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Church or the Academy?

November 20, 2012

During a conversation at SBL, a former professor of mine mentioned that we, as Reformed scholars, would eventually have to choose between serving the church or the academy. By that, I assume he means that one cannot please both academia and the church at the same time – whatever we write, one side will be frustrated or disappointed by the choices we make. However, I’m not sure I want to choose between church or the academy, although perhaps I have already unwittingly made my choice.

The conference has been held from Saturday to Tuesday with sessions occurring all day on Sunday. Unfortunately, morning worship wasn’t really one of the options for the Sunday sessions (and I wasn’t around to go to the 7.30 a.m. service). As my attending church on Sunday morning is non-negotiable for me, I found a church in the neighbourhood of the conference and skipped out on half my morning session. Surrounded by mostly black people and eating Thanksgiving dinner for communion, I felt at home among these believers who were doing church [fighting for social justice being one of those things]. My time living in intentional community has only reaffirmed my desire to not allow my faith to be only something for head. So I have definitely chosen church.

At the same time, I’m not interested in church that isn’t interested in listening to biblical scholarship. To ignore what’s happening in biblical scholarship is denying my Reformed heritage (this is despite the fact that, as a friend at this conference put it, there are a lot of people focused on a lot of obscure little details that I’m not at all interested in). How can we believe that God rains down good on both the wicked and righteous and then assume that other Christians (and non-Christians) are incapable of having good insights into linguistics, the biblical text, theology and culture?!? And since as a Reformed Christian I believe in God’s sovereignty and capability of working amongst all people in all things, how can I not use the gifts God’s given me to participate in developing that knowledge further? And then sharing that knowledge with the wider body of Christ (the church).

I, being typical of the generation in which I belong, want both. This conference has reminded me that I’m not the only one, which is pretty exciting. Now just to figure out how best to do that well (and finish my dissertation :))

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