Professor’s book illuminates Biblical stories
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
It’s no accident that College of Theology faculty members at Grand Canyon University do a lot of writing, but the latest publication by one of their own wasn’t exactly planned.
Dr. Pete Charpentier, an assistant professor of theology and pastoral ministry, said he was inspired to put together his new book, “Truth from the Trenches — Using God’s Word to Illustrate Timeless Truths,” simply because a Bible he was given had wide margins, allowing him space to jot notes.
“After doing this for a few weeks or few months,” he said, “I started thinking, ‘This is so helpful to me, it might be helpful for other folks.’ That’s how that book came about. I was not necessarily trying to do it.”
The 303 pages contain discussions of 50 Bible stories — 35 from the Old Testament, 15 from the New — and each chapter has an introductory thought, the context of the story, a Biblical illustration of it and suggestions for how a preacher or teacher might use it or a student can understand it. Charpentier had a lot more than 50, but “we had to cut it off at some point.”
“The basic idea of it,” he said, “is that in Scripture God reveals Himself to us, and He does that sometimes in straightforward statements like ‘God is love.’ That’s just a statement, God telling us something about Himself. But a lot of the Bible is narrative — you know, stories — and people who study Scripture say that one of the interesting things about narratives is that they teach, obviously, but they teach indirectly.
“In other words, there might not be a statement that just comes out and says, ‘God is love,’ but the story demonstrates that He is love. So my idea was, how can we take the narratives of Scripture and use them to illustrate these propositional statements? What is God telling us through these stories? And I think with stories people can sink their fingernails into them.”
Charpentier learned a lot about preaching and teaching during his 13 years as an associate pastor and then senior pastor in Hammond, La., and he said he never tires of being a student of the Bible or trying to help others understand it better. That attitude fits in perfectly with what Dr. Jason Hiles, the COT dean, has shared with his faculty.
“We’re actually spending quite a bit of time in the College of Theology talking about ways that we can advance scholarship. We have a lot of diversity with the unique gifts and the experiences and the passions that people bring,” Hiles said.
“You might not think that — you might think that all theologians are kind of the same — but we’re not. Some folks on faculty are very much practitioners. They’re ministers in the church. And then we have those who are much more inclined to the academy. They write more, they publish more, they present more.”
Hiles wants all of his faculty members to teach and meet with students regularly, of course, but he also has urged them to reserve time for learning and, thus, writing.
“This is the Sabbath principle, but applied to teachers,” he said. “The Sabbath is stop, rest, reflect. Think about life more holistically. Reflect on the Lord and His provision. So what we’re saying is, ‘Look, you can’t just talk to students and teach students all day long. You’ve got to hit the pause button. You’ve got to refresh yourself and bring new things back. It doesn’t mean you’re going to change your message, but there’s a depth there that the strongest teachers grasp.’”
Charpentier said he was pleasantly surprised when he heard that a friend was enjoying the book simply because it was helping him deal with things happening in his life. Another thing about the book that he hopes readers grasp is that it doesn’t just explain the most well-known Biblical stories.
“I tried to find some of the more obscure ones that people don’t typically read,” he said. “I mean, they’re part of God’s Word. They’re in Scripture. So we need to embrace them and learn what God is teaching us through them.”
But he said his main mission was to help people realize what the Bible is all about:
“The Bible’s an exciting book. It’s God’s plan pulsating throughout the corridors of history on the stage of messy humanity, accomplishing His purpose for His glory. It is a grand narrative woven together with tattered fabric to produce this tapestry of praise to Himself. It’s a powerful book, and it touches the nitty-gritty of life.
“If we read it and we’re not engaging in it, then the problem is not with the text. The problem is that maybe I’m just glossing over it or I’m not really fully engaged. Anytime I can generate some interest in it (and have someone saying), ‘Man, really? I need to check that out.’ It’s like, ‘Yeah, you do. It’s His word. It’s living. It’s active, sharper than any double-edged sword.’ I think that’s why a lot of the Bible is written in narrative — because it’s so powerful. The whole Scripture is this grand narrative of God’s plan of redemption that He accomplishes through Christ alone.”
Contact Rick Vacek at 602-639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.