Archives For Passion for the Heart and Mind

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the seriesPassion for the Heart and Mind

I’m currently at the Desiring God national conference in Minneapolis (MN), and I’m reminded once again that God enlists both our hearts and our minds for radical service in his kingdom.

There’s been a growing anti-intellectualism in the Evangelical church. It’s been a disease that’s hindered the church for the past 100 years at least, and I’m not sure why it continues to grow. Why is it that some believe that thinking too hard about Christ and His word will produce lack of passion for the gospel? Perhaps it’s because for some, it has. For some, engaging in rigorous study of the Bible and theology in Bible College, Seminary, through reading commentaries and theologies, etc., has actually produced a lack of passion for Christ and the world. And this is sad. But this does not mean that the very nature of rigorous study should and must lead to lack of passion. And just because it has done this for some does not mean that theology and study is the problem.

By way of analogy, plenty of missionaries burn out, lose their passion, return home discouraged, cynical, or even loose their faith. (I know a few.) But this does not—it certainly cannot—mean that missions is the cause and therefore we should abandon missions. Me genoito; heck no! In the same way, Seminary and formal theological education has killed passion for Christ in some students, but this is because of sin, apathy, laziness—it’s not inherently because of Seminary. It’s because Satan has wiggled his way into our Seminaries and has stolen the passion from the hearts of those training to be ministers of the word, and not because studying the word too hard inevitably will lead to lack of passion for Christ.

This is why I love my job. And this is why I LOVE Eternity Bible College. We believe that Jesus is the Lord of our hearts and our minds; we believe that Christ has redeemed our passion and our thinking; we believe that a robust, sustained, thorough, pain-staking, study of the word of God should produce a long-lasting, Christ-magnifying, gospel-centered life that seeks to live dangerously for the Kingdom of the beloved Son. It is a contradiction in terms to have a living encounter with God through His word—over and over, every day, through class after class, through assignment after assignment—and not be more captivated by the majesty and scandal of God’s grace toward us, undeserving sinners.

Bible College should be the caldron in which passion for Christ is forged. Fuel for missions, passion for preaching, zeal for evangelism, enthusiasm for transforming culture—all of these should be the inevitable by-product of the Bible College. May Jesus give us grace in creating a school were these things are abounding.

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the seriesPassion for the Heart and Mind

You don’t often hear this. In fact, I often hear the opposite, something like: “Bible Scholars stifle our faith;” “they only complicate the Bible so that the common person is confused;” “you don’t need to be a scholar to understand God;” and on and on.

There’s some truth to this. Some scholars I know do complicate the meaning of the text, or they simply don’t communicate their scholarly findings in a clear manner. Both are pretty lame. However, we all need scholars. The church would not exist without scholars. In fact, you wouldn’t be able to do another devotion in your Bible if it weren’t for scholars!

Take a look at your English translation. Where did it come from? Not from Paul, nor from Jesus; your English translations exist—and thus you are able to read the Bible—because God raised up hundreds and hundreds of scholars to put it into your hands. And think about the process. In order to know Greek and Hebrew well enough to translate the Bible into English, you’ve got to spend literally thousands and thousands of hours reading dusty old Greek/Hebrew grammars, flipping vocab cards, studying cognate languages (Ugaritic, Aramaic, Phoenician, Syriac), looking up words in a lexicon—no, 5 lexicons—flipping more vocab cards, going back to the grammars, etc. etc. And then you’re only scratching the surface! Then you have to study all the ancient manuscripts of the Bible, like P46, Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Vaticanus, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the LXX, the different versions of the LXX, and hundreds of other documents that unless you do translation you will never here of. You have to understand where these manuscripts came from, their origin, who wrote them, the common mistakes that tend to exists in each manuscript and why. You have to study translation theory and all the vast debates that arise. Does meaning reside in words, in phrases, in sentences, or larger units of thought? And what about the target language? Transferring meaning from one language to another is very complicated. It’s more than just decoding one language into another; it involves getting into the mind of the “target audience” and finding the best set of words and phrases that convey the meaning of the original language.

And all of this is just scratching the surface.

So the next time you open up your English translation, just understand that hundreds of Christians (and some non-Christians) have devoted their entire life, much of which is spent in a small lonely office, doing the tedious work of Bible translation in order that you could do your devotions this morning. Let’s not rape the knowledge of these scholars and then think we can condemn them for not doing more important things for the kingdom like church planting, counseling, and missions.

We are a team; we need each other—we need Bible scholars, who sacrifice much and often get little credit for the painstaking work they do!

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the seriesPassion for the Heart and Mind

Shortly after Christ transformed my life at age 19 (I’m 35 now), I gained a growing desire to pursue ministry. I didn’t even know what that meant, but I loved to study the Bible and think through theological issues. So hey, if I can get paid for it, that’d be a pretty cool gig! So I went off to Bible College.

I immediately loved the ministry that my professors were able to have. They studied. They taught. They preached. They hung out with college students, and they had summers off. I immediately knew my ministry career: I wanted to be a professor at a Bible College. “Ahhhh, but you’ve got to get all kinds of degrees to teach at a college,” was the frequent warning I received. This only seemed to fuel my passion to teach at the college level all the more. I’ve always loved a challenge. So off I went to get a few degrees to get my “union card” (as one prof used to put it) to teach at a college.

Along the way, however, several people discouraged me from becoming a teacher. “You actually like being around people,” they would say. “I think you should be a pastor instead.” I wasn’t sure what to make of that, except that I could kind of see where they were coming from. I mean, throughout my educational journey, I encountered several professors (who will remain unnamed) who were—as we would often say—not pastors for a reason. Students and reality took back seat to the more important things like books and theology for some of these profs. They were busy, flustered, socially awkward, and hardly looked you in the eye when you were pouring out their heart. (Many profs were not, however; and may God rebuke me when I act like this!!) As the saying goes, stereotypes exist for a reason.

But I wanted, and want, to break this stereotype, and I would love it if more and more people-loving, socially capable, passionate communicators, who love Jesus and love the church would pursue teaching. Throughout my journey, I desired to be either a theological PASTOR or a pastoral THEOLOGIAN. And I chose the latter because I get to preach and teach all week long—not just on Sundays! But I never shied away from being a pastor because books were more important than people. There’s no reason why our teachers and scholars should be the socially awkward bunch of non-pastoral-egg-heads who can’t hold a normal conversation. And there’s no reason why pastors shouldn’t be leading the way in doing (writing and preaching) rich, constructive, engaging theology. There’s no reason why college professors and scholars should not be bringing their riches to bear on their students through counseling, conversation, and exploring fresh avenues in which theology can be seen as necessary and relevant  for the common person.

I’m so stoked that there are many Evangelicals rising up today with a passion for both the heart and mind. In fact, I’m part of a society of young pastor-scholars called: the Society for the Advancement of Ecclesial Theology (SAET). Sounds pretty geeky, huh? No way! This group consists of a bunch of young, zealous pastors who are insanely normal. (Some are actually insane, but in the Chan/Platt sort of way.) In other words, if they got into a fight, some of them would actually win. They all have Ph.D.’s and are brilliant, but they don’t let it get to their heads. They are some of the most humble group of pastor-scholar dudes I’ve ever met. And they believe that the social location of the local church is necessary for doing constructive, church-shaped, Christ-encountering, passion-igniting theology—theology that digs deep into the text in order to encounter God and spread his fame among the nations.

May God give us grace and an extra endowment of humility as we seek to bridge the gap between text, church, and world.

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the seriesPassion for the Heart and Mind

One of my heroes of the faith is a man by the name of Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), who is a fitting example of the stuff I’ve been writing about over the past few posts. Schweitzer was a German theologian and missionary who exemplifies having a passion for both heart and mind perhaps more radically than anyone else in history (besides Jesus and Paul). Schweitzer is best known for winning the Nobel Peace prize in 1952, but it’s the rest of his life that has intrigued me.

Schweitzer was brilliant; I mean, crazy smart. The dude got four PhDs in four different subjects: Theology, Philosophy, Music, and Medicine. And please note, these are not honorary doctorates, which are given to someone after they write 20 or 30 popular level books. These are PhDs; they are earned degrees and the result of spending thousands of hours in painstaking study.

Along the way, Schweitzer wrote two very significant books in theology that are still widely read today: The Quest for the Historical Jesus (1906) and The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle (1930). Both are monumental in the scholarly fields of “Jesus Studies” and “Pauline Theology,” and both are considered way ahead of his time. He also wrote tons of other books on theology, philosophy, music and mission.

Why mission, you may ask? Well, this was Schweitzer’s true love, and mission is the reason why he got his fourth doctorate in medicine. After studying Jesus, and writing scholarly books about Jesus, Schweitzer gained a passion to live like Jesus. So in 1912, he joined the Paris Missionary Society to be a medical missionary in the jungles of Africa, in what is known today as Gabon (west of the DRC), to build and work at a hospital. To get there, he had to travel 200 miles (14 days) by raft to a place where there was no outside communication. In his first 9 months, he saw over 2,000 patients. “So he left his stale scholarly environment to pursue the real stuff of ministry!” you may say. “Amen!” Well, not really. Schweitzer and his wife operated on patients by day, and he continued to write scholarly books at night (he didn’t sleep much!). In other words, Schweitzer never saw a dichotomy between living for Jesus and thinking about Jesus, between scholarship and mission, between the jungles of Africa and the ivory towers of Europe. Jesus is Lord of all, and it was Schweitzer’s encounter with Jesus through rigorous study that fueled his passion for mission. And it was his encounter with the missions that continued to fuel his passion for scholarship. He didn’t see the two fields as at odds with each other. Both are necessary.

Not everyone is called to this type of ministry; in fact, most aren’t. But let’s drop the “either/or” dichotomy between thinking and doing, between scholars and missionaries, and let’s see how both are highly valued in the Kingdom. We need both.

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