Four Reasons I Embrace Online Instruction as a Theological Educator

I wrote a post back in March that garnered some attention: “Seven Reasons Theological Faculty Might Not Embrace Online Instruction”. While I offered reasons that I have encountered in my work across various institutions and educational organizations for the last number of years (that also included some of my own struggles with embracing online instruction), I had planned to post this follow-up post sooner. Better late than never.

So here are four reasons that I (personally) embrace online instruction as a theological educator though still with tempered enthusiasm by a number of reasons noted in that earlier post.

  1. Location, Location, Location. I have the opportunity to contribute to the life of students I would not otherwise engage who cannot relocate to my institution for live-seated classes. At least in this day and age there is still the possibility of live courses online (a definite preference over asynchronous courses for myself).
  2. Apostolicity.* Related to the first reason given above of engaging those who cannot physically attend the campus classes is the ability to engage students in otherwise “creative access countries” (and even more significant to my own sense of apostolic engagement where the church has yet to be planted or finds itself under severe restraint for open witness). I have many students all over the planet who simply do not have any opportunity otherwise for advanced theological and biblical training without leaving their setting. These students live and minister in contexts that are considered closed to open missionary engagement and so they require “creative” training for “access” to deeper discipleship into the good news of Jesus. In many of these contexts there are VERY few known believers (and/or the church is persecuted openly). The opportunity to contribute to the strengthening of gospelizing nations and peoples unreached, or governmentally unopened, is precisely my sense of call toward the apostolic work of the church advancing everywhere. My initial call to vocational ministry was (and remains) a call to the least reached and the yet-to-be reached.
  3. Mediation is already the name of the game. As the Church, we already know that while disciples are best made in direct contact and shared life together, that we also are discipled by other media forms as mediated by the Spirit: scripture being the prime example in our lived experiences. The scriptures are words written to others in an ancient past that we confess (and hear and repeat and live into) that mediate God’s revelation to and for us. This modality of engaging text (in written or auditory form) should remind us that as we are engaged by the scripture to be more like Jesus, so we can be engaged in the digitally mediated environment to do the same for others. I was reminded of this by some of the constructive discussion Amos Yong (no surprise here) offered in his (and Dale Coulter’s) book “The Holy Spirit and Higher Education: Renewing the Christian University” (Baylor University Press, 2023).
  4. It is our reality. This is the time and place we have been given. And it includes the digital. We do well to engage online forms of education as best we can (even when there seems to me to be better ways, we simply cannot avoid this altogether as the academy committed to serving the Church and the world). I owe it to my students (and potential students) to commit to making disciples who will make disciples using every tool available to do so.

What might be reasons you are committed to online teaching (if you are a professor/educator)? Or what other reasons do you think we ought to emphasis in our critical embrace of online educational modalities?

* “Apostolicity” is not being used here with regard to ideas of apostolic succession or to apostolic teaching. I would and have argued for such usage in other writings. For the sake of my usage here, I simply mean gospelizing among the least reached and/or unreached to see the church planted and multiplying.

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Five Reasons Pentecostals Should Read Karl Barth

  1. Pentecostals should read Barth for the very general reason that he is perhaps the most significant theologian of the twentieth century. To ignore his work is to ignore arguably one of the most influential voices in theology in the last hundred years.
  2. Pentecostals should read Barth because of his radical Christological focus. He finds Jesus inescapable for all theological construction. This should resonate immediately with Pentecostals who are committed to the “Full Gospel” message about Jesus: saving, sanctifying, baptizing in the Spirit, healing, and coming soon as king.
  3. Pentecostals should read Barth because of his intentional pastoral concerns in his writings (Evangelical Theology; Dogmatics in Outline; Church Dogmatics) not to mention the collections of sermons and reflections on prayer. Barth was a pastor and preacher. His concerns were for the lived life of the church. While Barth was not pragmatic and all too many Pentecostals may be, Pentecostals are likewise committed very intentionally to pastoral concerns and churchly life. Here he offers deeper levels of reflection by and for the church.
  4. Pentecostals should read Barth because he was a man committed to careful reflection upon the Scriptures (one may note for example the sheer volume of citations in his final volume of Church Dogmatics on Scripture references that is fashioned for use within the church’s life). Barth’s publications are saturated in the Scriptures and seek always to flow from and back to the Scriptures as faithful witnesses to the God of the Scriptures. One can quibble about his interpretations of the Scriptures, but not about his concern to try to hear them well.
  5. Pentecostals should read Barth because of his language of testimony as a shared feature of his theology and the Pentecostal emphasis on testimony. This is rooted in God being toward us and our responding to him. We confess who he is and what he has done. We testify what we hear and see and experience of the life of God in and among us. Pentecostals might benefit from a more clearly articulated theology of testimony rooted in God’s self-giving love toward us and toward the world.

I offer this list not as in any sense comprehensive for why I contend Pentecostals should read Barth. Further, I can understand and appreciate those who have their emphatic reasons for why they might reject Barth or his writings (some owing to poor early interpreters of Barth, some to professors of their own who simply never spent time with Barth and received a message of danger regarding Barth without themselves reading him, and some for Barth’s life that failed to align with the message he proclaimed).

In the end, I would encourage folks because they will find a friend for their journey who longs to proclaim the God who is always better than our proclamations and who will do all that must be done for our good and for the good of the world He has created.

For those who may be interested (I’d recommend finding a library for access given its cost), there is a new publication out on Karl Barth and Pentecostal Theology (T&T Clark, 2024) written by a stellar lineup of fourteen Pentecostal scholars (check out the list of contributors and their respective chapters in the link above). Sadly, I am not one of them. HA.

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A Theology of the Spirit in the Former Prophets: A Pentecostal Perspective (Audio Summary Presentation and Q&A)

Have you ever wondered what the Church is supposed to do about those crazy texts of the Spirit of the LORD coming upon folks in the OT and then they go out and kill people? Or what about the Spirit of the LORD that deceives? Or what about that “evil spirit from he LORD” that comes on Saul? Well…wonder no longer (not really, but at least I offer one way of hearing these texts).

I was invited to lead a book club presentation for Evangel University in Springfield, MO, on Wednesday, April 9th on my book A Theology of the Spirit in the Former Prophets: A Pentecostal Perspective (CPT Press, 2018). There is a link to the audio below as well as a one page handout I provided at that gathering. The audio includes all manner of my typical spice and sarcasm in presenting things I love. 🙂 I am imagining I propose things in this presentation that might just challenge many of the ideas about the Spirit in the OT.

HERE is the audio link for those who might care to listen to my half hour summary(ish) presentation of the book. I do share about some proposed new trajectories for a theology of the Spirit.

And for those with money burning a hole in their pocket who just want to support the writings of a theological bibliophile, here is a link to my book on

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First Lecture on Barth?!?

It is hard to believe that with all of the courses I have taught over the years that I have yet to lecture on Karl Barth. Though nearly every position I have held as a professor (full faculty, lecturer, visiting lecturer, etc) has been in Old Testament, I have done substantial reading and reflection (and academic work) in theology itself and specifically the works of Karl Barth (and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but I have taught a full course on the life and work of Bonhoeffer). Those who spend much time with me in person will encounter Barth making his way into conversations at some point. Those who know some of my history may know that I co-blogged some years ago at the affectionately named That says something of my affinities even as it does not say anything of my critiques or differences. Those who video chat with me from my office may even see Barth volumes in my background (right below Bonhoeffer 😉 ).

And while I have yet to lecture on Barth, to be sure, he is ever present in my ideas and words in preaching and teaching and in nearly everything I have written over the last 15 years even though not always specifically cited…not plagiarized (so my students hear that)…just present.

Tonight that changes. I was asked to lecture in a graduate course on World Christianity specific to the life and works of Barth and even more so to his response and challenge to the German Liberalism of his day (many thanks to Lisa Millen for the invite!). With that in mind, I wrote up a few page talking point lecture and share those notes here, for whatever it may be worth to my readers. Happy reading. And if you want to chat Barth…let me know. 🙂

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Women Must Learn in Quietness: A Short Instruction on 1 Tim. 2:11-15

Today in my AGTS Hermeneutics class we were discussing the genre of “epistle” or “letter” and the ways in which elements of “occasionality” and “rhetoric” fit into good readings of the New Testament letters. I always expect students will have questions about “women” and “ministry/preaching/teaching/eldership”. While I have written on the subject pertaining to other texts of the Bible elsewhere (in blogs and in publication), I offer here a short 6 minute 50 second student recorded audio of my end of class discussion on 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in answer to a student’s pointed question about this text. Apologies as the recording was begun about 30 seconds into my reply. The student had decided to record the discussion for a friend and when I found out, I asked for a copy to share as well. So here it is for whatever it is worth. 🙂

Here is the text in the New English Translation:

11 A woman must learn[r] quietly with all submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow[s] a woman to teach or exercise authority[t] over a man. She must remain quiet.[u] 13 For Adam was formed first and then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman, because she was fully deceived,[v] fell into transgression.[w] 15 But she will be delivered through childbearing,[x] if she[y] continues in faith and love and holiness with self-control.

(and HERE is the hyperlink to the text on Bible Gateway that includes the helpful footnotes as well)

I wrote four short phrases or words on the white board as the student had read these verses:

  • “learn in quietness”
  • “teach or exercise authority”
  • “deceived”
  • “saved through child-bearing”

You will hear the audio pick up where I’ve already begun discussing “learn in quietness”. I have offered that this phrase is the precise expected posture and response of a disciple or student rather than intended as a censure against. It is a call for entering into discipleship directly.

I know this short response does not answer all manner of questions you may have about the text (or that I still have about this text). It is not comprehensive of the passage. I say these things recognizing there are numerous other readings of this text and its possible function and intent. Yet all these caveats aside, I have offered here a brief reply for those who have wondered about this pivotal passage for those arguing that women cannot be pastors or preach.

And I say, not only can women preach and teach the good news of King Jesus … they MUST do so … as we all must do so!

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Seven Reasons Theological Faculty Might Not Embrace Online Instruction

A friend wrote to me today asking why I thought faculty tend to be opposed to or simply not sufficiently embracing the move to online modalities of learning in higher education, particularly with regard to seminaries and theological education. Administrators all seem keen to the move (less costs, wider market) or at least the ideas of such. In reflecting on my reply I came up with the following seven reasons I gave for why I think this is happening (seven just seemed the right spiritual number for a response from this seminary professor 🙂 ).

  1. Lack of knowledge/skill with online modalities in general (tools, modality, engagement, etc). An awful lot of faculty have spent a tremendous amount of time becoming experts in a niche field of study. Online education was not one of those for most. Nor even pedagogy/androgogy (nor online approaches to such). Some may simply lack tech skills in general or may even fear such (whether consciously or unconsciously). Lack of awareness and lack of experience contribute to make this an area many theological faculty simply are unequipped to deal adequately with as part of their teaching life.
  2. Concern over lack of genuine and/ or deeper student engagement and discipleship. This is a concern for quality of engagement that seems all too lacking in online modalities. The kinds of conversations that happen by sharing space and time in person simply do not happen. There are other engagements, but these are never of the kind one encounters in person. Whether faculty are genuinely engaging in such positive ways (in person or online) is another issue altogether.
  3. Lack of sufficient care or interest for courses where one does not face students in person so may under develop their courses just by default. Honestly, for myself, I find myself far more engaged in heart and mind toward in person courses. Online modalities simply do not give the same stimulation intellectually, emotionally, or socially that in person classes offer to professors (even to introverted professors). This lack of care may not be fully appreciated by the faculty themselves who may not even be aware they lack the same intuitive draw for person-to-person engagements.
  4. (Often) lesser remuneration especially as online requires unique course developments. While there are schools which pay to develop courses, the person paid to develop the course may not even be the one teaching (or grading, or engaging in dialogue online, etc). Some schools simply expect faculty to develop courses in the normal fashion of in person where there is not usually any thought of extra remuneration for course development. The amount of time that may be required is often tedious and little more than data entry beyond the actual contents of a course. This can be a demotivating factor for faculty driving further lack of interest or enthusiasm for online instruction.
  5. Prioritization of seated modalities in the mind of professors. Faculty are most often hired for seated courses. While most faculty roles include the need to teach online as well, these are viewed as a portion of the job and may not be perceived as holding the same central aim as in person modalities. The question of value matters. If online modalities are expected, but not viewed as primary then there is the potential for a psychological barrier to its value being equivalent.
  6. Lack of value to the professor who desires personal relationship and personal engagement. Faculty are people. And people are made for relationships. While this can happen online (and does in all sorts of modalities through social media, for example), there is something lost in not seeing, hearing, and sharing space with others. This unique sharing of time and space can serve as an innate potential for bonding. And many faculty may feel already isolated in much of the work of researching, course prep, writing, meetings, etc. Thus, this is both a relational outlet and relational input for many.
  7. Resistance to reducing classes to information transfer. While I am unaware of any online courses being promoted as if it were just about information transfer, this seems to be a default setting in all too many cases. This can be all too true in any form of education, but seems perhaps more prone to such when there is less direct human engagement. While faculty should not fear such, it seems to linger as a fear in the back of many minds. And theological faculty might often explicitly be committed to modalities of discipleship in how they teach (and engage students). And discipleship is never reducible to an information transfer.

And having listed my seven replies, let me add one more: sometimes we’re just lazy (or done). Maybe I shouldn’t be saying it. But the reality is that we are people who wear out and care about what we care about and don’t care about what we don’t care about. We only have so much energy and time and focus. And when all is said and done we may simply not care about the online courses like other courses and thus take lazy ways out. Copy and paste. Quizzes. Discussion boards. We just don’t want to put in the effort for an alternate modality and course development that requires alternative approaches, alternative tools, alternative assessments.

So what might you add to or change on my list?

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A Question of Canon: Star Wars and the Old Testament

The following is an answer I provided one of my graduate students regarding a “canonical approach” which was asked with reference also to Star Wars “canon” in a reading assignment for a course in Old Testament Theology. I felt a fair bit of explanation was helpful and thought there might be others who would also benefit from our discussion (though I’ve only included my reply).

Let me offer some reflections on the language of “canon” and a “canonical” approach to OT theology. It would seem there might be an improper understanding of the use of the term “canon” (in the study of OT theology or with regard to Star Wars) as it is being used in these contexts. Canon refers to the authorized forms of texts (films, books, series, etc) that were received by their respective community as authoritative for the community (in some fashion, which is not equivalent, but for the sake of discussion I will make use of such). This is why there is debates over who shot first: Han or Greedo [Han shot first is the only correct answer]. An altered version exists (and in this case is attributable to the “original author” but many claim the original film version as canon by which to judge the latter as an alteration of canon) but was not original to the series. Instead it belongs to a reworked, reimagined version (which enters the debate in Star Wars about a flexible canon and how inclusive and diverse it might be). Fan fiction accounts of Star Wars do not enter the canon of Star Wars.

On biblical texts (and the OT in this case), it is to say that the form received of our texts matters. Instead of simply tracing the history of individual texts as they developed (which is what Historical Critical studies does) canonical approaches contend for the final received version of the text (even while recognizing there are multiple communities and texts which reach back to the earliest centuries). Making it overly simple, the issue with Scripture is that we have at least two divergent accounts (technically many more) of our texts (some of them significantly divergent, some of them not so much): Masoretic Hebrew and Greek Septuagint.

The Church received the latter of these for nearly 1500 years as its text-form. The Reformation changed that though many of the Reformers and their translations included the Apocryphal/Deuteroncanonical books until the end of the 1800s. This was not only a difference of books bound within the covers of the “Canon” (where some were still called “deutero-canon” or “second/ary canon”), but also differences in the shapes of a number of the books altogether (with several fairly significant variants: 1 Samuel, Jeremiah, Daniel, Esther). So when speaking of a canonical approach such includes both discussions of the variant forms of the books (that were all independent scrolls until the Christian era) and even the arrangement of the books themselves in relation to one another (by “arrangement” I am including the idea of inclusion/exclusion of books). In an fascinating mixture of these canons, our current Protestant order of the OT follows the Greek Septuagint order, but uses the Hebrew Masoretic as the primary base text for the forms of the books within the Greek order.

While much of the theology one may suggest and/or derive from the divergent “canons” of the OT, perhaps the larger issue is related to the theological idea of “canon” itself and the group which receives/recognizes/confesses said “canon” as “canon”.

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Concerning Contexts for Interpretation of Scripture

The following is a short reply I gave on one of my graduate student’s Hermeneutics assignment wrestling with the following two readings:

  • Punt, J. “Current Debates on Biblical Hermeneutics in South Africa and the Postcolonial Matrix.” Religion & Theology 1.1-2 (2004), 139-160.
  • Sahayadhas, R. “Christian Theological Hermeneutics in Asia: Prospects and Problems in Constructing Contextual Theologies.” Bangalore Theological Forum 35.1 (2003): 151-176.

I thought my responses might be a helpful brief reflection for persons wrestling with divergent interpretations to at least offer an openness to hearing that has not presupposed that difference ruled out of hand because it is different.


Concerning contexts for interpretation of Scripture. The issue with contending that we should all be “a Body of Christ, One in him” and imagine that there is a singular approach most often presupposes that our own context (Western, post-Enlightenment, etc) is in fact the one that is true to that unity. It fails to appreciate the thousand ways we ourselves are inheritors of our interpretive contexts.

We often only begin to note this when others from different contexts propose alternate interpretations (such as the samples of Post-Colonial and Asian contextual readings provided).

Suddenly this strange new world opens before us seeming to challenge the very foundation and fabric of “the Truth” (which might be the case, but might also not be the case), when such differences may simply be challenging the dominant interpretive communities (Western and post-Enlightenment, for example) and their predetermined grasp on how to properly interpret.

We might see various contextual interpretations as “divisive” when in fact they are simply “different” from our own. Those are not identical categories: divisive and different. It may actually be that the “different” interpretation is pushing back against a “dominating” interpretation that has not been sufficiently humble to recognize its own many contextualized blind spots to interpretation of Scripture. This is sometimes referred to as a hegemony of interpretation. We do well to attune our ears better to hear what the Spirit may be saying to the church (historical and global).


And here is a comic I didn’t send them, but find too often to be the case for our readings of Scripture:

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Hearing the Prophets on Justice: A Response

One of the assignments I have given some of my students as we discuss the writing prophets of the Old Testament is to reflect on the following:

“What might be some ways that the prophetic words about justice for the poor and foreigner in the prophets studied this week speak to specific issues today?”

Here was one of the finest answers I’ve read from any student on this (I received permission to share from the student, but have left it anonymous). I find these points cogent and pointed and hear the prophetic voice echoing in them as a call to justice and righteousness as the “branch of Jesse” who was anointed by the Spirit to set to rights all things. I can see the blessed outstretched hand nailed to a tree in both the raised fist and the embracing arm.

Student Response:

The terms mišpāt (justice) and ṣedeq (righteousness) are paired together throughout OT prophecy and are concepts that are “indicative of God’s expectations for his people with regard to every aspect of society.”1 It is also not an accident that those made “right” with God and declared “justified” before Him in passages like Luke 18:14, Romans 2:13, James 2:21-25 (among many others) are expected to have the correct attitude about their salvation which will, in turn, compel them to do good works, stop judging people who aren’t like them or who have yet to get their act together, and instead, deliver people from their oppressive situations.

In order to avoid becoming too political, I will simply share some practical examples of how twenty-first century Christians can “do” justice.

  • If we know of someone who doesn’t share our nationality, and who is being oppressed by someone else who thinks they are somehow superior, step in for them and speak up to the oppressor. Be a peacemaker and do not allow the situation to escalate any further than it already has.
  • If we know of a single mom who is struggling to get by and her child’s father isn’t doing his part, offer her child care, or to pick up her groceries when we are at the store.
  • If we have the means, pay for the education of someone who couldn’t otherwise afford a higher education.
  • Seek employment in social services positions (the injustices going on in the American family are unprecedented).
  • Become a lawyer or a judge.
  • Start a food bank (or help someone already feeding the poor).
  • Become an advocate for people in nursing homes or care centers for the disabled (they often have no one to make sure they are receiving proper care. I believe this is a blight on our society).
  • Befriend someone who has moved to the country recently. I can’t imagine how frightening it might be live in a land where I don’t know the language, culture, or how to get around. 
  • Work in a center that is giving unwed mothers options other than abortion.
  • Adopt a child.
  • Mentor the child of a single mom or dad (or any child in a home where their level of care is sub-par).
  • If we know someone who is being abused by their significant other, counsel them to get out of the relationship and find them options that will help them get out.
  • Run for political office and be the change that you would like to see happening in our government.

The list could be longer, but I’m sure that you get the idea. As in every aspect of ministry, the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few.

1. Hayes, E. R. “Justice, Righteousness.” In The IVP Bible Dictionary Series: Dictionary of the Old Testament: Prophets, edited by Mark J. Boda, and J. Gordon McConville. InterVarsity Press, 2012.

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Proverbs 31 and the Virtuous Woman

Here is a question I was asked about Proverbs 31 and the Virtuous Woman. I have found this passage to have a fairly wide misuse in the Church against women.

Question: Is there a commentary you’d recommend for Proverbs 31. I’ve read three different commentaries and each give a different perspective of the king, mother and virtuous woman. I don’t know who’s interpretation is correct.

My brief response:

You’ll find folks all over the place on this. I have my own take.

Some dude (no clue from where) named “Lemuel” who was a “king” (not sure of where) shares advice from his mother (the queen mother? And no clue who she is). How’s that for help?

The literary effect though is that the advice/wisdom spoken from “father” (Proverbs 1.8a; 10.1a) and “mother” (Proverbs 1.8b; 10.1b) plays out in the larger structure of the book where the “father” speaks wisdom to his “son” (chapters 1-9) and concluding with the “mother” speaking wisdom to her “son” (chapter 31).

Then regarding the “virtuous woman” of Proverbs 31, I would also connect this to “Lady Wisdom” that the “father” in chapters 1-9 tells the “son” to find and join himself to. Now at the end of the collection of wise sayings we hear a mother’s voice to the son in chapter 31. This “virtuous woman” is the personification of wisdom throughout the Proverbs. In chapter 9, she is contrasted with Madame Folly who will destroy the “son”, but is deceptively alluring and can even sound and look like Lady Wisdom (compare Proverbs 9.1-6 with 9.13-18). The “son” must heed the advice of the parent/s and seek wisdom above all else and finding such, bind and commit himself with all he has to such. This is the marriage to Lady Wisdom. What this passage is not intended to be is a passage for Mother’s Day sermons to talk about how women need to be. It is intended to speak to who we all must be as people in wisdom. If we join ourselves to wisdom then we will be like this (not in the details spelled out, but in the flourishing of life). We will find what the fear of the Lord compels us toward.

In other words, I read this last chapter in light of the early chapters and hear Mama Lemuel saying, “Wisen up, son! Listen to your mama! Do the right thing! Be the right kind of person! And it’ll be alright.”

So here is me also adding my voice in seeking to discern the wisdom of this passage. 🙂

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