In the summer of 2009, while at the Seminary at Andrews University, I had the pleasure of taking a course in Protestant Theological Heritage with one of my favorite professors, Dr. Martin Hanna. Dr. Hanna is a soft-spoken, intelligent man, and I appreciated his willingness to draw truth from wherever it comes. In discussing the history of the Protestant movement, Dr. Hanna frequently drew on philosophical ideas from several different thinkers. As someone with more than a passing interest in philosophy, I appreciated the connections being made between those works and the theological writers we were studying. But for some of the students in the class, this was a problem. Philosophers did not have any connection to Jesus, they argued. The only thing necessary to explicate the concepts of Christianity and Protestantism were the words of the Lord in the Bible. From time to time over the period of the class, these students would raise their voices publicly in protest. Dr. Hanna would engage them, his only point being that we can learn even from those who do not have an explicit connection to Christ. One day, when the voices came out again in protest of the mention of philosophy, Dr. Hanna quoted 1 Cor 9:19-23.
“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.”
Dr. Hanna then asked a simple question. “What do you become to the philosopher?” Realizing there was no acceptable answer for them to that question, all criticism ceased.
As we are a few days removed from a celebration of the birth of Christ and as we turn our eyes forward to a new year, I thought of this story as I thought about what I want to see in our church. In general my prayer is for a willingness to be flexible as we seek to live out the Commission for which we were created. I am praying for the desire to be all things to all people in our efforts to save some. As I look around at Christianity and Adventism, it seems like the loudest voices are advocating just the opposite – that people must conform to us in order to be a part of our church, not that we might need to become like them. In the new year, I would love to be a part of a church where members lived out the high internal calling Jesus advocated while at the same time externally accepting all who are willing to come. I am praying that we see the ultimate spiritual benefit in all of our diversity, and in the absence of uniformity. Finally, I am praying for a church that can see itself the way the world sees it, realize that view is largely not positive, and care enough to change that view for the salvation of others.
Jason Hines is a former attorney with a doctorate in Religion, Politics, and Society from the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He is also an assistant professor at Adventist University of Health Sciences. He blogs about religious liberty and other issues at www.TheHinesight.Blogspot.com.
Your class had not read the context of the quote, otherwise they would have had a ready answer. Paul was saying that whatever RESTRICTIONS various groups placed on life, he followed suit so that he might have an opportunity to sit with them and share the gospel.
For example, whereas it is known that SDA don’t believe in a woman being ordained, then instead of demanding that women be ordained, he refrains from speaking about the topic and focuses on righteousness by faith. To a church in the South that follows Ellen White to the very letter and would have no meat on the table, he willingly partakes of the delicious baked potatoes instead of asking where was the nearest KFC.
Now some will criticize him for not speaking up to which he would say, “Neither ordination nor being an omnivore is salfivic. Amidst the patriarchy, I keep myself from the women, and to the vegetarians, I show sympathy for all the chickens of the world. To the philosophers, I do not quote the Bible. And to Christians, I do not quote the philosophers.”
The willingness to be constrained and deprived for the sake of the gospel is the hallmark of true Christianity.John 17:15-19
St. Paul succinctly sums this up a few verses later, at 1 Cor 10:1 “Copy me, my brothers, as I copy Christ himself.” (ver. J.B.Phillips). Paul knew that his faith in Christ could only be authentic and true, so long as he claimed and imitated the life set by Christ.
May I share your thoughtful and timely prayer, Jason, especially during this Christmastide! Thank you for this timely message.
I glanced once again at the syllabi for the classes taught on Revelation, Inspiration, and Hermeneutics by Martin Hanna, John Peckham, and Fernando Canale and the syllabus for the class taught on Biblical and Theological Hermeneutics by Richard Davidson. The standard literature on hermeneutics is not read or discussed in these classes. At best, students are provided a simplistic Vacation Bible School explanation about hermeneutics,
But these professors are really smart. They know more than they let on. And they are constrained by the limited capabilities of the students they teach. It is hard to imagine that there have been Seminary students so pitifully ignorant that they were reluctant to engage with philosophers and their ideas.
How can students ever learn about language and words if they do not study linguistics and engage with the teachings of Ferdinand de Saussure? How can students ever learn about the biblical authors’ different historiographical approaches to representing the past if they don’t read Droysen, Hayden White, and other noteworthy historians and study historiography? Students have no idea what God’s law is, because having never read Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Antonin Scalia, or Frederick Schauer, they don’t understand what law actually is. All of us have been profoundly influenced by Heidegger, the most important philosopher of the twentieth century, whether we realize this reality or not. How can sticking one’s head in the sand by never reading what he wrote be Christian and holy?
Here’s a more practical illustration why Seminary students should be thoroughly educated. Luke models his Christology in part on Hermes. The story of the boy Jesus at the temple is an imitation of the Homeric Hymn to Hermes. If you want to properly and accurately interpret Luke, you need to read Homer.
The best exhortation we can give to M.Div graduates is this: You have learned a lot. You are better educated than most Seventh-day Adventists. But keep learning and stay humble, because at this point in your spiritual journey there is much you need to learn about how to interpret a text.
For Jesus to have saved us he did not become like us, he became us. What if we do not need to become like any other human, but openly realize that we are created every human we meet?
Thus, there is no need for anyone to become like us to become one of us as Seventh-day Adventists. Everyone is already us in every meaningful way. What if to become a Seventh-day Adventist is not to become something different, but rather is to become more aware of being every person we meet?
After all, the Three Angels of Rev 14 is a universal message in which “every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” come to understand the everlasting gospel and until them we have all been confused by Babylon which has “made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.”
Many thanks again, Jason, for bringing such hope to us all, here, today.
Paul in 2 Timothy 3.
10. But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith,
longsuffering, love, perseverance.
14. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been
assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.
4:2. Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince,
rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and teaching.
Christology was 1st taught in broadcast methods to the Gentiles by Paul.
It was ONLY later that he wrote it down in his letters to his church friends.
However, I understand that the book of James was actually 1st. and he
was 1st to record words of Jesus.
Did the apostle Paul “refrain from speaking about” the longstanding biblical practice of circumcision - even though some in the church were insisting that it be required. Not at all. Instead, he preached that those persons must stand down so that the gospel might be preached to all. So it is with women’s ordination. Where there is injustice, we must speak out and practice what we preach so that the justice of God might shine forth and the gospel be proclaimed in those regions where equality is a fundamental value. This is necessary so that we might have an opportunity to sit with the people in these regions and share the gospel.
Paul was NOT preaching against circumcision, but against the salfivic value ascribed to it. He himself said, “Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.” 1 Cor. 7:18-19
This is that same Paul who advised Timothy, “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.” 1 Tim. 2:8-15. Read the whole passage.
Thank you, Steven, for providing the interesting annotations!
2 Timothy 4:1-2 resonates with J.B. Phillips’ version: "I urge you, Timothy, as we live in the sight of God and of Christ Jesus (whose coming in power will judge the living and the dead), to preach the Word of God. Never lose your sense of urgency, in season or out of season. Prove, correct, and encourage, using the utmost patience in your teaching."
Please clarify your reference to the Book of James. Several chronologies place James circa 55-60, being later than Paul’s earlier letters written circa 45-50.
James info came from a simulcast study of the Book of James during the weeks of Lent
from the Episcopal Cathedral in Atlanta several years ago.
All the Episcopal churches in the Atlanta Diocese were able to watch it at the same time.
Broadcast one evening a week.
Too bad SDA churches don’t do that [simulcast Book Study]. once or twice a year.