Each Friday this semester, we will be placing a spotlight on one of Western Seminary’s faculty members. Today, we are running the second of a two-part feature on Dr. Tim Mackie (see part one here), who serves in an adjunct role at Western, teaching Bible and Hebrew.
Transformed: It’s intriguing to compare people’s interests earlier in life with their eventual career path. Along these lines, what did you want to be when you were growing up?
Dr. Mackie: I was interested in graphic design, graffiti art, and skateboarding.
Transformed: So then, what made you want to become an Old Testament scholar?
Dr. Mackie: Truthfully, it was through skateboarding in junior high school that I ended up doing what I do now. I started attending Skatechurch, and through that ministry, eventually found myself in a teaching role that I was not prepared for. Because of this, I went to Multnomah to get some training. Then, when I was about 21, I spent a summer in Papua New Guinea with New Tribes Mission and was exposed to Bible translators. This woke me up to how serious the movement of the gospel through the world is, and I wanted to be part of that. I came back to Multnomah with a new passion to learn, and their Bible and theology curriculum became a theological playground. Skatechurch was a wonderful ministry outlet in those years, allowing me to teach others what I was learning. Through all of this I came to love Jesus and the Scriptures all the more. Once I finished at Multnomah, I realized that I had just begun to learn, and so I signed up to go to Western so that I could learn more. All the while, people kept encouraging me to continue in my studies.
Transformed: As both an academic and a churchman, tell us a bit of your thoughts on the church today, as you see it – including what it needs more and less of.
Dr. Mackie: Today, it’s easier than ever for Christians to not engage with Jesus through their Bibles, because of the availability of access to great communicators, teachers, writers, and so on. For all of the benefits of this ready access to good Christian content, it can’t replace intimacy with Jesus through the Scriptures. It still remains remarkable to me that so few people today seem to have a vital connection with Jesus in and through the Scriptures on a regular basis.
So then, in terms of what the church needs more of, I would say more engagement with Jesus through the Scriptures. A person can’t short-circuit this with more classes and sermons. People need personal engagement with the Bible. Still, there is a place for media that serves to help people in this pursuit. For example, the work we are doing on The Bible Project is meant not to replace interaction with the Bible, but rather to be a framework for drawing people into engagement with it.
As to what the church needs less of, I would say approaching the Bible as a moral handbook, or seeing its primary purpose as being to provide models or rules concerning how to behave. Yes, the Bible ought to reshape every part of a person’s identity and behavior. But it does this by challenging our narrative and worldview. This is why it is so crucial to understand the macrostructure of Scripture. The Bible, rightly understood, prompts a person to ask, “what story am I living in?” When a person sees Scripture less in terms of isolated Bible stories, and more in terms of a unified story that points to and leads to Jesus, this reframes everything about his or her life. In order to help accomplish this change in perspective, I think that we need to cultivate more tools that help make Scripture seem less intimidating, and to show people that they can meet Jesus there.
Transformed: As a professor, you are able to interact with a wide variety of students. In your opinion, what makes for a model or ideal student?
Dr. Mackie: The ideal student is someone with the ability to see that biblical and theological studies are seminal topics – not just a body of knowledge to be learned. Rather, they provide one with a kind of imagination . . . a way of seeing the world that opens up everything else. I love to see in a student how the cultivation of a Christian worldview transforms every field of human knowledge, and learning, and innovation, and endeavor. Biblical and theological studies are a gateway, not just an object or an end in itself.
Transformed: What is one piece of advice that you would give to an incoming seminary student?
Dr. Mackie: Get as rooted as you can in a local church community. Don’t let theological education become isolated from being involved in the church.
Transformed: How about some advice for prospective biblical scholars?
Dr. Mackie: Recognize that your passion for academics and learning might actually be best used in the service in a local church.
Transformed: What’s your favorite thing about teaching at Western?
Dr. Mackie: Because of Western’s commitment to serving local churches, I love how many different churches up and down the West coast that I get to learn about, and get to connect with through the student body.
Transformed: Thank you for you time, Dr. Mackie. One final question – what upcoming classes are you teaching at Western?
Dr. Mackie: I’ll be teaching Interpreting the Prophets and Gospels (BLS502) in Spring 2016, and Theology of the Pentateuch (BLS560) in Summer 2016.
Next week Transformed will place the spotlight on Dr. Todd Miles.