Blomberg Defends Hess and Denver Seminary

My post on Denver Seminary’s doctrinal statement was picked up by vorjack over at Unreasonable Faith and the ensuing comments by (whom I assume are mostly) non-Christians and atheists took the discussion in a direction that was not intended by me. Dr. Craig Blomberg (Denver Seminary) posted a very good comment on that thread, and I’d like to quote it here:

I wish you all could meet and get to know Rick. He spent years teaching in universities that did not have doctrinal statements of faith. He came to his convictions not because anyone coerced him into them for the sake of a job. He came to us because he believed what he did; he did not believe what he does because he came to us. He is internationally respected by Christians, Jews, Muslims, and atheists. He has been invited by the Chinese government on more than one occasion to teach about religion at major Chinese universities. His books are used as textbooks in schools with no confessional leanings. He is as likely to correct fellow evangelicals whose views are too narrow or just factually mistaken than he is to correct others. Of everyone on our faculty, there is no one I can think of who more often does agree with people of very different backgrounds than his.

Doctrinal statements work in different ways in different institutions. In some contexts, notably Southern Baptist ones, they can be used as clubs to keep people in line. In other places, they are used more in the sense of truth in advertising–like saying, “if you come here, here is what our faculty stand for. We just wanted you to know what you’d be getting.” We’re definitely in the latter category. Does “without mental reservation” mean that we can have no doubts? Not at all. One can believe in the trustworthiness of Scripture and still be very puzzled by many interpretive questions but not be flummoxed by them, because in our finite and fallen humanity we shouldn’t expect to be able to figure everything out. We’ve watched answers emerge after patient study time and time again so that we can proceed with confidence that they will do so in the future as well. We could probably even remove that phrase “without mental reservation” from the document and almost no one would even notice or care. But there would be a dozen (I pick the number almost randomly) loyal elderly constituents who would be befuddled by the omission when they noticed it, so why ruffle their feathers?

I can understand why, as outsiders to our milieu, others could read our literature and imagine a very different environment than what it actually is. I can understand why some who have had quite different experiences with different confessional schools might be very sure they knew what our environment was like. But I’ve just finished serving twenty-five years at Denver Seminary and never once felt stifled by our doctrinal statement, asked tons of questions, have my own set of doubts, am free to air them all, and find it an amazingly healthy work environment. I invite anyone who doubts me to come for a campus visit and I’ll personally introduce you to as many of my friends as time permits, so you can judge for yourself. I can’t make anybody believe me, I realize, but I offer my own firsthand experience nevertheless. All the worst-case scenario suspicions so confidently affirmed in this blog and its responses are just flat-out wrong.

I responded on the same thread with this comment:

Dr. Blomberg, thanks very much for your comment. Please do note that in my post I made clear that Dr. Hess does not believe in inerrancy just because his job requires it. My point was that if he came to be convinced otherwise, that would be problematic for his position. I am glad to hear the environment at DS is more open than the statement makes it sound. My point in my post was not to malign Dr. Hess but to speak to the issue of these doctrinal statements. I was not questioning his stature. But as you well know, recent years have shown that these doctrinal statements have posed a real problem for some academics who have sought to be honest with their understanding of the data. So my intention was to display the problem that could potentially be posed to Dr. Hess, not to malign him, despite our very strong disagreements. That was the point of my victims out of heroes statement. But I recognize that not every environment is the same. Nevertheless, the fact remains that had your doubts turned into something more like convictions, you would have been in a predicament. No doubt, of course, someone of your or Dr. Hess’s stature wouldn’t have to be too worried about finding employment elsewhere, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a sad ordeal for all involved.

This is a great opportunity for me to clarify some things vis-a-vis my engagements to date with Hess. Although in my review of Copan my tone in my criticisms of certain of Hess’s arguments (used by Paul Copan) was overly-strong, (1) I never intended to imply that he is anything like a hack; as I’ve clarified elsewhere on this website, he is a very reputable scholar who does very fine work; (2) nevertheless, I continue to believe that his commitment to inerrancy serves to limit for Dr. Hess the range of plausible and probable interpretations. When it comes to texts that may be problematic for his doctrinal commitments, Hess’s tendency is to make arguments for what is “possible,” without giving due weight to the positions that are the more probable given the same historical and philological standards Hess employs when dealing with texts that are not so problematic, and I am far from alone in this evaluation of his work (just read the peer-reviews).

I’d also like to further respond to some of Dr. Blomberg’s comments. Again, I’ll clarify that I specifically stated in my original post that I was not at all making the claim that Dr. Hess’s beliefs have been dictated for him by Denver Seminary. Again, my point was that if his research were to lead him in future to unorthodox readings of the text, this would put him at odds with the institution, and ensuing events would very likely be damaging to his reputation within the Evangelical world, as it has been for numerous other evangelical scholars who have followed the evidence where they think it leads.

Regarding his books, again, I will reiterate that there is a wealth of very good information in them and they are very useful, especially in a college or graduate setting. That said, there are certain issues in his books which in my opinion (and in the opinion of many scholars) tend to be obfuscated by Hess’s presentation of the data, and this is routinely attributed to his conservative commitments. This is hardly a surprising or controversial charge.

“He is as likely to correct fellow evangelicals whose views are too narrow or just factually mistaken than he is to correct others.” And yes, no doubt Hess corrects Evangelicals too. I doubt Dr. Blomberg intended to direct this comment at me, but given the fact that Evangelical scholars and theologians spend much of their time telling each other where they’re wrong, this is to be expected. To contend that Dr. Hess has presented certain issues tendentiously is not at all to say that he isn’t on balance fair and balanced.

Does “without mental reservation” mean that we can have no doubts? Not at all. One can believe in the trustworthiness of Scripture and still be very puzzled by many interpretive questions but not be flummoxed by them, because in our finite and fallen humanity we shouldn’t expect to be able to figure everything out. We’ve watched answers emerge after patient study time and time again so that we can proceed with confidence that they will do so in the future as well. We could probably even remove that phrase “without mental reservation” from the document and almost no one would even notice or care. But there would be a dozen (I pick the number almost randomly) loyal elderly constituents who would be befuddled by the omission when they noticed it, so why ruffle their feathers?

Although I would advocate for the removal of the phrase (and for the removal of the doctrinal requirement altogether), I completely understand the internal politics involved here.

I continue to maintain, for the reasons stated in my original reply to Dr. Blomberg, that such doctrinal statements are an intellectual straight-jacket, even if only potentially so. I don’t expect Denver Seminary to drop it, but history has shown that as Evangelical academic institutions get older, these sorts of limitations become thinner and thinner, so I remain hopeful.

14 thoughts on “Blomberg Defends Hess and Denver Seminary

  1. I have the utmost respect for Craig Blomberg. But here’s the trouble I have with his statement above. He says, “Does “without mental reservation” mean that we can have no doubts? Not at all. One can believe in the trustworthiness of Scripture and still be very puzzled by many interpretive questions but not be flummoxed by them…” He clearly knows that that’s entirely different from the actual statement of the school which says, “We believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the inspired Word of God, inerrant in the original writings…” Trustworthiness is one thing. Inerrant is another. Further, it’s a nonsensical statement because it’s unprovable given the complete lack of original writings for us to examine. He knows this to be so. Why ruffle feathers? Because the truth is worth ruffling feathers over. Isn’t the real question, “why jeopardize our funding base?” Leave these statements in there that don’t bother you in your day to day, sure thing, but those statements become clubs to beat pastors in churches connected to those seminaries and Bible Colleges that keep those little phrases in there. I know. I’ve been there and done that.

    The truth is that seminaries are filled with profs who don’t adhere to the letter of the school’s doctrinal statements – “don’t ask, don’t tell” but please give a thought to what this does to those of us in pastoral ministry who say out loud the things you think and believe and find our jobs in jeopardy as a result because “that’s not what our denomination/movement/etc. believes…”.

    I’m venting here. Sorry about that. But I’ve been looking around for a school to continue my education at and every time I read “inerrant” in the doctrinal statement I know I’m disqualified. If I read Dr. Blomberg’s statement though “trustworthy” I would think, “I could go there!”

    This DOES matter. And our presuppositions do affect our study and teaching of the Text.

    I’ll be quiet now and go back to helping people apply Jesus to their lives.

  2. Thanks to both of you, Thom and Brian, for excellent clarifications. And you’re right, I wasn’t directing much of my commentary at you, Thom, but trying to say something to the whole cluster of posts at once.

    Without unduly prolonging the conversation, I might just say that B. B. Warfield’s classic defense of inerrancy 100 years ago, by one who in his day was quite willing to engage all sorts of questions in scholarship and leave loose ends of various kinds hanging empirically, can be boiled down, with a little oversimplification, to: Inerrancy is a deductive doctrine that is the corollary of ascribing divine authorship to Scripture. Dealing with the phenomena of Scripture is an inductive process that at best deals in issues of probability. So Rick or I (or any of countless evangelical scholarly friends I could mention) can with complete integrity (which, I understand, isn’t the same as being right!) affirm: 1) I believe the Scriptures are inerrant (by the standards of the subcultures in which they emerged, not by modern scientific standards of precision), and 2) my exegesis of the text leads to positions x, y, and z, and there really are precious few limitations on x, y and z. 1) allows me to attribute divine origin to various works and treat them as authoritative in my life once I do my best to interpret them correctly. 2) is the process of determining what in fact they do teach and what kind of (usually) genre-based claims result for my life. I have no difficulty teaching publicly that if the best genre studies of Jonah lead me to call it an extended parable teaching key theological principles, then based on that genre-identification, I should treat it not as a work of history but as a pious legend that still gives me authoritative information about the need for and nature of repentance, forgiveness, universal mission, etc. This in fact is exactly what Rick’s predecessor Bob Hubbard regularly taught for 18 years with us and now has taught at North Park Seminary for the last 17 years. I also know, as you well put it, where this would cause a lot of problems. But those places, sad to say, don’t truly understand the history of scholarly reflection on bibliology.

    A lot of “ordinary” Christians and not a few pastors don’t really understand all this, but in the orbit of a significant majority of the churches served by seminaries like Denver (or Trinity or Gordon-Conwell or Fuller or Bethel or Talbot. . .), when these points are explained there is little opposition and a lot of appreciation. The deeper you go into the Bible belt, the deep south, many Southern Baptist contexts, some PCA contexts, other hyper-Reformed context, true fundamentalism, old-line dispensationalism, and completely independent circles, this is often not the case. But as a 55-year old I’ve seen enormous progress in my lifetime with regard to these issues so I am very optimistic about the future trends as well. Of course, there will always be short-term setbacks along the way, but I have little doubt about the long-term trends.

  3. I appreciate your comments as well Dr. Blomberg.

    I envy your perspective from the seminary and your optimism about long-term trends. I do not share that optimism. When the SBC just passed a resolution to reject and basically condemn the NIV translation based on its inclusive language among its member churches I feel we’re quickly moving backwards rather than slowly forward.

    I also appreciate your definition of inerrancy (with the nod to Warfield). Sadly, from the perspective of the “trenches” I can assure you that that definition is in no way the working definition of the day to day Christians, pastors and not, who I know and relate to. I promise you that if you were interviewing for a preaching or pastoral staff position in 90% of the churches in North America and they did not know your credentials and you described Jonah the way you do above, you would NOT be hired. I will also continue to believe that it is irresponsible to ask people in an institution of higher learning to adhere to a doctrine that is not clearly taught in the Text…without mental reservation. I find that just silly.

    Finally, on the off chance that you check back here…let me take this opportunity to say that about 14 or 15 years ago your commentary on 1 Corinthians literally changed my life. During a preaching series it was one of my primary resources. Your work sparked a desire in me to dig into the text and the story behind the story that my previous education did not give me. You made me reconsider context, cultural context, the other side of the story, original language work and a consideration of the work of other scholars that were largely ignored in my previous education. Your commentary led me to begin collecting commentaries and books by people teaching at universities for my own version of “distance education” that I continue to this day. I will forever be in your debt for the work you did on that book and what it has meant to me. I am truly grateful.

    Shortly after completing that series through 1 Corinthians the largely cessationist church I was a part of told me if that was the kind of church I wanted to be a part of I should go down the road and start one. So I did.

  4. Delighted to hear 1 Corinthians was helpful, Brian. Ah yes, the SBC. Well, it is an entity to itself, so I try not to base nationwide prognostications about evangelicalism on what it does. But, interestingly, before the convention Al Mohler and Lifeway were solidly on board with the updated NIV. The resolutions committee was too, and it asked the pastor in Indiana not to bring the issue to the floor. The convention, of course, has a mechanism for bypassing that and it was bypassed, but only with minutes left in the convention, when half the delegates had left, by means of a resolution with several factual errors and unfair interpretive spins to it, and without giving the delegates any time or access to information by which to evaluate it. That suggests to me a certain desperation on the part of its advocates who were pretty sure they’d lose if they tried courteous, Christian and democratic processes!

    As for the long term I base my optimism on the students I teach, the cross-section of churches that attract largely younger adults that I get to visit, including my own, and the generally aging demographics of the most entrenched old-school folks, not to mention that outside the U.S. in the English-speaking world, inerrancy is a rarity indeed. I find myself often in the odd position of having to defend its value, once it is correctly understood, because so many younger evangelicals have seen only the downsides of it, usually from when it is not properly understood.

    And then there is the matter of credentials. Yes, it is true. I would never encourage a young pastor to lead with Jonah! But that’s true on all kind of issues. Any pastor who wants to lead a congregation in directions that differ noticeably from what many currently believe, or how they worship, or how any other encrusted tradition has dictated matters for a long time, has to do so ever so gradually, over a period of years, even as he or she earns their trust, builds personal relationships, trains leaders, takes them through careful biblical study, and so on.

    I know people who qualify for AARP are supposed to be growing cynical. I could easily join both of those groups. So far I refuse to do so! :)

  5. A big hello to Craig Blomberg, But you left me wondering what rational value it is to declare an ancient Near Eastern book “inerrant (by the standards of the subcultures in which it emerged, not by modern scientific standards of precision).” That seems like the perfect formula for declaring any ancient book “inerrant.” You even added that a whole book like Jonah could be “an extended parable,” “a pious legend,” and still be “authoritative,” inerrantly so. But when one starts defending pious legends composed during pre-scientific times as being without error . . . how do you prove that to others? Maybe “inerrancy” is just a word oft repeated to try and keep the feathers of conservative Christians from ruffling? But how “conservative” can it be when liberals also agree that the Bible contains “pious legends” composed during a “pre-scientific” age? (See also the questions broached by Dr. Robert M. Price in his thesis, Inerrant the Wind: The Evangelical Crisis of Biblical Authority, recently reprinted and updated; and also published in a trimmed down version in The Evangelical Quarterly, 1983.)

    For inerrantist Robert H. Gundry collecting, collating or expanding upon pious legends was all part of the “authorial intent,” of the author of the nativity stories in the Gospel of Matthew, meaning that the author of that Gospel “treats us to history mixed with elements that cannot be called historical in a modern sense.” So the book of Matthew should not be measured against the standards of the genre of modern historical writing in order to be called inerrant. Gundry was voted out of the Evangelical Theological Society in the 1983 soon after the appearance of his Commentary on Matthew, but he has since been invited back to speak at an ETS conference. Is the notion of inerrancy continuing to stretch? Can it help stretching based on the definitions you have employed above? Also, most Evangelical NT scholars resisted accepting the validity of the hypothesis of “Markan Priority” for nearly a century, until the 1990s, when the conservative damn appears to have broken and many of them began accepting it was a supportable and pretty good hypothesis. Also, in the last decade it seems like an increasing numbers of OT professors at Evangelical colleges have admitted Genesis 1-11 probably contains less history than previously thought, thus finding themselves in closer agreement with mainstream OT and ANE scholars including Catholics. So to repeat myself, I wonder how “conservative” can it be when liberals also agree that the Bible contains “pious legends” composed during a “pre-scientific” age?

    I also wonder what the majority of founding fathers of Denver Seminary believed, about Genesis 1-11, about Jonah, about Markan Priority, and about the nativity stories in Matthew, compared with what the majority believes today (granted some might not even want to say what they are thinking, so as not to ruffle any feathers). And what will the majority at Denver Seminary believe 50 years from now (if civilization is hopefully still humming along). My own cursory studies of the histories of even the most conservatively founded seminaries have shown that given about two hundred years, if they continue to thrive and attract professors who read widely and interact with the latest scholarship, they can’t help but grow more inclusive and dare I say more liberal. Harvard was founded as a conservative Christian seminary. But then Yale had to be founded adue to the growing “theological excesses” of Harvard. But now look at Yale. Princeton was the home of plenary verbal inspiration, inerrancy, and B.B. Warefield. But Princeton grew more “modernistic” and Machen left Princeton to help found Westminster Seminary due to Princeton’s “theological excesses.” Yet even Westminster could not help but become home to such controversialists (in the world of inerrancy) as Peter Enns and Paul Seely, who question inerrancy. Can questions ever be solved by invoking “inerrancy,” and can anyone assure us exactly what the beliefs of inerrantists are? Both inerrantists and liberals agree that the Bible contains “pious legends” composed during a “pre-scientific” age. In the end we have an endless debate involving rival interpretations of different parts of the Bible.

    And what are “original autographs?” How can one speak sensibly about the “inerrancy” of “originals” we do not possess? We don’t have the “originals,” so we can’t know what they looked like, let alone whether or not everything in them was “inerrant.” Nor do we know if stages were involved in their composition, i.e., additions/deletions of passages/chapters. At what stage of composition would one declare a writing the “original autograph?” What if you declare it to be the “original autograph” too soon, before some spurious passage or chapter is finally edited out, or too late, after something spurious has already been appended or added in (I’m thinking of the last verses of Mark). Few serious authors ever consider their works perfected, let alone inerrant. They reread them years later and often find at least parts of them unsatisfactory, and wish to change them. Even the four Gospel authors show signs of not having found the contents of previous Gospels entirely satisfactory. (See “Matthew’s Use of Mark: Did Matthew Intend to Supplement or to Replace His Primary Source?*” by David C. Sim, New Testament Studies, 2011)

  6. Funny, of all Dr. Blombergs comments, this one caught my eye:

    “I know people who qualify for AARP are supposed to be growing cynical. I could easily join both of those groups. So far I refuse to do so!”

    All I can say to your comment is “it ain’t so easy, brother.” And maybe we wouldn’t want your type anyway. You have no choice in joining one of those groups but the other has its own rituals you’d have to endure and, frankly, I’m not sure if you’re up to the challenge but I’d give you a fair chance, at least.

    The good news is that once you’re through the journey, life begins anew.

    Thanks for making this dialog public, Thom!

    Peace,
    Frank

  7. It’s a treat to be able to express my gratitude to Dr. Blomberg!

    This has been rolling around in my mind all night and I came back here to read this over again and find Ed has voiced some of where this exchange has taken me.

    If we’re stretching “inerrancy” well beyond what I was taught that word meant back in *cough* 1984 (not an Orwellian allusion…or is it?) is it even possible to have dialogues like this? Voltaire said, “define your terms” and this is an excellent reason why.

    I was thinking this morning that if I stood up Sunday at church and announced, “I’m gay!” Should I be surprised that people gathered would assume I’ve just come out of the closet about my same sex attraction? And if I followed that remark with, “Of course I’m referring to the 1st definition of gay as listed in Webster’s Dictionary copyright 1995.” Should I expect confusion? Should I expect some people would completely miss what I was saying and share the news with others?

    As Ed points out above, I feel now, based on Dr. Blomberg’s definition of “inerrancy” I could make it through a job interview with an evangelical church when they asked me to affirm their statement of faith that was much like Denver’s. But deep down I would know that we likely weren’t all working from the same definition. And if I asked them to define that word I would likely find myself on my way out of the interview.

    I think Ed hits the scholarly implications in his comment above. I’m just trying to say that there are some practical implications on this one for those of us who read the books, do the study and want to teach with integrity in the local church. I don’t want to lead people away from what they already believe. I just want to be able to teach what I’ve learned to be true without fear of reprisal. I can do that where I am but outside our local church I become isolated from my evangelical peers and I’m too young to hang out with my liberal colleagues to discuss retirement.

  8. And Dr. Blomberg has illustrated above with the details of the SBC rejection of the NIV what my problem is. I hope he can take this back to the University setting with him. DESPITE Mohler and Lifeway being on board those who represent the day to day of church life in the SBC rallied enough support to condemn the NIV. This is the reality we face from the pulpit day by day. I have evangelical but non-SBC colleagues who also reject the NIV because of the email alert they got about its evil, inclusive, changing the Word of God, language.

    And I’ll just toss this quote just because I like it: ‎”The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.” — George Bernard Shaw

  9. This is a fun conversation. Hopefully it has some value as well. Maybe the reason I resist the label “cynic” is because I know I am already a pessimist (I attribute it to being a lifelong Cubs fan.) And, akin to Shaw’s comment above, most pessimists say they are just realists and call optimists idealists.

    I like chiasms so I’ll reply to a few selected comments above in inverse order. The jury is still out on the reception of the updated NIV. Maybe I’ll know more about what Zondervan and Biblica are planning after next week’s annual meeting of the Committee on Bible Translation that I’m a part of.

    How is inerrancy still useful even if defined according to genre? Because even ancient cultures had senses of legitimate and illegitimate uses of genre? Lucian’s On Writing History itemizes at length in the Greek world what constituted good and accurate history and what didn’t. Kenneth Kitchen’s magisterial book on the Reliability of the Old Testament shows that ANE writers as far back as some of the oldest layers of the OT did the same. Most modern theories of pseudonymity for NT epistles may or may not be convincing but operate on the assumption that the device was not meant to deceive and in fact did not deceive. I get very little push back when I present Howard Marshall’s approach to what he calls “allonymity” in the Pastoral Epistles in my classes–not that it’s the view I adopt but when I argue that it is fully consistent with inerrancy. But Bart Ehrman demonstrates what’s not consistent, with his new book, Forged. Once again, ironically, he has taken what is hardly new news, packaged it in sensationalized and misleading form, and made an unsuspecting public think that biblical scholars have recently discovered new and damaging evidence for the credibility of Scripture!

    I’m unclear as to which group I “must” join. AARP sends you materials whether you want them or not, but I haven’t joined! And I do know some non-cynical retirees.

    I would date the acceptability of Markan priority, chastened forms of form and redaction criticism, et al, to George Ladd’s book, The NT and Criticism, in the mid 1960s. All were standard fare at Trinity in the 1970s. Bob Thomas and Master’s Seminary may never accept any of them. But I don’t think the 1990s was any kind of a watershed.

    I sat next to Bob Gundry at the 1984 Dallas ETS meetings in which he was asked to resign. It was another case of power politics. The majority of attendees at the full conference were in favor of his being allowed to stay. My former mentors at Trinity (Deerfield)–Doug Moo, Don Carson and Grant Osborne–had all argued passionately and persuasively that his understanding of Matthew and how he explained in his commentary how it was consistent with inerrancy satisfied the ETS’ doctrinal statement (even though they didn’t think it was right). But Norm Geisler contacted all kinds of fundamentalist friends who were members but who hadn’t attended the meetings thus far but were in driving distance of Dallas to come stack the deck at the business meeting! It was at that time that a lot of the current members of the Institute for Biblical Research withdrew from ETS, unfortunately from my perspective, because that left a higher percentage on the far right. Then with SBC folks deciding “evangelical” wasn’t just a “Yankee” word, the numbers got skewed even further. But the IBR has boomed in its growth also.

    And a hearty hi to you too Ed. Hope you are well!

  10. Dr. Blomberg, as a lifelong Cardinals fan I now completely understand the difference of perspective that we share.

    This conversation has been helpful for me. I had a little informal poll on my FB page today on how people define “inerrancy”. The replies ranged from non-Christian to a SBC staff member to a Seminary prof and all points in between. The Seminary prof was the only one who took Dr. Blomberg’s track on defining the word though he concluded that it was not a useful word to discuss.

    I realize that’s not scientific by any stretch but I would plead with Seminaries and Colleges and their professors to recognize this is a partnership with the pastorate. We preach and teach with people who by and large don’t pick up a commentary and rarely listen to people they don’t already agree with. It is here in the everyday, ordinary, walking around life of believers that we need popular expressions of the discussions you’re having academically to help us lead people, not just seminary students, into a healthy relationship with the Text and open dialogue about It’s content so people can follow Jesus with a clearer idea of how the Text fits in to that experience.

    We don’t need more pop-theology like Rob Bell offers but we need back up from you when people in our churches come in quoting Mark Driscoll who puts me in a hole to begin with by describing me as a heretic for my view on women in ministry. Back up, I would suggest, involves the sort of things that N.T. Wright has been doing all over Youtube and Scot McKnight does at his blog. But we need more. Much more.

    And thanks Thom for writing and thinking and creating space where thoughtful dialogue can occur. I am encouraged!

  11. Actually Craig, I didn’t say you “must” join any group, only that you have no choice in the matter of one. Simply put, you will reach an age, ultimately, if you reach middle age, which I gather you have, where you “qualify for AARP” as you put it. You’re there, my friend, not by choice, it simply happens if one lives so long.

    I lived happily as a fundamentalist for 28 years after my “born again” experience in 1980. And then I had my own awakening. Your mileage may vary, perhaps you’ve been brilliantly successful or so beloved by God that you were able to endure hardship; I’ve had my share of hardships and then some. But at one point, I realized that this faith system I had subscribed to, promoted, and lived with passion and vigor, just wasn’t helpful, and so I have moved on. To call that a depressing experience is quite an understatement.

    Thom Stark has been only compassionate and understanding as we’ve emailed just a few times, despite his “snarfy” banter with his colleagues. And it was Dr. Valerie Tarico, who thoughtfully recommended his book in the first place. That recommendation provoked me to read it. I would never have imagined re-engaging with anyone of the Jesus sect again until I took a leap of faith and just emailed Thom awhile ago. And you know, Thom reminds me of the Christian ideal I once so held dear. He is controversial and challenging. In contrast, the ivory tower, the religious elitist, offer nothing, really to anyone like me. But being allowed to peer into the inner sanctum of religious academia has been fascinating. And I am grateful you’re willing to engage with Thom as well.

    Good luck in your journey, brother. If your world gets turned upside, I can highly recommend a look at the work of Dr. Robert Moore, from Chicago. He is brilliant and his work was equally healing for me.

    Press on!

  12. If it’s any encouragement, Brian, our church is doing a “hot topics” series for the summer and I’ve already been invited to do inerrancy one Sunday in August. That’s another thing I love about Denver–there’s almost no church-seminary rivalry compared to so many places. Probably our mentoring program has helped enormously in that respect because we rely on professionals and laypeople from countless Front Range ministries and all of our students have to be involved somewhere actively.

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