“In matters that are so obscure and far beyond our vision, we find in Holy Scripture passages which can be interpreted in very different ways without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such cases, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on the side that, if further progress in the search for truth justly undermines our position, we too fall with it. We should not battle for our own interpretation but for the teaching of the Holy Scripture. We should not wish to conform the meaning of Holy Scripture to our interpretation, but our interpretation to the meaning of Holy Scripture.” [Augustine of Hippo, quoted in Alister E. McGrath, The Foundations of Dialogue in Science and Religion, 119]
The PhD viva examination, or thesis defense, represents the culmination of the PhD examination process. It is a rite of passage in your academic apprenticeship. A trial to be addressed confidently. The gateway to joining the academic community as an independent teacher or researcher. So how does one properly celebrate this momentous occasion? While my moment of glory is far, far away, I have begun to prepare for it. Here is sneek peek into a commemorative dance that I have been working on…
For all those who are stuck in their PhD research and need a little bit of inspiration…
49 year old former graphic designer and fitness fanatic, Stefaan Engels completed 365 marathons in 365 days. Engels has covered 9,569 miles on foot since setting off from his hometown of Ghent on Feb. 5, 2010. This mind-boggling journey came to conclusion in Barcelona, Spain, on Saturday, after zigzagging Europe and the U.S. In his interview with CNN Engels stated, “I don’t regard my marathon year as torture. It is more like a regular job. I am running just as Joe Average goes to work on Monday morning, whether or not he feels like it.”
O.K. if this dude can get up, put on his running shoes and run a marathon every day, what is your research problem? Get up, put on a pot of coffee, pull out your notes and start writing. One page at a time. Just like Joe Average goes to work. Just like Stefaan Engels runs marathons. Its just that easy…
Working on your PhD includes formulating good questions. It all starts there. What am I looking for? Here is a list of questions that no PhD student or any intelligent person should ever ask…
A recent survey of 3,000 cabin crew members of Virgin Atlantic Airline has revealed some odd questions during the flight:
Please can you open the window?
Can you show me to the showers?
Please can I have a cup of tea and book a massage for my Barbie doll?
Can you take my children to the playroom?
I have dropped my glass eye, please could you help me find it?
Could you turn the engines down because they are too noisy?
Is there a McDonald’s on board?
Please can the captain stop the turbulence?
As I inch towards my eventual PhD dissertation, I want to keep this simple truth in mind:
“My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things, that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour.” [John Newton]
Well, when your topic of research is “Reading Isaiah as Christian Scripture” this somehow seems to be fitting…
The answer is a resounding “NO”. How depressing. Why? What is the reason for such shocking news? Well, there are 171 days left until Jesus’ second coming. According to this article, that’s the message on 40 billboards around Nashville, proclaiming May 21, 2011, as the date of the Rapture. Billboards are up in eight other U.S. cities, too. Who can we thank for such amazing news? Harold Camping, the founder of Family Radio Inc made this prediction that has been plastered all over Nashville.
Here is his rationale…
“In 2 Peter 3:8 Holy God reminds us that one day is as 1,000 years. Therefore, with the correct understanding that the seven days referred to in Genesis 7:4 can be understood as 7,000 years, we learn that when God told Noah there were seven days to escape worldwide destruction, He was also telling the world there would be exactly 7,000 years (one day is as 1,000 years) to escape the wrath of God that would come when He destroys the world on Judgment Day. Because Holy Infinite God is all-knowing, He knows the end from the beginning. He knew how sinful the world would become.
Seven thousand years after 4990 B.C. (the year of the Flood) is the year 2011 A.D. (our calendar).
4990 + 2011 – 1 = 7,000
[One year must be subtracted in going from an Old Testament B.C. calendar date to a New Testament A.D. calendar date because the calendar does not have a year zero.]
Thus Holy God is showing us by the words of 2 Peter 3:8 that He wants us to know that exactly 7,000 years after He destroyed the world with water in Noah’s day, He plans to destroy the entire world forever. Because the year 2011 A.D. is exactly 7,000 years after 4990 B.C. when the flood began, the Bible has given us absolute proof that the year 2011 is the end of the world during the Day of Judgment, which will come on the last day of the Day of Judgment.
Amazingly, May 21, 2011 is the 17th day of the 2nd month of the Biblical calendar of our day. Remember, the flood waters also began on the 17th day of the 2nd month, in the year 4990 B.C.”
How does one reconcile this non compos mentis exegesis with with the following assertions of the New Testament?
Matt. 24:42 “Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”
Mark 13:32-33“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.”
Luke 12:39-40“But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
This entire interpretive acrobatics hinges on 2 Peter 3.8:”But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.”
This text is based on the quotation of Psalm 90.4:
For a thousand years in your sight
are like yesterday when it is past,
or like a watch in the night.
Psalms are poetry. They do not supply ready-made eschatological time-tables. This is about asserting God’s sovereignty over time and human life.
When Peter brings this text into his letter, he has a similar intent yet slightly different. Michael Green in his TNTC commentary writes, “Whereas Psalm 90 contrasts the eternity of God with the brevity human life, 2 Peter contrasts the eternity of God with the impatience of human speculations.” The context of that text is that the hearers of this letter were living in tension of expecting the Day of the Lord as imminent, yet facing the reality of its delay. Delay that to them appeared to be lengthy, possibly eliciting the skepticism of scoffers around them. So this text calls them to consider that this delay, which seems agonizingly long, may not be so significant when seen in the larger context of what God was doing in history. God alone has that overarching perspective. He alone retains the knowledge of the date of the Second Coming. His power and wisdom call his people to patent and creative faithfulness rather than mathematical speculations or loss of hope. This Christmas season we are urged by the gospel texts above to live lives awakened and expectant. Praying and longing for His appearing. Nourishing faith, caring for people around us, living lives of the Kingdom to Come right here and now. Practicing the Resurrection, as Eugene Peterson would put it.
It is worth hearing Robert Banks’ words from his book The Tyranny of Time, ‘There is both extraordinary slowness and intermittent suddenness in God’s way of working. Think about God’s creative activity. From scientific studies we know that the evolutionary process through which God brings everything into being is a slow affair which is still unfolding. Changes in the inorganic, animal and human world over a period of six thousand million years were mostly infinitesimal. Yet every so often explosions of biological novelty took place. These surprising bursts of evolutionary activity followed protracted development within species, and occurred, biologically speaking, with unexpected rapidity. Is it improper to read from this something about the way God approaches his work?’
According to John Calvin, Peter is urging his readers “when the coming of Christ is talked about, to raise their eyes upwards, for by so doing they will not subject the time appointed by God to their own ridiculous wishes.”
Finally we bear in mind Barnett’s words, “Faith orients man to eternity, whereas scoffers remain children of time.”
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Those of us in the field of Biblical Studies work with words. We think, we speak, we write. Lectures, articles, books. Working with words is a vocational calling. They inform, confront, shape. Words have inherent power. Yet this morning I am confronted by this segment from Henri Nouwen’s book The Way of the Heart. His words challenge me to think how we use words and how much of them we use and for what purpose.
“Recently I was driving through Los Angeles, and suddenly I had the strange sensation of driving through a huge dictionary. Whether I looked there were words trying to take my eyes from the road. They said, “Use me, take me, buy me, drink me, smell me, touch me, kiss me, sleep with me.” In such a world, who can maintain respect for words?
All this is to suggest that words, my own included, have lost their creative power. Their limitless multiplication has made us lose confidence in words and caused us to think, more often than not, “They are just words.”…
The result if this is that the main function of the word, which is communication, is no longer realized. The word no longer creates community, and therefore no longer gives life. The word no longer offers trustworthy ground on which people can meet each other and build society.” [Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart, 45]
If you are a PhD student pressed for time and need to make some headways in your research, or you face a deadline for your review article at JTI, or your prelims are coming up and you still need to read about 250,000 pages…I cannot help you there, but at least let me suggest a time-saving idea for your overgrown lawn…
According to this article, “About 50 goats were hired for an unusual job in Oregon, but one they obviously were born to do: lawn mowing. The animals were brought in to clear weeds from a two-acre lot in southeast Portland, drawing hundreds of onlookers. The idea came from Brett Milligan, whose Portland landscape company GreenWorks was hired to tend the lot. Milligan liked the idea of avoiding gas-powered mowers. Georgina Stiner, president of Goat Rental NW, says using goats instead of lawnmowers is hardly new, but says there is a growing interest for it in urban areas.”
O.K. at least I can check my lawn moving off the list. Now back to Isaiah. Chapter 8.5…”The Delights of Rezin”. Does the text really require the amendation of משוש? Who knows…I just wish I had few of those goats…