Howdy, Howdy: or, Introducing New DET Contributor Henry Coates

When Travis initially asked me to write for Die Evangelischen Theologen, I thought he was kidding. I'm no longer a student of any academic program other than one of my own design. Instead of being a practicing academic theologian, I'm an itinerant preacher/pastor who lives/works/struggles in the New Orleans area. I currently work as a chaplain and preach nearly every Sunday at churches across a broad theological spectrum, but I don't consider myself a serious theologian or thinker - especially one of the caliber to be writing for a theology blog with, you know, people who can read and write in German.

But Travis wasn't kidding. I felt under-equipped, but he wasn't buying it. So with his encouragement, I said Yes, yes, I can do this. So this is my intro post.

I read. A lot. That’s part of who I am – among many other things (e.g., Christian, white, male, educated, middle class), I am a reader. I’m ok with this.

I read, but I don’t write. To be a more effective reader, I must become a more effective writer.

Imagine it this way – if I don’t seek to communicate some my reflections on what I’m reading, reading becomes a purely selfish, narcissistic thing. It becomes something for myself and myself alone. It’s all about me. I may be seeking personal self-improvement and a growth in understanding through my reading, but if I truly love books, I must share what I take from them. To love is to share. To love is to tell others about the thing you love. To love is to speak so that others may hear, to write so that others may read.

To love is to share so that people may better understand why you love in the first place.

I want to share some of the joy I get from the books I read. As a recent graduate of a seminary in New Jersey, currently living in the deep dirty South and working as a chaplain, I concern myself with books on theology, preaching, biblical studies (history, criticism, and commentary), global church history, and the history of classical and late antiquity. Lately I’ve been reading a lot of Karl Barth, Rowan Williams, Miroslav Volf and Stanley Hauerwas in theology / ethics, C. Kavin Rowe on Acts, and Peter Brown on innovation and transformation in late antiquity.

But before I get ahead of myself, a little bit more about who I am. I’m originally from New Jersey. I did my undergrad at a small liberal arts school called Drew, and somehow went from there to work for Habitat for Humanity down in New Orleans. I found myself joining a Presbyterian Church (USA), and that led to me serving for a year as a young adult volunteer in Kenya as a photographer. After my time in Africa, I attended Princeton Theological Seminary. And then after graduation I moved down to New Orleans, where I’ve been for about nine months now. I originally served as an emergency room chaplain, and grew more in my four months there than I did at three years of seminary. From the hospital I was hired as the chaplain to the Port of New Orleans, where I am still working now. My job is awesome. I get to hang out with seafarers from around the world, get to know them, try to serve them, and generally witness to the Gospel through a ministry of hospitality.

I preach weekly, and it is my hope that my writing on this blog can prove a useful tool for my verbal proclamation of the Gospel. The main force that drives my preaching is my understanding of the Word of God, Jesus Christ, as being a Word for us and with us. It is this Christ, the God who is with us, who has through his grace allowed us able to be with him. I try to capture this reality, this truth that transforms everything, through my preaching.  I seek to preach through strong, biblically based sermons a salvation that points us to different way of life, not a salvation that acts as an afterlife insurance policy. Although my preaching has gotten me into a few arguments with friends who attend the local Southern Baptist Seminary, I find myself increasingly intrigued with the grand mystery and privilege that is the verbal proclamation of the Word in sermonic form. It is my hope that after a few years of work and preaching down here in the Crescent City, I will find myself pursuing doctoral studies in Homiletics.

As this post was in the process of being published, Baker Academic sent me three books for review. In the next couple weeks / months, expect to see a review of Ronald E. Heine's Classical Christian Doctrine, Calvin and the Reformed Tradition: On the Work of Christ and the Order of Salvation by Richard A. Muller, and Matthew Levering's The Theology of Augustine: An Introductory Guide to His Most Important Works.



Glad to have you on board, Henry! Don't sell yourself too short. I happen to know that at least a few classes of your graduate education were excellent. ;-)
Derek Maris said…
Hey Henry, look forward to reading your posts!

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