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Doctoral Students Investigated the Clarity of Scripture through Lectures Presented by Dr. Stephen Holmes

December 26, 2017
Rev. Dr. Stephen Holmes, a Baptist minister and Senior Lecturer in Historical and Systematic Theology at St. Andrew’s University in Scotland, UK, was the guest lecturer for the Frank and Pauline Patterson Fall Colloquy held on November 13-14 at the Carroll Center.

The Carroll Hub staff always looks forward to having the doctoral students gather from far and near for their seminar wrap-ups and previews. Students have the opportunity to meet with their doctoral supervisors, discuss their progress in their respective disciplines of study, and receive guidance in research and writing. In addition to the seminars and sessions with a guest speaker, they enjoy fellowship with other students, faculty and the Hub administrative staff.

Carroll doctoral students and faculty shared some of their impressions on the colloquy and Dr. Holmes’ lectures. Sharon Gresham is in the dissertation stage of her doctoral studies. She commented the following about the Colloquy:

Ever since the first colloquy that I attended, I have been very impressed with the quality of instruction and professionalism of the speakers. From that time, I have looked forward to every colloquy in the Fall and in the Spring. This year’s theme, “REFORMATION 500 – God and His Word: Confessing with Clarity,” by Dr. Stephen Holmes did not disappoint. His three sessions on, “Clarity as We Confess Our Theology,” “Clarity as We Work as Scholars,” and “Clarity as We Practice Ministry,” offered orthodoxy and praxis. Additionally, each session gave the recipients practical advice on living and sharing the Scriptures. Of particular importance to me was the discussion of how to bring academic studies into ministry and encourage dialogue, since all of us in community are scholars. Dr. Holmes’s expertise demonstrated not only his knowledge, but his passion for our sharing how the Scriptures can be clear to us and to those whom we teach.

A first-year doctoral student studying in the area of Christian Heritage, Doug Hibbard, shared his impressions about the colloquy and the sessions with Dr.

As a first-year doctoral student, colloquy was breath of fresh air. Rather than being at home staring at my computer, I was able to share coffee with fellow students. We were able to talk about our different study emphases and also had the time to interact about more than just the business of research, classes, and work. Knowing that every one of us is striving to keep vibrant family relationships, worship the Lord, serve His church, make a living, AND complete an intense degree program, was a wonderful encouragement. Entering each session worshiping together brought a unity, a reminder of the One we serve together through scholarship.

Dr. Holmes’ sessions were illuminating. First, as a Christian Heritage student, I was glad to see a historian for my first colloquy. It showed that there is a future in this line of research. The content was engaging. His presentation of the doctrine of the clarity of Scripture shed light on some of the problems we see in our churches, as too often Bible understanding is left for “experts” whereas the Spirit speaks to God’s people through His word, and we need to remember that. The recent focus on the Reformation had kept Sola Scriptura fresh on my mind, but being challenged by the fact that this doctrine existed prior to the Reformation, and that Luther’s claim that Scripture was clear, even more than the opinion that Scripture was the authority, did shake my thoughts. As Dr. Holmes pointed out, though, this idea of the clarity of Scripture was a valuable reminder that the wise, experienced church member is as great a resource to the local church as the book-learned expert. Even though I’m the book-learned expert, there is a certain relief in having a doctrinal view that the church is not solely dependent on me. 

Ultimately, his affirmation of our dependence on the Spirit of God to illuminate Scripture was a powerful reminder to me. I need to emphasize that dependence on the Spirit as I preach and teach within the church.

Nick Acker has been in the doctoral program for two years and is concentrating his studies on the Old Testament. He expressed his ideas regarding Dr. Holmes’ presentations:

Actually, while I thoroughly enjoyed the entire discussion on the clarity of Scripture, my favorite thing Dr. Holmes said was something he commented in passing. He essentially said, “There are some in our churches who do not have the questions that haunt us scholars, and they are content to live and serve without investigating such questions. But for those of us of weaker faith, we cannot help but to entertain such questions.” It was that phrase, “those of us of weaker faith,” that planted within me a new aspect of a healthy perspective on my scholarly pursuits. I think that many – both scholars and “those with greater faith” – often see the scholarly pursuit as higher in the hierarchy of Christian service. It is good to remember that we may actually be less in the Kingdom of heaven for the lack of child-like faith and trust, but we can still trust that God will use our small service as scholars to minister to others who, like us, have such faith problems – and perhaps, by His grace, we can even minister to our brothers and sisters of greater faith.

Dr. Joe Cathey joined Carroll’s staff this past summer as a Fellow in Scripture and Witness. This was his first colloquy at Carroll, and he conveyed his thoughts about the experience:

The quality and scope of the Frank and Pauline Patterson Colloquy was simply amazing. Dr. Holmes delivered thoughtful, challenging, and yet engaging lectures. Seeing the fruits of the Reformation with such adroit clarity and elucidation was quite refreshing. Personally, the most engaging lecture was “Clarity as We Work as Scholars.” In this lecture, Dr. Holmes issued a clarion call to fully engage the text, theology, and proclamation in a sense of worship. I found the lecture series to be wonderfully engaged in the latest academic scholarship but grounded in orthodox praxis – beneficial to students and faculty alike. 

Carroll Institute is grateful for the generous contribution of Dr. Burton and Ginger Patterson in setting up the Frank and Pauline Patterson Endowed Colloquy Fund that provides ongoing financial support for Carroll’s doctoral colloquies. Endowments such as this ensure that Carroll doctoral students will have the full experience of scholarly academic studies. To learn how you can “Gift It Forward” and support Carroll Institute’s mission of equipping missional leaders by providing scholarships for doctoral students as well as domestic and global master’s level students, click here.