Having just briefly dipped into B.B. Warfield’s ancient tome, on ‘the Inspiration and Authority of the Bible’, eager to glean some tips on ‘God-breathed’, otherwise affectionately known as ‘Theopneustos’, I thought I would pen a few random thoughts on the difficulty of reading highly-technical scholarly works.
Being a pastor with a side-interest in languages, and having a certain familiarity with Hebrew, Greek and Latin, I have to confess to being a little overwhelemed at the depth of linguistic knowledge required to decipher one of the chapters.
This work, brothers, frankly, is seriously heavy going; the material Warfield covers is beyond the competence of most pastors; without linguisic accumen the arguments are difficult, if not impossible, to follow or carefully weigh; yet, as most recognise, this also is an important book [at least in it’s day] – this stimulated me to muse on the vital importance of godly bible scholars.
It is much to be lamented, and dangerous for the Church, if she does not seek, by all means in her power, to remedy the longterm, slow decline in ‘classical’ education. The study of ancient cultures and languages have long proved a safeguard against the intrusion of serious error into the Body of Christ.
Certainly not every pastor should be obliged to reach a level of proficiency in biblical languages required to decipher a book like that of Warfield. Having said that, those with a flare for these disciplines must be enabled to obtain a suitable education and the necessary encouragement to be able to handle theological debates and literature at the highest level. Whatever little each of us may attempt, at Seminary, Synod, Presbytery, Congregational and Public Level, to foster love of biblical languages and cultures, this will go some small way to assist in the arrest of the present general decline.
This may or not be self-evident on the US Eastern Seaboard [I am not competent to comment about the state of things in that neck of the woods], but it is certainly relevant on the Western shoreline of the Atlantic, where there has been a steady, gradual, slow erosion in the study of these subjects for decades. For those engaged in the field of education, we should do what we can to reverse the present trend; for those with less flare or personal interest in biblical languages, prayer is an option that should not be ignored; seminary students currently in training for ministry should labour, seeking grace, to maximise their learning; those charged with teaching these key subjects should be humble, confident, interesting, diligent and prayerful, asking the Lord to instill a love for learning languages, as a handmaid to the Gospel.
There has probably never been a time when tools or texts or media for learning languages were more accessible or available – we owe a great debt, under God, to many who have laboured in this field, without making a great deal of noise, to make the burden of language study lighter for seminarians, scholars and pastors. When we realise the importance of the role humanism played in preparing the way for Luther and Calvin, it should be a gentle push towards widespread cooperation in a Gentle ‘Linguistic’ Reformation. Even if everyone cannot navigate the fog successfully, at least some godly reliable guides are required to lead us by the hand, so we don’t get bored, confused, overwhelmed or lost.
To be sure there may be ‘bigger fish to fry’ in the ocean of secularism with its pluralistic waves – it may not make ‘all the difference’ but it should, in time, make some. In the end, such intricate arguments like that of Warfield, if not easy to follow or instantly appealing, have to be made in defence of the Truth: that old war horse, Benjamin Warfield, in his day, with scholarly aplomb, defended to the hilt the ‘Divine Origin’ of Scripture. Those gifted in this field, must be careful to take pains, to take up the Cross, and do the same in our day.