Archives For Education

The evangelical world has flown into turbulent skies over the last few months. From Phil Robertson to bakeries in Arizona, and more recently the World Vision debacle. Evangelicals are facing a potential fork in the road in how they think through homosexuality. Then there’s the never dying debates about spiritual gifts, women in ministry, and the timing of future things. Worship wars. Doctrinal disputes. Young leaders improving on old methods; old leaders suspicious of new methods. House churches ditching the whole “institutional” church. An unforeseen flight of young Protestants to the Orthodox and Catholic churches. And the massive growth of Christianity in the majority world.

If I were a prophet, I’d predict a major divide in evangelicalism in the near future, one which would rival the split between fundamentalists and moderates in the early 20th century. In the one corner, we have a millennial, internet-savvy, social media driven, post-9/11 brand of Christianity that’s seeking authenticity, justice, and community. In the other corner, we have baby boomer Christian leaders, whose theology was forged in the caldrons of the Cold War era, where debates about the rapture, sign-gifts, and the rise of post-modernism formed a church’s identity.

One version of evangelicals define themselves by what they’re against; the other by what they are for. One group elevates truth; the other, love. One seeks authenticity and community; the other races to Bible studies and marriage seminars. One will divide over eschatology; the other over homosexuality.

We are facing a split. A growing chasm that will spawn two distinct versions of evangelical thought.

As I reflect on this inevitable divide, here’s my challenge to both sides:

1. Be Biblical. Don’t just blindly rehearse inherited presuppositions, and don’t base your theology as a reaction to your inherited presuppositions. Neither inherited theology nor reactionary theology is good enough. We are Protestants; we believe in the authority of the text. We value fresh exegesis and letting the text critique our theology. We don’t bend the text around our theology, but our theology around the text—even if we don’t like it. Head in SandWe cannot debate this doctrine or critique that theology with a closed Bible. We desperately need to root, and re-root, our 21st century theology in the actual text, and not some vague inherited notion of being biblical—without knowing the relevant chapter and verse, and being able to identity and articulate the strongest argument against our view. Search it out. Study with blood, sweat, and calloused knees. Be biblical. Root your theology in the actual text of Scripture.

2. Be humble. We believe in absolute truth. Absolutely! But such truth is harnessed and understood through fallible human interpretation. So be humble. Work your exegetical minds to the skull, but be humble in your conclusions. You may be right. You probably are (if your conclusions are backed by solid exegetical evidence). But recognize that you are human and you therefore might be wrong. And that’s okay. God is right. God is mysterious. God is beyond us, and He is always right. We are sometimes wrong. We are wrong more than we think. Much more. Our beliefs are clouded by presuppositions, cultural baggage, unexamined assumptions, and experiences that fog up our interpretive lenses. So be humble.

3. Seek truth and practice. That is, seek to live out and love out the truth you say you believe in. The world—and the evangelical left—is passionately unimpressed with unpracticed doctrines. Truth is validated and confirmed through doing it. So be biblical. Stay humble. And do it. Live out what you say you believe. For example, more than 2,000 passages in the Bible lambast the misuse of wealth, and only 6 address homosexuality. Align your values accordingly. Don’t be a stingy gay-hater, for this is not Christian. Become a Jesus follower who serves people who are attracted to the same sex. God served you when you when you were serving yourself—and idols. I don’t care if you are pre-millenial, post-millenial, or amillenial. Do you love the poor? Are you radically generous? Are you submissive, humble, and eager to love your enemies? Do these, and then I will know that you are a follower of the crucified and risen Lamb.

4. Study hard. I don’t say this because I’m an educator, but because the next generation of seekers are also thinkers. They ask hard questions and they get irritated at pre-packaged answers. With the rise (or world domination of) the internet, people have access to piles and piles of information. The anti-intellectual, Jesus-and-me, don’t-think-but-only-obey version of Christianity isn’t going to work with the 21st century generation. We need to think deeply and critically about sexuality, epistemology, science, and ethics. And if you don’t know what epistemology means, you need to. We need to think. We need to pull our heads from the sand and shed the stereotype that Christians have their heads in the sand. We need to think, interact, debate, and believe with our God-given minds the beautiful story about a God born in a manger. Millennials are asking very hard questions; recycled answers won’t work any longer. And we need to prove the truth we believe in not only with logical arguments—though we will always need these—but with an unarguable life that lives out the truth we say we believe in.

Let’s press on and obey and imitate the crucified and risen King, who pulled us into a beautiful story about a loving God who sought and saved the lost.

How many graduation ceremonies have you attended where the speaker tells the graduates that they may well have wasted their years of study, that the degree they’ve earned doesn’t matter all that much, that they are no more self-sufficient than they were when they started, or that they now stand in a more dangerous position than they did when they started studying? I’m guessing not many. But I’ve been to several. In fact, every graduation ceremony that Eternity Bible College has ever held is full of such warnings. Watch this 9-minute video to hear Francis Chan and others warn our graduates about the danger of what they’ve just accomplished.

The reality is, there are lots of bad reasons to get a Bible education. These reasons are so bad, in fact, that if any of these describe your motivation for pursuing a Bible education, then that’s a good reason to reconsider.

1. Don’t get a Bible education to fuel your pride.

Biblical knowledge should not lead us to see how great we are. It should make us better servants. So if you find your head swelling because of the Bible facts you know, then you have prostituted God’s word and made it into a means of social capital. You have turned saving truths into damning lies. As long as you view the Bible as a source of doctrines that you can use as weapons to shoot others down and bolster your own self-importance, you’d be better off to stay away from the book altogether.

 

EBC GRAD W09 672. Don’t get a Bible education to become more self-sufficient.

If you want to study the Bible so you don’t have to rely on others, so you can get your study out of the way, or so that you can stand on your own two feet spiritually, don’t bother. In God’s economy, self-sufficiency is the equivalent of blasphemy. If you don’t see your need for God, his wisdom, and his provision at every moment, then you’re guilty of self-reliance—which is the opposite of faith.

Believing that you are not dependent on continued study of God’s word or the insights of other Christians shows that you believe you have what you need. Some pursue a Bible education in order to confirm what they already know. Then they get upset with their teachers for not teaching something they believe ought to be taught in this or that course or not teaching it with sufficient force or emphasis (I’ve seen this happen many times). If you already know everything you need to know, then no educational experience can help you. You’ve destined yourself for a life of ignorance.

 

3. Don’t get a Bible education to become a speaker or an intellectual.

We all look up to intellectuals. To those who have the answers. And we look up to speakers who can forcefully proclaim the truth. But if either of these is your greatest goal in life, a Bible education won’t serve you well. God’s truth is meant to be lived, not just understood or even proclaimed. Now, being a brilliant thinker or a convicting speaker may well be the outflow of a life lived in submission to God’s truth and mission. But if all you’ve ever wanted is to be a Bible scholar or an arena-preacher, then you should put your Bible education on hold until your goal is to live in accordance with God’s truth—whatever that might end up entailing.

 

There are many good reasons to get a solid Bible education. I would switch careers if I didn’t believe that. But I’ve seen students come for many of the wrong reasons. We have to work very hard to ensure that our students develop a godly motivation for their studies in addition to developing solid theology and ministry training. So we begin the warnings at orientation and, as the video at the top of this post shows, we keep the exhortations rolling right through to graduation day.

 

Eternity Bible College is running an end of the year campaign. To help support the mission of Eternity, please visit http://eternitybiblecollege.com/campaign. All of your donations are tax-deductable and will be used efficiently to train our students to live and die well. 

2013-14 Giving Campaign

I’ll never forget back in seminary overhearing a fellow student say, “Wow, he’s not a pastor for a reason.” It took me second to figure out what he meant. But after listening to the same dry, monotone, impractical and irrelevant lecture read off the pages of 20 year old notes, I knew what he was saying. Some seminary professors belong in the ivory tower and they should stay in the ivory tower. If they wandered behind a church pulpit, few would understand (or care about) what they were saying.

I’m thankful that I had a lot of professors over the years that broke this stereotype, many of which are pastors and professors—and do a great job at both. However, the few negative examples I’ve encountered over the years have motivated me more than the positive examples. Since I always wanted to be a professor, I made a commitment to punch myself in the face if I ever resort to giving boring, irrelevant, ivory-tower-ish lectures for a living.

Another incident in my life shaped me from the opposite perspective. When I studied archaeology and geography in Israel in Fall of 1999, my professor kept giving us stuff to read by liberal scholars. He himself was a conservative (and a passionate teacher!), so I asked him one day: “Why do we only read books written by liberals?” He answered: “Well, I want my students to read the best scholarship out there”—what he said next changed my life—“and few Evangelicals do good scholarship.”

He was thinking in particular of archaeology, and for the most part he’s right. Most of the top ancient Near Eastern archaeologists are not evangelical (or even Christian; Bryant Wood is a rare exception). But I didn’t understand why it had to be this way. Why couldn’t Evangelicals also be top-notch scholars? At that moment, I determined to never sacrifice my faith on the altar of scholarship, nor sacrifice scholarship on the altar of my faith.

Jesus is Lord over both our hearts and minds and He wants us to worship him with passion and precision. If you only focus on the mind—thinking deeply about theology and doctrine—but not the heart, you will live a very intelligent but irrelevant life. But if you’re all heart and no mind, you’ll cruise across the sea of life with a massive engine and no rudder.

This is why at Eternity Bible College we teach to transform both heart and mind. We want our students to think deeply and live passionately. We challenge our students academically, not to temper their passion but to fuel it. I’ve never understood the logic that says you should study less to have more passion. Yes, it’s true. Sometimes people go to Bible college or seminary and end up dispassionate. It’s also true that many missionaries and pastors end up apathetic, burnt out, or in some cases lose their faith. But that doesn’t mean that we should prevent people from becoming missionaries and pastors.

Studying doesn’t kill passion. Worshipless and heartless study might. But the Scriptures we teach were breathed out by a Creator who touched Mt. Sinai and set it ablaze, who spoke to Isaiah and crumpled him to his knees, who whispered 10 billion galaxies into existence. “This is the one to whom I will look,” says the LORD: “He who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isa 66:2). How could we not pour over with painstaking study every single precious and powerful word of our Creator?

It’s so exciting to see our graduates get this. One of my favorite times of the year is graduation in May. I love to look out across the student body and see a bunch of wild-eyed radicals chomping at the bit to further God’s kingdom in creative ways. Only now they’re equipped with a thick biblical worldview. And I love how our graduates get creative. One student, Justin Enerson, graduated in 2013 with his Bachelor of Biblical Studies. While a student, Justin spent a year teaching aspiring members of the Skid Row homeless community to weld. For their projects, he taught them to build bike-drawn ambulances to send to remote African locations where low-cost, efficient transportation is needed. Justin then moved for a time to Africa to work with Zambikes, where he distributed these “Zambulances.”

Justin Enerson (the white guy) in Africa, celebrating with a village that had just received the gift of a bike-drawn ambulance.

Justin Enerson (the white guy) in Africa, celebrating with a village that had just received the gift of a bike-drawn ambulance.

Passion. Heart. And Mind. Justin’s confrontation with God’s word stirred up a desire for mission. And impoverished Africans are reaping the reward.

Eternity Bible College is running an end of the year campaign. To help support the mission of Eternity, please visit http://eternitybiblecollege.com/campaign/. All of your donations are tax-deductable and will be used efficiently to train our students, like Justin, to live and die well. 

2013-14 Giving Campaign

Eternity Bible College is not your typical college. It’s not even your typical Bible College. It’s a place where students come—according to our mission statement—“to live and die well.”

chan-EBCThere are several things that make Eternity unique. Most people who are familiar with us know that we offer courses at the most affordable price possible—$175 a unit. What would cost you a semester at most schools can get you an entire 4-year degree at Eternity.

But Eternity is more than an affordable Bible school.

Another thing that stands out is the relational atmosphere. Most students get to know their professors very well here, and there are no thick walls between teacher and student. Students borrow our cars, share our meals, or sometimes live in our houses. Even our president will have a couple students living under his roof every semester.

But Eternity is much more than just a relational school.

Consider the nature of our classes. We believe that both heart and mind are essential to living out the Christian faith. If we cranked out students who were all heart and no mind, then they will be like engines with no rudders. If we create students with large heads and small hearts, not only would they look funny but they’d probably do more harm EBCthan good for God’s kingdom. This is why every professor, every class, every assignment at Eternity seeks to challenge both heart and mind so that we can produce graduates who can think and live well—and die well.

But Eternity is more than just a well-balanced educational institution.

All of these are important factors that make Eternity a unique school. But one thing stands out the most to my mind.

Eternity exists to further the mission.

Jesus told His disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt 28:18-29). A few days later, He said: “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). And thus began the impossible mission; the mission of a rag-tag band of Jesus-followers, who against all odds, in the face of persecution, with the prospect of political upheaval, would take the good news about a risen King to the ends of the earth. The disciples would multiply and be persecuted. And the more they were persecuted the more they multiplied. And the more they multiplied the more they were persecuted. Through it all, the King demonstrates His power through the Spirit working in these outcasts to penetrate all areas of culture with the good news that Israel’s Messiah reigns over the earth.

And that’s what I love about Eternity. We’ve taken the baton from Jesus, the Apostles, and the early church in equipping unlikely heroes in “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). And I love it!

Many people don’t think of “mission” when they think of theological education. They probably assume that Bible Colleges exist in order to make Christians smarter about doctrine and theology. Maybe they do—but we don’t. If giving knowledge to college students were the goal of Eternity, I wouldn’t be here. No way. I’ve got better things to do than make 20 somethings, who already struggle with pride, puffed up with more knowledge.

As an Old Testament professor, I long to take my students to the Garden of Eden, to Mount Sinai, through the Red Sea, and into the sands of the desert order that they come face to face with the Holy One of Israel. I want them to feel the heat from the burning bush, cry out in agony with ebc 2Jeremiah, and feel the pains of death as they walk across the valley of dry bones with Ezekiel. Why? Because such an encounter with Yahweh generates and sustains a holy passion for mission.

We’re not just training college students. We’re raising up martyrs.

Quite honestly, the front-line ministries excite me the most. I’m involved in a ministry called Touch Nepal, which supports indigenous pastors in a Hindu nation. My church supports another ministry called Zoe International, which rescues children out of the sex-trade industry and saturates them with the gospel. I love these ministries. They excite me more than any other ministry I’m involved in.

But if the kingdom of God is like a garden, then Touch Nepal and Zoe International—and a host of other ministries preaching and living the gospel in the hard to reach areas—are the fruit. They’re the tomatoes, the cherries, the 20 pound watermelons sprawled out over the earth. But a garden’s soil needs to be fertilized, tilled, churned up, and revitalized. That’s where Eternity comes in.

We are the rototiller, the shovel, the bag of nutrients spread over the ground. Eternity nourishes and revitalizes the soil; otherwise, there may not be any fruit next year.

Historically, this has been the mission of Bible colleges. They were originally planted to stir up the soil in order to further the mission, and that’s the heart of Eternity. We exist to train students to live and die well—both near and far, local and global. We raise up artists to reach the art community, public school teachers to transform education, business owners to construct gospel-centered, counter-cultural businesses. And we raise up pastors and missionaries to evangelize the nations.

By teaching at Eternity, I’m digging graves for aspiring martyrs, whose blood will be redeemed by the King whose blood saved the world.

Come die with us, whether as a student or a partner in enabling us to fulfill our mission.

WritingIn honor of the launch of our Fall semester, I’m going to explore an interesting phenomenon: plagiarism. Few will be surprised to learn the truth. Christian students plagiarize, whether they attend public or private colleges, secular or Christian universities.

I find the psychology behind the urge to cheat fascinating, but I also want to bring a theological perspective to bear. And keep in mind that what I will say about plagiarism here finds its expression in many forms of cheating and corner-cutting in many professions.

Why would a Christian student, genuinely committed to Christian standards of morality, steal intellectual property from another source, cheat on an exam, or lie about the amount of reading he or she has done for a course? I believe the answer is nearly always the same: justification.

Even the most committed Christian need only look to the Noble End to overshadow the Sketchy Means of getting there. So we justify some shady tactics (we intentionally avoid thinking about the shadiness) in order to gain a position where we’ll be able to provide for our families, impact the world, and give to our churches (of course, we would never spend any of that money on filling our own lives with things we don’t need).

I recently read a fascinating article in the Journal of Higher Education written by a guy who makes his living by charging students to write their papers and take their courses for them (yes, this includes ethics courses!). Perhaps the most startling aspect of the article was his casual remark that seminary students—those preparing to be pastors—were a great boost to his business.

Perhaps the assignment is unfair or unnecessary (“this is just busywork”). Maybe you could see how it would be helpful to most students, but you’ve already thought about this topic quite a bit, and you’re now busy with bigger and better things, so…

…so you’ll claim credit for something you didn’t write? You’ll copy the answers out of a book? Smuggle in a cheat sheet? “Refresh your memory” by peeking over another’s test-taking shoulder? Sell your birthright for a bowl of soup?

ScantronLet’s be honest here. You’re not really cheating on a test. You’re not really plagiarizing.

You’re selling your soul to gain a pathetically microscopic portion of the world. You’re trading your every ounce of your integrity for a slightly higher percentage on one assignment in one course in one degree program in one school.

Could it possibly be worth it? Does this question deserve an answer? And yet Christians cheat on tests and steal from sources on a regular basis. And yet Christians cut corners and engage in little lies in workplaces around the world.

Every student needs to ask himself: Why am I taking this class or pursuing this degree in the first place? Am I doing this to get a good job? If that were so, then perhaps “bending” the rules and “borrowing” some material is nothing more than an innovative way of outstripping the competition.  Your career is the important thing, so if you can enter your career competently and do a little less work in getting there, isn’t that just an example of “working smarter, not harder”?

But I don’t think the point of education is the job you’ll get or the career you’ll build. No, the point of education is becoming a certain type of person. Education is about improving yourself, and therefore the process is more important than the grade.

Make no mistake:

  • If you enter (and move all the way through) your education already knowing what you need to know, you’re a fool.
  • If you think education is about a diploma, you’re not likely to learn much in life.
  • If you’re more concerned about your career than the type of person you will be in that career, you do indeed have bigger things to worry about than studying for that test or carefully researching that paper.
  • If your paycheck or potential promotions mean more to you than the state of your soul, then you’re not going anywhere in life, regardless of your salary or title.

In writing this, of course, I’m a hypocrite speaking to hypocrites. But there’s never been a better time for the Christian community to recognize that “everyone else does it” is a great reason NOT to do it, that our souls matter more than our grades or careers, and that the only Source of evaluation and promotion that matters is the very One who said “You shall not steal.”