“Starsinthesky” by ESA/Hubble. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Starsinthesky.jpg#/media/File:Starsinthesky.jpg (edited)
I confess, I have never really read the famous “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy”, the idea of defining the authority of Scripture in terms of lack of error in propositional statements strikes me as so wrong headed that I have never been really tempted to start. However a friend on Facebook showed me a post that linked to a copy of the statement.
Now I’m really puzzled. Article 12 reads:
WE AFFIRM that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.
WE DENY that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.
The first part of “WE DENY” seems to claim that the Bible (regardless of the intentions of its human authors?) can be used to learn about scientific questions – I assume this means things like the age of the universe/earth, how species came to be etc… and not that somewhere in Scripture Boyles Law is taught.
OK… but the second part seems to claim that whatever Science may with high degree of confidence assert cannot be used to “overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood”. Which seems to imply that those passages of the Bible that teach about creation and flood are exempt from the first statement?
Is there (even a twisted sort of) logic here, or is the statement just daft? In either case why do so many American, and American influenced, religious people find the statement helpful?
Please, these are serious questions and I just do not understand, so help me!
Offering a course, and preparing the material and then having no students enroll is not an outcome any teacher desires.Add in the bonus that the course was being offered is about 19h and 55mins from home, and the situation seems set to categorise as a disaster. However, that would neglect events around the time when we were waiting on tenterhooks to see if students would enroll. During the waiting the prospect of a series for Swarga (a local Christian TV station) began to be seriously aired. The series will use the material I prepared for the NZ Baptist articles each month in 2014. This is material I am really keen to make more accessible and useful in church contexts. By shrinking our holiday a little and with hasty preparation while Barbara (she has a chock full class) I should be able to record six half hour programs before we leave.
In conversation with the principal and the academic dean today another project has been added for after I return to NZ. I will prepare an enlarged version of the articles with more practical examples and fuller explanations which people here will take and adapt to the local context. This localised English version could also be translated into Sinhala and Tamil. The material would then form a basis for introductory courses in practical hermeneutics for some of the programs here. This too is so exciting.
The LORD does indeed work in mysterious ways, and from time to time enlivens our staid lives with rollercoaster rides.
Well this has been a roller-coaster of a 24hr day.
First it seemed that 1 Samuel and the delights of biblical story-telling were so unattractive, or I am, that there might be no students for my class (the journey is worth it though, as Barbara has a big class for her teaching about dealing with adolescents – I guess some human issues are really cross-cultural in this globally franchised world). Then there was the possibility of doing a series for Swarga TV using the Reading the Bible Faithfully material.
That is a possibility that really excites me! Encouraging people to read the Scriptures well, faithfully to the ancient meaning, yet attentive to contemporary application is fun and rewarding. To do it via TV and video with a professional crew, lighting, two cameras etc. is a dream (possibly) coming true! That it seems likely that they would be willing to either let me use the video or to make it accessible online, opens possibilities of it being useful in NZ as well.
So when, this morning under the monsoon rain, it became final that there were no students interested in 1 Samuel, the rest of today was spent preparing the first few sessions. This evening an email came to say that the studio is fully booked while I am in Colombo, but that there is a day free when we are meant to be at the beach. (Enjoying a few days rest before heading home, in a plush resort no less!)
Barbara understands how much this project means to me, so she is willing to curtail our restful time on the beach… so, currently the plan is to spend Mon 21st trying to record 12 sessions of 22 mins each. All before heading south in the middle of the afternoon… Please if you are the praying sort (as they say, but really – as they also say – “there are no atheists in foxholes”, in extremity prayer comes naturally to us all) please ask that somehow this may all work for the best!
Between teaching an intensive class to students from a dozen ethnicities and nearly as many countries, and exploring the beautiful scenery in the Cordilleras of North Luzon (photos attached to make you envious) I have been too busy to post properly here (even the women of the Bible series has faltered). So instead perhaps you know someone who is still asking the old chestnut about where Mrs Cain came from?
If you do, if you know someone who is troubled by other “Bible difficulties” please point them to my short article written for the NZ Baptist:
As Peter Enns gets towards the end of the journey in his little book he moves beyond the strict topic to some wonderful advice for Christians reading the Bible, and how we should relate to other Christians who perhaps disagree with our interpretation. It is applicable to the global church, so to my current context about to teach to students from a wealth of different cultures none of them mine, but also to the local churches as NZ Baptists move towards an annual assembly with a contentious issue on the floor. For both I pray:
Humility on the part of scholars to be sensitive to how others will hear them and on the part of those
whose preconceptions are being challenged.
Love that assumes the best of brothers and sisters in Christ. not that looks for any difference of
opinion as an excuse to go on the attack.
Patience to know that no person or tradition is beyond correction. and therefore no one should jump
to conclusions about another’s motives.1
Peter Enns. Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic,2005, 164 [↩]
I realise I have not posted here about our travel plans for later this year. We will be visiting and teaching in (at least)1 two places:
View across the hills near Baguio – envy us!
Asia Pacific Theological Seminary, Baguio Philippines. Where Barbara and I will each teach a course (OT Intro for me and Pastoral Counseling for her). I visited APTS as Menzies lecturer last year and am really looking forward to returning to a lovely place and people. Since Barbara will be going too, this time we hope to see a bit more of the northern part of the Philippines as well.
Sri Lanka produces much of the best high grown tea in the world.
Colombo Theological Seminary, Sri Lanka. Where again both of us will teach, in my case on 1 Samuel as an introduction to reading biblical narrative texts. We’ve both visited CTS before and had a lovely holiday seeing more of the country last time. Christians in Sri Lanka (though still smarting from loss of status following the colonial period) have a special place as a religious minority that includes both ethnic groups in a strife torn land.
We will leave towards the end of July and return in late September. We have a nice family (with experience on a lifestyle block in the UK) from Bethlehem College to look after the house and animals while we are away.
A conversation on Facebook recently reminded me of my concern that Christians are not speaking enough about the joys of sex and marriage. We get caught so often, warning people about the dangers, that we get painted into the corner that makes people – even our own children – believe that God is anti-sex. So over the next few days I am going to recycle material I wrote a few years back for the NZBaptist. Let’s start thinking about sex at the very beginning.
God likes sex
That notion (that God is anti-sex) couldn’t be further from the truth. Sex and marriage was God’s good idea. It was one of God’s first good ideas, right at the very beginning…
“Since I am love,” God said, “I want creatures who can love me.”
“We want creatures who can love each other, just like we do.” Said each of the Trinity to each other, “and love us the same way too.” They added.
That was how sex and marriage got built into creation from the start: difference and reproduction and love. Sex is modeled on the godhead (Gen 1:27):
So God created humans in his own image,
in the image of God created he him;
male and female created he them.
It’s quite clear the very “image of God” is in our being as male and female.
Or as the Bible’s second chapter puts it: God said, “It’s no good for humans to be alone” (Gen 2:18). And, when God had made woman, the Bible concludes: “that’s why a man leaves his father and his mother, and clings to his wife: and they become one flesh.”
So whatever else we say, we should start right at the beginning: Sex is God’s good idea!
Christopher B. Hays commented on Facebook on a post “The End of College? Not So Fast” by Donald E. Heller. These posts and the comments prompted this reflection on my own experience. The Chronicle of Higher Education post also suggested my title, which deliberately mimics, but perhaps by removing the question mark subverts theirs.
First though, since this post depends heavily on my experiences as learner and teacher, I’ll begin with elements of my story. When our third son was diagnosed ADHD it was easy to see that if the diagnosis had been available in the 1950s and 60s it would have been applied to me.1 This combined with learning styles strongly skewed towards kinaesthetic and visual, or against aural and reading, and bad experiences with teachers from primary school on, did not set me up well to appreciate the value and richness of “classroom based learning” at tertiary level.
Indeed almost all of my learning through two undergraduate degrees was obtained outside the classrooms. Though admittedly some came with the help of friends who were capable of taking notes, much much more came from voracious reading and frequent arguments on buses and over coffee or beer. Please do not underestimate my comparatives here, I will rephrase it to make the point. Almost all my undergraduate learning came from materials and experiences outside the class room. Almost NONE came from classroom learning.
Also please, while you recognise that I am an extreme case, do not assume there are few who would share such tendencies among your students, and there are undoubtedly more among the potential students your current education system fails!
My next move agrees with most of the commenters. MOOCs as an alternative form of higher education are a disaster. I have participated in several MOOCs and learned little from any. (The exception was Jacob Wright’s excellent The Bible’s Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future however, it succeeded where the others failed largely because I was already well versed in the material presented and interested primarily in the presentation and organising of the ideas. Also because it was well-resourced and supported, and because Jacob is a great teacher.)
However, when the conversation moved to the size of online class that might work well I think it went badly astray. I have been teaching wholly online, largely online, and partly online courses for 15 years, such courses now comprise almost all my tertiary teaching. Class size has varied from 8 to almost 80.
The small classes worked badly, it was difficult to get the students to engage with each other and they would only engage significantly with me when I was responding to their questions. Small online classes are basically “correspondence school”.
By contrast, the bigger classes produced real, and sometimes deep, interaction and learning.
Here, however, is the rub. They also require a high load input from the teacher, between assisting and guiding discussion, responding to questions and marking the time required by an online student in such a class is similar to that required to support a classroom bound student. There are two time savings, lecture time (including the preparation that is needed each year, though the first preparation for online classes may take as long) and travel time (at something like an hour per day four or five days a week this is also significant ;)
ACOM “where” I currently teach runs very efficiently and economically compared to traditional tertiary education. Teaching as well as learning is mainly by distance, library resources are purchased as needed (including a subscription to a good journal database). Several of the big expenditures of traditional institutions are thus avoided or minimised.
Perhaps the biggest saving, however, is an undesirable one. A high proportion of the teachers are adjuncts, we are much cheaper to “run” than full-time or even part-time staff. As well as lowering the salary bill this means that the institution does not need to provide access to a research level library – adjuncts are responsible to fulfill that need for themselves.
With the exception of the high use of adjuncts (which may be a temporary feature as ACOM is preparing its future teachers by encouraging them through higher degrees) the system works well and as far as I can see can produce results that are comparable to traditional higher education. The courses are also easily accessible to many students who by reason of jobs, family etc. cannot access onsite education (not least since this is limited mainly to big city dwellers) or who by reason of learning styles, or other aspects of personality, would benefit less from such onsite classes.
My title? Well it seems to me that the important question to ask is the goal or “end” of higher education. If it is to educate as wide a range of the population to as high a level as is useful then larger (though unless really well supported not huge) online classes – onsite classes discriminate against many people and contribute to a significant but under-acknowledged inequality in modern Western societies. Equal access to higher education is an end of higher education!
Indeed ADHD seems to have a strong inherited component. [↩]
I caught myself in some theological snobbery yesterday.
We had a promo for Blello.tv (which looks to be a fine resource for children) and in the course of it they took the account of Jeremiah’s call and applied it to everyone.
Before I formed you in your mother’s body I chose you. Before you were born I set you apart to serve me. (Jer 1:5a-b)
“This is God’s word for you.” They said. And, of course it is not. The remainder of the verse makes that quite clear.
Before I formed you in your mother’s body I chose you. Before you were born I set you apart to serve me. I appointed you to be a prophet to the nations. (Jer 1 :5)
It was God’s word for Jeremiah, not for you. Just as that lovely promise in Jer 29:11, or the horrible one in Jer 18:11, do not necessarily both apply to us, nor can we pick and choose!
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. (Jer 29:11)
Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. (Jer 18:11a)
In each case we have to look at the circumstances of Judah and at our own situation and actions to see if either might apply.
So <INSERT horrid and raucuous grinding noise> fail!
Except… setting aside Jeremiah’s particular and peculiar calling (as “prophet to the nations”) the passage affirms that God’s call on Jeremiah’s life predates his birth and conception. If that call is timed like this what about your calling and mine?
“Ah,” say the clever and theologically trained wise ones, “but Jeremiah is special, and his calling is special. What applies to Jeremiah does not apply to you. God isn’t calling you to be a prophet to the nations. QED!”
But are the theologically trained wise ones right?
After all it is a key feature of Old Testament narrative that all the great heroes are portrayed “warts and all”, not one is presented as a super-human like the heroes of almost very national story as taught to children in schools. Thus it seems that after all this claim by Jeremiah might be your claim and mine…
The series of which this “volume” is a part has an ambitious but mixed goal:
The series is designed to be a research tool. Each guide presents a wide range of interpretive issues raised by Bible scholars. These resources meet the needs of those studying the Bible in academic settings, but the broad scope of coverage also makes them useful for preaching preparation. 1
In fact, limitations of referencing (almost?) only works available in the Logos system limits it’s usefulness for scholarship, and so the work is in some ways better suited to the practical needs of a pastor or other seriously minded Bible reader.
Integration of the text with the Logos library system is of course a great strength of such this type of electronic publication, but there are times when the implementation of this integration serves Logos’ commercial ends better than it serves the user. For example when I read: “Mathews uses the analogy of a stained glass window to describe the literary complexity of Gen 1–11…” The name “Matthews” is, as one would expect in an electronic text, a hyperlink. If the user already owns the cited work by Mathews in Logos format, then I assume2 they are taken to the reference. If one does not own the work in Logos format one is offered the chance to buy it. However, if one does not already own the Logos edition, the link to the Logos sales site does inform the user what work is being referred to, enabling a search on a local library catalogue, Worldcat or Google Books.
There is however a welcome but odd inconsistency, when the references are to further reading suggestions offered as bullet points rather than inline citations, they do give at least the title of the work, without need to access the Logos.com website.3
Hypertext links also provide convenient popup explanations of technical terms, enhancing further the educative possibilities of the text, and making it accessible to a wider range of “lay” readers. They also enable jump navigation within the text, and this is enhanced by a preview popup showing the beginning of the text of the section to which the link leads.
The work offers a neat clear and concise overview of (almost always, but not exclusively, Evangelical) scholarship on the issues and passages treated. This is a superb resource to begin studying a passage or topic, Mangum et al. Offer clear concise summaries of important issues that will be really useful to any pastor or amateur biblical scholar. They are also potentially really useful to students and their teachers, though this usefulness would be enhanced by referencing that included some mention of work not published in Logos format..
Within the limits of works published in Logos format (I have yet to find any reference to other work) these summaries and the suggested readings are very useful. The restriction of the references to the Logosworld generates the restriction noted above to predominantly only Evangelical scholarship, and very predominantly American scholars4 This parochialism is sad!
A byproduct of this limitation is scholarship that is also very predominantly male and white. Since women and non-Caucasian scholars are more likely to have significant work in journals and less likely to have breached the portals of book length works with publishers who make their list available in Logos format.
On the other hand, the fact that such a useful compendium can be offered despite this restriction of horizon to Logosworld is a tribute to the extent (if not always variety) of that world today. Logos is not yet a universal biblical studies library, but it is far closer than one might have expected only a few years ago.
A student today will need to seriously consider whether to accept the limitations of horizon imposed by the choice of Logos as their exclusive supplier, wholeheartedly making Logos their library system, or on the other hand if financial constraints or a desire to be open to a wider world of scholarship will severely limit the usefulness of a work such as this. I wonder how long it is before Logos offers a subscription service modeled on Amazon’s “Prime”?5
Without such a service, or without the financial resources to pay to own an extensive private Logos library, users are given a glimpse of the world of American Evangelical scholarship, but taking a closer look is made difficult by the exclusively in house referencing.
In short this work highlights the huge usefulness and potential of the Logos system (for those rich enough, and selfish enough, to be willing to spend enough on a library devoted to their private use). It also highlights the exclusive nature of this system by making the use of external resources (in an institutional or public library, or on Google books, for example) more difficult even than it would be in an obsolescent print codex.
Douglas Mangum et al., Genesis 1–11 (, Lexham Bible GuideBellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012). [↩]
I have yet to find a reference to a work that I spotted as being included in my Gold collection, or among the other works and texts I have bought. So I could not check this assumption. [↩]