To PhD or not to PhD Redux

Almost three weeks back I posted that I was again walking through the issues surrounding what I’m supposed to do with my life. Perhaps that isn’t entirely accurate. I know what I’m supposed to do with my life: help young people know God more. The question is, how do I go about doing that? The question has been consuming my thoughts, and even leaked into many of my emails. To those of you who have received such emails, I apologize. You can refer to the post linked above to catch up on my thinking here. So, what has changed since the last post?

  • Several more people have affirmed that academia is an area they could see me thriving in. They have also affirmed that my passions lie in that direction, perhaps more so than in youth ministry.
  • I am now quite certain that I am not questioning the youth pastor thing because I think I am a horrible youth pastor.
  • Mandy has assured me that she will physically strike me if I suggest I might be stealing her thunder one more time (I hope this reference doesn’t count).

Mandy posed a very interesting question to me this evening. If I were writing Daniel I would say, “Then Mandy answered and said to me…,” but I’m not writing Daniel. So, she asked, “What is holding you back?” In other words, why have I not decided to go get a PhD after GCTS? I had to think about it for a moment. No one disagrees, my abilities would be well used as a professor. I am capable, even well-suited, to being a scholar. Multiple people have confirmed that if we distinguish God’s will, at least partially, based on the abilities and gifts he has given us, that I should pursue a PhD and become a professor. Mandy pointed out that if I were counseling a teen regarding a career choice I would be pulling my hair out wondering why they weren’t pursuing a PhD. I would tell myself that based on my abilities and gifts God wants me to be a pastor. Couple that with people in my life confirming such and I would be sure that it was God’s will. Of course, I’m not my own youth pastor.

So, what is holding me back? I think to some extent a friend of mine hit the nail on the head. I’ve perceived myself, and others have perceived me, for so long as “Calvin the Youth Pastor” that to change that seems to be almost blasphemous. It is not that I think I couldn’t use my pastoral gifts as a professor. Not only are their plenty of students who need advisors, or who want some guidance regarding life, but I don’t know of any youth pastor who has too many junior high small group leaders (well, oddly enough, aside from myself. But that’s because I have no junior highers). It is not, at the end of the day, that I think I couldn’t hack it getting a PhD or as a professor. Sure, it would be difficult. There will probably be times I get frustrated and want to give up. The stress will certainly be excruciating at times. But overall getting a PhD might be a very liminal experience*.

To summarize, I’m not entirely sure what is holding me back aside from saying that I am being held back, which means something is holding me back, which is a tautology. More clearly, the best I can come up with is that I am held back because I’ve not gone there before (ie, Calvin has always been a youth pastor, therefore Calvin is a youth pastor). Which I suppose is still a bit of a tautology. Where then do I go from here? I’ve run the whole situation over in my mind many times these past few weeks. There is no doubt that I will continue to do so. I’ve talked to people. I’ve prayed. I guess, at this point, I simply need to decide if God wants me to be a youth pastor or not.

But how does one determine that? I suppose I could go back and ask how I got the idea in my head in the first place. It was through a lot of prayer. It also came about after I examined my passions and gifts. I thought, and still do think, that God had given me the gift of pastoring. I also thought, and still do think, that God had given me a keen ability to teach. I talked often and at length with those around me and all confirmed that the pastorate was something I should pursue. In short, I did everything that I am doing now. The difference now? Well, I’m getting different answers. But, to be fair, I have changed. I was always very interested in what might be termed “discipleship.” Now, though, I have developed a passion for language study. I’ve also realized that my teaching gift/ability has been very much honed. I’ve developed a desire to see scholarship incorporated into what is taught at the local church. But, in reality, a youth pastor is barely going to have the time to read JBL, let alone research reported speech in the Samuel narratives. Even if a youth pastor did find the time, what would he do with said research? In addition to this, and related to it, I’ve come to understand that there are a certain set of expectations placed on pastors. There is a certain culture that goes with being a pastor of any type. I’m not saying that every pastor fits into the same mold, but there are some general characteristics and I’m not sure I fit those anymore–if, indeed, I ever did.

Does this mean I was incorrect when I began the road towards becoming a youth pastor? I don’t think so. First, I would not be here if I hadn’t begun on that road. Second, I have no problem believing that God A) changes his mind or B) has temporary tasks for people. Of course, all of this leaves unanswered the question of whether or not God gives a care about my abilities and gifts. Some might say that I should do the thing that I am least likely to succeed at so God can help me the most.

So what does all of that mean? I have no idea.

* – I’m not entirely sure I used “liminal” correctly. I have it on good authority, however, that many people use it incorrectly so I am not overly concerned.

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Homosexuality in Job?

As many of you know, I have been teaching through Job with my high school Sunday School class. They’ve been having a blast, and to be honest so have I. This coming Sunday we’ll be covering Job’s monologue (chps 29-31). Of course, the entire book of Job is interesting, and is even more interesting to teach to this group of students who genuinely don’t know how it ends. The tension that this has caused for them is very, very real. In a way it’s a unique case because it allows them to identify with Job in a way that most Christians never even come close to. But, I digress. My point here is to discuss Job 31.31-32.

Here are the relevant verses in a few versions:
NIV: 31 if the men of my household have never said,
‘Who has not had his fill of Job’s meat?’-
32 but no stranger had to spend the night in the street,
for my door was always open to the traveler-
NKJV: 31 If the men of my tent have not said,
‘Who is there that has not been satisfied with his meat?’
32 (But no sojourner had to lodge in the street,
For I have opened my doors to the traveler[a]);
ESV: 31 if the men of my tent have not said,
‘Who is there that has not been filled with his meat?’
32(the sojourner has not lodged in the street;
I have opened my doors to the traveler),
NLT: 31 “My servants have never said,
‘He let others go hungry.’
32 I have never turned away a stranger
but have opened my doors to everyone.

BHS:
31 אם־לא אמרו מתי אהלי מי־יתן מבשרו לא נשבע׃
32 בחוץ לא־ילין גר דלתי לארח אפתח׃

Each week I create a mini-commentary for the students, with my thoughts on Job coupled with copious footnotes on a variety of issues and from a variety of sources (though I will be the first to admit that the breadth of sources could expand). After everyone has finished processing the fact that, yes, I use footnotes in handouts to high schoolers, we can move on. I was reading the Anchor Bible on Job, by Martin Pope (I’d link to it on Amazon, but of course it’s out of print), and he argues quite vociferously for an interpretation that sees Job 31.31 as speaking of homosexual acts. He appeals to the Aqhat myth, noting that it includes a bit about having the flesh sated, and that most view it in that context as referring to a sexual act. He also uses other Biblical evidences to bolster his point, most notably the Sodom and Gomorrah narrative from Genesis 19. The more common interpretation, which Pope says does violence to the text(!), but which Hartley (The Book of Job, NICOT) and Alden (Job, NAC) both follow is to see Job 31 as having to do with hospitality. With this in mind they argue that Job is making the case that you would be hard pressed to find someone who has not enjoyed the hospitality of his table. There is yet another option, presented by Balentine (Job, Smyth & Helwys). This option, which Balentine credits to Habel, sees similar language used to describe Job’s friends in 19.22. Following on this, the idea is that “v. 31 should be coupled with v. 32, in which case Job may be denying that he ever gave any members of his household reason to treat him with the same contempt,” (Balentine, Job, 491).

I have yet to survey any journals to which I have access, so there may well be other options out there. At present, the section on this in the handout I plan to give to the students on Sunday reads thus:

Who is there that has not been filled with his meat? – There are a variety of proposed interpretation for this verse. The most common is that Job is making the point that you would be hard pressed to find someone who had not enjoyed the hospitality of his table.1 Another possible interpretation reads the verse more literally than the ESV, and so argues that Job is saying he has never let the men of his tents (his servant and family) commit homosexual acts with travelers (cf. The story of the divine messengers at Sodom and Gomorrah, Genesis 19.1-11).2 There is another option that sees this line as playing off of Job 19.22 where Job describes his friends as a “pack of wild animals longing to be ‘sated with his flesh.'”3 This opinion further argues that vv. 31-32 should be seen as Job making the case that the members of his own household ever had reason to be so displeased with him.4

1Hartley, The Book of Job, 420.

2Pope, Job, 207-208.

3Balentine, Job, 491.

4Ibid.

So, I would be very interested in any thoughts you all may have. Is one interpretation more likely than any of the others? Are you more convinced by one of them, and if so, why? I have been inclined in the past, when faced with a passage or couplet in Job that is difficult to pin down, to give the students all of the options, and then let them know which one I favor. In this case, I haven’t read enough to favor one over the others yet.

Best Quote from Job

As many of you know, we’ve been going through Job with the students in my youth ministry over the past month(give or take a week). Today I ran across Job 12.2, and I love the ESV’s translation.

No doubt you are the people,
and wisdom will die with you.
-Job in his response to Zophar’s first speech

Absolutely brilliant. I have this mental image of Job, in an ash heap, looking sidelong at his friends and half-mumbling this line. The author of Job was an absolutely amazing poet. The Hebrew is just as, if not more, humorous and sarcastic:

אמנם כי אתם־עם ועמכם תמות חכמה׃