To see pictures and hear audio from this event, please see: ABR Conference at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri
From September 30 to October 2, 2008, the Associates for Biblical Research conducted a Bible Archaeology Conference during the annual Faith Forum Series at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, MO. Ozark Christian College has had connections with ABR for many years, mainly through their now retired Professor of OT and Archaeology, Wilbur Fields. Wilbur was an integral part of ABR's excavation team at Khirbet Nisya with Dr. David Livingston and at Khirbet el-Maqatir in the 1990's.
Ozark contacted ABR over two years ago to discuss the possiblities of having a conference at their college. From the perspective of ABR, the experience of interacting with OCC has been wonderful and uplifting. First, the faculty members, Kevin Morrow (who did much of the initial planning) and Andrew Kirschner (who helped tremendously in our final phases of planning), and Academic Dean Mark Scott did a fantastic job in planning, organizing, and administrating all the details involved with this type of event. As a small ministry, ABR had never undertaken this large of a conference, so it was a daunting task. The folks at Ozark Christian College made that daunting task much easier.
Second, in March 2008, the OCC faculty worked with ABR to have two students from Ozark, Ben Cross and Brian Hensley, travel with ABR on our Biblical Egypt Study Tour. They were able to earn academic credit from the study tour. At first, I have to admit I was concerned about having two college students travel with us to Egypt. Remembering how I behaved in college, of course, biased my thinking. I soon discovered that they were mature young men who want to serve the Lord with the calling and gifts that He has for them. In our recent visit to Ozark, I met many other young college students with the same sort of attitude: yearning to fulfill their calling under the authority of Jesus and in submission to the Scriptures. The students were very polite, helpful and respectful in their interactions with our staff.
It was refreshing... and a relief! Many of us are gravely concerned about the overly experientially oriented and anti-intellectual tendencies of the modern church, which often avoids dealing with difficult issues, in-depth theology, and apologetics. (see: Prayer Letter from ABR Director of Research ). Seeing students being trained with a respect for the Word of God encouraged myself and the rest of the ABR staff. I had the pleasure of speaking to 40 students in a classroom setting about "Great Discoveries in OT Archaeology". Their professor, Andrew Kirschner, was clearly connected to them, yet serious about remaining true to the Scriptures. Discussing in depth and challenging issues was clearly part of the agenda. As I have argued elsewhere, young people need to be CHALLENGED intellectually, not coddled in mediocrity. (For further thoughts, please see: Biblical Illiteracy ). I was overcome with joy when Andrew referred to "Koine Greek Papyri", and the students clearly knew what he was talking about! I doubt that I would experience this sort of thing in many other Christian Colleges. I interrupted him, saying: "Did you just say: Koine Greek Papyri?". We all laughed, but I was also encouraged by such a development in the Christian College classroom.
Third, Dr. Bryant Wood had the wonderful opportunity to speak to the OCC faculty during a special luncheon. Dr. Wood got a chance to briefly review some of the important finds in archaeology, emphasizing the need for Christian Colleges to have archaeological training and teaching in their curricula. The faculty showed a genuine interest in the ministry of ABR, and its usefulness in assisting Christian Colleges in their calling. The spiritual responsibility in these settings is extremely serious, and professors, teachers and deans must be on the constant watch for the insidious attempts by the enemy to undermine Biblical Authority. During my chapel sermon (listen here), I used Princeton as the quintessential example of how a Godly institution can be destroyed by compromising on the historical fidelity of the Scriptures, beginning in Genesis 1:1. For those reading this article, please continually pray for the faculty and leadership of Ozark so that they will continue to remain true to the Scriptures. We pledge to keep OCC on our prayer list and to remember them as God prompts us.
ABR would also like to thank Pastor Roger Lieb and the staff and congregation at College Heights Christian Church in Joplin, for allowing ABR to speak during their evening teaching session about the Origins of Israel. It was the Lord's providence clearly working when we discovered that College Heights had been teaching on the Exodus! Gary Byers was able to provide a substantial amount of additional information about this important subject. ABR brought lots of resources for the congregation to purchase for further study on this all important subject in Biblical studies.
My experience at Ozark Christian College refeshed me and reminded me about the vitally important work that ABR is doing. There are days when we grow weary and discouraged, wondering if the church will ever wake up and realize that its anti-intellectual, overly experiential approach will not produce grounded disciples of Christ. We are grateful to our friends at OCC, and publicly thank them for their invitation, resources, fellowship and fidelity to the authority, inspiration and infalliblity of God's Holy Word.
To Christ be the Glory, Forever and ever!