Who is setting the agenda for evangelical scholarship? Too often, it is non-evangelical scholars. Recent examples include Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus and his other writings on early Christianity as well as the ubiquitous Da Vinci Code, which have generated a whole swath of evangelical responses. But are evangelicals forever doomed to take their cue from those outside their movement and to busy themselves with responding to the works of others?
I recently had the opportunity to reflect on issues such as these when I was asked to represent the field of New Testament in a panel discussion on the future of evangelical scholarship at the Southeastern regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. The panel also included Millard Erickson (representing Systematic Theology), Bill Arnold (Old Testament), and Jerry Rankin (missions).
In my brief remarks, I ventured the following suggestions for evangelical New Testament scholarship:
(1) Biblical Theology: Build on the renaissance of biblical theology in recent years and produce fresh works on the theology of New Testament writers. Example: a new series, published by Zondervan, on the Biblical Theology of the New Testament (BTNT), with volumes by Darrell Bock on Lukan theology and Douglas Moo on Pauline theology.
(2) Hermeneutics: Implement Kevin Vanhoozer’s program of a theodramatic hermeneutic that understands biblical truth as being conveyed through the various scriptural genres. Flesh out Vanhoozer’s proposals in the form of concrete interpretations of specific NT (and OT) texts, especially since Vanhoozer himself rarely cites Scripture.
(3) New Testament Greek: In light of the arrival of rather sophisticated computer resources, we should see more definitive works and studies in the area of New Testament Greek. This should include syntactical and grammatical studies and reference works as well as explorations of the uses of the Greek verb (including further testing of Greek verbal aspect theory).
(4) The Scholarly Task: Theological educators should rise up and produce works on spiritual formation on the higher levels of theological education. More conscious thinking and publishing is needed on the calling and craft of the Christian scholar. A few years ago I published a little booklet entitled The Marks of a Scholar. More recently, I wrote a book called Excellence (Crossway, 2011).
For further reading see my lecture, “Of Professors and Madmen: Currents in Contemporary New Testament Scholarship.”