“One thing I have asked of the Lord, that I will seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire of his temple.”
Every year a few students ask me my thoughts about whether they should pursue doctoral studies and I respond with what has come to be known as ‘The Speech.’ Essentially, ‘The Speech’ runs something like this: ‘Do not do it if you think you are going to find a job at the end of it; do it for the sake of doing it. There are almost no jobs going in academia these days, and humanly speaking, time and chance are what make the difference between the one who gets the big break and the one who never even makes a shortlist. For every student who finds an academic job, there are countless others who do not. I studied with people much more talented than I am who ended up selling insurance or working in a bank.’
The advice is, I believe, good. The chances of finding a job are slim; and with a PhD you actually make yourself less employable for other things. This is not to say you should not do a PhD; but you need to be realistic about what you can expect. Of course, all human beings are, to some extent, narcissists: I have never given ‘The Speech’ to anyone who did not believe that they were destined to be the one in a thousand who lands the plum job—after all, I ignored similar sage advice on similarly narcissistic grounds more than twenty years ago; but at least I try to bring a little reality to bear on the situation.
There are a couple of other things I usually say as well. If the student is a married male, I always advise him to find out what his wife thinks about the plan. If she is not fully on board, then to pursue such study is stupid: it will place strain on the marriage, breed resentment, and almost certainly end in tears. But there is one other question I usually pose, if not bluntly, then at least in some form: to whom do you intend to be accountable?
One of the most important things I do each week is assist my wife in teaching the four-year-olds Sunday School Bible class at my church. It keeps me grounded in reality, as there are few things more humbling than teaching the basics to a reluctant child, few things more delightful than seeing their Bible knowledge grow over the year, and surely few things more important than laying the foundations of the next generation’s Bible knowledge. Teaching such classes is also a pressing reminder that the vacuous pomposity that characterizes so much of the scholarly world is ultimately just a self-important smokescreen for asking and answering a myriad of frequently irrelevant questions. Your colleagues in the doctoral seminar might think you’re a genius, but, believe me, the five-year-old Sunday School pupil does not. She cares not a whit to whom you have spoken this last week, or for whom you have published this last year, or what fine and dandy initials you have after your name. She is more likely to regard you as weird, and if you cannot express yourself clearly and relevantly, she will let you know in her own unique way. Teaching such a class is like being a stand-up comedian in a New York or Glasgow club on a Saturday night: you earn your audience’s respect and attention; and they take no prisoners if you are less than you should be. Humbling indeed. But more than that, teaching such classes demands that you think through the faith not only as an intellectual exercise but also as something which needs to be practically communicated. If you are boring, irrelevant, unclear—or if you do not seem to care about the children—they will pick it up immediately and punish you for it mercilessly. That’s a form of accountability too, and crucial for those who spend their weeks in ivory towers, designing castles in the air.
ου γαρ σεσοφισμενοις μυθοις εξακολουθησαντες εγνωρισαμεν υμιν την του κυριου ημων ιησου χριστου δυναμιν και παρουσιαν αλλ εποπται γενηθεντες της εκεινου μεγαλειοτητος
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works."
(Titus 3:8 ESV)
The discussion flows smoothly from one thought into the next. ταυτων, "these things," refers back at least to the creed in vv 5-7, but there is little in those verses that warrants the use of the strong διαβεβαιουσθαι, "to insist emphatically." It is the Cretan's poor behavior that is causing the problem.
He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
(Titus 3:5-7 ESV)
I'm my biggest danger. My own ego is my biggest danger. The counter part to that is when I go up, God goes down. So the Bible says, "Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God that in due time he may exalt you." We tend to turn it around and drift toward things that magnify us. And if you write books, or have a growing church, or whatever, the insidiousness of the temptation to feel good for the wrong reasons is almost invincible. You're on your face so often... at least I pray crazy prayers like, "If I can't emotionally distinguish between my delight in God and my delight in prospering, kill me. Take me out. I don't want to bring any reproach on the gospel.
Sarah Palin's resignation gives Republicans a new opportunity to see her plain--to review the bidding, see her strengths, acknowledge her limits, and let go of her drama. It is an opportunity they should take. They mean to rebuild a great party. They need to do it on solid ground.
Her history does not need to be rehearsed at any length. Ten months ago she was embraced with friendliness by her party. The left and the media immediately overplayed their hand, with attacks on her children. The party rallied round, as a party should. She went on the trail a sensation but demonstrated in the ensuing months that she was not ready to go national and in fact never would be. She was hungry, loved politics, had charm and energy, loved walking onto the stage, waving and doing the stump speech. All good. But she was not thoughtful. She was a gifted retail politician who displayed the disadvantages of being born into a point of view (in her case a form of conservatism; elsewhere and in other circumstances, it could have been a form of liberalism) and swallowing it whole: She never learned how the other sides think, or why.
In television interviews she was out of her depth in a shallow pool. She was limited in her ability to explain and defend her positions, and sometimes in knowing them. She couldn't say what she read because she didn't read anything. She was utterly unconcerned by all this and seemed in fact rather proud of it: It was evidence of her authenticity. She experienced criticism as both partisan and cruel because she could see no truth in any of it. She wasn't thoughtful enough to know she wasn't thoughtful enough. Her presentation up to the end has been scattered, illogical, manipulative and self-referential to the point of self-reverence. "I'm not wired that way," "I'm not a quitter," "I'm standing up for our values." I'm, I'm, I'm.
In another age it might not have been terrible, but here and now it was actually rather horrifying.
"The elites hate her." The elites made her. It was the elites of the party, the McCain campaign and the conservative media that picked her and pushed her. The base barely knew who she was. It was the elites, from party operatives to public intellectuals, who advanced her and attacked those who said she lacked heft. She is a complete elite confection. She might as well have been a bonbon.
"She makes the Republican Party look inclusive." She makes the party look stupid, a party of the easily manipulated.
"She shows our ingenuous interest in all classes." She shows your cynicism.
2) New to this year's conference was this afternoon's panel discussion. The topic (of course) was dispensationalism. Attendees (approximately 200 attended this inaugural event) were given the opportunity to ask questions related to dispensationalism. Sitting on the panel were: Dr. John Hartog III (FBBC & TS), Dr. Kevin Bauder (CTS, Minneapolis), Dr. Rennie Showers (FOI), and Dr. Mike Stallard (BBC & S, Clarks Summit). Several attendees took advantage of the opportunity to ask questions, and did not adhere to the dispensational topic. Questions regarding broader fundamentalism and Calvinism were asked, as were questions related to specific individuals in conservative evangelicalism and gospel-centered gatherings like Together For The Gospel and The Gospel Coalition. Several panelists made statements regarding the perceived danger of an over-emphasizing the gospel (in Stallard's words, "One of my concerns is how my students are responding to this. For groups such as T4G to place such an emphasis on the first coming, they must deemphasize the second coming. I want my students to not diminish their interest in the second coming.").
Showers responded by stating, "We are not saying that we are trying to downplay the gospel; we are saying that the gospel is the center of CT. That's the whole thing God is doing throughout history [in their minds]. This is one of the reasons they are amillennial. CT is saying that salvation is the thing God is doing throughout history, and that is why they don't see any need to talk about future events."
Bauder appeared to temper the tone of the previous responses by stating: "We, as dispensationalists, draw a distinction between the gospel as the center of our system, and the gospel as the center of God's overall plan. When it comes to the system of faith, the gospel is the hub of that system--so much so, that we can use the gospel as the touchstone in providing an answer to many theological questions. The real question is this: how does God intend to bring glory to Himself? The CT: the history of redemption. The DT: the history of redemption, but there's more than that. The DT insists that God intends to glorify Himself in many and various ways."
Later, when asked if it possible to make too much an issue of dispensationalism, Bauder acknowledged that, "It’s possible to make more out of dispensationalism than ought to be made … It is not a fundamental of the faith, it is not the gospel. I do not withhold fellowship from CT’ers! My greatest hero in the faith was a Covenant Theologian, as is my best friend in the faith."
Overall, the discussion seemed profitable. Tomorrow, several round table discussions will be held with the panelists leading the discussions.