Better Bible Study Tip #24: Respect, But Do Not Idolize, Christian Scholarship

Some Christians have been trained to be suspicious of scholarship. Throughout history, the Christian faith has been attacked in numerous ways from the writings of “Christian” scholars. “Christian” scholars have been known to undermine the authority of scripture, challenge the historicity of biblical events, and completely recharacterize well-known biblical figures. It makes sense why some would be suspicious.

But it would be a serious error to ignore scholarship. Ignorance is not a virtue. As a Christian, we should care deeply that people want to learn more about scripture. No one earns a PhD without putting in a tremendous amount of work and learning a great deal in the process. Christian scholars aren’t always right in the points they argue, but they are usually very skilled in crafting strong arguments. It would be foolish to simply ignore what someone has to say simply because they are a scholar.

On the other hand, some Christians seem to develop the habit of idolizing scholarship. It would also be a serious error to simply support whatever the latest scholarship says without carefully examining the merits of their arguments. In the same vein, it would be a mistake to ignore or dismiss the arguments made by non-scholars simply because they do not have degrees. Arguments should be weighed on their own merits, not on the accolades of those making the arguments.

Christians should not bow to everything scholars have to say. Scholars are still human. They can make mistakes. They can have agendas. They can be unintentionally influenced by their own presuppositions. They can mistakenly overemphasize certain pieces of data, and underemphasize others. Having a degree doesn’t necessarily make one right. Respect scholarship, but no not idolize it.

The way to respond to scholarship is not ignore it or pretend like ignorance is a virtue. If we really believe it is important to learn everything we can about the Bible, we should develop the habit of responding to scholars by putting in the hard work of thinking deeply about their arguments, and then confirming or critiquing what the scholar says based on the strengths or weaknesses of those arguments.