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Highlights from the TEASA Consultation

Maintaining the integrity of Christian institutions requires a steadfast commitment to authenticity, biblical principles, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. While modern tools like AI can support educational efforts, they must be used with discernment and integrity, always reflecting the core values of the Christian faith. This was the view expressed by all the speakers at the TEASA Consultation this year. Here are a few highlights from several of the addresses:

Dr Roy Musasiwa, principal of the Domboshawa Theological College in Zimbabwe, argued that embracing authenticity and integrity in Bible education must begin with the educator. He advocated for a holistic and authentic learning experience that integrates the strengths of informal, non-formal, and formal education. He suggested incorporating daily chapel meetings, koinonia groups that apply the Bible to contextual realities, and diverse worship services. He asked, “How effective are our institutions in ensuring authenticity and integrity in our Bible education?” While AI presents significant opportunities for enhancing Bible education, its application must always align with the core values of Christian authenticity and integrity. This balanced approach ensures that technological advancements serve to further the mission of theological education rather than detract from it.

Rev. Neil Henry, an experienced minister and educator from Cape Town, highlighted how authenticity and integrity are often compromised in the pursuit of success and self-interest. He warned against simplistic solutions to complex social problems, as well as moral failure, pride, and selfish ambition. How, then, can one return to authentic discipleship? Methods include prayer, lifelong study of Scripture, understanding the teachings of Jesus, meditation, dedicating time and energy to nurturing faith in students, and helping parents to instil the significance of the Christian faith. These are some of the many instruments God has provided to His people.

AI does not possess the Holy Spirit. Dr Stephan Briix, academic dean at the International College of Bible and Missions in Johannesburg, views AI as another tool that can be beneficial in theological education. AI should not be tasked with duties requiring true intelligence but can be used for translations, quickly retrieving information, answering factual questions, and creating images. However, it is essential to remember that AI often makes mistakes and cannot interpret spiritual truths. It is useful only when employed correctly, with authenticity and integrity.

Dr Brian DeVries, principal of Mukhanyo Theological College, expressed dismay that about half the institutions on a South African list of illegal schools have Christian names. This is particularly concerning given the Bible’s clear directives on integrity in passages such as Job 2:3, Proverbs 28:6, and Titus 2:7-8. Promoting academic integrity in our institutions is of paramount importance. It involves embedding faith, biblical worldview, principles, character, and behavior. Upholding fundamental values is crucial. Institutional integrity is seen in handling issues like plagiarism, faculty appointments, and interpersonal relationships. Piety and wisdom are essential. Staff must adhere to values with clear standards. Institutions must ask: How will you consistently implement these values? Genuine integrity cannot be produced artificially; it is produced only by the grace of God.

Dr Terrel Manikam, vice principal and dean of postgraduate studies at the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa in Johannesburg, emphasized that principles of academic integrity, honesty, and reliability are foundational to all academic endeavours in higher education institutions from a secular standpoint. However, the Bible goes further, revealing the shocking eternal consequences of betraying truth and adopting utilitarian means to disseminate it – actions abhorrent to God, with whom truth resides.

Rev Ronald Kalifungwa, serving at the African Christian University in Zambia, pointed out that theological leaders must maintain a committed, intimate and dedicated relationship with the local body of believers and not hide in the corridors of seminaries. Dr John-Paul Harper, senior lecturer at the George Whitfield College, reflected on the urgent need for theological educators to familiarise themselves with technologies such as AI and to design their assessments in the light of the fact that these tools are publicly available.

Rev. Tebogo Rakgalakane, leader of the logistics team, praised the three-day event as a profound blessing. He highlighted the diverse, well-prepared speakers as crucial to its success, noting, “The blend of academic expertise and pastoral insight was particularly encouraging and revitalizing. We pray for successful gatherings in the coming year to continue encouraging one another.”

Maintaining the integrity of Christian institutions requires a steadfast commitment to authenticity, biblical principles, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. While modern tools like AI can support educational efforts, they must be used with discernment and integrity, always reflecting the core values of the Christian faith.

All the recorded sessions are now available on the TEASA website. These MP3’s are free for download, offering valuable insights from the consultation this year.

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