TED Talk: Sparking Learning

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Ramsey Musallam, a chemistry teacher, explores how to spark learning and tells us that the greatest tool a teacher has is the questions their students have. As teachers we must not focus on content dissemination. Instead we must cultivate curiosity in our students by challenging them and getting their imagination going so that they ask questions and want to explore and interact with what we are trying to teach them.

This principle reminded me of Law of Need in the book 7 Laws of the Learner by Bruce Wilkinson. It is important to build a need in the student and motivate them to want to learn what you are about to teach them. As a teacher your goal is to make them want to know the answer to the questions you just got them to think about, before moving on to teaching them the content.

Here are three good ways to do that:

  1. Understand what students are facing in their life and what their pressing needs are. Make sure topics are focused on these areas.
  2. Get them to identify with a need (maybe even one they didn’t know they had) using challenging questions or presenting them with illustrations of people who have or don’t have what you are about to teach.
  3. Don’t just “talk at” students, get them involved in the learning process.

Watson: On Grace

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Richard Watson (1781-1833) was an Arminian theologican. This is the entry on Grace in his Dictionary. 

This word is understood in several senses: for beauty, graceful form, and agreeableness of person, (Proverbs 1:9; 3:22). For favour, friendship, kindness, (Genesis 6:8; 18:3; Romans 11:6; 2 Timothy 1:9). For pardon, mercy, undeserved remission of offences, (Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 1:6). For certain gifts of God, which he bestows freely, when, where, and on whom, he pleases; such are the gifts of miracles, prophecy, languages, &c, (Romans 15:15; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Ephesians 3:8, &c). For the Gospel dispensation, in contradistinction to that of the law, (Romans 6:14; 1 Peter 5:12). For a liberal and charitable disposition, (2 Corinthians 8:7). For eternal life, or final salvation, (1 Peter 1:13).

In theological language grace also signifies divine influence upon the soul; and it derives the name from this being the effect of the great grace or favour of God to mankind. Austin defines inward actual grace to be the inspiration of love, which prompts us to practise according to what we know, out of a religious affection and compliance. He says, likewise, that the grace of God is the blessing of God’s sweet influence, whereby we are induced to take pleasure in that which he commands, to desire and to love it; and that if God does not prevent us with this blessing, what he commands, not only is not perfected, but is not so much as begun in us.

Without the inward grace of Jesus Christ, man is not able to do the least thing that is good. He stands in need of this grace to begin, continue, and finish all the good he does, or rather, which God does in him and with him, by his grace. This grace is free; it is not due to us: if it were due to us, it would be no more grace; it would be a debt, (Romans 11:6); it is in its nature an assistance so powerful and efficacious, that it surmounts the obstinacy of the most rebellious human heart, without destroying human liberty.

There is no subject on which Christian doctors have written so largely, as on the several particulars relating to the grace of God. The difficulty consists in reconciling human liberty with the operation of divine grace; the concurrence of man with the influence and assistance of the Almighty. And who is able to set up an accurate boundary between these two things? Who can pretend to know how far the privileges of grace extend over the heart of man, and what that man’s liberty exactly is, who is prevented, enlightened, moved, and attracted by grace?

Belief, Trust, and Truth

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I recently found a great new blog – Every Thought Captive, authored by Professor Rich Davis and Professor Paul Franks of the Tyndale Philosophy Department.

Here is a mash-up of three great posts they recently published that deal with truth and beliefs. I recommend you hit their blog (links are provided), read them in their entirety, and then start following their blog.

People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive – Blaise Pascal

Peter Enns, noted for his rejection of a literal Adam, recently wrote a provocative post stating that he doesn’t believe in God but he trusts Him. For Enns belief is equated with “ideas about God”, “articles of faith”, or “an intellectual construction” that is “in our heads”, while trust is “doing it, risking it” and “is much harder”. If Enns is saying saving faith is much more than head knowledge and getting some facts right about God than I agree.

But Enns seems to be saying more than this. Prof Franks tackles the problem made by Enns implicit assertion – that one can trust God without worrying about what one believes about Him:

First, to “trust God” you must at least “believe that God exists.” If you say to someone, “I trust God at this particular moment” and he responds by saying, “Why are you bothering with trusting in something that doesn’t even exist?” how could you respond without advancing your beliefs about God? It’s not clear that you can. … That is, you’re going to have to respond by not only noting that you believe God exists, but also that you believe certain things about God—namely that he is trustworthy.

Rob Bell, author of Love Wins and a new book exploring God, also seems to expressing the same idea as Enns in a recent HarperOne broadcast. Prof Davis quotes the relevant portion of the broadcast and then captures the problem with Bell’s “a good view of God is one that makes me a better person”:

The strange thing about Bell’s process for dispelling doubt is that it doesn’t appear to be truth-oriented at all. There is no attempt, so far as I can tell, to acquire or assess any reasons for belief. His method for theological belief revision, by his own account, is entirely subjective, pragmatic, and non-truth-conducive …

The “measure of a good view of God” isn’t that there are reasons for thinking there is a God corresponding to that concept. It’s whether it works for you. … In the end, it seems very likely that Bell is operating with a dogma of his own: we should adopt those understandings of God we find most empowering to us personally.

Everyone did what was right in his own eyes – Judges

Which brings us to their post which pulls it all together by tackling the questions – what is objective truth? and does Jesus require us to believe objective truth claims about Himself?

To say that a proposition is objectively true is only to say that its truth obtains apart from what any of us thinks, feels, or believes; it obtains by virtue of the way the world is. …

You can’t rightly believe in (i.e., trust, put your faith in) someone unless you believe that they exist. You have to believe certain objective truths about Jesus; otherwise you can’t be his disciple. …  Indeed, it isn’t rational to give your life to someone who either isn’t really there (i.e., lacks objective existence) or is the product of your imagination (i.e., has subjective existence alone). Belief that (i.e., assent to objective truth) is a precondition for belief in.