As a grad student for the Theological Studies program here at Vanguard, I wanted to give a window into some of the fantastic faculty at the University. The Professor Profile series is designed to do just that through an informal Q&A format. Without further ado here is Dr. Israel…
1. When did you first get interested in studying theology and what inspired you to pursue it educationally/professionally?
As a high school student, I felt a call to ministry. At the time, I thought I would be in pastoral ministry. I went to college to study Bible. When I encountered theological and biblical studies at a deeper intellectual level than what I had known before, I knew that was what I needed to do. Particularly in seminary, after learning Hebrew and taking a course in Old Testament Writings, the OT scriptures reached out and drew me in.
2. What’s your favorite thing about Jesus?
He died for me.
3. One of my favorite things about this program is the feeling of community from student to student and student to professor. What does Vanguard’s statement “We believe learning happens best in the context of relationship.” mean to you?
Learning is simply discipleship. (The Greek word for disciple comes from the verb “to learn.”) Discipleship is a communal journey. For an introvert like me, it would be easier to isolate myself in an ‘ivory tower’ with my texts and my thoughts. But honestly, when I learn the most is when I am in conversation with colleagues who are experts in their fields and students who are motivated to deepen their understanding. John Donne wrote the poem: “No man is an island, entire of itself…” We are all learners, we have all made unfortunate mistakes and wonderful discoveries along the way. When we share our knowledge – and more importantly – wisdom, transformation happens. Parker Palmer in “The Courage to Teach” envisions a ‘community of truth.’ Although Palmer is not addressing Christian education directly, that is a superb way to express what Christian discipleship is.
4. You have really inspired me with your knowledge of the Psalms. What’s one thing you would like to share about this collection of “praises” that may surprise or enlighten believers?
The Psalms were not primarily devotional meditations. Rather they were prayers for help, thanks for answered prayer, and hymns exalting God that were used in worship services. Also, they were accompanied by sacrifices as laid out in Leviticus 1-7. So Leviticus and Psalms are closely related. Ironically, Christians avoid Leviticus at almost all costs but identify closely with the Psalms; but in Israelite spirituality, the two go hand in hand.
5. What are you reading right now?
Student papers. Most recently, outside grading papers and keeping up with the bibliographic work for my classes, I read Steven King’s book “11/27/63” a fascinating time travel story about a man who wanted to go back and change history by preventing the assassination of JFK. Since I grew up in the 1950’s and 60’s, King’s recreation of the time and setting was like reliving my adolescent years. Simply amazing.
6. Favorite ice cream flavor?
Chocolate Chip Mint.