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Seminary, an update on me, and the fear of God

December 21, 2011 2 comments

Wow, I can’t believe how long it’s been since I last posted here. I don’t even know where to begin, which is part of the reason why updating gets hard after a while. There’s no single burning issue you need to address; there are about 100 of them.

But a little gentle (and much-needed) prodding pushed me to post today. I honestly have no idea what direction this post is going to take, but I hope it turns out coherent and useful.

I’m officially done with my first whole semester of seminary—four courses down, 27 more to go. I’ve learned so much, but I’m afraid of how much I’ll actually be able to retain. A lot of the things you learn are much more technical and in-depth than you’d expect, and finer details are harder to remember and recall in the long run. One thing I will say is that it is probably very different from what people expect. For instance, skeptical people and believers alike probably think that going to seminary is a hug fest where you hear a bunch of assuring facts to buff up your faith, while ignoring the difficulties and controversies. It’s probably just a way for Christians to make each other more firm in their beliefs while shielding them from the outside scholarly world, right? A big, naive religious bubble?

Well, that is completely NOT the case. If anything, I’m amazed (and impressed) at the objectivity of our lessons and texts. All opposing viewpoints are considered, and any holes in our understanding—including apparent discrepancies or contradictions—are addressed out in the open. This further confirms my amusement at atheists who think that they are uncovering flaws and gaps that Christians are unable to see. I’ll save you the suspense, skeptics. If you think you’ve brilliantly “discovered” a “mistake” in the Bible, Christian scholars have probably been discussing and researching it for centuries. And most likely, they have about five plausible theories you would never think of on your own. A Google search won’t show them either. I’ll even go so far as to say that if you took all the scholarly works on every other religion in the world and combined them, you would still fall short of the amount of research that has been done on the Old and New Testaments. There is no close second place.

While exposure to all of this has confirmed that our belief is sound and deeply considered, I have to admit something ironic. In the middle of learning all of this biblical and academic information, it is very difficult to keep one’s relationship with God in the right place…especially when there are always new worldly distractions! I think Ray Comfort put it best when he said you have to be careful in seminary not to let the fire die out while you’re busy collecting sticks. This is so true. I’ve almost turned seminary work into an academic exercise, and it has replaced my devotional time with God and deep Bible reading. I feel the fire glowing dimly; it is no longer blazing. That’s the bad news.

The good news is, as a true believer, I am constantly feeling the tug of the Holy Spirit on my heart. In fact, there have been strange things put into my life—in progressing impact and severity—that are serving as a wake-up call to my spiritual life. I can’t go into too much detail here on a public blog (a burn on my arm for starters), but God is calling louder to the point where I can no longer ignore Him. I know that if I tune Him out any further, I do so at my own peril. The fear of the Lord is drawing me back, and I prayed last night with genuine thankfulness for it! Imagine being thankful for fear toward anybody else haha. It’s funny how closely related the fear of God and love for Him can be. And let’s not forget that both aspects of our relationship are vital. You can’t just rely on one or the other, you must have both at all times.

I admit, when I was doing “well” spiritually, a bit of complacency was setting in. I was starting to see God as something of a buddy, which He is, but not as much more. “He’s got my back now,” was the way I was thinking, but I failed to take into account that I was still free to screw it up. God is sovereign always, and I must never allow myself to get too comfortable again. Fear and love, fear and love, fear and love…repeat it a thousand times.

While God’s spiritual reminders and tugging can become more severe and even scary, what’s even more terrifying is the thought of getting to the point where He no longer beckons. Please don’t let yourselves get to the point where His voice has been completely drowned out. He is a patient God, but at some point if you don’t do your part, He will let you go (read, for example, Luke 13:6-9). You will be “free” to lead yourself to your own wasting away or destruction. Let’s never get complacent…I need this reminder as much as anybody else.

I pray that in the upcoming semester, I will balance out seminary texts with my personal growth and devotional time. There is absolutely no substitute for reading the Bible EVERY DAY and praying to God. Learning about what some German scholar thinks about Markan priority or different theories of authorship are interesting, but they do not necessarily fuel the fire. We must keep it burning.

And by “we,” I’m largely talking to myself, but I hope anyone else reading this heeds my warning as well.

God bless!

Link: “How Anger Fuels Atheistic Arrogance”

October 18, 2011 1 comment

My apologies for being a bit slow on updates lately. My first term of seminary just came to a close last night…this past week was all about working on a big final project for Pastoral Counseling, then studying for a multiple-choice exam and essay for Old Testament Survey I. But now, I’m finally done…until next week when I start New Testament I and Systematic Theology I. =) Can’t wait (though I wish I had finished out the OT with OT II…fascinating stuff)!

Anyhow, I thought I’d share this opinion piece about atheists:

http://www.christianpost.com/news/how-anger-fuels-atheistic-arrogance-58281/

I have to say, from my experience, everything he writes is spot-on. Yea, atheists will give you all sorts of excuses and reasons, but at the end of the day, their over-reactions and anger point to something deeper. The comparison between rebelling against parents and rebelling against God is appropriate. There is a sort of twisted pleasure we get in fighting authority, isn’t there?

I admit, I’ve been struggling to love atheists these days as the human side of me just finds them irritating and laughably hasty to draw final conclusions about questions that are way above their powers of reasoning. They really seem to think that they can solve the mysteries of the universe with about 30 minutes of pondering each issue. There are even kids on YouTube denying the Holy Spirit, and this kid probably just learned how to dress himself a couple years ago. Seriously, what the heck? (As you watch that video, you may cringe at the tragic haughtiness oozing from your computer screen.)

Yes, intelligent people are prone to question things and even poke (apparent) holes in theology. You think I don’t wrestle with issues in my mind all the time? I’ve lost count of the number of times I thought I had discovered some fatal flaw, only to be humbled later with further investigation. After this happens enough times, you should eventually learn your place—some much later than others (some never at all).

But if everyone stops at these initial “AHA!” moments and puffs themselves up, who knows what amazing knowledge about God they might miss? Most will vastly underestimate the complexity of the issues. Something tells me these people will never bother to get to the bottom of it; they’ll hardly scratch the surface. Their arrogance has convinced them that Christianity is paint-by-numbers and that they have already mastered its depths, despite the fact that scholars can spend their entire lives trying to unravel a single subsection of the Bible. Even “simple” chronologies take intense research, taking into account lunar vs. solar years, ascension vs. non-ascension year dating, coregencies, etc.

I know I’m supposed to care about nonbelievers, but for the most part, my heart is leaving them…at least those who are opposed to God. I need to pray and repent profusely. I’ve learned that I really lack in the area of love. I am a work in progress.

This blog was originally intended to be a place for apologetics and arguments for the faith. But more and more, I’m realizing that it’s a matter of the heart. Mining the Bible for truths is a lifelong effort, and it’s hard to find the motivation to stray away from that to find “real-world” proofs in the comparatively mundane areas of science, history, logic, etc. The Word of God is just so much more captivating to me these days. Maybe I’ll find a good balance soon.

Seminary: Applying the Old Testament Law Today

September 9, 2011 Leave a comment

Well as some of you know, I’ve been taking seminary classes for a couple weeks now, and I’ve been learning a lot of interesting stuff! Most of the materials are in my textbooks, but once in a while, we use supplemental materials that can be publicly accessed.

Here is one article that is very enlightening: http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/article_law_hays.html

I mean, haven’t we all wondered about some of the Old Testament laws? Which ones apply to us today, and why? Most people would use a subjective standard, namely, what seems relevant. This can get close, but the article shows a way to get closer—with more consistency.

Here’s a quick recap:

The “traditional” approach entails breaking down laws into moral, civil, and ceremonial categories. Basically, the “moral” group are the only ones that still apply today. But this approach falls short because it’s still arbitrary and subjective. How do we know what’s moral and (“merely”) ceremonial in God’s eyes?

This article suggests the approach of principlism. This method takes into account the theological context of the laws—God’s promise to the Jews, the promised land, and the Old (Mosaic) Covenant versus the New Covenant (in which we live today). A rough outline of the five steps goes as follows:

1) Identify what the particular law meant to the initial audience

2) Determine the differences between the initial audience and believers today

3) Develop universal principles from the text

4) Correlate the principle with New Testament teaching

5) Apply the modified principle to life today

Hope you’ll find the article enlightening and useful when trying to grasp the Old Testament Pentateuch! =)

Update on me and this blog (and an apology)

August 19, 2011 Leave a comment

You may have noticed that I’ve been posting with a bit more regularity these days. I wanted to get the objections finished before next week, which is when I’m starting my seminary classes. That’s right, the time is finally here, and I’m definitely stoked!

For the first half of the semester, I’ll be taking Introduction to Old Testament Studies and Introduction to Pastoral Counseling. From looking at the course schedules, it seems that there will be a LOT of reading and writing involved, so I don’t know how often I’ll be able to keep up with this blog. My goal is to have at least one entry per week, though if I can stick to my original goal of two posts per week, I’ll be very happy. This blog is definitely something I want to keep up, as it helps me think about things a bit more deeply than I otherwise would. Writing always forces me to think, which is a good thing.

These two courses cover areas in which I am definitely mediocre in my knowledge. I need to learn a lot about the Old Testament, and I suck at anything resembling pastoral counseling. I’m good at straight truth-telling, but sensitivity, compassion, and tact are not my strengths!

Which reminds me, I’ve been told that I come across as overly direct or a little arrogant sometimes. For that, I sincerely apologize. I guess I’m not as good at this righteous anger thing as I need to be. There’s part of me that can’t help it because of the inner pride that still resides in me, but there’s also the fact that I’m constantly listening to and reading atheist arguments. I guess because they are so forceful (and let’s be honest, mocking or often condescending), I mirror that tone and can’t help but get a little annoyed myself at times. It’s funny…the ignorance of Christians angers atheists, and the ignorance of atheists angers Christians.

Anyway, as I start seminary, please pray for me if you can remember to do so. Please pray that I will learn everything to the best of my ability and never lose my fire. I want to learn thoroughly and deeply so that I become ingrained with this knowledge. The last thing I want is to earn my M.Div and forget much of what I was taught. That’s what happened in my undergrad years (and apparently, to many pastors I’ve seen), but seminary is too important to make this mistake.

Hopefully, I can continually learn cool new things to bless my readers here. =)

Let the voyage begin!