D.A. Carson’s new book, Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed, is his brief foray not only into the meaning of “son of God” in Scripture, but also how a biblical and theological study of the term contributes to the current debates over how to translate “Son of God” in Muslim contexts.
I’ll have more to say about that latter aspect of the book later, but right now, I just want to highlight something that was really a bit of an aside in the book, but one that has spurred me to think about the possibility of future education.
In fact, contemporary systematic theology frequently generates dissertations on, say, John Owen’s view of the atonement (which properly belongs to historical theology) or perichoresis and personhood in the Trinity (which largely turns on philosophical theology), with relatively little work devoted to the kind of constructive, normative theology that builds a case, starting from the Bible, of what Christians ought to believe. Moreover, systematicians are sometimes at least as disdainful of rigorous exegesis as biblical scholars are of systematic theology.
His point is that PhD studies have become so specialized into examining aspects of specific theological concepts and theologians that there is often little room left for exploring further how the Scriptures actually guide us in our theological endeavors.
Given that I have interests in pursuing a PhD in theology in the future, this certainly gives me pause. That is, if this is the case (and talking with friends engaged in advanced study, it certainly rings true in many cases), then would PhD studies really benefit me?
Or, perhaps I should ask a different question. Should I specifically try to find a way to do advanced studies that allows for more integration of systematic or historical theology and biblical exegesis? Will such a desire be possible within such a highly specialized field?
Clearly, I don’t have answers on all of this yet, but it certainly has me thinking about the role and task of theology in the context of the study of Scripture.Read More