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Jeff Siker Part 2: Why I am a Christian (and yet a New Testament scholar)

This is a part 2-continuation of Jeff Siker’s reflections on why he is a Christian still, even though he knows and believes what I do about the New Testament from a historical perspective. To make fullest sense of this post, you should read it in conjunction with the one from yesterday. He and I will welcome comments and interactions.

Jeff Siker is the author of Jesus, Sin, and Perfection in Early Christianity, Liquid Scripture: The Bible in the Digital World and Homosexuality and Religion: An Encyclopedia.


Like Bart I became interested in pursuing an academic career, but with some grounding in the life of the church.  And so after my BA and MA (Religious Studies) at Indiana University, I went off to Yale Divinity School.  And so my trajectory from Young Life in high school to Indiana to Yale was rather different from Bart’s trajectory from Moody to Wheaton to Princeton.  Whereas much of Bart’s education involved the study and practice of Christian apologetics (being able to defend one’s faith and challenge others – akin to Josh McDowell’s then very popular Evidence that Demands a Verdict, which I had also studied along the way), my own Christian faith involved a much less strident and argumentative approach to defending the truth of the Bible.  I began to understand significant differences in the New Testament as different perspectives that did not necessarily have to be reconciled to each other (anathema for those who believe the Bible is internally consistent in every regard).  At Indiana University the study of religion did not include a confessional approach.  Courses on the Bible stressed historical and literary contexts, including the history of interpretation across different approaches to Scripture (e.g., the Alexandrians vs. the Antiochenes regarding the matter of allegory).  Truth claims about faith grounded in Scripture was not part of my academic study.  There was certainly a challenge to integrate what I was learning in the classroom with my developing faith life, which was nurtured in the mainstream tradition of Protestant liberalism.  This integration continued at Yale Divinity School and after my ordination (PCUSA) in my two years as a pastor to a small church in rural Michigan.  At Yale I also grew familiar with the various movements of liberation theology in addition to classic Protestant theology.  In retrospect I would say that increasingly I came to see my understanding of biblical interpretation as a conversation between the biblical authors and modern faith in seeking to discern God’s presence and the leading of God’s Spirit in both personal faith and the life of the church. Not only was this a rich conversation between modern and ancient communities of faith, it was a banquet of conversations that involved all of church history and hundreds of biblical commentators across the ages.  This understanding only grew deeper during the Ph.D. program at Princeton Theological Seminary.

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Being on Leave
Guest Post: Jeff Siker — Why I Am Still a Christian (and a NT Scholar)



  1. Avatar
    stuart  January 30, 2013

    Dear Dr Siker,

    I think I understand from this chat that you do not believe Jesus died as an act of atonement or that we are all guilty due to original sin. You also say you are unsure or undecided if Jesus is one and the same with God. I would presume then that you don’t pray to Jesus, or ask forgiveness/repent of your sins? Maybe I am confused here, but it seems to me you are no more a Christian than Bart is. Perhaps you would be better to describe yourself as a deist who appreciates some good lessons contained in the Bible?

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    dennis  August 18, 2013

    WOW !!!! A few days ago ( Aug. 15 2013 ) I sent a reply that suggested a subject index page . When I casually consulted the one that exists , I stumbled on this guest post by Dr. Siker . Superb thought provoking posts and , if the replies are any indication , stimulated a good many brain cells . How about some more guest posts ? I am thinking of such luminaries as Dr. Craig Evans ( Fabricating Jesus ) , Dr. James D.G. Dunn ( A New Perspective On Jesus and the , what I at least , found to be the truly mind blowing Did The Early Christians Worship Jesus ? ) or Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson ( The Real Jesus ) . Bart , if it had not been for you ” turning me on ” to this field , I would never had heard of the authors much less read them . Thank You Very Much !

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    webattorney  January 4, 2014

    Dr. Siker’s views seem very close to mine, but I am an agnostic who is sympathetic to Christian belief until they try to change my beliefs. Therefore, it almost seems like using two different words for the same thing.

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