For anyone without the time or inclination to read the 146-page pdf file now available on the WTS website, Joel Garver has provided a helpful summary and analysis of the documents. He reads between the lines to discern some of the deeper issues that have led to the current crisis. The following paragraph is particularly striking:
Perhaps, then, the current crisis bears witness to a larger breakdown in communication between departments and faculties, a failure of collegiality and inter-dependence between biblical studies on one side and systematic and historical studies on the other. Indeed, one wonders whether Enns might have written a better book had faculty collegiality and the inter-disciplinary environment been healthier.
Conversational theology, one might suggest, is what seems to have been lacking. People who know, trust and respect one another talking to each other about what they’re studying, learning and thinking about. Whether it’s over a cup of tea, at the pub with a pint of beer, or hanging out at the spring picnic, conversations not only build relationships, they also strengthen our theology. Systematicians need to learn from biblical scholars so that they practice good exegesis; biblical scholars need to learn from the church historians and the systematic theologians so that they remain orthodox; all of us need to learn from the practical theologians so that our work is beneficial to the church. And so on.
I have no way of knowing whether or not these kinds of conversations happen between WTS faculty members now, or whether they have in the past. But I can speak from my own experience as a student at WTS and say that I’ve been disappointed at how little conversational theology goes on within the student body. In part this is due to practical issues – very few students live on campus and many live a long way from the seminary; many students are working to pay their way through; courses are spread out through the whole day from 8.30am to 9pm so that students aren’t all on campus at the same time. All of which makes it hard to establish a sense of community and to give people the opportunities to sit around and chat through what they’re learning.
Even among the PhD students, I’ve found it hard to establish these kinds of opportunities. I know hardly any PhD students from the Historical and Theological Studies field (and those I do know, I’ve met at church not at the seminary), so I rarely have conversations outside of my field. I miss that. I miss hearing about (and arguing about) the finer points of someone else’s essay. Especially when it’s an essay I’d never write.
I love that we have seminars in the biblical studies programme. I hate that hardly anyone talks in them. It’s so rare for us to have a proper discussion, with disagreements and arguments on both sides, and everyone becoming sharper in the process.
I don’t know whether Pete might have written a better book had there been a different level of collegiality among the WTS faculty. I do know that I need my friends and colleagues who are systematicians and church historians to help me become a better biblical scholar.