Saturday, January 3, 2015

S1-EP1 Notes: Ramen, Theology, Hip-Hop

If you want to listen to the first episode, click here.

First things first: for those of you who are not my mother, allow me to introduce myself. As I’ve said, I’m Nick and I am currently a Masters student at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. My wife, Allison, is a PhD student at the Center for Advanced Theological Studies and may be one of the smartest people I know. So here’s to hoping that intelligence can be imputed through kissing and…dancing.


My degree can be put under the emphasis of biblical studies and theology, though most of my electives will take up Greek exegesis and language courses. I do have some interest in systematic theology, mostly related to theological anthropology (the theological study of the human person), eschatology (the study of the last things: heaven, hell, the intermediate state, etc.) and Christology—almost all of which can be found in studying the Apostle Paul. My background before Fuller includes a Bachelors in Film (specifically screen writing and film theory) with a minor in biblical studies, and an Associates Degree from Saddleback College, also in film production. So I was training in writing specifically for film, and now I’m undergoing a second period of training for theological education. Funny how that works. Going from a job market that will have me living off Ramen to a job market where Ramen exists only in the abstract.

I’ve just finished my first quarter here at Fuller, taking Greek One and Systematic Theology: Eschatology and Ecclesiology. I wrote a research paper about Paul and his view of the Resurrection, but I’m going to keep that one fairly close to my chest, as I’d like to develop it further in the future. Possibly at a theology conference that will be happening in seven months from now.

So that’s my education background. As for religious upbringing, I was raised in a pretty conservative environment by two wonderful parents who were themselves less conservative than the prevailing culture we lived in. Once I turned 13 or so, I became an agnostic for many reasons, some of them more interesting than the other, and lived in a period of existential flux for maybe 5 years until I decided to give this religious thing another go. During those 5 years, to my knowledge, nobody knew I wasn’t a Christian. I still went to church (though I did protest), went to youth group (less protesting because there were girls there), and read my bible once or twice, usually because I wanted to keep up appearances to the contrary.

I’m tempted to speak about a reconversion or a baptism or something equally Christian, but it was simply a place where I knew there was nothing much else out there. None of the beliefs my friends had (atheism to Buddhism) were of any interest to me. So out of existential curiosity—and perhaps a desire for closure—I reopened my New Testament and read the Gospel of John. Chapter 11, verse 35. The shortest verse in the Bible. Jesus wept. For some reason, maybe the stars aligned, it hit me right in the chest and I didn’t know what to do with this verse.

I come from a tradition that sees a biblical prophesy underneath every headline, and rarely preached from any Gospel other than John. Nothing against John, he’s a cool cat, but John was the singular Gospel to end all Gospels, at least as far as I can remember. So I was uniquely struck by how the God-Man John portrays was also moved to tears over the death of Lazarus. Forgive me, but this was not the Jesus I remembered from Scripture. In some sense, this Jesus was completely foreign to me.

So I read John a bit more, then moved on to Paul, as all good Protestants do. I confess to loving Paul a lot, especially 1 Corinthians and Colossians. If I had to pick an epistle to get lost within, I’d have to flip a coin. I don’t quite know when my love for Paul came about, but it was probably after I met my girlfriend (now wife) at Biola during her last semester and we had a talk about women in ministry. But that’s a topic for another episode. Suffice to say, Paul is fascinating and infuriating, and that’s why I can’t stop reading him. The way he frames his arguments, his passion, and his theological convictions that are often elusive: makes for a compelling apostle and for our first major interpreter of the life of the Messiah.

Shifting paradigms a bit—but not too much—I’ve begun to reconsider many theological convictions. For one, I’ve changed my mind regarding the doctrine of eternal punishment and have become agnostic on several other doctrines as well. I’ll deal with these in the future because I, well, I feel like it. It would feel weird to offer up my views at the beginning because, well, I change my mind sometimes and I don’t like getting on your good (or bad side) this early on. So there’s that.

But I can tell you about some major theologians who have had a profound influence upon my reading of Scripture, specifically about Paul. This is by no means exhaustive, but a mere survey.

Philip Payne has written a marvelous book, Man and Woman, One in Christ, that exhaustively argues for an egalitarian reading Paul. I found that it resolved some strong tensions and I’m always struck by what I learn upon further readings. A knowledge of Greek is helpful, but Payne explains everything so you learn a lot by, well, learning a lot.

Raymond Brown, the late great Roman Catholic New Testament scholar, really piqued my interest in the Christology of the New Testament with his short introduction to Christology. While certainly mainline and skeptical about some aspects of the New Testament, Father Brown was always fair in how he presented his exegesis. I miss him dearly.

Who else? Ah. F.F. Bruce. A theologian my father turned me onto early on. Bruce was the great conservative who somehow managed to annoy many conservatives. He was skeptical of Pauline authorship regarding the Pastoral Epistles, which are 1-2 Timothy and Titus, but he was very much about the evidence. A theologian for the church, I miss him dearly. May he sleep in peace until that great Day. 

Well, since this podcast has been relatively biographical and introductory and probably boring, I figure I’ll list off my top five favorite rappers. To make it more difficult, I’ll pick those among the living, and in no particular order…

This is not to suggest that these are the greatest rappers of all time. Just some personal favorites.

Fifth, Lupe Fiasco.

Fourth, Hopsin and Tech N9ne, because I can’t decide and won’t leave them off the list.

Third, Ice Cube and Lady of Rage, because I refuse to decide. Afro Puffs.

Second, Game (300 barz, no lie).

Eminem is number one for me. Why? Because Game says so.

Putting them here does not mean I endorse everything they say, or like everything they say. Its because of their technique, flow and ability to work with a good beat. Also, this list is subject to change in case they resurrect Tupac.

Also, for recommended Podcasts, check out Rethinking Hell. You can find them by just googling them in the Internets or in iTunes. A great group, one that I am involved in.

Well, that’s episode one. Thanks for listening and suffering through the learning process with me. I hope to do at least three episodes a month, maybe a few with some friends should they act right.

Until we meet again,


1 comment:

  1. Ok, you got me...let me send you a book (let me know where). Walking Like Einstein,