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A 3 Year Lesson in Humility – a.k.a. What I’ve Learned from My Dissertation

God has been instructing me in the virtue of humility for a long time.

Humility has not always been my strong point.

And yet, it is humility that is at the centre of the Gospels, at the centre​ of the Christian faith.  It is a lack of humility that led to death and disorder, and it is a humble submission to our Creator that can restore the proper order of the universe.

It is humility that conquers death; humility that brings everlasting life.

​And, well, for a very long time I prided myself on being right.  On being smart.  On being exceptional.

So humility wasn't a natural​ inclination of mine.

Which is why I think that these past five years of my Ph.D. have been really, really funny.

Super hilarious.

And here's why....

When my now-husband and I were brand new Christians, we spent a fair bit of time exploring different churches, looking for something that was the right fit for us.

And to be completely honest, it was mostly me driving this search.  I bet that he would have be completely satisfied just about anywhere.

But not me.  Oh no.  I needed someplace smart.  I needed to be where the intellectuals were, who were discussing intellectual things like the rational grounds of Church doctrine, the historicity of the Bible, and other things that hyper-intellectuals occupy themselves with.​

Rebecca Vendetti

I remember encountering quite a few churches where the sermon was something nice about Jesus and love, and then at the end we were instructed to go help others.

"Yeah, yeah," said the voice in my head.  "Jesus loves you.  Feed the poor.  Blah blah blah."

I was above that.  Or so I thought.

God had other plans...​

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. - Ephesians 4:2

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. - Phillipians 2:3

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. - Proverbs 11:2​

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.  - Romans 12:16

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. - James 4:10​

Enter: the Ph.D.

Four years (really, six years) of intensive study, of reading the lastest work on the latest topic, of writing super intellectual things that are supposed to be insightful, logically consistent, and novel.

Three full years devoted to writing a MONSTER of a dissertation: 300 pages of original research.

Countless hours upon HOURS of my life.

Becoming familiar with the entire corpus of C.S. Lewis (or, at least, his philosophy, theology, and fiction).​

And do you know what my conclusion of all this intensive study is?

After multiple drafts of this 300 page monster, after consulting secondary sources and reading about C.S. Lewis on the doctrine of the atonement, Lewis' theological anthropology, on the medieval cosmology that underlies the Narnia series....

Jesus loves you.  Go help others.

Why, oh why, can't I submit those two simple sentences and be done with it?

So yes, I've learned my lesson.  (I hope.)

After examining the historicity of the Gospels, reading and writing about the Rabbinic oral traditional and the reliability of the Gospels​, learning the ins and outs of the classical Western doctrine of the Atonement, about the subjective v. the objective theory of the Atonement, about ontological Christlogy, and on, and on...

Jesus loves you.  Go help others.

Of course, this doesn't ​devalue any of the work that I've done.  It doesn't devalue the scholarship on the historicity of the Gospels and other academic topics.

I think that these things are absolutely crucial to a strong faith grounded in reason.​

Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you. - 1 Peter 3:15​

But it took me these 5+ years of my life and countless hours of study to come to the point where I can say, "Jesus loves you. Go help others", and really see the value and the truth in those words.

So.... Well played, God.  Well played.​

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