Sunday, June 28, 2009

Balancing specialisation with the big picture

Due to a committee responsibility I am being forced to think more about research in theological colleges. Why is research important? What kind of research should colleges encourage and support? How is this best done?

Leigh Trevaskis recommended to me a Forum piece at the Society for Biblical Literature, with Michael Bird and Craig Keener, The Case for Generalist Scholars in Biblical Scholarship.

The article is a nice succinct summary of the importance of balancing specialisation with the broader context.
I would only add a couple of points.

* this balance is important in any area of scholarship, particularly in the sciences. I say this as someone who might be called a generalist working at the interface of physics, chemistry, and materials science.

* it is stated, "historically many of the scholars of anicient or modern times with the greatest impact have been generalists" and several are listed.
Surely, Karl Barth should be on that list. I would contend that he was a generalist and that his influence extended way beyond dogmatic theology to Biblical studies. For example, read Brueggemann's introduction to his Old Testament theology.

*Six concrete practical suggestions are made as to how younger scholars can achieve the healthy balance. One suggestion I would add is:

Talk to colleagues in different areas.
Go to seminars and conferences in different areas.
Organise and attend conferences that cover a range of topics and areas (not just say textual and cultural approaches to the New Testament) : theological, historical, Old Testament and New Testament. This is a very efficient way to get "up to speed" on areas outside your specialisation.

Some of these broader considerations are behind the program at this weeks AA-CC conference.

No comments:

Post a Comment