I was asked some time ago now if I considered myself a “theologian” or a “Bible scholar”. This was in a context (seminary) where there seemed to be a fair divide among students of each focus and I know it is that way in other institutions than just the one I found myself in. At any rate, my response at the time was “theologian” which shocked the individual inquiring because they knew my experience with the Biblical languages and texts, my grasp of ANE history and culture, etc. Apparently this individual had already considered me a “Bible scholar”.
After the initial shocked look (one I expected when I replied the way I did knowing the questioner), I was asked why that was my answer. I said, because I believed “theologian” belonged to the Church specifically while “Bible scholar” did not necessarily. Perhaps that is an unfair distinction. Both could belong either to the Church or not, but from my perspective at the time I felt it more imperative to confess with the Church concerning Scripture. I was not willing to think of studying the Scripture apart from the confession of faith as a member of Christ’s body.
And then last year I was asked in my interview where I now teach “What do you intend to be as a result of finishing your doctoral work?” For some reason at that moment I no longer felt so clearly a “theologian” much less a “Bible scholar” (or anything else for that matter…other than “finished with the dissertation” 🙂 ). However, that conversation lingered with me for my five hour drive home. And I still return to it. I had affirmed in myself that my aim was to be a “Biblical theologian” thinking that the best combination of both worlds: word and confession.
Then I encountered the following statement by Graeme Goldsworthy:
“The Biblical theologian that does not strive to be also a dogmatician will be less effective as a biblical theologian, and vice versa.” (Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000], p.57)
Categorization is always problematic because while it highlights some elements it likely de-emphasizes others which may be equally essential. This points, once again, to the necessary interplay of the meditation and proclamation of Scripture as a canonical whole (a far more Christian practice than simply a study of individual texts) and the confession of the Church (which reminds one of the place within Christ’s body and redemptive history). So perhaps now I might consider myself “Biblical-theologian-dogmatician”. So what are you and why?