The Man in Black

One of the highlights of the Pepperdine Lectures each year is getting to hear Dr. Randy Harris, a professor at Abilene University. Randy is a bit hard to explain. He is single, usually dresses all in black, and is the foremost theologian in our movement. And he is one of the funniest guys you’ll ever hear. His new book is entitled God Work: Confessions of a Stand-up Theologian. And Harris knows how to combine the two (humor and scholarship) in a way I’ve never heard before. You are laughing all the way through his presentation, and then realize you have learned some things that are important. It is not often that the smartest guy in the room is also the funniest, but that is the case in most rooms that Harris occupies.

To give you an idea of how Harris teaches, notice few quotes from his new book. OK, my copy is on order (we were so focused on not giving AirTran another $25 for a second bag that we were packed tight in one suitcase and didn’t have room to buy books; I had to make space to bring back the Hallal and Zoe CD’s we bought), so I borrowed these excerpts come from Mike Cope’s blog--

  • “My friend Augustine died in 430 (most of my friends have been dead for several hundred years; I’ve found that makes the friendship much easier).”

  • “Here’s the theme of the book of Revelation: God’s team wins. Pick a team. Don’t be stupid.”

  • “My friends refer to me as the Dead Sea of e-mail. I receive and I receive but I do not give.”

  • “I’m not a Calvinist. I do not think that everything happens in the world directly because God has caused it or desired it. I’m tempted to suggest that that makes God a monster. Nor am I a deist. I’m not one of those who think God wound up the world and hasn’t done much of anything since the closing of the last book of the Bible. What I am instead is a panentheist, which is one who believes that in all things God is working — in death as well as life, in sickness as well as health, in disaster as well as rescue.”

  • “Loyalty to country, loyalty to family, loyalty to friends — all of those strike me as commendable things. The problem is when patriotism becomes nationalism. Now this is a different matter. Nationalism is always evil because it is idolatry. It is the point where we confuse the nation with God, where our primary loyalties become aimed at the nation instead of God. This is always bad news. And nationalism is often lurking just under the surface of much of what we do.”

Harris’ class this year was entitled “My Favorite Atheists: Conversing with the Enemy” and he did three presentations on what we can learn from Feuerbach, Sartre and Nietzche. It was very interesting. I remember reading these guys (when forced to in school) and I don’t remember it being particularly interesting. Perhaps I didn't read closely enough... but I passed the quiz.