On Being Bold And Humble As A Bible Scholar

In the first post of this series, which you can read HERE, I talked about the notion of being wrong as a Bible scholar.  In my discussion I considered the dangers of feeling like one always has to be right as well as the fears of being wrong.  I noted that these fears can sometimes causes learners to freeze up, to stop in their tracks, and to not just "go for it" and put themselves and their work out there.  This leads into today's post, which is concerned with being bold as a Bible scholar.

From the start, I should say that when I think about boldness I do so in relation to humility.  One can be both bold and humble at the same time; these two things are not necessarily in opposition to one another.  Being bold is not the same thing as being cold or being a jerk.  Being bold has to do with finding the courage to maintain and share one's values without compromising in the face of pressure.  It is not bandying to the whims or views of others so one is not left out of the "in crowd."

Within the academy there are at least two factors that scholars, especially young, budding, up-and-coming scholars, can easily fall prey to:  1) Buying into the so-called "majority views" at the fear/risk of being pegged as one of the non-majority; and 2) Compromising one's beliefs and views because some of those who are perceived to be thought leaders or the intellectually elite do not espouse such views.  Both of these things are very much alive and well in the academy!  I've experienced the pressure myself and I've seen my peers face the same.

But there comes a time in a scholar's life when they must decide that they will think through things critically, especially those things that seem to be popular at the moment.  Fads, as in any sphere, come and go.  People who buy into fads tend to be very easily influenced.  Yet, a backbone is needed, a theological backbone especially.  One must be bold enough not to be influenced in undue ways while at the same time being bold enough to change when the evidence (and Spirit!) calls for it.

Boldness is also needed to break new ground in this field.  It is easy to go along with so-called "majority views" but that seldom leads to any new ground being tilled.  When one has a new view, it is quite easy to suppress it out of fear.  Some fear that they will be ousted, mocked, ridiculed, trampled over, etc.  There is, in fact, good reason for such fears because these things do happen.  The internet and social media has simply made it much easier to do.  Now, anyone can start a blog, facebook, or twitter account and drag another person through the mud.  So, a certain level of boldness is needed to not only deal with such things but to put oneself out there.

Now, when I speak of putting oneself out there, I do not simply mean starting a blog or twitter account and spouting off about whatever you want.  Instead, what I'm talking about is putting one's research out there, one's work out there, and one's well-formulated ideas.  Again, anybody can blog and much of the stuff on blogs, or the internet in general, does not meet the criteria of being well-formed or rooted in solid research.  It is the deep research that exudes scholarly boldness, not mouthing off about something when the requisite study has not been undertaken.  You see, when someone takes to writing on social media or blogs without the proper level of studiousness, what they'll tend to do is overcompensate; what they lack in scholarliness, they will often (more than) try to make up for in put-downs, name-calling, sarcasm, etc.

It takes no boldness to approach things this way.  In fact, as we all know, these things are usually masks for deep insecurities.  I know this personally.  What does take boldness, however, is to have done deep research and to submit that research to the scholarly community for peer-review.  Of course, people can bypass the peer-review process in this day and age and can basically even pay to do so.  It takes some guts to go through this process!

So, to make it in this field part of what is needed is an appropriate amount of boldness coupled with humility.  In my own life I know that when this equation becomes lopsided, I will most certainly say or write something I might just regret down the road.  But all of this is part of the learning curve; it's all part of the process.  As I move forward in my own scholarly journey, I will continue to examine where I'm at in this regard and strive to strike a fine balance.  That takes some guts too, I think.  

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