The college students have hit the middle of the semester. Mid-term exams are in full swing, so now is the perfect time to talk about those term papers that aren’t due until the end of the semester. Here are my 9 tips for writing a term paper.
1. Start Now. True there are still 6 weeks left in the semester, but leaving papers to the last minute is a very bad idea. At the very least, choose a paper topic.
2. Writing a good paper takes more than a weekend. A good rule of thumb: the number of pages the assignment, the number of days required to write it. So, if your professor wants a five page paper, then budget at least five days to write it. If your professor wants a ten page paper, then budget at least ten days to write it.
3. Run your paper topic by your professor. By doing this the professor can tell you if you’re on the right track, and may even be able to point you to research materials you hadn’t considered.
4. Have someone else edit your paper. This is not cheating. Having a friend or fellow student edit your paper is the smart thing to do. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be edited by a person who knows the topic. Even just having someone edit your paper for grammar and spelling will go a long way to improving your grade.
5. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. If there is a point or a sentence that is unclear in your paper and you brush it off saying, “It’s okay my professor will know what I mean”, then that’s a definite sign you need to rewrite the sentence to make it clearer.
6. Step away from your paper for a few days. After you’ve written your first draft, put the paper away for a few days and go work on something else, or even just go and have a nap. Very often, “brilliant” ideas you had in the caffeine-induced haze of writing the paper turn out to be only “mediocre” or “down right terrible” ideas once your head has cleared. Of course, this requires that you write your paper well in advance of the due date (see points 1 and 2).
7. Follow the instructions in the syllabus. The syllabus should be your “bible” for your entire semester. It contains instructions and tips and tools for writing your paper, so don’t ignore it. If the professor writes in the syllabus that she wants you to use Turabian style for your references, don’t just go ahead and use APA style because you like it better. Likewise, if the professor says he wants a ten page paper, don’t hand in a six page paper and think that that will be close enough.
8. Don’t fudge the margins, line-spacing or font size. The professor can always tell. You’re not fooling anybody.
9. Pay attention to the comments that the professor writes on your paper. Don’t just turn to the last page and look at the grade. The professor has invested time and energy to actively engage your paper, and those comments will help you in writing your next term paper.
Roger Olson talks about why Scripture is God’s word and the hot topic of inerrancy. Mike Bird points us to a panel discussion on inerrancy that occurred at SBTS, and Peter Enns provides his analysis and evaluation of the discussion. Rachel Held Evans on what we should do when our interpretations differ. Mark Noll considers the impact of 500 years of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.
Carmen talks about wrestling with the tough questions about the Bible, including God’s command to slaughter the Canaanites. She refers us to Chris Wright’s book “The God I Don’t Understand” as a helpful resource.
Patristics and the Early Church:
RJS looks at the Early Church Fathers’ interpretations of Genesis 1, and then she continues her look at the Patristics and how they understood Scripture, arguing that whether it’s understood allegorically or historically, the focus is always on Christ. Here’s a link to John Walton’s lecture on reading Genesis through ancient eyes. Rod looks at Clement of Alexandria’s influence on the Cappadocian Fathers. Kevin looks at Monophysite and Nestorian Theology.
Gender, Marriage, Sex etc:
Jake Meador on why C.S. Lewis was wrong about Christian marriage. Kyndall Rae Renfro writes about feminism, Christian feminism and what the “f” word means. Mary Kassian looks at complementarian sex. Pope Benedict canonized seven saints on October 21st, four of whom were women: Marianne Cope, Kateri Tekakwitha, Carmen Salles y Barangueras and Anna Schaffer. Kait Dugan talks about why she still reads what complementarians have to say about gender roles even though she disagrees with their positions, including how Barth (a complementarian) helped her become a Christian feminist.
Rachel Held Evans’ book on Biblical Womanhood was released this month. I haven’t catalogued all of the reviews (there are just too many), but here are some highlights:
Catechism, Creeds, and Christian Doctrine for the Church:
Ken Schenck is doing a series looking at the differences between the Roman Catholic Catechism and Wesleyan theology. Tim Keller talks about the desperate need for catchesis in the 21st century church, and provides an introduction to the catechism at New City Church. Roger Olson recommends some books about the creeds and confessions of the church. October 11th marked the 50th anniversary of Vatican II.
Jesus Christ For Today’s World is based off of a series of lectures delivered by Jürgen Moltmann, forming a succinct, lay-level overview of Moltmann’s Christology. Each of the eight chapters attempt to answer the key question, “who is Christ for us today?” Each chapter is divided into three sections: first, Moltmann looks at the biblical texts that relate to the topic at hand, then he provides some theological reflection, and lastly he offers some practical guidelines for Christian praxis (he calls this methodology “see-judge-act”). For Moltmann, theology (in this case, Christology) is intricately connected with Christian practice because “what we know and what we do belong together.” He also notes that Christology is deeply personal, and cannot be spoken of in generalities, and so introduces the book telling a little bit about context of his life, and of how he came to know Christ, through his experience of being held prisoner in a Nazi internment camp during World War II.
In chapter one, Moltmann looks at the Kingdom of God and argues that Jesus is the Kingdom of God in person. Chapter two is an examination of the passion of Christ, with an emphasis on the suffering of Christ, and the suffering of God, asking the following questions: why was Christ abandoned on the cross? Why did God suffer with Christ? Can God suffer? Chapter three looks at the idea of Christ being forsaken, what forsakenness means, and the anxiety that it causes. Chapter four is an examination of humanity’s motives for using torture as a means of punishment, and how Christ’s endurance of torture makes him both a brother with those who are tortured, and the judge of those who torture others. Chapter five looks at the resurrection of Christ as the foundation for all hope. In chapter six, Moltmann considers the cosmic implications of Christ’s death and resurrection, arguing that a cosmic Christology must replace the more historical Christology for which modern theologians have advocated. Chapter seven looks at the implications of Christology for Jewish-Christian dialogue. Where Christology has mainly been anti-Jewish, it is now time to consider Jewish perspectives in our understanding of who Christ is. In chapter eight, Moltmann emphasizes the eschatological nature of his theology of hope, and suggests ways to both evangelize and invite humanity to participate in God’s future.
There are a few questions that are raised by Moltmann’s ideas. First, he argues that Jesus learns about the kingdom of God as he experienced it, and discovers God’s kingdom at work in the lives of the poor. Indeed, Moltmann goes as far as to say that “the poor show him [Jesus] God’s kingdom.” These observations are made in the biblical text portion of his argument, but does the biblical text actually demonstrate that Jesus is learning about God’s kingdom in a progressive fashion? While Moltmann is correct that there are times when Jesus is unable to perform miracles (e.g., healing) because of the crowds’ lack of faith, this does not necessarily mean that Jesus is dependent on the world for knowing what God’s kingdom is. This emphasis on learning and discovering demonstrates that Moltmann is one of the influences on, and dialogue partners with, Open Theism and Process Theology.
A second question that is raised is whether Moltmann fails to distinguish between the persons of the Trinity. As he discusses the suffering of Christ, he says that God also suffers when Christ suffers. And, while he does suggest that there are two different kinds of suffering occurring, namely that Christ suffers death on the cross while God the father suffers the death of Jesus , he repeatedly states that God “was in Christ” to the point that God himself becomes the “victim among victims.” Moltmann is correct to reject the doctrine of impassibility, and to advocate that love and the openness to hurt and change are tied together, the question of to what extent this occurs is still left open. Indeed, it appears that Moltmann is suggesting that the death of Christ on the cross affected not only humanity, but also God himself. The question that would need to be explored through a more thorough reading of Moltmann’s works is: does his embrace of perichoresis put an imbalanced emphasis on the immanence of God, and is there any room for transcendence in his theology of God?
Moltmann’s emphasis on the suffering of Christ, that Jesus is our brother in suffering, who sides with the poor and the oppressed, has a Liberation Theology bent to it. But, in contrast to James Cone, for example, Moltmann argues that Christ’s identification with the poor and the oppressed means salvation for the oppressors as well, because it offers liberation from self-complacency. Given his personal and historical context of being a concentration camp survivor, and given that it was the suffering Christ that gave him hope, it is understandable that Moltmann emphasizes the suffering of Jesus. The question, though, becomes: does Moltmann adequately balance the suffering and death of Christ with the resurrection hope? In this particular work, it would appear that the emphasis is on the suffering, torture and anxiety of Christ, and perhaps that imbalance is due to the brevity of this particular work.
There are several times when Moltmann makes a statement that he does not then flesh out and examine, and the reader is left to try to interpret the statement with no clarifications. Part of this may be due to the nature of the volume, based largely off of lectures and designed for a general audience, but it may also be the result of translation issues. For example, the statement, “the possession of wealth makes the have-nots poor, and the possession of the good makes the bad people bad” is awkward and unclear. Is this the result of a poor translation from the German, or is it indeed an under-developed thought?
While Jesus Christ for Today’s World serves as a general-level introduction to Moltmann’s theological thought, the format of this work could lead lay readers (or Bible college students) to misunderstand and misrepresent Moltmann’s Christology. On the other hand, the vagueness of Moltmann’s ideas and assertions in this lecture format without footnotes and other references is not solely related to that. Indeed, it is entirely possible that the questions that are raised from reading this book are not actually addressed satisfactorily in his larger, more academic volumes on the topic. What this book succeeds at is being an example of a Christology that is too contextualized. It is entirely dependent on Moltmann’s experiences and culture. The question will be: what impact will his Christology have in other contexts? Will Moltmann’s Christology stand the test of time, transcending cultures and contexts, and provide a valuable tool for the Church to continue to ask, “Who is Jesus Christ?”
The program for the ETS annual meeting has arrived. It was like Christmas as I scanned each page trying decide which presentations to put on my list. Of course, I circled more presentations than I’m actually able to go to, but that’s half the fun! It never fails that there is more than one paper that I’ve circled that occurs in the exact same time slot. Oh how to choose?
Interestingly, there are several presentations on Karl Barth this year, including an entire session of papers devoted to introducing Barth to evangelicals. The problem is that this session of 4 papers on Barth and evangelicals (including a paper by fellow blogger Marc Cortez) is at the exact same time as the panel discussion with N.T. Wright! GAWWWWWWW!
The other Barth presentations that are scattered throughout the rest of the conference include a paper on Barth and Natural Theology, Barth and John Owen on the Forgiveness of Sins, and a cryptically-title paper, “Is it Possible and Desirable for Theologians to Speculate after Barth?”
Also of interest, are several presentations on Henri de Lubac, and an entire session devoted to discussing the legacy of Catherine Clark Kroeger, who passed away last year.
Of course, I’ll have to take in the papers by Francis Beckwith, J. Daniel Hays, and Gene Haas. And there are several Patristic-related papers that look fascinating.
And then, at the back of the program are full page ads by the major publishing houses listing all the new titles that will be available at the conference. I’ve circled and starred so many interesting books! It’s a good thing that they will ship books ordered at ETS, otherwise my luggage would be seriously over the weight limit for the flight home.
My flight is booked, my hotel accommodations have been arranged, and my tentative list of what presentations I’ll attend has been started. I can’t wait for November!
One of my favourite things about seminary is being able to hear about what the professors are currently researching. At Briercrest, there are monthly/bi-monthly colloquia, where faculty present their latest paper, research, or test out material for presenting at academic conferences. On Friday, Dr. Eric Ortlund, professor of Old Testament presented on “The Identity of Leviathan and the Meaning of the Book of Job.” The tech people recorded the colloquium and it’s now available for those who weren’t able to attend. (Let’s hope they video all the colloquia this year!)
In September, Luther College at the University of Regina hosted its annual Luther Lecture. This year’s speaker was Michael Ingham, Anglican Bishop from the Diocese of New Westminster in B.C. You can read about my thoughts on the lecture here. Luther College has uploaded video of the lecture. I have embedded it below, but if you’re having trouble seeing it you can go directly to the college’s website to view it.
“It turns out I suddenly find myself needing to know the plural of apocalypse.” ~ Riley, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
It’s interesting how often the shows I watch deal with the theme of apocalypse. Maybe I have some sort of fascination with the utter destruction of humanity, but that’s beside the point. The theme of apocalypse is a powerful tool for storytelling.
The Whedonverse is, of course, obsessed with the apocalypse. Whether it’s Buffy and the hellmouth, Angel taking on Wolfram & Hart, Echo dealing with a post-apocalyptic world brought about by the Rossum corporation, or Cabin in the Woods ending with an ancient god rising after the annual sacrifice failed, the end of the world is pretty much nigh in Joss Whedon’s world. (Even when Joss goes mainstream, like with The Avengers, the apocalypse is right there).
But it’s not just the Whedonverse that is apocalypse-heavy. Look at Doctor Who. How many times in the seven short years of this new series has the Doctor and his companions worked to avert the end of time? At least once a season, but often more, especially during the David Tennant years.
All of this has got me thinking about how the nature of humanity informs and influences the nature of the apocalypses presented.
1) It’s not humanity’s fault. In this case, the apocalypse is brought about by outside forces, be it aliens or demons depending on the show. Humanity becomes either merely an innocent bystander who is largely unaware the imminent danger (think Joyce through the first two seasons of Buffy, or also Xander in the episode “The Zeppo.”), or they become the reason why the heroes fight. In the latter, humanity is precious, special and good and should not be wiped off the face of the earth. Thus, in Doctor Who, the Doctor speechifies quite a bit about how earth and humanity are important. The best example is at the beginning of Matt Smith’s tenure as the Doctor, as he’s telling the Atraxi to not mess with earth, and the image of all the previous doctors flash on the view screen of the alien menace.
2) It’s humanity’s fault. In this case, humans are directly responsible for the resulting apocalypse. In Cabin in the Woods, after two victims of the annual ritual sacrifice survive and discover that they were manipulated to their deaths by an elaborate underground organization that sacrifices 5 young people every year using the gruesomest means possible. Now of course, there could be some sympathy for the office grunts behind this, as they are merely appeasing the ancient gods who threaten to rise and destroy humanity otherwise. But as Joss Whedon aptly summarizes on the commentary, sometimes “people are more important than humanity”. Another example can be seen in Dollhouse. Here, the world faces it’s apocalyptic future because people get greedy about being able to have the ability to be imprinted on any body they want and live forever.
In either scenario (not humanity’s fault/humanity’s fault), the primary motivator is the need for power. The alien, demon, or people who bring about the apocalypse usurp control that was not theirs to have. As well, in either scenario, humanity is on the brink of complete destruction. True, that in Dollhouse, for example, the good guys win, and find a way to undo the “wipes”, humanity has definitely been devastated.
The Christian apocalypse is quite different. First, we live in a tension as to the nature of humanity. Humanity is God’s good creation, precious and loved, but at the same time it is fallen and corrupt and tries to seize control and power it does not have. Humans are free and have responsibility and will be judged for their actions and inactions.
Second, the Christian apocalypse is not about some god trying to seize power and control. Instead, the God of the universe, the God who created humanity, loved it and called it good is ultimately in control. He doesn’t usurp power, and he doesn’t unlawfully subjugate humanity. God does not have to swoop in like the Doctor who was visiting another plane unaware of what was happening on earth and at the last possible minute try to fix everything. God decrees and knows, and proclaims to us how it will end before it has even started.
Indeed, and here is the biggest difference, the Christian apocalypse is primarily redemptive. The Christian apocalypse is not about utter and total destruction. The earth and humanity will not be left in ruin, where the survivors are left alone to somehow bravely rebuild their lives. True there will be judgment (and violence). But even that judgment is redemptive. Earth will not be some burning desolate rock floating in the universe for the rest of eternity. Instead, the apocalypse brings about a new heaven and a new earth. Through the power and blood of the Lamb, sin that has infected and corrupted humanity will be eliminated. And the people of God will live in resurrected glory. The Christian apocalypse is not about hope of an ethereal life in heaven. The Christian apocalypse is about the hope of a physical, redeemed and resurrected life on earth. It’s about restoration to God’s intended purpose for humanity. It’s about reclamation wherein God reclaims his good creation from the grasp of sin.
The promise of a crown of life.
A call to repentance and to worship.
God dwelling with his people.
The song “Praise Yahweh” being sung by the multitudes.
The victory of the Lamb who vanquishes all evil.
A holy city, a new Jerusalem contrasted with the unholy city of Babylon.
A return and restoration of Eden.
Emmanuel, the king who promises to come quickly for his beautiful, sanctified bride.
The last episode of Doctor Who saw the departure of the Ponds. They had been the companion of the newest Doctor, played by Matthew Smith.
The BBC has just released an unshot scene where Rory’s dad finds out what happened to Rory and Amy after their encounter with the Weeping Angels. I wish they had actually shot and included this scene. It adds a great emotional component to the episode that was, sorry to say, sadly lacking.
And so, enjoy this scene. If you’re like me, you’ll feel sad at the departure of the Ponds, and even more sad that we have to wait until December for the next episode of Doctor Who.