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“Very Good”: Educating for Gratitude. Michael Goheen Trinity Western University Langley, B.C. God’s Evaluation. God saw that it was good (6x) Completion: It was very good!. Ancient Near Eastern Myths. Chaos and order, evil and good co-mixed from the beginning

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“Very Good”: Educating for Gratitude

Michael Goheen

Trinity Western University

Langley, B.C.


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God’s Evaluation

  • God saw that it was good (6x)

  • Completion: It was very good!


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Ancient Near Eastern Myths

  • Chaos and order, evil and good co-mixed from the beginning

  • Genesis: Very good, then evil enters the world because of human rebellion


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Observations

  • Each part of the creation is good as it conforms to God’s order

  • Whole in harmony of the parts is very good


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Creation as a symphony

The creation is a symphony where we find a variety of creatures each singing the praises of the Maker in accordance with its unique character, different from creatures of another ‘make.’ The lion is to serve the Lord like a lion, the dandelion like a dandelion. The difference in service depends on the difference in the Word addressed to them. The response of the creation to the one all-embracing Word—serve Me!—is thus a symphony of voices in which each type of creature performs its unique function in the indispensable setting of the whole (Bernard Zylstra).


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Shalom of creation

The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. . . . In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight—a rich state of affairs in which the natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be . . . In a shalomic state each entity would have its own integrity or structured wholeness, and each would also possess many edifying relations to other entities (Neal Plantinga).


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Observations

  • Each part of the creation is good as it conforms to God’s order

  • Whole in harmony of the parts is very good

  • Role of humankind in creation


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For the sake of humankind

  • Blessing or mandate?

  • ANE view of human role

  • Delightful calling

    • In relationship with God

      “The whole Bible leads us to expect a glorious renewal of life on earth, so that the age to come will be an endlessly thrilling adventure of living with God on the new earth. With his presence pervading every act, we shall be more fully human than we have ever been . . .” (David Lawrence).


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For the sake of humankind

  • Blessing or mandate?

  • Delightful calling

    • In relationship with God

    • Joy of discovery


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Experience of a Father

  • Delights to give good gifts

  • Delights in our response

    • Enjoyment

    • Thankfulness

    • Love


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Universe full of blessings

God’s creation is “evidence of the caring hand of the Creator reaching out to secure the well-being of his creatures, of a Father extending a universe full of blessings to his children.” (Gordon Spykman)


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City of Angels

  • Delighting in God’s good creation

    ‘He slowly savours the moments taking delight and joy in the simplest pleasures. He tastes the sweetness of fruit for the first time; he lingers as he smells the pleasant aroma of perfume; he pauses to enjoy the sensation of hot water in the shower; he delights in the embrace of a woman. He takes the time to soak in the joy and delight of these new experiences.’

  • No recognition of Giver, no thanks!


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Gratitude: The Heartbeat of Pauline Spirituality

Gratitude permeates Paul’s life and holds a prominent place in his letters to the young churches. . . . Gratitude is the prospective attitude that he carries—and expects believers to carry—into their daily life in the world. For Paul, thanksgiving marks the dividing line between belief and unbelief, between the obedient and disobedient heart. It is in the expression of gratitude that one truly honors God as the creator and Lord of the world. On the other hand, a lack of gratitude is a primary sin against God (Rom 1.21). - R. P. Meye


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Heartbeat of Pauline spirituality

For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving ... (1 Tim 4.4).

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col 3.17)

If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Cor 10.30-31)


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All of life as a gift

We serve Christ by thankfully receiving our life as a gift from his hand (CT, par. 46).


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Posture of gratitude

We are dependent children of a gracious Father, and as children we receive all of the goodness of the creation as a gift from his hand. Our dependence upon him places us in a posture of humility, receptiveness, and gratitude; and that posture shapes how we approach his creation as well. The blessings of creation are not things that we own to do with as we please; they are gifts of grace that we receive with thanksgiving and use in ways that honor the Father’s rule over his entire creation (Hielema, 151).


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What thwarts thankfulness?

  • Humanist story that pervades Western culture


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Humanistic Story

  • Secular: The Way of the (modern) world: Or, Why It’s Tempting to Live As If God Doesn’t Exist (Craig Gay)

  • Non-human creation just natural processes to be exploited

  • Human life product of our resourceful achievements

  • Squelches gratitude


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What thwarts thankfulness?

  • Humanist story that pervades Western culture

  • Satiation of consumerism

  • Otherworldliness of Platonic gospel

    • Turn your eyes upon Jesus . . .


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Sport and Competition

  • My Platonism and a ‘degraded view of sport’

  • God’s gift

  • A phys. ed. teacher’s question

  • “What is it about sports and competition that delights you?”

‘God made me fast. When I run I feel his pleasure. . . . it’s not just fun. To win is to honour him’ (Eric Liddell).


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My Delight in God’s Good Gift of Competitive Sports

  • Emotional intensity

    • ‘Thrill of victory, agony of defeat’

    • Way out of proportion with importance

    • Absorbed intensely and utterly in serious pursuit of non-serious activity

    • Joy, emotional vibrancy spills into life

      ‘Play relativizes our over-seriousness toward life, filling us with a spirit of joy and delight that carries over into all aspects of our existence.’


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My Delight in God’s Good Gift of Competitive Sports

  • Emotional intensity

  • Physical satisfaction

    ‘Athletes know the beauty of intensity of effort, the motivation of pursuit of goals, the feeling and being of fitness, the expressiveness of movement, the creativity of play, the excitement of total involvement and the joy of sport’ (Zuidema).


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My Delight in God’s Good Gift of Competitive Sports

  • Emotional intensity

  • Physical satisfaction

  • Social bonding

  • Aesthetic enjoyment

    • ‘Creativity of play’

    • That perfect play


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My Delight in God’s Good Gift of Competitive Sports

  • Emotional intensity

  • Physical satisfaction

  • Social bonding

  • Aesthetic enjoyment

  • Religious deepening

    Delight turned upward into thanks


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Educating for thanksgiving . . .

  • Delight and joy in goodness of God’s creation

  • Thankfulness and gratitude as proper response


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Struggle for shalom

For Wolterstorff, the goal of Christian higher education is to energize students for a certain way of being in the world here and now—to encourage them to struggle for shalom. . . .


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Delight and Gratitude

The goal is to prepare students for life and work of the Kingdom for struggling for human flourishing . . . where delight and joy are intrinsic features of right human relationships with God, the natural world, the self, and others.

Shalom involves recognizing in ourselves that place where God’s goodness finds its answer in our gratitude.

- Joldersma, on Wolterstorff


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What is necessary if we are to education for gratitude?

  • Developing life of thanksgiving

  • Developing sense of delight and gratitude for area you teach

    • Place in God’s world

    • Why brings delight, joy

  • Developing pedagogical ways to foster delight and thanksgiving

  • Developing communal ‘culture of thanksgiving’


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Gratitude gives way to groaning

We live in a strange world, a world which presents us with tremendous contrasts. The high and the low, the great and the small, the sublime and the ridiculous, the beautiful and the ugly, the tragic and the comic, the good and the evil, the truth and the lie, these all are heaped up in unfathomable interrelationship. The gravity and the vanity of life seize us in turn. Now we are prompted to optimism, then to pessimism. Man weeping is constantly giving way to man laughing. The whole world stands in the sign of humour, which has been well described as a laugh in a tear (Bavinck).


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A suffering and wounded world

‘Shalom . . . is a command to humans living here and now, in a fallen world, in a society that is filled with pain, suffering, and woundedness.’

‘Shalom as a command is a call for us to struggle to bring about human flourishing in our community, our society, our world, precisely because so much of humanity cries out, suffers, is wounded.’


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Gratitude and Groaning

  • Gratitude: Delight in good gifts God has richly provided

  • Groaning: Many are shut out from enjoyment of those gifts


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Poverty

It is generally accepted that up to two billion people . . . are now poor. The World Bank describes the one billion of these people as “individuals who subsist on incomes of less than $75 a year in an environment of squalor, hunger and hopelessness. They are the absolute poor, living in situations so deprived as to be below any rational definition of human decency...It is a life at the margin of existence.” For the other billion who are living slightly above this absolute poverty level, life is nearly as joyless and has improved little, it at all, through decades of “development” efforts.

-Harvie Conn


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Factors exacerbating poverty

  • Growing population

  • Ecological issues

  • Unjust structures

  • Massive militarization


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Not just poverty . . . Not just the third world . . .

  • Social problems

  • Psychological disorders

  • Technological impoverishment

  • War

  • Grip of idols

  • Etc. etc. etc.


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The non-human creation also groans

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption, the redemption of our bodies (Rom 8.22-23).


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Gratitude

Groaning

Leads to stewardship

Leads to action for justice

Orientation leads to action


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Victory of the gospel!

  • Joy, not overcome by pain

  • Hope, not despair

  • Action, not paralysis


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