My Testimony

At the church I'm currently attending, there's a bi-weekly series going on called "Kingdom Testimonies". The point of the series, from my understanding, is to simply have congregants share their life/faith stories. So, that's what I did. While I could've said so much more, because it was a "church" setting, I focused a lot on my church experiences. Anyway, here it is, so, give it a listen and let me know what you think:


Snapshots of a Wrecked Scion XB

This evening I was on my way to take my daughter to Chuck-E-Cheese when all of a sudden, I got rearended by a Jeep. It was rainy out and the roads were slick and unfortunately, I could see him panicking in my rearview just before he smashed in the back of my Scion XB. Needless to say, he wasn't a jerk about and although my back is kind of sore (I've been in MUCH worse wrecks than this one), I still got to take my little one to Chuck-E-Cheese to have some fun. Still, I'm not looking forward to all the headaches that come after this crap, though. Here are some snapshots of the wrecked Scion XB:


Ethiopia Bearing Gifts

Recently, we received a package from Ethiopia that bore some very cool and authentic, hand-crafted relics. As many of you know, the wife and I are adopting and we will be heading overseas, hopefully in November or December of this year to wrap things up. Anyway, the gifts shown in the pictures below really got us excited, so, have a look at them. The image of the square looking photo is actually Ethiopian wildlife painted on a piece of papyrus; pretty cool!


On The Idolatry of Patriotism & Illogical Christian Thought

It's no secret to many of you that I'm not a very patriotic fellow. I recently ignited a firestorm of comments on Facebook for saying that it was nice to attend a Church the sunday before Memorial Day where the message did elevate the idol of patriotism and/or preach the cliche' "Memorial Day Sermon" that spent 90% of the time talking about America and then in the end say, "And communion itself is a type of memorial service". People, there is no link there, no matter how hard you to try create one; it is a fictitous link people have created in their minds. The idolatry of patriotism is hardly comparable to communing with the Triune God.

Anyway, the overarching narrative of the Bible does not exclude one people from another. In fact, whenever Israel tried to do that, she always got rebuked! But early on in Genesis, the promise from God to Abraham is that through one of his heritage, all nations would have a way to be united. As the story goes on to show, that way of unity is through Jesus Christ. We would do good to keep this in mind, especially on a day when the cliches are thrown out like candy in a cheesy parade.

One of those sayings I often hear, especially when I state my views on patriotism is: "Well, a bunch of American soldiers died so you could express your view and you're too ungrateful to realize it." Now, such a statement is errant on so many levels. At this point, I should say that all of my grandfathers were war vets and so were many other family members. So, the love of U.S. military runs deep in my family. But just a little logic shows that, no, a bunch of soldiers didn't die and give me the "right" to say what I say. I say what I say by "choice" and I would say it whether or not I was in a country where you can say whatever you want or in a country where expressing your faith in Christ was forbidden. You see, soo many people say things like this and think they are such good people and citizens but really, it's just poor logic and if you're a Christian, I would dare say terrible reasoning from within that worldview. If you're a Christian and you make remarks like the one above, essentially you're saying to others: "If I were in a country where I was persecuted for saying such things, I would say them. I would only say them in a country where war had been waged so I could freely say them."

Clearly, the apostle Paul didn't need to be socially or politically "free" to share his faith. He did it repeatedly on lock-down and in the face of a radically patriotic Roman government. In fact, it was under persecution that Paul and others found the best platform to preach the Gospel. Paul wasn't saying ridiculous slogans like "God bless Rome" or "God bless Israel" but rather, he was saying "God thank you for being with me while I'm in chains because it gives me a chance to promote the Gospel." But as we all know, many Christians in this country would probably drop faith in a heartbeat if physical persecution ever came into the picture.

Another slogan we hear and need to drop on days like these is: "God bless America." I am shocked at how many professing Christians say this so absent-mindedly. From Genesis on, the overarching biblical narrative deals with God's promise to Abraham, the promise that through Abraham's heritage, a way would come that would allow peoples of all nations to unite. Of course, that way as the story says, is Jesus Christ. It is not through military prowess or force, it is not through tanks and missiles, it is not through machine guns and murder, it is not through anger and violence, it is through trust in Christ. To continue to say "God bless America" at the exclusion of all other peoples is simply counter to the entire thrust of salvation history and the Bible! Come on Christians, get your theology straight!

Again, many of my family members have served in the U.S. military. For me, I could never and will never do it. My theology leads me in a different direction, to trying to establish peace through reconciliation and non-violence. But the fact remains, no soldier died to enable me to say what I'm saying because the truth is, I'd say it regardless. I think many Christians don't realize that it sounds like the height of Christian arrogance and ignorance of their own faith story to say "God bless America" which consequently means "...at the exclusion of other countries like Iraq Afghanistan, Iran, etc." Besides, Christianity is starting to flourish in pockets of those countries, so, we need to stop dropping bombs on them and stary praying for God to bless them amongst all people.

All I'm calling for here is some good logic & reasoning. As patriotism / nationalism will remain one of the top idols that Christians in America must face in these days and the ones to come, it is high time to reorient ourselves to the truth and thrust of the biblical narrative to which we belong and to embody the promise given by God to Abraham, a promise which came to fruiton in Christ, a promise which says, "May all peoples be blessed through God's promise, Jesus Christ."


Virtually Unwrapping Ancient Scrolls

Last night, I watched an amazing video of up-and-coming technology that is allowing us to become more and more able to read the contents of ancient scrolls and other texts without even opening and/or damaging them. In a nutshell, the concept is to get the scroll, take x-ray footage of it, input that x-ray data into a computer program and then, let the program separate out the layers so that it performs a virtual unrolling of the scroll (this is being used for other types of documents too, such as the ancient codices). The technique, dubbed the EDUCE Project, is incredibly fascinating and got me really excited about the potential of this project, led by University of Kentucky professor W. Brent Seales. To really wrap your mind around the process, give the following video a watch and I promise, you won't walk away without your interest piqued!!!


Follow Pisteuomen

So, now that I plan to get back in the regular swing of blogging, I'd like to invite everyone to follow Pisteuomen. There are two ways to do this and both of them are located here in the post and docked permanently on the right sidebar. Check these features out and keep up with the latest.


How To Write An Abstract or Paper Proposal

So, I've ended up taking a month long hiatus that was never intended but somehow, things just worked out that way. I hope to be back in the swing of things posting again now and I'm grateful to Brian Fulthorp for giving me the impetus to do that. He asked if I'd share some thoughts on writing an abstract / paper proposal, so, what follows is exactly that. Let me know your thoughts!


Believe it or not, writing an abstract for a paper proposal can be an intimidating thing. The trick is to basically encapsulate the thrust of your paper in just a few, catchy sentences; you want to write something that will pique the interests of readers…even if they’re not particularly interested in your area of study. By no means am I yet an expert at doing this. In fact, I’ve only presented about 6 or 7 papers at conferences at this point. However, I was asked to share a few thoughts on the matter, so, I’ll gladly do that here.

I’ll use a few examples of abstracts / proposals that I’ve submitted and break them down sentence-by-sentence. Here’s the first one in its entirety, followed by a summary:

“Binding Up New Evidence In The ‘Strong Man’ Debate: Reading Mark Inner-Textually”

The identity of the “Strong Man” alluded to in Mk. 3.27 is traditionally attributed to Satan. More recently, however, and due to the massive surge of interest in reading NT texts against the backdrop of imperial Rome, this attribution has shifted. For example, in Ched Myers’s 500-page commentary titled Binding The Strong Man, the political powerhouse “Rome” bears this label. This paper contends that an inner-textual reading of Mk. 1-3 challenges both the traditional and imperial interpretations, thereby leading exegetes to ascribe the “Strong Man” designation to another Markan character, namely, Jesus.

Notice that the title sort of encapsulates the thrust of both the abstract and the paper. In my opinion, it’s also kind of catchy because there is some wordplay going on. I’ve made the mistake before of having a title that was so scholarly sounding that persons showed little interest in it. Make sure you have a good, catchy title and that it embodies the abstract that follows and perhaps most importantly, the contents of the paper.

Now, look at the first sentence of the abstract; immediately, I build off of the title. I also let the reader know that I’m dealing with a specific matter (Mk. 3.27). Even more—and I think this is so critical—I inform the reader in a nutshell of how this idea has been thought about throughout history. Following that, the second sentence begins with a contrast and follows with some more recent interpretations of Mk. 3.27. One thing that the first two sentences reveal is that I’ve done my homework and that I’ve become a fluent partner in the conversation. I would encourage those attempting to write abstracts, to try to do something similar if possible. In the third sentence, I simply give an example that acts as proof for the sentence that came before it. In the fourth sentence, there is yet another contrast when I begin to make a different case. In that final sentence, I note my methodological approach (inner-textual), how it fares in dialogue with other thinkers throughout time and what my overall aim is. Now, if you go back and look at my title, you will see that it fits well with what the abstract says. Now, don’t get hung up on the title. I’ve found it helpful to start with a rough draft of a title and abstract and then to move on. I may toy with both for about 10 minutes each but no longer. Then, once my paper is finished, I will come back and re-craft both the title and abstract. This will assure that they are in keeping with the contents of my paper.

We can look at another example here, of a paper I recently gave and the abstract submitted for it:

“Why Jesus Was Baptized: Immersed in Mark’s Culture and Story”

Historically, the baptism of Jesus has proven to be something of an enigma and conundrum for interpreters of the Bible. For those who hold to the theological tenet that Jesus was without sin, the baptismal episode raises a number of significant questions. Among such inquiries, pride of place goes to: If Jesus was sinless, why did He adhere to John’s baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins? Along with attempting to provide a contextually informed answer to this question, this paper will also endeavor to show the important role that Jesus’ baptism plays in the shape of Mark’s narrative.

If we look at the title first, once again, we will notice some wordplay (e.g. baptized & immersed). We also notice that the title is attention grabbing for a couple of other reasons too: 1) It deals with a hotly debated topic, and 2) It alerts the reader that a very definitive answer will probably be put forth (otherwise, the title might have been formed as a question: Why Was Jesus Baptized?). Next, if we look at the first sentence, you will notice that immediately, I have made my readers aware that I have been in dialogue with other thinkers. Typically, this will make people take you seriously; if you don’t dialogue with ancient and modern exegetes, you are less likely to be taken seriously when interpreting a biblical passage. Also, in the first sentence, I begin to allude to an issue: the conundrum posed by this particular event / passage. In the second sentence, I bridge the gap of time by gradually bringing this ancient problem into modern discussion. In the third sentence, I state the obvious as a sort of proof for the necessity of the ongoing research and discussion. In the fourth sentence I state my method (a contextually informed answer, e.g. a socio-cultural approach) and I also state my aim clearly and concisely. Now, if you go back to the title, you will see that the abstract matches with the title.

In taking into consideration both of these titles & abstracts, you notice a sort of common trend that I use:

* Attention Grabbing Title
1. Noting the Historical Discussion of this Issue (yes, you can still do this, even if it’s a recently sparked discussion or issue, just give the background)
2. In this sentence I bridge the gap between ancient discussion about the matter and modern discussion about it
3. In this sentence I make a point and / or offer a proof of the necessity of both the ongoing dialogue and maybe even more importantly for me & my paper, why my research is even necessary after all
4. I state my methodological approach, my aim and sometimes reiterate how it fits with among the wider discussion in scholarship

Finally, I would note that when writing an abstract / proposal, you need to consult the guidelines and make sure you include what is asked and expected of you.