The Sins of the Scholar

An ugly truth of Christian scholarship is that all the negatives which plague the secular academy can be found inside our camp. We are Christian, so we confess Christ crucified and risen, following him in all we do, but we are human, so we wrestle with sin as all people do. Christian academics have pride, get in arguments, manipulate others, have trouble getting along, produce publications for the wrong reasons. We need to grow in holiness, too.

As a spiritual exercise, I regularly read from The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers. One paragraph from the reading this morning really struck me as apropos for the scholar and thus for me:

Purge me from selfishness, the fear of man, the love of approbation, the shame of being thought old-fashioned, the desire to be cultivated or modern.

I have felt the sting of all these as a scholar. This is especially true about "being thought old-fashioned." Biblical scholarship loves the new, the avant garde, the cutting edge. Spend some time at ETS and SBL and you'll be razzled and dazzled by new approaches and techniques. Exegesis and authorial intent are passé, replaced by fresh readings and perspectives. The temptation to study something just because it is new and will be noticed, rather than because of intrinsic value, is almost irresistible. But Christ does not call us to that. We are called to faithfulness, to fidelity; to proclamation of the gospel, the written text of the Bible that the church has proclaimed for centuries; to truth, not fashion. That's one reason I focus on exegesis: it is a central skill which the Christian academy can use to bless the church and honor Christ. So it is my heartfelt prayer that I will grow in holiness in my scholarship, exalting Christ and minimizing myself in whatever I do. May our scholarship be Christian not only in content, but in conduct, too.