I had the privilege of attending 2 weeks of lectures by Dr. Douglas Moo on the letter to the Romans at the Bible Institute of South Africa. Dr. Moo is a world-renowned authority on the letter to the Romans and Bible translation. The lectures were first-class and I learnt much, especially as I hope to start preaching through Romans from September 2015 at our church. Besides helping me to better understand Romans, Dr Moo was a great example to me in at least 5 other areas.
1. Take the biblical text seriously
As Dr Moo worked through the different passages in Romans he was very careful to make sure that the biblical text informed his opinions, not his opinions informing the biblical text. We all read the Bible with a theological framework, but we must be willing to modify that framework when we are confronted by the inspired, authoritative text. If our theological framework has not changed or modified in 10 years we have a serious problem.
2. Be a good communicator
To be honest, I had a concern before the course started. Would Dr. Moo be able to communicate his in-depth understanding of Romans to us? Or perhaps a better way to state the concern is, would I with my limited intelligence be able to understand Dr Moo? My experience has shown me that brilliant theologians are often not good communicators. Yet, Dr Moo was an excellent communicator. He explained difficult concepts in simple ways and used humour very effectively. Main points were imbedded in our minds with timely illustrations.
3. Be gracious
I am often not very gracious when referring to the views and interpretations of others that I think are wrong. Yet, throughout the course Dr. Moo was very gracious when putting forward the views of scholars with opposing interpretations and understandings. He sought to understand their views accurately and demonstrate to us how they might arrive at that view. He humbly showed how he arrived at his conclusion and why he thinks his interpretation has more evidence, from the text or the wider canonical context, to support it.
4. Theologically switched on
This is a difficult one to keep up as it requires one to be reading intensively and extensively. Dr. Moo had an excellent grasp of the important theological issues and controversies, and who their proponents were and are. He also knew what the latest evangelical responses to these issues were. Of course, we are not in Academia and don’t have access to all the theological journals and most recent books, however, the challenge remains. I need to be reading a good couple of theological books each year and accessing online journals, like Themelios, to get a broad overview of the theological landscape. What happens in the halls of Academia is more and more influencing our churches.
5. Commitment to the authority of Scripture
Dr. Moo is a big proponent of taking the historical context and cultural background of the biblical text into account. He advocates the study of words in their original usage. He supports grappling with the text and using our God-given reason to seek to reconcile seemingly contradictory texts. Yet, the following quote indicates the bottom line for Dr. Moo, “When we face difficult passages, the biblical authors are right and we need to grow in our understanding.” This contrasts with liberal theologians who argue that the biblical authors may have been, at times, wrong or uninformed. God’s Word, not our reason or experience or tradition, must be our final authority and that important belief must come across in our preaching and teaching.