Tag Archives: academics

I Teach Because I’m Lazy

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Every teacher, or aspiring teacher, has their own motivation for choosing teaching as a career. For some, the pursuit of riches and fame lures them into the enchanted forest of the academy. Unfortunately, such a life, or so I’m told, shares a den with the unicorn and other elusive creatures. The labor and discipline of teaching soon delivers a swift wake-up call to an otherwise blissful fantasy. For others, fascination with a particular field drives a sustained interest to spread abroad one’s passion, in hopes that the world will be a better place for it. For, as any specialists knows, your field is the most important for the advancement of human civilization (akin to a parent who thinks their child is the “most special,” when in fact they are ordinary at best).

Though I would scarcely turn down fortune (fame I could do without), and do have a genuine passion for biblical studies, a prominent motivation for my desire to teach is altogether different. In short, I want to teach because I am by nature lazy. Let me explain.

I once had a conversation with my college pastor about his motivation for entering the ministry. I was not expecting the response he provided. Among other things, he said, “If I didn’t have to preach every week, I wouldn’t spend as much time in the text as I do.” This statement brought a startling degree of clarity.

You see, I am one of those students of biblical literature who believe that they actually have something to say about who God is, the fallen condition of man, and the person and work of Jesus Christ. Yet far too often, to my shame, I do not devote the time and energy to study the text that I ought. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

On the other hand, I take the tasking of teaching very seriously. The warning of James 3:1 practically has been seared onto my retinae. I’ve found that when I am expected to open the Scriptures before others, I discipline myself to study all the more. As a Christian, my desire is to better know God and understand the Bible; what it meant, how we got it, and what it means for the Church today. In my own experience, preparing to teach helps get me there. And while this is not my only motivation for wanting to teach, it has been a means of grace to grow in disciplining myself for the sake of godliness.

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Some Helpful Guidelines for Evangelical Scholarship

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For Evangelicals who traverse the waters of biblical Scholarship, the tension between the critical study of the Bible and reverence for it as the inspired Word of God hangs in a delicate balance. While it is popular to simply write off Evangelicals as enemies of progress who unnecessarily resist the tides of contemporary scholarly opinion, others recognize the presence of presuppositions on both sides of the divide.

As those who have been saved by grace, Evangelicals cannot reduce the Bible to just another literary product of the ancient world. Rather, Evangelicals must seriously think through the various issues that intersect in our doctrine of Scripture. Questions of historical matters and textual problems must be addressed; context and canon must be understood; and, the place of reason and faith must be weighed. For the Church of Jesus Christ to be built, truth must be the catalyst for our endeavor.

Though these issues can be complex, the Baker Academic Blog has  posted a list of Ten Guidelines for Evangelical Scholarship from NT scholar Donald Hagner. This list synthesizes the central points of the matter, allowing for both an appreciation for the humanity of Scripture, notwithstanding its divine origin. As those with a high view of Scripture, Evangelicals must learn think critically, all the while proclaiming the good news of our resurrected king.

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Write Like a Dead Man

Many writers have trembled at the prospect of publishing their work, knowing that their readership could disapprove of, or worse, refute, their thesis. There have been many times I have sat paralyzed before my computer, discouraged before authoring a single word. While writing can be a blessing to both yourself and your audience, it can also be a point of sanctification.

Charles Halton has recently posted four tips for better writing. The fourth tip was the one that best captured my attention: Write as if you’re dead. Based on advice that author Jeffrey Eugenides gave to young writers, Halton concludes his list by suggesting that you write as though your work would be published posthumously. Without the fear of failing to measure up to the expectations (self-imposed?) of the guild, you can be free to make your contribution. I found this tip to be profoundly helpful as I have often found myself in a place where this advice could greatly increase my productivity.

Yet further, from a biblical perspective, one can identify the root of much such fear, namely pride. Though we may have something valuable to add to a public discussion, we can be hindered because of the lingering thoughts that someone may not think our work is as great as we think it is.

As I write, I frequently remind myself of passages such as Proverbs 29:25, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in Yahweh is safe.” Rather than writing to please, in an ultimate sense, my target audience, crippled by fear of how they may receive my proposal, I am to write as one who trusts in the Lord. For after we depart from this world, the approval of the guild is not ultimately what matters, but rather, whether we were faithful to our calling.

So do not allow fear to corrupt your creative process. Write as one who is free. Write like a dead man.

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Can You Skip 1st year Greek?

Over the course of my studies, I have met scores of seminary students who have told me their plan to study the bare bones of elementary Greek in order to “knock out” the required language courses, hoping all the while to gain proficiency in Bible software programs to aid them in their ministries. A couple weeks ago, Rod Decker posted some observations on this approach. His comments are well worth reading. He asks in conclusion, “do you want to learn Greek (or Hebrew)? Or do you want to learn software?” This is a warning that all ministers should note in their use of the original languages, as we have all seen the danger of their misuse.

See Decker’s comments here

Another classic resource is Don Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies 

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