Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Review of A Contemporary Theology for Ecumenical Peace

James Will. A Contemporary Theology for Ecumenical Peace. New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. 

A review by Alva R. Caldwell, Retired Associate Professor of Ministries at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.

At age eighty-six, James Will knew that he had one more book in him that needed to be written. Dr. Will had a story to tell, and a deep need to share that story. Having worked in a theological seminary as a member of the faculty and as director of the Peace and Justice Center at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, Dr. Will had spent a career addressing professional, academic audiences. But in this book, he made a decision to address a different audience. Although, still a book that has much to say to the academic community, it is primarily addressed to the laity of the church. The book is intended for a general audience.

The inspiration for the book grows out of Jeremiah’s lament, “'Peace, peace', they say, when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 8:11). What is one to make of the fact that the world continues to find ways to reject peace, and to live in hostility? In the very first chapter of this important book, we get a flavor of what Dr. Will means by “Ecumenical Peace.” This is not an appeal for denominational unity; Will goes immediately to the fact that God through Abraham brought into being three great religious traditions, and from the beginning of the book, the reader is challenged to set aside any presumptions that Christianity alone has the answer to establishing peace. The three great Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity are called into an ecumenical exercise to live into the peace that God demands of us.

The book is small in size, only fifty-seven pages, but large in its challenge to live into an ecumenical peace. The book is clearly theological in nature, helping the reader to work through various expressions of what it means to approach life through process theology, platonic philosophy, panentheism, pantheism, creation theology, and also gives us beautiful expressions of what it means to talk about God as Creator, Liberator, Redeemer. Here he does the reader a great favor by wading through much of the theological language that can only confuse and aggravate the reader. Instead, Dr. Will, invites us to hear these theological expressions as an invitation to live into an experience of working with one another to bring about peace. In fact, Dr. Will speaks of the world as an “unfinished creation,” in which the Abrahamic religions are invited to participate in peace making. In his own words, he says, “God’s enabling of human co-creation of peace is actualized in human dynamic praxis in an unfinished creation…”(page 13)

This delightful book is also a kind of memoir. Some folks read and then conclude that there is “nothing I can do to make a difference.” One of the wonderful things this book does is to listen to this eighty-six year old man tell stories of when he was in ROTC, when he was in college, when he was a seminarian, when he taught in graduate school, and in these lovely memories of his reflections, he gives the reader some very concrete ways in which persons can make a difference. This makes this book particularly valuable as a study guide for a congregation seeking to be pro-active in promoting peace and justice. Unfortunately, the publisher has chosen to deal with this book as a “publish on demand,” meaning that copies are printed as they are requested. This makes the book quite expensive. The book sells through Amazon for $67.50, but even at this price, the book is well worth reading as a contemporary witness to ecumenical peace.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Faculty Publishes New Book - Dr. Jim Papandrea

Dr. Jim Papandrea, Associate Professor of Church History, has co-authored a book with Mike Aquilina titled Seven Revolutions: How Christianity Changed the World and Can Change It Again. He is best known at Garrett-Evangelical for his enthusiastic teaching in History of Christian Thought and Practice I and his legendary cross-cultural study trips to Rome.

Dr. Papandrea was also recently featured on the Research on Religion Podcast in which he speaks on the subject matter of his new book. You can find the podcast here. The book combines history, politics, and religion to provide practical lessons to be learned from the struggles of the Early Church, lessons that can be applied to the day-to-day lives of Christian readers. Mike Aquilina and Dr. Papandrea examine the practices of the Early Church—a body of Christians living in Rome—and show how the lessons learned from these ancient Christians can apply to Christians living in the United States today.

You can purchase the book at or at

Dr. Papandrea earned his M.Div. degree from Fuller Theological Seminary, with a concentration in youth ministry, and his Ph.D. in the history and theology of the early Christian church from Northwestern University. He has also studied Roman history at the American Academy in Rome, Italy.  Dr. Papandrea's personal website can be found here. You can also check out his youtube channel for more information on the book.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Meet Ashish Singh

Tell us about yourself.

I currently live in Arlington Heights, IL, and I am a first year Master of Divinity student. I was born in St. Louis but moved to Chicago at the age of 5. I graduated from Loyola University in Chicago with a Bachelor of Business Administration in 2000 and a Master of Information Systems Management in 2002. Before becoming a student at Garrett-Evangelical, I worked for ten years at the Walgreen’s corporate office in a variety of positions focused on marketing and merchandising analytics.

What caused you to become a seminary student and change your career path? 

I grew up hearing stories about my grandparents who had converted to Christianity in India, even though they knew it would lead to persecution. My father also told me about his journey to become a pastor. Through these stories, as well as my own experiences, I realized the transformative power of the Gospel, and I was baffled by the idea that this life-changing message could mean nothing to so many in our society today. I felt God calling me to spend my life sharing the message of transformation and liberation that is made known in and through Christ.

What has been the most challenging transition from your career to being a student, and how have you dealt with that?

I can safely say that I didn’t read this much before coming to seminary!  In my career, many days I would be able to come home and turn my brain off from whatever projects I had going on in order to focus on things at home. Now I am being challenged at school with so many new ideas that I have not encountered before, so it is hard to stop thinking about school. I’ve learned that at some point you just have to force yourself to take a break from schoolwork and tend to the other needs around you and within you.

What do you plan to do after seminary and has it changed since you began seminary? If so, why?

I am currently in the candidacy process working towards ordination as an elder in The United Methodist Church and feel that I am being called to pastoral ministry. Although as I talk to other students and see how many different and unique ways there are to serve, I can’t help but keep an open mind. Over a year ago I would have laughed at the idea of being in seminary, so anything is possible!

Why did you choose Garrett-Evangelical as your seminary?

Being a United Methodist who lives in the area, I knew that I had to at least check out Garrett-Evangelical when looking at seminary options. I came here for an open house with my wife, and as we walked around campus and met other faculty and students we both felt that it was the right choice.

How has Garrett-Evangelical fulfilled or surpassed your expectations as your seminary?

The level of academic quality and personal care shown by the faculty has really surpassed my expectations. Faculty members want to make sure students finish the required coursework, and that what we learn helps to shape our future ministry in a significant way. The passion they have for training future leaders is very evident because that is what they are called to do and not just what they are paid to do.   

What has been your favorite class/biggest revelation during class and why?

Honestly I am not sure if I can narrow it down to just one class. After finishing my first semester, I am realizing that Christ is so many things to so many people. Reading a variety of authors and listening to lectures from different professors, it is amazing to see how different people from different walks of life have interpreted Scripture and tradition by viewing it from the lens of their own unique experience. Every time I think I completely understand something, someone introduces a new interpretation that challenges me. 

What do you do to find Sabbath during the hectic school year and managing family life?

Our VFCL class challenged us to create a Rule of Life to help us try to structure our lives so that we remember to take time for ourselves and with God. Adhering to some of the rules I created is helping me to keep from losing myself in the hustle of everyday life. When life gets really busy, I have learned how to find Sabbath within the activities I am already doing. That way, time I spend with my family also becomes a time of rejuvenation and a communal time with God. 

Do you have any advice for potential students who are considering Garrett-Evangelical for their theological education?

There are a lot of great options out there, but I can say that my experience here at Garrett-Evangelical has truly been an incredibly fruitful one. I would definitely advise visiting Garrett-Evangelical’s campus and speaking with some students and faculty. I have found the mission statement on the Seminary’s website to be very accurate in portraying the character of the school. I feel that when my time here is done, and by the grace of God, I will be a more effective witness wherever I end up.