Even during Finals week, we must rest.

To all my teacher and student friends who are still going with school… the below is adapted from an e-devotional I wrote that went out over email to Gordon students in December 2011.

fallow field

It may seem strange to talk about Sabbath-keeping during end-of-the-semester crunch time. Who has any time to spare for rest, let alone a whole day?

Last week I was reading from Exodus during Morning Prayer, with the people with whom my family lives in intentional community. Exodus 34:21 jumped out at me, “Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.”

Regardless of our familiarity with agrarian lifestyles and metaphors, this text speaks to us of a God who invites his people into rest. Sabbath-keeping, as with all of God’s commandments, brings life to those who keep it.  Even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.

You all are in the midst of final papers and exams—you likely can’t just up and take a day off, since that might mean missing an important exam. But you can seek pockets of rest, times to sit down in God’s presence and ask for him to guide you through all your comings and goings. If Israel must rest even during their plowing season and harvest, we ought to seriously consider following this timeless pattern, taking rest even during our busiest seasons.

So close your email. Go to bed (especially if you’re reading this at 3am). Go outside and walk around (even if it’s raining). Go eat a snack and talk to a friend. Some of you will need more encouragement to this than others, of course, but heed well God’s life-giving words. Even during Finals week, we must rest.

A Prayer for Difference amidst Unity, and Unity amidst Difference

Gordon's Beyond Colorblind logo
Gordon’s Beyond Colorblind logo

Does race matter? Is ethnicity important? How do cultural backgrounds affect our everyday lives?

This week at Gordon College we have a special emphasis week, BEYOND COLORBLIND:

BEYOND COLORBLIND is a focus week to help start new conversations about race and culture on campus.  We hope the lectures and discussions help us consider how our racial and cultural identities and experiences shape our views of ourselves, others, and God.

You can watch the first large group session of the week (chapel) here. Richard Twiss was the main speaker. It’s well worth your time.

Two weeks ago I shared a prayer for the first day of school. Today I’m sharing the congregational prayer we prayed in unison this morning in chapel. This came after the passing of the peace.

God, lover of all people,
Creator of all nations,
We praise you for all that you have made.

Thank you for the rich mosaic that is the body of Christ.
Thank you for difference amidst unity,
for unity amidst difference.

Give us a spirit of understanding and appreciation of each other.
Help us to see your image clearly in those around us.

Bless us now as we gather,
and may we declare your praises with our whole lives,
through our risen Lord Jesus.
Amen.

Find out more about the week here.

A prayer for the first day of school

2012 to 2013
 
This semester is the first day of classes at Gordon. This morning in chapel I led us in a responsive prayer, offering thanksgiving and petition to God at the start of a new semester. I offered the prayer in italics, then we all as one congregation read the bold responses.

For the start of a new semester and all the promise that it holds:

We give you thanks, our God.

For the joy we have in seeing friends for the first time in a month:

We give you thanks, our God.

For those with whom we live in dorms, apartments, and houses:

We give you thanks, our God.

For the chance to gather freely in worship:

We give you thanks, our God.

For all that we will learn: in the classroom, in this worship space, in Lane, in labs, in practice rooms, in the library, in relationships, on campus and off campus:

We give you thanks, our God.

For wisdom for all students, staff, and faculty, as we seek to offer God our very best in all that we do:

Lord, please be near us.

For family relationships that we’ve invested in over the last month but now step away from in some ways:

Lord, please be near us.

For perseverance and diligence in our studies:

Lord, please be near us.

For healthy sleep patterns, motivation to exercise, self-control in eating good, healthy foods:

Lord, please be near us.

For those areas of life in which we struggle, where we despair, and for those things of which we are ashamed:

Lord, please be near us.

Praising God through Academic Biblical Studies: Less Hypermodernist Objectivism, More Affect!

Why such an emphasis on wanting to get as close to the “original text” of the Bible as possible? Or, as some scholars call it, the “earliest attainable text”?

Earlier this week I wrote a bit about scholarly editions of the Jewish Scriptures, both the Greek and the Hebrew.

But I began asking myself today, why am I so interested in a rigorous scholarly pursuit of the text of the Bible in Hebrew and Greek?

One reason is that I love to learn. On the Strengthsfinder assessment I came out with “Learner” as my top strength both times I took the test. “Achiever” was not far behind. (See here for the descriptions of the 34 strengths themes in that assessment.) Here’s an excerpt from the description of the “Learner” strength that applies to me:

You love to learn. The subject matter that interests you most will be determined by your other themes and experiences, but whatever the subject, you will always be drawn to the process of learning. The process, more than the content or the result, is especially exciting for you. You are energized by the steady and deliberate journey from ignorance to competence.

All true, except that when it comes especially to my pursuit of biblical studies, the process, the content, and the result are “especially exciting” for me.

Why?

The late Arthur Holmes articulates beautifully:

Christ the Truth becomes the dominant motivation in intellectual inquiry. No dichotomy of sacred and secular tasks can be allowed, and no subject is exempt.

The student will therefore welcome truth and submit to it wherever it is found, out of obedience to Christ. Academic work becomes an opportunity to extend the Lordship of Christ over the mind; thought merges into worship.

“Thought merges into worship.” I love this. And I think this is why–more than just being a “Learner”–I so love to delve into the depths of Scripture, in the most “original” form that I possibly can.

I’m not overly fastidious about Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic–as if God really spoke through those languages and then anything else is just mediated and somehow a dilution of God’s actual words. (Isn’t all language already mediation anyway?) If the word of God is “living and active,” it can be living and active in its faithful translations into other languages.

But one reason I geek out so much about the Septuagint and the Hebrew Bible is that in my study I feel myself getting closer to that amazing time when God gave his word to humanity to be transmitted to future generations: first orally, then in written form. And I love seeing how the translators of the Hebrew Bible wrestled with putting the Hebrew into Greek. I love seeing how the New Testament writers grappled with, contextualized, and recontextualized the Old Testament.

I don’t even mind that at the moment I’m a bit perplexed by how Paul could both praise the law as being from God yet also refer to it as a “the ministry that brought death.”

Why?

Because for me, as of late, my thoughts and my studies of Scripture–even at a scholarly level–have begun to “[merge] into worship.” How can I not praise the God behind these amazing words? Though we may never know what the autograph of any part of Scripture actually said, I believe we can get close.

And somehow the closer I get to the text of the Bible–in a scholarly setting–the closer I feel to God.

Not always, of course–sometimes I’m just confused. (Dash the heads of infants against rocks? And we pray these Psalms in liturgical settings???) But there’s been a real richness for me lately in delving into the Bible in its original languages, comparing variant readings across manuscripts and versions, trying to figure out why one Synoptic Gospel said it this way, why this one said it another way…. Even in seeking to answer those questions, I know that I am seeking more of God and God’s revelation.

This is not a taken-for-granted view of things in the field of biblical studies. Take this, for instance, from Michael V. Fox:

In my view, faith-based study has no place in academic scholarship, whether the object of study is the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or Homer. Faith-based study is a different realm of intellectual activity that can dip into Bible scholarship for its own purposes, but cannot contribute to it.

I haven’t contacted Michael V. Fox to confirm this, but I’d wager that what I’m describing above constitutes some sort of “faith-based study,” or at least, study that is informed by and that enriches faith.

But a bit more context from Fox:

The claim of faith-based Bible study to a place at the academic table takes a toll on the entire field of Bible scholarship. The reader or student of Bible scholarship is likely to suspect (or hope) that the author or teacher is moving toward a predetermined conclusion. Those who choose a faith-based approach should realize that they cannot expect the attention of those who don’t share their postulates. The reverse is not true. Scholars who are personally religious constantly draw on work by scholars who do not share their postulates. One of the great achievements of modern Bible scholarship is that it communicates across religious borders so easily that we usually do not know the beliefs of its practitioners.

I’m okay with trying to set aside a “predetermined conclusion,” though skeptical of that possibility. (Does Fox believe in the modernist project?)

Fox goes on, “The best thing for Bible appreciation is secular, academic, religiously-neutral hermeneutic.”

Sigh.

Taking the Psalms as an example, one cannot appreciate the Psalms who does not pray the Psalms. And wouldn’t good scholarship (religiously motivated or not) call for us to engage the text on the author’s terms? How can one do good scholarship on David, for example, if one is not willing to engage the text in the way that David intended for it to be engaged? If he wrote a Psalm for corporate singing or reciting, is the individual in her or his library carrel who seeks to bracket out faith commitments going to get anywhere near to uncovering the meaning and import of that Psalm until she or he sings it with others?

Fox’s whole article is here.

Parker Palmer has a good rejoinder:

Objectivism—which is a complete myth with respect to how real people have ever known anything real—has great political persuasiveness because it gives us the illusion that we are in charge.

But gospel truth, transformational truth, says that we are not masters but are subject to powers larger than ourselves—and that we are blessed with the chance to be co-creators of something good if we are willing to work in harmony with those larger powers.

If we embrace a gospel way of knowing, we can create a different kind of education and perhaps a different world: a world where all of us are called to embody whatever truth we know; where we gather together with others to check, correct, confirm, and deepen whatever insights we may have; where we understand that, even as we seek truth, truth is seeking us; and where there can be those vital transformations, personal and social, that might take us a step closer to the beloved community.

So when it comes to biblical studies, I say: less hypermodernist objectivism, more affect! Let’s allow our thoughts–as Dr. Holmes suggested–to merge into worship; our studies into praise; our reading into praying.

My quest for the earliest attainable text of the Bible, I am realizing, is driven by scholarly interest and a general drive to learn, yes. But more than that, I want to know God more fully through this academic pursuit. My insatiable desire to master Greek noun declensions, Hebrew verb parsings, and intertextual allusions is in the end a desire to be mastered by the God who stands behind the words of Scripture.

But that kind of a posture doesn’t compromise scholarship, in my view. It makes it richer, deeper, and directed toward its most proper end.

New President for Princeton Seminary

Princeton Seminary has just announced a new President, Reverend Dr. M. Craig Barnes:

The Board of Trustees of Princeton Theological Seminary is pleased to announce the unanimous election of the Reverend Dr. M. Craig Barnes as its seventh president, and as professor of pastoral ministry.  Barnes, a 1981 Master of Divinity graduate of Princeton, has also served as a trustee of the Seminary. Dr. Barnes currently serves as the Robert Meneilly Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Leadership at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and pastor of the 1,100-member Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh.

Here is the announcement in full.

BibleWorks 9 now runs natively on Macs

Big news from BibleWorks today. BibleWorks 9 now runs natively on a Mac. And there’s a free way Mac users who own BibleWorks 9 can do it. Read all about it here.

I’m looking forward to taking it for a spin.

See links to all six parts of my BibleWorks 9 review here.

UPDATE 10/4/12: Shoot! It’s no longer going to be available for free, and at the moment (10/4/12), it’s not available at all:

10/4/2012: Due to licensing restrictions, it turns out that we will have to offer the BibleWorks 9 Mac Public Preview through our webstore. We’re sorry for the inconvenience, but if you check back here early next week, we should have it available again!

Hopefully this gets ironed out soon. I’d love to use BibleWorks on a Mac.

UPDATE 2, 10/4/12: See here.

My Accordance 10 review: all six parts (plus Beale/Carson module review)

Here, collected in one place, are all six parts of my review of the Bible software program Accordance 10, as well as my two-part review of the Accordance module for Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, edited by G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson.

Part 1In which I finally try out Accordance Bible Software for Mac (new version 10!)

Part 24 Cool Features in Accordance 10

Part 33 Powerful Ways to Search in Accordance 10

Part 4The Original Languages Collection in Accordance 10 meets Septuagint Sunday

Part 5Accordance 10: Bells and Whistles

Part 6: More Bells and Whistles in Accordance 10

Review of Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, edited by G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson:
part 1 / part 2.

UPDATE: Go here to see my comparative review of BibleWorks, Accordance, and Logos.

UPDATE 12/29/12: Here I review the User Notes feature.

Thanks again to Accordance for the review copies of the Original Languages Collection and the Beale/Carson module. Five stars for all of the above.