Dr. Joe Rigney on Great Books and the Greatest Book
Joe Rigney grew up in a house filled with books. With constant access to a full bookshelf, he was the type of kid who didn’t mind being sent to his room as a punishment. That was just more time he could spend reading. His love of language, arguments, and ideas made him think he might be interested in becoming a lawyer. However, during his senior year of high school, he felt God call him to a life of ministry. Joe never could have imagined just how perfectly God would weave together his passions for literature and serving the body of Christ.
Today, Dr. Rigney serves as the President and Associate Professor of Theology and Literature at Bethlehem College and Seminary. He is the author of five books, a contributing writer for the Gospel Coalition, a teacher at Desiring God, and a pastor at Cities Church in St. Paul. In each of these roles, his aim to teach people to become active, intentional readers so they can understand who God is and who we are in relation to Him. At Bethlehem College, he sums this mission up like this: “We teach great books in light of the Greatest Book for the sake of the Great Commission.”
For Dr. Rigney, the goal is never to study theology or literature solely for the sake of gaining knowledge. He believes that when God reveals His truths to us, that revelation should drive us to action. The purpose of study—and the true purpose of all things—is to know God and make Him known, whether it’s in our local community or across the world.
As a pastor and teacher, Dr. Rigney strives to live out this purpose every day. He spends time studying and seeking clarity on what God is communicating through His Word so that he can make it clear for others. “People are helped by clarity,” he explains. “When things are fuzzy, people flounder.” He is constantly asking himself, “How do I translate this for non-specialists, for people who are not theologically trained? I need to translate what I’m seeing here in these great books or in these commentaries into English, even though most of the time I’m reading in English.”
In other words, Dr. Rigney believes the deep, beautiful, complex truths of Scripture aren’t just for theologians. They are for everyone.
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