Give an Answer

Apparently hauling a big stack of Bible archaeology and narrative books to Starbucks for a long study session can result in interesting conversations.

A few days ago I was camped out in a cushy chair in the corner of Starbucks, papers and books around me in a semicircle on the coffee table, lamp stand, and floor.

A guy with a laptop, a stack of books of his own, and a bright red beard sat down across from me. “You must be in grad school,” he said, and nodded at the stacks of books in front of me. Then he started asking questions.

  • How could I analyze the Bible from a literary-critical perspective?
  • What about all the texts that contradict the Bible?
  • How do methods of historical analysis play into the study of the Bible? In short, as an academic, how do I approach the Bible as having any validity at all?

Bearded Scholarly Dude, it turns out, is a self-proclaimed scholar and a Clemson University professor. He got his undergrad degree at a private Christian university in Texas, spent a few years teaching English in Asia, then returned to Clemson for his graduate degree and to join the faculty there.

He believes there is a “divine,” but that it would be too presumptuous to believe that mere man can wrap his man around it. His conclusion? That we shouldn’t even try to understand any kind of supernatural. It’s more fun, he says, to live in awe and wonder at the mystery of the world around us.

Wondering about everything.

“There are lots of probabilities. God probably exists. The floor might hold me up when I stand up to walk out of this building,” he said. “But it might not.”

In short, he doesn’t really believe in anything for sure–physical or supernatural, visible or spiritual, and he doesn’t care to try.

I shared with him a bit of what I believe and why I believe it–why I have reason to believe the Bible is more historically accurate than any other religious book, how I can balance an academic search for knowledge with a spiritual one, and my relationship with the God of the Bible.

“So,” I said, “You’re a scholar. Why spend your life teaching and studying if you can’t really know any truth?”

He didn’t have an answer.

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