Tom Schreiner on the Dangers of Specialization

Sometimes biblical scholars can be…well…a little snobbish when it comes to systematic theology. And I’m saying this as somebody who is one. Nevertheless, I have observed that many biblical scholars view their work as primarily historical and cooly detached from the theological implications of their work. The irony is that even some Christians regard this detachment as praiseworthy and good.

That is why Tom Schreiner’s words in the video above need a wide hearing in our guild. We are far too Gablerian. If you are a biblical scholar, it is no virtue to ignore theology as if our work is purely descriptive. If we would be faithful to our calling as Christian scholars, we must grapple with the dogmatic implications of our exegesis. May Tom Schreiner’s tribe increase. (HT: Patrick Schreiner)

9 Responses to Tom Schreiner on the Dangers of Specialization

  1. Christiane Smith September 10, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

    The Consistory men came at dawn
    to strip the churches bare
    to gather all the idols
    they said were lurking there

    Took they first the Mother
    With her beloved Child
    And chopped her into kindling wood.
    My father said they smiled.

    “This is not He!” The father cried
    The new one that they sent
    “These painted dolls! These wooden sticks!”
    Into the fire they went.

    There went my patron Anthony
    Who fought against the Snake
    Dark-eyed Lucy, gentle Claire
    And Martin in their wake

    Fierce wolves of God, they gnawed the church
    Down to her very bone
    Even the body on the rood
    They did not leave alone

    When all was gone that I had loved
    They saw me standing by
    Very small and very scared
    and very soon to cry.

    The father stroked my tousled hair
    And held aloft a Book
    He fixed me with his icy gaze
    It was no pleasant look

    “Child”, he said, “From this you’ll learn”
    “The ways of God above”
    “And how he proffers saving faith”
    “With His electing love”

    I don’t want his nasty Book
    But to run and jump and play
    And to feel the wind upon my cheek
    The cool of night, the warmth of day

    He says that this is evil
    I must learn to mortify
    All that sin that in me dwells
    Or surely I will die.

    And so I grew from girl to maid
    and cut myself away
    and feared lest all this useless beauty
    should cause my soul to stray

    But as I listened to his book
    I heard the ancient strain
    The palm trees laden with their dates
    The flowers after rain.

    The eagle in his heaven
    The tree beside the brook
    The conies in their stoney place
    All this was in the Book

    “This is also Me” I heard Him say
    The voice within the Book
    Omnia quia sunt lumina sunt
    But you have to learn to look.

    • Christiane Smith September 10, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

      I found this ‘poem’ over at imonk and I thought of your post, DENNY, especially that reference to Gabler .. . . the ‘poem’ is a write up from one of the contributors on imonk who rejoices in the name of ‘Mule Eating Briars’ . . . indeed, as Gabler puts it, the details in the Bible can be ‘cryptic’

      • Christiane Smith September 11, 2013 at 1:37 am #

        oops, the correct name of the person responsible for that ‘poem’ was ‘Mule Chewing Briars’

  2. Tim Keene September 11, 2013 at 6:18 am #

    What would the parallel mistake by systematic theologians be? As a biblical scholar I am troubled by the chasm that exists between the discourse among theologians and among biblical scholars but the chasm is not all created by one side.
    Also when I was at Bible College, one of the lecturers commented that he was not a biblical scholar, he was a theologian. He said this in tones that implied that he was not a mere bookkeeper, he was a chartered accountant (or CPA in US terms).
    There needs to be dialogue between the two disciplines rather than one trumping the other. And this needs to be addressed as much by theologians as biblical scholars.

    • Denny Burk September 11, 2013 at 6:26 am #

      True enough. My area is biblical studies, so my experience has been shaped by that particular perspective.

      • Tim Keene September 17, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

        An eminent Christian in UK, Malcom Jeeves, commented thus:
        The temptation to read into the text of Scripture is always with us. I was reminded of this very recently in an email I received from theologian Tom Wright. He said that we find it all too easy “to allow our traditions to echo back off the surface of the text that is trying to tell us something else,” and that “all too often the word ‘biblical’ itself has been shrunk so that it only now means ‘according to our own tradition, which we assume to be biblical.’”

        Thus although Schreiner is quite at liberty to warn us as he has, I think the greater danger lies in the reverse.

  3. Stephen Beck September 11, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

    Schreiner underplays the problem of specialization, applying it here only to different kinds of theology. Some (for example, http://www.amazon.com/Ideas-Have-Consequences-Richard-Weaver/dp/0226876802) have argued that modern society’s default to specialized knowledge is one of the more well-known effects of nominalism, a philosophy which ultimately leads to the loss of ultimate truth on the one hand and the dilapidation of society on the other.

  4. Tim Keene September 22, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

    In a recent copy of JETS it is asserted by Gerald McDermott that
    [postconservative evangelicals] reserve the right to use Scripture as a trump card over tradition when they see conflict between the two. Self-designated ‘post-conservatives’ such as Roger Olson, Clark Pinnock, and the late Stanley Grenz have been the most vocal about the need to be open to further light breaking out from the Word that might compel a reshaping of doctrine or new doctrine entirely.
    This seems to me to explain exactly what an evangelical is, not post-conservative.
    McDermott seems to seek to prioritise tradition as established in Reformed circles over scripture and he sees this as charactersitic of Piper, Grudem, Mohler etc. This has created a split within evangelicalism between the good (Piper etc) and the bad (Olson etc), one he blames the latter for. But if he has accurately portrayed Piper etc and Olson etc, it seems it seems to me really to be a contrast between the Catholic (Piper etc) and the Protestant (Olson etc).
    This is my fear about Schreiner’s views, that he and his followers are drifting back into a form of Catholicism.

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