1. It's a great idea for a book and perhaps quite important, because these are not just evangelical scholars. In fact only three or four might fit easily in that category. They are all prime time scholars who have wielded the sword of the historical-critical method during their careers with world-class excellence. They were scholars in the modernist phase of biblical studies AND they remained people of faith. They have been through the fires of historical study AND they have kept the faith. This is a book of their testimonies, varied as they be.
2. There are 18 testimonies in all, and in alphabetical order, Richard Bauckham comes first. I only want to whet your appetite so you will buy this book, but Bauckham is clearly a genius. He has never thought of himself as a conservative although he is a hero to conservatives. Like N. T. Wright, as a scholar he has always thought of himself as only following normal historical method. And, as a historian, he has never found anything in his conclusions that contradicted his faith.
In that, Bauckham reminds me of something I have heard my colleague Bart Bruehler say repeatedly. Bart has just never been troubled by anything he has studied about the Bible, even though he is fully aware of the history of interpretation and biblical criticism. Indeed, given an allowance for God's involvement in the world, Bart has never seen any contradiction between the historical method and faith... and neither have I.
Bauckham knows just about everything about everything. His doctorate is from Cambridge in history. He taught theology for several years at Manchester. Then he ended his career teaching New Testament at St. Andrews. He reads science. He reads philosophy. He reads literature. He reads everything.
"I couldn't have remained a Christian without being sure that Christianity made intellectual sense in such fields" (20).
3. Here are just a couple more statements to whet your appetite:
- "I would find it more difficult to believe in God if I did not believe that God became incarnate as the man Jesus" (24).
- "I have always loved God... I can't account for it, except (of course) by the grace of God" (23).
- "Nietzsche... is a powerful antidote to the superficiality of the 'new atheists'" (23).
- "The Bible... is normative but not sufficient for theology" (22).
- "I did develop [in my youth] a strong commitment to reading Scripture as the word of God, which I have never lost, though I no longer find it necessary to say that, to be the word of God in human words, it needs to be inerrant. (I would now say that the Bible is trustworthy for the purposes for which God has given it.)" (18).
But he has not come to these conclusions because he feels that they are necessary for faith. Indeed, there are others in this book with faith who would disagree with every one of those conclusions. Bauckham has come to these conclusions by simply applying the historical-critical method to the texts.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Richard Bauckham, mainstream scholar with faith!