The RZIM Summer Institute is an opportunity for you to experience a week filled with life-changing conversations, inspiring talks, and meaningful worship. You will have the opportunity to interact at length with our speaking team, get your toughest questions answered, and be prepared for spiritual conversations with your friends and family. We are prayerfully seeking God’s blessings upon the 2015 Summer Institute and hope you will join us for this rare opportunity to receive extended training from the RZIM speaking team.
For 2015, our theme is “The Human Condition: Noble and Flawed.”
We live in an age and culture where the attempted definition and redefinition of the human condition is a daily phenomenon. With just a few clicks, both our online profiles can be reinvented and the genetic structure of our future children can be reimagined. We live in the midst of a plastic revolution, where everything from theories of gender identity to the latest gadgets are continuously changing. In the context of global pluralism and 24/7 news cycles, we are confronted with a dizzying array of lifestyles and answers to the question, “what does it mean to be human?”
In the midst of this confusing cacophony, the Biblical narrative provides a decisive frame of reference. From the first words of Genesis to the final page of Revelation, the Christian Scriptures speak to our universal desire for wholeness and fulfillment as human beings. The varied stories of individuals and nations in relationship to God provides a textured, realistic, and ultimately hopeful presentation of the human condition.
Within God’s storyline, we gain the context for affirming a transcendent human value, dignity, purpose – and even a shared nobility that encompasses both earthly kings and the marginalized poor. This aspect of the Biblical worldview has inspired social relief ministries throughout the church’s history, from the early church’s rescue of exposed infants, to the founding of hospitals next to cathedrals in the fourth century, the eighteenth century abolition movement, and continuing today in the ongoing humanitarian work of the global church.
This optimistic take on human identity also provides a counter-culture, positive angle on the everyday details of work. From gardening to middle management to international politics, the foundational account of God’s good creation resets our approach and attitude towards labor. As we humble ourselves to recognize the goodness of God’s creation, we gain new appreciation for creative endeavors, the provision of beautiful art, and even the simple joy of walking through a park.
Further, God’s design of humans as noble creatures leads to a renewed psychological approach, both to ourselves and others. It is at the center of humble worship. It provides a reasonable basis for the pursuit of truth, knowledge, and understanding one another. We gain a profound respect for the passions that animate human activity and cultural trends. At the 2015 Summer Institute, we will explore the multi-faceted nature of the elevated, noble status of humanity within the Christian story.
At the same time, the well-worn contours of Scripture point us to why there is such great need for neighbor love, as the Bible frankly explores the everyday selfishness and idolatry of the human heart. We are damaged beyond repair, in great need – not only of help, but of a transformation as stark as the dead coming back to life. From the evils of modern day slavery to the drudgery of work to the pain of divorce and the devastation of prolonged illness, we know all too well that humans are flawed creatures.
For many, the problem of evil is not so much an argument against God’s existence as it is the daily struggle to make ends meet and work life out under difficult circumstances. It is in the hardships and misfortune that we often question the goodness and even the reality of God.
We can even enter into despair as we try to sort through the deception, manipulation, and fabrication of reality. Though we yearn to know the truth, we are sometimes suspicious of universal claims, recognizing that selfishness, power dynamics, and ignorance are just some of the reasons we do not know what is really real. But without knowing the truth of who we are and where we are headed, it is impossible to orient ourselves in a purposeful manner. We are like ancient seafarers caught under a cloudy sky in a turbulent sea, tossed to and fro despite our earnest desire to reach the shore, wherever that might be.
And as we seek to bring good tidings of great joy to our neighbors – the message of God’s love for rebellious sinners – we find even the good news scornfully rejected as a ‘pie in the sky’ delusion. Living according to God’s great design for our lives sometimes leads to charges of hypocrisy. Our realistic take on human depravity is viewed as judgmental negativity. Even the churches we love and cherish, and where we actively serve, can regularly disappoint.
Our morning studies, led by Dr. John Dickson, will focus on the New Humanity that Jesus, in becoming fully human, both demonstrated and made possible. His very life and teaching announced the arrival of a new King and a new Kingdom. As we celebrate his death and resurrection, the superlative ‘eucatastrophe’ of human history, we enter into this new life – a renewed and noble existence under God’s care, according to God’s ways.
The 2015 theme speaks with great relevance to the modern quest for authenticity. It both undermines and redirects our thirst for success. It radically challenges our consumeristic culture and enables us to imagine participation in a generous, self-sacrificial community. It provides a blueprint for the daily life of our churches, families, neighborhoods, workplaces, and friendships. It will furnish opportunities for a deeper expression of gratitude, repentance, and hope. As we grow into integrity as God’s people, we will increasingly have a sound basis for a faithful, evangelistic lifestyle. Throughout the week, we hope that together we will experience anew what it means to be truly, fully human.
To hear the audio for the sessions of the year that you were enrolled in the Summer Institute click on the appropriate link below: