On the advice of Joseph Kelly I purchased Feldmeier and Spieckermann’s God of the Living: A Biblical Theology and so far I’m glad I did. I’ve barely cracked the spine but on page eight they make a profound statement that will certainly be controversial to some but it is one with which I fully agree:
If the biblical doctrine of God also seeks to communicate knowledge of God with the goal of knowing him, it is marked by the awareness that the craft of exegesis developed in academic theology is not the only path to knowledge of God, but is, indeed the indispensable path for the intellectual responsibility of faith. The doctrine of God presented here is defined by the convictions that appropriate understanding of the voices of the biblical witness without scholarship in the history of literature and religion is deficient and that the appreciation of its binding character for a given moment is not sustainable without carefully reconstructing history and without exploring the logic of the biblical understanding of God. Other paths to understanding, if they wish to avoid the path trod here, must be based solely on intuitively obscuring the difference between past and present or on claims that one possesses the Spirit. Both paths have limited authority but underestimate the pertinent distinction between divine word and human word and, furthermore, by repressing theological discourse, standing in danger of failing to distinguish the Spirit from the spirits.
As I said, I strongly agree with this statement. If people of faith and religious movements cut themselves off from academic theology and biblical studies I don’t think that there is a viable intellectual future for them. And, without an intellectual future, the movements as a whole will eventually sputter.
So far I’ve only gotten through the first ten pages or so but I am really enjoying this book. But don’t take it from me; here is the conclusion from Larry Hurtado’s assessment and he’s read the whole thing:
This is a book that one must read slowly and carefully (rather the way that really fine single-malt should be inbibed!). There is a wealth of scholarly work and profound thought provided in its pages, which will sometimes require re-reading to ensure full absorption. Scholars who share the authors’ concern for theological reflection that involves serious grappling with biblical texts will find in this book a treasure trove to occupy them for some time, and from which they will derive much stimulus. There is the danger that the book might be confined to scholars, however, and that would be a shame. Despite the unavoidable demands that it makes on readers, I hope that it will be taken up also among students, aspiring scholars, and that invisible but real larger body of serious “general readers” who appreciate access to the sort of excellent minds that produced this volume.