Responding to a quote by Carl Trueman, Carlos Bovell writes – Whose job is it to get us out of this mess? [Bolding mine:]
. . . Is the question, “What does it mean for scripture to be God’s Word?” a systematic question or a biblical studies question? It would seem to me a theological question. So how explicitly involved in theology is biblical studies? Very, if biblical scholars are the ones who should answer this question. But there’s a catch: only a restricted set of answers to this question will be accepted by the systematicians.
So now one might ask, How explicitly involved in biblical studies is theology? Considerably, but from whence does systematics get its primary materials for the work of systematizing? Biblical studies? Or is it already there in the theology itself? This is a dog chasing its tail. Each discipline apparently has its own set of tools and each discipline studies a very different sort of data set, yet somehow the systematic dimension is assumed to have priority (especially in the present context). Not only that, but Carl seems to imply that the discipline of biblical studies has not been holding its own and is now expected to fall back in line (with systematics, that is).
Yet biblical studies is theoretically what provides systematics with the materials for its theologizing. Without this data, the theology produced would not be scriptural, which is the ultimate goal. Theology also has as its resource all of what has come before in historical theology. Still, scripture is supposed to be given priority. But for the last 20 years or so the materials set forth by evangelical biblical scholars have increasingly become of such nature that suggests systematics should begin pondering whether it is in need of revision. . . .
It is a very interesting post – especially in light of the Westminster controversy over Peter Enns’s Inspiration and Incarnation (Bovell is a Westminster grad) and other debates within evangelicalism. I was mostly drawn to his description of the “circularity” of the debate between theologians and biblical scholars. I wrote a bit about that here.
Bovell thinks it is “officially” the philosophers job to break the impass and to rework “what it means to say that the Bible is the word of God?” While technically he may be right, I’m not holding my breath for the philosophers. To be honest, I think the impass – if it is to be broken – will be worked out over time in a more socio-cultural way than intellectually. Then again, I tend to see the whole debate in terms of socio-cultural phenomena (the clash of two ways of being), and I’m fairly entrenched in one of them.
What do you think of Bovell’s proposal?