How the Bible Came into Being. HBU Spring Theology Conference

On March 2-4, 2017 the Department of Theology at HBU, in conjunction with Lanier Theological Library, is hosting the conference How the Bible Came into Being. The conference will consider the formation of the biblical canon, the literature included and excluded, and its theological significance. Our keynote speakers are James Charlesworth (Princeton Theological Seminary) and Lee McDonald (formerly of Acadia Divinity College). The plenary talks are free and open to the public.

We also invite proposals for short papers from scholars and graduate students from a wide array of topics related to how the Bible came into being, for example:

  • The formation of the canon (including its establishment and later discussions)
  • The canonical process of individual texts
  • Comparisons of canonical traditions
  • The theology of the canon
  • Canonical criticism

Anyone who is interested should submit a 300 word abstract on any relevant topic by December 8, 2016. Papers should be 25 minutes long with 5 minutes for questions. Decisions will be announced in late December. Send proposals to Daniel Streett.

We will be publishing some of the conference papers. If you would like your paper considered for inclusion, please indicate this on your proposal. You must also provide a full version of the paper at the time of the conference.

You can find out more details and register for the conference at the Theology Conference webpage.

This year’s conference is partially sponsored by Faithlife, the makers of Logos Bible software. At the conference they will give a demonstration of the Logos software and offer significant discounts on purchases.

Houston Church Planting Network Lunch

The Department of Theology is co-hosting this month’s Houston Church Planting Network lunch. It’s May 25th at 11:30 in McNair Hall. See the RSVP details below.

May HCPN Gathering

Our next HCPN gathering will be Wednesday, May 25th from 11:30a-1:30p.

Please make sure and RSVP if you plan to attend.

NOTE: Each person attending must RSVP separately.

We will be hearing from Daniel Im. Daniel is the Director of Church Multiplication for New Churches and LifeWay Christian Resources, while also serving as a Teaching Pastor at The Fellowship, a multisite church in Nashville, TN. Recently he wrote Planting Missional Churches: Your Guide to Starting Churches that Multiply (2nd ed.)with Ed Stetzer.

Our host this month is Houston Baptist University. The address is 7502 Fondren Rd, Houston, TX 77074. Click here for directions.

Lunch will be provided but we need an accurate count by May 20th so please RSVP in plenty of time to get them the correct number.

Our Guest Speaker: Daniel Im, Director of Church Multiplication at LifeWay Christian Resources

A Better Way with Bacon: a Meditation on Creative Synthesis

Bacon is one of my favorite foods, even if it shares its name with a second-rate philosopher. For years I made bacon the old-fashioned way in a skillet on the range-top. The results were delicious—nice crispy bacon with tons of flavor—but the time it took to pan-fry a thick-cut strip (a package can easily take ½ hour) and the subsequent cleanup were serious impediments (greasy pan and backsplash) to making this tasty treat. So coveting the sweet delicious taste without the mess, I recently went in search of a better way with bacon.

I first made the mistake of reading a “click-bait” bacon article on Yahoo! that insisted the best way with bacon was in a hot oven with bacon strips laid across a rack set inside a lipped cookie sheet. The results were disastrous. The bacon was not carmelized (insufficient Maillard reaction) and the cookie sheet contained a disgusting pool of grease—not to mention that cleaning a greasy cooling rack is no fun.

Then I began to think about the “tricks” I already knew. For years, whenever I craved a homemade BLT, I have turned to the trusty microwave. On a plate lined with paper towels, I microwaved a few slices of bacon that I also covered with paper towels. My three girls have all turned about to be bacon lovers, so I’ve increasingly used this method to make a quick treat for them. Your bacon cooks quickly with acceptable results, but I still don’t consider microwave bacon to be the equal of stove-top. The cleanup is easier, since most of the grease collects in the paper towels, but the bacon can dry out, and I miss the browning and flavor of the stove-top method.

I was still mulling over my bacon quandary when my wife reminded me that we were having a special a breakfast-for-dinner night. In our family we have pancakes for dinner on Shrove Tuesday (i.e. Mardi Gras). My wife was in charge of the pancakes and I, as usual, was on bacon duty. But instead of opting for either the stove-top or the microwave, I took a moment to consider. What was I really after? Taste? Texture? Less mess? All of the above. Could I come up with a way to achieve all of that?

And then I had a sudden realization: what if I par-baked the bacon in the microwave and then transferred it to the hot skillet? I recently had followed my wife’s instructions for baked potatoes. “After scrubbing them, microwave them for five minutes and then put them in the oven. They’ll cook much faster,” she told me over the phone. Why not adopt that same approach for bacon? I set my microwave to one minute per strip (thick-cut) on high—enough to render much of the fat but not completely bake my favorite meat candy. Then I moved the bacon to the skillet and finished the bacon in just a few minutes. The results were very close to baking exclusively on the stove-top. The bacon was crispy and brown but not dried out. I had found a better way with bacon! I was the hero of Shrove Tuesday. Just ask my kids.

As I thought over my better way of making bacon, I realized that—trivial as it may be—this episode illustrates an important truth about human creative endeavors. Most good ideas, like my serendipitous Shrove Tuesday bacon discovery, are the result of combining vectors of previous thoughts. We can labor fruitlessly to come up with some grand new idea, but often the “new” idea is no more than a creative synthesis of two existing ideas.

As a professor, I am always looking for ways to explain abstract concepts to my students. I notice that students—and their professors for that matter—often struggle to find “original” arguments for their scholarly work. I hope that this tasty illustration will help my students understand one of the ways that truly insightful original scholarship can come about. I plan to use my bacon discovery to show them that while research is necessary and useful, you might not need to slog through hundreds of pages of dry, boring academic prose. Instead, you might just need to bring together ideas that have not been previously synthesized. This creative synthesis is sometimes slow to mature but it is always intrinsically rewarding once achieved. Especially if it involves bacon.

A Science and Faith Resource You Don’t Want to Miss

Click Image to Order from Amazon

J. Warner Wallace’s latest book, God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe, is an exciting recent addition to the short list of science and faith books I regularly recommend to those desiring a strong, reader-friendly introduction to the issue of science and Christianity. It contains many of the same topics that are addressed in other scientific apologetics offerings, such as the beginning of the universe, the fine-tuning argument, the origin of life, and the problems of consciousness, free will, and morality. However, this isn’t your average, dime-a-dozen pop apologetics book; far from it, in fact.

What makes this book unique (and incredibly entertaining, to boot) is how Wallace frames the entire discussion as a detective’s investigation into the question: Was the origin of the universe an “inside job,” or is the likely suspect something—or someoneGCS-Closing-Argument-Illustration-05-1024x874—outside of the “crime scene”? In other words, does the universe have a transcendent cause, and if so, who or what makes the list of likely suspects? The use of homicide case summaries as analogies for examining the scientific evidence related to cosmic and biological origins and helpful, appealing illustrations on nearly every page make this book as enjoyable as it is informative.

Wallace’s book is well researched; it presents the arguments in a comprehensible fashion and includes counter-arguments and relevant scientific and historical context for the supporting evidence. For example, in the opening chapter, he outlines the observational evidence for an ultimate beginning of the universe, including not only the better-known research of Edwin Hubble, but also the related work done by physicists and astronomers such as Vesto Slipher, Georges Lemaitre, Arno Penzias, and Robert Wilson. Readers without a science background need not be intimidated, though. The crime scene investigation parallels Wallace constructs aid the reader in understanding the significance of the scientific evidence for the over-arching argument. 

There are several other features of the book that are both fascinating and useful. For instance, there are “Expert Witness” sidebar profiles–short bio sketches of leading scholars in the different fields being explored, including some of their scholarly achievements, key arguments, and notable publications. Among others, Robert Pennock, Paul Churchland, Leonard Susskind, Paul Davies, and Roderick Chisholm are profiled. There are other sidebar boxes, such as  “A Tool for the Call-Out Bag,” which describe crime scene investigator techniques and how they are analogous to what scientific investigators do, and “Our  Emerging ‘Suspect’ Profile” boxes that sum up the accumulated evidence and preliminary conclusions as the chapters progress.

If you don’t already own a copy of God’s Crime Scene, I highly recommend it as an engaging and  worthwhile addition to your personal apologetics library. It would make a wonderful gift this Christmas season, particularly for college students, parents of teens, church leaders, and anyone in lay ministry who deals with questions pertaining to science and faith.

Check out the book trailer—->

God’s Crime Scene by J. Warner Wallace from J. Warner Wallace on Vimeo.


A.O. Collins: Nick Perrin on the Gospels (Thurs, Oct 29)

The Department of Theology and the School of Christian Thought invite you to join us for the annual A.O. Collins Lecture series. Our lecture this week will be by:

Nicholas Perrin (Wheaton College)

“From Stories to Scriptures: When Did the Gospels Become Authoritative?”

Thursday, October 29, 2015 7:30 pm; Belin Chapel (Morris Cultural Arts Center)

For more details see:

Mark your calendars for the Annual HBU Theology Conference (February 25-27, 2016): Ad Fontes, Ad Futura: Erasmus’ Bible and the Impact of Scripture”

Love and Death in Ancient Rome

Last Monday I studied the Latin poem “ad Lesbiam” in class with Dr. Steven L. Jones. On first translating the poem, which fits within the familiar carpe diem motif, I thought it looked and sounded like it was written by a high-school boy. Here is the original Latin along with my translation of the poem:

Vivamus mea Lesbia, atque amemus,

rumoresque senum severiorum

omnes unius aestimemus assis!

soles occidere et redire possunt:

nobis cum semel occidit brevis lux,

nox est perpetua una dormienda.

da mi basia mille, deinde centum,

dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,

deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum.

dein, cum milia multa fecerimus,

conturbabimus illa, ne sciamus,

aut ne quis malus invidere possit,

cum tantum sciat esse basiorum.

[Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love,

And let us consider all the rumors of severe old men

To be worth a penny!

Suns are able to rise and set:

When once our brief light dies,

Night must be a perpetual sleep.

Give me a thousand kisses, and then a hundred,

Then give another thousand, and a second hundred,

Then a thousand kisses more, then a hundred.

Then, when we will have made many thousands,

We will mix them up, lest we know,

Or lest any evil man is able to envy,

When he knows that there are so many kisses.]

The last seven lines sound a bit like the fantasy of a desperate boy seducing a girl whose parents are disapproving. But Dr. Jones asked his class to look past the apparently puerile aspects of the poem and consider the philosophical nature of lines 3-6. Indeed, these lines express a familiar pagan lament about the inability of man to participate in the eternal cycles of nature. We have but one “brief light,” and once the night comes, we must sleep forever. The paraphrastic construction of line six underscores the unavoidable necessity of the eternal sleep. Continue reading

Upcoming Theology Events

There are several upcoming events that I want to bring to everyone’s attention.

First, on October 29th at 7:30pm Nick Perrin, from Wheaton College, will deliver this year’s A.O. Collins Lectures. His title is “From Stories to Scriptures: When Did the Gospels Become Authoritative?” Prof. Perrin is an internationally recognized expert in the Gospels. He has written on the Gospel of Thomas and the historical Jesus. The lecture is free and open to the public. (See the tap at the top for more details.)

Second, we are very excited about this year’s Theology conference: “Ad Fontes, Ad Futura: Erasmus’ Bible and the Impact of Scripture.” The conference marks the 500th anniversary of Erasmus’ Greek text and the Reformation. Our keynote speakers are Craig Evans (Houston Baptist University), Timothy George (Beeson Divinity School, Samford University), Herman Selderhuis (Theological University Apeldoorn) and Daniel Wallace (Dallas Theological Seminary). The plenary talks are free and open to the public.

As with previous conferences, we invite short papers. The call for papers can be found at the Conference webpage: You can also find a schedule and registration information there.

Apologetics in Parenting–An Interview

This week, an interview I did with Christianity Today on parenting and apologetics went live on their website. Is apologetics a necessary part of child-rearing? What are the signs that children are ready to begin discussing the harder questions? What does it look like to be a woman and a mom working in this field? Click here to read “The Apologist Mom.

Kristen Davis: Paganism vs Christian Worldview

Watch Kristen Davis’s recent presentation on Paganism vs. Christian Worldview, or read the talk below.

America is known for being a melting pot. We have people from all over the world, from every culture, nation and religious system. We are a haven for the persecuted and a delight for the imaginative, who need only an opportunity in order to do great things. We are a land of opportunity because we believe “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” Yet as of late we’ve watched as many of these rights appear to be slipping away. We’ve watched our country go from a respected world influencer to one of extreme debit that is mocked by foreign nations. What has changed? What has caused this cultural shift? While to be sure there are a multitude of influencers, I believe one of the key reason is because we have lost our foundation.

I am an avid lover of archaeology, because it is a snapshot of the past. In the world of archaeology the culture is static and frozen. The people have long since passed. The places and cultural ideas are no longer shifting and changing. They are the perfect subjects of study because they stay put and do not talk back. Yet as I’ve delved deeper into archaeological study I’ve found that it is also of great insight into modern culture. Because the subject of study is static and frozen, one can view the whole picture from beginning to end, as one views a painting or the story line of a book. The plot has already unfolded and one can see how the changes affected the culture at large, and ultimately the end of a particular way of life. In this way archaeology is instrumental in apologetics, because we are able to see the end results of a particular worldview as it has already played out in another culture.

One such worldview is paganism. Earlier this year I was asked to do a presentation on Neo-paganism at a conference in Frenso, CA. Knowing very little about Neo-paganism I decided to discuss it through the lens of archaeology. Paganism is not a new worldview, it is arguably the oldest and the most prominent in ancient culture. Neo-paganism is merely the resurfacing of that system. I would like to share a summary of my findings on the pagan worldview with you today because I think it is instrumental in answering the questions about the cultural shift we see in America.

Continue reading

Latin Lover

As a professor, I have taught more than one subject that skeptical students (and their parents) might question the usefulness of. Literature. Philosophy. Latin. Much ink has been spilled by defenders of the Humanities in recent years as students depart from these departments in order to take classes that will prepare them for a specific career, and, they hope, a certain job. I won’t attempt such a defense here but I have been thinking lately about why I enjoy teaching Latin so much, and that has made me remember important aspects of my own education.

As an undergrad at University of California, San Diego, I struggled to find my academic calling. In high school, I excelled in English and math, so I began my college career with disparate interests. During my first year of college, I took courses in syntax, semantics, and phonetics because I was interested in linguistics and none were offered at my high school. Credit hours were cheap, so I could explore and expand my interests without worries about long-term debt. My interests broadened even more, which as I look back, was a wonderful experience.

I excelled as a linguist but struggled a bit with mathematics. Unlike high school, my colleagues at UCSD were quite gifted in math and science, whereas I routinely struggled to get good grades. My struggles were primarily motivational, as I discovered that my natural talent for math was accompanied by only a moderate desire to learn the subject. As I lost interest in math, I began to wonder if I should pursue a new course of study.

Continue reading

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