I was reading through Psalm 23 in Hebrew this week, marking it up on the Accordance app on my iPhone, and something occurred to me for the first time: There are only two things the person in this psalm is seemingly asked to do: “Just walk and do not be afraid.” With the exception of the “I shall not lack” in the opening verse and “I shall dwell” in the last, the only two places where the first-person is used is in Psalm 23:4: “Even though I walk (elek) in a ravine of deep darkness, I do not fear (lo-iyra) evil…” Those are the only two things the person takes initiative for; everything else is taken care of by the Shepherd. The Lord makes the sheep lie down in green pastures. He guides them to restful waters. He restores their … Read More »
I’d like to tell you a story—actually, three stories—that completely changed the way I think about “church” or “ministry.” My wife and I were part of a Bible Study group that met in Chicago a number of years ago. It was the typical Bible Study gathering of people from different walks of life. There were about eight or ten of us. We would meet in our home. People would bring their Bibles. We would pray for each other and read through the text together and try to apply its teachings to our lives. This is not unlike many Bible Studies you may have gone to or hosted yourself. What accounted for the sudden change in perspective? Our good friends were in the habit of picking up some of those in our group who didn’t have a car or had to … Read More »
At the risk of posting a long response to your question about Rob Bell’s book on hell on my facebook wall, I’ll post it here.
I have not read Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, so I cannot comment on the merits or demerits of the book. But I can speak on a couple of things that would be helpful to anyone wanting to look further into the theology and biblical teachings about hell, salvation, and eschatology.
The first thing that needs to be said is that there is not much that is new here. One of the earliest Christians, and teacher of Christians, was a man by the name of Origen of Alexandria. He lived around 200AD. He was an early proponent of what has now come to be called “Universalism” (i.e., that everyone will eventually be saved or—at the risk of … Read More »
Who is Richard of St. Victor? I’ve never heard of him. Why is that? How does he compare with better known theologians like St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas?
Richard of St. Victor was a 12th century theologian living in Paris just before the creation of the very first university there. He, like many of his contemporaries, was deeply influenced by the writings of Augustine. Much of his time was spent participating in the liturgical life of his community: the Victorines. This was a group of canons regular founded by William of Champeaux and Hugh of St. Victor who lived in accordance with The Rule of St. Augustine. Without going into too much detail, the Victorines not only sang hymns and prayed prayers together, they also brought an intensity and ingenuity to the composition of their hymns and prayers, as well as … Read More »
Would you make a distinction between a pastor or priest and a theologian? or do you see them as the same thing?
There used to be a time when simply being a pastor or a priest meant you were also a theologian. There is no doubt that many contemporary pastors and priests study their Bibles and seek to know and teach others about God. In that sense, they are doing “theology.” What primarily accounts for the distinction between theologian and pastor / priest today has everything to do with the breadth and depth of study. The sad truth is that many contemporary pastors spend more time reading modern-day self-help, leadership books, and biblical commentaries than they do the Church Fathers. If Augustine, Aquinas, or Bonaventure happens to be quoted in a sermon, usually it’s because they read it in a commentary on the book they’re studying rather than from actually reading Augustine or Aquinas themselves. I realize there are exceptions to this; … Read More »
This really has more to do with the location and time period in which you live. In the middle east, for example, theologians—in the form of imams and clerics—are heard about and from all the time. They are the authoritative voices in their cities and culture. There was a time when the same could be said of the Western world, and especially America. But this is no longer true. The authoritative voices in our society have become the scientists and parasitic pundits on our major news outlets and TV shows. If a theologian is ever consulted, it is either in honor of some major holiday, the discovery of some “artifact” relevant to the Bible or the Church, or because of some local controversy over a pastor or priest behaving badly. Today, science is the latest heavy-weight champion of the Western … Read More »
The most pressing spiritual need in our world today is people who know how to regularly pay attention to the best of all things. Curbing this fundamental spiritual problem thus entails two things: (1) learning how to pay attention, and (2) connecting with / knowing about / experiencing the best of all things. In the case of the first, our society is losing the habits of mind that ensured the kind of mental staying-power needed for contemplation and prayer (e.g., memorization, meditation, lectio divina). This requires uninterrupted blocks of time in which children, teenagers, and adults stay with something. No interruption, no distraction, no diversion. The reason our education system in the United States is in such shambles right now is, in part, due to this “inattention to attention.” We break students’ attention by breaking up their days, moving swiftly … Read More »
If God is a Trinity of Persons, and wants us to know this, why make it so impossible to understand? Furthermore, if entrusting oneself to Jesus is all that’s necessary to inherit eternal life, isn’t belief in the Trinity and discussion about it a bit superfluous? Or, isn’t it sufficient to believe that God is a Trinity without having to understand it?
In some ways, this is the equivalent of saying, “If it’s important to know algebra, why does it have to be so impossible to understand? Furthermore, if entrusting oneself to Jesus is all that’s necessary to inherit eternal life, isn’t studying algebra a big waste of time? Or, isn’t it sufficient to believe that algebra is important without having to study it?” Granted, there are some things that are true of the study of mathematics that are disanalogous to the study of God; … Read More »
So you’re a theologian and a computer programmer. Those two things seem pretty far apart. How did those two things come together for you?
I’ve always had a curiosity and interest in computer programming, ever since my days in the fourth grade when I made little user-interactive knock-knock jokes using a Texas Instruments computer. Those with analytical minds often have an affinity for the technological as well as the scholarly. But the greatest fusion of academics and technology really came together for me when I was working on my dissertation. I simply needed to collect lots of research, define outcomes, manage and navigate a very complex hierarchical relationship of tasks and obligations—both academic and personal. A former professor of mine introduced me to David Allen’s Getting Things Done book and the workflow he has there for collecting, processing, organizing, reviewing, and doing things. I needed a way to apply this to control all of the digital elements of my life; and that’s when I … Read More »
What advice do you have for others who are looking to pursue a degree in Theology, Philosophy, or Bible?
You are choosing to study two of the most important subjects to know. But you should do your homework by reading up on various professors you’d like to study with before applying to a school. These are the mentors who are going to help shape and refine you as a person. The more you know about them, the better you’ll know which professors and which program will be the best fit for you. You may also need to check and make sure that the professors you’d like to study with are taking on more students and don’t plan on retiring at the time you join the program. Both of these fields—like many others in academia—are filled with good and bad professors. So do your homework. Read their works. Find out about the programs. And then do what you need to … Read More »