A Little Benefit From The Books of the Bible, TNIV

I’m almost done with Deuteronomy now in my now-not-so-new-looking TNIV edition, The Books of the Bible. I’m enjoying reading the Bible unencumbered by chapter and verse divisions.

One little benefit has come up now several times in my reading of the Pentateuch: I’m surprised when I finish a book! Normally chapter numbers chart my progress for me whether I want them to or not. And, let’s admit it, many of us find ourselves wondering how much longer Leviticus is going to last… With The Books of the Bible, I reached the end without ever thinking that.

I did, however, think several times that the weight of those laws and stipulations and procedures was so overwhelming as to be almost crushing. Indeed, it was a yoke that Peter admitted “that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear.” So I wondered: what if Israel had said, “Oh, Lord, we know we cannot obey such laws unless you change us from the inside! Have mercy on us!” How might God have responded to such a plea?

Why Don’t More Conservatives Get Ph.D.’s?

An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education mentions some of the findings from a study done by a mixed-political-affiliation couple asking why conservatives don’t get Ph.D.’s as often as liberals. The couple, Matthew Woessner and April Kelly-Woessner issued their findings in a report titled, “Left Pipeline: Why Conservatives Don’t Get Doctorates.”

There was some evidence that the already overwhelming number of liberals and moderates in the professoriate (90%, the article says) is self-replicating, but that’s not where the Woessners focused their answer.

Instead the Woessners looked at differences in interests and personality. They found that in a variety of ways, conservative students were less interested than liberals in subject matter that often leads to doctoral degrees, and less interested in doing the kinds of things that professors spend their time doing.

I find this to be a little too convenient:

For example, liberal students reported valuing intellectual freedom, creativity, and the chance to write original work and make a theoretical contribution to science.

But this was interesting and plausible:

They outnumbered conservative students two to one in the humanities and social sciences—which are among the fields most likely to produce interest in doctoral study. Conservative students, however, put more value on personal achievement and orderliness, and on practical professions, like accounting and computer science, that could earn them lots of money.

And this stuck out to me the most:

The Woessners also found that conservative students put a higher priority than liberal ones on raising a family. That does not always fit well with a career in academe, where people often delay childbearing until after they earn tenure.

I find that to be fairly persuasive. I myself am about to enter my first year of marriage while working on a dissertation. It’s not likely to be easy. And I’ve seen others drop out of our Ph.D. (or other graduate) programs because of wife and marriage, baby carriage.

Theological Scholarship in Fundamentalism

Kevin Bauder recently wrote a series of articles for his “In the Nick of Time” column “Fundamentalism and Scholarship.”

This paragraph stood out to me as one of the key areas of my own weakness:

If we want to produce theological scholars, then we must provide training in the skills that scholars require. This is the role of academic institutions and Ph.D. programs. During graduate and especially postgraduate education, would-be scholars must learn to navigate the literature within their disciplines, master the skills required for scholarly research, and develop those powers of presentation that will be essential for functioning in the scholarly community. During the years of preparation, future scholars must also make their first forays into the academic arena, attending and offering presentations for the learned societies that service their disciplines. Simultaneously, they will begin to develop the networks of relationships that will lead to publishing opportunities. Most importantly, future scholars must begin to focus attention upon the areas of specialization in which they hope to advance the scholarly conversation and thereby to expand the scope of human knowledge.

Fundamentalism has not always been comfortable with such prescriptions. For most of our history, it hasn’t been on our radar screens. But that reticence has been eroding, as evidenced by the new writing and publishing program going on now at my own Bob Jones Seminary.

May the Lord help us to go far and high in scholarship but not in our own estimation of it. May our scholarship instead be a means of increasing our understanding and admiration of the Lord.

All Things to All People

The largest Anglican church in Canada has pulled out of the national church and put itself under the authority of a parallel conservative body. The “tipping point” was their diocese’s support of same-sex blessings, but I was very pleased with this National Post article for letting the putative dissidents explain their rationale: they left because of their view of Scripture and not because of homophobia.

In that light, this quotation from a liberal partisan really struck me:

Paul Feheley, principal secretary to Archbishop Fred Hiltz, head of the Canadian Church, said Anglicanism has always contained wide areas of opinion and there is no reason for anyone to leave.

“We’re not holding our noses and pretending this is not happening, but at some point we can’t be all things to all people.”

Someone who persists in such a laissez faire attitude toward Bible doctrine is the appropriate object of the kind of separation Paul calls for in 2 Thessalonians 3:

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us….
If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

St. John’s has done right in pulling out, and according to the article, they did it soberly without glee. That’s quite a feat. I applaud them.

Textual Optimism

In my previous post on Textual Optimism: A Critique of the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament by Kent W. Clarke (part of the JSNT monograph series now edited by Stanley Porter), I summarized some of Clarke’s statistics on the general upgrade from D to C, C to B, and B to A in the variant rating system.

In my subsequent reading, Clarke has charged that the overall upgrade in textual quality is made even more stark because the letter rating definitions themselves were upgraded from the-glass-is-half-empty to the-glass-is-half-full.

Here are the UBS3 definitions:

  • {A} The text is virtually certain.
  • {B} There is some degree of doubt.
  • {C} There is a considerable degree of doubt.
  • {D} There is a very high degree of doubt.

Here are the UBS4 definitions:

  • {A} The text is certain.
  • {B} The text is almost certain.
  • {C} The editors had difficulty in deciding which variant to place in the text.
  • {D} The editors had great difficulty arriving at a decision.

Note that the majority of the UBS1-3 rating definitions were related to doubt while the UBS4 definitions are related to certainty. So you would actually expect some A’s in USB3 to go to B’s in UBS4, some B’s to C’s, and so on. Instead, you see the opposite. It’s almost as if the certainty of the editors’ choices got a double upgrade from UBS3 to UBS4.

Clarke is not saying we should ditch the UBS, or even the UBS4. He’s simply warning that the letter ratings should be used with caution and full knowledge—and he’s implicitly asking the committee in charge of the UBS to give a fuller explanation for their choices.