Friday, October 3, 2008

Fridays with Craig Keener ... Part Eight

This is the final installment of an eight-part interview with Dr. Craig Keener, Professor of New Testament at Palmer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania.

Besides being a highly-regarded New Testament exegete, in his book Gift & Giver, Craig says, "I have been miraculously healed, experienced supernatural gifts such as prophecy, followed the Spirit's leading in witnessing, and had deep experiences in the Spirit during prayer (including, regularly, prayer in tongues)."

His personal website can be accessed here. His Palmer Theological Seminary faculty page can be seen here.

Craig's cooperation in the interview was, and is, deeply appreciated.

JR: Go ahead and tell us about George Ladd's influence on you. I know the readers will be fascinated.

KEENER: Thanks for asking me that question that I sort of hinted that you should ask me (smile). The eschatology issue that attracted me to Gordon also attracted me to George Ladd, and a bit earlier. From another part of my testimony, you may rightly gather that I was initially suspicious of scholars, my freshman year in Bible college. Yet I noticed that it was scholars (rather, a particular group of them) who were pointing out the same things I saw in Scripture itself, in contrast to their critics. Thus I decided that perhaps scholarship might also be a good thing. I had also felt led to take Greek and Hebrew starting my freshman year, though I had not yet seen the connection with scholarship.

There were a few other evangelical scholars talked about at our school, such as F. F. Bruce and I. Howard Marshall. But George Ladd's books were widely available at that time, and I devoured them. I never met him, but I later heard descriptions of him from those who knew him. One told me how he (Ladd) grieved whenever he heard what he felt was bad exegesis. I can identify with that! It sounds to me like he faced so much criticism, saying things that contradicted both secular scholarship and popular evangelical ideas, that he was personally wounded, though he kept saying what he believed was right. I believe that God really raised him up, and he could not have known the wide impact he has had on scholarship of all stripes, including even in circles once dominated by his critics. When the criticisms come hard, I need to remember his example; it is not about popularity, but about faithfulness to God's call and the foundations that lays for the future.

One of those foundations was obvious in his work on the kingdom: Jesus not only proclaimed God's reign; He demonstrated it by healing the sick and casting out demons. Now I don't know where he stood personally on expecting such signs today, but his theology does not easily fit cessationism. One of our professors, who was pretribulational and I think not happy that so many of us liked Ladd, pointed out that he had been at Harvard with Ladd decades earlier and Ladd was anti-Pentecostal. I don't know if this professor had had some unexpected influence on Ladd, or if it was simply his exegesis or something else, but Ladd's published work on the kingdom puts signs and wonders in their biblical place so well that his work was not at all anti-Pentecostal.

If the kingdom is already/not yet, and the kingdom is demonstrated by healings and exorcisms in the Gospels and Acts, and if you do not hold to a dispensational schema, then the kingdom should be demonstrated in healings and exorcisms today as well. John Wimber, provoked by reports of what was happening in evangelism in other parts of the world, agreed with Ladd's theology and simply started putting it into practice, as a practitioner. This in turn shaped both the early Vineyard movement and, if I'm not mistaken, the New Wine renewal within the British Anglican church. It offers one of the sound, biblical models for Pentecostal/charismatic experience and theology today, keeping us centered on Christ and the kingdom. As a good biblical scholar, Ladd gave us important foundations. He took a lot of criticism and did not live to see all the fruit of his ministry, but God used him greatly. When discouragement with my task overwhelms me, Ladd's example (and that of other early evangelical scholars who pioneered the way for us today) encourages me as a biblical scholar to stay faithful to Scripture and not be moved (or at least try not to be).

JR: Thanks for your time, Craig.


Celucien L. Joseph said...

We also appreciate the concluding interview with Dr. Keener. We look forward for more interaction with Dr. Davids.


Jon Rising said...

Thanks, for your support, Celucien.

Both interviews are concluded now. I sure appreciated both of these charismatic scholars giving us a window into their life.

I don't know where the blog is headed now. I have resisted blogging about politics; there are so many words out there, I suppose my time would be better spent reading and praying.

Thanks again.

Mark H said...

thanks for these interviews, really fascinating. I haven't read any books or commentaries by Keener yet, but I definitely want to check him out now.

Jon Rising said...

Thanks for reading, Mark.

I am sure you will get great benefit from Keener's commentaries on Matthew and John.

To learn more about Dr. Keener and his walk with the Lord, try his, "Gift & Giver".