As a church layman I’ve spent the last couple of years intellectually engaging with my faith through Christian scholarship, some of which I’ve found fantastic and some of which I can barely label Christian. Why the hesitation to accept the Christian identity of some scholars?
To be a Christian scholar, should imply that one indeed follows Jesus Christ. It implies that one’s scholarship is subjected to the authority of Jesus Christ and no other. It implies wholistic obedience to the Word of God, in thought, argumentation, methods, rhetoric, representation, philosophical presuppositions, and honesty. It requires fidelity to the God breathed status of all of Scripture. Whether it is the simplistic fundamentalist unwilling, or unable, to fairly represent the more complex interpretation of another view or it is the liberal scholar who reasons as an atheist when interpreting Scripture, it surprises me how often such scholars do not understand why the church does not follow their lead. Let me offer a little perspective from someone who has turned away from many scholars and embraced many others.
Do not assume the sheep will follow scholarship that is not held captive to Christ. Do not assume the sheep will listen to your well cited books if they fully embrace methodological naturalistic reasoning. Do not assume the sheep care how much education you have if we smell a scholar who must have the world’s approval. Do not assume the sheep want to hear your angry anti-intellectual ravings that are not adorning the Gospel of Christ and are unbecoming the spirit of a Christian. The sheep follow the Shepard and due to that fact, we simply will not follow a scholar whose voice does not match that of our King. We’d rather be deaf. Do not assume that the sheep will be fed by one whose philosophy is bound to this world and not to Christ. We’d rather starve.
To be a faithful scholar requires honest and genuine representation of opposing views, but first and foremost, it requires complete and total submission to Christ. Anything else will not do. Anything else will not matter. We might be sheep, but we are not stupid. Christian scholar, the sheep are not their own, and neither are you. (I Cor. 6:19) Can you say with the Apostle Paul, “Rather, let God be found true though every man be found a liar?” (Romans 3:4) Do you understand the necessity of seeking the glory that is from above and not that from your secular peers? (John 5:44) Will you be held captive by philosophies that are opposed to Christ as they are according to the traditions of sinful men? (Col. 3:8) Oh wise scholar, are you willing to become foolish for Christ and in Him alone find wisdom? (I Cor. 3:18) Do not assume the sheep do not have eyes to see nor ears to hear.
Let your scholarship be deeply Christian. Let love flow from all angles of your scholarship! Love your neighbor by fair representation and gentle speech. Love your fellow Christians by providing solid food that is filled with faithful and rigorous argumentation. And love your God, with heart, soul, strength and mind by using that wonderful intellect to glorify His name! Lasting, compelling and fruitful Christian scholarship is Christian first, and only then scholarly. Do not forget that we are not the only disciples of Christ, you are as well, if you neglect that then you may just find yourself standing in a foreign pasture noticing the rather course fur and protruding horns adorning that flock that has chosen your shepherding, but know that the sheep will be far off in fields of much more faith filled grazing.