5 Ways Seminary Equipped Me for Ministry

1

  • Biblical Epistemology – My prolegomena helped me grasp how a Biblical worldview in intellectually credible. The writings of John Frame and N.T Wright on critical realism helped me grasp a way of looking at the world that is neither naive or nihilist. We can perceive what is true, through reason, the Spirit, and the Word, but not all we say is true.

 

This enabled me to press into a pluralistic context like Austin, Texas with the requisite humility and confidence.

 

  • Systematic Theology – Showed me how the Bible is theologically coherent. Apparent contradictions and various texts can be harmonized to tell us something about the nature, character, and purposes of God.

 

This enabled me to know God and answer some of the big questions regarding suffering, evil, election and so on.

  • Hermeneutics – Enabled me to read and interpret texts well through propositional analysis, grammar, syntax, genre and so on. Discourse analysis was paradigm-shifting for me and taught me how to reason much better (Thank you Dr. Roy Ciampa!).

 

This enabled me to read the Bible and other books well, to reason well cultural texts and claims, as well as biblical ones.

 

  • Biblical Exegesis – I got to apply hermeneutics to the whole Bible with the guardrails of mentors in order to understand the author’s intent. Lots of Bible. I added a second degree to get more practice and more Bible! In particular, Greg Beale’s categories for OT in NT exegesis helped me grasp how to make sense of what the NT authors do with the OT.

 

This launched me into the difficult task of showing the church, through preaching, that the two testaments are a whole. 

 

  • Biblical Theology – The above led me to read diachronically not just systematically, to read along the grain of Scripture so that the grand narrative of Creation-Fall-Redemption-New Creation is always my framework and Christ is at the center. Meredith Kline, Greg Beale, Sean McDonough were all a great help in this. Monotheistic Christology, the understanding that “Jesus is Lord” places Christ into the identity of YWHW simply blew my mind and still does.

 

That is gospel-Centered and led to a a consistent practice of challenging cultural notions of authority with the authority of Christ, basically preaching and teaching and discipling and counseling people into Jesus as King, not just as Savior

3 Recommended Books on Burnout

In light of my recent article at Lifeway Leadership, here are a few books I recommend reading if you feel exhausted by ministry, lackluster about the church, or distant from Jesus:

On The Brink – This book blends empathy, challenge, and biblical exhortation very well. An excellent help to anyone who feels “on the brink” or wants to better understand what pastors, in particular, often face.

Leading on Empty – This book combines science with sage advice. It contains some great best practices from an experienced pastor.

Near Unto God – A life-giving devotional by Abraham Kuyper. His brief devotional entries are packed with spiritual insight and stir religious affection.

 

Recommended Books on 2 Peter & Jude

This summer I wrote a study guide for 2 Peter & Jude. These are prophetic book letters for our time. It became clear to me that the straight forward truths, difficult texts, and glorious promises in these letters are just what our church needs to hear. So, we’re preaching through these two letters this Fall. Here are a few resources I’d recommend if you want to know the letters better.

The Message of 2 Peter & Jude – This is written by some of the most well-known British preachers. In fact, Dick Lucas had considerable influence on Tim Keller. This commentary is exegetically rich, well-footnoted, but also sensitive to culture and application.

Acknowledging the Divine Benefactor – This is a unique commentary more suited for the academic. It stands out in its sensitivities to Hellenistic backgrounds. The premise is intriguing, that 2 Peter follows a Greek form of paying homage to a benefactor. Peter may be adapting this form to encourage believers to honor Jesus Christ as their divine benefactor by living a life of virtue.

1, 2 Peter & Jude (Schreiner) – This is my favorite all round commentary on 2 Peter/Jude for its clarity and succinctness yet attention to detail.

*Jude & 2 Peter (Bauckham) – I’ve read a lot of Richard Bauckham over the years and studied under one of his proteges. He’s creative, textually rigorous, a fantastic biblical theologian, and learned in backgrounds. However, this commentary is a bit exhausting and I can’t stand the layout of Word commentaries.

We’re All Great Abbreviators

I’ve just finished writing a study guide for three of the craziest letters in the New Testament–1, 2 Peter & Jude. The letters cover stuff like: angels sleeping with humans, gang rape, homosexuality, greed, self-made morality, godly character, doubt, faith, eternal fire, eternal life, angels disputing with demons, the end of the world, and its total renewal.

If 1 Peter exults, “Jesus will return,” and 2 Peter rebuffs the claim, “Jesus won’t return,” then Jude exhorts, “Jesus is just about here.” The crazy content in these letters all revolve around the person and return of Jesus, which to some, sounds even crazier. However, there’s an awful lot of history and evidence for the life and ministry of Jesus, and he gathers praise from people around the world, even across religions. Even if you don’t believe Jesus is returning, you should want him to.

Why? Because he’s bringing redemption with him. He’s a God who finishes what he starts. Peter, Jesus’ close disciple says this whole glorious mess of a world will end in dissolution and renewal. He promises that when Jesus returns the world will become “a new heavens and earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13). With Jesus back, justice will move into every neighborhood, shanty town, and back alley.

We are all, in the words of Huxley, “Great Abbreviators.” No one tells the whole truth about the whole world. We abbreviate things from our finite perspective, from our own front porch, step, or stoop. Heck, I’m an abbreviator, which is why I need to hear from someone who has full-length understanding. Someone who views all the steps, stoops, and porches–all the souls and the sciences of this world–and can tell me how it I’m supposed to live.

That’s why I find the Bible so meaningful. It tells me who I am by telling me who God is. It’s not a history of everything, but everything in it is historically oriented. It’s not just vague philosophies or moral codes; it’s about real people and events happening in space and time.

And let’s face it; if you’ve seen Stranger Things you know there’s more to this world than what we can see. And the strange things of this world pull us toward the darkness or to the light, toward the end of the world or its new beginning. If all that’s true, then Bible is an indispensable guide to help us through to where we all want to be, a world submerged in justice and peace. In Jesus’ renewed world.