Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tuesday Tidbit: Gospel Coalition interview with Daniel Block

The Gospel Coalition recently interviewed Dr. Block regarding some of the controversial statements he makes in his recently-released NIV Application Commentary on Deuteronomy. For the full text of the interview, click here.

If you're surprised to hear that Block does not see Moses as a "lawgiver" and that he thinks those who see Jesus as a "new Moses" have a "low Christology," then be sure to check out the interview!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

full home ... full heart

After 6 days straight of academic conferences, it was a delight to come home to family. My parents were able to join us, and the kids had a whole week off of school. Never has a week gone by so fast, but we enjoyed every minute of it. Together we soaked in the food, games, late night conversations, Sears Tower (now called the Willis Tower), Cosley Zoo's Festival of Lights, downtown Wheaton, a campus tour, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas back-to-back has its challenges (like having everything ready on time), but now the rest of the season will be easy, right?

The highlight of the week was gathering around the table with my "brother" Austin and his wife Heather. Austin is a fellow Blockhead (i.e. one of Dr. Block's doctoral students), and he and Heather have become like family to us. It was fun to celebrate God's goodness together! We ate and played 'pin-the-feather-on-the-turkey.' We read all of Deuteronomy 8 together, but our theme verse was verse 10–
"When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you."
He has, indeed, blessed us in so many ways. We are profoundly grateful!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

full head ... full heart

Last week I succumbed to the wonderful sort of malady that strikes all who attend ETS, IBR, and SBL—mental gluttony. Falling each year on the week before Thanksgiving, ETS, IBR, and SBL are remarkably similar to that American holiday characterized by

  • sitting too much, 
  • eating too much, 
  • gaining weight, 
  • and feeling profoundly grateful. 
The primary difference between ETS/IBR/SBL and Thanksgiving is that, in the case of the former, the consumption is mental, not physical (the prices of food at most conference centers and hotels ensure that I do not overeat). The smorgasbord of papers presented on just about any topic defy description. Still, my weight gain is measured in pages, not pounds—the deep discounts offered by every major publisher are simply too much to resist. (This year's prize acquisition was HALOT for only $99!)

At ETS I attended 14 paper presentations, 5 meetings, and the annual banquet.
At IBR I attended 8 paper presentations or responses to papers.
At SBL I attended 22 paper presentations and 3 meetings.

As with previous conferences, this year was simply packed with conversations with former classmates and professors as well as publishers and scholars I know from my research and TA work for Dr. Block. These conferences bring out the most outgoing side of me. I talked personally or asked questions of 17 of the 44 presenters or moderators for sessions I attended, and stopped to meet many others whose work I had read in the past year. I could give a much longer list, but highlights included conversations with Bruce Wells, Herbert Huffmon, Andrea Weiss, Sandra Richter, Terrence Fretheim, Miles Van Pelt, Peter Vogt, William Eerdmans and John Oswalt. It's amazing to rub shoulders (literally, since some of the sessions are very crowded) with great scholars whose work has helped me immensely.

The other big highlight was having my Dad along for the day on Monday to see my world. He was a great sport, attending paper after paper on Esarhaddon's Succession Treaty and its affinity with Deuteronomy 28, and listening to conversations that must have seemed quite pedantic (such as debates over the ending of one word in Psalm 24:4). I inherited my love for learning and my knack for networking from him, though, so I think he had fun seeing "himself" in this world—so different from the world of kitchen remodeling he regularly inhabits. He's looking forward to using some of his new words (like 'prosopological exegesis') on my brother when they get to the job site Monday morning. Sorry, John. I really am.

And so on Monday evening we headed home, loaded down with new books, my head full of new insights and new stories, tremendously grateful for the gift of learning and the gift of friends. ETS, IBR, and SBL did more than fill my head. They filled my heart as well.

Friday, November 16, 2012

more lingo to know

By the time you see this I'll be well into my marathon week at ETS, IBR, and SBL. So what are they? All three are professional societies for people who hold a doctorate in Biblical Studies or a related discipline.

ETS stands for Evangelical Theological Society. It is the most narrow group of the three (theologically). Members must believe in the Trinity and in the inerrancy of the Bible. This year ETS is meeting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin from Wednesday to Friday of this week. About 2000 scholars usually attend.

IBR stands for the Institute of Biblical Research. It is an affiliate of the larger SBL. Members of IBR affirm orthodox Christianity, but in a broader sense than ETS. Wheaton has historically had a strong connection with IBR. Many of the officers and members are Wheaton professors. IBR and SBL are being held in downtown Chicago this year (from Friday afternoon to Tuesday noon).

SBL stands for the Society of Biblical Literature. It is the largest group, and its meetings are held concurrently with AAR (American Academy of Religion). SBL members might be Jews, Christians, and even Muslims or atheists who study and teach the Bible in any academic setting (Universities, Community Colleges, etc). Theologically this is a very diverse group. Over 10,000 people are expected to attend SBL and AAR.

I am a student member of all three organizations, and I'm so thankful for a way to reconnect with colleagues, further my education, and stay on top of my field—all in one convenient week each year! This is my fourth year attending, and—from an academic point-of-view—the most important week of the year. Those presenting papers include biblical scholars from around the world whose work has been so helpful to me. This is a wonderful opportunity to meet them in person, ask them questions, and learn from them.

Perhaps the thought of leaving home to go listen to scholars read academic papers from morning to night for 6 straight days doesn't excite you. That makes you normal and me weird. I love it. (Though I admit that by day 6 I have a hard time assimilating much of anything!). These conferences are the best possible opportunity for hearing cutting-edge research in biblical studies, networking with other scholars and with publishers, fellowshipping with like-minded friends, and buying lots of books at deep discounts. It's like a reunion, a series of intensive courses, a research trip, and a shopping spree all rolled into one! This year is extra special, though, because it will be a date with my Dad, too.

My parents are coming to Wheaton for Thanksgiving, and they are arriving early enough so that Dad can join me at SBL on Monday. He'll get to see my world and meet scholars and friends who have influenced me. It takes a brave man to agree to sit through papers on Hebrew linguistics, metaphor theory, ancient Near Eastern Covenants and archaeology. Thanks, Dad!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

PhD lingo to know

Friday I attended the dissertation defense of one of my colleagues. While I was there my advisor told me I'll be doing my supervised pedagogical experience this spring while I TA for 'Old Testament Theology' and finish my remaining coursework. This means in 6 months I will (Lord willing) be ABD, and cleared to write my final chapter(s)! Next fall I'll do nothing but Precept and finalize my dissertation. I'm hoping to turn in my defense draft in the early Spring of 2014, after which I'll have 45 days to finish my Comprehensive Reading and study the work of my external reader while I await my defense. Feeling lost yet?? For the benefit of family and friends who care about this crazy journey we're on but have no idea what I'm talking about, let me break it down:

Dr. Daniel Block, my doctoral advisor
Advisor/Supervisor/Doktorvater/Mentor: This is the professor who directly supervises my work while I'm at Wheaton (i.e. Dr. Daniel Block). He helps me plan my coursework, reads my papers, and is responsible to ensure that my dissertation is defensible in the end. At Wheaton our supervisor is also our first reader.

Coursework: These are the classes we're required to take (I'll take my final 8 credits in the spring).

Pedagogical Experience: "Pedagogy" means "teaching." (I'll be co-teaching a course on Deuteronomy with Dr. Block and my colleague, Austin—a.k.a. 'brother Blockhead').

Precepting: This is similar to pedagogical experience. The doctoral student works under a professor in a required Freshman class called "Gospel, Church, and Culture," leading weekly discussion groups and grading assignments. In exchange for this work, the student receives a fellowship.

Fellowship/Stipend: A scholarship given to students above and beyond the full tuition scholarship that compensates for hours spent as a TA, research assistant, or preceptor. So far I've worked as Dr. Block's assistant each semester, but in the fall I expect to be Precepting.

TA (Teaching Assistant): Usually involves grading and record-keeping for a course taught by a professor

Research Assistant: Similar to TA work, but not connected to a particular class. The professor assigns editing or research projects, or other administrative work.

ABD ("All But Dissertation"): At most schools this means a student has completed coursework and comprehensive reading, and is cleared to write a dissertation proposal. Wheaton has a concurrent model, so we are taking classes, reading from the Comprehensive reading list, and writing our dissertation all at once. Here we are ABD when our coursework is complete. By that time we are well into our reading and have started our dissertation.

Comprehensive Reading ("Comps"): A list of books we are required to read before we graduate. Wheaton's Old Testament list contains 35 books we must read and review carefully, 91 books we must read partially, 46 books we should be familiar with, and 46 reference works we should know how to use. We must also skim 10 years' worth of the major journals in our field. Yep, it's a lot, but it helps to broaden our knowledge of the field beyond our dissertation topic. Call me crazy, but I'm loving this part.

Dissertation: This is the major (300-page) research paper doctoral students must write to prove their scholarly capabilities (I'm nearing the 1/3 mark on mine!).

Dissertation Topic: This is what I'm writing about (in my case, the Name Command of the Decalogue).

Dissertation Proposal: A 10-page paper showing why a dissertation needs to be written 

Proposal Defense: An oral presentation to the faculty inviting their critique of my topic, after which the student is cleared to begin writing (mine was April 11, 2012)

Danny and the kids surprised me
when I turned in my first chapter.
They all dressed up and escorted me
home for an amazing 3-course dinner!
Chapter: When I talk about writing a "chapter," I'm referring to a chapter of my dissertation. I've written one, and I'm working on my second (of 4).

Defense Draft: This is the "final" copy of my dissertation that I'll turn in 45 before my oral defense. I'll turn in 4 copies: one for my supervisor, one for my second reader, one for my external examiner, and one for the PhD seminar room so that other students and faculty can read it before my defense.

First Reader: At Wheaton our supervisor performs this role, reading each chapter as we write it and then the whole dissertation when we're through. They help us make sure it's ready to defend.

Second Reader: This is another faculty member from Wheaton College who reads and critiques the dissertation. Usually they read at least parts of the dissertation as it is written and then the whole thing at the end (mine is Dr. Karen Jobes).

External Reader/Examiner: This is a professor from another institution, an expert on the dissertation topic whose identity is kept a secret until the defense draft is turned in. They travel to Wheaton for the oral defense and critique anything and everything.

Dissertation Defense/ Oral Defense: The student and his or her work goes "on trial" before the second and external readers, and a defense chair (another Wheaton professor), while the rest of the PhD students and faculty observe. The work is either failed (rarely) or passed, with or without required revisions. This is the culmination of years' worth of work, and a highly stressful and uncomfortable experience. Not for the faint of heart!

Technical Reader: After any required revisions are made, the dissertation is then given to the technical reader, who goes over it with a fine-toothed comb to find any errors of spelling, grammar, or style before the dissertation is bound and printed for the library and the student is cleared to graduate.

After I complete all these steps, students can call me "Dr. Imes." It's an intense journey, and a blessed one. I'm so grateful to those who provided funds for my scholarship and stipend so that I can be here, and I'm thrilled to have a partner like Danny who is committed to seeing me through this program. Even the kids are cheering me on. What a great blessing that is!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Ravi Zacharias: study as worship

Ravi Zacharias recently spoke at Wheaton College on "The Cause, The Cost, and The Commitment." He cast a stirring vision of what God can do through one individual who is willing to count the cost and become a world-changer. He urged us to be men and women of prayer. He urged us to get close enough to people that we can see their pain and own it. And he reminded us that though a vision starts with one, it is carried out by many. He told us the story of his own daughter, Naomi, who attended Wheaton and while here developed a burden for women and children around the world who are caught up against their will in sex trafficking. That burden has shaped her life and ministry ever since.

"This is your worship. This is your service."
But Dr. Zacharias insisted that our lives are not "on hold" while we're in school. I love what he said about these years of preparation:

"Your preparation these years is not just your preparation. It is your service to God as one being prepared. Always see it in those terms. It is the expression of your worship in how you are preparing for what it is that God is calling you to do."