Mike Justice: Now he sees Jesus!

Mike Justice was one of my students at Dallas Seminary in the late 80s/early 90s. He passed into the Lord’s presence on March 8, 2019, at 63 years old. His memorial service was held today, March 23, at Lake Ridge Bible Church in Mesquite, TX. He died of heart failure, after two kidney transplants, multiple surgeries, procedures, and health problems for many years.

Michael Justice portrait-150x150  I’ve taught hundreds of students the rudiments of Hellenistic Greek in thirty-five years of graduate school instruction. Many have gone on for their doctorates; several are teaching at various institutes throughout the world and are truly exceptional scholars in their own right. Some of these students struggled with the elements of Greek; for others it came more naturally. For Mike, it was anything but easy. Yet, of this vast array of students, I would rank Mike among my top three.

Mike took his first four semesters of Greek from me. By the time first-year Greek was underway, Mike had already memorized the textbook—a serious tome called The Language of the New Testament by Eugene Van Ness Goetchius. He could cite not only what Goetchius said but where he said it—both page and section number. His Greek was impeccable. He would often go up to the board to help other students with their paradigms (and the students had to learn all the paradigms, including optatives, pluperfects, μι verbs, etc). Yet he had never studied Greek before. There were times in class when he would correct me, always very gently: “Professor Wallace, I believe that is on page 53, not page 55—and it’s the last paragraph on the page.” He was always right, too!

His sweet wife, Terri, has been in charge of the print shop at DTS for decades. It was good to see her and so many friends at the memorial service today (I had some difficulty finding a parking spot!). Their marriage was rock-solid, their love for the Lord inspiring. And in spite of Mike’s health issues, he never complained. In fact, he had a quick wit and a great sense of humor. Once when he got an ablation for his arrhythmia, in the recovery room he was told that the arrhythmia was now a thing of the past. He responded, “I’ve got rhythm? Who could ask for anything more!” (For you youngsters, that’s a line from the Gershwins’ hit song in 1930.)

Did I mention that Mike never complained? Well, he had reason to. Besides having a legion of health problems, Mike Justice was blind.

Adolescent diabetes was the ultimate cause; Mike’s eyesight began to degenerate during his college years and was gone by the time he got to seminary. He was the third blind student ever to get a Master of Theology degree at Dallas Seminary. (I’ve had the privilege of teaching Greek to two more blind students since then.) He made no excuses and buckled down to learn the material, memorizing it as he went along.

In second year Greek, the students had to diagram a portion of Philippians. Being without sight, Mike of course couldn’t do this. I told him it wouldn’t be fair to the other students for him to get a pass on this, but he couldn’t do this exact assignment. So, instead, I added hundreds of vocabulary words to his workload. He took on the challenge eagerly, cheerfully, and exceptionally.

Micah 6.8 was perhaps Mike’s favorite verse: “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” Mike was the poster child for this verse. And he wanted to make sure that everyone in his world knew that Jesus Christ died for sinners, and rose from the dead as a guarantee of God’s acceptance of all who put their trust in him. For Mike, that trust has finally become sight. Well done, good and faithful servant!

 

 

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!