Thursday Bible Study

By Father Chris Hardman

I grew up in the Baptist Church which is about as Protestant as they come. Some Sundays you would think we were worshipping Paul rather than Jesus. Most Baptist preachers back then just loved Paul's Epistles and so most of their preaching reflected that fact.

After I graduated from college and joined the Episcopal Church, I still heard a lot about Paul. Although by this time most of it was negative. The women's liberation movement was in full swing and some of Paul's comments were condemned by some and, of course, extolled by others. It was an interesting time to say the least. The result seemed to be, at least in my circles, a marginalization of Paul's Epistles in general.

In seminary, however, I began to gain a new appreciation for Paul. I began to realize that our tendency is to read Paul from our twentieth or twenty first century perspective rather than to read him in the context of his own time. If you read Paul from a first century perspective, you can see that he is greatly influenced by Jesus and is, in fact, on the same trajectory as Jesus. Like the 16th Century Reformers discovered, Paul has much to say to us that can be quite transforming.

This fall I would like to look at Paul's theology through the lenses of his time and ours. His letters were written to specific churches that were dealing with specific problems. I think we have the same problems today, and so his letters have something very important and timely to say to us and our culture as well.

Then in January, I would like to address another idea that was much discussed in the Baptist church where I grew up, "the end of time". Beginning in the 1960's and through about 2000, I can remember at least eight specific predictions of Jesus' second coming and the end of time. I recall one in particular. The prediction was for the end to come on a Wednesday in November and about half of the school-age kids in our town stayed home that day!

Predicting Jesus' second coming and the end of time has been going on for nearly 2000 years. In 1971, it gained enormous momentum with the publishing of The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey. It is interesting to me to note that, while the world did not end in the way people thought it would, it did end. The world of the 1940's and 50's that some of us remember is no longer around. A new world has emerged. Fancy that!

My winter term, therefore, will focus on the end of time. We will use the Book of Revelation as our main text and will try to find out what the literature that speaks about the end is really saying.

Both sessions will be based in the Bible but will incorporate a multimedia approach including movies, television, books, and advertising. The fall session will begin on Thursday, September 9, and end on December 10. The winter session will begin on January 13 and end in the first week in May. I hope you will join us.