Maybe it’s not about me after all…

I’ve never been coy about the fact that I’m looking for academic work. Through the blog, the podcast, publications and public speaking I’m trying to raise my profile in the hopes that all these things will help me to make that contact, get the right person to notice, land that job, get that title, improve finances, and set me off on a rewarding career. Of course I wouldn’t shun any of those things. I’m not stupid. But I’m not just an academic and a Christian. I’m a Christian academic. That doesn’t mean that the only subjects that interest me are overtly about God (although given that my subjects of interest are philosophy and theology that is certainly a common theme in the subjects that do interest me). It means that I do academia as a Christian. My goals and my attitudes need to be continually shaped into goals and attitudes that are not just compatible with a Christian outlook, but which are an integral part of it.

One of the things that this means is that it’s not about me. What if I could pass on knowledge, stimulate interest in the greatest questions life offers, questions about right and wrong or what’s really real, challenge people to engage the world in a more reflective and just way, present a Christian worldview as credible to critically minded people, address objections to the Christian faith, and achieve all the ends that I set out to achieve that benefit other people without benefiting myself in terms of my profile, job, status, position in life or financial well-being? Would it be worth it? Would I still do it? Facing real world concerns, frustrations, disappointments, disenchantments and ambitions, it has often been easy for me to lose sight of the right answer to that question. Of course it would be worth it, and I’ve got to work on not measuring the worth of an endeavour in terms of me. It’s not about me – it was never supposed to be. Think about all those goals: passing on, stimulating, challenging, presenting, addressing. Those goals are all about doing things for others, getting a job done. If I can speak in terms of having a “calling,” those things (as far as I can tell) are my calling. Crazy though it might sound to people who don’t share my most fundamental beliefs about things, I actually believe that when I do those things I am serving God as he wants me to serve him.

The Apostle Paul became the most influential theologian in the history of the Christian faith without being employed to do it. Although he was grateful for the support he received (e.g. Philippians 4:10-20), he even made a point of the fact that he was willing to work to earn his keep as well as serve the church in ministry (2 Thessalonians 3:6-9). It’s a fine line sometimes – teaching in the humanities really is the career I want so why shouldn’t I promote myself as much as possible and shape all my efforts around reaching this goal? That’s not a “ministry,” that’s a career. But at the same time there are much bigger goals that matter more – maybe I should care more about what I do as a vocational matter for the good that comes simply from serving. Right now I’m preparing a short course on apologetics for church audiences here in Dunedin (I don’t know yet what the uptake will be like). What’s in it career or status wise for me? Nothing. But this sort of thing is actually why I wanted to do theology and philosophy in the first place. In this case, I want to equip Christians to think about what they believe, whether it’s credible, why it should be believed, and how to address challenges to it. Maybe this sort of thing is what I’m “meant to do,” so that it never becomes about status, career, money etc. Maybe there’s some way for me to end up doing that sort of thing full-time – although I don’t really see how at the moment. Who knows?

I know, I have traits that make all this hard to appreciate this sometimes. I have a photo of myself with flames in the background at the top of the page. I make heavy metal music for my podcast, which is named after a famous line in a crime movie. I make wise cracks about people who I think have stupid arguments. It might sure look to some people like it’s all about me sometimes! I can’t help my personality. No matter what I was doing, I would do it like this. But like John the Baptist said, “He must increase, I must decrease.”

It’s a tough nut to crack. I guess I’m forced to grapple with it in ways that some aren’t, given the wide gulf between my passion and my actual lot in life; having to explain why “I don’t really care anyway if I’m not successful in the eyes of the world.” Maybe this is my way of rationalising failure! But I hope it’s more than that. I’d like to think that this is part of the process through which God is showing me that it’s really not about me.

Glenn Peoples

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16 thoughts on “Maybe it’s not about me after all…

  1. I count what you put here as among the few most valuable ways in which I spend the limited time that I have available. It’s always worth it. Keep it up.

    If you were doing it full time, the potential for getting more of your ‘take’ out into the wider academic arena in a shorter time is greatly increased, and that is always going to be a Good Thing for everyone, even those who don’t agree (because at the very least they will have to at grapple with what they do believe). To have people parroting unjustified dogma is just annoying and usually embarrassing.

    Juggling family, work/hobby, and an I-need-this-to-get-me-by-day-job just isn’t fun when done long term, so if that’s how you’re feeling, I can empathise.

  2. “I make heavy metal music for my podcast”
    Wait, you make the heavy metal music yourself? Seriously, do you have an album for sale? Is it on amazon?

  3. “to equip Christians to think about what they believe, whether it’s credible, why it should be believed, and how to address challenges to it.”

    You’re already doing it here on this blog and podcast! Its been a tremendous help to me, and I’m sure to others. You might not even realize the impact you’ve already had, as there might be many others who have benefited as I have but who have not had the chutzpa to chime in with comments.

    I’d like to see you do more with the “Nuts and Bolts,” explaining the clear thinking principles of philosophy as they relate to apologetics for people like myself who want to sharpen these skills but who have no training in philosophy and no time to pursue it at an academic level. Kind of like a “Great Courses” idea (do they sell those in NZ?) but more specifically to evangelical audiences.

  4. I’ve been talking to some guys in Ak who do video production, and trying to get them to use Glenn and Matthew Flannagan to do a form of “bibledex” – but more in depth and more along the lines of biblical/theological/christian philosophy subjects…

    Or alternatively doing a sort of question and answer thing, but along the same lines, and getting a few different peoples views on the same subject (including atheist/etc).

    The problem is getting all the people together, and getting the buy in. Even working for a Christian Media organisation its hard. Probably if I was “talent” and not just the tech guy it might be easier to sell it. Maybe I should withhold favours?

    What I really want to do is something abit like Brad Meltzer’s Decoded, but “decode” the basics of the faith and philosophy – and have some funky animated CGI background like Meltzer does 😛

  5. Basil: Well, that’d be nice if I had the means to both make the move and to support myself and my family while I looked around for a job.

    But this post really isn’t about my impatience or frustration. It’s about me needing to be flexible with my willingness to construe what I “should” be doing, and that actually being hired and paid really may not be required for me to do those things.

  6. Hi Glenn,

    I’ve been following your blog and podcasts for a couple of months now, and I’ve found them both profoundly insightful and genuinely engaging. Although I don’t necessarily agree with everything you say (ie Annihilationism) but you’ve given me heaps to think about both theologically and philosophically.

    I think you’ve done considerably well in discussions on “Unbelievable” with atheist philosophers and probably given more thought out and logical arguments for your POV than they have.

    I guess all I’d like to say is thanks heaps and please keep putting out great material! I always remind myself that if we pray for success or deliverence from a particularly dark point in time that it’s “not my will, but yours be done (Lk 22:42).”

  7. that website – I did always wonder if it was “theme music” or “The me music”. I think my question is now answered.

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