This is kind of a long post. It's mostly from Craig Keener, a New Testament scholar. He is one of the humblest scholars I have ever engaged in conversation, going back to my time in Africa. Some side notes: Keener is originally from Massillon, Ohio; ordained in an African American denomination; and married to a fellow PhD from Congo. This is their story.
Here, in his commentary on 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, the NT reading for Sunday, he tells a bit of his path toward the Gospel. This story might be especially helpful for my students in Missional Church class that are wrestling with some of these same themes as they finish their senior year at MVNU. I thought you'd enjoy it, too.
Some background--The apostle Paul wrote that the believers in the Cross would be scandalous ("stumbling block") and just plain foolish in the view of this world's onlookers (verse 23). The following passage is from 1-2 Corinthians, Brazos Theological Commentary, 2005, 32-33):
“Paul offers an uncomfortable example for scholars and preachers alike, not by offering a cheap anti-intellectualism but by demanding that we evaluate our own intellectual milieu critically in light of the cross. Sometimes graduate students are too beholden to ‘scholarly consensus,’ but reading the major scholarly works (e.g. on Jesus scholarship) chronologically from the nineteenth to the present generally cures that tendency. Recognizing that scholarly consensus reversed itself on some major points every decade or two (although British scholarship, for example, seems less given to extremes than my North American setting) invites us to evaluate arguments for positions rather than simply parroting them.
“I was an atheist before my conversion to Christianity, partly out of intellectual fashion and partly out of revulsion for the allegedly Christian culture I observed. I rejected the shallow, unexamined faith of much of Western Christendom [p33] because it seemed to me that even the Christians did not believe it. How could anyone genuinely believe they served their creator, yet fail to devote their entire life and property to their ‘lord’? But I also recognized that my finite intellect could not grasp a perfect deity, and in the end it was not Christendom but Christ that won me. After my conversion I discovered the difference between nominal and genuine commitment to Christ, and my conversion involved embracing the very shame against which I had once revolted: I was no longer intellectually fashionable. Once the cross had crucified my respectability, however, I was free to pursue unfettered what I believed to be truth."
Keener concludes, “Some are of Aquinas; others of Cranmer; other of Luther; still others of Wesley, Calvin and so forth; but Christ must matter to Christians more than the teachers from whom we learned him, no matter how esteemed.”