The disciplines of theology and biblical studies should serve each other, and they should serve both the church and the academy together. But the relationship between them is often marked by misunderstandings, methodological differences, and cross-discipline tension.
Theologian Hans Boersma here highlights five things he wishes biblical scholars knew about theology. In a companion volume, biblical scholar Scot McKnight reflects on five things he wishes theologians knew about biblical studies.
With an irenic spirit as well as honesty about differences that remain, in these books Boersma and McKnight seek to foster understanding between their disciplines so they might once again serve hand in hand.
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“The problem with the postmodern approach sketched above is not that it admits that we are interpretive creatures; the problem is that it errs in its determination of which identity is primary in interpretation. For Christians it is not income, color, age, or sex that determines our identity at its most basic level; our being in Christ (en Christō) takes priority over each of these factors.” (Pages 41–42)
“The division between biblical and dogmatic theology goes back at least to 1787, when Johann P. Gabler delivered an inaugural address at the University of Altdorf titled De justo discrimine theologiae biblicae et dogmaticae regundisque recte utriusque finibus (‘On the Proper Distinction Between Biblical and Dogmatic Theology and the Specific Objectives of Each’).” (Page 2)
“As Nevin saw it, the propositionalism of the Princetonian tradition erred in identifying the object of faith with the propositions or teachings of Scripture rather than with Christ.” (Page 6)
“The historical-critical method, which is nothing other than being a historian, whatever its values (and they are many), is not how Jesus or the apostles read their Bibles, it is not how the patristics or medievals read their Bibles, and it is not how the Reformers read their Bibles. It is in fact an Enlightenment method. That is all I need to say here: if we want to comprehend the gospel of the Christ of the Bible, we will need at least to reconsider these our good predecessors’ hermeneutics.” (Page xiii)
“The second thing that I, as a theologian, wish biblical scholars knew is that the Bible cannot be interpreted without prior metaphysical commitments and that we need Christian Platonism as an interpretive lens in order to uphold Scripture’s teaching.” (Page 40)
With apologies to Shakespeare, we have to admit the impediments to the marriage of true minds before we can reconcile them. Communication lies at the heart of healthy relationships, and Boersma does a good job of sharing what's on his theological mind to his biblical scholar counterpart. My prayer is that this exchange will lead not to another battle for the Bible (Why do the theological disciplines rage?) but, rather, to a closer working relationship between biblical scholars and theologians. For exegesis and theology are joined at the hip, and a dislocated hip only cripples the body of Christ.
—Kevin J. Vanhoozer, research professor of systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
I am blessed to have been trained in institutions and by people who decried any sharp divisions between biblical studies and theology, yet I respected the distinct contributions of both. Boersma's book gives words to this sentiment. Each chapter reminds biblical scholars of broad commitments they likely share, but ones their discipline makes easy to ignore. Boersma grounds a call to increased appreciation and common mission in the aim of all theology, namely respecting the sacramental character of Scripture and its role in pointing all who hear it to the worship of God.
—Amy Peeler, associate professor of New Testament at Wheaton College and Graduate School
I was trained in a method of biblical scholarship that insisted that as long as one employed the methodologies of historical-critical scrutiny of the Bible, one could arrive at the determinate meaning of the biblical text. But what if the overriding property of the Bible is that the risen Christ elects to speak through these texts? Hans Boersma here explores how that fundamental theological conviction makes all the difference. His case is largely convincing to this biblical scholar, and I hope it will be widely considered among my colleagues in the biblical studies guild.
—Wesley Hill, associate professor of New Testament at Western Theological Seminary, Holland, Michigan
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