Nearly three years ago I applied for and was accepted into a 78-credit hour Masters of Divinity in Theology program. I later attempted to reduce my workload and transferred into the more reasonable 50-credit hour Masters of Arts in Biblical Studies degree. I am now out of quarters, as they say, and have decided to cut my losses. I will leave with the 24-credit hour Graduate Certificate in Biblical and Theological Studies to show for my efforts. I have 56 credit hours total, but stubbornly and, I believe, biblically, I refused to complete the required thesis and thus forego the actual graduate degree.
24 of the other 32 hours I passed were in ancient languages. When it comes to scholarship, I prefer word study to anything else. How precisely do words work? Answering that is endlessly fascinating to me.
I confess that I would have loved to see future bio’s read, “Pete earned his Master’s of Divinity…” or hear, “…Pete comes to us having earned his Master’s…” But I had to do things my way. The truth is that I think the theological and biblical higher education degrees are the paper equivalent of bullshit. There. I said it.
First of all, any title that can generically cover studies in several religions are misleading from the beginning. Divinity? Who’s soul has divinity saved? You know the answer is, “No one’s,” and you don’t have a degree in Divinity. Amazing!
Secondly, the Bible is full of very intelligible words. Words like mountain, rock, rain, serpent, turn, and blood. Unity is another one. By my thinking, if we are not in unity as Christians, it often means we’re simply off topic. Let’s admit it. For Christians, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only topic. See for yourself if you doubt me. In any case, talk about it. Reconciling evolution with creation is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you enjoy engaging in that type of mental gymnastic and know others who do too, by all means talk about it. If you lose friends over it, don’t talk about it; skip it like you would a difficult crossword puzzle. Keep the unity.
Thirdly, if I ran a seminary today, to accurately communicate to the fallen world what I was doing, I would confer to graduates only one degree: a Masters of Power. And I definitely would not recommend anyone enroll at my school. Can you imagine someone claiming to have earned a degree in power? And how could power be taught by books? What a joke he’d be. My first question to the new man-of-letters would be, “Which power, exactly? The wind? Heat? Speed? Darkness? Light? Forgiveness? Love? Make an actual claim, man!”
As it is, “Masters of Divinity” or “MA in Theology” plays only on a bygone era’s final unbroken string and merely reassures church-goers that they don’t need to read their Bible for themselves. Divinity and Theology are so general that their teaching solely requires that the institution’s curriculum be limited to trending positive ideas. But the Masters of Power degree, my way, would necessarily demand further specification. And instead of reassuring church-goers that they’re not being duped by some hack with a Bible, it would be an excellent metric by which to measure the preacher. Is he preaching that there’s power in some book? Power in some culture? Power in guilt and remorse? Or is he preaching that there is power in the Blood of Jesus? Power in the Word of God? Power in repentance? Power in holiness? Surely we all possess the mental faculties to discern the difference between these things.
Here me clearly: Jesus Christ is Lord of all. He holds all power. The adversary, the great serpent of old is defeated. This is good news. If someone let’s you know they disagree with this, thank them for their honesty and then pray that the Holy Spirit uses you to reveal Christ to them. When answering questions (they will have them) stick to Scripture and the spirit of Scripture. Think of yourself as the translator. You know their vocabulary and you know the Word of God. Be the friend they need. Feed them. In doing so, you’ll help them see the good news that they are already free.
No different than the school shootings, we all have opinions on liberal education. Oh, you may disagree in this moment, but watch this: What do you think? Are all entitled to receive a liberal education or only the wealthy and powerful?
See what I mean?
Endearing Backstory: My school’s library had apparently been amassing donations of book sets for a few years and last Monday morning there was a long awaited sale. Each book cost a mere $2, but the catch was you had to purchase the entire set. I had heard rumor (cuz im sooo street) that they had a set of the famed Great Books of the Western World (hereafter GBWW). $126 poorer, and I am the proud owner of that 54 volume set. (They had 53 volumes=$106. I had to track down the missing volume on Amazon for $20. It’s best not to dwell on such things.)
Volume One explains and defends the project. There is no better title for it than The Great Conversation. I would know, because, as you know, I love conversation. According to Hutchins et al. however, what I actually love is the freedom to converse. No argument here. And inherent to our beloved way of life–as presented in GBWW–is the belief in liberal education for all. Put another way, we believe everyone gets a say and no one has the last word.
The one critique I have of the project is that Hutchins writes that the editorial board believes the–now 118 year–lack of teaching great books will be viewed by future historians as an aberration. I am happy to read such clear writing, but where I distinguish myself from Hutchins is that I believe that the lack of teaching the great books, whether someday viewed as an aberration or not, manifests something much worse. It is the evidence that in some very meaningful, though elusive, sense we are no longer the Western World.
Western Civilization, the great conversation it has had, ends with silence.
So speak up, I say! For Christ’s sake, speak up!
In my last two posts (three if you include the book review) I have done my best to indicate that while I disagree with you, I do hear what you’re saying. I’m now asking, do you hear me?
In a surprising turn of events for me, whereas I initially wanted to effectively smear your claim, I have instead concluded that at the root of your claim, you are calling for the law. This is a very reasonable claim, a very humane claim. But there is a problem with it.
You think these shootings, the school ones especially, evidence that we are living in a state of chaos–in some situation similar to that which is before the law–and you desire to do something about it.
However, the law is already here. We are not in a state of chaos in the United States of America. Several hundred, perhaps even one thousand people have broken the law in the last twenty years in ways that previously seemed unimaginable. This is new, yes, but it is not chaos.
Hear me now. These events do not indicate that we have returned to the state of nature. They do not even indicate that we are in a trajectory towards the return to the state of nature.
Do you hear me? I’m asking you to listen. I listened to you. It’s the least you can do.
The law is not determined by elections. You (meaning literally you, the person reading this, and not meaning the generic “anyone”), you cannot vote the law out or in.
What to do?
The only option you have is to amend the Constitution of the United States of America, and that is a very real option which I do believe we (you and I–folks who disagree) should examine through civil discourse. But I wonder if you even know how it is done? If you do not, then you definitely are in no position to accomplish this possibly desirable task.
I know you don’t want to hear this, but I say this is the only option you have because I believe that every other option is anarchy–a subversive dismantling of the law. And this dismantling is a step in the opposite direction of what you want if you really want to keep certain firearms out of the hands of civilians while in the hands of the warriors.
In pictures from the marches, I saw a sign which said, “America, the world is watching.”
Do you hear them?
If you amend the Constitution, then we follow the footsteps and stand on the shoulders of our founders and teach the watching world the law. If you pass any other legislation–any whatsoever–then we demonstrate that we do not value the law. This, again, is the opposite of what you have said you desire.
And this is the precise point of disagreement.
Do you hear me?
The amendment is the precise point because I am confused by why you think there is any other option. I will listen and read anything you have which you think will help me see your point more clearly. I want the shootings to stop as much as you do.
Do you hear me?
This post is an exercise in the time-honored tradition of trying to state the opposition’s point of view.
As for Saturday’s events, as far as I can determine, two main claims were repeatedly made.
- We need to end gun violence. (Sir Paul McCartney and Yolanda Renee King)
- We need to keep weapons of war out of the hands of civilians. (Delaney Tarr and Cameron Kasky)
Regarding ending gun violence: it is not possible for me to imagine how to un-invent something as prevalent as guns, so I’ll not spend time assessing this claim.
Regarding keeping weapons of war out of the hands of civilians: I can imagine that, and so I’ll do my best to get to the heart of their desire.
Certainly the claim needs much more specificity. Surely they don’t mean to include knives (carried and used by warriors to this day), just as they surely do not believe other weapons of war (nuclear bombs) are obtainable by civilians. I also do not believe they intend to keep revolvers or single-shot rifles out of the hands of civilians. Nor do I think they wish to keep pump-action shotguns or the like out of civilians’ hands. In short, I think I feel the pulse of the claim rightly when I say that they desire to keep away from civilians any gun that resembles an AR-15, with its incredibly powerful and quickly replaceable “banana” clip (or the “I-always-thought-that-was-a-handle” thing).
Put another way, at the risk of oversimplifying things to an unfeeling level, the opposition to the status quo wants to make sure the star shape is only placed into the star opening.
This seems sensible, and yet the trouble with this view is that through it the opposition to status quo shows that it has not taken into account two very pertinent facts.
First, make no mistake, these shootings–beginning with Columbine–if not earlier, are acts of war, and to win a war you do not disarm the good guys.
Second, this is not a war against flesh and blood. Until the opposition understands the power of the Gospel, the limitless power of grace, they are fighting for the losing side.
The LORD has never lost a battle and he is captain of every army.
My semester has ended. Over the course of it I wrote three papers. If you’d like to read any of them, just let me know and I’ll send ’em your way.
I called the first,
Exegetical Paper on Proverbs 1:1-16.
It was for a class on Biblical Hebrew, but is written in English. Though, I will warn you that many of the English words I had to use are essentially a foreign language. It includes sentences like, “Specifically, the many infinitives with which the book opens cause many to attempt to clarify just what exactly they mean and who exactly the audience is.” And this gem, “To begin, we read the names David, Solomon, and Israel.”
Now that I think of it, it’s probably best if you skip this one in favor of just reading that proverbial passage here.
Next, I wrote this doozy,
2 Samuel 6:12-23:
Side-by-Side Comparison of the 2006 Rahlfs-Hanhart Septuaginta Text with the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia Text, English Translations of the Same, and A Brief Treatment of the Discrepancies along with Several Resultant—and Short—Exegetical Considerations.
It’s probably my best work of the semester–including over 13 pages of handwritten Hebrew and Greek, and includes sentences like, “Given some of the BHS text’s morphemes’ ability to contain what later became several RH morphemes, a reckoning of additions to the BHS in the RH amounts to twenty-one morphemes (of the three hundred eighteen total) which cannot be accounted for by the preformatives, sufformatives, and direct object markers of the BHS text.”
As you can see for yourself, only about three people on the planet have the training required to read it–and two of them don’t care. So, again, the eternally better option is to just read the passage itself, which can be found here.
Thirdly, I wrote one which I called,
An Examination of an Early Passage of Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians in the Tradition of the Same Greeks from Whom the Apostle Paul Separated Himself
This one is by far the most important paper I wrote. It includes sentences like, “Against Paul’s elsewhere more clear rebuttals of the first two, being A. Torah as wisdom and 2. Docetism or Gnosticism, Corrington submits that what Paul is concerned with addressing here is the distinct notion that thirdly, wisdom itself was power.” And, “So, instead of that, Paul redirects his cessation sentiment and continues with indirect admonishing, and explains why they should not be with anyone except Christ.”
Again, you are much better off if you just click here to read the passage itself. Enjoy!
As I continue to share my summaries on my Septuagint (LXX) studies, I have come to realize how much I am assuming you know, and have concluded that that amount is too much.
First, this is my blog. I’m doing my best, but my aim is not much greater than sharing a curiosity of mine in an enjoyable way. Here are three books you need to read if you want to know more. Links to a certain, large online retailer are here, here, and here.
Now, let’s announce the problem. Well, it’s not a problem, it’s just life. I’ll just call it the intrigue. Here’s the intrigue. For protestants, our Old Testament is based on the Hebrew text known as the Masoretic Text. This text dates about one thousand years ago (all dates are debatable) to the 10th century A.D. Now, the Septuagint–the name for the Greek translations of the Hebrew Scriptures–is dated to 250 B.C. Naturally, that’s quite a bit earlier (1250 years). Everyone knows that the Septuagint is a translation. But we don’t have the text that it was translated from, so we call what we don’t have the parent text, or Vorlage (4-log-eyh if you’re cool). The Vorlage is what we hope to find. See the complexity?
Put another way, we have the translation (LXX) and know it is a translation–there is no dispute here at all. But we do not have the original (Vorlage). Then 1000 years later we have what is presumably the original, but cannot possibly be for at least 1000 reasons. And “no” the MT is not some weird and late translation of the LXX into Hebrew. The contents of the MT (Mastoretic Text) and LXX are close, but obviously not equivalent–no translation is. So what did the LXX translators have? That’s our question. Now you know.
To me, this is fascinating and enjoyable to pursue. Overall, though, it has nothing to do with blood. Ink on paper is not the blood of our Savior. Never forget this obvious truth.
The fact remains that in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead our heavenly Father “rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.“
I’m wearing down. I’ve been studying Hebrew nearly all day. I figure I have one more round of flashcards in me after I write this. Then the big final is in the morning.
This wraps up my third semester of studying ancient biblical languages (though, unlike Koine Greek, Hebrew is alive and well). I love it. Really, I do. I even switched my degree program and concentration so that I take more languages. But I have one big beef with the way the material is being presented. Often times we are told something like, “So because of this, then, we know we’re working with a nominative noun, and that’s how we know he meant ‘ship’.” Or what have you.
That’s flatly wrong. Grammar does not give words their meaning, we do. Grammar is a tool we invented to help communicate meaning, but at the end of the day, we give words their meaning–you and I.
Words are not transcendent. They are here. They are mine and they are yours. They are me. They are you.
Do you understand my words?
We are each responsible for our words’ meaning. It’s not like there are a bunch of words floating around and we just grab them out of the air and order them in some aurally or visually pleasant manner–no. We have something to say (or not) and then we begin to utter the words within us. Where do we get new words? People. How do we know what the new words mean? People tell us.
Looking for fun in unexpected places? Join me in telling “men of letters” that they give their words meaning. Sheesh. It’s like I was arguing for flat earth or something. It is quite frustrating. The more “educated” someone is, the more they desire, perhaps unwittingly, to turn words into numbers. Folks want each word to mean one thing and only one thing. This desire and the attempt to manifest the desire is selfish. By calling it selfish, I do mean to communicate clearly that I believe it is downright evil.
To be sure, if you’re ever confused about what I meant, just ask. I will tell you what my words mean. If I’m confused and ask what you meant, then you tell me what your words mean. This back and forth is called talking.
Welcome to Erff.
So, remember my anti-bad teachers rant(s)? Only moments ago, H- told me something that *I think* gave me a glimpse of heaven.
She said, “Dad, today I fell asleep at school.”
A bit shocked, I asked, “When? Where were you?”
She said, “While we were watching T.V.”
Yippee!!! Hallelujah!! She’s doing it! Victory!!
I said, “Will you do something for me?”
She answered, “What?”
“Will you fall asleep every time you watch TV?”
(See what I’m doing here?)
So, from now on, if my little ruse works, I’ll have contributed to a problem which proves the problem. I cannot wait for some teacher or administrator to address me about H-‘s sleeping habits at school. The very thought of that moment is, itself, nourishment to my soul.
Clever title, no? Last week I introduced that for my Christian character formation class I have committed myself to working on the Christian trait of humility. I shared this partly with the intent of demonstrating what such a process looks like for adult Christians seeking a bit more rigor in their faith (not to take credit for developing this method, but to give an example of what a masters degree program at an Evangelical seminary entails). One active practice that I am going to use to work on humility is a weekly blog post dedicated to reflection on how the process is coming along. Three hundred plus word reflection starts now.
It turns out I’m not very comfortable with the idea of blogging about humility. God has seen fit that I possess the ability to read word definitions and talking and writing about my thoughts on humility seems counter-humble. As evidence of this, when I look back on my blog most of my blog posts have been laced with pride. Many were much more than laced. I don’t regret any of my boastful posts or their evidence of self-righteousness or snarkyness, not at all. How could I? I’ve ended up on a good path and to look back and regret would be a mistake. But I do now see how maladjusted my attitude was. And I do repent of that. I’ve been blessed with too much goodness to be so prideful.
As a result of this, part of me wanted to just publish a blank post titled humility because that’s what I really think about the subject. But that would require me to tell my mentor or mentoring director that I bent the rules a bit on my plan (it requires a weekly 300+ word reflection on the process), which in turn would require justification, which in turn would require more talking, which in turn would require more pride, which is the opposite of my goal. So I’m not going with the blank creative “look at how clever I am” concept.
So the real question is, “How does one who has written so many words out of pride adopt a new attitude of humility?” with the follow-up, “…and be convincing to (possibly) the same readers?”
The first step seems to be to ensure the words convey that the end state of Christian humility is constant recognition of total dependence on God, the father almighty. At the moment I’d express this dependence by thanking God for the ability to blog over the past few years. He has provided me half-a-pea-sized brain and fingers and food and shelter and a laptop and internet connection. Most humans have not been so fortunate. And I want to thank the folks in my life, especially my brother-in-law and the members in Cherry Creek Toastmasters, for encouraging me to blog/write. I don’t believe they intended me to re-adopt Christianity (or be re-adopted by Christianity as it were), but I can’t imagine how I would’ve gotten to the point of working on humility without blogging and therefore without them.
Speaking of, one CCTM friend just emailed me a copy of C.S. Lewis’s “Weight of Glory” sermon last night (he’s never emailed me anything specifically Christian before) and as I read my class textbook today I came across portions of that very sermon/writing by Lewis (never mentioned before). Given the preponderance of “threes” when it comes to these things, we’ll just have to wait and see how Lewis’ work will next appear. And it is some solid writing. In the past I would’ve mocked this as coincidence. These days I am inclined to determine why God sees fit to impress upon me these specific ideas of Lewis’. So I thank God that friends aren’t afraid to share a bit of their life with me as I attempt to transform my own.
Another shift that I can’t help but notice as I’ve been specifically reading on humility and also memorizing the Psalms (which through Psalm 10:16 are in fact uniform on our dependence on God), is my thinking about my ex-wife regarding rearing H-. We were still married for H-‘s first two years, and I’ve said and written many times that she did a great job during those two years. But then I would continue by adding a malicious assessment of the reason (that only I–as her husband and confidant–knew) as to why she did a great job. Does that make sense? I would undercut the compliment with a punch to the throat that only I could deliver because of secrets I knew. Well, though I might not be able to explain it fully, these days I honestly don’t desire to punch. It’s not because I’m tired of punching, but because I can now see how God gave us H- despite ourselves. Her mom and I were just a couple of knuckleheads trying to live the American dream. So these days I just want to express gratitude to her for mothering and nurturing H- with an integrity and discipline that many contemporary American women simply don’t value.
I don’t have a conclusion here so I’m just going to use this admission as one.
When I was at the school house for my MH-53 Pavelow training, there was a moment when a young flight-engineer-in-training was lacking confidence and as such his performance was suffering. The instructor–knowing full well both that these moments are pivotal in men’s careers and that he has the responsibility to keep unsafe and unqualified aircrew out of the aircraft–broke down the situation simply. He told the young man, “Confidence is the direct result of knowledge. You need more knowledge. You need to study more.”
There is a fairly low-flying film called The Legend of 1900. It is a story about a virtuoso pianist who was born on and never leaves a ship that crosses the Atlantic Ocean back and forth repeatedly. There is a scene at the end of the movie where a passenger tells the virtuoso about a time when he looked out at the sea from land and heard the sea say, “Life. Life is immense.”
A friend asked if I could explain why Christians are having a hard time being brave enough to tell others that they are Christians. By my thinking there are a few reasons. First, it is very possible that some Christians are honestly unsure if they are Christians. The result being that they aren’t ready to broadcast their beliefs because they know they can’t defend them–and we all know that they will be asked to defend them. Second, some Christians know that they’re Christians without a doubt. But their life circumstances have led to them also not being confident or in the mood to defend their beliefs. Add to this that a result of unbelief is the belief that Christians are fools. The Apostle Paul mentions this. Naturally, nobody wants to be called a fool and then appear to be one when they can’t defend why they are not foolish at all. Third, Christianity is immense. It is practiced the world over and with great diversity outside of a few central tenets. I have grown up in the religion since kindergarten at a private christian school and even I didn’t learn this until last semester during a master’s program. I’m well-read for a lay-person, if that. I’m comfortable in public as a Christian because it takes about two topics for the average person to concede that their diet consists of hours of daily television brainwashing and mine doesn’t. When I talk to a Christian with a healthy diet of television, I become uncomfortable and I’ve seen that consequently make them uncomfortable. I’m sure the same is true for when they realize that their brainwashed-by-television self isn’t much different than the non-christian brainwashed-by-television self that questions their beliefs.
In my apologetics class the other day I asked if the professor had any evidence of certain settings being more favorable to winning converts. (He didn’t.) But then my mind started racing. There we were, about 30ish students and the professor. We’re all academically strong individuals. And we’re motivated. Additionally, we know that manipulation and real-deal cults that brainwash folks into membership exist. Yet we wouldn’t employ those tactics to increase membership–far from it. All we’re asking for non-believers to do is consider it–simply consider it. For example, during my undergraduate program the value of being able to argue from both sides of an issue was instilled in me. There are very few non-believers who are able to even defend Christianity for the sake of argument. The reason they should want to is simply Pascal’s wager. What exactly is lost for test-driving Christianity? Friends? They aren’t your friends if they’d un-friend you for believing–and visa-versa. Family? Money? There are plenty of wealthy believers. Time? What? Independence? Enslavement to sin?
Christian confidence, just like any other confidence, begins and ends with knowledge. It always has and always will.
My daughter’s school, and many others in town it seems, just formally celebrated completing 100 days of school as if America is a third-world country that is excited to finally have formal education. When I picked her up she had a sticker on that said, “I have completed 100 Days of School!” With such an upside-down public education system, it’s surprising that there are any Christians left in America.