Thoughts on Faith, Posture, and Academic Paths…

It’s weird not having blogged for a month. I mean, I have been busier than usual what with getting ready for and traveling to Oxford, England – where I’m writing from now. But I have had things to write about. However, in the beginning of writing those potential posts, I had realized they all required a bit more thought and care than I was giving them.

Why am I in Oxford, though? Several months back I was awarded an all-expenses-paid, two week trip over here to study manuscripts as well as work on a few. There are a little over 30 other students here with me, including a couple from my own school at George Fox Evangelical Seminary. Thus far, it’s been quite the experience – for one thing, it was my first international trip and for another, it was my first flight in fourteen years.

Every student here is working on a small project which is part of a much larger project conducted by the Green Scholars Initiative (GSI). We’ve been given lectures and talks on being a member of the faith in the academic world, various methodologies in textual criticism, and even a few on Oxford’s history (including a talk on C.S. Lewis). This last Saturday we were led over to Winchester to tour the city as well as the famous Winchester Cathedral, which is incredibly large and stunningly beautiful. Walking around inside felt as though I had walked onto the set of a Lord of the Rings movie. Like I said, it has been quite an experience thus far (despite missing out on the opportunity to travel around London yesterday and a few lectures today due to a recent cold).

Inside the Winchester Cathedral.
Inside the Winchester Cathedral.

Coming near the end of my third semester at George Fox (yes, I’ve been in Summer Semester for about eight weeks now) and hearing these talks and lectures about being Christian scholars has caused me to think ahead of my own future and where I’ll be after Spring of 2016 (when I’m planning on finishing my Master’s). For now, the hope is to do well enough through my Master’s and on the GRE to get accepted into a fully funded (or at least partially funded) PhD program. I don’t think I’m questioning what I want to do, but I am questioning how I want to approach what I want to do.

During the first few nights of our time here, there were a couple talks given about life as a Christian scholar in a mostly non-Christian world. Such talks carried a strong theme of defending one’s beliefs – of the need for apologetics, which included, to no small degree, defending Scripture’s authority, reliability, and essential nature for the modern day Christian. Included in all of this was the emphasis on practicing thorough scholarship. Looking back on all this now, I see this as one potential approach to academia that many take. However, I do not find that this approach fits me.

Instead I find a strong need for quality scholarship in biblical and theological studies. I do not see the need for faith to be defended largely because I do not think God is so small that God would need our defense. I’m quite certain that should there be a mass falling out within Christianity and biblical scholarship that left nothing but non-Christians handling the biblical text, God would remain untouched. However, such a falling out I do not think is in God’s agenda.

Why do I feel this way? Why am I surrendering apologetic studies in favor of a more “secular” approach? Because I find agendas such as defending God’s existence or the validity of the Scriptural texts to be in the way of quality scholarship. I find that it skews one’s studies to input their own conclusions long before the evidence supporting such a conclusion ever gets drawn out (if it ever gets drawn out).

None of this is to demean those who choose to go the apologetic path; it is simply to say that it’s one I don’t think fits best for me. Instead, I think God wants me to go a different route that hasn’t been defined entirely. Yet I know that I must allow God to be God – to defend what God finds worthy of defense. And if we are paying attention to the Scriptures we (yes, myself included) deem authoritative, we should find that God seeks to protect those who cannot protect themselves (Prov. 31:8-9). Perhaps if we started there, then we may realize that this alone is enough of an apologetic for those who are willing to see, hear, and listen to the God we proclaim.

Such a path as the one I see before me requires a certain kind of posture – one of sincere humility, diligence, and discipline. Yet this posture is not exclusive only to the world of biblical scholarship nor even the larger umbrella of academia. It is a posture set forth by Christ himself for all who proclaim his name to follow. Over the coming weeks and months, I hope to talk about the other areas this posture plays into (one that immediately comes to mind is the topic of gay marriage or homosexuality as a whole – I have been silent for too long on this and I am excited about taking it up).

As you wonder about where God is leading you or has led you, what kind of posture do you sense that you have or had? What is or was the impact of your posture? How do you think it could be improved upon?

God bless.

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Jeremy

Cherokee / Whovian / Sherlockian / Aspiring Auror / Lover of Jesus, Scripture, and creativity / MATS Student at George Fox Seminary.

4 thoughts on “Thoughts on Faith, Posture, and Academic Paths…”

  1. I hope you’re having a great time in Oxford. I’ll be visiting there on the 12th-13th. We are of the same mind regarding the relationship between one’s religion and one’s posture toward scholarly endeavors. It is always important to remember that we do come with some presuppositions—some more important than others and worth giving the benefit of a doubt for a time unless the evidence overturns it (e.g., the resurrection of Jesus)—but so do scholars void of a faith perspective. I see a role for apologists who are creative, imaginative, and who have spent time examining evidence honestly, not overly selectively, in order to communicate the hear of Christianity (which may very well include the ethical impulse to which you alluded). Personally, at this stage, with many more questions before me than answers, I am no apologist. I will try to explain why I believe what I believe, but there is no package of religious views that I wholly support uncritically, and usually apologists are arguing for a package of religious views (i.e., some form of Evangelicalism, Catholicisim, etc.) than for things with evidence.

    1. Brian: I like the way you phrased this; “There is no package of religious views that I wholly support uncritically,” and I also think this what is usually being argued for (because hey, who’s going to pass up a great packaged deal, right?). It just feels too similar to cookie-cutter Christianity where any one believer is of one kind or another. I don’t buy it because I haven’t found the cookie cutter that I fit into (and I don’t think I will). I think the call to faith demands more than signing off on some packaged theology, which demands something more like a mix-n’-match, but with a twist of interpreting for oneself (if that doesn’t make sense, let me know; I’m a little confused by it).

      Overall I think I am enjoying Oxford and England. The jury’s currently out on a few aspects of this program, but that’s another discussion for another time. Sadly, my flight takes off at 10:00 am Saturday (the 12th). Would have been nice to grab some beers at Eagle & Child! Looks like it may not be until SBL that we meet, haha.

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