I like testimony books, and having written something of that sort for Zondervan some time ago chronicling my journey of faith into being a Biblical scholar (entitled Is There a Doctor in the House?) I am especially pleased to commend to one and all a book that has Christian testimonies of a brace of my kinsmen and kinswomen in the scholarly guild– both Evangelical and otherwise, both male and female, both OT and NT scholars, both foreign and domestic. The title of the book is I Still Believe (Zondervan, 256 pages, 2015, and a very reasonable $11.95), and it is to my surprise and delight the product of two graduates of my own alma mater Durham University in England, John Byron who teaches where I used to teach in Ashland, Ohio, and Joel Lohr. I was especially interested in this book because it contains testimonies of three of the professors who taught me at Gordon-Conwell— Andrew Lincoln, Ramsey Michaels, and Gordon Fee, three very fine scholars and even better Christian persons. Add to this that there are testimonies from two of my favorite fellow Durhamites Jimmy Dunn and Walter Moberley, and this was a book making me an offer I could hardly resist. I devoured it in short order, without pausing for water.
One of the great virtues of a book like this is it makes quite clear that careful Biblical scholarship need not be at odds with piety, even of a very conservative sort. Indeed, as another Durhamite J.B. Lightfoot once put it, we are called to the highest reason and the fullest faith at the same time. One need not get a frontal lobotomy in order to embrace the Christian faith whole-heartedly. And one need not shy away from the most difficult questions the Bible and the faith raise for any thinking person. As Pat Miller’s essay stresses, our approach should be one of faith seeking understanding. Head and heart do indeed go hand in hand in God’s purposes.
What you will find none of in this book is the foolishness heard in some conservative Christian quarters that amounts to anti-intellectualism, a foolishness which puts down scholars and scholarship in order to exalt faith. Christian faith doesn’t need that kind of help or defense. My grandmother once warned I shouldn’t become an educated fool, and when I went off to seminary she warned ‘don’t be so open minded that your brains fall out’. I suppose she was worried that I might go to seminary and actually lose my faith, but quite the opposite happened. My faith was strengthen by grappling with the major issues the Bible raises for us, and the disciplined work required to properly interpret it. I appreciated the warnings from granny, as sometimes there is a tension between faith and reason, or faith and historical understanding, but at the end of the day it need not be that way if one develops the right sort of critical acumen and thinking that is in accord with the faith itself.
I commend this little book to anyone considering pursuing a career as a Christian Biblical scholar. It shows there are many roads, many avenues God can use to get you to that goal.