a PhD in Biblical Studies?

should you get one?  Here is what Dave Black, professor of New Testament and Greek at SEBTS says on his blog (dated July 9, 2019):

There’s been a lot of online discussion lately about whether or not you should get a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies. So few jobs. So few opportunities. Such a major commitment of time and money. Are you sure you want to do this?

Big shock: If God calls you do to something, He will take care of the place of service. I wouldn’t accept doctoral students unless I believed that. If you’re not sure, ask yourself: What does it seem that God has predisposed me toward? Do I love to teach? Do I really and truly enjoy research and writing? As in: Nerd Alert. Then, as God begins to move you in a certain direction, obey. Go with it. It’s God’s responsibility to gift you. It’s yours to show yourself obedient. God has spoken clearly on this matter (1 Cor. 12:4-6). Since the Spirit has gifted you, the Lord will appoint you to a place where you can exercise that gift, and the Father will determine the results of your service. Certainly you’re taking a big risk. But all of life is like that. Christianity is an adventure. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t need faith.

Believer, God has equipped you to love, to serve, to minister to others. Spend time with the Spirit today. Ask Him to point you in the right direction. If you’re already using His gift to serve others, thank Him for it. There is hardly anything more rewarding in this world.

Well, some different things have happened for me.  I got into a Chaplain Residency program and began to see a possible new place for me in ministry since I knew through repeated experiences that pastoring a church was out of the question.  So I’ve gone with it.  I’ll admit it’s been a challenge.  Getting a hospital chaplain job is hard, and I spent two years working in an unhealthy hospice office situation.  I have the skill sets to be a chaplain, I just have had some pretty negative experiences.  But I have also had some good ones too.  Like Dave says, you follow the leading of the Spirit and go where he leads.  The righteous shall live by faith and not by sight.  We can’t always go with what we see and or experience.  We have to trust the leading of the Spirit and go with him.

Even so, I know I have a calling and a gifting for being a teacher in the body of Christ.  I have waited a long time and even contemplated going to get a Ph.D. with Dave at SEBTS (not that that is needed to serve the church in teaching, by no means whatsoever).  Circumstances prevented that and it’s okay.  Sometimes, in a life of faith, we see an opportunity, we strike while the iron is hot, we make a move, and it pays off.  Other times, as challenging as it can be, we wait on the Lord for his timing, even years and or decades and pass as we faithfully wait. Debbie did her DMin and I worked and supported her while she did that.  It’s paid off.  She’s now on as full-time faculty at Grand Canyon University and its a HUGE lift for our family.

Last year April I was let go from the toxic hospice situation I was in.  I was hard but I was burning out and getting frustrated with the circumstances.  I had been praying for a change and asking God what to do.  I didn’t know I was going to be fired.  But about two weeks prior to that I had found out about a doctoral program at Evangelical Seminary in Myerstown, PA.  They started a new ThD.  When I learned about it I thought, could this be it?  I started praying for an opportunity to do the program.  I applied and was accepted.  But then, it happened that we needed to move back to Arizona because things were not working out for us in eastern North Carolina.  The move resulted in our moving in with Debbie’s parents for a year and my delaying the ThD program.  We prayed we’d get good work so we could support ourselves and move forward with our lives.  The GCU job was the biggest answer to our prayers yet thus far in our marriage, we’ve ever had.   I will be starting up with the ThD in August with the first residency in September.  I have my concerns but the path is open and I know the Lord will make a way.  How? Because so far he has.

Following the Lord isn’t always smooth sailing and can get rough at times.  In the end it will be worth it.


Mark 1 and the Signs of the Kingdom

I’ve begun reading the gospel of Mark with my family on Sunday nights for our weekly family devotions, I read a chapter to them and then ask questions and talk about what we read. I have a 12-year-old, a 9-year-old, and a 2-year-old. The 2-year-old isn’t involved as much of course. And, well, it’s a process with the older ones. I don’t push it hard with them.  I’m just wanting them to think a little.

In chapter 1 of Mark I had an interesting realization. Sometimes reading the Bible aloud can have that effect. It makes you hear things differently and have realizations.  Some people call them “revelations.” As I was reading, I started to see a theme emerging.  It happened after I had read v. 14 and 15:

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (2011 NIV)

And was somewhat further supported when I got to verse 35-38:

35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” 

38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. (2011 NIV)

I had realized something.  It seemed that Mark was wanting to convey something early on in his Gospel and that is: the signs of the kingdom follow the proclamation of the kingdom.

My realization was that the theme flowed out of Jesus’s proclamation: “The kingdom of God has come near.  Repent and believe the good news!

This was a question I asked of the text: how do we know the Kingdom of God has come near?  The answer is found in continuing to read on in Mark 1.

As we read on, we see that Jesus calls his disciples, he drives out an evil spirit in the synagogue, he heals Simon’s mother-in-law and many others; (pause: he goes to a lonely place to pray and recharge), he heals a man with leprosy.

I don’t know why yet, but the realization just has sat with me.  It’s been ruminating.  The message of “the gospel” (the good news) is that the kingdom of God has come near.  And how do we know that?  We know it because of the signs and wonders that follow this proclamation.

Signs and wonders followed Jesus’ proclamation of the gospel – God was here and he is on the move! People were repenting. People were being healed and delivered. Evil spirits were being driven out.  Mark starts his gospel out with Jesus on the move!

This makes me think of Mr. Beaver’s declaration to the Pevensie kids in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He drew them in close and said to them quietly but affirmatively, “Aslan is on the move!” and how with that, winter came to an end. How did they know? Because the snow was melting.

The arrival of Jesus on the scene in Palestine signifies that the Kingdom of God has come and Satan’s rule is over.  We now live in a world that is ruled by God and not the devil. We can live and reign with him and see his kingdom extended all over the world. Let us  “Repent and believe the good news!”

Embedded and Deliberative Theology

this is an OLD post here, but contains two very important concepts for Christians to understand about Christian Theology.

Seeking the Kingdom

Recently I read a book called How to Think Theologically by Howard Stone and James Duke. In it they argue that one fundamental aspect of being Christian (and I would argue being human) is that we ought to intentionally think – and to think theologically.

First, we need to understand what theology is, which they define as a “seeking after understanding – a process of thinking about life in the light of the faith that Christians engage in because of their calling.”[1] Because theological reflection is a process, it centers on two common practices: listening and questioning. This back and forth movement encourages humility.

I love the idea that Christian theology is at its root a matter of faith seeking understanding. It is a deceivingly simple idea that is also complex. There are two types of theology that we all have: embedded and deliberative. Embedded theology is what…

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Taking Every Thought Captive – What does it mean?

this is really good – give it a read

Reuben Smith, MS, PLPC Mental Health and the Church

Judy approaches her friends at church and reveals that she is struggling with persistent doubt and depression. She tells them she reads her Bible every day, prays, attends church, and serves others. “But the thoughts keep intruding” she confesses. One of her friends gently takes her by the hand, looks into her eyes with great concern, and says “Judy, you just need to take those thoughts captive and make them obey Christ.” The people in the circle nod in agreement and Judy politely thanks her friend. They pray together and then continue with the church activities. Judy goes home feeling much better. Later that afternoon, the depressive thoughts return in earnest. Judy is perplexed. Didn’t she and her friends “capture” these thoughts? Why are they back? Judy’s faith is strong and her friends mean well. But she cannot comprehend how to “capture her thoughts” which have plagued her for years…

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Did Jesus Preach to Dead People After He Died?

sharing here to read later

Epiphanies and Orthodoxy

There is a very peculiar passage of Scripture in the first book of Peter which seems to suggest that Jesus went to preach the Gospel of repentance to those who had already been condemned to hell! What makes this passage even more peculiar is that it is set in the context of a perfectly sensible and unsurprising passage all about suffering for doing what is right.

Direct translation:

He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in/by which also he went/having gone and preached to the spirits in prison. He preached to those who formerly disobeyed, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. (1 Peter 3:18-20)

As we read this direct translation a number of questions arise:

  1. When it says Christ was “made alive…

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Nouwen on Listening – QOTD

Listening as Spiritual Hospitality:

To listen is very hard, because it asks of us so much interior stability that we no longer need to prove ourselves by speeches, arguments, statements, or declarations. True listeners no longer have an inner need to make their presence known. They are free to receive, to welcome, to accept. Listening is much more than allowing another to talk while waiting for a chance to respond. Listening is paying full attention to others and welcoming them into our very beings. The beauty of listening is that, those who are listened to start feeling accepted, start taking their words more seriously and discovering their own true selves. Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends, to get to know their inner selves more fully, and even to dare to be silent with you.

Shared from here.

on 1 Tim 2:11-15 – the context

I want to take a couple of posts and share how I see the “flow of thought” of 1 Timothy and how that “flow of thought” I think impacts the interpretation of what is often a very controversial passage in the Bible – one about whether women can teach or have any sort of “authority” in the church.  I really intend just to look at the first couple of chapters and not necessarily the whole book as a way to show you my thought process.

To start off I would like to remind us all of a rudimentary aspect of learning to read and understand the Bible.   That is…

A text taken out of context is a pretext for a proof-text.

What this means is that one cannot just take a Bible verse and make it mean something all on its own without giving it some context.  When we do that it ends up being a proof-text for whatever we want it to say. In my opinion, this happens with 1 Timothy 2:12, which, in the NIV, reads:

I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;[a] she must be quiet. (the footnote reads “or her husband.”)

This verse alone, in many churches, keeps women from being able to teach anything in the church but children’s church (often up to 5th grade).  It’s also used by folks like John Piper to argue that because of this verse, women cannot serve as pastors in churches, (preach or teach from the pulpit), therefore, neither can they teach in seminary where men are being trained for the pulpit.

In other churches – many have made exceptions and will allow women to teach but not be the senior pastor because of the authority issue.

In my personal opinion, I think this is proof-texting.  Using a verse out of context to push one’s own personal preference on an interpretation or church practice.

So, I want to do a little flow through the text here to help build a case, from the text, that this verse doesn’t mean what many often try to say it means.

After the brief introduction, Paul begins… (following the NIV here for simplicity’s sake)

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.  Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. [bold and underlined, etc are my own]

Right off the bat Paul is telling Timothy to watch out for false teaching – he is to command people not to teach false doctrines – this was the purpose of Timothy being there in Ephesus – to combat the false teachings and promotion of myths and genealogies and meaningless talk.  Paul says many want to be teachers but they don’t know (or understand) what they are talking about – it seems they are unlearned and given to meaningless talk. This is a distraction, he says, from what they’re supposed to be doing, “advancing God’s work.”

This paragraph is important to the overall context of the letter.  It sets that context (and the tone) – false teaching was a problem and it seems many want to teach who did not know what they were talking about – they weren’t well trained or educated you could say – so Timothy was to command them to stop.

I’m going to stop here and pick up in the next post working towards our main verse to show how it fits within the false teaching context and not necessarily as a for all time forbidding of women serving in pastoral ministry.