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The Life Story I Tell My Students

As I’ve indicated, my last class of the semester in my Introduction to the New Testament course is optional.  In it I explain to anyone who wants to come what I really believe and why I believe it.  The way I do it is by telling my life story, from childhood till today.  That takes about twenty or twenty-five minutes, and then I answer any questions for the rest of the time.  The questions could go on for hours – students have a lot of them – and some of the questions are very personal.  But I try to answer them as directly and honestly as I can. The story I tell starts with me as a church-going Episcopalian as a child, committed to the church, saying the Creed, confessing my sins, believing in God and Christ, serving as an altar boy.  And then in high school, I had a religious transformation.  I started attending a Campus Life Youth for Christ meeting that involved a social event every week and ended with a spiritual lesson [...]

Learning to Teach at Moody

I will not be continuing this autobiographical thread (thread within a thread) for much longer (you may be glad to know), but I do want to get to the ultimate point (for the thread outside the thread), which is why by a couple of quirks/flukes I ended up better equipped to write books for general audiences than most of my colleagues in my PhD program.   The first has to do with what happened with me back in my days at Moody when I was learning tons about what was actually in the Bible (and the fundamentalist way of interpreting it all) (which, at the time, of course, I thought was the *only* correct way to interpret it). At Moody, every semester we were required to engage in some kind of formal ministry (“Practical Christian Experience”).  Everyone at Moody had to do one semester of “door-to-door evangelism,” where we were taken to one neighborhood or another somewhere in a suburb of Chicago, and literally knocked on doors to talk to people to try to convert them.  [...]

Moody Bible Boot Camp

Back to my narrative about becoming trained in the Bible (as a prelude to what I started talking about -- why my later technical training actually made me better prepared for writing books for general audiences than my peers who were not at all interested in the technical side of things).  So, I went to Moody Bible Institute – and took that entrance Bible exam – when I was all of seventeen years old.   And it was during my first semester that I decided what I wanted to do with my life. I really, really, really do not advise doing that.  For 99.999% of the human race, it would be a very bad idea indeed to decide how to spend the rest of your life when you’re all of seventeen and can’t even yet order a beer (drinking age back then, in the Pleistocene age, was eighteen) (and anyway, we weren’t allowed to drink beer at Moody) (or smoke, play cards, dance, or go to movies) (really) (and there was a dress code).   But I’m [...]

Beginning My Study of the Bible

This thread is becoming a tapestry.  Its ultimate goal is to explain why, unlike most scholars, I ended up being able to write trade books and not only scholarly books.  I’m taking a rather circuitous route to getting there (to change the metaphor).   In my last post I discussed how and why I first became interested in the Bible, back as a fifteen year-old born again Christian. At that point I became convinced that only Bible-believing Christians (who were, of course, also born again) were the real Christians and any other people who claimed to be Christian (for example, most of the people who went to my own Episcopal church) were not *really* Christian, except in name only.   Again, the reason I thought so is because the born-agains I hung around with all said so, and they seemed to know what they were talking about.  Especially the fellow who “led me to Christ,” a mid-20s something fellow named Bruce. Bruce had a winsome personality and strong charisma, and he ran the Campus Life Youth for [...]

My Resentment at Moody Bible Institute

OK, I want/need to bring this current thread – or rather, this current tangle of threads – to a close.   I started out talking about what, looking back, I thought favorably about my three years at Moody Bible Institute, and what I felt resentful about it.   This got me on to other things, which I was happy to do, since ten days ago I was at the end of the semester and the end of a book project (which happened simultaneously) and I was burned out and brain dead, and  I couldn’t get up the energy to write anything about serious scholarship on the blog.  But I’m recovered now, and can get on to more important things than me and my life.  Which, frankly, would be most everything!! But I do need to spend this final post on the original thread to explain in very brief order what I am resentful about when it comes to my education as a 17-21 year old at Moody.   There are three things, all of which I could expand [...]

2017-12-09T08:19:47-05:00May 21st, 2015|Bart’s Biography, Reflections and Ruminations|

The Threat of Judgment

Since I’ve been making these posts about my experience at Moody Bible Institute, I’ve been getting some reactions from former classmates there.  Some of these are in a public forum I’m on.  Others have been private communications.    A few of these have been kind and heartening.  Others … not. Among the latter, some have told me that they pity me because of where I will end up on the day of judgment.   Others have suggested that I changed my theological beliefs because that would help me become famous.  Some have expressed both sadness and outrage that I have “led so many people astray.” So, dealing with these kinds of comments one-by-one, in one post at a time.   First, the day of judgment.  Well, none of us knows what will happen on the day of judgment, but I think I’m glad none of my classmates has been appointed to be the judge!    That hasn’t stopped them from judging in the present, of course, and one would think they would be a bit wary of that, given [...]

2020-04-03T13:43:35-04:00May 14th, 2015|Bart’s Biography, Reflections and Ruminations|

Education at Moody

In thinking back on my days at Moody Bible Institute, part of my now-ambivalence has to do with not just what I learned (or more important, what I did not) but also about how the thinking process itself was handled.   That has both a downside and an upside, and I would like to say something about both. I should start by reiterating that I am simply talking about my own personal experience.  Everyone’s experience would have been, and was, different.  Still, my strong sense is that my experience was not simply a result of my personality, although it certainly was in part that, but also as a result to how education itself was approached at Moody.   How did one get good grades at a school like that?   By mastering tons of material.   Committing lots of things to memory.  Knowing exactly what a teacher taught and being able to reformulate it, without changing its substance, in one’s own words. What was not taught, so much, was how to think for oneself.   When one *did* get encouraged [...]

2020-04-03T13:43:48-04:00May 13th, 2015|Bart’s Biography, Reflections and Ruminations|

My Moody Experience

Here I continue with my reflections on my fundamentalist past. For me, as an inordinately gung-ho evangelical Christian teenager, passionate about learning about the Bible, Moody Bible Institute was the ideal learning environment.   More than just about anyone I knew, even there, I thrived on the academic side of the school.  Moody at that time did not give a bachelor’s degree.  It was a three-year diploma.   For a degree, one needed to transfer credits and go to another college.  That’s what I did after my three years, when I could transfer two of those years to Wheaton and graduate from there with a degree in English literature. There was no English literature to speak of at Moody.  In fact there was no liberal arts curriculum of any kind.   It’s not because they rejected the liberal arts as … too liberal.  (!)  It’s that the school simply wasn’t interested in the humanities, the social sciences, or the hard sciences.   Who cares about such things?  What matters is the Bible.   Hence the name of the school:  Moody [...]

2020-04-03T13:44:08-04:00May 12th, 2015|Bart’s Biography, Reflections and Ruminations|

My Fundamentalist Beginning

Lately I’ve been thinking a good deal about my completely ambivalent relationship to my past, in particular in relation to my education at Moody Bible Institute.   In part my thinking has been set off by an email I received from my roommate and best friend at the time, and for years, who was the best man in my wedding and confidante and most closest male friend I had ever had.   He has remained a committed evangelical Christian all these years and continues in ministry.   We never have contact any more, but he reached out to me to say hey, and I’ve been flooded with memories and thoughts since. There is a very big part of me – probably the most noticeable part – that is deeply resentful toward my time at Moody.   But there is another part that occasionally arises to the surface, which realizes that in many ways those three years were very good for me.   Without them, I would not be who I have become and what I am.   Sometimes I forget that. [...]

2020-04-03T13:44:24-04:00May 11th, 2015|Bart’s Biography, Reflections and Ruminations|
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