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)
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.
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’
oops, the correct name of the person responsible for that ‘poem’ was ‘Mule Chewing Briars’
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.
True enough. My area is biblical studies, so my experience has been shaped by that particular perspective.
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.
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.
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.