I (Still) Believe – Inspiring Reflections from Senior Biblical Scholars (Gupta)

ISBKudos to John Byron and Joel Lohr on editing a nice new little book called I (Still) Believe: Leading Biblical Scholars Share Their Stories of Faith and Scholarship (Zondervan, 2015). This book contains short autobiographical essays by respected scholars such as James D.G. Dunn, Walter Moberly, Ellen Davis, Patrick Miller, Beverly Gaventa, Gordon Fee, Richard Bauckham and Morna Hooker (18 total).

As far as I know, none of these scholars blog (am I right, John?), but if they did, this is the kind of thing readers might like to know from them – how has scholarship affected your faith and vice versa?

I was going to blog through the book, but Ken has beat me to it, so I will leave that task in his capable hands. Instead, I will just say – get the book!

A few quick observation: I have read several of the essays and I noticed a trend whereby few of these scholars had their faith rocked by critical scholarship. Where there had been waves and low-points in faith, it seems more triggered by “ugly politics” in academia. More than a few said that their parents and/or church had a rich enough faith to help them engage questions and doubts honestly and maturely. This is a great challenge to our churches to recognize this need.

Secondly, I noticed how few of these scholars grew up wanting to be scholars! Most of them talk about stumbling into biblical studies.

Thirdly, several scholars talked about how they were inspired by some of their own professors. And for me, it is the same. I would say teachers who have had a deep impact on my vocation (especially modeling authentic, passionate, and engaging teaching) have been Dr. Steven Nimis (classics, Miami University), Dr. Sean McDonough (Gordon Conwell), Dr. Gary Parrett (Gordon Conwell), and Prof. John Barclay (Durham). I also want to throw in there Dr. Gordon Fee – while I never studied with Fee (sadly), I used to listen to his lectures on audio tape when I commuted to downtown Boston to teach adjunct courses after I graduated from Gordon Conwell. By the way, Fee’s essay in I (Still) Believe is entitled “Scholar on Fire” – and it is an apt description. What passion!

Anyway, it is interesting to read this book in a time when some leaders and critics within SBL (Society of Biblical Literature) are suspicion of confessional scholarship. I have the humble privilege of serving on the board of the Institute for Biblical Research, an affiliate of SBL, and I believe that we try to demonstrate that evangelicals can bring a lot to the table of academic scholarship. So, the stories in this book (and I should mention that most are not evangelicals) remind me that biblical scholars do not have to be ashamed of or hide their faith.

I hope you get the chance to enjoy these stories.

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6 thoughts on “I (Still) Believe – Inspiring Reflections from Senior Biblical Scholars (Gupta)

    • Not this time, Ken. Its all you! But I did appreciate the window into Dunn’s history and world. Love that guy. Privileged for the short time I had in Durham with him.

  1. Shouldn’t the book have been titled, “We Never Stopped Believing?” From Sunday school to a theology degree?

    The actual title, “We (Still) Believe,” implies they faced crises of faith. How many of the contributors mention struggling with passages in the Bible that provoked crises in faith?

    I edited a book of testimonies by people who grew up in conservative Christian backgrounds and who either grew more moderate/liberal, or converted to more inclusive non-Christian religions, or became agnostics or atheists. A few of them were biblical scholars. What they had in common was being raised in a conservative Christian background and leaving it, which can be a difficult thing to do psychologically and sociologically speaking, though it is also a common occurrence. Even in the case of Christian institutions of higher learning that were founded on the basis of conservative Christian beliefs and interpretations of the Bible, like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, even Fuller it is a common occurrence. I don’t recall reading of many if any institutions that have developed in the opposite direction, i.e., from more moderate/liberal/inclusive biblical perspective back toward more conservative views (unless you count the Southern Baptist house clearing that took place in its seminaries in the 1980s, when professors’ lectures were taped by conservative students and the professors were fired for denying or questioning inerrancy or creationism, all because the SBC leadership had become nothing but fundamentalists–though they also lost a number of large liberal arts colleges in the process who sued for their independence from the SBC during that time, so the result did not buck the overall trend I mentioned). The most conservative Christian colleges remain the youngest, founded in reaction to the overall trend.

    See http://www.amazon.com/Leaving-The-Fold-Testimonies-Fundamentalists/dp/1591022177

    • Thanks, Edward. I think that is why “Still” is in parentheses. A few did have small crises and difficult moments as they dove into critical scholarship but several didn’t.

  2. Hi Nijay,
    I’ll have to get this book! A joint blog by you and Chris on a divide constructed between faith and critical scholarship, sometimes evident in at least some SBL circles would be nice …

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