Baker Academic

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Some Positive Reflections on My Time in Lincoln – Le Donne

As you might imagine, my departure from Lincoln Christian University and central Illinois was complicated. But, as odd as this might sound, my first year in Lincoln was one of the best years of my life. This post will only tell you half of the story, but I think it might be worthwhile to tell it. ...more...

First of all: Chris Keith. It is quite rare to work in a department with a person who is an expert in your narrow slice of the pie and, moreover, is working at the cutting edge of the pie-server (okay, so I took the metaphor too far; this is blog not Ulysses). This would be rare even in a massive religious studies department or a major seminary. Most places try to cover as many fields of study as possible.  Not only did I work alongside a rising star in NT studies, Chris Keith happened to be a media studies / memory studies / Gospels / historical Jesus expert to boot.  Iron sharpens iron, they say.  2010-11 was an extremely productive time for me and I blame Chris for much of this.  I loved coming into work every day knowing that I’d laugh hard several times and be a better scholar after my coffee break than I was before it.  In addition to working alongside Chris, there were a handful of brilliant minds on campus.  I do not use that phrase lightly.

Second, my son’s infancy (before Lincoln) was a terribly difficult time for our family. I won’t use medical jargon or describe the sleepless nights, but being on the job market during this time was dark. There are people in the world with real problems, so I won’t complain. This is just to say that 2010-11 was the restful end of a very long journey for my family. My son was no longer in pain and I was drawing a paycheck. I will always remember this time in Lincoln gratefully.

Third, the San Francisco Giants won the World Series. Most people laugh at how trivial this sounds, but I’m being dead serious here. My wife says that I walked around in my “resurrection body” for months afterward. Stupid, stupid bliss. If this sounds absurd to you, there’s really nothing I can say to make you understand. Lincoln is equidistant between two of the best baseball towns in America; so even though I wasn’t in SF, the people of central Illinois understood me in this respect.

Fourth, I loved my little church. It was a tiny PCUSA community composed mostly of octenagarians, but my pastor became a great friend, the people were kind and wise, and the children’s director was hot.

Fifth, I walked to work every day. It was about half a mile, but it was flat (how I do hate walking up hill!) so I could see my office from my front door. Even when the snow was deep and the winds were, well – is there a word for this kind of wind? – I walked to work and I loved it.

Sixth, last but important nonetheless, I made some very good friends. Indeed, some of the very best people in the world live in Lincoln, IL. In the midst of (what can be) an inhospitable environment, my family was privileged to be embraced by a warm and loving handful of people.

I know that this is a blog about historical Jesus scholarship and I hope that Chris and I have provided enough stimulating material to make it that. At the same time, I realize that many folks tune in to see if Chris or I will address a controversy. I know this because of the sort of search phrases by which google directs readers to our site. It is important to know that the controversies related to Cedarville University, Emmanuel, Lincoln Christian University, etc. represent deep wounds because they represent relationships that have been damaged in some way. For my part, I will look back on my time at LCU fondly even if I continue to lament the relationships damaged by the controversy.


  1. I understand the Giants victory bliss. It was magical. People just don't know.

  2. I think I understand that bliss you speak of. When Sidney Crosby scored the overtime winner against the USA in the Vancouver Winter Olympics, it was as though I had entered the 3rd heaven! For this Canadian boy, olympic hockey gold is as good as it gets!

  3. Thanks for these reflections, Anthony. Of course I feel the same. We should also mention the Idle Hour, the most unlikely place in the world to find a good gyro.

  4. Loved reading your comments about your time at Lincoln (there's nothing quite like that Illinois wind, is there?). You certainly challenged my thinking about the person of Christ during my senior year, and your class was a bright spot in a tumultuous time for me. I know there are many students and former students like myself who wish things had happened differently at LCU.

  5. It was a true honor to have you here at Lincoln for the time that you were and I continue to keep you guys in my prayers! God Bless.

  6. It is the great people that make a place like Lincoln great. Of course it is the not so great people that make any place a challenge. My brief education at the seminary there was transforming and an utterly positive experience.

    May the both of you be great people for others where you are at now.

  7. Loved reading this. It was a blessing to learn from the both of you. You are both missed at LCU!

    -Jodie Merritt

  8. Le Donne,

    Your post relates to a topic which I have always wanted to ask you about as an avid reader of this blog.

    A layman like me would love to read about how a historical Jesus scholar, such as yourself, blends or separates what you have learned about the historical Jesus with the Jesus who rose from the dead and by whom believers are justified. What do you do, for example, when Jesus and the historical Jesus are "A" and "Non-A" - that is to say, they are mutually exclusive with one another?

    To expand a bit, admittedly, some of the things I read from historical Jesus scholars seem at odds with what is taught by theologians (like Erikson, Horton, Hodge, Grudem) concerning the inspiration of Scripture, or what is taught by NT scholars (like Kruger, Kostenberger, Bruce, D.A. Carson) about the reliability of the transmission of Scripture.

    For example, a layperson like me hears one speak of the problem with memory as it relates to the transmission of the Gospel accounts and we think, "Yea, I get that".

    But then we think, "What about the role of the Holy Spirit?" Or, even more bizarre, "Marilou Henner has Autobiographical Memory Ability - has that angle been explored?"

    Or we hear back from missionaries who teach Scripture to the illiterate essentially the same way Kenneth Bailey says it was transmitted in Jesus' time - through a formally controlled framework. The missionaries relay how remarkably accurate the Gospel stories are retained - especially under their guidance.

    Now I am the first to admit that the disconnect I speak of could very well be with me and a lack of understanding. I am certainly out of my league on a blog like this. So I would love to read your take.

    Thanks for your time and hope you get the "gist" of what I am asking? And keep up the good work.

    1. Dear Corby,

      You seem to have your finger on a very important pulse here. The territory guarded by words like "reliability" is holy ground for many people who publish in this field... and it goes without saying that holy ground can lead to holy war quite often.

      This is such a huge issue with so many latent landmines (I'm really into overextending metaphors) that it is deserving of a larger platform than a simple blog comment. But I will say this: I have much less of a problem with paradox than I used to. Luckily, paradox is at the very heart of Christian doctrine so I am in good company.