One of my roles as a Ph.D. candidate is to research controversial topics and present my findings to others so that they can make decisions about what they believe regarding these issues. Lots of people find this a bit shocking, so I’d like to tell you a story that explains a little bit of what I’m doing.
When I was a child, my family was at church almost every time the doors were open. Back then, our church leadership did the best they could to help families make good decisions about what music and movies they allowed in their homes. I distinctly remember our pastor encouraging us to listen to certain music and watch certain movies while trying to persuade us against listening to other music and watching other movies. I remember talking with my parents about it one day, and I asked them how the pastor knew what music and movies were “good” and “bad.” My parents thought for a minute and then told me that they didn’t know for sure but that it was possible that somebody else listened to that music or watched those movies and then relayed that information to our pastor who then decided to tell us his thoughts about what was good, bad, appropriate and inappropriate for the families in our church.
Someone who either holds or is working on a Ph.D. in a faith-based area (like the Bible or sacred texts from other faith groups) is just like the person who listened to the music or watched the movies and relayed that information to our church leadership when I was a child…As a researcher it’s my responsibility to do the dirty, controversial work and then let other people make their own assessments and decisions about what they think and why. Since my research has a direct bearing on my faith and the faith of others, I understand that my research involves some risk. I take this risk very seriously…so much so that I have people in my life who have the freedom to ask me about my relationship with Jesus, my family and friends at any given point in time. Please understand that it is not my intention to pull people away from Christ. It IS my intention to give you my research so that all of us can understand Scripture a little bit better.
At the same time, I am also an ordained minister, and I take that honor very seriously. In my role as a minister, it is my duty and privilege to direct people towards Christ, to love them, and to walk alongside them in this journey of life. As you can imagine, balancing research and ministry is a lot like dancing with a partner…sometimes it’s beautiful and the two effortlessly intertwine. Other times, it gets a little interesting because both partners have completely different ideas about how the dance steps should be done.
I’ve said all of this to prep you for what’s coming on this blog because we will be digging into lots of controversial topics (if there’s something you’re interested in discussing, please let me know). Over the next few months, I’ll be doing a series of posts on passages from the Jewish Scriptures/Old Testament that have come to be understood (in some Christian circles) as relating to the fall of Satan from heaven. Rather than debating about whether or not the “fall of Satan” actually took place, I’ll simply do my best to explain what these passages possibly meant to the people who initially read/listened to the text and then share some information from other sources written around the same time period that may help to shed some light on these passages. In doing so, some of us may come to the conclusion that these passages did indeed initially refer to the fall of Satan while others may come to the conclusion that later authors reinterpreted these passages to refer to the fall of Satan. Regardless of what your conclusion might be, please think about how you would respond to someone who believes differently than you do. I look forward to our interactions together!