Scholarship And Spirituality -- By: Walter M. Dunnett

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 31:1 (Mar 1988)
Article: Scholarship And Spirituality
Author: Walter M. Dunnett


Scholarship And Spirituality

Walter M. Dunnett*

Two related questions appear frequently in discussing the subject of scholarship and spirituality: (1) Can scholarship be joined with spirituality? (2) Can one who is spiritual be a scholar?

The Latin father Tertullian asked: “What is there in common between the philosopher and the Christian, the pupil of Hellas and the pupil of Heaven?” Answering his own question, he replied: “We have no need for curiosity since Jesus Christ, nor for inquiry since the Evangel.”1 This seeming anti-intellectualism appears to stem from the NT itself. The following statements made by Jesus and Paul serve to illustrate the point, quotations being taken from the Moffatt translation:

At that time Jesus spoke and said, “I praise thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding all this from the wise and learned and revealing it to the simpleminded: yes, Father, I praise thee that such was thy chosen purpose” (Matt 11:25–26).

It is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the sages, I will confound the insight of the wise.” Sage, scribe, critic of this world, where are they all? Has not God stultified the wisdom of the world? For when the world with all its wisdom failed to know God in his wisdom, God resolved to save believers by the “sheer folly” of the Christian message (1 Cor 1:19–21).

On Matt 11:25 Donald Carson comments: “The contrast is between those who are self-sufficient and deem themselves wise and those who are dependent and love to be taught.” And on v 26: “Those who pride themselves in understanding divine things are judged, those who understand nothing are taught. The predestination pattern is the counterpoint of grace.”2

Yet this is not the only impression gained from the NT. In the gospels we become aware of Jesus’ vast knowledge of and use of the Scriptures. He readily cites their words and makes use of them in creative ways in his teaching and proclamation. The fourth gospel appears to relate the gospel of the incarnation to both its Hellenistic and Hebrew cultural settings. Jerome, in a letter written to his friend Paulinus, declared: “John was no mere untaught fisherman—if so, how could he have written about the Logos, God’s

*Walter Dunnett, professor of Biblical studies at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota, delivered this presidential address at the 39th annual meeting of ETS on December 3, 1987.

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