Dave Black is a New Testament scholar who recognizes that the heartbeat of God is not for scholarship. (He also happens to be my PhD studies mentor.)
A couple of days ago, he talked about scholarship on his blog. (See his entry from Saturday, August 27, 2011 at 11:43 a.m.) I thought his exhortations were relevant to all of my readers, whether they consider themselves scholars or not.
The quote below begins with some of his personal reflections of his own days as a student and some of the decisions he made regarding scholarship. However, he quickly turns to a more general problem regarding scholarship:
We hear complaints about over-specialization, lack of breadth, and misuse of secondary sources. All well and good. And to be sure, had I to do it all over again, I would have not majored in Biblical Studies in my undergraduate program but in history or classical languages instead. As for breadth, the main reason I chose to write my doctoral dissertation on astheneia and its cognates in the Pauline epistles was the challenge this topic posed for me in a wide variety of disciplines, including biblical theology, lexicography, historiography, issues of pseudonymity, etc.
But surely there is something missing in this discussion, and it is the elephant in the room: It is sadly possible to be an “expert” in the New Testament and completely miss its heartbeat, which surely is something other than scholarship. The New Testament requires that we go out of our way, eagerly and voluntarily, to accept assignments that involve sacrifice, that we say no to upward mobility, that we even be willing to deny the normal minimum needs of the body for the sake of others’ souls. Yes, I realize that if you are a Greek scholar and start talking (and acting) like this you will be accused of “going off the deep end.” But, in my opinion, until we learn to lay aside our reliance on every human resource and learn to make waiting on God the number one priority in life, we will remain in the kindergarten of learning.
I’m convinced that, if more and more of those who profess to be New Testament scholars would adopt this kind of radical, sharing lifestyle of the New Testament, we would turn our world upside down for Christ.
“Going off the deep end…” Yep, and sometimes people may questions your “scholarship.” That’s fine.
I do not live for scholarship. I hope that’s true of every “New Testament Scholar,” but I know that it’s not.
Do you want to take a step toward being a scholar who recognizes that the heartbeat of God is not for scholarship? I’d suggest beginning by spending more time with people than you spend with books.