I was privileged to give the Faith Forum lectures at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, MO, the location many of us came to know because of its horrific experience of the tornado last year. I saw enough — and the community has amazingly accomplished so much rebuilding and restoration already — to get a feeling for the magnitude of destruction. I heard a number of stories — and it seemed everyone had a story to tell. Including Chad Ragsdale, my wonderful host and the administrator of Faith Forum.
What impressed me most about OCC was this: as part of the Restoration Movement, which I think belongs in the evangelical movement even if I can’t get my friends at CT to agree, it is firmly committed to the Bible. So much so that its undergraduates aren’t required to take Intro to Theology or Intro to Systematics or Systematic Theology 101. OCC requires every student to take 15 — count ‘em folks — 15 courses in the Bible, and these courses are books in the Bible. Like Romans, Luke (not Luke-Acts), Acts, 1 Corinthians, Isaiah, etc..
What can we do to restore biblical book studies as central to the curriculum of the church and Christian colleges? Why do we not do this as much anymore? What do you think of the model of teaching Bible books and letting theology flow from the books of the Bible themselves?
I had lunch with a group of faculty and I told them we’d love to have their students at Northern Seminary. Students entering seminary with a full background in biblical studies both make a seminary better but are also more prepared for pastoral ministry if that is their calling. I’ll stop with this: We study too much outside the Bible and not enough Bible.
My lectures were called “What Jesus Wants” and I explored the word “More” in the Sermon on the Mount. I believe that term can be used as a window to see the whole landscape of the vision of Jesus in the Sermon. The first day I opened with the seven challenges to the church found in Helland and Hjamarson’s book, Missional Spirituality, to set the social context we face as we seek to be faithful disciples of Jesus — and one good place to begin is the Sermon on the Mount. The second day I set Jesus’ moral vision over against current ethical theories (virtue ethics, deontological ethics, and consequentialist ethics). Also they gave me an afternoon slot to discuss King Jesus Gospel stuff, and I began that session by skipping through the history of the gospel among revivalists, from Whitefield and Wesley and Edward to Billy Graham.
I cannot thank Chad Ragsdale enough for the invitation, the opportunity to have wings at Hackett’s in downtown Joplin, and for the invigorating and challenging conversation with both students and professors. Thanks too to Ryan for hauling me around and to Justin Gill and his fine (and patient) wife for taking me out for some coffee, and to the several student with whom I had lunch on Tuesday.