>In light of some of the recent discussion here at CRMafia I thought it would be a good idea to check in with Dan Wallace to get his perspective on inerrancy, Christ-centered theology, the current state of evangelicalism and more. For those unfamiliar with Dan Wallace and his work, here is a brief biographical sketch from the blog he contributes to, Parchment & Pen:
“Dan has taught Greek and New Testament courses on a graduate school level since 1979. He has a Ph.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary, and is currently professor of New Testament Studies at his alma mater. Dan also serves at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, TX as an instructor to The Theology Program teaching elective courses in New Testaments studies. His Greek textbook Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics is a standard text in seminaries and colleges. Dan is also an advisor and instructor at Reclaiming the Mind Ministries. Visit Dan’s website.”
Part Two the interview continues below.
JW: Talk about the importance of a Christ-centered approach to theology and how this has influenced your efforts in theology, hermeneutics, Greek grammar, etc. over the years.
DW: I have been a Christian now for fifty-one years (I came to a saving knowledge of Christ at age four). As every year passes, the more I am convinced of less and less but convinced of it more and more. That is to say, the inner circle of my core beliefs may be shrinking but my conviction about the innermost circle of those beliefs is deepened and strengthened. Another thing I have learned is that it is dangerous to divorce our hearts from our minds. When we do that, it is an easy step to simply treat the Bible as an object of study rather than as a pointer to Christ. When I study grammar, textual criticism, theology, exegesis, hermeneutics—any topic that touches on the Christian faith, in fact—I try to do so with an attitude of giving my whole heart and mind to the Lord. I must admit that I often fail at this, but this is always my goal. One of the great dangers I see among seminary students is this divorce between heart and mind. Little by little, almost imperceptibly, they begin to treat their studies as mere homework. Then, they expect the faculty to feed their souls. When this divorce is complete, the Hebrew Bible and the Greek New Testament become burdens to them instead of a source of joy and nourishment. They no longer see the face of Christ in the pages of Holy Writ. And when they graduate from school, they feel farther away from God than when they began.
This terrible state of affairs can be avoided if students would own up to the responsibility to care for their souls, rather than assuming that the faculty must do this. After all, when these same students went to a secular university they didn’t expect such spiritual spoon-feeding from their non-Christian professors! Further, if students begin on day one with the recognition that the study of the Bible in the original languages is a sacred trust and a profound act of worship, they will not only survive seminary training but thrive in it. When they write an exegetical paper or take a parsing or vocabulary quiz, they will see this as an opportunity to glorify Christ with an offering from their minds. But when students see this as a means to advance, to secure a position, or impress a professor, they have already failed spiritually. When students start complaining about how hard a course is—especially a course whose content is the Bible—I am baffled. How could spending a few more hours a week studying scripture—in the original languages no less!—be anything but the most spiritually nourishing feast that one could enjoy?
I realize that I have detoured from the question. But if I simply stated my perspective on these things from a professor’s viewpoint without addressing what I want my students to embrace then I haven’t gotten to the heart of the matter. At bottom, all of us are called to serve Christ with the gifts and talents and opportunities that he has given us. Those who are being trained for full-time vocational Christian ministry are being trained to love God with their hearts and minds on a level that they had never thought possible before (and sometimes had never thought desirable!). As Warfield said in a famous chapel message at Princeton Seminary, “Take off your shoes, for the place you are standing on is holy ground!” He was referring to the halls of academia in which the object of study was the Bible in its original languages. I pray that my students, those whom I have any influence over, will come to grips with that noble truth. But when we divorce the mind from the heart, the mind begins to serve the flesh, and we wonder why our lives are a desert.
To be continued in Part 3 of 3.