A word of caution for students of theology from D.A. Carson
In his essay entitled The Dangers of Theology: Becoming a ‘Proven Worker’ in a Dangerous Business, D.A. Carson offers a word of caution particularly to students of theology (which we all should be and in fact are, to varying degrees of the expression). I needed to read this right now; perhaps it will prove helpful to you as well. In these paragraphs, Carson describes
most ﬁrst-year theological students who arrive at Bible colleges and seminaries with a passionate delight in reading the Bible – and then after a few weeks stumble into things like Greek morphology, English-Bible content quizzes, and the demands of hermeneutics. They can end up with two mutually exclusive ways of reading Scripture. In the one, they apply all the critical tools they are learning and attempt an ‘objective’ study; in the other, they read the Bible divorced from such critical thought, for they are having their ‘devotions’ and simply want God to speak to them personally and in an edifying fashion as he seemed to do before this wretched course in theological study was undertaken. This polarization of reading approaches is to be resisted as an abomination. In your most diligent technical study, you should be trying to understand what God himself has said through this text, trying to think God’s thoughts after him, worshiping God with reverence and joy as you deploy your newly learned ‘tools’ to think more critically. (The word ‘critically’ in this context, of course, does not mean you ‘criticize’ the Bible or its contents, but that you seek justiﬁcation and reasons for every interpretation you adopt.) And when you read the Bible in quietness, not for any course assignment but ‘devotionally’, you should be observant, careful, ‘critical’ in the best sense, eager to learn, to see connections. Sometimes you will be impelled, even while thinking through and praying over a text, to pull a commentary or two off a shelf to make sure you are understanding the biblical passage responsibly.