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Provost's Message

Dear faculty colleagues,

When we moved to Spokane three years ago, my family and I were told that summer is the best season in Spokane. Having not traveled much this summer, I now know that this is true. There is a lot to do in our area, from visiting stunning lakes to going on long hikes, and from picking fruit at Green Bluff to attending concerts in our beautiful parks. This year’s staycation had an additional benefit: I was able to make a lot of progress on my scholarly projects.

Heinrich Faust, the restless protagonist of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s famous play Faust, at one point complains, “Two souls, alas, are housed within my breast, and each will wrestle for the mastery there.” I can relate to Faust’s inner conflict. As a full-time administrator, I am not expected to continue to produce scholarship. However, research is something I love to do but I consider it more like a hobby, something I pursue on weekends and during breaks. Given my schedule, I feel I don’t have the time to work on a major research project anymore. That is why I’m editing one book and co-editing another with my friends, Yaakov Ariel (University of North Carolina) and Jens Zimmermann (Regent College). The edited book is a new handbook for provosts which features about 30 chapters written by current and former provosts. The co-edited volume is a handbook of Christianity and culture that provides more than 30 essays written by international experts in their fields. Three of those experts are based here at Whitworth: Dale Soden contributed an essay on “Christianity in North America,” Karin Heller wrote on “Christianity, Sexuality, and Gender,” and Aaron Griffith authored a piece on “Christianity and Human Rights.” The book is written for educated non-specialists who are interested in how Christianity and culture have mutually influenced each other over the past two millennia. Because of Covid and other circumstances, this book project has taken much longer than expected. But I am happy to report that we will be able to send the publisher the completed manuscript soon.

Editing or co-editing a book is a learning experience in many different ways. One regularly interacts with the publisher and the contributors, until you don’t. In the case of the co-edited volume, a few colleagues who had enthusiastically agreed to write chapters suddenly became unresponsive. And after many attempts to restore communication, we received word that “due to unforeseen circumstances” and in some cases quite legitimate reasons, they were unable to write or complete their chapters. This meant we had to recruit other colleagues of similar caliber. The word “ghosted” became an active word in my vocabulary. Despite the fact that as co-editors we have experienced a few bumps in the road, the project has been worth the effort and we can’t wait to see the book in print.

In my own piece, I wrote about how Bible translations have impacted the English language and anglophone cultures. Did you know that idiomatic phrases and terms such as “the last shall be first,” “to see eye to eye,” “new wine into old vessels,” “unmovable as a stone,” “a two-edged sword,” “the powers that be,” and “seek and ye shall find” were all popularized by the King James Bible? However, all of those phrases were already part of previous Bible translations. Researching this piece gave me much joy. I plowed through numerous books and essays ranging from the history of the English language to the King James Bible, the most important translation to this day, and from historical works on 19th-century American cultural and political life to Bible translation theory. Trying to distill the information in a readable way into only 25 pages was both exhilarating and frustrating. It was fun to combine a philological lens with a historical one, but it was difficult to stay within the limits of a chapter. I amassed information that should be dealt with in a book-length manuscript (but no, I’m not thinking about writing that book. But maybe I should?). I wish I could have written more about the bizarre and quite heterogeneous “King James Only” movement and the psychological, cultural and political developments that contributed to the translation history of Corinthians 6:9 in the 20th century. Doing research is often like encountering a string of “happy little accidents,” to channel Bob Ross. One research finding leads to something unexpected that should be explored further, which in turn leads to additional findings. An accidental rabbit hole turns out to be a magnificent cave with stalactites and stalagmites, while other hunches turn out to lead nowhere.

Even though I spent many hours working on my paper, I immensely enjoyed the experience. And, paradoxically, I found it refreshing and rejuvenating to finish my research project. I feel that keeping my research agenda going helps me in my day-to-day activities as provost. And even though the two souls that Faust complains about can be in competition with one another at times, staying connected to my guilds adds an important dimension to my life as an administrator.

I hope that you too have had a stimulating and refreshing summer.

Warm wishes,