Sunday, July 26, 2009

Advice for Young Christian Scholars

More than a year ago I had the happy occasion of corresponding with a young Christian scholar who asked for some advice concerning a project on which he was working at the time. I offer a portion of a note that I sent to him to encourage him. I offer that segment here in the event that it may be a source of encouragement to you, whoever you may be. This young scholar has never sat in any of my classrooms which was particularly heartening to me that he would approach me simply on the basis of reading one of my essays. I have met this young gentleman at professional conferences.

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I am pleased to offer advice to whatever extent I might stimulate ideas in young scholars such as yourself. An important and essential quality of true scholarship, for which we all must strive, is to find delight in serving as the source of ideas that stimulate and stir the imaginations and passions of younger scholars who will almost surely advance well beyond ourselves. Scholarship entails leadership that finds joy in passing ideas on to others in such a manner that they take up those ideas as their own and advance them. And we are to do this all without whining that the ideas may have originated with ourselves in some small way. True Christian scholarship is not particularly concerned to receive credit and applause for ideas, even if they are brilliant ideas, for we do not serve ourselves but the Lord.

So, if I have the opportunity of playing some small role in stirring your research/writing juices, I take delight in it. If my essay prompts an idea for a dissertation project, I encourage you to trace out Paul's argument in Romans and find what is truly there, and do so to God's glory. After all, to whatever extent I have correctly identified a biblical-theological theme in Paul's letter to the Romans, it is true only because Paul thought such thoughts long before me.

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