Confessions of a (Former!) Bible Snob

When I was in Seminary, it seemed liked there were 4 kinds of students. The “ministry” students. The “Bible” students. The “counseling” students. And the “theology” students.

I was a “Bible” student, so I took a lot of language courses (Aramaic, Akkadian, Latin, German, French, Greek/Hebrew, etc.). I took exegesis courses. Bible backgrounds. Hermeneutics. Advanced hermeneutics…And I avoided “theology” courses like the plague. No Luther. No “systematics” (except what I had to take). No “Christology” course (because it wasn’t taught by a Bible prof). I was a Bible snob.

I have changed a lot in the past 7 years and I repent of my former anti-theological idiocy. How I wish I could go back and take Gordon Isaac’s Bonhoeffer or Luther class! Or a course on philosophical theology from Richard Lints. I came to realize that we cannot ignore the Church when we study the Bible, or the impact of history and theological thinking in the past 2000 years. In fact, there is much wisdom in embracing and learning from theologians of the past. (This may seem like a “duh” idea, but it is rather new for me).

Why am I saying this now? (I had an epiphany about this a few years back now). In my Colossians commentary there is a “connections” section where I will engage the text theologically and for preaching/application. So, to show my penance for so many years looking down on “theologians,” here is the list of books I just checked out at the library and which I plan on incorporating into my research on Colossians.

Prayer (Hans Urs von Balthasar)

God and the Art of Happiness (Ellen Charry)

Incarnation (Alister McGrath)

Incarnation (T.F. Torrance)

The Humanity of God (Barth)

The Crucified God (Moltmann)

God Incarnate (Oliver Crisp)

And, of course, I will include a good amount from my new favorite theologian Bonhoeffer. I plan on working through some of Miroslav Volf’s work on reconciliation, and on the Trinity in due time.

I know, for those “theologians” out there, this the tip of a huge iceberg, but it is a start.

Still, I wanted to make the confession to warn others who may have been or are like I was  – take that “theology” class that looks interesting! Explore new horizons! If you have patience and an open mind, there is much to be gained!

5 thoughts on “Confessions of a (Former!) Bible Snob

  1. Uh oh. You may have hit a nerve with me. I’m in seminary right now and have very similar “bible snob” thoughts in my theology and ethics classes. And maybe you can help me here. The reason I get concerned in these classes is because it seems that, when developing a theological or ethical concept, their appeal to scripture lacks the nuances of the biblical author. Sometimes I’m not so sure they’re even bothering with Hebrew or Greek nor are they trying to hear what Paul, Matthew, etc. were saying. I don’t want to be snobbish, but I get frustrated when it looks as if the text is being neglected and misused.

    Did you have similar experiences when you were in seminary and do you know what I’m getting at?

  2. Hi Jonathan. I have found that some “theologians” do much better with the Bible and good interpretation than others. We have a professor of missions here at SPU that does really well with handling Scripture carefully and accurately. That should inspire us, though, as “Bible” people to be able to do the same with theology. I have mixed experiences with theologians’ use of Scripture, but it is worth the patience. It is time we start cross-pollinating.

    I do know what you are saying and I have had some unfortunate experiences – esp theologians using seriously outdated Biblical scholarship. Again, though, that shouldn’t stop us from digging into a John Calvin or Karl Barth course. I guess the frustration may be there, but it is worth the effort if you have a reasonably good prof.

    Even if you don’t take a theology course, start reading theologians. (I am still preaching to myself here!)

  3. have a read of herman bavinck’s reformed dogmatics newly brought into english from dutch. a key account of reformed theology, thoroughly exegetical in orientation and will give you the sweep in historical theology which will get you into the slipstream


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