Spring 2018 · Vol. 47 No. 1 · pp. 2–3 

From the Editor: Scholarship and Faith II

Douglas B. Miller

The essays in this issue of Direction constitute part 2 of a two-part project, which was initiated in the fall 2017 issue. As noted in that issue, the spark for this collection came at the November 2015 annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature and American Academy of Religion (held in Atlanta, Georgia). There, as I browsed the bookstalls, I came across a paperback volume titled I (Still) Believe, edited by John Byron and Joel N. Lohr (Zondervan, 2015). It contains eighteen essays by a diverse group of senior biblical scholars who openly and personally share how their academic and faith journeys have intersected as part of their sense of calling or vocation.

The Direction Editorial Council agreed that a similar collection could be both interesting and edifying for our readership. We offer these to scholars and educators, of course, but also hope that those considering a calling in scholarship will benefit from the wisdom and experience of these writers. In addition, others may be challenged and gain insight from these faith testimonies. Further explanation for the design behind this project may be found in the Fall 2017 issue editorial.

The following is a list of questions our writers were invited to address, adapted from those in the Byron and Lohr volume. There was no requirement that all of these be engaged, and each writer has chosen their own style and organizational plan. For example, some are carefully chronological, others are more thematic, and two are presented in an interview format.

  1. What is the “story” behind your becoming a scholar? Were there particular questions that propelled you into your field?
  2. Have there been ways in which you felt your faith to be in jeopardy as a result of your study? Can you give a specific example, or examples? What was the result of the experience?
  3. How has your research (e.g., topics you’ve pursued, specific area of expertise) shaped and enriched the person you have become, both as a scholar and as a person of faith?
  4. How has your life in the church affected your research and teaching, and vice versa?
  5. How might you address the question of “losing faith” through academic study?
  6. Are there specific parts of your story that you would like to share with the reader, whether difficult moments or periods in life, or times of joy that have “pulled you through”? This could be related to your academic responsibilities but need not be. {3}
  7. What practical words of advice can you offer those at the beginning of their careers or who might be considering whether or not to pursue an academic career?

Again, we express gratitude to these writers and those whose work is in the previous issue for being so vulnerable in sharing of their lives and the choices they faced. God’s grace and guidance shines through these stories of call and response.

Special comment is due on the contributions involving Elmer Martens and Katie Funk Wiebe. In early summer 2016, Elmer eagerly replied positively to the invitation to write for this issue. When I learned of his passing a few months later I feared that we had lost all that he could have offered us. However, through the kind efforts of his son-in-law, Rick Bartlett, we are blessed to have a constructed interview with Elmer addressing many of the questions presented to the writers. The substance of Elmer’s answers has been derived from notes he left from two previous occasions in which he spoke to the topic to which this project is dedicated. Rick also supplies a retrospective tribute.

When I attempted to reach Katie, I learned that her health would not allow a contribution, and indeed she also passed away a short time later. The occasion of dedicating the Katie Funk Wiebe Writing Center at Tabor College in October 2017 put me in touch with Katie’s daughter Joanna Wiebe, who provided a reflection at that time, and with Jean Janzen, who also delivered a tribute to Katie. Jean kindly agreed to allow her remarks (including a poem) to be published here, and Joanna provided an extended reflection on the life, calling, and faith of her mother, laced with quotations of Katie’s own words. For both of these we can all be grateful.

This issue of Direction includes a selection of book reviews and concludes with information on scholarly work among those in constituency institutions. An annotated bibliography of publications on the theme of vocation is located in the Fall 2017 issue of the journal.

Douglas B. Miller
Guest Editor