How Do We Learn?

Yeah… How DO we learn. There are all sorts of talks about Learning Styles and Modes of Learning. But in the end, some sort of “philosophy” or training should be better for nurturing change in a trainee. Our Counseling Center provides Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) and that has gotten me reflecting on how we learn, how we grow, and how we change. Sadly, I have never taken a course in Education Psychology. But I have had enough training, experience, reflection, and eduction (Yes… “Eduction,” NOT “Education”) to have a few thoughts.

Learning Diamond

Think of this Diamond Diagram above as the interaction of two cycles.

Cycle 1 is the Action-Reflection Cycle. It is also the Praxis Model of Theological Contextualization or Development. It is further the process of Pastoral Theology. rutted-road

We like to say that experience is the best teacher. That may be true, but we are not always the best learners. Often, we act without reflection, falling into the same decisions and actions like a vehicle may get stuck in the deep ruts of an old dirt road. With and after action should be thoughtful reflection. This should be done personally, meditatively, and intentionally. However, it is also aided by being doing with peers and mentor. However, this reflective activity should then guide action. The process is cyclic or, better, helical, as one learns and changes over time.

Cycle 2 is the Didactic-Eductive Cycle. The term “Didactic” has many meanings and eod0hnuances. However, it generally involves teaching via imparting knowledge to the trainee from the instructor. The term Eductive, or Eduction is a term promoted by Seward Hiltner. In my Navy days we used eductor pumps to get water out of flooded areas of the ship. The eductor pump has no moving parts and utilizes no electricity, flame, or fuel (at least directly). Water is sent through a firehose at high speed and through the “pump” that is settled in the flooded area. The low pressure, utilizing Bernoulli’s Principle and proper nozzle design, causes water to be sucked into that stream and out of the space.  Eduction then is to draw out. We already know a great deal of things… but that knowledge must be drawn out of us. Eductive learning is common in Rogerian, “client-centered,” counseling, as well as Pastoral counseling. At the same time, one cannot draw out what isn’t there in the first place. Therefore, some input, didactic training is needed as well. However, people commonly don’t change by simply given outside information. Truth needs to also come from inside to be valued and utilized. Ideally, a cycle of input and drawing out can lead to growth and change.

Bringing these two cycles together is especially valuable, and both can lead to consider change and growth. CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) seeks to bring these two cycles together. Good mentoring should as well. The LePSAS method of training (Utilized by Community Health Evangelism/Education (CHE)) also seeks to bring the two cycles together.

In ministry and missions, we seek growth and positive change… so bringing these two cycles together should be valuable to all of us. That means:

  • Trainees (disciples) should be involved in ministry/activities. Don’t fall into the trap of “train them now to minister later.” Training is best done in concert with action.
  • Trainees should not just be doers. The action needs time for reflection, incorporation, and change. Of course to do this means to allow the trainees to diverge from established activity patterns. Reflection that cannot be acted upon is demotivating.
  • Trainees need to be taught. “Throw the child in the water to see if he will sink or swim” may work for some. I have heard on the Internet how an eagle will push its young out of the nest when it is time for it to fly. But that story is false– and appears to express more about the instructor than about what works. Most people need some guidance… some instruction.
  • Trainees need to be helped to learn what they already know. Education should not be paternalistic— assuming that the trainer has all knowledge, and the trainee has only ignorance and misinformation. The trainees are full of valuable trainings, experiences, and reflections that are not synthesized/integrated. In some cases they are nearly forgotten. The trainer can help them draw these out and get them integrated with action, reflection, and new learning.


Enculturation of Faith

Ecological model

The power of culture is the power of habit. How does this develop? Parents and other members of a community influence the next generation. One version of Bronfenbrenner’s
Human Ecological Model is shown above. The innermost circle is a child. The outermost circle can be thought of as the overall societal structure, institutions and culture the child
resides in. The greatest influences, however, are those associated with the  circle (microsystem) closest to the child.

Enculturation is the “natural” taking on of a first culture by children. Acculturation is the mostly intentional taking on of a new culture by (especially) adults. As you might guess, enculturation is easier. Enculturation of faith, likewise, is easier than acculturation of faith

A child is influenced and educated to conform to established norms within the culture through:
• Active teaching
• Modeling (passive teaching)
• Rewarding and punishing

Modeling is probably the most effective, especially by those in the circles closes to the child. I don’t suppose this should shock anyone. But it certain points out the problem of simply “letting the church teach our children about God.”

But if one looks at the diagram above, another point becomes obvious– it is the family, primarily, that acts as the transmitter, and filter, of the broader culture. As such, the family has great power in ensuring that the child effectively acclimates to the surrounding culture, while still ensuring that the worst aspects of the culture are not enculturated.

Christian Parents may seek to be Separatists or Isolationists, ensuring that the child is raised in a “godly” way, in a sheltered enclave in opposition to surrounding culture. The problem here is that God works through culture, and has always done so. Developing a child that cannot effectively function in the culture is harmful to the child and harmful in his or her calling to be salt and light in the world.

Christian Parents may, on the other hand, ignore there role of filtering culture. The parents are negligent, or simply transmit the surrounding culture to the child without godly guidance. That is to renounce their role as Christian parents.

The goal is for Christian Parents to Integrate local culture with Christian faith and teachings.

Children will see it, hear it, and absorb it– that is, if they truly see it and hear it, and experience it in the family.





Metaphors for Missions

I finished teaching an 8-week course in Theology of Missions at Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary. I wasn’t sure how best to do this, since this is the first time I have taught the course, and it is the first time it has been taught at our school.

So I decided to hit as much as I could in areas relating to Missions Theology that is not necessarily dealt with much elsewhere.  So I broke it up into three major topics, and several minor topics.

Section 1.  Missions Theology as Systematic Theology

  • Missio Dei
  • Missio Ecclesiae
  • Missions in terms of Eschatological History
  • Analysis of the Great Commission(s), Great Commandment, and Abrahamic Covenant
  • “Spiritual” versus Social versus Holistic ministry
  • Interfaith Dialogue and dealing with other faiths
  • Views on who is saved

Section 2.  Missions Theology as Contextual Theology

  • What is Contextualization and Contextual Theology
  • What are the models of contextualization of theology
  • What benchmarks are there for orthodoxy of contextual theologies
  • Roles of narrative and metaphors in contextual theology

Section 3.  Missions Theology as Reflective (“Pastoral”) Theology

  • Action/Reflection in developing personal missions theology
  • Case Studies and peer review
  • Personal metaphor for missions

We had an interesting term. With 10 in my class, we had a lot of good conversations. We had 10 metaphors given for missions. Some seemed a little strange at first, but made a lot of sense when explained. A couple of them may not meet the strict definition of metaphor… but I am not that strict. If it is useful, it works.  The ten metaphors were:

  1. Anchor
  2. Builder
  3. Water
  4. Walking by the Spirt
  5. Gathering Toys
  6. Mountain climbing
  7. Liberation
  8. Mountain biking
  9. Playing Chess
  10. Gardening



Clickbait Christianity

Many of you know the term “Clickbait” (aka “click bait” or “click-bait”). But for those that don’t, clickbait are web articles that are created to entice “clicking” on them. Typically, the stories are misleading, biased, low-quality or completely bogus. The purpose of these articles is not to inform… at least not to inform with the truth. Rather, they are to pull people in to generate advertising dollars. Websites need thousands of clicks a month to attract advertisers. One time I wrote an article challenging a false prophecy from a traveling speaker visiting the Philippines that a flesh-eating bacteria plague would start in Pangasinan and then grow into a worldwide epidemic. A few weeks later a local news network put on a (later found false) report that supported the prophecy. Within 4 hours of that report, I had over 3,000 hits on my website. Normally, it takes me close to 4 months to get that many hits. Stories, even when false, that draw on the fears of Christians can generate an awful lot of “clicks” on the web. I am glad, however, that my article challenged the story, and ultimately appears to have been correct.

One finds a lot of clickbait on Facebook. At lot of my friends share this stuff. Now, in some cases, it is not their fault. Some clickbait is set up so that when one tries to close the article by clicking on the “X” it is actually interpreting the action as a permission to share on your FB page. That being said, so many intentionally put completely bogus stories on FB. Why do that do it? I am not sure, but here are some thoughts related to this issue at least.

  • Far too many Christians don’t want to take the time to do real research. If there is a report that a crater has formed in a part of the world as a part of divine judgment, it may be difficult to prove it was divine judgment, but it is pretty easy to research whether such a crater actually exists. But far too many don’t take the time.
  • There is still a tendency to take pictures as truth, and written stories on the Web as non-fiction. We live in an age where we should always doubt image evidence. We should also question context. Further, saying that one “read it on the Internet” is like saying one “heard it on the telephone.” The Internet is no more likely to be correct than any other communication device.
  • Many Christians (like most people really) like to shelter themselves with people they agree with and stories that support their beliefs. Some love to repeat any story that shows some religious, or racial, or national or social group in a bad light, regardless of the truthfulness, or even plausibility of the story. Others seem to have a fascination of divine judgment or guessing the end of the world, and repeat related stories with little to no thought to source, reliability, or logic (or repercussions to one’s witness when proven false).
  • Many fall into the situation of the bored cat that was killed by his own curiosity. Stories often titillate, or start with “I was shocked when I discovered…” to say nothing of articles that essentially say that you must read it, or must share it, if you love Jesus or care about others. Of course, in many cases the real reason you must read or share it is to help the site owner’s hit count for revenue purposes.

But is this all harmless? I don’t think so.

  • Some people believe these stories. Many of the stories draw on the baser instincts of Christians… trying to fire up their anger or moral outrage– perpetuate and expand an “US” versus “THEM” attitude. This is hardly a beneficial thing for Christians or the church.
  • I think it perpetuates a felt belief among many secularists that “Christians are so stupid that they will believe most anything.” Admittedly, secularists can be pretty gullible as well, but that hardly negates the bad reputation that it generates. I remember a friend of mine putting a non-sense article on his social media page where he added the comment… “This may not be true… but it should be warning to us.” If it claims to be true, verify it. If it proves untrue, don’t share it.
  • Helping false reports “go viral” supports a cynical industry that should be opposed (at least with disinterest) rather than sponsored.
  • In some cases, of course, this clickbait got dumped on people’s FB page without them knowing. But one really needs to know what is on one’s page. One’s reputation, one’s persona is revealed in what one puts on one’s FB, one’s Twitter, one’s Linkedin and more, People make judgments about others in what they have on their page.

I have to admit that I am cautious about working with people who are not cautious, or are excessively gullible, in what they have on their social media pages. I am sure others judge me in what I put on as well.

Titus 2:10 suggests that we are to adorn the gospel with our words and actions. I Peter 3:15 says that we are to share what believe and hope in, with gentleness and respect. Spreading obvious foolishness certainly does not do this.

Adventures in Typing

I have had to cut back a little in blogging. Part of it is because of a lot of stuff going on this Summer. We have a Disaster Response Symposium that our group (Bukal Life Care) is putting together in partnership with Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary and Virginia Baptist Disaster Response. We also will be doing our first medical mission in two years (definitely out of practice). And we have 16 CPE trainees at our center right now and for the next several weeks.

Additionally, though, trying to do some book writing.

90% Done. “Ministry in Diversity.” Book on Applied Cultural Anthropology, for Missions. Technically, it is done. I used it for my Cultural Anthropology class. I have to finish footnoting and indexing., Also the students wanted more examples (I can get too focused on information at times). This book is for Bible schools… particularly in the Philippines or Asia.

70% Done.  “Foundations of Community and Clinical Pastoral Care.” This has been a slow one. I had it listed at 30% for ages. Many of the chapters are done. Still a fair bit of work in the Pastoral Supervision section. Actually hope to finish it before the anthropology book. To be used by Bible Schools and CPE centers, especially in Southeast Asia.

5% Done.  “Adventures in Theostorying.” The title may change. Have 2 or 3 chapters kind of done. But still a ways to go.

My two fully complete books are:

Theostorying   and   Principles and Practices for Healthy Christian Medical Missions

Feel free to check them out on Amazon… if you have time.

The Lost Book (or “Why Do We Write?”)

Thought #1           Our Purpose
“Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.”                    –Graham Greene
Is it possible to write a book and forget that you wrote it? A few months ago I was digging through my old data CDs and found a file titled “Bob Mission Book.doc”. I had no idea what that was so I opened it, and found a book that I had written back in 2008. I did not remember writing it. Technically, that is not true. When I opened up the file, most all of it looked familiar… things I had written at one time or another… but how could one forget putting it all together into a book that is over 200 pages long? Essentially, I guess, I wrote it for catharsis of sorts. The end product was not the goal, the process was the goal. Looking at the book, I was pleasantly surprised that it had a lot of good insights… even if it is wholly unpublishable (I do have a copy of the book… still rather rough… under My Books.  It is called “Mission Living”). It is an odd mix of blog type mission insights interspersed with biographic sections.
The point is, there is in writing, potentially at least, a healthy role in bringing one’s thoughts through self-reflection and self-review, into the open.
 Thought #2               Our Person
“I don’t like the taste of other people’s words in my mouth.”
                                        -R. Munson
I used to do a fair bit of writing when I was in the Navy. Some of it went on Compuserve. Some were handwritten in notebooks. Little of it I am highly proud of, and most of it has disappeared, even from cyberspace. But about 5 years into my marriage, I was looking over some old handwritten papers that I had not thrown out. One of them was a bit of experimental writing— some fiction. It was just over a page long… meant to be much longer, but I had stopped for some reason. Looking at it, I realized that I really wanted that to be destroyed. Was it really that bad? No, I don’t think so. But I realized that the writing was not me, it was me being someone else. I want to feel that whatever I write, good or bad, is me. Perhaps that is why I stopped on that one story so many years ago. Anyway, I tore it up, and now 15 years past that, I can’t even remember what it said. Maybe I would feel different now. Don’t know.
I have never wanted to go into acting. A lot of people want to, apparently. Not sure why. For me, when explaining why I don’t want to act, I say, “I don’t like the taste of other people’s words in my mouth.” Essentially, that is true… and even for actors, I think that is true to some extent. Most of us want to feel that what we write and what we say are connected to who we are… at least on some level. It is part of who we are as persons.
Thought #3.                 Persona
Most people are not like Emily Dickinson who seemed to be willing to write and write and write (high quality) poetry for, pretty much, herself. Few are able to offer their best to themselves, or to God, without it being observed and critiqued by others. While others’ advice may be good or may be bad… the very potential of critique can drive one to take writing more seriously.
Blogging has that quality since people read, or potentially read, what is written. Tweets can be thoughtlessly and foolishly and sloppily sent out, but a blog post needs to be better than that. In fact, I accidentally pushed “PUBLISH” on this post before it was done. So now I am scrambling to finish this post because I don’t want people to open my blog and see a rough, messy post. (I suppose I could have deleted it and corrected things later.)
We want our writing and communication to express our person, but also our persona. We want people to think of us certain ways based on what we write. Judgments are made (intentionally or otherwise) by what a person says, writes, and reads. The very act of deciding what will be on my blog, and how it will be, helps me grow… and helps me to determine who I am in the world… or who I hope to be.
Thought #4.             Passion

“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.”          -Winston Churchill

It does seem to me best that writing is first of all self-therapeautic. But writing is still an art. And it can still be a profession. Last week for the first time, I put up a book for sale. Self-published through Amazon   (Here if you want to see the page. It is the latest revision.) Will it sell many copies? Doubt it. I will most likely sell more copies to myself for giving copies to friends and supporters.
But the process of intentionally writing for others does definitely change the dynamic of writing. The need to write and to congeal one’s thoughts in the form of written words, moves from person, to persona, to passion as one writes to impact the world… to change the way people think. That is exciting, but also frightening. I will be teaching three classes very soon (starting today, in fact). One is Cultural Anthopology, one is Church History, and one is Introduction to Clinical Pastoral Care. I have written a rough draft of a book on cultural anthropology, and am part way through one for Intro to Clinical Pastoral Care. I will leave the Church History to the experts. But as a text to instruct and guide, one is forced to put an even higher investment into it. It is not just about self… it is not just about money (or lack of it). It is about passionately expressing what one believes is important and seeking to express those ideas to others for change.
Thought #5.         People
As he (Jesus) was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she said.  And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”                  – John 8:3-11
Public speaking is quite similar to writing since it also takes thought and purpose, expressing the person and persona of the person with passion. My son won a national award here in the Philippines for oratory (public speaking). He is very good at it. I can also tell you it takes a LOT of work… it is not chitchat, it is not chicka.
Jesus crafted stories and preached sermons… that takes work. There is, however, only one place in the Bible where it said that Jesus wrote something. Some have argued that Jesus was illiterate. While it would be okay if He was… His family’s job and the educational priorities of devout Jews suggest that He probably could read and write. The John 8 passage says that Jesus wrote in the dust. Many like to ask “What did Jesus write?” Some like to speculate, conspiratorially, that Jesus was writing down infidelities of the religious leaders (trying to add a miracle where none is actually apparent). But… if anyone else other than Jesus was doing this, we would know exactly what he or she was doing and why. In the US, we see this behavior at some college sporting events. When the home team comes out in the field, all the hometown fans cheer. When the visitors come, some will pull out a newspaper and pretend to read. The idea is that one is so uninterested in the visiting team, that it is time to do something completely different.
The John passage shows Jesus being asked what to do about this legal case. Jesus starts doodling on the ground. When pressed to make a judgment, He says, All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!  Then He goes back to doodling. It is not until the religious leaders wander off that He gets back up and says the first important thing in the story. “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”  “No, Lord,” she said.  And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” I believe Jesus’ was not writing a message. Rather, the act of writing of itself was the message— that His concern is PEOPLE, more than Law or Judgment… or the written word.
Purpose, Person, Persona, and Passion all are good. But more important in what one says and what one writes is… People.

Problem With Debating

At the bottom of this article is a link on Online Debating. It points out that it is better to seek clarification (understanding) than persuasion.

I like to think about 4 major types of conversation:

DialogueThe article points out that debate (or I listed as “apologetics/argument”) has problems. Positively, it is likely to be better than polemics/preaching because it at least respects the other person enough to listen to what they have to say. But seeking understanding rather than change has advantages. In the article below, two effects are listed: “Bias Confirmation” and ” Backfire Effect.” One can’t do much about the former, but backfire effect can be lessened if on focuses on understanding/clarification, rather than change.

Move toward Dialogue over Lecture improves things further since one is respecting the other person by listening to them.

I would like to suggest (without proof except anecdote) that missions is more effectively carried out through dialogue than the others. The next best is teaching. After that is a toss up: argument or preaching. While there is a lot of tradition in support of preaching… I see little evidence that it works now for much more than confirming what people already believe (preaching to the choir). I could be wrong.

Here is the article: