After nine years of theological education on two different continents and in three different colleges, I am finally on my first ever sabbatical. No doubt the angels in heaven are weeping with joy and my students are moved with joy to the pit of the bowels knowing that they’ll be free from my antics for a whole semester. Every time I’ve departed an institution it has been precisely when I was due for a sabbatical which meant going to the end of the line in the new institution. So I was very grateful to Ridley College for fast tracking my sabbatical after only 18 months in the post. I would like to thank the Ridley Board, the Principal Brian Rosner, and Director of Education Tim Foster, for allowing me a semester’s leave to focus on various research and writing projects. I’m hoping for once that I can actually get something written! So happy as well that the uber talented Dr. Scott Harrower – a real systematic theologian – will be covering theology while I’m gone.
To be honest, I feel like I’ve just fallen over the finish line. Its been a wonderful semester, great colleagues, great visiting lecturers like Mariam Kamell and Craig Blomberg (the Denver Duo), the normal fun with my TH and NT students, but lots of hard yakka too. Setting my theology students three essays rather than one essay plus an exam gives me a huge marking load which feels like swimming through honey. Having three classes run in a 28 hr block left me usually shattered by Thursday lunch time. A cohort of videos for our eRidley and Ridley On-line courses took time and effort but finally got done thanks to the hard work of our video tech Wayne Chan. Plus a few other things around the traps like refuting Bart Ehrman and finishing off a book called The Gospel of the Lord had to be done too. I also felt the pinch with various health issues some of which have not yet been fully resolved. So I’m well and truly ready for a sabbatical.
Things I intend to achieve on my sabbatical:
1. Dress like a hipster. I’m going to grow a beard, get a non-permanent tattoo on my neck, wear a beanie, and dress like a lumber-jack. I will be the world’s only non-coffee drinking hipster.
2. Finish off my Romans commentary for the SOBC series. Writing a commentary on Romans is like singing the national anthem at a sporting venue. You get one chance at this and you don’t want to stuff it up. Its been great so far – I’m up to chapter 8 – but its very hard work, soooo much secondary literature. Gotta keep reminding myself that its not a Hermeneia commentary, its a commentary for pastors and students.
3. Read lots of books. I have about 30 books I have to review for Eerdmans, Baker, IVP, and Zondervan. Will be so happy to finally get to them.
4. American Conference Road Trip. Lord willing, in mid November I will be celebrating my 40th birthday, yes, I”m really that old. Given that its an important milestone in my life, I thought I would visit somewhere in America that would afford me a few moments for quiet reflection, monastic solitude, and to focus on cultivating the virtues of holiness, sobriety, and chastity …. so I’m going to Las Vegas! While I’m there I’m down to speak to a couple of churches! Immediately after that I will be going to ETS/IBR/SBL. At ETS they are having a review session on my Evangelical Theology which I’m really looking forward to. At IBR I’m giving a paper on christology and the imperial cult. Then at SBL I’m on a panel going mano-e-mano with Bart Ehrman about some book he wrote on Christology and Christian Origins.
5. Finnish off my commentary on the Apostles’ Creed. I’m slowly finishing off a book called What Christians OUGHT to Believe which is a summary of Christian doctrine via the syllabus of the Apostles’ Creed.
6. Visit American Again. In January 2015, I’m down to deliver two weeks of lectures at Houston Baptist University and then speak at Second Presbyterian Church in Louisville at a conference on “Reading the New Testament Today.” If you’re around, would love to meet you.
7. Start writing my NT Theology. Although I certainly won’t finish it during my sabbatical, I need to start a NT Theology project I’ve been planning since 2005. So many good NT Theologies have come out in recent years (i.e., Marshall, Schnelle, Schreiner, Thielman, Beale), but I have a few ideas about how to do things a little differently to everyone else.
8. Sleep and Spend time with Family. Of course, another advantage is that I will get to sleep in during week days, be home when my kids go to school and return from school, and even take my wife Naomi out for the occasional lunch date!
9. Watch the first season of The West Wing. Still haven’t done this and I know I’m so behind. But will get there eventually.
10. Learn some Aramaic. Thanks to Jill Firth, I’ll be taking some ad hoc classes on Aramaic at Ridley College.
11. Visit the Victoria Markets more Often. I intend to eat and shop more often at the world famous Victoria markets just down the road from Ridley.
12. World domination. According to the Book of Revelations, one day the world will be ruled by a race of red-headed super heroes, including myself, Nicole Kidman, and Horatio from Miami CSI. We still have some planning to do!