Heresy and Hearsay, October Update
Greg was trying to help his students understand the Trinity and the Incarnation in Systematic Theology class last week. Unlike most classes in Malawi, he facilitates discussion in a seminar-style format and tries to keep everyone talking. “What happens to God when Jesus, who is fully man and fully God, dies?” He asked them. “It was a fake death.” one student offered. “That’s a great answer,” Greg replied, “But that’s not what Christians believe. Saying that it was a fake death would be a heresy, probably under the umbrella of Docetism (They say that Jesus did not have a real human body). Great job in getting to that conclusion!” The class laughed at being congratulated in coming up with its second heresy of the day. Greg continued, “It’s great because you are taking the problem seriously and trying to think about it, and just by doing that you got yourself to one of the firmly-held positions that the Church had to fight against.” Throughout the class, the students brought up a variety of issues that the Christian Church has struggled with for hundreds of years, and they were able to sort through some understandings and misunderstandings, while still arriving at the conclusion that the Trinity is a true mystery of the faith. At the end of the class, like every Tuesday, Greg takes a couple of his students out to lunch, exploring their questions and discussing their career plans more in-depth - whether they are planning to become pastors or pursuing education or employment somewhere else after graduation. We’ve also found ourselves having meals and tea with students at Nkhoma University. More often than not, we end up discussing ideas of prosperity. So many pastors in Malawi emphasize the blessings promised to Abraham – descendants, land, wealth – and preach those as a Christians’ inheritances. Greg and I try to challenge these young people to consider other types of prosperity, and the possibility that following God in this life might not lead to material blessings. It’s not a popular message, but an important one as we are serving in a low income country. And just last week, Greg started facilitating a Bible Study for long-term volunteers at Nkhoma. He’s leading the group through Mark, as he has done for a number of groups before, but this time it is fun to view stories of Jesus’ healing through the eyes of missionary doctors, and to talk about Jesus’ purpose among people who are trying to live out their callings through employment in foreign contexts.
Although we haven’t even been in Malawi two months, it feels like we have grown, adapted, and achieved so much. In Nkhoma’s Blood pressure clinic, for example, we’ve seen a doubling in the number of patients who have their blood pressure under control. Greg has arranged building a fence for the dogs, a gate for the house, shelves for the kitchen, and a screen to keep mosquitos off our porch. Political demonstrations continue, threatening business and safety about every two weeks. And patients continue to die on the medical ward every week – sometimes every day. Nkhoma Hospital has lost more than half its providers in the past 2 months, and in 3 weeks, my fellow Family Medicine consultant Catherine will be returning to the states for 4 months.