This latest post comes from a dear friend and fellow LSTC student, Wendy Heilman who is now navigating the waters of the Ph.D Program!
One of the greatest things about attending LSTC is the opportunity to partake in lectures and events held at the other ACTS seminaries. Last Wednesday evening, I had the chance to go and hear scholar and author Dr. Reza Aslan speak at CTS. A group of LSTC students, led by Dr. Adam (KPA) made our way over to CTS for the big lecture. The room was filled to capacity and we all waited with baited breath for the lecture to start. The start time was delayed approximately 10 minutes so that our Muslim friends were able to perform their magreb prayer. Once they rejoined the group, we got started.
While many in the group did not know what to expect, I had read his book Zealot earlier this summer and I could not wait to hear what Dr. Aslan had to say. I believe that all in the room were aware of the controversy that occurred when his book hit the stores. I mean, who was he, a Muslim scholar, to write about the Historical Jesus? There were those Christians across the country that just could not believe that he would do this! One news network in particular fed the controversy to no end! I, on the other hand, could not wait to read his book. I found it filled with history and he presented a portrait of a Jesus that I could admire. Needless to say, I was very interested in what a Muslim scholar would say about the Historical Jesus. At that time, I had no idea about all the different views of the Historical Jesus. I mean, Jesus is Jesus, right??? Boy, was I in for a rude awakening!
That rude awakening had actually come to me earlier in the day, when during my Jesus and Muhammad class, we spent 3 hours talking about the Historical Jesus! So after studying what Christian scholars had to say, it was interesting to hear a different view and perhaps a different side of the story.
Dr. Aslan was a very engaging speaker and kept us all on the edge of our seats. He cracked quite a few jokes, yet constantly reminded us that we were discussing a sacred subject. He reminded us that we each see Jesus (the Christ of faith) in our own way. Our own Jesus might be White, African American, Latino, carrying a cross, carrying a gun or whatever we may see in Him. But that’s what makes the Christ of faith special for each of us. Jesus can be anything. However, the Jesus of history was a Jew, born in 4 BCE approximately and was crucified. Other than that, we don’t know much about Him and we are left to study and interpretation.
Dr. Aslan only spoke for approximately 35 minutes and then opened up the floor for questions. What I found interesting was that he had one rule for asking questions…the questioners had to be female, male, female, male. That was a nice touch!
As I was taking notes, I realized that I needed to read the book again. Since I had just come from discussing some Christian views on the Historical Jesus (3 hours exactly), I sure had some questions for Dr. Aslan. Unfortunately, he was whisked away so that he could sign books. I however, felt like quite the scholar since I had all my questions written down and felt confident that they were legitimate, scholarly questions. What was also great was that on the walk home, a group of us dissected the lecture, talking about the accuracy of sources and information. Wow, maybe I am a scholar (or at least starting to be one)!
After the lecture, a group of us were able to get our books signed and Dr. Aslan was even gracious enough to take pictures with us. Now I felt like a true scholar! And what an opportunity! I mean, how many people get to attend a lecture that is so personalized, rather than in a lecture hall or an auditorium? While I enjoyed the lecture on so many different levels, one of the coolest things is that now, anytime I pull his book off my shelf, I can say with a smile: “Yeah, I met him and got my picture taken with him!” If I ever end up teaching, I wonder if my future students will be as impressed? Regardless, it was a wonderful lecture and if I ever get the opportunity to hear him speak again, I will be there!
In peace, Wendy