I’m not sure exactly when the suffering of others came to pose a problem for my own faith; but I do remember clearly when the issues first crystalized for me. I started my teaching career at Rutgers University while I was a PhD student working on my dissertation in 1984. It was a fantastic job for me (teaching at a very good research university, without yet even having my degree), but it was not tenure-track. I was a poorly-paid adjunct instructor, teaching two or three courses a semester, in a range of areas: Introduction to the New Testament; Introduction to the Hebrew Bible; The Life and Letters of Paul; The Gospel of John; and so on.
I had never taught any of these courses before, of course, since this was just the beginning of my career. And back then my idea was that when I gave lectures, I would actually write out them out, word for word, by hand (I didn’t own a computer then), on yellow pads. If I was teaching three courses – say New Testament, Hebrew Bible, and writings of Paul, I would have to lecture twice a week for an hour and fifteen minutes for each course. So that would be six long lectures a week (although I did mix it up with class discussions as well). Written by hand.
It’s hard to write a 75-minute lecture by hand. And to do four, five, or six of them each and every week, from scratch – that’s really hard. And I was supposed to be writing my dissertation at the time. And I had a wife and two children. Yikes.
My schedule was pretty crazy. Basically,
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