Steve Delamarter Teaches Creation Theology in Cairo
Steve Delamarter’s passion for the Bible is obvious. But his face also lights up when he talks about the “book of creation,” a key piece in the creation theology course he taught at Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (ETSC). Dr. Delamarter, Professor of Old Testament Studies at Portland Seminary, spent the month of January (2015) teaching and consulting at the Egypt seminary.
Ninety percent of people in Egypt are Islamic, Delamarter points out. The other 10 percent are Christian, and 90 percent of those Christians are Orthodox. The remaining group—one percent of the overall Egyptian population—is Protestant, and most of those Protestants are in some way connected to ETSC. Founded in 1863 and first housed on a ship on the Nile, the seminary has grown into a lively residential campus, where students study, live, share meals, and relax together.
Recently, the ETSC faculty began talking about making their community more accessible through distance education programs, but lack of familiarity with online coursework caused the concept to feel unwieldy. Since Delamarter does consulting for the Wabash Center around distance-education issues, he recognized this an area where he could assist ETSC. Delamarter hosted two plenary sessions, and also held one-on-one consultations to help individual faculty members envision what their courses might look like in an online format.
Teaching the creation theology course, the other component of Delamarter’s trip, was a collaborative effort between Delamarter and his wife, Beth Habecker, a neuroscientist at Oregon Health & Science University. After spending the first hour of each three-hour face-to-face class session immersed in the creation texts of the Bible, the class spent the second hour looking into the book of creation. For this second portion, Delamarter, who teaches the course “Spirituality and the Heavens” at GFES, led the Cairo students into a cosmology journey, while Habecker opened up for them the world of neurobiology. Delemarter explains that with the help of a translator, he “went up into the
universe…and Beth went down into the tiny parts.”
The final hour of each session Delamarter and Habecker devoted to looking into the implications of creation theology for the world today. While concepts of ecotheology were new for the students, Delamarter describes the students as “bright and energetic” and willing to wrestle with pressing issues such as water scarcity and the current building of an enormous dam in Ethiopia on one of the branches of the Nile. Engaging in case studies required scouring the Bible for references to Egypt, the Nile, and Ethiopia, and thinking intently about the biblical flood narrative, while also listening to creation itself. “The book of creation does a similar thing that creation texts do,” Delamarter explains. He goes on to recount God asking Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” and the psalmist pondering, “When I consider your heavens…what is humankind that you are mindful of them?” The biblical texts and the book of creation “have a common function of…showing you your place.” Delamarter shares.
Before returning to the U.S., Delamarter spent a pleasant day catching up with GFES alumna Kristen Leber, who is living and working in Egypt. But the one experience Delamarter calls truly “sensational” was going up two thousand feet in a hot air balloon with Habecker, and watching the sun rise over Luxor—their own personal glimpse into another page of the awe-inspiring book of creation.
Article by Sierra S. Neiman