Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I Don't Know It All But What I Do Know I Learned From Someone Else

David Bartlett, PhD
   My professor for these two weeks in Decatur is David Bartlett, well-published and brilliant professor of Preaching and the New Testament. Now retired, he is a beloved teacher.  While this is my first class with him, I can see why some have taken him over and over again. He knows his stuff.
   He does two things I like very much. First, for as much as he knows, he also talks about what he doesn't know. Our course is on Christology, the study of the meaning and the work of Jesus. Bartlett does not claim to know it all. He reminds us that we don't know what New Testament authors were thinking when they chose this word over that one. We only have the words, not the thoughts behind them. So we can be sure of some things, but not sure of others. I like that.
   Secondly, I really appreciate how Dr. Bartlett talks about the scholars and writers who have contributed to this particular topic within Christian studies over the past century. He will make reference to a writer and then very often mention the persons that they learned from. It is like he can visualize the various scholastic family trees that are at play. He sort of plays 'six degrees of separation', but tracing appearances back to Karl Barth and not Kevin Bacon (for those who get that reference). 
   I want to be known as somone who does not think they know it all and also as someone who appreciates how we are all connected. I was reminded this week of how often the Apostle Paul referred to the tradition that he passed on to the churches he was starting in the first two to three decades after the Resurrection of Christ. Paul tells the church in Corinth, on a couple of occassions, that he is passing on what he received (see 1 Corinthians 11 and 15). He reminds Timothy of the generations of faith that Timothy followed and encourages him to continue to fan that flame so it would spread (2 Timothy 1).  
   The world desperately needs to be engaged with the truth. Our call as followers of Christ is to give witness to, through our words and actions, the truth of the love God in our lives. But, along with what we know, the world would love to hear that we don't know it all. Because we don't.
   Grace and Peace, Scott 

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