I’ve been accused of intellectual snobbery. I suppose there are worse things — like say, being accused of just plain snobbery. Or boring old intellectualism. But intellectual snobbery — that’s a double whammy — a two-for-one insult worth paying attention to!
Ironically, I wasn’t labeled an intellectual snob for providing a too academic and esoteric argument, but rather for refusing to do so. That’s right — because I declined to offer up scholarly resources and arguments, I fell afoul of the snob police. One only wonders what would have happened if I had decided to bring scholarly resources to bear!
So what exactly is all this about? The good Mr. Stasisonline (presumably not his real name) took exception to my post “Can you be a Christian and still believe … ?” and we engaged in a friendly, though pointed exchange in the comments section of that post. In that exchange, Stasis (are we on a first name basis yet?) repeatedly tried to steer the conversation away from the point of the post — that one can believe homosexuality isn’t a sin and still be a Christian — and into a direct debate about whether or not homosexual behavior is sinful. While I demurred, I chose not to be led into a discussion that was both off-topic and unlikely to bear any meaningful fruit. I also made statements to the effect that Matthew Vines, blogs and YouTube videos do not represent serious scholarship.
That exchange resulted in Stasis posting a confusing rant that seems to denounce intellectual engagement with Christian belief. For Stasis, since “Christianity is accessible to anybody” there’s no need to engage with scholarly work, to explore ideas and beliefs that may challenge our preconceptions, to exercise our intellect or to use our minds. We should stick to online resources rather than buying “the books of authors whose work is poor quality.” I wonder if work of “poor quality” happens to be synonymous with work “whose conclusions I disagree with”?
Free online resources, though convenient, simply can’t substitute for real research: any significantly complex issue merits the time and consideration that is only available in book-length responses. And, despite the vastness of the internet, most of the standard Biblical references aren’t freely available online. TDNT, NIDNTT, NIDOTTE, HALOT, BDAG, the major Bible commentaries such as WBC, NAC, ICC, as well as scholarly journals like New Testament Studies, Journal of Theological Studies, Journal of Biblical Literature, Journal for the Study of the New Testament and Novum Testamentum simply aren’t freely accessible on the internet (unless you’re lucky enough to be associated with a major academic institution). So does that really mean I’m not allowed to reference a source like BDAG lest I risk accusations of elitism? Are the vast bulk of Biblical scholarship simply off the table when engaging in online discussions? Am I a snob for just mentioning these resources? Or am I a snob if I refuse to mention these resources? Am I calling into question the perspicuity of the Gospel by claiming that Christian theology and Biblical studies offer untold depths of intellectual engagement?
Mr. Stasisonline accuses me of intellectual snobbery – but I accuse him of ignoring the first and greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Mat. 22.37). To forgo our God-given intellect, to be unwilling to engage with God’s creation and God’s Word at any more than the most superficial of levels, to be fearful of differing opinions – this is dishonoring God and the truth He has made available to us. God has given us minds to seek Him and to know Him. He has given us reason and intellect and curiosity and determination and it is our obligation to use those gifts to honor Him. We should seek to recognize and engage with those who have taken the time and effort to grapple with the extraordinarily difficult and extraordinarily important work of Biblical study and we should do our very best to follow in their footsteps.
But don’t take my word for it since I’m not a scholar. Here are a few real scholars that make similar points (though since they’ve written books, you may not want to waste your valuable time with them):