The Road Less Traveled
From my own experience I have come to see that there are only a handful of truly "defining" moments in our lives that take us down a radically different road. I have spent many years writing and teaching ideas that I myself have never fleshed out, at least not in any radical sort of way. On the other hand, I have also experienced taking new roads that were altogether different from the paths I had been on before.
I remember the day that I decided to publish my book Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek, knowing full well that linguists wouldn't like it (they didn't) because I did not have the academic credentials to write a book on that subject (I didn't). However, I could no longer tolerate the false dichotomy so often made between the "biblical languages" and "secular linguistics." The same response led me to write Why Four Gospels?, which represents merely an attempt to integrate theological studies with historical investigation.
In short, it seems to me that the newer solutions to problems of Christian theology and praxis will not represent any one "field of study" but will rather reflect a combination of disciplines. For me, scholarship has become synergistic, meaning that by combining two or more perspectives I've often ended up with what I consider to be the better solution. This type of cross-fertilization between disciplines often produces what the ancient Latins called a tertium quid, a "middle way," if you will -- not a compromise between two opposites but rather a greater than the sum of the parts. These days I'm seeing in my students a willingness to engage in serious dialogue not only with those who do "traditional" church or "traditional" theology but with those who do not.
I think there is a lesson for all of us here. Life often involves crucial conversations with those with whom we disagree -- spiritually, theologically, conceptually, socially. The result is often a breakthrough in the ways we think or act -- or at least a break with the mediocrity or mistakes we tolerated for so long. As we learn how to step up to dialogue, to engage outside-the-box thinking, there is potential for new understanding and -- perhaps -- a whole new way of living. (Just ask Eric Carpenter.) We may well discover the truth so powerfully described in Robert Frost's immortal poem, "The Road Not Taken":
October 2, 2010
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.