As a pastor and an educator from the Two- Thirds World country of Ghana in West Africa, I have always believed that theological education must prepare people to think theologically and educationally about the world. This includes the shifting cultural, social, political and economic trends of the time in which they find themselves according to God’s ultimate purpose of shalom in human society.
I arrived at the Acton Conference held in Connecticut from October 24t-26, 2003 thinking about ways in which one could effectively integrate education, theology, ethics, economics, and politics in theological education. The question of how this knowledge could be effectively used to bring about holistic transformation of human society in general, and the African continent in particular was of great concern.
The social, political, cultural and economic trends in human society, in my view, are significantly impacted and propelled by people’s understanding of nature of reality. There are different frameworks for interpreting the purpose of man and the society in which he lives from either secular or religious perspectives or schools of thought. As a result, the way people perceive how a Free and Virtuous Society should be molded and how it should function have multiplied on different fronts in human society. These variations have the potential of confusing even those who are serious-minded individuals and groups genuinely seeking to work towards maintaining and developing human life in a Free and Virtuous Society.
At the Connecticut conference, I picked up on so many ideas and received some significant insights that are helpful for building an effective framework and bridge from anthropological and theological perspectives. The idea that the human person was created as the visible image of the invisible God, and is by nature the subject of rights that no individual, group, class, nation or state may violate was explained to the participants by the lecturers, The way in which this was accomplished gives one a solid framework for discussing the mechanisms for building a Free and Virtuous society. It is a fact that human nature itself - which we all share regardless of race, religion or gender - grounds in us certain human moral principles. This fact was dealt with from the Christian perspective based on the standard of truth as the informing principle of all action.
My concern and position as a theologian and an educator is that in seeking to build a Free and Virtuous Society, one should have his or her starting point from an understanding of God’s ultimate purpose for His creation. God’s original purpose was for the human person to find his role in building shalom - that all creation live in justice, harmony, excellence and dignity according to the way things ought to be from God’s perspective of His creation. This must be in line with the biblical worldview of the nature of reality from God’s perspective of His ultimate purpose. Unfortunately, the distortion created by the Fall has created political, social, economic and cultural systems and structures that deviate from God’s vision of shalom for human society.
The conference helped me to build a framework to think critically about how to integrate educational, theological, economic, political and ethical issues within shifting contexts in human society from the Christian perspective. Some of the insights given to the participants in the areas of natural law, freedom, economic thinking, private initiatives, morality, and responsibility were very foundational in this direction.
Even though I must admit that I did not totally agree with all the ideas and thoughts that were expressed by the lecturers at the conference, I nevertheless found in them people who are genuinely committed to the cause of true human liberty and freedom, and working toward a Free and Virtuous society.
I pray that this conference will be extended to all parts of the world, especially to the African continent. These principles and ideas are excellent for people living anywhere in today’s global human society – for holistic transformation that prepares them to appreciate what it means to live and function in a Free and Virtuous society. I recommend this conference to all who are looking for healthy grounds on which to develop critical thinking for integration of theology, economics, politics and ethics from the Christian perspective.
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