I am nearing the end of my doctoral studies. That’s the fun way of saying that I am at the beginning of my dissertation writing.
For more than three years now, I’ve attended multiple seminars, written dozens of research papers, read hundreds of books and thousands of pages, and sifted through articles and volumes that deal in some way with my dissertation topic. Now, with my comprehensive exams behind me, I simply must focus my attention and energy on writing if I am ever going to finish this degree and make my small contribution to the academy.
Earlier this year, I tried to incorporate “dissertation-writing” as one of the many plates that I am spinning. That didn’t work so well. This particular plate is simply too heavy to spin with all the others. So, as I considered my editorial responsibilities at LifeWay, the launch of The Gospel Project Chronological, frequent travel and speaking opportunities, family relationships, and daily blogging, I came to the realization that I needed to set aside the blog in order to make significant progress on this project.
Every year from 2007-13, I took the month of July off from blogging. This year, I’ve chosen to take a blog sabbatical again. It is the only way I know how to devote the necessary attention to finishing my Ph.D studies, or at least getting me down the track to where the finish line is in view.
The topic of my dissertation is “eschatological discipleship.” Following Jesus means understanding our times in light of the biblical vision of history and having the wisdom to make the right choices when the path ahead seems unclear.
Many gospel-centered folks are right to point out that the New Testament’s moral imperatives are often grounded in Christ’s finished work for us in the past. What we sometimes overlook, however, is how many of those moral imperatives also look forward to Christ’s return in the future. We are called to be “children of the day” in a world that knows only darkness.
The question that propels me forward is this:
What kind of discipleship is necessary to fortify the faith of believers so that we understand what time it is, we rightly interpret our cultural moment, and see through the false and damaging views of history and the future that are in our world?
That is the question I posed in my workshop at TGC this year: Discipleship in the Age of Richard Dawkins, Lady Gaga, and Amazon.com: Grounding Believers in the Scriptural Storyline that Counters Rival Eschatologies. (The audio from the talk is available here.)
To be alert to our times is a gospel requirement, says Oliver O’Donovan:
To see the marks of our time as the products of our past; to notice the danger civilisation poses to itself, not only the danger of barbarian reaction; to attend especially not to those features which strike our contemporaries as controversial, but to those which would have astonished an onlooker from the past but which seem to us too obvious to question. There is another reason, strictly theological. To be alert to the signs of the times is a Gospel requirement, laid upon us as upon Jesus’ first hearers.
Thanks for bearing with me as I take some time off to do more research and writing in this area.
If you don’t mind, whenever you would have normally opened up Kingdom People in your email or clicked on a Twitter or Facebook link to my blog, I’d appreciate it if you would pray for me as I work. Pray that I will have wisdom, clarity, and the stamina needed to persevere.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to pursue this degree, grateful for all the professors who have made an impact on my life, and grateful for the great number of resources to which I have access. This overflowing gratitude only reinforces my desire to steward well the gifts I’ve been given and to strengthen God’s people for the journey ahead.