The Return of The Prodigal Professor
We’ve all heard the parable of the prodigal son in chapter 15 of Luke’s gospel. In fact, the parable of the prodigal son is probably one of the most preached passages in scripture. If you’ve been in a church at any point during your life, chances are good you’ve heard a pastor preach on the prodigal son who wasted his inheritance in a faraway land and returned to his father repentant and sorrowful. If you’ve been in church a lot, chances are good you’ve heard this parable a lot. Maybe you’re sick of hearing this story, and I get that.
The prodigal son, repentant and sorrowful.
But maybe, just maybe, we need a new way of telling this parable. After all, who can deny that the time is right for a new take on old things?
The time is right.
But this is not one of those times.
In fact, this blog post has nothing to do with the prodigal son. It’s actually about my much more boring journey from the practice of law as a young attorney in South Florida to Knox Theological Seminary for the Master of Divinity degree then on to Edinburgh, Scotland, for a PhD and then straight back to Knox again. I just liked the title with “prodigal” in it because I thought it was snappy and attention-grabbing to the world wide Internet and all the people Googling “how to get my pastor to stop preaching on the prodigal son.” Of course, there are some similarities in my journey and the prodigal son’s. For example, in both our cases there were many tears shed over lost money. Not lost the same way the prodigal lost his money, but still very lost. In both our cases there were musty husks contemplated to avoid starvation. Mind you: contemplated not actually eaten. And in both our cases there were innumerable mistakes made. Although, unlike the prodigal, none of my mistakes were legally actionable — just want to make that clear in case there are any lawyers reading this! But now, looking back on the last five years as a student at Knox, as a PhD student in Edinburgh, Scotland, and most recently as a newly-minted assistant professor at Knox, I can only feel gratitude for the place that Knox has held in my life over the years. From the first conversation with Knox’s admissions department, I knew this would be the place for me. It has been. It continues to be. Here’s why:
Knox trains its students for Christian ministry in the modern world by equipping them to take the scriptures and the texts in the Christian classical tradition seriously. In my own experience, Knox’s theological training gave me the tools to take the scriptures seriously, to study God’s Word carefully myself, and to teach others in the Church and the academy who want to learn more about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Not only that, but through the classes offered in the Christian and Classical Studies program, Knox also trained me to read Plato. Go figure. Where else are you going to find that?
Of course, it hasn’t all been fun and games. I left the practice of law to begin seminary classes at Knox the same week that my wife and I found out we were expecting our first child. (As you can imagine, a lot of people thought that was a really good idea.) I then studied at Knox for two years while developing the skills necessary for PhD work and for ministry. During that time, amidst many difficulties, Knox consistently provided encouragement and support to me and to my family. I always had someone sending me an uplifting email or calling me with encouragement for my academic dreams. And now, after three years away in Scotland undertaking doctoral work on St. Augustine at the University of Edinburgh, I have returned to Knox to lead Knox’s Master of Arts in Christian and Classical Studies. Much to my disappointment, there was no giant fatted calf waiting for me on a spit in the Knox parking lot. That said, the BBQ in South Florida is much better than I remembered.
John Knox, the famous Protestant Reformer that Knox Theological Seminary is named for and whose statue stands in the courtyard of the divinity school at the University of Edinburgh where I got my PhD.
And Knox is still the same place I remembered: a wonderful community of students and scholars studying God’s Word and the classics of the classical Christian tradition. A place where you will fall more and more in love with the scriptures and also, perhaps, learn how to read some Plato. So join us here at Knox and make all your wildest dreams come true. I promise they will, so long as your wildest dreams include a healthy smattering of Christian service and the careful study of old texts. Mine always do. I’d love to tell you more, but I’ve got to go. The fatted calf beckons and it smells like South Florida BBQ.