There is much integrity and respect in doing something for the sake of itself, rather than for the rewards that may come from it. Let me illustrate this with an example. Having been a quasi-musician for some time now, I really respect and appreciate musicians and singers whose love for music is evident in their products, and those who seek to contribute to the guild of music in their own unique way. One of my favorite bands of all time is U2, for various reasons, one of which is that they have continued to renovate and redefine themselves in the three-plus decades they have been together. Rather than producing the “same old sound” as their Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum records in the 80s, they sought to redefine themselves in the 1990s and produce something aesthetically different (resulting in Achtung Baby, Zooropa, and Pop), experimenting with alternative rock, techno, and electronic music. It was also in part a satire of the pop-culture then. They eventually went back in the 2000s to some of their original sounds, but their songs are always full of meaning and depth. And they really do put on a good show (who hasn’t shed a tear while Bono sings “Amazing Grace” in concert?). In contrast, I really don’t respect “musicians” (if you can call them that), who produce one-hit wonders and then leave the scene after making their $1M because they’ve hit the jackpot or they’re “living the life.” Or they make subsequent albums just to make another million. In fact, switching over to a different industry, I once read/heard that “crap movies” like Gigli (2003; starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez) are made because these actors want to buy a new condo or pay off a debt they owe, or some other silly reason for making a movie. No love for acting or music; but a love for fame and wealth. I also respect athletes who do it–not for the fame and wealth–but for the love of the game.
Now for what I really want to address: theological scholarship. One thing I’ve caught from my doctoral advisor is doing scholarship for the sake of scholarship. To love the game. Not for the sake of notoriety or making a name for myself (which would be ironic to do that in theology, right?) but to contribute to theology and to knowledge, and to say something that actually adds to the discussion, instead of merely rehashing what’s been said already. I don’t know of anyone personally who becomes a biblical scholar for the sake of notoriety, but I imagine there must be some. And I’m saying now that I don’t want to be that guy. I want to make a real contribution to biblical studies. There are still so many questions to be answered–that may perhaps never be answered in this lifetime! But hey, isn’t it worth seeking out? After all, it is the Word of God. Questions like, is the author of Hebrews determinable, and if so, who was it? Did Q really exist? Was the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew) really the same sermon as the Sermon on the Plain (Luke)? Is literary criticism (after determining all of them) a valid methodology for studying the New Testament? What are people saying about this Third (and possibly Fourth) Quest of the historical Jesus? Have charismatic gifts ceased with the close of the NT canon? Is there a better way to look at the Greek language than traditionally thought? And so many more. That’s what makes the Bible so interesting! So many questions!
So I’d like to pursue scholarship with integrity; to research, write, and publish for the sake of knowledge–to know God’s Word better, and ultimately to know God better. To answer questions. To reexamine others’ answers to my questions. To find more accurate methods of studying the Bible, if there indeed are more accurate ones. And to discuss with and respond to others in the larger discussion. In essence, to love the game. Of course, I don’t think anyone enters the guild thinking they want to be a famous theologian or bible scholar, but I imagine the temptation gets real after a few years of teaching or writing. In fact, I know I will be tempted when I’m older, less energetic, and have perhaps reached a certain level of respect in the community, to just publish so I can make easy money or satisfy publishers’ demands. To write a Gigli of my own. Perhaps that day will never come. But as of now, I hope I can maintain integrity in scholarship by loving the questions and desiring to seek answers to these questions, so I can learn for myself and possibly extend that knowledge unto others. And my reason for publishing is just that, to extend the possible answers to others and enter the “discussion.”