Posts Tagged ‘Church History’

The Grace of God

by   |  02.14.18  |  Alumni

The Grace of God

Every year on Ash Wednesday, those of us in the Christian tradition who follow the Revised Common Lectionary get the same set of passages read to our congregations as we, in our liturgies, remind people that they are dust and to dust they shall return as they begin their Lenten fasts. In the selections from the New Testament, we hear from Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10 and from Matthew, in the Gospel according to Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21.

Ash Wednesday Cross

It is often noted that there is a brilliant paradox of reading Jesus’ warning in the sermon on the mount, “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them” on a day when we literally wear the sign of the cross. Today, we will wear the cross, not silver-plated and beautifully designed, but we wear the cross of ashes smeared upon our foreheads by imperfect sinners who remind us all that we are dust and to dust we shall return. Naturally, it is easy to let this day feel somber and dark – it is hard to be reminded of the one thing that most of us spend our lives trying to forget: that we, yes, even we will die.

The paradox of Jesus’ warning, which should guide us not just today, but throughout our whole Lenten fast, is not the only paradox with which we are presented in today’s readings. The reading from 2 Corinthians presents to us a whole set of paradoxes that characterize the Christian life. In our Christian life we are unknown, and yet well known, we are dying, yet alive, we are sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. The whole of the Christian life is made up of these paradoxes; there are these paradoxes which operate for us all the time under the surface, some of which we are aware of, and some of which we are not.

As a fairly new Episcopalian, I still remember the first time I knew that I was in the right Christian tradition. I knew I was in the right place at the first funeral I attended; I knew I was in the right place, because as that community celebrated the life and mourned the death of a beloved matriarch of the church, held in tandem with our tears and our sadness was cries of alleluia and the colors and songs that resound when a new Christian is baptized. Our burial rite is careful to note the paradox that Paul puts forth here: we are dying, yet we are alive.

In our Christian lives, we are unknown, and yet well known. The God who created and loves us continually invites us into relationship; not because we’ve earned God’s love or because we put forth our best face, but because in our darkest moments it is God who knows us when we feel entirely unseen or unknowable. More »

Reflecting on the Past Year

by   |  01.12.18  |  Students

Reflecting on the Past Year

Using the New Year as a time to reflect has always captivated me and reflecting on 2017 has even more so because so much has happened personally. For the first time in my life, I moved out of my hometown and I have been challenged scholarly and spiritually. I was born in Searcy, Arkansas and when the time came for college, I went Harding University. A shallow part of me decided to come to the Graduate School of Theology at ACU because I wanted to go somewhere a little further from where I have been living my entire life. I am so glad that I did because my first semester at ACU has exceeded any expectations that I had.

When my wife Kaitlyn and I moved to Abilene in July, we only knew one person. Austin McCoy is a friend from Harding who started in the GST the year before I did. One of the first weekends after we had moved in, Austin invited us to meet some of friends that he had made at the GST. Matthew Roberts, Chance Juliano, and Sarah Dannemiller became our fast friends. It was funny because immediately after seeing Austin, he left to travel to attend a few weddings and visit friends from Harding. Kaitlyn and I’s new friends continued to invite us to spend time with them and I am moved by the friendship that they extended to us so quickly. I am truly grateful for never feeling lonely after moving to a new place.

Kaitlyn and I invited our new friends to our apartment during Advent. While we were at Harding, a professor invited us and some other students to his house on the Sundays of Advent to observe the season. Our professor introduced us to the Advent wreath and to the penitential meaning of the season before Christmas. It made an impression on Kaitlyn and I and we decided that we wanted to continue the ancient tradition in our own home. We were happy to introduce the tradition to our friends who had also welcomed us.

Tradition has been a large part of my experience in the GST. Growing up in the Church of Christ, I was always told that we were striving to be like the early church. That idea is part of what encouraged me to join the Master of Arts program in Ancient and Oriental Christianity. As my new friends and I began to discuss theology, they helped me wrestle with issues that I have struggled with, not by rejecting my faith when problems arise, but by looking to the church’s tradition. My views on theology have developed in ways that I would not have expected in the short time that I have been at ACU.  Through conversations with professors and fellow students, I have come to believe that the tradition of the church is an essential part of the Christian faith.

As I reflect on my year, I am very glad that I decided to come to ACU for graduate school especially because of how I have seen myself grow in a short period of time. I encourage you to reflect on your own past year and look forward to what the rest of my time in the GST has in store. More »

August in England

by   |  09.01.11  |  Uncategorized

Dr. Jeff W. Childers, Carmichael-Walling Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity in the Graduate School of Theology at Abilene Christian University, offers some reflections on his recent research trip to England:

August in England


I can think of several good reasons to go to England in August:  For one thing, it is cooler. Whereas the high temperatures in Abilene, Texas during the first week of August were consistently around 106º, the same week in Oxford, England saw highs between about 70º–82º. The hills are green and there are trees. The culture is delightfully diverse, and the food equally so. Also, there is no better place to have a Will-and-Kate sighting than England.

But none of these things drew me to England this time. Instead, I was lured there by two of my favorite things: old libraries and ancient manuscripts. Surprising as it may seem, the U.K. is home to some of the world’s great collections of ancient Syriac manuscripts.

As you may recall, Syriac is a dialect of Aramaic, still in use today but flourishing especially in Christian communities in the Middle East during the 3rd–13th centuries. Many old Syriac texts survive and remain to be studied, but these days I am especially interested in the 5th-century Syriac translation of John Chrysostom’s Commentary on the Gospel of John. With the help of ACU and the Loeb Classical Foundation, I am preparing this lengthy text for publication and translating it into English in order to make it available to a wider readership. But that requires getting my hands on the manuscripts themselves—thereby explaining this year’s travels to St Catharine’s Monastery at Mt. Sinai, the Vatican Library, and now several libraries in the U.K.

Jeff at the British Library, London More »

Sojourn in the Eternal City

by   |  04.19.11  |  Uncategorized

Dr. Jeff W. Childers, Carmichael-Walling Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity in the Graduate School of Theology at Abilene Christian University, offers some reflections on his recent trip to the Vatican Library in Rome:

Sojourn in the Eternal City


Romipetae they called them—‘Rome-seekers:’ determined pilgrims crossing land and sea to reach the Eternal City, in hopes of receiving some benefit by visiting its holy places and communing with its sacred relics. Such a traveler was I.

Jeff in St. Peter's Square, Vatican City

In April 2011 I went to Rome, seeking the relics of John Chrysostom—but not the great preacher’s old bones, entombed in the Chapel of the Choir in St. Peter’s Basilica on Vatican Hill. Instead, I sought a different sort of relic, yards away from the Basilica. I wanted to get closer to the Golden Voice itself, by reading the words of Chrysostom preserved in ancient manuscripts housed in the Pope’s own library.

Exterior of the Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana More »

Out of Egypt

by   |  03.14.11  |  Uncategorized

Dr. Jeff W. Childers, Carmichael-Walling Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity in the Graduate School of Theology at Abilene Christian University, offers some reflections on his recent trip to Saint Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai:

Out of Egypt


For a book nerd like me, it was a dream come true. In my hands I held a volume whose well-thumbed margins had grown dark from generations of reverent use. Scattered across the table-top in front of me were numerous fragments from books that had fared less well, bearing the scars of centuries—tears, stains, and the accretion of desert soil. Some had only recently come to light; some were even awaiting identification.

After years of expectation, months of planning, and weeks of uncertainty due to the precarious political situation in Egypt, in late February 2011 I had journeyed at last to Mount Sinai, as the latest in a long stream of pilgrims searching for wisdom in ancient texts from the holy mountain.

Jeff at the summit of Jebel Musa (Mount Sinai), 2500 ft. above the monastery.

St. Catharine’s is the oldest Christian monastery in the world still in use for its initial purpose. Its library is nearly unparalleled—only the Vatican has more ancient Christian manuscripts. This remote outpost of Christian learning and desert spirituality, set in the arid climate of the Sinai wilderness, turned out to be well suited for the preservation of books written there and from other places. Bible students everywhere have heard the story of Tischendorf’s 19th-century “discovery” at St. Catharine’s of the celebrated Codex Sinaiticus, containing the oldest complete copy of the New Testament. Yet the monks of St. Catharine’s are the guardians of many other extraordinary texts as well, and it was to gain a look at some of these that my research brought me to Mount Sinai. More »