What a joy it was for me recently to find a message by Dr. John (Jack) Crabtree detailing his underlying biblical beliefs. What a great opportunity to engage this friend of many years in a comparison of our two sets of views about God and the Bible, and perhaps one day to develop an open, continuing dialog.
What's so helpful about dialog? Like sitting down with a loved one to examine a home's finances, it can be hard to make space for and to get to. But the hope is that two or more people going over the messy details of budgeting, spread across the table for all to see, will bring to light several aspects of financial reality and dispel misunderstandings about the same between them. My hope is this can be true (seeing as I've seen it happen in the past) among friends in the household of belief about God.
In order to make clearer the reason I was glad to discover Jack's message, let me give you some background.
In 1999 I was attending a nondenominational evangelical church. One day someone from church handed me an article, Appeal for Radical Biblicism, by a man named Jack Crabtree from Gutenberg College. The paper dealt with Bible translation issues, but its main point was a challenge for Christians.
Jack was appealing to believers in God to become less reliant on their own assumptions about what the Bible says and to diligently seek to know what the Bible really says--what the original authors intended it to say.
I read and reread Jack's Appeal. I showed it to my husband, Tim, and to friends and family. I was amazed to have discovered a local academic author who made such statements as, "The radical biblicist is never fully content with the present level of his understanding. He is always keenly aware that his current beliefs may need correction." I wanted to follow this sort of thinking about the Bible.
Soon Tim and I switched churches. Our shared hunger for depth of study and a life involving the search for God's truth brought us to Reformation Fellowship, the faith community where Jack Crabtree taught alongside a few other tutors from Gutenberg. We began an eleven-year adventure in intellectual, academic inquiry that I treasure to this day.
I would still be studying with Jack and his associates, except that in early 2011 my life changed. Through my family's involvement with Gutenberg, I gained the insight that I needed to seriously consider the claims of a Christian group I knew very little about--the Orthodox. This recognition came as quite a shock. And yet it has led me on a serious, educational journey into Orthodox Christianity, the most amazing part of my faith adventure so far.
I'm not the only one who might say this. I know nine people besides myself who were involved to some degree with Reformation Fellowship/Gutenberg before taking a serious look at, and then joining, the Orthodox Church. Of these, four (including my daughter) are Gutenberg graduates, one is a current senior, one a current freshman, two more attended for at least a year, and the other is Tim.
Despite the interest of many students and friends of Gutenberg, I am unaware of any discussion, or even critique, of Orthodox Christian views within the broader community. Some of Jack Crabtree's articles, including a talk he gave to one of Gutenberg's graduating classes, seem to hint that he is disturbed by the Orthodox trend.
Since becoming Orthodox I have met twice with Jack, on friendly terms, to try and discuss what happened in my case. It's been difficult to express the changes in my understanding, not through any fault of Jack's, but because of my own faulty communication skills. The best I could do, last time we met, was to tell Jack I now think he has holes in his paradigm. This was my way of saying I think he, the radical biblicist par excellence, holds current beliefs that may need correction. At the same time, I recognize my own current, continuing need for correction in my understanding of the Bible and the faith which was given to mankind by Jesus. I'm not seeking to correct Jack, any more than he is or has ever sought to make me believe any certain way.
But I'm a believer in serious discussion and dialog among Christians, especially those who've shared numerous conversations over the years as part of their search for truth. I wish to examine Jack's 2014 paper, The Two Most Important Things I Have Learned, from the viewpoint of a radical biblicist, as well as from the understanding informed by my study of and immersion in Orthodox Christianity. In fact, I see no difference in the essence of these two viewpoints. Both are getting at the same thing: the process of coming to worship and know God in truth.
My task will take time and no doubt several (if not a whole lot of) blog posts, as I explore Jack's article start to finish. I invite any and all readers to respond to what I say. Especially if you are or have been from the Gutenberg College/Reformation Fellowship community, I welcome your questions, comments, and critiques.
Now available: Part 2.