Honoring Professor Lewis Donelson
Insights The Faculty Journal of Austin Seminary
Jinkins • Muck • Campbell Moore • Straus • Bowden • Wiley • Greenway 1
The Faculty Journal of Austin Seminary Spring 2018
Editor: David White Editorial Board: Philip Helsel, Asante Todd, and Randal Whittington The Faculty of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary Margaret Aymer Whitney S. Bodman Gregory L. Cuéllar Lewis R. Donelson William Greenway David H. Jensen David W. Johnson Carolyn Browning Helsel Philip Browning Helsel Paul K. Hooker Timothy D. Lincoln
Jennifer L. Lord Blair Monie Suzie Park Cynthia L. Rigby Asante U. Todd Eric Wall Theodore J. Wardlaw David F. White Melissa Wiginton Philip Wingeier-Rayo
Insights: The Faculty Journal of Austin Seminary
is published two times each year by Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, 100 East 27th Street, Austin, TX 78705-5797. e-mail: email@example.com Web site: austinseminary.edu Entered as non-profit class bulk mail at Austin, Texas, under Permit No. 2473. POSTMASTER: Address service requested. Send to Insights, 100 East 27th Street, Austin, TX 78705-5797. © Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary Printing runs are limited. When available, additional copies may be obtained for $3 per copy. Permission to copy articles from Insights: The Faculty Journal of Austin Seminary for educational purposes may be given by the editor upon receipt of a written request. Some previous issues of Insights: The Faculty Journal of Austin Seminary, are available on microfilm through University Microfilms International, 300 North Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106 (16 mm microfilm, 105 mm microfiche, and article copies are available). Insights is indexed in Religion Index One: Periodicals, Index to Book Reviews in Religion, Religion Indexes: RIO/RIT/IBRR 1975- on CD-ROM, Religious & Theological Abstracts, url:www.rtabstracts.org & email:firstname.lastname@example.org, and the ATA Religion Database on CD-ROM, published by the American Theological Library Association, 300 S. Wacker Dr., Suite 2100, Chicago, IL 60606-6701; telephone: 312-454-5100; e-mail: email@example.com; web site: www.atla.com; ISSN 1056-0548.
COVER: “We Just Don’t Know,” acrylic on canvas (36" x 48”),2016; by Lisa Wright (www.lisawrightabstract.com) used with permission of the artist.
Theodore J. Wardlaw
Honoring Professor Lewis Donelson 4
With All Due Respect
by Michael Jinkins
The Beautiful Swoosh of a Life
Approaching the Bible with Curiosity, Humility, and Appreciation
by Cynthia Campbell
The Whole Package by Lisa Straus
“Sentences” by Anna Bowden
Mentor and Example and Friend by Shelly Wiley
Lewie Donelson: Colleague, Respected, Beloved
by Terry C. Muck
A New Way of Seeing by Joseph Moore
by William Greenway
Honoring Professor Lewis Donelson
Dr. Lewis Donelson The Ruth A. Campbell Professor of New Testament Studies, 1983–2018 THE COVER OF THIS ISSUE OF INSIGHTS is inspired by Professor Lewie Donelson’s curious approach to biblical studies. By “curious” I mean both unusual and marked by curiosity. Lewie is curious, first and foremost, about the New Testament text itself. He loves to read his worn New Testament not only in class, but out on the front porch of his home. One time I was on the same flight as Lewie, and there he was—no carry-on or bag of peanuts in sight— his text opened on the tray in front of him, his head slightly bent in study. You’d think he’d know enough about what it says, by now, to be a little less passionate, but if you tried to joke with him about that while he was reading, you’d be stopped short by the absorbed, reverent, almost enraptured look on his face. Lewie studies the New Testament from new angles, seeking to understand where it came from, what was at stake for the communities that wrote and received it, and how it might matter for us today. He is also curious about the history of interpretation surrounding the texts. He is a captivating reader of rabbinic texts on the Law, for example, which help him think about the Sermon on the Mount more in the way religious leaders of Jesus’s day may have heard it. If Lewie were to look over my shoulder and read the preceding sentence, he’d say, “Well, maybe we can learn something by reading the rabbinic texts. But we don’t really know what the people at the Sermon on the Mount would have heard.” And he would say this with a smile on his face, ready to dig back in, again, and discover something new. Lewie models something crucial to what makes us curious human beings but that sometimes seems lost in theological education: the value of skepticism. Whenever we become too definitive in our interpretations or hypotheses, Lewie is there to make sure we don’t take the lazy route of shutting down curiosity. Skepticism à la Lewie keeps us ever on the journey to knowledge of that which is beyond our understanding. He reminds us that even when we make sharp and incisive observations about the biblical witness (see black lines in cover art), these are always surrounded by hazier, cloudier colors that might, at least for now, come in and out of focus. Thank you Lewie, for insisting that “we don’t really know” in ways that keep us on the journey. See you on your porch, for continued conversation … —Professor Cynthia Rigby
his issue of Insights is dedicated to Professor Lewis R. Donelson, The Ruth A. Campbell Professor of New Testament Studies here at Austin Seminary. “Lewie,” as he is affectionately known, will retire at the end of the spring semester of 2018 after thirty-five years of teaching at the Seminary. He has been a formative and beloved figure on our faculty and is deeply appreciated by generations of colleagues, students, and fellow academics the world over. It is no surprise, then, that the faculty resolved to dedicate this particular issue as a Festschrift given in his honor. The word “festschrift” is a German word that describes a publication of essays celebrating a respected academician by that person’s closest colleagues and, often former students. So it is that the following contributions from such colleagues— present and past—as Cynthia Campbell, Bill Greenway, Michael Jinkins, and Terry Muck offer such grateful and profound tribute to Lewie and his work. Their essays are joined by additional reflections from former students Anna Bowden, Joseph Moore, Lisa Straus, and Shelly Wiley. All of these offerings give insight into the major themes of Lewie’s work, reveal affectionate glimpses into his character and biography, and recall the gentleness and whimsy at the root of who Lewie has been amongst us. I wish now to add my own voice to the catalog of appreciative voices that follow in the pages ahead. Lewie was one of the first faculty members to greet and welcome me almost sixteen years ago when I arrived on campus. Never had this seminary had as green and untested a president-elect as I. In desperate need of just about every piece of advice, encouragement, and all of the oral history not otherwise readily apparent, I would have surely been lost without Lewie and his gentle presence. His and Lin’s fabled front porch was a first stop on many an afternoon or evening when I might otherwise have drowned in any one of many piles of indecipherable academic and institutional minutia. In more ways than I can count, he showed me the way ahead; sometimes he walked that way with me. He was a colleague—I suppose my first real colleague here—and I am grateful beyond words for him. The wondrous thing I have discovered over time is that he has so led and celebrated so many, many others—here and elsewhere. It is simply his nature to be that kind of colleague. I imagine I speak for you, too, when I give thanks to God for the life of study, service, humility, churchmanship, and confident witness that illuminates our dear friend Lewis R. Donelson.
Theodore J. Wardlaw President, Austin Seminary
Honoring Professor Lewis Donelson
With All Due Respect Michael Jinkins
“... in giving his name, God also appealed to translation, not only between the tongues that had suddenly become multiple and confused, but first of his name, of the name he had proclaimed, given, and which should be translated as confusion to be understood, hence to let it be understood that it is difficult to translate and so to understand. At the moment when he imposes and opposes his law to that of the tribe, he is a petitioner for translation. He is also indebted. He has not finished pleading for the translation of his name even though he forbids it. For Babel is untranslatable. God weeps over his name. His text is the most sacred, the most poetic, the most originary, since he creates a name and gives it to himself, but he is left no less destitute in his force and even in his wealth; he pleads for a translator.” — Jacques Derrida, “Des Tours De Babel”1
Reading with Respect
y most intimidating experience of teaching in more than twenty-five years occurred in a doctor of ministry seminar at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary several years ago. It was a seminar I had co-taught many times before with several different excellent biblical colleagues. Every other time I felt competent. Not this time. This time I was co-teaching with my friend and colleague Lewie Donelson. We had planned to start the class, each of us making an oral presentation on
is president of Louisville Seminary. He is an alumnus of Austin Seminary (DMin’83) and previously served on the faculty and as academic dean (1993-2010). He is the author of thirteen books including, most recently, The Church Transforming: What’s Next for the Reformed Project? (Westminster John Knox, 2012).
Jinkins the subject of the seminar, interpreting the Bible from a pastoral perspective. He asked that I lead off. So I presented a meticulously prepared lecture on the theological interpretation of scripture in the context of pastoral ministry. Drawing on a host of scholars and writers from Francis Watson and Charles Taylor to Stanley Fish and Toni Morrison, I summarized developments in the field of hermeneutics and literary criticism from the historical critical through the post-structural, hoping to provide the pastors in our seminar with a toolbox to use in the seminar and in their ministries. The lecture was footnoted with care. As I recall, even I dozed off during its presentation. After I finished, we took a short break. Everyone shook off their slumber. And Lewie took his turn. From there on, no one slumbered, neither did they sleep. He opened his worn Nestle-Aland Greek text of the New Testament. The only “notes” he brought were in his head, the only “manuscript” was the Greek text. And he began. “I read sentences,” he said. “I read a sentence and try to understand what it means. I read a sentence. Then I read the sentence that came before. Then I read the sentence again, and I read the one that comes after. And I try to understand the sentences.” At first glance, his entire lecture was more nearly like reading Dr. Seuss than reading Levy-Strauss. But step by step he ushered us into the actual activity of reading a text with respect. Simple words conveyed the most profound realities of reader and text. He showed the class how translation brings us closer to a biblical text. And at the same time he demonstrated our alienation from the text no matter how close we try to draw. Not a word chosen was vague. The rhetoric was as clear as water. But he took us by the hand into the presence of mystery where the most capable translator feels the earth dropping out from beneath her feet. And when at last he demonstrated his meaning by reading from the text before him, he did so with such respect for the words and such respect for us that it was as though we were walking barefooted into the holy of holies. I hope I never shall forget what happened in that seminar that day. It was a master’s class in pedagogy. Rather than introducing us to a variety of different hermeneutical approaches, a dozen different scholars and literary critiques which the students would only half remember if at all, this teacher, who had studied the theoretical underpinnings of the field, digested it, integrated it into himself, and showed us what it looks like to seek the meaning. What Lewie did for me as a preacher that day was no less significant than what he taught me about teaching. I suspect that every student in the room felt something similar.
Respectful Agnosis Zen Buddhist teacher Shunryu Suzuki was fond of saying, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”2 Suzuki Roshi’s teaching reminds me of the ancient Zen story about the scholar 5
Honoring Professor c Lewis Donelson who visited a famed Zen master. The Zen master offers the scholar tea. As he pours the hot liquid from the teapot into the cup the master doesn’t stop when the cup is full. He keeps pouring and pouring. The tea overflows the cup, runs across the table and onto the floor. The startled scholar leaps up and asks the Zen master what he is doing. “You came to me with your cup already full,” answered the Zen master. “Only an empty cup can receive.” There is an art to becoming a beginner when you have been trained to be an expert. In the case of biblical translation and interpretation, there is an art to not knowing what a text says before approaching it. The beginner, naive perhaps, and untrained, is open to possibilities of understanding to which the expert, schooled in various technologies of reading, can never again gain access. What might it mean to approach a text with the openness and expectancy of a child, though you have read the text many times before? Keeping one’s reading of the biblical text fresh does not require pyrotechnics or hermeneutical gymnastics. It requires attentiveness and wonder. It requires a “beginner’s mind.” Familiarity need not breed disrespect, not if we allow the text to remain “the other,” not if we never stop resisting in ourselves the temptation to control the text, to force it to say what we require or what we assume. Because certain texts are familiar, there lies within them the potential for the greatest surprise when we hear them as beginners, unburdened by the necessity to make them fit into a pre-fabricated scheme. “Unless a person is born anew, he cannot see the reign of God” (John 3:3). What might happen if the naive reader ignores the debates about second birth, instead wondering what it means “to see” the reign of God”? “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power” (Mark 9:1). Interpreters often use this text to explore the eschatological problem faced by the early church which expected the return of Christ before the death of all the original disciples. But what happens when the reader deliberately makes herself “ignorant” of this conversation. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). This reflection on the meaning of baptism poses a number of problems for the early church no less than for us today. But what if it is not just about baptism? What wonders might it shroud? What might it require of us to approach these texts as though we do not already know what they mean? Or, better, what might it mean for us to admit that we do not know what they mean? On one level, this is difficult because we have heard them preached and have studied them for so long. But on another level, it should be easy, because we honestly do not know. There is an unbridgeable gulf of agnosis3 between us and these texts which invites humility, respect, even reverence. Many years ago, when I was a college student, I heard the British Evangelical pastor and scholar J. Sidlow Baxter unravel the mysteries of what he called the 6
Jinkins Bible’s “problem texts.” I didn’t pause to ask then why the texts were “problems.” But, in fact, the texts were “problems” because they did not neatly fit into the Evangelical worldview. I remember listening to him unravel the riddles until he was able to make these texts sit up straight and behave for him. But what if we decided there’s not a problem at all. What if we considered the otherness or even resistance of the text as a “predicament” which might entail our worldview being rethought in light of it? What might it mean to approach scripture with an openness that might allow it to challenge or refashion our assumptions, or at least to deflate our cultural, political, and intellectual hubris? There is no doubt but that we cannot simply forget our assumptions. But could we not strive to watch for them and discern them and name them as such, and then, perhaps, to keep an eye on them while we allow the text to probe us? Jacques Derrida once appeared on a panel in Toronto, Canada. The panel was sponsored by the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature. After brief remarks he invited questions. Someone in the audience asked him how it is possible that he was an “atheist” and yet that he prayed to God. His response may hold something of a lesson for us as we approach biblical texts. Derrida turned toward the person sitting beside him on the panel, and he said that he refused to say that this person sitting next to him “exists,” because to say this is to exert control over the person. It requires this person to fit into the category of “existence” as the price of being acknowledged. Better, Derrida argued, to resist categorizing the other, allowing the other freedom not to be known, not to be captured. In the short text from one of Derrida’s best known essays, “Des Tours de Babel,” which serves as an epigraph for this essay, we see the tensions between knowing and not-knowing, between the invitation to read, the (divine) command to read, and the (divine) prohibition against reading. And the key to reading lies, principally, in the fact that there is no pretense in our not knowing the meaning of the text; to seek understanding we respect the biblical text enough to allow the text its freedom to resist understanding. It makes itself known to us or leaves itself hidden under a veil. Together we hold the veil. The veil is crucial for the beginner. A child loves repeatedly to see the veil pulled back, to be surprised by the presence behind the veil again and again. Reading aright is an endless child’s game in which wonder, amazement, delight depend upon the veiled unveiling of the known-unknown.
Extending Respect The story of Derrida on the panel is especially relevant when considering how a teacher of sacred texts engages his or her students. Among the most delightful assignments many faculty members at Austin Seminary have been given over the years was to teach in the summer school for Southeast Asian pastors and laypersons. Lewie Donelson has a special gift for this teaching assignment because he is so ready to learn from the students. I recall an incident in which Lewie was teaching a biblical text about baptism. 7
Honoring Professor Lewis Donelson In the midst of studying the text, a student asked how you make sure that demons do not get into the baptismal water before you baptize someone. Lewie’s immediate response was, “I don’t know.” He then asked the student under what circumstances demons tended to get into water. The student explained that demons could not get into running water, such as in a stream or river, but could only get into still water, such as water placed in an open basin. Rather than not entertaining the question because it didn’t fit into his worldview, Lewie came alongside the student, tried to see the world with the student’s eyes, respected his reality, and thought with him. “Could a demon get into the baptismal water if you covered the basin with something?” asked Lewie. “I don’t think so,” answered the student. Together teacher and student walked step by step along a path together, the teacher more uncertain of the terrain than the student, but both open to learning because the teacher was willing to extend respect to the student. Of course, this act of respect opened the door to deeper engagements with the text, which, by the way, arose out of a cultural and historical context more like that of the student than of a post-Enlightenment Western scholar. One cannot fake respect. To pretend to take seriously the worldview of a text or a student is, one might argue, as futile as outright disrespect. What is necessary for respect to be real and to bear fruit in reading, translating, interpreting, teaching, and preaching is the genuine acknowledgement of our limitations. As in spirituality, there is an apophatic discipline that resists the idolatry of the self, in hermeneutics and pedagogy there is an apophatic posture that reinforces humility and makes for a more creative engagement with the texts and the persons who invite us into relationship. When we experience someone who exudes this respect, it has a way of humbling us. And it is well to be thankful for such teachers and friends. v NOTES 1. Jacques Derrida, Acts of Religion, Gil Anidjar, editor (New York: Routledge, 2002), 118.
2. Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, (New York: Weatherhill, 1970), 21.
3. In this context “agnosis” (derived from the Greek “gnosis,” meaning “knowledge,” thus with the negative prefix “a” meaning “not-knowing” or “unknowing”) is used to indicate that which is not and (perhaps simply) cannot be known for any number of reasons. It does not indicate opposition to the subject, just a recognition of reality. Agnosis is first-cousin to the noun agnostic, which means one who does not know something.
The Beautiful Swoosh of a Life Terry C. Muck
ewie Donelson and I were colleagues on the faculty of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary for ten years, from 1990 to 2000. It was a small faculty, fifteen or so—thus although we were in different departments, Lewie and I came to know one another well. It was a rare day that we didn’t speak, even if just a perfunctory “hello” in the hallway. In the course of a week we would work together in a faculty meeting or on a committee. We knew what each other’s current scholarly projects were; we discussed students, good and bad. We knew about each other’s families, wife and kids and visiting relatives. And we played golf together. We played golf together regularly. We tried to play once a week the year ’round, which one can do in Austin, Texas. To be sure, with our traveling schedules and unexpected meetings and looming writing deadlines and high school kids’ emergencies and summer vacations and Christmas holidays and “customer” rounds of golf with important visitors and other interruptions, we probably averaged a round of golf once every two weeks. We played whenever we could, but were realistic enough to know that “whenever we could” was subject to more important things, and cancellations and time adjustments were de rigueur. One thing we never cancelled a round of golf for, however, was bad weather. It doesn’t snow in Austin, but it occasionally freezes and the wind blows and it rains and it can be cold and miserable. And in the summer the temperature often climbs above one hundred degrees from April through September. All of these things can make playing a round of golf uncomfortable but not impossible. I don’t remember canceling very many rounds of golf. We had rain gear, and we had determination.
Terry Muck is a scholar of religion (with research interests in Theravada
Buddhism), a comparative missiologist, and a theological educator, having taught at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary (1990-2000) and Asbury Theological Seminary (2000-2012). He is the author of many books including Why Study Religion? (2016), and he is the general editor of the forty-three volume NIV Application Commentary (1990-2018).
Honoring Professor Lewis Donelson When I say that Lewie and I played golf together, I don’t mean to imply we were equals when it came to golfing ability. He was a better golfer than I. He regularly shot in the high seventies and I regularly shot in the low nineties. We played on relatively easy public courses throughout the Austin area. We kept our own score— in our heads. We might ask each other what we shot at the end of the round, but then again we might not. It didn’t seem that competition with one another was the point. Let me be more clear about that. I don’t believe I ever beat Lewie is a round of golf. No, let me be even more clear. I never beat Lewie in a round of golf—if I had, I would remember. I was asked, upon the occasion of Lewie’s retirement from teaching, to write about his scholarship. And here I am, talking about golf. It would be fair for you to ask me what golf has to do with Lewie’s scholarship. Read on.
Lewie Donelson is an Innovative Thinker Lewie is an exciting, innovative thinker. He approaches issues using the full array of human problem-solving rubrics: instinct, sensation, logic, trial and error, imagination. He uses them to address issues in his field, New Testament studies, and he uses them to address issues important to our public life together, public theology if you will. He uses them all, but I believe he especially likes imagination and innovation. In his scholarly search for truth, Lewie is like a magnet that attracts the highest quality chunks of iron ore and discards the rest—what American miners call a “high grader.” In his reading Lewie collects the best bits of data. He searches relentlessly for what will help him, and us, progress in all areas of life. One day on the golf course, a beautiful, sunny Austin day as I recall, we were sitting on a bench on the fifth hole waiting to tee off. We had gotten ourselves behind a particularly slow foursome, and we were filling the waiting time with talk. We rarely (almost never) discussed theological politics, but this especially fine day, on a whim, I asked Lewie what he thought of evangelical biblical scholars in general. “I like that they take the text so seriously,” he began, “but the main reason I don’t read them with more relish is I almost always know what they are going to say even before they say it.” Classic Donelson. It is simply impossible for Lewie to fail to acknowledge a colleague’s strengths—and in Lewie’s mind the text was sacred—and then even what might be considered a criticism is uttered with a wistful longing to know more, in this case to believe that if these scholars really wanted to say something innovative about the text they surely could. I am sure that at times (perhaps even often?) Lewis found me hopelessly conservative. Yet I never once in all our years together felt judged for that from Lewie. For him, people were a bit like his smooth, consistent golf swing. You see, there are two ways to look at a golf swing. One, as an almost infinite number of moving parts that have to be performed correctly and then coordinated with precise timing. The second way is to see the swing as a single sweeping movement, the beauty of which predicts with accuracy the straightness and distance of the ensuing shot. It may be that when it comes to the books he reads, Lewie’s analy10
Muck sis looks like the first, but when it comes to the authors (and his friends) Lewie always looks for the overall, beautiful swoosh of a person’s life.
Lewie Donelson is an Enthusiastic Reader Lewie Donelson might be the most enthusiastic reader I have ever met. He might be the best reader I have ever met. I am old enough to remember when postmodern books, indeed when the word “postmodern” was a novelty. And we were all scrambling to understand what they and it were trying to say. The word itself was clear enough in what it rejected—modernism—but it was left to the books to muddle through what, if anything, was being offered as a replacement. The books were not very clear, at least to my modernity-shaped eyes and mind. As an historian I was smart enough to begin with Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition, but frankly after that I was lost. Perplexed. Overwhelmed. And then—saved by Lewie. He was just beginning a sabbatical and the more I talked to him about his sabbatical project—I can’t for the life of me remember what it was—the more I realized that he was planning to spend some hours of every day reading. Reading postmodern books as it turned out. Not just Sartre and Derrida and Foucault. But Baudrillard and Lacan and others too recondite to mention. Lewis read them. We continued to play golf. I’m not saying that every round turned into a book report. But it was clear he was excited by what he was reading. And I listened. It was Emerson, I believe, who cautioned us against letting someone else’s reading substitute for our own: “Avoid all second-hand borrowing books. … Burn them. … No one can select the beautiful passages of another for you. … Do your own quarrying.” So I wanted to be careful about relying too much on Lewie. But I mean, really. This was just too good to be true. Here was a God-sent reading angel sent to help me understand. So I took advantage of it, you betcha. Lewis read, I listened. And as a result I began to read postmodern books with more than a beginner’s facility.
Lewie Donelson is a Faculty Builder Lewie wasn’t just a good faculty member, he was a faculty builder. I believe one of the most often overlooked features of scholarship is the role that colleagues, good friends, companions, and community have on the quality of the work we all do. Experts in our respective field are necessary, to be sure. But so are people like Lewie, who want to talk to us just because. I remember a time early in our friendship when Lewie and his wife, Lin, bought a new house close to the Austin Seminary campus. “It must be nice,” I said when he told me the news, “to be able to walk to campus instead of driving.” “Yes, that’s a nice feature,” he replied. “But to tell the truth the real reason I love the house is because of the porch.” “The porch?” “Yes, it has a huge wrap-around front porch where I can sit with colleagues and drink beer, and we can talk and watch the world walk by.” 11
Honoring Professor Lewis Donelson I spent a few late afternoons with Lewie doing just that. And so did many of our colleagues. I can think of so many reasons Lewie was such a pleasure to be with, both at work and play. For example, his voice is not what you would call a dominant voice in faculty meeting deliberations, but it is a voice that we all want to listen to. Further, to whatever extent faculty relationships run the gamut from competition to cooperation, one will always find Lewie on the cooperation end of the spectrum. And he is so positive—as near as I can tell, there are not many things Lewie Donelson dislikes, but one of those few things for sure was seeing someone being treated unjustly. Finally, Lewie’s impressive academic pedigree satisfies the material requirements for being a scholarly role model for younger faculty; his even more impressive personhood makes younger scholars want to be like him. *** Early in my career I was job hunting. It so happened that I was offered two jobs. Both good ones—in my areas of interest, challenging, room for growth, well paid. I could see myself being quite happy doing the work at either place. As I was trying to decide between the two, a friend offered me some advice: “Think of yourself at each place. Imagine how it would feel to get up in the morning and go to work with the particular people at each job. And thinking of those people, choose the job that would create in you the most excitement about going to work.” For decades prospective faculty have deliberated about whether or not to take a faculty position at Austin Seminary. And for decades those prospective faculty were influenced in their choices by their meetings with Dr. Lewis Donelson. I know I was. And once we made our decisions to come to Austin, Professor Donelson was front and center in welcoming us and teaching us the unspoken lore of a new faculty culture. That was true for me. And for all of us, as we worked on year after year in this magical place, we found in Lewie a lifelong friend. v
Coming in the Fall 2018 issue:
Professor Phil Helsel on Pastoral Care amid Disaster
Approaching the Bible with Curiosity, Humility, and Appreciation Cynthia M. Campbell
reachers who do not consult biblical scholars are like the blind guides about whom Jesus warned (see Matthew 15:14). Trying to preach without their work is to miss out on at least half the fun of preaching. Preaching is, at its best, a conversation with multiple partners. The preacher is in conversation with the text and (hopefully) the Holy Spirit, as she attempts to hear what God is saying. Another conversation partner is the congregation in which the preacher finds himself. Because the preacher wants the congregation to be reflecting on its ministry in the time and place where it is located, the broader culture is yet another partner to the preaching conversation. One might be tempted to think that this is enough, since it would seem to fulfill the notion that the preacher should approach her task with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. But if one neglects to consult biblical scholars, the preacher bypasses a rich and rewarding source for new insights and for questions one may never have thought to ask. One of the reasons I returned to pastoral ministry nearly seven years ago was to get back into regular conversation with those whose ministry is the careful study of the Hebrew and Greek scriptures, and I would be lost without them. Lewie Donelson is one of the conversation partners I have cherished for many years. Since the time we spent together as colleagues and teaching partners at Austin Seminary, I have learned much from Lewie about the New Testament. But what I cherish most is what he has taught me by example about how to approach the work that we both love. Lewieâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s strengths as a scholar and a teacher are many, but these are three things I believe that I have learned from working with him and reading his work. He has taught me to approach biblical texts with curiosity, with humility, and with appreciation.
Cynthia Campbell is pastor of Highland Presbyterian Church in Louis-
ville, Kentucky. She served on the faculty of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary (1981-1988). The first woman to head a Presbyterian church of over 1000 members, she served First Presbyterian Church of Salina, Kansas, until being called as president of McCormick Seminary in 1995. Her most recent book is Godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Abundant Table (2011).
Honoring Professor Lewis Donelson Approaching the Text with Curiosity Another one of my former teaching colleagues would often begin her classes: “Have you had a good question today?” Professor of Religious Education Elizabeth Caldwell wanted students to learn the art of curiosity and to approach each subject and every class with questions. This is the first step as one approaches a biblical text: what does the text say? The question seems obvious, but every preacher faces the temptation to settle for the first answer that presents itself without going deeper. This is particularly true for texts that are very familiar: we all know what the parable of the Good Samaritan means, so it’s very tempting to cut to the chase (“be like the Samaritan”) and avoid further exploration into the text. It’s also true with the major festivals of the Christian year. How many ways can you preach Easter or Christmas? How often does the preacher just look for a better illustration rather than digging deeper into the text itself? John Calvin advocated that the “plain reading” of the biblical text was the best way to discern its meaning (as opposed to looking for allegorical or “hidden” meanings). But he was also a pioneer in going deeper into the text. Calvin was a careful student of both Hebrew and Greek. He knew Greek and Roman philosophy as well as the writings of early church theologians. He was particularly interested in how New Testament words were used in other contexts as ways to illuminate what a text says. Another set of questions center on how a text is used in the context of the work in which it appears. One of the most helpful things scholars have done in recent years is remind us that the Bible is the work of human authors who have points of view and theological ideas to advance. We have learned to look at the structure of gospels as a whole, as well as the genre of a particular text. We have come to pay attention to how the New Testament authors make use of the Hebrew scriptures and are reminded again that it is impossible to appreciate the fullness of the gospel without the story of God and God’s people Israel. More recently, scholars have taught us how to ask questions about the broader social worlds in which the Bible was written and edited. The life and ministry of Jesus and the writings of the New Testament are all shaped by the context of Roman imperial power. When scholars remind us that inscriptions on coins called the Roman emperor the “son of God” or “divine son,” this helps us see that the confession that Jesus is the true Son of God is not just an act of faith; it is also an act of resistance against the powers and pretentions of the world. All of these insights and more come to light when we approach the Bible with an attitude of curiosity and a commitment to ask as many questions as we can.
Approaching the Text with Humility The second thing I have learned from Lewie Donelson is the importance of humility as a reader and interpreter of text. This is something that was especially on display in the classroom. Lewie never came into the conversation as the only authority but as one among many voices whose wisdom we would seek together. It is true as well in
Campbell his writing. In one of his commentaries on the Pastoral Epistles, Lewie describes the commentary as a conversation with the biblical text in which his first goal is to let the text speak for itself. But then he goes on to invite us (the readers) in: “I have also tried to point to some possibilities of how we in our day might participate in this conversation. Nevertheless, these remarks about our situation and what the text says to us can be no more than initial and incomplete pointers…. Thus I must invite each reader to continue the conversation of which this study is but a beginning.”1 Such humility creates an environment of learning in which all voices are welcome and wisdom is expected to emerge. It is also an appropriate stance for both scholars and preachers to adopt in light of the explosion of voices that have joined the conversation over the past forty years. When I was in seminary in the early 1970s, there were virtually no women or persons of color as faculty in theological schools outside of the historically black theological seminaries. A few years later, when I wrote a monograph on feminist theology, I could honestly say that I had read every woman writing in the field. In the decades since, the range of women and men writing in the fields of biblical studies and theology has exploded. Now we hear “the voices of people long silenced,” and all of us are the richer for it. The biblical conversation today invites all of us to reflect on our own “social location” and the ways in which our reading of texts and expressions of faith are shaped by race, gender, ethnicity, and class. It also invites us to recognize how much our own understanding of the text is enhanced when we hear the insights of persons who social locations are very different from our own. Our faith is deepened as well as we receive the insights of faithful readers from other places, times, and conditions. One of the voices that has become increasingly meaningful to me is the work of New Testament scholars who are Jewish. Professor Amy-Jill Levine of Vanderbilt University is one of the best known but by no means the only such scholar. The goal of her work is to provide insight from both Hebrew Bible and rabbinic sources so as to shed light on the writings of the New Testament. As one of the co-editors of The Jewish Annotated New Testament, Levine and her colleagues seek to show both Christian and Jewish readers how similar many parts of the New Testament are to contemporary Jewish writings of the same period. In this way, Levine and others hope to provide context for various passages and in so doing call into question the anti-Judaism and negative stereotypes that have endured for centuries. The world of biblical scholarship is full of voices who approach text from a wide range of disciplines and who represent varied points of view. It is not always easy to listen to such voices when they present conclusions that are unsettling and unfamiliar or when they seek to deconstruct the text in such a way that it becomes essentially useless to the life of faith. What scholars like Lewie Donelson do is to assist readers in sorting through these voices, understand the arguments, and discern how these views illumine biblical texts for the life of faith. All of this, however, demands an attitude of humility, and the recognition that our own is not the only view that has merit. Only those who are genuinely open to other readings of texts will, in the end, be drawn more deeply into them. 15
Honoring Professor Lewis Donelson Approaching the Text with Appreciation Finally, Lewie Donelson’s teaching and scholarship demonstrate the great virtue of appreciation. He enters the world of biblical texts assuming that they have a message and meaning for the life of faith today. His is not the work of a disinterested observer or a curator of ancient documents. He comes to the writings of the New Testament with the intention of discovering what the “word” is that the text itself is trying to say. I think what Lewie wants to show us is how to appreciate a text on its own terms and then to be open to receiving the insights of a text for our own life of faith in the world today. This is particularly challenging for one whose field of study is works in the New Testament, which many find difficult or even repellent in the modern context. Lewie’s area of scholarship is the deutero-Pauline and Pastoral Epistles. Many, myself included, find much of this material off-putting. To be sure, there are glorious passages that continue to shape and inspire our faith. Colossians gives us the soaring text about Christ as the “firstborn of all creation,” the one in whom “the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,” the one who reconciles “all things … by making peace through the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:15, 19, and 20). But this letter also includes an exhortation to “Christian” life that appears to simply reinforce the hierarchical social structures of the culture in which it was written rather than reflecting the liberating power of the gospel. Whereas Paul writes to the Galatians that in Christ (that is, among the baptized) “there is no Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28), the author of Colossians is firm in painting a picture of subordination. “Wives, be subject to your husbands…. Children, obey your parents in everything … Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything” (Col. 3:18, 20 and 22). These texts have been (and are still today) used to justify much evil in family life and in society. The approach that Lewie takes with texts like these (and others) is to try and let the text speak for itself: that is, to look for the underlying logic or rationale that stands behind such specific ethical teachings. Rather than taking them at face value as prescriptions for modern society or dismissing them as morally defective, Lewie wants first of all to appreciate the text and the author’s argument. First, he points out the measure of reciprocity that the author envisions (the husband/father/master is enjoined with a mutual responsibility toward the subordinate in each case). Second, he makes the case that this author’s intent is not social transformation. Rather, he exhorts believers to live out Christian virtues in whatever social structures they find themselves, recognizing that all of these structures are to be replaced by an imminent fulfillment of Christ’s promise to return and renew the whole creation.2 Many of us who read these texts feel strongly the call to transform society: to confront unjust structures, to protest against them, and to mend what is broken. Fortunately, there are many biblical texts that give us grounds for doing just that. Our conviction about this approach is based (at least in part) on our social location in a society where challenging the social structures is possible and has a long 16
Campbell history of working. But what if that is not where the believers find themselves? Is it possible that, under some circumstances, the weight of a societyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s laws and customs are such that all Christians can do is witness by living out the love of God and neighbor (and oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s enemies) even in the midst of an oppressive social system? Does the logic of the author of Colossians have something to suggest under those conditions? Those are questions that can be debated if one enters the text with appreciation and with anticipation that one will find a word for faithful living. The task of preaching is both hard work and deeply joyful. It is made all the richer when one engages the many conversation partners who have given their professional lives and ministerial service to the sustained study of biblical texts. While we may not always agree either with approach or outcome, our reflection will always be enriched when we widen the circle of our study and prayer. I am deeply grateful for what I have learned from Lewie Donelson and hope that there is even more to come. v NOTES 1. Lewis R. Donelson, Colossians, Ephesians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996), 2-3.
2. Donelson, 48-52.
Honoring Professor Lewis Donelson
A New Way of Seeing Joseph Moore
met Lewie for the first time over fifteen years ago at an Austin Seminary Discovery Weekend. The prospective students and their partners had gathered in the dining hall for a dinner with the faculty. President Wardlaw introduced each faculty member and they were asked to answer some sort of silly question. Lewie stood up and participated…sort of. I don’t remember what he said, and he certainly didn’t answer Ted’s question. But he was funny in his own unique self-deprecating way. It was obvious that the faculty admired him. The thing I remember most from that evening was the way Lewie handled his glasses. One minute they would hang around his neck, the next they would find themselves on the bridge of his nose, and then just as quickly the whole apparatus would be used as a magic wand or conductor’s baton. Maybe both. During orientation I found myself sitting in a class room in McMillan. During that first week we were required to sit in on a number of lectures taught by various professors. In the case of Lewie’s lecture: the importance of using gender-neutral language when we talk about the Divine. It could have been a contentious moment. While I’m sure there were students who disagreed with him, the overall spirit of the lecture was a holy mix of levity and seriousness. Lewie had a way of talking about important things like how we speak about God with a sense of play-fullness and openness that strengthened the argument he was making. And once again, the thing I recall most clearly is the distinctive way he used those eye glasses. In my years at the seminary I had the privilege of taking several elective classes taught by Lewie. He would usually show up to class with nothing more than his well worn Greek New Testament, a few questions for the class, and his glasses. An hour and a half later we would leave with some new insight, a new question, a new way of seeing. He had a way of asking a question that would blow up common understandings and the usual way of seeing things, and then having rocked our theologi-
Joseph Moore (MDiv’09) currently serves Buckhorn Presbyterian Church in Masonville, Colorado. Prior to moving with his family to the mountains of Northern Colorado he served as pastor at Central Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas. He is convinced that Lin Team and Lewis Donelson have one of the greatest front porches in the entire world.
Reminiscences cal worlds, his glasses would drop and hang around his neck and he would say, “or maybe not.” He taught a generation of ministers to consider the importance of seeing the other. The words of Emmanuel Levinas routinely found their way into his lectures. He taught us that we know ourselves and God, only when we know and see one another. Whether it was in a class on the Sermon on the Mount, Law and Grace, or Baby Greek, Lewie pointed us toward God, by showing us what it looked like to truly see one another. In my first call I had the privilege of serving as Lewie’s pastor. On more than one occasion I’m certain he could have taken issue when, in a sermon, he heard me say the words, “in the Greek this really means …” He could have, but he didn’t. Instead he invited a young pastor over to drink beer on his and Lin’s glorious front porch to talk about life. He didn’t have to, but he did. For years he faithfully taught a lectionary class at Central Presbyterian Church. I recall one year during Advent we convinced him to teach a class on “Jesus as Messiah.” He filled up the fellowship hall for all four weeks that year. He was as at home in a diverse and gritty church Sunday school class as he was lecturing at an academic convocation. It was a gift to see firsthand what it looked like for someone to be both a scholar and pastor. His gifts to Central and the broader church cannot be overstated. I’m still not sure what the deal is with his glasses. But I do know how grateful I am for the ways in which he taught me how to see God and other people in new and deeper ways. His playfulness, wisdom, and deep love of scripture and people are hallmarks of his service to the academy and the church. I join others in gratitude for the ways in which he uses all of his gifts, including those glasses, in service to the world. v
Honoring Professor Lewis Donelson
The Whole Package Lisa Straus
have been a classroom student for twenty-five plus years throughout my noncontiguous academic career. During that time, I have experienced all sorts of pedagogy. I have encountered professors who were experts in their fields of study and thereby passed on their sense of passion and commitment to their students. I have encountered professors who were deeply committed to the art of teaching, constantly assessing their methods and tools in an attempt to more fully explain material to students. I have encountered professors who have a deep, abiding commitment to the lives of their students and to reaching their hearts, minds, and souls. In twenty-five plus years of academic study, I have encountered only one professor who embodied with distinction all three of these qualities—the Reverend Dr. Lewis Donelson, the Ruth A. Campbell Professor of New Testament Studies, or Lewie to most people he meets. Lewie loves Greek. He loves everything about it: the syntactical nuances; the grammatical vagaries; and, at the end of the day, he loves the vocabulary. “It all comes down to whether you know the meaning of the words,” he would often say to students. “And sometimes, we just don’t know what a word means.” He loved how each author, whether it was the Apostle Paul or the historian Josephus, had a unique linguistic style that you would have to master before successfully reading the work. Recently, we met over breakfast and I had the good fortune to hear him describe his recent reading of Homer’s The Iliad. With passion that many would restrict to the vista at the peak of a mountain or the precision of the stringed instruments in a piece by Mozart, Lewie spoke of the beauty and the structure of the phrases in The Iliad; how, once you got used to the many different words for weapons, armor, and shields, there was unparalleled beauty in the syntax. Lewie loves teaching. I had the blessing of being chosen twice to be Lewie’s teaching assistant for Elementary New Testament Greek. After a particularly challenging lesson on Greek participles, at a point in the course when the students are exhausted and feel they can’t possibly learn one thing more, we throw participles
Lisa Straus (MDiv’10) was a Jean Brown Fellow at Austin Presbyterian
Theological Seminary and recipient of the David L. Stitt Fellowship. She graduated from Boston University in 2011 with a master in theological studies degree in New Testament and Hebrew Scriptures. Straus is currently serving as the associate pastor of Westlake United Methodist Church in Austin, Texas.
at them. While I only saw the typical amount of confusion, Lewie bemoaned the fact that he felt he had not reached everyone. He regretted that we, as TAs, would have to bear the brunt of trying to re-explain what he, in his own opinion, had not covered well enough. All the while, he was trying to come up with ways he could have done it better and pondering how he would do it differently the next time he taught the course. Teaching for Lewie is an art. One that constantly demands that he become the learner, the one practicing, improving, and seeking a new and better way. Lewie loves students. On a cold night in February in 2016, I sat in the living room of Lewieâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s home as a Discovery Weekend participant. I listened, intrigued by his description of the Austin Seminary community and how the students have a unique sense of mutual support and uplifting that mirrors the koinonia of the Early Church. I do not have words for the way he expressed his respect and admiration for these strangers who gather for a few years and form bonds that last a lifetime. His deep, abiding passion for seminary students was one of the reasons I applied and matriculated the following September. Lastly, while not essential to his professorship, I would be remiss in not mentioning that Lewie loves Turkey. He loves journeying with students through the ancient ruins. He loves witnessing as they walk the streets of Ephesus, marveling that Paul walked these very paths. Most of all, he loves introducing students to the beauty and kindness of the people of Turkey. Let me end with this. While the Austin Seminary community may be saying farewell to a professor who has influenced the lives and careers of so many, it is also saying, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Well done, Good and faithful one!â&#x20AC;? to the scholar, teacher, and friend that so many of us have come to know and love. v
Honoring Professor Lewis Donelson
“Sentences” Anna M.V. Bowden
or Lewie Donelson, education is an excuse to play with sentences, and Lewie loves to play with sentences, especially Greek ones. Lewie has spent his life in the sentences of the Bible, and it is his goal in the classroom to get students to spend time in the sentences, too, a sentiment underscored in his oft-repeated phrase, “The real purpose in reading the Bible is reading the Bible.” Lewie’s love of reading the text fosters a playground for biblical interpretation. In his classroom students are encouraged to explore the sentences by asking questions such as, “What if we read it this way? or “What happens if we assume this?” The sentences, then, become more than locations for biblical exegesis, they become places for exploring new possibilities, sites for stretching one’s interpretive muscles, and sometimes even spaces for running around in theological circles. At the heart of Lewie’s pedagogical philosophy lies a simple truth: theological education is not transferred in the provision of answers; it is fostered in the reading of sacred sentences. Sentences, for Lewie, are more than words on a page; they are voices—voices of the past, voices of the present, and even voices of the future. In this sense, the sentences of the Bible are only a starting point, for sentences carry little meaning if they are experienced apart from community. Reading sacred sentences requires more than reading the words of ancient texts. Reading requires there to be sentences crafted about sentences and those sentences need to be met with other sentences. Interpretive value, then, is not found in the number of sentences read or the expertise of the author, but in the compilation of voices, in the togetherness of sentences. That is what reading sentences is for Lewie. It is a way to peer into one another’s lives—ancient lives, our own lives, and the lives of one another. It connects us with the larger Christian community, and for Lewie, it is the heart of theological education. Many of Lewie’s students have chuckled at his ability to end an answer to a question with the phrase, “but we don’t really know.” His comfort with ambigu-
Anna Bowden (MDiv’12), graduated from Austin Presbyterian Theologi-
cal Seminary with a master of divinity degree, winning the Alsup-Frierson Fellowship, and from Brite Divinity School in 2013 with a master of theology degree in Hebrew Bible. She is currently a PhD candidate in New Testament at Brite Divinity School and teaches in an adjunct capacity at Austin Seminary.
Reminiscences ity in the text is testament to the fact that certainty of meaning has never been his hope for spending time within the sentences of scripture. For Lewie, reading sacred sentences is about sharing sentences with one another, for in our shared stories about scripture all our sentences become sacred. The togetherness generated by sharing sentences has also been for Lewie a way to span the difficult moments in lifeâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the moments when there simply are no good sentences. Sometimes, Lewie admits, our sentences fail us. Sometimes, there is nothing to be said, nothing to hear, and nothing worth reading. In these moments we hold on to the togetherness of the sentences we have shared in the past and the promise of sentences we will share in the future. Even when sentences seem to fail us, it is our sentences that bind us together. In Lewieâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s classroom, students gather around sentences. They gather around sentences of scripture; they gather around sentences about scripture; and, they gather around and exchange sentences concerning scripture. They read sentences. They create sentences. They deconstruct sentences. This is theological education. You see, for Lewie, theological education is not about lectures and grades, it is about the sentences we share. v
Honoring Professor Lewis Donelson
Mentor and Example and Friend Shelley Wiley
he fall of 1982. So many things come to mind, chief among them the question of what this woman who had just received a college degree in chemistry was doing at Austin Seminary. On the one hand, I felt that I had a calling to be there. On the other hand, I was a budding scientist, not at all clear that I could write a paper using proper English. I was also a little leery of all the Bible classes I would need to take, afraid of the original languages, afraid that literalism would rear its ugly head, and yet intrigued by a past line of pastors who had been good interpreters. Enter Lewie Donelson. I was not immediately in a class of his, yet when he arrived on the faculty many of us got to know him. In Lewie we met someone with deep intellect who was also approachable. He was funny. In a Bible and theology class later on, I learned how the depth of scripture study can inform our theological views, how we can take our life experiences back to scripture afresh, and how this process is an ongoing conversation. That conversation is probably the one “classroom” experience involving Lewie that has helped me the most when serving people in churches around the country, people who also have been confused about how to let scripture guide them without becoming fundamentalist—learning to move back-and-forth between the first century, other centuries, and contemporary cultures without fear. There is more. I got to watch Lewis fall in love with Lin Team—what fun that was. Whether reflecting with him around campus with other students, or enjoying “Friday Afternoon Fun Club” at Trudy’s, Lewie’s ability to simply let faith and scripture live within him became a profound teacher to so many of us, whether we realized it or not. Eventually Lin and Lewie became almost family to me, and that is part of what Lewie gave to students. He gave himself—his real self with laughter and insight and joking and compassion and intellect and faith all rolled up so tightly that we didn’t realize what a “whole package” we were getting. He truly mentored us, not simply in New Testament, but in how to become pastors, and in
(MDiv’85) currently serves as stated supply for Honey Creek Presbyterian Church in Ohio. Following graduation from Austin Seminary, she earned the PhD in Contemporary Religious Thought and Culture from Northwestern University in 1993. She has taught religious studies and philosophy at the university level and done pastoral work in five congregations.
Reminiscences how to become people. His legacy is what our world so desperately needs right now: an example of how to be Godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s wonderful creatures, of how to be. v
Lin and Lewie Donelson, right, and scene from a January term trip to Turkey in 2016; photos by Janine Zabriskie and Tyler Henderson.
Honoring Professor Lewis Donelson
Lewie Donelson: Colleague, Respected, Beloved William Greenway
n 1983, after illustrious years at Choate, Duke University, Louisville Theological Seminary, The University of Chicago, and in pastoral ministry, Lewis Donelson joined the Austin Seminary faculty. When I arrived in 1998, Lewie was a full professor known for integrating Jacques Derrida’s work into New Testament studies. In preparation for co-teaching with Lewie that year, I worriedly read all Derrida’s major works. My fears were misplaced, for despite his seniority, Lewie was not only knowledgeable and incisive, but open, inquisitive, respectful, and kind—the wonderful person and teacher that I, together with many other faculty colleagues, so admire. Stephen Breck Reid, now professor of Christian scriptures at Baylor University, says, “When you watch a fast-moving sporting event, a set of gimbals provides stability for the camera. Lewie is unflappable, a gimbal in the topsy-turvy world of biblical studies. He has a sense of balance. He enjoys thinking from multiple viewpoints. He helps communities think about pros, then cons, then semi pros. He brought this calming influence to discussions in biblical studies, and to Austin Seminary.” Cynthia Rigby, The W.C. Brown Professor of Theology at Austin Seminary, remembers sitting with Lewie in his kitchen: “He and I were talking, and the phone rang. It was Sarah [Lewie’s then-teenage daughter], calling down from the upper story of their house, ordering cinnamon toast for breakfast. Lewie made the toast and brought it up to her, and was vulnerable to her, and to her vulnerability to him, and to life, and to the beauty of life in this world—he didn’t care about the absurdity of it. He didn’t care at all.”
is professor of philosophical theology at Austin Seminary who focuses upon contemporary conversations among theology and philosophy and church and society. His books include For the Love of All Creatures: The Story of Grace in Genesis (Eerdmans), A Reasonable Belief: Why God and Faith Make Sense (Westminster John Knox), and The Challenge of Evil: Grace and the Problem of Suffering (Westminster John Knox).
Greenway Cindy also recalls a syllabus consultant asking Lewie about the aim of his Galatians course: “I’d say,” Lewie replied (trying his best to get the answer right), “to read Galatians.” “No, no,” said the consultant. “That’s what you’re doing. What is the purpose of the class?” “We all watched,” Cindy says, “as Lewie geared up for another try. He thought a few minutes. Then he said, ‘to read Galatians well.’” Ralph Underwood, professor emeritus of pastoral care, says, “Lewie Donelson does not just talk about irony—he embodies it. His irony is spiced with subtle humor and generous kindness. Once he exaggerated how fair I was as a leader. To underscore his theme, he compared me to a colleague. While he declared our colleague not always fair, he wrapped his comment with such gracious compliments for that colleague that we both came off with equally high praise. In contrast, Lewie never drew attention to himself or his achievements, which were outstanding.” Ellen Babinsky, professor emerita of church history, remembers many happy years co-teaching The Early Church and Roman Society with Lewie. Most of the class, Ellen remembers, was spent reading ancient texts, with “professors and students thinking together about the readings along with the historical circumstances.” These were simultaneously spontaneous and learned times of reflection. “If I had tried to teach the course alone, it would not have been nearly so good,” Ellen says. “I learned so much from teaching with Lewie. … I’m forever grateful.” Suzie Park, associate professor of Old Testament, says her favorite “Lewie moment” was, grabbing a beer after interviewing numerous applicants for a position in New Testament. She remembers, “Lewie bemoaned we could hire only one applicant, though every candidate was talented and smart. He wished he could hire them all!” Suzie says, “This conversation epitomizes Lewie: his generosity, his graciousness, his love of his field, and his unrelenting support for younger scholars. I am so thankful to have served and worked with Lewie.” Gene March (MDiv’60), now A.B. Rhodes Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Louisville Seminary, remembers afternoons on Lewie’s front porch, cold beer in hand, “discussing anything from the current Greek classic he was reading to the wondrous politics of Texas. … Lewie’s grasp of Greek literature—canonical and non-canonical—and his never-ending curiosity about what makes life what it is, continues to impress me,” Gene says. “Through personal trauma and national turmoil, Lewie maintains an equilibrium that keeps him strong, an example and support to those around him.” Dave Jensen, The Clarence N. and Betty B. Frierson Distinguished Chair of Reformed Theology and Austin Seminary’s academic dean, remembers how, when he first arrived in Austin in 2001, Lewie welcomed him with conversation, humor, and golf. “Once a month for years we would grab the first tee time of the day. Lewie would pick me up at my house while it was still dark, and we would drive to a municipal course. We would always walk the eighteen holes. ‘Next month,’ we’d joke, ‘let’s get the tee time during faculty meeting!’ He continued, “Lewie is a very good golfer. One day he was chipping unbelievably well. He holed in at least two shots 27
Honoring Professor Lewis Donelson and several times left the ball inches shy of the cup. After holing in yet another shot, Lewie quipped, ‘I think I’m the best chipper in the world!’ And so,” Dave says, “my most vivid memory of Lewie is that on one October day in 2003, he really was the best chipper in the world.” Margaret Aymer, The First Presbyterian Church, Shreveport, D. Thomason Professor of New Testament Studies, remembers Lewie’s introduction to her Jones Lecture at the 2013 Austin Seminary Midwinters: “Lewie left all formalities aside and summarized my presentation, ending with the words ‘and I believe her.’ His skepticism of formality, his collegiality, his sense of wonder that remains even after decades of teaching, and his frank honesty: these mark Lewie as a scholar, a teacher, a colleague, and a friend. He is also,” Margaret continues, “a mentor and advocate who supports and cheers on junior colleagues with genuine admiration for each one’s unique talents and abilities. … I will miss his presence, his humor, his wisdom, and his unfailing support. Believe me.” Finally, Scott Black Johnston, a former colleague on the faculty and now senior pastor of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, remembers how students’ faith would begin to change and grow in Lewie’s Introduction to New Testament course. “This can be a difficult journey,” Scott says. “Because of this, more than one student called Lewie ‘The Anti-Christ.’” Scott delighted in Lewie’s response: “Well, if that is the case, we are all going to be ok, because I’m not such a bad guy!” More seriously, Scott echoes a great host of colleagues and students when he says he “learned more about the New Testament listening to Lewis tease texts into life than I have from any other professor or scholar. I also learned a whole lot in those classrooms about grace, humility, and how to be a decent human being— more than I can almost bear to admit.” v
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