“I still remember vividly a Canadian summer over a dozen years ago that put my scholarly career into a much-needed historical perspective. The reason I would like to share this with a wider audience is my conviction that such a bird’s eye view is vital for anyone working in academia. Not that scholarship is the only, or even most important, kingdom ministry. Very likely, God’s final verdict on what were the most valuable and vital contributions to his cause in this world will differ from ours, and there are many viable (and probably more important) ways to serve our Lord other than through scholarship or writing. Nevertheless, there are some of us whom he did in fact call to such ministry, and I believe that we would do well to reflect on our place in the larger scope of things from time to time. Perhaps this editorial can be of use at least for some of our younger scholars. In this regard I do share Millard Erickson’s concern (expressed in his presidential address in the present volume) that we be of help if we can, and while I am not quite as ‘chronologically gifted’ as he is, please indulge me as I share how I learned to see my scholarly calling in proper perspective” (p. 1).
During summer 1989, Köstenberger read some weighty books on the history of biblical interpretation, and he “learned several lessons” (p. 1):
“Feeling the weight of history on my shoulders, it dawned on me that the best I could realistically hope for (and probably not even that!) was to appear in a footnote when future histories of biblical scholarship would be written. Now some may say this is entirely the wrong focus-away with such morbid introspection and self-centered navel-gazing! And they would be right to a certain extent. . . . Yet despite these objections there remains something to be said for perspective. How would I like to be remembered? What kind of legacy do I want to leave for my children, for those who look to me for guidance, and even as a scholar? These seem to be legitimate concerns, and ones that may well guide one’s choices in the present” (pp. 1–2).
“The times are mostly gone (if they were ever here) where any one individual can single-handedly carry scholarship in a given field on their shoulder. We are part of a community of scholars who together seek to advance knowledge and grow in our understanding” (p. 2).
“Beyond this there are, of course, causes which one may hold dear and to which one may devote part of one’s time and energy. This may be the advocacy of egalitarianism or complementarianism; the promotion or defeat of open theism; the launching of a new Bible translation; or the championing of any number of other issues. Personally, I must confess that I have become increasingly leery of the way in which my scholarly energies may be diverted by involvement in these kinds of issues. To begin with, speaking as a scholar, what often goes hand in hand with defining an ‘issue’ is both a high degree of polarization and a process of politicization. Both tendencies, I submit, are at odds with the ethos of true scholarship: a scholar will resist polarization, because issues rarely are as black and white as they may be made out to be; and politics is rarely the servant of truth (the stuff of politics is compromise), nor is political power or clout the best way to settle an issue. So, for my part I say, let us be careful not to be diverted from our genuine scholarly contribution by getting unduly embroiled in issues that may better be left to others to resolve (even though it is of course important for the Christian community at large to address these kinds of issues responsibly)” (p. 2).
“If we do not want to be remembered primarily for exaggerated claims or bold—but long since discarded—hypotheses, we will want to be careful and allow our conclusions to be constrained by the available evidence to support them” (p. 3).
“Let us therefore write with a sense of history and perspective. Let us select our topics of research deliberately and advisedly, and let us work with a clear and conscious purpose” (p. 3).