How Preaching Saved Me from Evangelicalism’s Bible


bible-pulpit-sepia

If I’ve learned anything the past few years, it’s that Evangelical Fundamentalism is absolutely right: as I’ve embraced more and more what conservatives often label a “liberal” view of the Bible, it really has negatively affected my spiritual and devotional life.

When you think the Bible is itself the “infallible, inerrant, Word of God”–when you think that the precise words themselves hold a magical power–you do approach the Bible with a greater amount of awe, respect, and mysticism. I’ve written before how it wasn’t until college that I read any of the Gospels on my own, because I had this fear of reading the “literal, unfiltered” words of Jesus. They seemed so big and other-worldly to me.

I’ve loved the Bible my whole life. I still have the first Bible I was ever given as a child. I still vividly remember the evening on my parent’s bed after they had read a Psalm that had been stuck in the middle of the stories about David that it finally clicked for me that the Bible wasn’t just narratives, but also poems and other kinds of writing.

My Southern Baptist upbringing has got it engrained in me that my entire spiritual and devotional life should revolve around this book. No matter how much I tell myself otherwise, something in me always has (and always will) “evaluate” my spiritual health by how I engage the Scriptures, in both quantity and quality.
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Beauty: Revisited


As most people know, last year I gave a seminar/lecture/sermon thingy at my old church, Epiphany Fellowship.  The topic I spoke on was Beauty.  I spent about nine months doing research, reading, talking, and thinking before ultimately delivering it last August.  Recently, I updated some parts of the manuscript for a friend and thought I’d post the updated manuscript.  There aren’t too many changes.  The main updates happened in the last half of the manuscript.  I also updated the language of the manuscript overall to make it more appropriate as a written piece rather than a manuscript for speaking from.  I’m hoping to use this as the core of one of the first books I’m working on that I’ll actually finish.  After the break is the full “Table of Contents” for each part of the blog series I did going through each individual part of the manuscript.  Those blog parts have not yet been updated.  Here are the the updated full written Manuscript, the audio of my “lecture”, and an appendix with the Greek/Hebrew breakdown of the words for “Beauty” in the Bible.

Click for Appendix Pdf

Language Appendix

Click for Manuscript Pdf

Full Manucscript

Click here for sermon audio

Full Audio

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“If You Believe in Jesus, the Resurrection, & Evolution, You Are A Heretic” – Patrol Mag


photo from Wired Science

Well, my article for last week on Patrol took a little longer for me to submit it than usual so it only just got posted.  The article has to do with the recent situation involving Bruce Waltke, formerly of Reformed Theological Seminary.  The article is in response to a recent post by Rick Phillips of the site Reformation21, whose mission is “Encouraging biblical thinking, living, worship, ministry, and constructive cultural engagement.”  I believe the articles written by Phillips (and others) reacting to Waltke’s situation do not fall into any of those parameters set by that mission statement.  Here’s the link:

“If You Believe in Jesus, the Resurrection, & Evolution, You Are A Heretic”

Also, something that might be of interest to some, the article contains a very surprising and substantial list of names (and links to sources) of Christians throughout history whose view of Genesis either explicitly or implicitly allows for, encourages, or would have allowed for theistic creation by means of Darwinian evolution.  Check it.

You can see all of my past articles for Patrol here.

Controversy, Controversy, Controversy at GoingToSeminary.com


old lady

Update: The two posts mentioned in this article are now up. “Letting Seminary Doctrinally Change You” and “Seminaries & the Nature of Truth“.

Yep, it’s a double-post sort of day.  (let’s just say I’m making up for Labor Day.)  But this is a personal one.  I’m asking for some prayer.

At publication time for this post, the site GoingToSeminary.com is currently changing servers, so it’s down.  It was just bought by the somewhat Lutheran and fully online Rockbridge Seminary, sold by my good friend (and former campus minister) Ryan Burns of Design Simple.

As some of you know, I am a Contributor for the site, and my articles have tended to be pretty weighty.  I don’t know why.  It hasn’t been purposeful.  I suppose when I think of seminary it tugs at my urgent pastoral heart more than the light, fun, twentysomething heart; and this has been evident in the posts.  From what I can tell, my last article “Realizing Seminary’s Not For You” has received more comments than any other single article that I can find on the site, and those comments were fiery.  I got blasted from every side (and defended by many – thank you all, by the way).  A couple of people even compared me to an unfaithful Israelite who saw the giants in the Promised Land and got scared.  Another, in light of my severe disappointment in Westminster Theological Seminary as an institution, said that apparently I don’t know good doctrine when I see it.  In short, it caused some controversy.  I really try not to seek such controversy, and I never thought that post would spurn such heated discussion.

But –

Tomorrow’s another story.  Tomorrow my new article is going live on the site and I’m fairly sure this one will ruffle some feathers.  In fact, I’m shocked Rockbridge went ahead and decided to post it.  Kudos to them.  It will be very easy for this article to be misunderstood on both sides: those that think I go too far, and those that think I don’t go as far as I am in fact trying to go.

The article is a discussion of how to let seminary doctrinally change you.  To do this, I very consciously employ postmodern thought into my own thinking and advocate others do so as well.  It’s very touchy and I am not wholly confident that I phrased myself as articulately as a more experienced writer may have been able to.  I guess we’ll see over the next couple of days.

But, I’m actually not as concerned with this article as I am with the follow-up article I am about half-way through writing.  In the first article I lay out the responsibilities for the seminarian in this respect; in this second one, I talk about the responsibilities of the healthy seminary institution.  And in doing so I am directly taking Westminster to task for how they have abandoned the principles I lay out in this first article.  I’m sort of doubting Rockbridge would run it on the site, but who knows?  Westminster’s a competing institution and Rockbridge is marketing themselves as a seminary for the 21st century, so we’ll see.

All that to say, look for my article tomorrow at GoingToSeminary.com, and please pray for me if you could.  I’m still young and arrogant, and I need the spiritual support.  I’ll also link to the article tomorrow.  Until then . . .

The big news . . .


Nope, not engaged.

Several people here in Philadelphia know this, but I realize hardly anyone in Richmond does, so here I am writing this now.

I won’t be coming back to Westminster next year.

Long story short, my undergraduate loan payments have been steadily increasing and are now getting to a place where my parents can’t handle it alone – nor should they (before you all ask: no, this isn’t the kind of loan that waits until I’m done to require payments; no, my parents can’t consolidate it; yes, we’ve thought through it all).  I’ve decided to take at least a year off from graduate studies to get a full time job somewhere and help pay some things off.I’m focusing in Philadelphia, and trying to stay here, but I’m also looking at jobs in other places (especially Richmond).

Academically, what does this mean?Well, so far I’m still signed up for one counseling class next semester in the evenings, but I’m going to start applying to various Ph.D. programs and seeing what happens.There’s a program at Princeton I’ve fallen in love with in “Psychology and Social Policy”.I’ve realized that I was seeing seminary somewhat as a potential aid in getting into a Ph.D. program, but frankly, it’s seems to only be hurting my chances (on many levels).So, I’ll see if I can get in without it and then go back to Westminster afterwards if I want.

Practically, this means a lot more time and freedom to read what I want, write what I want, minister in different ways, and just generally feel like an actual member of society.I’ve already started writing a little bit more, doing more web stuff (Reform & Revive has been amazing recently!), and (I can’t believe I’m admitting this now), I’ve started a podcast which I’ll write on more later.

Spiritually speaking, what does this mean?Well, the answer to that question deserves a whole post in its self.I’ve been encouraged that as the workload lightens and I seem to be leaving seminary in a sense, I find myself driven more to prayer and the Word of God than while I was in seminary.They don’t tell you that seminary is not a secluded spiritual resort, but rather the darkest front lines of battle.This has been the most intense spiritual year of my life.I’ve had some of my darkest nights and moments this past year.I’ve gone my longest stints ever without drawing near to my Lord in any way.In short, it’s been rough.In short, it’s been painful.In short, I think I came to seminary too soon.I came too young.I wasn’t ready to handle the weight that this institution would hold.I have not developed the maturity and cultivation necessary to have an anchor in my soul beyond my sheer white-knuckled will.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this past year has been amazing.It’s also been the best year of my life, I think.That’s generally how God works.Very Dickensian: the best of times, the worst of times . . ..I wouldn’t give this past year back for anything.My love, affection, and knowledge of my Lord have grown exponentially.If I never go back to seminary I will forever be grateful to the Providence of God for giving me these two semesters.

God has always dealt with me in such a way that I had a very good sense of what the future held for me.This is the first time in my life that he has allowed everything to really fall apart all around me in a matter of weeks.And this is his mercy to me.This is his love for me.It is his commitment to make me need him, because he himself is what I need the most.He is my anchor.He is my certainty.He is my Lord, and my God, and I love him.

So, we’ll see what life holds.God has still been gracious to me in this time. I have great friends and my church (though still going through so much turmoil) has still been healthy and amazing.  I’ve even realized that my life as it was wasn’t very financially sustainable.  I couldn’t continue into my mid- and later-20s still asking my parents for rent money while working 15-hour work weeks at various low hourly rates.  I should have decided to so this regardless of money.

I feel it’s appropriate I’ve written this entire post while I sit in what may be my last seminary class ever, Medieval Church.Which is a appropriate, I suppose.Just like this strange period in history, and more specifically where we are in this last class, I sit here with my Rome having fallen, some dark ages having passed, standing on the cusp of my Reformation, waiting to rediscover the nearness of my Lord.

Feel free to ask any questions you may have.

My First Sermon Ever


For my first homiletics class at Westminster, called “Gospel Communication,” we were all put in different groups, each dealing with a certain type of text.  Everyone was to write up a sermon on their text and one person from each group actually preached their sermon to the class.

Well, I preached my first real sermon ever this past Thursday.  It was recorded, so I’ve decided to share it along with the manuscript.  It’s on “The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant” in Matthew 18 and deals with forgiveness.  It’s about 30 minutes long.  Personally, being my own worst critic, I see many flaws in it (the structure was somewhat muddled, I talked too fast, and I somewhat went against the traditional interpretation of the text), but overall I was pretty happy with it.  It seemed like the class was as well.

If you don’t have 30 minutes to spare, just listen to the last 8 minutes or so.  I think that’s the point I hit my most significant “flow.”

Two more personal notes: first, I know I haven’t blogging much recently.  Things have been nuts and Seminary’s been kicking the trash out of me.  As the semester gets closer and closer to finishing, you’ll see more posts again.  Secondly, I have no idea how the pictures below will look on facebook.  They will either not show up, be really big, or be fine.  I don’t know, so I apologize for any formatting issues.

Here’s the audio and manuscript:

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Click for Audio: Faithful Forgiveness.mp3

Faithful Forgiveness.pdf

Click for Manuscript: Faithful Forgiveness.pdf