Monday, March 26, 2012

loving college life: part 2

A vibrant campus like this not only provides opportunities to mentor young people, but an endless lineup of seminars and lectures to shape my own thinking. Unfortunately, Wheaton offers far more events than I can ever hope to attend (usually at least one major speaker a day, sometimes more). If I gave you a list of all the world-renowned speakers whose sessions I have skipped this year it would make you sick to your stomach. It does me. But this week I've cleared the deck so I can participate in the science symposium entitled "Evolutionary Theory: Implications for Science and Christian Belief."  Evolution? Yes, you read that right. I've pretty much studied only the Bible since high school, so I don't feel like I have enough of a handle on this issue. It's time to take another look.
I'm learning a TON this semester, and I'm so blessed to have professors and classmates to help me process it all, over lunch, tea, and in between. John Walton's Ancient Near Eastern Backgrounds class is rocking my world. I admit, signing up for it was like taking my medicine, knowing that I ought to take it because I didn't know enough about the ancient world. But wow, what an eye-opening experience! I've absolutely loved it, and I'm hoping to take an archeaology course next year (those of you who've known me for a long time can gasp now).

Eliana is also studying ancient Mesopotamia in 5th grade, and Danny is reading through the Chronological Study Bible (including all the historical and archeological notes). All of us are reading the Bible with new eyes. If you want a taste of what we're learning, check out one of Walton's books. I recommend either Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament (an excellent introduction to ancient worldviews and how they help us understand the Bible) or The Lost World of Genesis One (a thought-provoking look at the creation narratives in Genesis in light of the ancient world). If you can understand my blog, then neither of these books would be too difficult. The second is especially designed for the non-specialist to be able to read. If you do read either of these books, I'd love to know what you think!

Honestly, I'm blown away by the priviledge of being here, and sobered because I know that "When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required" (Luke 12:48). This blog is a feeble first step toward sharing these riches with others. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

loving college life: part 1

Joy. Momentum. Growth. Ministry. These words capture this semester for me. While last semester I could barely keep my head above water and my heart above panic mode, this semester I've been living the dream.

Deep down I hoped that being on a college campus would offer opportunities to connect with undergraduate students. Wheaton students are bright, talented, passionate, intentional, (twitterpated!) and full of energy. And I love being around them.

(So do my kids. The campus restaurant and the game room are favorite destinations. And so is the gym. Check out Eliana and her friend Gwyn on the climbing wall in the gym!)

A Junior approached me after my talk at missions conference and wondered if we could have lunch. She's headed overseas for the first time and wanted to talk about how to live well in another culture. A Freshman introduced herself to me after an event last week. The girls and I had just participated in "The American Race," an interactive simulation of what it's like to be a minority in the U.S. She appreciated a comment I made during the debriefing session. A Senior and I talked last week about the factors involved in his decision of which seminary to attend (one of his options is Gordon-Conwell). Teaching twice for Dr. Block and giving another presentation last week extended my network even further.

College life is messy. Students say and do some of the most unbelievably immature things sometimes. But the campus leaders (both administration and students) take each opportunity to talk openly about what it means to live in a diverse community and love each other well. The energy around here is palpable. Students are fired up against the global slave trade and excited about sustainable agriculture. A half-dozen teams spent their spring breaks serving needy communities around the country. Students meet to pray for the world and for each other. They tutor refugee children in local schools. A steady stream go overseas to study and reach out.

One of my favorite Christian artists, Sara Groves, was here in January. Her heart for God and for ministry epitomizes the ethos of Wheaton College. She was just as real and vulnerable in person as her music would lead you to expect, and Mom and I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to worship with her and hear her heart. Sara is living proof that you don't have to have "arrived" in order to reach out to others. She sings from the midst of her own struggles. As she says, she's "broken, but grateful." Though she is a big name in music, Sara's travel schedule is filled with benefit concerts for groups like World Vision and International Justice Mission. We don't have to wait until we have a degree in hand, or the counselor says we're healed, or the bank account is in the black to start reaching out. Ministry starts when we realize our own brokenness, recieve the love of God, and begin extending it to others.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

how flexible is your schedule??

Probably the biggest reason that it's working for me to be in a doctoral program with three kids is our schedule. We have a very precise schedule, and practically everything is on it: meals, play time, chores, dates, everything. At any given moment each of us knows where we need to be and what we should be doing. In fact, I could have told you a month ago what we'll be eating for snack at 3:00 this afternoon—milk and homemade peanut butter chocolate-chip cookies.

I am naturally pretty organized, but I married a master organizer. A few weeks ago at our family meeting Danny announced (in all seriousness): "Ok. We've got 27 months left in Wheaton. What do we want to do this Saturday?" The countdown has begun, and he wants to be sure we don't run out of time to do all the things on our Chicago bucket list. (We went swimming).

Yesterday, however, we had to be a bit spontaneous. You see, we had snowshoeing on the schedule . . . but it was 80 degrees out. So we improvised. Hopscotch with sidewalk chalk was our substitute activity. We also squeezed in some barefoot baseball, frisbee, bike-riding in shorts, and follow-the-leader. With daffodils blooming and soft green grass under foot, it was a strange way to spend St. Patrick's Day in Chicago! Who would have guessed that I'd have a blister from wearing flip-flops already!

We're told that the last time Chicago had such a warm March was 1938, and that year there was 11 inches of snow in April. So perhaps next month we'll get to try out snowshoeing. If not, we'll have to excercise some more flexibility. After all, schedules only work if we can go with the flow when necessary. And since snack time was supposed to start 4 minutes ago, I'd better leave it at that!

p.s. Eliana (age 10) just informed me (after proofreading this post) that we eat cookies at 3:15, not 3:00, so as it turns out, I'm right on time. Phew! It's great having so many organized people in one family to keep me on track!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

is satan a fallen angel?

I honestly don't know, but I've spent the past month exploring Ezekiel 28, the text that (supposedly) depicts the fall of satan. During my research I came across an excellent resource that lays out the issues involved in interpreting this text and the others that have been understood to refer to the fall of satan. You might be surprised to hear that the Bible never teaches that satan was an angel who sinned and was later expelled from heaven. Several passages describe the fall of a human ruler using rather fantastic metaphorical language. In the early church many interpreters read those passages as if they contained two layers of meaning, one "physical" and another deeper "spiritual" sense. This allowed them to see both the fall of the literal king of Tyre and the fall of Satan in the same narrative.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia (A Tyrian Ship)
A Phoenician Cherub (
I agree with those early interpreters that there are spiritual realities at work in the world, but I have a difficult time seeing Ezekiel 28 as a narrative account of satan's fall. In fact, the more I learn about ancient Tyre, the more Ezekiel's prophecies against Tyre make perfect sense as a reference to the physical nation and her leader. Tyre was the shipping capital of the ancient world, enjoying lavish wealth as a result, with access to every kind of precious stone imaginable. Tyrian art regularly depicts cherubim (winged beasts, sometimes with human heads) and by the time of Ezekiel Tyre was known for the production of quality engraved stamp seals. Ezekiel uses fitting metaphors for the ruler of Tyre, calling him a "seal of perfection" and a "cherub" covered with precious stones. Though he appears to be perfect and unassailable, Ezekiel says that he will be expelled from his position of authority on his lavish paradise island, just as Adam was expelled from Eden. This extended metaphor should not surprise us, because just prior to this Ezekiel has described the whole nation of Tyre as a ship (Ezek 27), and just after this he calls Pharoah a crocodile (Ezek 29) and Assyria a cedar (Ezek 30). Ezekiel delights in extracting parallels from these extended metaphors and using them to creatively describe the subjects of his oracles. We should not expect that he is referring to a literal cherub any more than we should expect that Tyre was a literal ship or Pharoah was really a river monster.

Context is key to setting the right kinds of expectations for our interpretation of this and any passage. In this case the presence of extended metaphors in Ezekiel's other oracles gives us the interepretive key. And knowing the history of Tyre helps us understand why Ezekiel would choose these particular metaphors and what he means by them. I am not necessarily trying to disprove the idea that satan is a fallen angel (if he is, I wasn't around to see it!), but I am suggesting that if satan did fall, God did not see a need to give us a detailed account of that event. For a longer article about the 'fall of Satan' I recommend checking out this website:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

spring break

Everywhere I look green leaves are pushing their way out of dark, winter earth, stretching their sturdy stems towards sunlight. Flashes of color remind us that cold is not forever!

Wheaton is on spring break, and I am happily holed up in the library as usual, trying to crank out a few projects during the lull when classes are not in session. Dr. Block is in Asia for two weeks teaching, and he asked me to teach two 2-hr lectures for him while he's away. I've had a wonderful time preparing to teach on Ezekiel 28. My power point is almost ready, and last night I had my first "teaching" dream. Class time was over and we hadn't even begun my 78-slide presentation! {sigh} These dreams are typical for me while I'm teaching, so I guess I'd better get used to it. It could be worse: I could be having waitressing dreams!

Other spring break projects include:
  • Chipping away at my Comprehensive Reading List (Hirsch, Validity in Interpretation)
  • Writing an Essay on Hermeneutics
  • Writing a paper on 'Seals and Signet Rings' in the ancient world
  • Reading for class next week
The kids don't have spring break until the end of the month, so I'll take some time off then. For now, I'd better make hay while the sun shines!