“Scribes Trained For The Kingdom” -- By: David A. deSilva

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 29:0 (NA 1997)
Article: “Scribes Trained For The Kingdom”
Author: David A. deSilva


“Scribes Trained For The Kingdom”

David A. deSilva

Dr. deSilva (PhD-Emory University) is Assistant Professor of New Testament and Greek at ATS. This chapel sermon, (delivered on October 17, 1997) was the fourth is a series on ATS core values (Scripture, spiritual formation, and community being the others). It has only been lightly edited for publication.

The close of midterm week may not be the ideal time to hear a sermon on academic excellence. You have perhaps had this year’s first wave of academic stress preparing for exams, investing hours in the attempt to master the content of the first six weeks of classes. You may be concerned enough about the grades you will be seeing next week, without wanting to hear terms like “excellence,” which may call to mind the pressure to achieve certain “excellent” scores on tests and papers. If this sermon fell last Friday, perhaps it could have been a pep talk to get you through a hard weekend of studying. Now that midterms are pretty much over, it may seem like something of a postmortem.

But timing is not the only obstacle to hearing a message about this seminary’s fourth core value. It is, frankly, an ideal quite unlike the other three. Spiritual formation, Scripture, Community—these are the things that make Christians feel warm inside, calling to mind gatherings of sisters and brothers sharing their spiritual journeys, meeting around the sacred texts to hear a word from the Lord of God, supporting one another in need, praying for one another. Those core values speak to the very core of our discipleship, and we all nod in affirmation as the virtues of being transformed into Christ-likeness, of filling our daily lives with Scripture, and of building up the household of God are extolled from this pulpit.

And now we come to reflect on academic excellence, the fourth core value, the apple among the oranges. It of course seems fitting that a seminary—an institution of higher education—should hold up academic excellence as an ideal, but how is this value like the other three? More to the point, isn’t there a certain ambiguity about academic excellence as a value at all, since the pursuit of academic excellence holds both great promises and great dangers? Indeed, the other three core values themselves occasionally speak against, or are jeopardized by, things academic. Scripture does not speak uniformly about the value of academics: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor 8:1); “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not upon your own understanding” (Prov. 3:14); “In much wisdom is much vexation, and those who increase knowledge increase sorrow” (Eccl. 1:18). Community can be

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