More thoughts on Biblical/Theological Education

More thinking out loud. I think there are two distinct tasks that need to be approached:

1. Understanding the Biblical writings within their original setting as theological documents intended to be formative for God’s people (a generalisation I know)

2. Drawing together the findings of such study in order to address the questions concerning our following Jesus today that we want to bring to Scripture, in conversation with such activity from church history

I would be happy to label these Biblical Studies and Theological Studies respectively.[1]

Of course the first will in many instances be received as a fresh address to us (especially NT writings), and we should not keep them at an arms length, we should study them as living word rather than as ancient artifacts. But because in many instances we will require the whole counsel of Scripture to answer our questions, and because we do not want to inadvertently transform the text in the quest to answer our questions, we need to seperate the tasks.

How might this be embodied in an educational setting? I would have to say that those who teach should not be confined to one task or the other, for concern this may result in competence in one but not the other, and in the case of Theological Studies, knowledge of and an ability to work with the Biblical texts skillfully would be a necessity. So there would still be courses on individual biblical writings and groups of writings (e.g. prophets, Paul’s letters, etc.) which would form the backbone of the curriculum, and then courses on various themes and issues that draw on such work to shape our following of Jesus.

Let me know your thoughts…

[1] I don’t see much of a place in Christian biblical/theological education or ministry training for the sort of speculative theology or goals often persued in contemporary biblical studies such as source criticism that (I think) do not provide resources for following Jesus.


Reflections following the Colloquium on Theological Interpretation

Just to venture some thoughts freshly stimulated by the Colloquium on Theological Interpretation held over the past couple of days at Laidlaw College in Auckland New Zealand. I was only able to attend the second day, but nevertheless have come away with fresh insights and questions, and a delight to be a part of the conversation. Daniel Kirk has offered some of his own thoughts at Storied Theology, and presented a paper which I unfortunately was not present for but hear was very helpful.

At the close of the colloquium Joel B. Green noted how it was the first colloquium on biblical studies to begin with prayer that he had attended in a very long time. This was both a shock and saddening, but at the same time indicated the ‘life’ that was present at this colloquium and showed that what took place was actually carried out in the Spirit of TI itself.

Some thoughts…

  • What we need is study of the Biblical documents in line with their nature as confessional documents intended to proclaim, teach and shape lives. Perhaps recapturing the Bible as a personal confession (within a wider social,  geographical, and historical confession), rather than “someone elses mail”, will assist us in doing biblical studies that can more directly speak to the church.
  • Sometimes those who advocate Theological Interpretation seem to be saying that we need to set aside the ‘historical critical’ questions biblical scholars have been taking to the text and replace these with theological questions. But in my humble opinion the many questions asked of the texts–whether concerned with sources, historicity, literary features, etc.–are all legitimate. Can we not ask questions concerning the theology of the texts as well as all these and more?
  • As someone who is entering into the realm of teaching within the context of a Bible college, and who has been interested in the form and function of theological education for some time, I often ponder the pros and cons of the division between Biblical studies and Theology. Does the departmental split need to stand? Or does this need rethinking? While we do not want to collapse one into the other, I think we need to reconfigure their relationship. How we should do so is of course the big question.
    • My thought experiment is to retain the distinction in departments but to not associate lecturers with either one. So while retaining OT, NT, and Theology departments, gone will be NT and OT professors, and professors of Theology. Room would still need to made for particular specializations within each field, but these would be all determinative for what one teaches, researchs, and publishes on. Possible? Im not sure…