The subject invoked by the phrase future of biblical scholarship in the subtitle is one that fascinates me. Perhaps it is because those interested in biblical studies have never lived in a world of technology like that of ours. Granted, I am not the first to possess a ‘never before’ attitude. Other ‘revolutions’ in technology have radically affected Christian scholarship: the codex, the printing press, word processors, Bible study software, the Internet. But I believe our time is unique because technology is compounding at exponential rates.
Some Things Will Never Change
Before suggesting potential changes in the future of biblical scholarship, I will suggest a few things that will should never change:
- Scholars will write thorough articles and books. Sure, the scholars of tomorrow may be infatuated with the briefness associated with texting, facebook, and twitter, but they will recognize the necessity of substantial writing.
- Most scholars will teach in traditional formats. The next generation of scholars may be at home in a virtual playground, but they still value the intimacy and authenticity of face-to-face interaction.
- Scholars will be critical. I mean to say that scholars who hold opposing positions will continue to critically engage one another, ultimately helping move scholarship forward.
- Scholars will have a greater awareness of scholarship in their fields, and such scholarship will be more readily available. We’ve already seen the potential in this regard with the dawn of the internet.
- Scholars will network more efficiently. This has been discussed already, but it may be worth noting that facebook alternatives (such as academia.edu) are already popping up.
- Scholars will be able to distribute their work more widely. You can find anything and anyone via the web, and others can find you and your work, too.
- Scholars can be reached despite distance. I have been able to converse via blog comments and emails with scholars who would otherwise be inaccessible. This can provide valuable mentoring opportunities for budding students.
- A well-networked scholar can potentially benefit his or her respective institution. Benefiting an employer is important when seeking employment!
- Greater social priorities might be reflected in research time. Previously, I likened spending time to spending money: there is always opportunity cost. The professor who spends a few hours using social media each day may not be serving his or her ‘growing’ audience very well.
- Advances in technology can become crutches which lead to the atrophy of intellectual muscle. There is something the old school possessed without fancy Bible software and Google. We can drive a mile in less than a minute because of advancements in technology. But real fitness is gained through sweat and tears.
- Professionalism may wane. Perhaps this is not all bad; I’m not sure. I’m not a scholar–I am a student. Admittedly, it may inspire a student to read a professor’s facebook status. Students admire transparency for sure. But something might be lost in the relationship with the student when the mundane details of a scholar’s life make the student’s ‘front page’.
How will you be involved in the media world as it continues to make its advances? How can you utilize technology without falling prey to some of its pitfalls? How do you think media trends will affect the future of biblical scholarship.