I am particularly grateful that Wheaton College embraced the complete equality of women on their faculty many decades ago. (Wheaton was born in the time of anti-slavery and has always been an activist school in its robust evangelicalism.) I am even more grateful that this inclusion of women includes the Bible and Theology Department, a place where women are often rejected by conservative schools. Happily, women hold important teaching positions alongside their male peers at Wheaton. One such person is Dr. Beth Jones, author of The Marks of His Wounds: Gender Politics and Bodily Resurrection (Oxford University Press, 2007) and Touched by a Vampire: Discovering the Hidden Messages in the Twilight Saga (Multnomah Books, 2009).
Beth Felker Jones, who holds a Ph.D. from Duke University, is married and has four children. She is a busy mom besides being a teacher of Bible and theology at Wheaton. Her husband is a United Methodist minister. On the college web site Jones writes the following about her life and work: “John Calvin wrote that ‘All right knowledge of God is born of obedience.’ It is my privilege to serve at Wheaton College as a teacher of theology and to explore what may be known of God when the Spirit leads us to obey. The more I learn about the Christian faith, the more I am stunned by the beauty of what God has done and is doing through Jesus Christ. My goal as a teacher is to help students see that beauty in ways they may never have glimpsed before. That work of teaching is strengthened by researching and writing about the beauty of the gospel spread through time and space.”
Jones was recently asked to speak about her teaching role in the Wheaton Alumni. She said that she wanted all her students to understand how doctrine works in the everyday world. She says: “Perhaps the most important thing I want my students to recognize about Christian theology is that it matters for Christian life. The study of doctrine is life giving, a fruitful way of connecting to the truth that is in God” (Wheaton Alumni, Autumn, 2011, 60).
Jones noted that deep within the evangelical impulse is a populism that drives us to share the gospel with the whole world. This populism pushes us to share the gospel in terms that most people can understand. It urges us to speak to people where they are and to witness to the transforming power of Jesus in ordinary lives and situations.
Jones expresses a deep concern that we have separated academic theology from vocation, or divine calling, in everyday life. This is a profound concern of mine and of this daily blog.
The evangelical tradition has always opted for engagement with the culture over against the temptation to separate from culture. For this reason it understands wisdom in a nuanced way. While St. Paul speaks about the foolishness of human wisdom in 1 Corinthians “it is never wisdom that God destroys, but only the wisdom of the world” (italics in original, Wheaton Alumni, Autumn, 2011, 60).
Upon discovering the considerable gifts of her undergraduate students Dr. Jones sees them all using theology as they give their lives to Christ and his church. Only a few will become professional theologians but, she adds, “I expect them all to be engaged in the theological work of making doctrine work in the world” (Wheaton Alumni, 60).