J.P. Moreland wrote an encouraging little book, Love God with All Your Mind. Influenced by Dallas Willard, Moreland suggests reason plays a helpful role in personal spiritual growth. He wrote a passionate, reflective piece after Willard died.
It was my privilege to meet Dallas Willard on a couple of occasions. One time in particular came during an evangelism conference sponsored by the Baptist General Convention of Texas. At the time my mentor, Dr. Rick Davis, helped plan, organize and promote the conference while on staff in the Evangelism department of the BGCT. Rick called and said, “Who would you drive to Dallas, Texas to hear.” I told him Dallas Willard.
Whether or not Rick invited Dallas to Dallas prompted by my request, I do not know. My mentor did one better. He scheduled a dinner for a small group where Dallas would take the time to engage us. It was quite the event. Dallas, was personable, approachable and genuinely interested in talking with everyone that evening. We took a group from our church to the conference and no one was disappointed. After that experience my good friend, Lyle Burris began a blog titled, Divine Conspirator, inspired by the conference and its content. I wish Lyle were still with us.
Dallas demonstrated how to love God with all your mind.
While Dallas represents one thread in my personal interest in theology and the life of the mind, my Dad stands as the initial figure who by his practice influenced me more than any college or seminary professor. Dad did not serve the church as pastor. He was an engineer by trade and a Sunday School teacher by practice and served the congregation as a Deacon.
My Dad first taught me hermeneutics, how to interpret the Bible. One year he taught high school boys. We sat in a room around a table. Dad somehow kept the attention of a group of juniors and seniors. Someone asked about the Bible. He captured the attention of the group by suggesting he could prove it was okay to smoke cigarettes using the Bible. We were all ears. He then, using the King James version of the Bible, read, “And Lot lit up a camel.” Of course we all burst out in laughter.
Those days were long before the end of cigarette commercials, a Tobacco Settlement and warning labels.
Dad never gave me an answer. Instead he challenged me to think. It was not, nor is it still, that Dad did not have an opinion. He believed it was my responsibility to think it through. There were few, if any, life decisions where this practice was altered. He did not always agree with my theology. My foray into Reformed Theology stirred quite a few conversations in those days.
I cherish Dad’s influence. I think my habit of thinking and questioning is faithfulness to what I learned from him.
We moved to Dallas after college graduation. My mentor, Rick Davis, would become a major influence in working out a practical and public theology as a pastor. Rick offered this young pastor a unique blend of solid leadership, excellent preaching and an emphasis on critical thinking. He never said anything, but I suspected he wondered what it meant that I would carry a copy of Van Til’s The Defense of the Faith to church.
My middle brother, Paul, lived with us for a time. We would spend many hours talking theology. He is quite the thinker. He minored in philosophy in college. His skills have not left him.
Several years ago my mentor called. He asked, “Why did no one insist that we take a course in logic?” Ten years my senior, he had spent three years pastoring near a Baptist University and struck up a friendship with a philosophy professor. We mused that we had learned how to run a church business meeting but there was little emphasis on critical thinking. Rich told me the book he was reading. Naturally I bought myself a copy. I also talked with my friend Greg who teaches logic and worked to become more aware of bad arguments, mostly my own. He has written several posts on logical fallacies as blog posts here.
A lack of logic training is really not a surprise. We come by it honest as Southern Baptists. Most of our theologians were pastors. Our history contains a significant thread of anti-intellectualism. Venture out beyond the accepted body of work and it won’t be long before you are challenged for thinking too much.
Congregational life requires ongoing work. No one trains you to think through the various life situations you will be called on to consider. Answers a person once found lock tight crumble under the weight of what is trite or pithy. Church members look for answers and find what we offer less than helpful. It drives one back to thinking through theological claims and right back to Jesus.
I skipped quite a bit in the long story. But, this post aims to get to my top ten podcasts from 2016. I fear you will stop reading before I get there. After recording podcasts on the Revised Common Lectionary texts for a while I re-tooled the podcast late last year.
Many young friends wanted to talk about pastoral ministry and theology. They were interested in a practical and public theology for the pastor. Patheological was birthed out of a desire to provide a resource for the pastor-theologian. Thus the target audience is pastors. But, anyone interested in the intersection of life and faith that results in a practical and public theology may be interested.
If you have suggestions for future conversation partners – authors, pastors, professors – send me an email and I will work to get them on the podcast.
Top Ten Patheologial Podcasts for 2016
- Don’t Scratch the Devil: An Interview with Richard Beck
- Love Can’t: An Interview with Thomas J. Oord*
- Beauty May Deliver Us from the Cul-de-Sac: An Interview with Bill Walker
- (His) Cancer Is Funny: An Interview with Jason Micheli
- Honesty and a Posture of Hatred Toward Suffering: An Interview with Jason Micheli
- The Rapture Betrays the Incarnation: An Interview with Jeffrey C. Pugh
- How We Talk About Submission and Authority Matter #AltonSterling: An Interview with Geoff Holsclaw
- Disabilities and the Church of the First: An Interview with Nathaniel Welch
- Diagnosing the Current Normal of the Church: An Interview with Tom Ingram.
- Walk 150 Miles in My Shoes: An Interview with Blake Oakley
* Tom Oord has given me the privilege of sharing an audio version of his book, The Uncontrolling Love of God: An Open and Relational Account of Providence. Click Here.
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