A Sad Home-Going for Three Saints

Autumn, for me, has been over many decades a time of adrenalin rushes, über-busyness, and frantic logistical outworkings. The cause of all this? The beginning of a new school year. This year was no exception, yet right out of the gate one biblical/theological giant after another departed this sphere for his eternal home. All died this month.

In different ways these three men all influenced me. Stanley Toussaint was a colleague at Dallas Seminary, a man who taught the Bible for forty-two years at DTS. He was one of the last of the luminaries of the 1970s (my time in the ThM program)—John Walvoord, Charles Ryrie, S. Lewis Johnson, Jr., Haddon Robinson, Harold Hoehner, Zane Hodges—who have all gone beyond the sufferings of the present time. Stan taught in the Bible Exposition Department (which is different from the Old Testament and New Testament Departments). He lectured from his Greek New Testament and had a down-home wit, pastoral heart, and penetrating insights into the text.

Stan was always cheerful in spite of having a severe limp from polio that struck him down when he was just a child. I never had the privilege of taking a course from Stan, however: I came in to DTS with plenty of English Bible and was permitted to pass on my English NT courses as long as I filled up the units with courses from the Biblical Studies Division; I loaded up on Hebrew. We agreed on much, but we also disagreed on some things. For example, he tenaciously held to Matthean priority, a position my own department chairman, Harold Hoehner, also embraced. I came to the position of Markan priority in 1987, a dozen years after following in Hoehner’s train.

Robert L. Thomas, professor of NT at Master’s Seminary, 1987–2008, also died just a few days ago. He was a professor at Talbot Seminary when I was a student at Biola University. I heard him speak in chapel a few times and learned that he would frequently invite my Greek professor, Harry Sturz, to his Greek classes to introduce students to Sturz’s perspective on NT textual criticism. Afterward, Thomas would refute Sturz’s position.

Bob and I had a few tangles over the years. In his school’s journal, he critiqued my Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics in the article, “The Principle of Single Meaning” (TMSJ 12/1 [2001] 33–47). He claimed that the book has some interesting points, but it also was “extremely dangerous.” Why? Because I had presumably imbibed Roman Catholic hermeneutics with my category of plenary genitive. Ironically, what Bob did not know was that I learned of that category of usage (though not by that name) by one of his revered theology professors, Charles Ryrie—a man who could hardly be accused of following Roman Catholic hermeneutics.

Bob also didn’t care much for ideas with theologically liberal roots, especially the historical-critical method—this in spite of responses by my colleague, Darrell Bock, and many other evangelical exegetes who argued that method and presupposition are not the same thing.

I suspect that Bob and I would probably have agreed more on many points of Reformed theology than I did with Stan Toussaint. Regardless of what one thinks of how Thomas dealt with other evangelicals, I confess that I admire the man for his faithfulness to scripture and to studying the original languages his whole life.

This past Thursday, September 21, I drove down to Houston with my good friend, Ed Komoszewski, to the funeral of another good friend, Nabeel Qureshi. Nabeel was diagnosed with stomach cancer in August 2016 and succumbed to the disease on Saturday, September 16. He leaves behind his wife, Michelle, and their young daughter, Ayah. Nabeel came to faith in Christ dramatically through the instrumentality of his college roommate David Wood and through visions of Christ, about a dozen years ago. He became a champion for the gospel. His first book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, has been a huge success, selling hundreds of thousands of copies. Nabeel died too soon. He was only 34.
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Nabeel and I had our differences, too. He didn’t care much for Calvinism especially. We would have vigorous, passionate discussions about God’s sovereignty and mankind’s responsibility/free will, but these never harmed our friendship.

His interest was in the Gospels and he would be on the opposite end of the spectrum from Bob Thomas when it came to evangelical historical criticism. He was an internationally-known evangelist, especially to Muslims.

And his brain-power was legendary. He had read the entire Qur’an in Arabic (the only true Qur’an) by the age of five. Nabeel was a medical doctor who then went on to earn three master’s degrees—one from Biola, one from Duke, and one from Oxford. He was working on his Oxford DPhil when he died. When Nabeel came to Dallas, we would get together to discuss the Gospels. He was a sponge! He soaked up everything I said, then wrung it out and gently refuted many of my points! He had great respect for me—far greater than I deserved. I have known few people with such an insatiable desire to learn or with such an incredible impact for the sake of Christ.

Many believers throughout the world are grieving for each of these men right now. All three will be missed. They are saints of the Lord who now know the glory that will some day be revealed to all of God’s sons and daughters.

A New Twist on the Quadrilemma: Lord, Liar, Lunatic, or Legend?

The May/June 2014 issue of Touchstone has come out. In it is a provocative and, I might say, Lewis-esque piece of writing by Tom Gilson, the National Field Director of Ratio Christi. Called “The Gospel Truth of Jesus: What Happens to Apologetics if We Add ‘Legend’ to the Trilemma ‘Liar, Lunatic, or Lord’?” this article wrestles with the literary improbability of some author creating ex nihilo a person who is both absolutely powerful and absolutely good. Gilson wrestles with a number of objections, but marches through them and lays out an eminently reasonable case that no author could have created the likes of Jesus of Nazareth out of whole cloth. He may well be on to something. In turn, this argues for historicity. Take a look:

http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=27-03-035-f

A New Kind of Apologetics: Christian Renaissance

News on the Christian Renaissance Apologia Conference coming up on April 12–13:

I’ve mentioned this apologetics conference a couple of times on this site, but I thought I’d give a lot more information on it this go-around.

First, a word about Christian Renaissance. This is a new concept in apologetics. In fact, it’s much more than apologetics. In odd-numbered years, the Christian Renaissance will be hosting an apologetics conference (called Apologia); in even-numbered years CR will be hosting a right-brain creativity conference/session/get-away/whatever. That’s called Poiema.

What makes Christian Renaissance new are two things.

First, it’s apologetics geared toward the postmodern world. Without sacrificing the important content that modernist apologetics has contributed, CR wants to build on thats but also go in a slightly different direction. CR recognizes that we are firmly entrenched (as much as can be) in a postmodern world. This means that the  worldviews of people in Europe and America especially focus on authenticity more than truth, a holistic view of humanity as opposed to a view that elevates the mind above all else, a strong desire for community including community service, social justice more than proclamation of truth, a relativistic view of truth, ambiguity and uncertainty over neatly packaged and dogmatic claims. There is much in postmodernism that should resonate with Christians; there are some things that should not. Postmoderns seek community but tend to have little clue how to accomplish it. Postmoderns tend to view all truth as relative. And although evangelicals cannot hold to this, we should recognize that even absolute truth is not always accessible absolutely. This means that a measure of humility (rather than triumphalism) will be a key characteristic of these conferences. Christian Renaissance: Apologia is intended to showcase top-notch scholars, front-line thinkers in their fields, who also know how to communicate well. They are not the sorts of people who shy away from the tough questions, but recognize that evangelical Christianity has some answers, but by no means has all the answers. They are not dogmatic where dogma is not warranted. And they recognize that the question people are asking about the Christian faith today is not so much, Is it true? as much as Does it work?

Second, Christian Renaissance has a non-apologetics component known as Poiema. Poiema is the Greek word for poem or creation (with the accent on the truly imaginative aspects of creation). Christian Renaissance: Poiema, the even-yeared conference/symposium/??, focuses on the right-brain thinkers, the artisans, artists, actors, writers, littérateurs, creative problem-solvers, musicians, and the like. Those who will launch the inaugural event in 2014 have been given a tabula rasa: they can do anything that they see as that which helps to bring prominence back to those who are right-brainers, those who have been slowly disenfranchised in the American evangelical church. These two branches of Christian Renaissance unite the left-brain and right-brain thinkers in a way that has not been done in a long, long time. Stay tuned!

Now, back to the inaugural Christian Renaissance: Apologia Conference. The speakers are well-respected scholars (not just apologists) who are doing cutting-edge work in their respective disciplines. All of them have published extensively in academic spheres. Their work is peer-reviewed by the best scholars in their guild. And they all are excellent speakers who know how to communicate with people who have little to no theological training.

The theme of this inaugural conference is “Skeptics and the Savior: Did the Word Really Become Flesh?” The evidence for the person of Jesus Christ, accenting his divine nature, will be examined from Qumran to Constantine. The lectures and lecturers are as follows:

Darrell Bock: The Gospels: Recording before There Was Recording

Craig Evans: The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christology

Gary Habermas: A Resurrection Time-Line: Linking our Earliest Sources to the Earliest Witnesses

Daniel B. Wallace: Did Constantine Invent the Deity of Christ?

The conference kicks off at 7 PM on Friday, April 12, at the Hope Center (2001 West Plano Parkway) in Plano, Texas. Wallace will give the opening lecture, with time for Q&A afterwards. Snacks will be provided that evening. There will be TWO book-signings. Saturday morning a continental breakfast will be served, and the conference will begin at 9 AM. A delicious catered lunch will be provided, too. The conference on Saturday will include the other three speakers, with Q&A for each of them. Michael Patton of Credo House will be the emcee. Throughout the conference, attendees will be able to send in their questions (probably by cell phone text), and a panel discussion in which these questions are aired will conclude the conference. It gets over at 4 PM on Saturday.

But that’s not all! There will be a special and spectacular dinner with the scholars Saturday evening for those who wish to rub shoulders with them in a more intimate setting. We will be meeting at Chamberlain’s Steak House in Dallas–one of the finest steak houses in the Metroplex. I can’t tell you all that will be involved in this, but I can tell you that it will be well worth it. The meal is partially subsidized.

What does all this cost? And when do you need to sign up? For the conference proper, the tickets are $55 for an adult and $40 for students. The dinner on Saturday night is separate. That’s $100, and worth it! Room for only 60 people. Visit http://www.renaissanceconference.com for more info and to buy tickets. Tickets will be on sale through Wednesday, April 10. Because the caterers need to know how many meals to prepare, it’s best to sign up early. Seating is limited (especially at the Scholars Dinner), so reserve your place now and be a part of this historic event!