Doubt is a bug, not a feature.

In our contemporary postmodern moment Christians often lionize doubt and decry confidence. There’s a cachet in saying, “I embrace my doubts” or “Churches need to establish safe places for people to question.” Doubt becomes in this line of thinking a function of the Christian life, not an unfortunate consequence of our fallen human condition. To use a computer analogy, it has been elevated as a feature, not a bug.

I don’t think the apostle Paul would share that sentiment. Today I was working with some students in Philippians 1, and vv. 9-10 really caught my attention. Here’s an excerpt and translation:

Καὶ τοῦτο προσεύχομαι, ἵνα ἡ ἀγάπη ὑμῶν ἔτι μᾶλλον καὶ μᾶλλον ⸀περισσεύῃ ἐν ἐπιγνώσει καὶ πάσῃ αἰσθήσει εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν ὑμᾶς τὰ διαφέροντα.
And I pray this, that your love may abound even more and more in knowledge and every kind of insight so that you can decide what is best (NET Bible)

What struck me from this passage relative to the question of doubt is that Paul does not see it as the endpoint of the Christian life. The blessed goal of our faith is love abounding in knowledge and insight which enables us to choose things that are excellent and in accordance with God’s will. In Paul’s thinking confidence in what God has revealed is our standard; doubt is not a feature or a function, but a bug that should be rooted out by a growing faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

I don’t say this to imply that those who doubt are warped or that doubt is The-Sin-that-must-not-be-named. I rather see it as a temptation to which our response should be prayer to our Lord, study of his word, and community with other believers. Believers should be encouraged through their doubts, not in them, and their difficult questions should be answered, pointing beyond the doubt to Spirit-led confidence. We shouldn’t elevate doubt as a virtue. It’s a bug in our programming which should be replaced as we grow with strong confidence in our Lord and his revealed word.

ETS and/or SBL: Which?

I’d like to propose some questions to my fellow academics who work in biblical studies about their attendance at the national meetings of ETS and SBL.

Do you favor one conference over the other?
If you had to pick only one to attend, which and why?
What are the pros and cons of each?

I’m genuinely interested in hearing responses and dialoguing together. Thanks in advance for taking the time. I’ll post my own thoughts in a day or two.

ETS Bits and Bobs

I bought no books this year. Not a one. Call me crazy.

One of the prizes Greg Hatteburg gave out at the DTS breakfast was to the person who drove down whose car had the most miles on it. The winner had a Honda Pilot with ~220,000 on it. That's child's play. Mine has ~277,000. I'm aiming for 300,000!

Most awkward thing I saw: One man giving another a massage during the break between sessions this afternoon. Might be for you, but not my cup of tea.

Craziest interaction: I was in the hotel lobby, relaxing for a minute, and a woman came up to me with a message. She said she ran in a current of electricity and had a message from God: Jesus is coming back in November 2020. When I pressed her how she learned, she said she heard directly from God. Pressing further, she revealed that she was too smart for reading the Bible. She got her messages directly from angels sent directly from God. She didn't like my encouragement to read the Bible and get to know Jesus that way; at that point she got angry, and I made my exit! I've included her revelation here to see if ministers to anyone.

ETS Day 3

Busy day here at ETS, but what else is new?

  • The DTS alumni breakfast began bright and early at 6:45 am. (Really, who eats this early?) A fun time was had by all. Dr. Bailey gave his “State of the Seminary” address and Greg Hatteberg gave out door prizes.
  • I met with a publisher to discuss various writing projects. They are interested in popular-level materials on key biblical themes, NT books, or specific texts. The publisher has a neat vision to publish scholarly materials accessible by laypeople. We’ll continue the discussion, but it looks likely that I’ll sign up with them. (Who is it, you ask? Since I haven't signed on the dotted line, I don't feel free to say, but I'll keep you posted!)
  • The ETS business meeting was simple and to the point. I have no idea if Darrell Bock wants to move out of ETS leadership, but he keeps getting nominated and accepts it, so I guess he doesn't mind it too much.
  • Lunch was a gathering sponsored by Faithlife , the company which makes Logos Bible Software . There I met Derek Brown, Phil Gons, and other Faithlife folks. I was able to fill them in on my EEC Galatians work.
  • While at the Logos lunch I also met Andy Naselli , which was a treat.
  • Afternoon was spent in the 2nd Temple Literature and BIblical Interpretation section. John Barclay interacted with a panel and the audience over his new book, Paul and the Gift. This was a great session to see cutting edge scholarship and think through a new paradigm for understanding grace in Paul.

At present I'm waiting at SAT, ready to catch my flight home. See you guys in Dallas!

ETS Day 2.2

Wednesday late afternoon and evening were full of Bible-nerdy goodness.

  • I heard Stephen Wellum deliver a paper in the Progressive Covenantalism study group on the use of inaugurated eschatology isn dispensationalism and covenant theology. His final argument was that it cannot be used to prove one or the other.
  • After that I graded papers in my room for a bit. I know, call me Mr. Fun.
  • The evening was devoted to the banquet and presidential address. I was fortunate to sit with several neat people: Dr. Mark Bailey , president of DTS; Jeff Miller , my pastor; Paige and Priscilla West, good friends who recently moved away from the Dallas metroplex. Dan Wallace delivered a great address on what evangelicals can learn from medieval manuscripts. The focus was strongly on reverence and attention to the Bible, unity of believers in our academic pursuits, and charity towards others as we study together.
  • After that I hit the sack. Like I said, call me Mr. Fun.

The funniest moment of the evening: a couple hundred phones firing off an emergency alert in the middle of Dr. Wallace's address. The cognitive dissonance as people tried to ignore it was palpable.