I’m taking some flack from readers because I’m only posting at my personal blog rather than here at TeamPyro, so on the one hand I’m thinking, “Who knew people read teamPyro for my posts? I thought I was filler of the sake of stringing people along until Phil can paste a post together.” On the other hand I’m thinking, “Geez, I don’t want to end up like Pecadillo as a sort of token blog member.”
I have been blogging about a couple of things over at my site – like Baptist prohibitionism and the matter of whether or not most people exercise or demonstrate the actual doctrine of separation rather than some thin-skinned phobic response to imperfect people. And for the record, these topics are mostly denominational, which is why I have sort of not blogged them here – we’d like to have TeamPyro be a little more broadly-interesting than Southern Baptist navel-gazing. You know: especially since I’m the only decent Southern Baptist on the team.
Anyway, I had something that I have been mulling over since yesterday which started when I told Ed Komoszewski that Daniel Wallace was a Greek scholar and not a NT scholar – which was a rather glib statement, I have to admit.
Let me give you two examples. The first would be me personally – especially my penchant for sarcasm. Like yesterday when I chided Phil into making graphics for the blog to prop up a rating system for when we review books or whatever. That was sarcasm for the sake of berating Phil into doing something I would have done if I had the time, but if you were looking for a fight you could have taken what I said as insults.
“Oh heavens! TeamPyro is coming apart at the seams and it’s all that Turk fellow’s fault! Look how he treats his host Phil – and Phil’s a pastor!”
Well, everyone needs a hobby I guess, and for me it’s sarcasm – but for some it seems to be finding trouble where there is none. There’s no reason, in our example here, to think that there’s more to it than the common fare of TeamPyro baiting. It’s how we interact. We’re men, and we don’t break down into tears the first time a buddy gives us a verbal smack in the arm. (no offense, ladies)(...and speaking of a statement that’s bound to start up a controversy ...)
My second example would be whether or not we can “trust” Dr. Wallace regarding how to interpret the NT. I have significantly nuanced my glib 2-liner to Ed K. in the meta, but in saying Dr. Wallace is a Greek Scholar and not a “NT scholar”, let’s rest assured that I didn’t mean he’s someone who doesn’t handle the text of the NT. I meant that his forte is the text and the language, but not the theology. Is that wrong to say, really? It’s like saying that I’m a pretty good blogger but not much of a political commentator – I think that’s fair, and it makes a fine distinction.
In saying what I did about Dr. Wallace, I was making a distinction (and I made it poorly – I admit it) between being a theology guy and being a language guy. To make a poor comparison, Kurt Aland is a wildly-talented language guy – most of us bank on his scholarship to use a translation of the NT in English. However, I wouldn’t give you the change in my pocket for his theology -- unless you'd let me throw it away for you. He can be someone in whom we trust on an academic question like which variant most likely captures the earliest source, but then he can also be someone whom we ignore when he starts running down the idea of inerrancy – because that’s not his field.
I happen to have a copy of Wallace’s Greek Grammar beyond the Basics because all kinds of people make ignorant statements about “what the Greek really says” based on ... complete ignorance of Greek. It’s handy to have Wallace’s summary (for example) of the many layers of meaning under the subjunctive mood as you might see on pp. 461-480 when someone else tries (mistakenly) to leverage the subjunctive into a one-dimensional mood of doubt or uncertainty. By no means does it make me a scholar of Greek.
But I bring it up for this reason: Dr. Wallace sees the correct understanding of Greek as absolutely necessary for the purpose of proper exegesis. He says so in the preface of his text:
too much exegesis is not properly based on syntax; too many works on syntax show little concern for exegesis. The result of this dichotomy is that intermediate students do not see the relevance of syntax for exegesis, and exegetes often misuse syntax in their exegesis. This work attempts to offer an initial corrective to this situation by properly grounding the exegesis in the idiom of the language and by orienting the syntax to its exegetical value.[pg x]Dr. Wallace is trying to advocate for a comprehensive critical literary view of Greek – which really is a very robust underpinning for those of us who say we are inerrantists.
In that, he’s advocating for a robust text in the NT – one which is not some kind of flat, linguistic calculus that yields only one byte of information per annotated verse. And when he says something like, “Luke changes the meaning of Christ’s words” in a paper on some portion of the NT, he is not advocating for some quackery that demands that Luke was a scoundrel who was trying to make a Jesus relevant to his own time through ammendation and distortion: he is making the right-minded decision to believe that some human being with a writing instrument wrote down that passage we are reading, and he had some motivation for writing which the text reveals by what it says.
But in all of that, Dr. Wallace is specifically not doing something, and with good reason: he is not trying to make some passage fit into a systematic theology. That doesn’t mean he’s trying to roust up some heretical truffles from the mud of the text because that’s how he maintains his tenure: it means his approach to the text -- because of his expertise and his training -- is specifically text first, theology second without any regard for denomination or confession. That is, in his view we should be masters of what the text says, in the way it says it, for the purpose it says it, before we start affirming confessional drama or making homiletic points.
He’s not a theologian: he’s a language guy, and his specialty is the NT. In that, he has something valuable to offer us – even if it’s not systematics, and even if some of it superficially seems to poke our confessional standards in the chest. And in this case, I think it’s OK to get poked in the chest – because the source of the poking happens to be the word of God.
But all that said, and getting back to my main point, I don’t think Ed K. somehow misunderstood me. I was too glib – but the reaction to Dr. Wallace was something else: I think that the disagreement in the meta looks a lot like a lot of blogospheric disagreements in which one side is so church-bent on affirming a confessional standard that it misses something of critical importance that the one(s) it is criticizing are saying which would improve the critics’ walk substantially.
This opens a lot of other cans of worms up – like what do I mean by “confessional standards”? And who is this post for, specifically – do I have anyone in particular in mind? Do I include myself, or am I exempt from the criticism because of course if I can see it in others it must not be a part of my own repertoire?
Yeah, I dunno. I’m thinking about it and I’ll get back to you.