25 April 2006

Long Distance

On yielding the asylum to the inmates
by Phil Johnson

Greetings from Sicily, where the volcano is currently topped by snow and belching smoke. The first day we arrived, there was an earthquake—one strong heavy jolt that left things shaking for a few seconds, but no damage. Earthquakes have become such standard fare when I travel that I almost have come to expect them. That's fine; I just hope Etna doesn't blow her stack.

I'm here teaching an intensive overview of systematic theology to a group of Italian pastors. We're covering bibliology and theology proper this week. Next year, we plan to spend a week on Christology, hamartiology, and soteriology. The following year, Lord willing, we'll cover pneumatology, ecclesiology, and eschatology. We're simultaneously working our way verse by verse through Galatians, spending one hour each morning on that. This year we're covering chapters 1-2; next year 3-4; and the final year 5-6.

It's grueling, teaching 8 hours per day. I can only imagine what it's like for the students. But they are eager and attentive, and it has been a nice break from routine for me.

The day before I left, Jeff Williams phoned me from the International Space Station. It's the longest long-distance phone call I have ever received. He sounds good; remember to pray for him.

Last night, a group of us watched him transverse the sky over Etna. It was just after dusk, so at the altitude of Jeff's orbit, the Space Station was still in the sunlight and brightly lit as it moved across the sky. It was a spectacular thing to watch, and especially amazing to think someone I know is literally traveling inside that wandering star. Jeff has already traveled faster, further, and higher than anyone else I know. I wish I had given him my cell phone number; it would be really cool to talk as he traveled overhead.

Anyway, I see Frank could hardly wait till I was out the door to turn the blog into a cheap comic-book contest. And it didn't occur to me that I would need to leave instructions to post a Spurgeon excerpt at the start of the week. James is still using all the graphics he can stuff into a post, and Dan "Booyah" Phillips is still milking NT Wright for comments.

I have occasional access to a dial-up account to check e-mail. It's well-nigh impossible to find time to write and post to the blog, much less read all the comments. So don't look for me to do it very often. But I wanted to check in and say that I've arrived safely, had the earthquake, and taught one-third of what I need to teach. At this rate, I'll be home in no time. See you then.

Phil's signature


The Clinging Vine said...

How good to hear from you, and that everything's going well.

Um, including the apparently traditional earthquake.

Most people settle for collecting tacky souvenir T-shirts, instead of geological events. ;^)

I've an internet friend in Italy who bemoans the lack of sound Biblical pastors in that country, so as may be imagined I'm thinking of her as I read about your class, and how delighted she'd be.

May y'all's work there be blessed, and your students' tribe increase exponentially.


P.S. Could a cell phone call be made from space? What a Sprint commercial could be gotten from that! ("Can you hear me now?....Good!")

James Spurgeon said...

By coincidence (a bone to the Arminians), I just completed posting my expository notes for the first two chapters of Galatians to The Howling Coyote today, including a strong argument for particular redemption.

Hey Phil, let me know if they need me to come out there next year for the next two chapters. (smile)

Steve said...

It'd be wild if Jeff were able to post a comment from outer space. PyroManiacs could end up being the first blog to achieve such a distinction (or has it already been done elsewhere?).

I'm sure the grueling work of teaching eight hours a day is going to bear proportionally abundant fruit among the pastors there. We'll certainly pray toward that end.

As for the inmates...well, they're maintaining PyroManiacs's reputation as a happening blog. Who knows, you might even have N.T. Wright as a lurker by now.

DJP said...

Steve -- ...you might even have N.T. Wright as a lurker by now

Very close call on a coffee-spray incident, here.

You know, a thread on suggested screen-names for a lurking Dr. Wright could be very... mm... naughty? Funny?

I know one! "Dr. Thomas"! (You know, the "T" in NT.)

Explains so much.....

Jeremy Weaver said...

Back when Phil first revealed his plans to travel to Sicily, I left a comment saying that a natural disaster would occur shortly after Phil arrived in Sicily.
Phil said:
"The first day we arrived, there was an earthquake..."

And now I have only one question...
Do I now qualify as prophet since one hundred percent of my predictions have come true?
And now I feel I must quote one of the men who has inspired me;

Libbie said...

Doxo, I actually recall that comment, and thought of it when I read this post.

What do I qualify for?

Even So... said...

Word of Knowledge, of course.

Rick Potter said...

I don't know who to envy more...the Italians or Jeff.

Oh well, blessings to both.


Jeremy Weaver said...

'even so' took my comment. Although you could also be 'tester of prophecies'.

Jeremy Weaver said...

Pardon me..testess of prophecies.

Brad Meyer said...

how cool to get a call from outer-space!

Joe said...

Earthquakes sometimes portend violent, massive eruptions.

But not always.

I'd sit for eight hours of your teachinng any day.

God bless!

Susan said...

I used to work at Kennedy Space Center, but I never got a phone call from outer space! That is so cool! I sure hope he didn't call you collect.
I never realized before working at the space center how many astronauts (and center workers) are believers. There are many great stories of John Glenn's testimony as well as others who work at the gateway to the heavens. Astronauts Rick Husband and Mike Anderson worshipped at the church I attended when we lived on the Space Coast, before their tragic last flight.
May your mission in Italy be blessed.

centuri0n said...

Hey: that wasn't cheap. It cost me 3 months worth of store charges to fund that contest.

SolaMeanie said...


It could be worse. You could be teaching on the slopes of Vesuvius, which hasn't erupted since 1944 but when she does blow, it's a lulu.

Or perhaps Stromboli, the lighthouse of the Mediterranian? I think that erupts about as much as Old Faithful Geyser. I can imagine the creative lesson applications you could make in light of such events. Lava..the lake of fire...smoke rising for eternity, you know the drill.

I shouldn't try to be tongue in cheek on Wednesdays. It takes at least until Friday for my wit to kick in.

Daniel said...

Earthquakes sometimes portend violent, massive eruptions.

Joe - you totally have my sense of humor.

James said...

Hi Phil,
I have taken your advice and 86ed the splash intro and the music. Would you be willing to give us another look?
It would be a tremendous honor to be listed in your bookmarks!