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DENNY BURK: Professor and Blogger Print E-mail
Written by Kevin L. Howard   
(1). How did you end up teaching at The Criswell College?

 

When I began work on my Ph.D., I did not know what God had in store for me after the completion of my program. All I knew was that I loved the Bible, I loved to teach it, and I loved God's people. On top of all that, I loved to read and write in the realm of academic theology. My interests and gifting were fairly clear to me. What wasn't clear was where God would be pleased to use me. Would it be in the pastorate? Or would it be in a professorate training pastors? Perhaps a little of both? I really didn't know. All I knew was that my life was a blank check. God had already written in a few of the numbers, but I expected that eventually He'd be filling in some more zeroes.

 

By the third year of my Ph.D. program, I determined to begin seeking a position as a professor. I sent out a bunch of resumes, and I got a good share of "thanks-but-no-thanks" letters in return. By conviction, I was and am a Baptist. By heritage, I was and am a Southern Baptist. So I was really interested to serve in a Southern Baptist school if at all possible. So I became interested in the possibility of teaching at Criswell College from the very beginning of my search. In December 2003, I began corresponding via e-mail with the Academic Dean, Dr. Jim Bryant (a man who is now a dear friend). When Jerry Johnson was elected to be the President of Criswell, I arranged to have a meeting with him in Louisville, Kentucky before he ever even moved to Dallas, Texas. By March of 2004, they had offered me a job, and I accepted it.

 

(2). Which of your professors have most influenced you?

 

Undergraduate: Rev. James W. Lipscomb (RIP, 1915-2007) served as an adjunct professor at the state university that I attended for my undergraduate studies. For two years he instructed me in elementary Greek and taught me how to read the Greek New Testament. He was a retired Presbyterian minister, and he donated his time to me and the university. He never charged me or the college one dime. His enthusiasm for the Greek text was infectious and played no small part in inspiring my own love of the Greek New Testament.

 

Masters: Daniel Wallace was my thesis advisor and mentor in all things Greek. He inspired the topic of my master's thesis and that of my doctoral dissertation, which was published in 2006 in Sheffield Phoenix's New Testament Monograph Series.

 

John Hannah's influence during my time as a Masters student was enormous. It wasn't just that he was reformed. It was his manifest love for King Jesus that drew me to this man. I had never heard anyone speak of the Lord Jesus like Dr. Hannah spoke of Him. His lectures were an occasion for worship.

 

Doctoral: It was my great privilege to work as a graduate assistant for Robert Stein, and I would never have been able to teach hermeneutics if it wasn't for him. I have taken his hermeneutics course "on the road" so to speak. All my current hermeneutics courses are based on what I learned from him.

 

If it weren't for Tom Schreiner, my doctoral supervisor, I don't think that I even would have gone to Southern Seminary for my Ph.D. He is a model scholar and a pastor, and I was privileged to study under him. In my exegetical syntax courses at Criswell College, I teach students diagramming and tracing, a method that I learned from Schreiner while at Southern. He is both a prolific professor and a faithful pastor. I would like to follow in his footsteps in that regard.

 

(3). Name a few of your favorite books, both classic and recent.

 

Bible: It is the treasure of all wisdom and knowledge and is able to make one wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

 

The Gospel According to Jesus, by John MacArthur. Not many people know this, but this book was a paradigm shifter to me when I was in college. I learned from this book that biblical conversion involves surrendering to a sovereign King who will brook no rivals. It blew out of the water the idea some people get saved without it having any effect on their lives.

 

Religious Affections, by Jonathan Edwards. When I was in seminary, the Lord used Jonathan Edwards to deliver me from a crusty old, cantankerous, cold Calvinism. According to Edwards, the nature of true religion consists in gracious affections. I'm still trying to realize the truth of that proposition in my own heart and life.

 

(4). How did you meet your wife?

 

I met my wife in college. We became friends as we both were members of our church's collegiate praise band. She sang, and I played the drums. Oddly enough, we never dated during college. We were just friends. I graduated in 1996, and moved to Dallas for seminary. She eventually went to grad school at LSU in Baton Rouge. We reconnected at a wedding in 1998 and had a casual and infrequent correspondence via e-mail over the next year. In 1999, she came to Dallas for a job interview, and I asked if we could get together while she was in town. Our meeting ended in a three hour conversation about what God had done in each of our lives since college. She was the loveliest and godliest girl I had ever known, and somewhere in the midst of that conversation I knew exactly what my intentions were towards her. So at the end of our talk, I told her I really cared about her and wanted that to figure in to where she moved after graduate school. I guess I was sort of forward and impetuous, but I felt a real sense of urgency because she was looking at job opportunities in North Carolina and Colorado. I was afraid she might move off to Timbuktu and that I'd never see her again. It was do or die, so I went for it. She did too. She accepted a position to practice speech pathology here in the Dallas area. The rest is history--a blessed turn of Providence that I did not and still do not deserve.

 

(5). When and why did you start your website, http://www.dennyburk.com/?  

 

The website began as what I like to call "couch commentary." Following the interface of theology with politics and culture is a hobby of mine (for those who might need the clarification, "hobby" ≠ my eschatological hope for humanity). In the early 2000's, I would often sit on the couch with my wife and hold forth about why Chris Matthews, Paul Begala, et. al. had it all wrong. For a while, I even wrote short essays on these subjects and send them to select people in my e-mail address book. In 2005, I discovered Blogspot and began posting my theo-political ramblings there (http://dennyburk.blogspot.com/). Once I began blogging on Blogspot, I began to see the limitations of a free blog host, and so I wanted to get my own webspace that gave me total flexibility. I did that in 2006, and have used WordPress to build my site.

 

My blog writing in the early days was often devoted to discussing politics--probably more often than theology. I've made a conscious effort over the last year to change that. As I have gotten more readers, I have been convicted that my site should shoot a little higher than mere "couch commentary." It's not that I don't comment on politics anymore. I do. It's not that I don't ever post frivolous or humorous posts. I do. It's just that on balance I am more conscientious to relate everything I write about to a worldview that is rooted in the scriptures. I'm not perfect, and I'm still trying to do better. But that's my goal.

 

(6). Do you have a set time to work on your website, or just whenever?

 

I aim to have at least one post every weekday morning. I try to write Monday and Tuesday's posts on Sunday. After that, I usually write them the night before. I try to save more substantive stuff for the beginning of the week, and push the shorter, less important stuff to the end of the week. I do this because my site counter shows that more people read my blog on Monday through Wednesday than on Thursday and Friday. The number of readers drastically drops over the weekends.

 

(7). What do you think of Porter/Carson's verbal aspect theory?

 

Well, it's really just Porter's aspect theory versus that of Buist Fanning. All agree (me included) that Greek tense grammaticalizes aspect. Aspect is the speaker or writer's portrayal of the verbal action (as opposed to the older idea of Aktionsart). Both aspect and Aktionsart pertain to the kind of action, but aspect refers to the speaker's portrayal of the action, whereas Aktionsart refers to the actual, objective nature of that action.

 

Porter argues that aspect is the only thing signified by the Greek tense forms, even in the indicative mood. Fanning argues that Greek tense forms signify both time and aspect in the indicative mood. I love both of these guys and have benefitted personally from their scholarship (Porter edited my book and suggested revisions that made it much better than it was before he got a hold of it. Fanning taught me advanced Greek grammar during my Master's work, and he was also the outside reader on my dissertation). Nevertheless, I think Fanning has the better side of this argument. At the end of the day, I don't think Porter's theory can adequately explain the fact that the augment, imperfect, and pluperfect only appear in the indicative mood. Porter's appeal to Homeric Greek for examples is not compelling to me at all.

 

(8). Talk briefly about your work with the articular infinitive.

 

My interest in Greek grammar in general and in the articular infinitive in particular traces back to my studies with Dan Wallace at Dallas Seminary. When I was trying to find a topic for my Master's Thesis, I went to Dr. Wallace and asked him if there were any "threads" that he had come across that needed to be pulled. He pointed to an observation that he had made in his grammar about the articular infinitive in Philippians 2:6. So I pulled that thread into a Master's thesis on the meaning of harpagmon in Philippians 2:6. The basic thrust of that work was published in 2004 in the Tyndale Bulletin as "On the Articular Infinitive in Philippians 2:6: A Grammatical Note with Christological Implications."

 

Chapter four of my master's thesis contained the grammatical heart of my argument. But there was still much more thread to be pulled, and that's exactly what I did in my doctoral dissertation. I did a full blown study of the articular infinitive in the Greek of the New Testament. After completing the dissertation and after many helpful suggestions from Stanley Porter, it was published in 2006 as The Articular Infinitive in the Greek of the New Testament.

 

(9). Justin Taylor has listed your website on his.  How did that come to be?

 

I do not remember. I used to comment on his site a couple of years ago. Maybe he followed the link from my comment to my site? I'm just guessing at this point.

 

(10). What is your assessment of the American evangelical church?  Is it basically on the right track or off the rails?

 

It's interesting that you are asking me this question now. I am in the midst of an effort right now to amend the doctrinal basis of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). ETS is the guild of theologians that ostensibly represent American evangelicalism. I believe that ETS's relation to broader evangelicalism is more like that of a thermometer than a thermostat. ETS does not regulate the theological temperature of evangelicalism (like a thermostat). It merely reflects the theological temperature of the broader evangelical movement (like a thermometer). Within ETS, there are open theists, those who question Christ's substitutionary atonement, those who are entertaining inclusivism, and more. If these are the kinds of things popping up at the ETS, then we know that there is worse out there in the churches and institutions of evangelicalism.

 

Even though there is a theological rot within American evangelicalism (see David Wells' books), the recent resurgence of a warm-hearted reformed faith is a decidedly positive development (see Colin Hansen's 2006 CT article). One of the best things about this resurgence is its emphasis on the spiritual health and vitality of the local church. This has had the effect of moving the ministerial center of gravity away from the parachurch organizations of Evangelicalism back to the local church where it belongs. Churches that combine a vision for the supremacy of God in Christ and that have a passion for mission are the best hope for the renewal of evangelicalism.

 

(11). What is one of the most pressing issues before the American church, other than what you might have talked about above?

 

Unfortunately, as Evangelicalism has come into its own both institutionally and as a subculture, it has been faced with the question of its own identity. Is there a doctrinal center that defines Evangelicalism? On this score, we would all do well to listen to David Wells who has speculated in his watershed book No Place for Truth whether there ever has been a confessional center to Evangelicalism. In defining itself against liberal Protestants on the one and Roman Catholics on the other, much of Evangelicalism has become seriously deficient of ecclesiology and of the Great Tradition in general. To some extent, this situation has led to the contemporary decay of the movement. The first generation of neo-Evangelicals were theological trailblazers, but the generations that followed have tended to be led by managerial types who are more prone to pragmatism than theological and devotional rigor. Thus, Evangelicalism has shifted away from its doctrinal distinctives and has increasingly become more of a market brand than a doctrinal flag.

 

(12). Many SBC churches function like democracies.  Do you see that as a problem?

 

There was a time when I was more or less convinced that John MacArthur's elder-rule model of church polity was the biblical one. I am now convinced that Mark Dever's congregational model is more consistent with scripture. Thus, I think the Baptist Faith & Message 2000's statement rings true with what I believe the Bible teaches about congregational polity. It says, "Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes." Notice that the BF&M does not say that the church is a democracy. It's not. It merely uses "democratic processes." The church is a monarchy because it is ruled by King Jesus.

 

(13). You seem to be a big fan of John Piper, as am I.  When and how did you fall in love with Piper?

 

My formative years as a believer can be aptly described as a series of pendulum swings. In my latter high school years through my early college career, I was enamored with the emotionalism of the charismatic movement (even though I was raised a Southern Baptist). In later college through early seminary, I became a cold, cantankerous Calvinist.

 

During the "cold, cantankerous" period (circa 1995), someone gave me a tape of one of Piper's sermons on "the Supremacy of God in Preaching." He kept talking about passion being necessary for preaching. I thought he needed to learn to rely on the sufficiency of the word and not to rely so much on emotions. I didn't have ears to hear. My journals from this period include pages and pages of Psalms describing the objective attributes of God. I would write out God's attributes after I had separated them from all the gobbledygook emotionalism of the Psalmists like, "Delight yourself in the Lord" and "There is nothing on earth I desire besides you." As a result, I mutilated the precious Psalms. I had come to the conclusion that Christianity was for the coolly rational, and I was very cold.

 

In 1998 while I was still in seminary, I attended Louie Giglio's Passion Conference in Austin, Texas and heard Piper preach on Romans 3:21-26. My heart soared as he exalted Christ in that sermon. I feel like I understood the gospel more deeply and more profoundly than I ever had before in my life. As the "Amen" welled up, I assumed that he and I were on the same page. Boy was I wrong. I watched him in worship. He raised his hands! "Why is he acting like the cooky charismatics that I had left behind? Doesn't he know better? This does not compute. Christianity is for the coolly rational, and apparently he's not that!" I hadn't been to Passion '97, but I got the sermon tapes after that meeting. I also read his poem to his wife Noel with the illustration about the roses. I listened to his exposition of the scripture, and I read The Religious Affections. As a result, the Lord turned the lights on. I got it.

 

My emotionalism devoid of a love for the Bible and truth was vapid. My proud rationalism that had no place for white hot affections for Christ was an idol. I learned that God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him. I ceased mutilating the Psalms, the whole Bible opened up, and I realized that I was a babe in the deep things of God. I repented of my coldness, of my tepid affections, and I haven't been the same since.

 

John Piper discipled me in my car through the rest of my years at Dallas Theological Seminary. I listened to his weekly sermons as I would commute to and from work and school. Throughout my career in seminary, the Lord used Piper to shape my thinking about God and the scriptures more than any single teacher that I had. I have been listening to the weekly recording of his sermons for nearly ten years now, and I cannot begin to describe the impact it has had on my life. For these reasons and more, I cannot overstate how grateful I am for Piper and the work of Desiring God Ministries.

 

(Sept 2007)

 

NNF Links:

Growing Up in Christ: Biblical Teaching for New Believers

In Honor of Pastors: Learning How to Follow Your Leader

 

 

 
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