Living as an Alien

Last year the editors of Dialogue, a world-wide Adventist publication for college and university students, asked me to write an article on ‘Living the Christian Life in an Alien Culture.’ This topic might not have been my first choice, but as I was teaching a post-graduate module on 1 Peter, I saw some interesting exegetical opportunities. Many argue that race, nationality and alienness play a large role in 1 Peter and its message to its audience—see, e.g., David Horrell

All in all it ended up to be quite a nice exegetical article, and it starts like this:

When I was twelve my parents decided to emigrate. We left the safe environment of the country of my birth and moved halfway around the world. It was a big change for me on many levels. After swimming a final time in the sea, we boarded a plane in hot summer weather and landed in a frozen world. We had exchanged summer for winter. The next day I went to a new school, feeling liberated at not having to wear a school uniform, but alienated because I did not speak or understand a word of the foreign language my classmates and teachers used.

­The largest change, however, was a religious one. Growing up in South Africa, I went to an Adventist school on weekdays and an Adventist church on Sabbaths. Almost everyone I knew was Adventist. In the Netherlands, suddenly I was the only Adventist around. In fact, in our entire city our family were the only Adventists. Suddenly religious life was very different. My Adventist identity, something that had always given me a feeling of safety, suddenly had become something that made me alien.

This last semester I have been teaching a post-graduate seminar on the short letters at the end of the New Testament: the so-called Catholic Epistles. These little books are often overlooked in the church, as we tend to focus on the ‘important’ letters like those of Paul or Hebrews. It is hard to find books written about these shorter letters, which is strange when we consider that one of the foundations of the Reformation was Tota Scriptura (the whole of Scripture).

Read the rest here.

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