How Will You End the Year?

As the year comes to a close, you pretty certainly have any number of loose ends.1 Some of them you’ll need or want to tie up before the end of the year. Others you might decide to put off for a bit.

But there’s more to life than your current work demands, your next upcoming project, or that last assignment that needs attention before the semester fully ends.

By the same token, honing your craft as a biblical scholar doesn’t just mean being more effective in domains like these. It also means being more effective in integrating other life domains that are just as or more important.

You’re a whole person with a multifaceted life—and those multiple facets are part of what make life rich. So, although it’s almost always overlooked, a core skill you need to hone for the long haul is how you live as an academic in order to integrate the domains of your life that stretch beyond the academy.

With that in mind, I’d like to offer 5 thoughts about how you can set yourself up for some enriching time away from the academy to spend with loved ones, invest in other interests, pursue other projects, or any variety of other possibilities.

1. Prepare early.

If you’re looking ahead to holidays at the end of the year, start assessing where things stand. Think too about where you’d like them to be while you’re away.

If you go through the next couple weeks on your present course, are you already implicitly going to short change time away?

Hopefully not, and if not, that’s great. But if you’re unsure, you likely are.

The Planning Fallacy

According to the “planning fallacy,” we’re all much more likely to underestimate how much time it takes to complete a given activity.

That’s especially true when we’re faced with more pressure for that activity to be completed on time.

For example, if we’re in conversation with others or if we’re mentally contemplating such conversations we’re more liable to give overly optimistic assessments of how much we can do in a given amount of time.2

Adjusting for the Planning Fallacy

That doesn’t need to be bad news, though. It just means you’re now aware that you might need to adjust your expectations for the coming days.

Start by asking yourself questions like:

  • What will have to be true over the coming days for you to unplug from your regular demands?
  • What will need to happen for you to be fully present on your other interests or with your friends, loved ones, or whomever you’ll be spending time with?3

With this vision in place, you can then plan your time between now and the start of your holiday activities. You can prioritize the critical few items that help will make your holiday as enriching as possible.

You can counter the effects of the planning fallacy by adding 50% to how much time you think it will take to complete a project.4 Or to be still safer, you can try doubling your estimate.

With some updated estimates of how long it will take to complete what’s on your plate, you can also start to triage what might need to wait for the new year. (With this triaging may come renegotiation with others who might be affected by your possibly completing something a bit later.)

2. Address others’ needs ahead of time.

Identify who may have “surprise” needs from you either shortly before or while you’re supposed to be away.

In reality, such surprises probably aren’t as surprising as we sometimes allow them to be. From past experience, you probably know who’s likely to ask for something from you at the 11th hour or later.

Reaching out to that person(s) directly might seem counterintuitive. After all, I just suggested you might need to triage your schedule by moving some things into the new year.

But if you reach out to others asking for requests from them, you might be more likely to get things added to your plate.

It’s true that you might. But the alternative is simply not knowing. And in that event, you’re setting yourself up for a series of 11th-hour decisions about what requests to fulfill—and comparatively tenser discussions around scheduling for those that you’d prefer to handle in the new year.

Instead of leaving yourself open for such maybes to arrive in your inbox unannounced, be proactive.5 Contact as soon as you can those who might need something from you to let them know that you’ll be happy to field requests from them before or after your time away but that you’ll be unavailable during the holiday window you’ve set aside.

Doing so is also courteous to those individuals who may have their own holiday plans. Your reaching out gives you all the opportunity to negotiate a mutually satisfactory plan for when you’ll get what to whom.

3. Plan for your time away.

Don’t walk into your time away cold. You might not want to plan it in as much detail. That’s perfectly fine.

But your time away is valuable, as are the people you’ll spend it with. So, that time away deserves to have thought put into it.

Even something as simple as a couple short conversations beforehand can help to surface how you’ll spend that time in order to make the most of it.6 It can also help you avoid the temptation to dilute your time away with academic or other work that could wait.

4. Use an auto-responder.

When it comes time for your vacation to start, set an out-of-office reply or other automated bounce back. (You might actually want to do this a little in advance of when you need to start disengaging. That way, you won’t have requests come in that you don’t have time to respond to.)

In the automated reply, you don’t need to give a lot of detail. But do let whomever know when you’ll be able to get back with them.

5. While you’re away, actually unplug.

Be fully present with the people and activities for whom you’ve set aside this time to disengage. You might want to use a tool like Freedom to help protect what you’ve decided to prioritize during your time away.

If you find you didn’t start preparing early or fully enough, don’t try to squeeze school or work activity back in around the margins. And if something comes up claiming it can’t wait, don’t be too ready to agree with that assessment.

Other than that, remember that “inside ‘yes’ is ‘no.’” If you pull school or work back into times you’ve set aside to be more fully present with family, friends, or others, you can make that choice. But that “yes” is an automatic “no” to those you’d otherwise be giving your time, attention, and presence to during that time. And you shouldn’t underestimate the relational cost of that “no,” especially if it’s a cost that repeats.

That said, if you really think something can’t wait, start by talking through how best to handle that with those who will be affected by your not unplugging. Negotiate how best to move forward from where you are (even if that isn’t where you ideally wanted to be).

Then, take away from the experience the lesson(s) that will help you prepare better for the next time you’ll be away.


Just like other parts of the craft of biblical scholarship, your ability to unplug from academics and focus on other life domains is also something you can hone over time.

Do it a few times with intention, and you’ll notice yourself gradually getting better at being not just whatever your school or work demands require, but also someone who lives a full life as a whole person.

  1. Header image provided by Jude Beck

  2. Cf. Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (New York: Crown Business, 2014), 181–83. 

  3. For suggesting this general kind of question, I’m grateful to Michael Hyatt. 

  4. McKeown, Essentialism, 181–83. 

  5. Cf. Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, 25th anniversary ed. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013), 73–101. 

  6. For this suggestion, I’m particularly grateful to Michael Hyatt and Megan Hyatt Miller, “How to Rejuvenate with a Staycation,” Lead to Win, 25 August 2020. 

Behind the Scenes of Scripture First with Stephen Lawson

The six essays in Scripture First fall naturally into three pairs: two on the biblical text, two on church history, and two on contemporary practice and application.1

For the church history essays, one of the contributors is Stephen Lawson. Stephen is Assistant Professor of Theology and Dean of Students at Austin Graduate School of Theology.

In the writing process, different things work better for different people. So, Stephen was kind enough to participate in an interview to provide a look behind the scenes of his process for developing his essay.

How did you come up with the idea for what you wanted to argue in your essay?

If I recall correctly, this was the easiest part. Daniel Oden reached out to me and asked me to write something about primitivism. Finding the topic is easy when it’s someone else’s job!

Once he asked me to write about primitivism, I was already fairly clear about what I wanted to argue, since I had been working on the questions surrounding historical methods in theology for several years.

Though my recent research—responses to the development of historical reasoning in theology in post-Enlightenment German thought—seems far from the question of primitivism in American religious history, they are related. What I have learned from studying debates over the use of history in theology has affected the way that I see my own ecclesial tradition.

So, the Scripture First project gave me an opportunity to return to some of the themes that I had been working on already.

Did you divide your process between research and writing? If so, how?

I did not need to do a lot of new research for this essay. Many of the examples that I point to in the essay were things that I had already read. However, I hadn’t done much work on the idea of primitivism itself.

I was helped by two books, both of which were edited by Richard Hughes: The American Quest for the Primitive Church (University of Illinois Press, 1988) and The Primitive Church in the Modern World (University of Illinois Press, 1995).

The essays in these books were helpful in thinking through some of the questions that arose as I composed my own essay. So, I read those two books, glanced through a few dozen relevant articles, and then began writing.

This was a fairly quick essay to draft. I delivered the first version of the essay at the 2018 Christian Scholars’ Conference. Later I expanded it, making it around twice as long.

How did you structure the time you needed to research and write the essay?

I work in big blocks of time, especially when it comes to drafting new material. I can squeeze editing and brainstorming into an otherwise busy day, but I have always needed large blocks of time to write new material.

For me it takes a lot of effort and time to get into the “groove” of composition. It is not something that I can start and stop easily, though I wish it were! As a parent of young children it would be great to be able to produce a few hundred words in a random quarter-hour of free time, but I just can’t.

When working on your essay, what tools did you use?

I use Microsoft Word. I used to use Zotero to manage references, but I fell out of the habit. I was frustrated with the way it handled non-English sources. Friends have told me that there were settings which I was not navigating correctly. They are probably right.

But I’ve not been using any reference software. One of my friends said that because his footnotes weren’t produced by a reference software he was going to start marketing them as “handcrafted” footnotes.

What closing advice would you offer to emerging biblical scholars as they work on papers for academic conferences and collaborative volumes like Scripture First?

Be interested in everything. It’s okay to focus; that’s what scholarship requires. But be open all kinds of things, not just your specialization. So, read widely and charitably.

If you are a biblical scholar, try to keep up with what your theologian and historian friends are up to (and vice versa). If I were only interested in my area of research, I probably wouldn’t have attended the conference session which resulted in my participation in this book.

Scripture First is available directly from the publisher, Amazon, or anywhere books are sold. Order by 10 December 2020 to claim several exclusive bonuses.

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Behind the Scenes of “Understanding Scripture through Apostolic Proclamation”

A lot goes into a volume like Scripture First once the individual essays are all more or less complete.1

Given that, it can be helpful to see behind the scenes of the editorial process. But it can also be helpful to see what others do on the smaller scale of their own contributions.

Probably nobody’s particular workflow is something that will work sufficiently well for someone else to simply copy. But seeing the way others do their craft, can give us helpful ideas for how we might improve our own.

To this end, I want to take you behind the scenes of my essay, “Understanding Scripture through Apostolic Proclamation.”

For simplicity, I’ll divide this overview into 4 different areas.

1. Topic Selection

The essays in Scripture First find their origin in a series of conference papers. Within this conference series, I was tasked with contributing a paper from the angle of New Testament studies.

That’s quite a broad area to play in, but it helped define somewhat the scope my contribution could take.

I decided then to treat 1 Cor 15 for basically 4 reasons:

  1. The chapter contains several scriptural quotations. The exact origin of a given quotation might not be entirely clear (e.g., v. 55). But focussing on the quotations allowed me, for the sake of space, to bypass the question of subtler allusions.
  2. The chapter begins with an explicit summary of apostolic proclamation (vv. 3b–5).
  3. The pairing of these first two elements seemed like fertile context for discussing how the declared belief in vv. 3b–5 directs how Paul interprets the texts he quotes in the following discussion. The relevance of this point is a conviction I came to in a prior project. So, it was natural to see how a similar argument might play out in a different text.
  4. I have another ongoing project on v. 29. So, additional work on 1 Cor 15 was going to be helpful in different ways for that project. (For an interim report on this project, see this discussion.)

2. Research and Writing Process

For some time now, I’ve tried to start drafting a project as early as possible after however much initial research. Then, as needed, I’ll pause the drafting to research particular points further before returning back to drafting.

Finally, at the end of the drafting and beginning of the editing phase, I’ll pull in however much additional research I can. This process has been helpful for me in managing the writing toward whatever word count it needs to try to hit while also being as comprehensive as possible within that scope.

In the case of my essay for Scripture First, I’d done similar work on other texts before. I’d also done some of the research as that overlapped with work to prepare for a couple different seminars that I teach—one on the Pauline letters and one on biblical theology.

Consequently, I started drafting comparatively early and did comparatively more drafting while simply pulling in and engaging sources I was already aware of. Then, I came back and folded in additional interaction as space allowed.

3. Time and Workflow Structure

I’ve generally found it most useful to try to structure writing into larger blocks, albeit with some flexibility around other events.

But the months that I was drafting my essay for Scripture First were the first ones where I had shifted over to this approach. Previously, I’d had a much more rhythmic schedule with writing taking the same slot in the day among other activities in other slots.

That approach worked well. But it sometimes left me mentally shifting gears away from the writing task before it was really time to do so. Working on expanding the length of the writing sessions I had and folding other activities into other larger blocks elsewhere seems to have helped me avoid that downside of more rhythmic scheduling.

I don’t have writing log records from that period. But I distinctly remember the subjective feeling of making progress on my essay for Scripture First much faster than I’d been accustomed to.

4. Tools

Under tools, it may be helpful to distinguish between writing tools and managing tools.

4.1. Writing Tools

I sometimes think I might like to use something else, but Microsoft Word makes good sense for biblical studies. It seems to have the lowest overhead in interfacing with other scholars and publishers, so that’s what I use.

With Word for more than a decade now, I’ve paired Zotero as a bibliography and citation manager. For this essay, Zotero proved to be a particular help too.

I initially drafted the essay according to SBL style before we’d fully settled on a publisher for the volume. Once we committed with ACU Press, however, we needed to format the essays based simply on Chicago style (with some minor variations).

Having used Zotero, I just had to select the Chicago style rather than SBL style in my essay document’s preferences. Zotero then automatically reworked all my citations accordingly.

There was still some editing I had to do manually to bring my typescript fully over to Chicago style. But Zotero took a lot of the legwork out of that process.

About the same time I started using Zotero, I also switched from Gramcord to Logos. At some point in the various upgrades since, I’d acquired Anthony Thiselton’s larger commentary on 1 Corinthians.

Thiselton is a primary dialog partner in the first portion of my essay in his Hermeneutics of Doctrine. So, I was particularly interested to see what complementary themes he might draw out in his commentary. Logos’s ability to show page numbers for the resource made interacting with it that much simpler.

4.2. Managing Tools

For several years now, I’ve used Todoist to help me keep up with all the spinning plates that are around. For this essay, I had several general “write” and “edit” tasks that I set, rescheduled, carried forward for several sessions, and eventually completed. (Now, I’d probably chunk the specific activities underneath those writing and editing tasks into smaller, more specific units.) Finally, I scheduled myself a task to submit the essay by its deadline.

Similarly, I mentioned above how I tried to carve out some comparatively larger blocks of time to write this essay. I reflected all those blocks on Google Calendar so I and others with access to my calendar could visually see those commitments of time to this project.


Again, I don’t share any of this because it’s necessarily the best way to work. My own process has continued to evolve since finishing the initial draft of my essay for Scripture First.

That said, I hope you’ll continue to be mindful of what works best for you, and I hope this post may give you some ideas of things you may want to try as you hone your own writing process.

Scripture First is available directly from the publisher, Amazon, or anywhere books are sold. Order by 10 December 2020 to claim several exclusive bonuses.

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How to Get the Most out of Your Virtual SBL Annual Meeting

The 2020 annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature will be like none other before it.1

Due to COVID-19, the massive annual gathering of biblical scholars has gone fully online for the first time.

Instead of its usual running time, the annual meeting begins in just a few days on 29 November. And it won’t conclude until 10 December.

Because this is the first time around for a virtual SBL meeting, we’ll probably all be learning as we go to varying degrees.

But with 7 simple steps, you can help set yourself up for an enriching meeting where your focus is on biblical scholarship rather than the technology for delivering the meeting.

1. Have your software and hardware ready.

Well before your first session, be sure to install (or update) and test any software as needed, like Zoom. Also, test your speakers and your microphone.

By getting all of the technology set up early, you’ll avoid last-minute frustrations or delays related to troubleshooting right before a session.

Also, if you’re presenting or otherwise likely to speak during the session, try to arrange things so that you can use a headset or dedicated microphone.

The microphone built into your webcam, laptop, or mobile device can do in a pinch. But the audio will be much better for the rest of the attendees if you’re able to use a dedicated microphone.

2. Plan what sessions you will attend.

One of the nice things about a virtual meeting is that sessions can be offered on a broader schedule. They can also be recorded for later viewing if you weren’t able to attend live.

But these upsides are also downsides if you try to consume too much of the meeting. Just because you can be in or rewatch more sessions in a virtual meeting doesn’t mean you should.

Instead, be choosey. Use the meeting planner to find the sessions most pertinent for you.

That way, rather than giving surface engagement to a wide array of sessions, you can go all in on the few that most align with your interests.

3. Connect early.

Earlier this fall, I presented a paper at another online conference. The morning of my paper, I got on the computer to connect to my session in what I thought was enough time.

It just so happened, however, that the computer also decided that morning that it needed to reboot to install an update. 😐

I ended up still connecting to the session in good time even after the reboot, although with a bit less margin than I would have liked. But if I hadn’t had the buffer provided by trying to connect to the session early, I could easily have been late to my own paper.

Don’t let that happen to you by planning to connect ahead of a given session with enough buffer to handle any last-minute issues that arise.

4. Come to learn.

Whether you’re giving a paper or listening to one, come to learn and contribute. Come to learn from the presenters about their work and contribute to the discussion of it. Or come to learn from the audience about yours.

Either way, if you come to learn and contribute rather than to impress, you’re likely to do more of both while also lessening the time you’ll spend faced with imposter syndrome.

5. Focus on the sessions you attend.

Nowadays, it doesn’t take attending many academic conference sessions before you notice something. During a session, some good portion of the audience will be focused on … their email, Facebook, Twitter, the program book, or really anything besides the session they’re physically attending.

Maybe, they’re “multitasking.” But even if they are, studies show they’re not really paying attention.

I should admit that I’ve been guilty of this practice in the past too, particularly later in the conference when sleep deprivation has tended to set in more acutely. But while it might help with staying awake, getting adequate sleep is a much better approach that will also help you pay closer attention to the sessions you’ve chosen to attend.

As you “multitask” between two or more increasingly complex tasks, your ability to track with either at the same pace drops precipitously. You’ll typically need to elongate the time you spend on the multiple tasks you tried to bundle.2

But that creates problems when you try to combine two incredibly complex and language-intensive tasks like listening to an academic paper and checking your email or social media.

In addition, the easier you make it for your brain to “escape” an academic paper into the world of your email or social media, the more difficult you make it to maintain focus on another paper the next time around.3

Plus, if you follow my suggestion above and craft for yourself a very selective conference schedule to start with, you’ll already have biased your schedule toward the sessions that you find more worth attending. And if they’re more worth attending, they’re more worth attending to while you’re in them.

6. Take notes.

Taking notes in a session is a great way to help keep your mind from wandering off—let alone wanting to seek out distracting stimuli like email or social media.

It’s also a good way of helping you retain the content of the papers you attend, whether or not you look at your notes again afterward.

Since the conference is virtual, you’ll already have some electronic device running when you’re attending a session. So, you may be inclined to take your notes digitally on that same device.

If that works for you, that’s great. But handwriting your notes can give you additional benefits that you don’t get if you’re taking notes by typing.4

(If you want to store notes digitally after the conference, Rocketbook has a great notebook-scanner app pairing that makes digitizing handwritten pages very easy.)

7. Visit the exhibit hall.

One of the best parts of the SBL annual meeting is the exhibit hall. If you attend SBL, you’re probably a book nerd, and the annual meeting makes sure to cater to that crowd. 🙂

This year, the exhibit hall is going virtual as well. SBL has some particular arrangements for advertising that they’re putting into place.

But even aside from all of that, there’s the perpetually wonderful and comprehensive exhibit hall that you have access to in the Internet.

However you decide to browse, be sure to check out Scripture First: Biblical Interpretation that Fosters Christian Unity, which is just out with ACU Press.

And if you order during the conference, you’ll be eligible to receive several exclusive accompanying bonuses.

To claim those after you order, just come back here and click the button below.

Best wishes for a wonderful and enriching 2020 annual SBL meeting!

  1. Header image provided by ASOR

  2. Multitasking: Switching Costs,” American Psychological Association, 20 March 2006. By contrast, habitual tasks that require very little attention can be more successfully combined with other tasks that require more attention (e.g., folding laundry while listening to a podcast). For this reason, Greg McKeown suggests distinguishing between multitasking and multifocusing. Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (New York: Crown Business, 2014), 219–20; cf. C. S. Lewis, “Meditation in a Toolshed,” in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, ed. Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 212–15. 

  3. Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (New York: Grand Central, 2016), 157–59. 

  4. Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer, “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking,” Psychological Science 25.6 (2014): 1159–68. 

Behind-the-Scenes Resources from Making Scripture First

Scripture First: Biblical Interpretation That Fosters Christian Unity is due out tomorrow, 17 November 2020.1

If you’ve already preordered, you should expect to see your copy arrive soon. If you haven’t preordered yet, be sure to do so by tomorrow so that you can claim your preorder bonuses.

These bonuses focus especially on helping you see behind the scenes of the process for producing Scripture First. As you look ahead to possibly doing similar projects of your own, the bonuses give you the opportunity to hone your craft by learning from our process in producing Scripture First.

In particular, the five bonus resources you’re eligible for with your Scripture First preorder include:

  1. A conversation with Daniel and me about the process of producing the volume,
  2. Keith Stanglin’s journal article that provided the initial inspiration for the conference sessions that ended up producing Scripture First,
  3. A video walkthrough of the hand exercise that Scott Adair proposes in his essay,
  4. A copy of the spreadsheet I used to create the modern author index, and
  5. The first portion of Scripture First for you to read while you wait for your print copy to arrive.

1. A Conversation with the Editors

To give you a look behind the scenes of what went into producing Scripture First, Daniel and I recorded a conversation for you where we talk through that process.

We also reflect on some things that we thought went particularly well along the way, in addition to some of what we gleaned about the bumps in the road.

2. Keith Stanglin’s Journal Article

In 2016, Keith Stanglin published “The Restoration Movement, the Habit of Schism, and a Proposal for Unity” in Christian Studies.

Keith’s chapter in Scripture First condenses some of this earlier argument but also adds a good amount of further reflection to suggest ways of moving past some potential challenges to his earlier proposal.

For Keith’s fuller treatment particularly of Thomas Campbell and his context, Keith’s earlier Christian Studies article may be a helpful companion to Scripture First.

3. Scott Adair’s Hand Exercise

In his essay, Scott Adair discusses some of the main the doctrinal and ethical content encapsulated within Christian baptism. After unpacking this content, Scott also proposes a hand exercise for teaching and recalling this content.

You can easily follow along with Scott’s description of this exercise in his essay. But since “a picture is worth a thousand words,” this video walks you through the exercise visually as well.

4. My Spreadsheet for Creating the Modern Author Index

As Daniel and I talk about in our discussion, we split the indexing work for Scripture First between the two of us. Daniel took “ancient works,” and I took “modern authors.”

After trying a few different methods for producing the modern authors index on a few pages at the beginning of Scripture First, I decided the simplest would be to use a spreadsheet.

Admittedly, I’m much more of a “spreadsheet nerd” than many. But the process had some advantages. In particular, it allowed for easier manipulation of the index data at the different stages of it’s production.

So, if you find yourself needing to produce an index like this at some point, I’m hopeful that having a copy of the spreadsheet I produced might make that process easier for you by giving you a helpful template to begin with.

5. The First Part of Scripture First

Depending on when and where you preordered Scripture First, your full print copy might take some time to arrive. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait to start reading it.

You can download the first part of the volume and dive straight in.

Daniel, I, and all of the contributors hope you’ll find the book to be a helpful and thought-provoking resource.


Scripture First releases tomorrow. So, I’d encourage you to go ahead and preorder it from the publisher, Amazon, or another retailer.

Then, grab your order number with you, click the blue button below to claim your preorder bonuses.

  1. Header image provided by ACU Press

6 Ways to Make Scripture First

How does Scripture read Scripture, and how can the church follow its lead?1

It’s easy, especially in the long shadow of the Reformation, to pit Scripture against tradition. But the Bible itself suggests there is a fundamental unity between Scripture and the tradition it embodies.

Rightly appreciating this unity sets the stage for more faithful and robust engagement with Scripture.

For the past few years, Daniel Oden (Harding University) and I have been curating a volume of essays to address this intersection between Scripture and its tradition.

Scripture First: Biblical Interpretation That Fosters Christian Unity argues for reading Scripture faithfully along with earliest Christian tradition as the church continues seeking to express its unity better.

The Restoration Movement was birthed from a holy desire to unify divided Christian communities under the authority of sacred Scripture.… These essays exhibit the best characteristics of such work. My hope is that Scripture First will be read widely to the edification and gentle provocation of all still committed to sharing in the mysterious work of the Father, reconciling all things in heaven and on earth in the Son through the Holy Spirit.

Joseph K. Gordon, Associate Professor of Theology, Johnson University

Scripture on Scripture

In reality, Scripture and tradition are not entirely separable. Scripture self-confessedly contains and canonizes certain traditions, thereby asking its readers to embrace them as well.

Scripture First’s two biblical essays particularly stress this point. Daniel Oden’s discusses how the Hebrew Bible develops and interprets its central confessions. My essay expands on this point via the early Jesus movement’s proclamation as summarized in 1 Cor 15:3b–5.

Scripture’s Tradition and Interpretation

Following these essays, two explore the history of interpretation.

Keith Stanglin (Austin Graduate School of Theology) analyzes Thomas Campbell’s thought and the enduring value of Christian biblical interpretation guided by a “rule of faith.”

Stephen Lawson (Austin Graduate School of Theology) highlights the tension reform efforts need to maintain in order to avoid short circuiting precisely aims they want to achieve.

These essays spark creative thought regarding how biblical interpretation impacts Christian unity.… A good read for anyone meditating on the concept of a rule of faith and its role in understanding Scripture and building up the body of Christ.

Susan Bubbers, Dean, The Center for Anglican Theology

Corporate Embodiment of Scripture’s Testimony

The volume’s final two essays take a practical turn.

Scott Adair (Harding University) cites baptism as a marker of Christian identity. On this basis, Scott highlights the hermeneutical relevance of the doctrinal and ethical content latent in baptismal practice.

Finally, drawing on thinkers like Martin Luther, Karl Barth, and Hans Urs von Balthasar, Lauren White (Lipscomb University) argues readers of Scripture cannot read well at a distance. Instead, readers must risk getting themselves caught up in the text’s witness and finding themselves directly addressed and formed by it.

[T]he authors convincingly advocate methods of interpreting Scripture that focus on the core affirmations of Christian faith—especially those proclaimed at and embodied in baptism. The object of godly biblical interpretation is the formation of the church into the image of Christ.

Douglas A. Foster, University Scholar in Residence, Abilene Christian University


6 Ways to Make Scripture First

In the end, I hope each of the essays will help you make Scripture first in your own practice. As the different essays suggest, this entails

  1. Following how the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament rehearses its core confessions,
  2. Reading Scripture through the core apostolic proclamation,
  3. Centering Scripture’s core testimony when interacting with others,
  4. Being constantly open to Scripture’s correction of interpretive missteps,
  5. Reading Scripture baptismally, and
  6. Engaging Scripture and the Christian community to seek formation in the image of the Son.

To Go Deeper …

Scripture First is now available through the publisher, Amazon, and other retailers.

And after you order, you can also claim several exclusive bonuses. These include

  • A video of Daniel and me discussing the volume and the process of producing it from our perspective as editors,
  • A video of Scott Adair walking you through the pedagogical exercise his essay proposes for summarizing the core content encapsulated in baptism, and
  • A copy of the spreadsheet I developed to produce the modern author index.

After you’ve preordered Scripture First, just come to this page. Then, with your order number handy, click the button below, and drop that number in the bonus claim form along with your name and email address. I’ll then be in touch shortly with each of these downloads.

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