I am still thinking about Nicholas D. Kristof’s op-ed piece in the Sunday New York Times. I have already discussed the declining interest in real scholarship among pastors. Part of the problem is that pastors are not required to have a high level of training anymore. In fact, some denominations are rather suspect of a candidate for ministry who has been to a Seminary (insert “cemetery, I mean seminary” joke here). To some American Christians, higher education means “liberal.”
In his column, Kristof said “A Ph.D. in chemistry is a rigorous degree, while a preacher can explain the Bible on television without mastering Hebrew or Greek — or even showing interest in the nuances of the original texts.” This is certainly true, there are many pastors who are unable or unwilling to use quality resources to prepare sermons. This absolutely requires familiarity with biblical languages since a decent commentary is going to interact with the nuances of the Greek or Hebrew text. When using a commentary to prepare a sermon, it must be critically evaluated and sifted. This is unlikely going to happen if the pastor is ignorant of the languages, overworked, and under-paid.
Sadly, when someone is honestly looking for an answer to a question, they google it and start searching the blogs. And there are come real odd-balls out there with blogs. I shudder when I look at the search items which hit this blog on Friday and Saturday. I imagine some overworked pastor doing some last minute research for his sermon, or a Christian school student “researching” for a paper. We all know that the resources available on the internet (for free) are not always the highest quality and should never be used as the only “research” a pastor or teacher does. However, the BiblioBlog lists have some seriously good resources available which might be used by pastors and interested layman to study the Bible, Theology and Religion. I believe that the “biblio-blogging community” has a responsibility to create quality material which serves society as a whole by providing serious scholarly resources on the Internet.
I do think that the “biblio-blogging community” has done a fair job self-evaluating what a constitutes a good “BiblioBlog, but more work can be done. Steve Caruso has called for an “actual, peer-reviewed Biblioblog journal,” Tom Verenna has also asked some good questions about the idea. I hope that this idea moves beyond “suggestion” to some form of reality. An online journal is one way to showcase the “best of the best,” although this seems to be a function of the Biblical Studies Carnival. Likewise, Daniel O. McClellan usually posts a “top ten bloggers” list based on votes from readers. But I would like to see a system that “approves” BiblioBlogs as quality contributions to scholarship. Perhaps a committee could be formed which can create a list of requirements a blog must meet to be considered a scholarly BiblioBlog.
Yes, this sounds a bit elitist. But if we are talking about a “peer reviewed journal,” then we are already talking about creating criteria which will exclude some writers and include others. Not everyone can get an article published in a journal like JBL. There are barriers which exclude many from publishing in that particular journal. In fact, every journal has some sort of requirement which a scholar must meet when they submit a paper for publication. To be a BiblioBlogger, you simply have to ask to be listed.
Every month hundreds of quality posts are made, but they compete with thousands upon thousands of posts which are junk. We need a better system to help people find the quality resources they need.