven by the hope that God is acting in history. It is hope that motivates engagement with powers that dominate social reality (Eph 2: 1-2). Reality is multi-layered; powers are economic, political, cultural, and spiritual. Christians recognize powers also as elemental spirits that are beyond human governance. They must be addressed with spiritual weapons of resistance. Powers expect obedience; ethical spiritual resistance and disobedience make them flee. A grace shaped and spirit filled community of worshippers believers in Christ can be effective partners addressing powers in all their complexity.
- People hood
From a Christian point of view this is the ‘being’ aspect of a community. It is ontological in character. It draws its identity as a people and community not just from shared concerns and commitments, but also from reflecting the presence and image of the Trinitarian God. It is here that Christian communities have a unique witness. They are more than a gathering of believers. They are Being in Communion. In religiously plural contexts on of the most powerful demonstrations of the transforming power of the Gospel is the quality of community, communion and people hood that Christians experience and share.
Moral communities address plurality in society by the spaces they create in the environment of reconciliation. Plurality tends to produce insecurity and conflict. Moral communities make plurality an asset rather than a liability and produce moral flourishing.
- Cultures of Transformation
Moral communities address culture by dealing with values and drivers that lead to breakdown and violence and by embedding values and drivers of transformation. Cultural transformation is central to transformational development. It is moral communities that are instruments and bearers of such transformation.
Section 6: BIBLICAL TEACHING ON THE CHILD
Jesus placed a child in the midst of his disciples arguing about their status with God and with Jesus (Matt18: 2). Jesus wishes the disciples to see the child and through the child see the world and the Kingdom of God.
A.THE WORLD AND THE CHILD
While children were highly valued in Jewish society as God’s gifts and signs of his continuing presence by the time of Jesus, it is evident that children were excluded and marginalized from mainstream social life, as were sinners, tax collectors and women.
The exclusion, marginalization and deprivation of children reveal the worst consequences of human selfishness and wrongdoing. The strongest condemnation on humans is directed by Jesus to those whose lives and actions attack and destroy children’s’ well-being.
Child trafficking takes the child and makes her a property of the worst of human exploiters. In contrast Jesus teaches that children are natural members of God’s kingdom and family. They are gifted for a period to parents, family and community but not owned by them. Only God owns them in love and provides for them.
Human exploitation and oppression of children shows the extent of human alienation from God’s purposes for the world. The child who belongs to God as a precious treasure is snatched to be traded and exploited as a commodity. The child who’s right is the security and plenty of God’s family and kingdom is abandoned to survive on its own in a hostile and dangerous world.
Jesus teaching calls us to see the world through the experience of the child in order to see its alienation from God’s purposes also God’s kingdom work in it.
B.God and the Child
Jesus teaching about the child puts the child at the centre of our concerns. The child put in the midst of the disciples makes the child the visible centre of God’s concerns in contrast to a society, which banishes the child to invisibility.
1.Receiving the Child
Jesus teaches that welcoming the child is to welcome him. Welcoming Jesus into our communities is to give him a privileged space and place. Jesus is teaching that communities must also create such privileged spaces for children.
As Jesus in the community is God’s presence in it, the welcomed child is the sign of God’s presence .As Jesus is the source of hope and the assurance of promise for a community; the welcomed child is also a sign of God’s promise and hope.
A communities engagement with children providing spaces of protection and care, facilitating growth, nurture and discovery enable it to connect with God at work in it, yielding insights into the way and work of God’s kingdom.
2.The response of the child to its context.
The bible teaches that children recognize God’s presence in their midst. Their God gifted feel for the transcendent has not been disabled yet. They may be surrounded by much pain and experience cruel suffering but there is little presence of anger in them as they connect with the transcendent in the midst of pain. They may be surrounded by violence and be victims of it but their souls and spirits do not get hardened and closed to the presence of God.Resarch into the lives of child soldiers confirms this.
A little child shall lead them is the vision of a new earth in the bible. Children turn us and lead us to God.
In psalm 8:2 we find that praise to God flows naturally from children and infants. The child’s response to the world is to see it as God’s creation and view it with worship and wonder. The play, joy and laughter of children are the response of wonder and worship to God who creates such wonderful spaces for them. It is a worship that comes out of the whole person: body, mind and spirit and immediately connects with the transcendent.
The child’s response to human need is underscored in the teaching of Jesus. It is a child who responds with his food resources to the hunger of the multitudes (John 6:8). The child responds in simple untutored generosity. Children can be selfish often but their response to the needs of others is naturally generous. Child headed households of our world are a powerful witness to the responsibility and generosity of children.
Jesus also identifies the child as the model of the response of faith and a model of entry into the kingdom of God (Mark 10:15). The child models the humility of faith, the attitude that births and nurtures faith. The focus is not in the content of belief but the attitudes that enable effective faith to be generated. It is setting aside of self, an unashamed recognition of need and a joyful willingness to receive. The child has built in stepping-stones to enter the kingdom. Jesus is very hard on those who destroy them or take them away.
3.The Personhood of the Child.
Children are born as fully human beings and must be given all the rights proper to humans. Children grow into personhood. Biblical teaching distinguishes the state of childhood from that of adulthood. The formation of personhood in children is a great challenge to families and communities who have care of them.
- The Child and Sin.
Biblical teaching does not exclude infants and children from the effects of the fall and sin. They are born in the context of a fallen humanity. The bible does not suggest that children are the result of the fall.
How far can we attribute sin to children and what is the nature of that sin given the bible has a high view of a child’s natural response to God? Sin is a state, a condition that generates disobedience to God and his standards. The bible describes it an inner bent; even our mind’s (intellect) capacity to find and follow faith is impaired and distorted (Rom 7). The teaching of Jesus stresses the capacity of the child to have faith and walk into the kingdom. It also recognizes that the environment in which the child grows can develop the bent to disobedience of God and rebellion against him. The focus of biblical teaching is on addressing the environment in which the child develops nurturing openness to transcendence and developing moral responsibility and agency.
The child needs to understand the nature and effects of human sin in order to experience the transforming power of the gospel of Christ.
- Nurturing the Personhood of Children.
Child Rights are based on the status of children as full humans. The rights of children provide the framework for the content of the personhood of the child.
The personhood of the child is nurtured in the context of relationships and covenants. Biblical teaching sees the child developing in relationships with God, with community and with family. Nurturing right relationships is a key component of the child’s personhood. Development engagement builds such families and communities, which grow such relationships. At the core of relationships is the love for neighbor which is uniquely Christian and transformative.
The other components of personhood are capability and agency. The foundation for capability building in children is their capability to find and follow faith, something they do freely. They have a natural non-coercive relationship with the divine. Children also need a moral framework that identifies right desires and right actions and wrong desires and actions. The bible recognizes the necessity of moral instruction for the child and provides the content for such instruction.
- Well Being of the Child
God as Father is particularly the father of the fatherless. Care for the fatherless and the orphan is the calling of God’s people (Duet 10:14-22,James 1:19-27). The bible teaches that care includes protection from harm, food, shelter, healthcare and education. The teaching of Jesus stresses on the treatment of children, the environment that is created to include them to all God wills for them and provision of access to resources they need for their physical, social and spiritual wellbeing and wholeness.
The provision of an environment of where well-being is experienced by children must include learning and growing in wisdom. Effective learning comes through a process, which connects the mind, heart and the hand. Information, Action and Reflection are all part of acquiring knowledge, skills, competencies and wisdom. Well-being depends on such learning environment.
An environment where one’s well being, wholeness and happiness is integrally connected to one’s neighbor’s is essential for children The program of Amigos Para Sempre in Brazil is a good example of such action.
Well being of the child requires understanding the significance of choice and responsibility. The necessity to make decisions and follow them through is increasingly essential much earlier in life. Child learning environments and programs must nurture such agency.
Children can catch stewardship early. That God endows his creation with gifts sufficient for all needs and for every ones needs can easily be caught by the child and becomes a basis for building just relationships in life.
CONCLUSION: Vantage Point.
The Christian view of history is from the vantage point of a post resurrection reality. Paul recognized this as he wrote in 2 Cor 5: 16 from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view, even Christ we regard him differently. We view human history and creation from the vantage point of the new order God has initiated through the resurrection of Christ.
The new order of resurrection operating in creation is a reality. It animates the present creation order and gives us assurance that the creation order will reach its purpose. It empowers us to accomplish the high possibilities of the creation order.
The resurrection vantage point enables a different vision of the world as loved by God, inhabited by him, governed by him and directed by him. A vision that enables us to love the world as Christ loves it without becoming ‘of the world’, a vision that gives confidence in transformational action in the world. The resurrection vantage point also gives a vision of human place and role in creation. Human agency is at the center of the resurrection order as it is a moral order. Human knowledge is critical as a capital resource for transformational action despite its mixed accomplishment.
Sites of Transformational Action: The Kingdom of God at work creates sites of transformation. Transformational mission engagement must identify such sites. The Holy Spirit goes before mission engagement preparing sites for transformational development. The presence of the Spirit is discerned through prayer and the identification of people open to transcendence. The presence of a hunger for change, a desire for exercising human agency in freedom, identify such sites. The presence of communities where oppressive evil rules but which God has also invaded with his grace indicate challenging sites for transformational action.
Partners of Transformational Action: We have already identified the Christ worshipping community as a critical partner for Transformative action, particularly in the building of moral communities and the nurturing of moral personhood,
We need to explore further and consider how other faith communities may partner us in transformational development. It is here I believe a clearer articulation of the goals of moral personhood and moral community could become key instruments in finding a basis for joint action. Other faith communities must be encouraged to identify resources from their faith for promoting moral personhood and moral community. This could lead to traveling together in a journey where Christ’s blessed presence may become visible.
Resources for Transformative Action: Biblical teaching is clear that transformation of persons and communities is the work of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit, the bible teaches gifts God’s people with endowments to live out witness to and facilitate transformation. The diversity of gifts (I Cor. 12), covers every need and meets every challenge. The Spirit’s gift of discernment for individuals and communities enables planning and decision making. The Spirits’ empowerment motivates in the context of complex and daunting challenges. The Spirit’s assurance is essential for sustaining transformational engagement and ensuring sustainable change.