Thursday, May 22, 2008

My Heart Is With Them

I don't know John Dobbs. Not really. But sometimes it feels like I do.

I don't remember when I first came across his blog, Out Here Hope Remains. But I do remember that I really liked the title. Since then, I have gone there to read and identify with the thoughts and feelings of this guy who, by all accounts and my own impression, is a really fine Gulf Coast preacher. It's no accident that John is in the short list of blogs that I've managed to get into the sidebar here at Frankly Speaking.

I mention him today because of something you may already know. Yesterday, his dear son John Robert, only 18 years old, died in an accident. I can only imagine the emotional place where John and his wife and their family are right now. It brings tears to my eyes just to think of it.

Would you please mention them in your prayers today?

Dear God, you know that I can say nothing that will ease the pain that is beyond words. But you are called the God of all comfort. So I ask you in the name of your beloved Son to comfort and to help all the family of John Robert Dobbs, also a beloved son.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Biblical Language Requirements at Churches of Christ Graduate Schools

Is there a connection between studying biblical languages and serving faithfully as a preacher? I'd like to know what you think about this. A little background, institutional and personal.

There's an old assumption behind the traditional curriculum at those institutions entrusted with the task of training future ministers for the church; seminaries, divinity schools, graduate schools of religion and the like. The assumption goes like this: It's very important for the minister to be able to read, with no more than the help of a lexicon, the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament.

Although that sentiment squares with my own prejudice, I have no way of knowing whether "in real life" that requirement necessarily leads to a better, more-fruitful ministry of the Word. Because those kinds of standards were held up for me, and because I have since cleared them, I like to think that the training was worthwhile. I would be willing to say that in my bones I know that it is worthwhile and important. For example, when comparing different translations of the Bible, it's helpful to be able to look over the shoulders of the translators and have some idea if they did a good, mediocre, or poor job of rendering the Word of God in English.

My caveat is that I have nothing like social-scientific, empirical evidence to back up what I think and feel. In terms that people in the Churches of Christ can appreciate, I have no way of knowing if being able to parse a participle of the Greek verb baptizo makes one more likely to baptize others. (I know, I know, getting into water isn't the ultimate standard of discipleship).

What do you think, or what have you experienced regarding the connections between the study of biblical languages and the ministry of the Word?

By the way, I quickly surveyed most of the graduate schools of Bible connected with Churches of Christ. I wanted to know what the language requirements were for the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) a three-year professional degree which has long been the standard academic requirement for ordination in many mainline Protestant churches. In the following unscientific table, I start with the highest level of requirement and work my way down. Here's what I found out.

1. Pepperdine requires a year and a half of both Hebrew and Greek. Harding Graduate School requires two years of Greek, one year of Hebrew.

2. Freed-Hardeman requires a year and a half of Greek and one year of Hebrew.

3. Abilene Christian, and David Lipscomb require one year of both Hebrew and Greek.

4. Lubbock Christian requires one semester (a half year) of "Introduction to Hebrew Study Tools," and one semester (a half year) of "Introduction to Greek Study Tools."

Among those sets of requirements, which ones should be raised, lowered, or kept where they are? Why?

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For what it's worth, for the Associate of Arts in Religion, Amarillo College requires one year of language study. Among the languages that one may choose are several modern ones (Spanish or German, for example) but also New Testament Greek. In the future, we hope to begin offering one year of Biblical Hebrew. Then, we plan to change the requirement so that Religion majors will have to study at least one of the two main biblical languages for one year in order to satisfy the requirements for the degree.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

And the winner is . . .

Two posts ago, I asked what sounded especially good to you from a list of courses being offered this summer. Several of you spoke up. Thanks. I really enjoyed hearing what you thought. I don't know if it was a "Great minds think alike" thing, or what. But to a one, your comments matched up with what I'd been turning over in my mind too. Anyway, I've decided to take the course "Foremothers in Faith: Women in the Hebrew Scriptures," taught by Dr. Carolyn Sharp. Here are some reasons, in no particular order:

First, the class taught by Christopher Beeley, "Pastoral Ministry in the Classical Tradition," is the one I took last summer. It was a great course. And I didn't flunk.

Second, over the years I've become more and more of an Old Testament person. And this course is about women in the OT. Oh, and I like women too.

Third, Dr. Sharp has already posted a reading list and daily schedule for her class. I like it when an instructor has a plan and a destination in mind.

Fourth, my sense is that the important women of the Bible haven't always gotten the attention they deserve in Christian teaching and preaching. I'm all for the transition from "Faith of our fathers" to "Faith of our parents."

Fifth, it's safe to say that there will be some card-carrying feminists in the class. I've discovered that I'm much more "Christian" in how I think about and how I treat a certain perspective if I actually know someone else who espouses it. (I know, the word "spouse" is in there, which could be all kinds of fun).

Don't you think the world would be
more of what God wants it to be
if more people who don't agree
would just spend a few days together?

I do. Next summer: Spelunking with Osama bin Laden!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Marvin Morrell (1923-2008)

Marvin Morrell spoke up in class last Wednesday night. We were in John 15, where Jesus tells his disciples, I am the vine, you are the branches. Every branch, Jesus said, is expected to bear fruit.

We had turned to Galatians 5, which speaks of the fruit of the Spirit. Marvin noted a similar but shorter passage in Ephesians. That was Marvin: attentive and thoughtful, positive and giving. I remembered that about Marvin when, last Friday, we heard that he had suddenly died. What a shock. What a loss.

Marvin was a leader, one of my elders at the San Jacinto Church of Christ. He exuded love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. To say that he was a good man just doesn't cut it. He was a Christ-like man who had lived such a true life for so long that everyone who knew him had the same opinion of him. He will be missed.

"And I heard a voice from heaven saying, 'Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth.' "Yes,' says the Spirit, 'that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them'." --Revelation 14:13

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The following comes from the obituary that appears in today's (Monday) edition of the Amarillo Globe-News:

Services will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday in San Jacinto Church of Christ with Glen Walton, Brett McCasland and Dale Dennis officiating. Burial will be in Memory Gardens Cemetery by Schooler Funeral Home.

Marvin was born July 26, 1923, in Wellington, Kan. He lived in Amarillo for 48 years where he was employed by Santa Fe Railway as a right-of-way agent until his retirement in 1983. As a young man he served in the U.S. Navy as a yeoman second class during World War II.

On Feb. 19, 1947, he married Estalene Virginia Floyd. This marriage was blessed with three daughters.

Marvin was a devoted member and elder at San Jacinto Church of Christ and was very involved as a mentor to the prison ministry. He was an avid golfer and fisherman and loved woodworking projects that his children and grandchildren requested.

Survivors include his wife; three daughters, Linda Perkins and husband Charles of Abilene, Debra Risley and husband Ed of Cheyenne, Okla., and Patti Conner and husband Daryl of Lubbock; a sister, Dorothy Lauterbach of Wellington, Kan.; seven grandchildren and their spouses; and four great-grandsons.

The family suggests memorials be in lieu of flowers to Amarillo College Bible Chair, 2501 S. Jackon, Amarillo, TX 79109, or Key to the Kingdom, 4124 Business Park Drive, Amarillo, TX 79110.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Which One Would You Pick?

It's Finals Week at Amarillo College. Monday morning, the Introduction to World Religions class took their final. Monday evening, it was The New Testament final. Tuesday afternoon: Life of Paul.

I don't think I'll give the Elementary Biblical Hebrew class a test. But if I did they'd pass with the proverbial flying colors. About a dozen students were there for the start back in September. Now they're down to five. I'm so proud of them. Rhonda, Dayna, Mark, Sam, and Trent have come so far. And they're determined to keep going with me through the summer. They know that once we start working with poetry, it's going to be an uphill climb. But they're ready for the challenge. What a fantastic group.

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In early June, I'll be traveling to New England. My work provides for a week's worth of professional development, and I'm going to take advantage of that.

Each year, Yale Divinity School (shown in the photo) and the Institute of Sacred Music host a Summer Term that features week-long courses. To be specific, seven different courses are being offered during the Monday-Friday that I plan to be there. If you were going to one of them, which one would you pick, and why? Here's the list of courses and teachers:


1. Foremothers in Faith: Women in the Hebrew Scriptures, Carolyn Sharp

2. Pastoral Ministry in the Classical Tradition, Christopher Beeley

3. Judaism in the Time of Jesus, Jeremy Hultin

4. Pastoral Care with Those Suffering from Depression, Jan Holton

At Yale Institute of Sacred Music

5. Reel Presence: Explorations in Liturgy and Film, Teresa Berger

6. A Fresh Look at Hymn Playing: Several Approaches to Enlivening Congregational Song, Bruce Neswick (clearly not planned with conservative Campbellites in mind!)

7. We Are Now One Body: Global Song, Patrick Evans
So these are the options. Any of them looks especially interesting to you?