Interview with Dr. David Luy

02.16.2021  |  Season 2  |  Episode 11



SHOW NOTES

In this episode, Dr. Michelle Knight and Dr. Josh Jipp interview Dr. David J. Luy, Chair of the Biblical and Systematic Theology Department and Associate Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at TEDS.

Josh and Michelle talk to David about his how he was drawn to work on systematic theology, his course at TEDS on the Psalms that he teaches with Dr. Eric Tully, and his forthcoming book on christocentrism.

You can engage with some of David’s recent work here:

Tune in to hear David share the joys of studying theology.

And before the interview, the hosts will share a research literary influence…

Transcript

[THEME MUSIC BEGINS]

Intro
[00:00:00] You’re listening to Foreword, a podcast from faculty at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, hosted by Michelle Knight, Josh Jipp, Madison Pierce, and James Arcadi. Foreword invites listeners into the mission of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School through conversations with faculty, staff, and guests.

[THEME MUSIC ENDS]

Michelle Knight
Y’all, welcome to Foreword. It is great to have you here. Uh, I am hanging out with my friend Josh Jipp, who has been doing quite a bit of reading. You know he’s on research leave—if you hadn’t heard—so he’s just laying around reading all the time. [JIPP LAUGHS] Um, but he’s been talking about some higher critical works he’s been reading, some reader-response—Josh, what’s really, um, what’s really pushing your boundaries these days?

Josh Jipp
Yeah, I’ve been really getting into poststructuralism in terms of literary theory and kind of really tapping into some reader-response criticism, and just, you know, kind of—my world’s just been… I don’t even know what to do with this, but I’ve been really blown away by this new book I got. It’s…I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but it’s called We Are In a Book! [KNIGHT LAUGHS], by Mo…by Mo Willems. Do you know this book, Michelle? It’s powerful.

Knight
In fact…in fact I do! I have it right here!

Jipp
What!?

Knight
I too have been reading this. You know, this is really interesting, because you might not think that a kid would be into hermeneutics—

Jipp
Yeah!

Knight
—but my three and a half year old is just over the moon about this book, so we actually read it together at night time—every night—

Jipp
Oh, amazing!

Knight
—hermeneutics right before bed. Yeah, it’s good stuff!

Jipp
Amazing! A three year old that’s into poststructuralism! That’s—

Knight
It’s something, y’all.

Jipp
—that makes me…okay, wow.

Knight
He really…he really is advanced.

Jipp
Not everyone knows this book, Michelle, so I thought it might not be a bad idea to, uh, you know, just kind of pick up in the middle of the book, and why don’t we, uh…why don’t we give the readers a taste—

Knight
Oh, sure!

Jipp
—of kind of some of the hermeneutical things we’ve been, you know, working through—

Knight
Yeah!

Jipp
—and, um, I don’t know…uh, are you ready to go? I’m going to be—

Knight
Yeah!

Jipp
—I’m going to be, uh, Gerald the Elephant if that’s ok with you.

Knight
Yeah, I’ll be Piggy! And I…I just really think it’s um…uh…it’s important for us to really put our heart and soul into this book. It really can come alive, uh, when we, uh, put our own kind of ideas and…and twist on things. Alright, uh—

Jipp
I know. I…I wish everyone could see the pictures here, but here we go. You ready, Michelle?

Knight
I know. For our listeners, just listen closely, uh, to this important work. Go ahead, Josh.

Jipp
Yeah, alright. [BEGINS READING EMPHATICALLY] You can make the reader say a word!?

Knight
[READS IN A THEATRICAL VOICE] Indeed, I can! If the reader reads out loud.

Jipp
That is a good idea! That is a funny idea! [LAUGHS]

Knight
Here I go. [CLEARS THROAT] Banana!

Jipp
[LAUGHS DRAMATICALLY] Did you…did you hear that? The reader said “Banana!”

Knight
[SNICKERS FOR EFFECT]

Jipp
Oh, the reader said it again! [LAUGHS]

Knight
[LAUGHS DRAMATICALLY] Phew. Oh my.

Jipp
“Banana.” It’s so funny.

Knight
Now, uh, do you want another turn before the book ends?

Jipp
[GASPS] Ends!? The book ends!?

Knight
Yes, all books come to an end!

Jipp
When will the book end? 

Knight
Hmm. I will look. It seems it will end on page 57.

Jipp
Page 57? It is page 46 now! [SHRIEKS] Now it is page 47! This book is going too fast! I have more to give—more words, more jokes, more bananas! I just want to be read.

Knight
I have a great idea. *whisper* *whisper* *whisper* 

Jipp
That is a good idea! [PAUSES FOR EMPHASIS] Hello! Will you please read us again?…I hope this works!

Knight
[WHISPERS] Me too.

[THEME MUSIC BEGINS]

And that, my friends, is the end of this really important and helpful work. Uh, keep tuning into Foreword Podcast to hear more higher critical reflections on children’s literature from our very own Josh Jipp and Dr. Michelle Knight.

Jipp
Mmhmm. Looking forward to our hermeneutics conversation with Dr. David Luy in a minute. I have a feeling he’s not going to go quite as deep into—

Knight
Sure.

Jipp
—hermeneutics and biblical interpretation as what we just did—

Knight
Right.

Jipp
—but I think the…the conversation’s going to be excellent and profitable nonetheless, so…

Knight
I’m looking forward to it.

Jipp
Me too.

[THEME MUSIC ENDS]

Knight
Hello and welcome to Foreword. I’m Michelle Knight.

Jipp
And I’m Josh Jipp.

Knight
And today we have the pleasure of interviewing Dr. David Luy, the Chair of the Biblical and Systematic Theology Department and the Associate Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at TEDS. Uh, thank you so much for joining us, David.

 

David Luy
It’s great to be here!

Jipp
David, you and I have been friends for almost ten years now, right? I think we were hired at almost the exact same time, and so while everybody on the faculty is a good friend of mine, we’ve kind of had—along with Eric Tully—the unique opportunity of coming to TEDS at the same time. Right?

Luy
Yes, that’s right!

Jipp
Yep. And it’s—

Luy
[00:05:00] Yeah, I think you started one semester before I did, but about the same time.

Jipp
Yes. One…one semester before. And I…one of…one of the highlights of that time has been our trip to Côte d’Ivoire that you, Eric, and I went. And I had so much fun, but there was one time where I felt as though I would often be left out by you and Eric. Do you remember what this was?

Luy
I think I can probably guess. I don’t know if you want me to spoil it, or if I want to let you kind of—

Jipp
No! I…I’m curious. Yeah, do you remember? [KNIGHT LAUGHS]

Luy
Uh, it probably had to do with Eric and I kind of geeking out about either Star Wars or Star Trek in some capacity.

Jipp
Yes! Yes. [LAUGHS] No…it was totally—you knew exactly! It was Star Trek. So I thought we’d open up by a little, uh, a little window into your heart, see how much of a Trekkie you really are, and we’re going to do this really quickly, alright?

Luy
Sounds good.

Jipp
We’re going to do a short…short quiz. [KNIGHT LAUGHS] Uh, three questions. I want to see how many of these you can get right, alright? [LAUGHTER] You ready?

Luy
[LAUGHS] I’m ready! I’m ready. Let’s do this.

Jipp
What is…what is Sulu’s primary position in the USS Enterprise? Is it engineer, science officer, or helmsman?

Luy
Oh, definitely helmsman. Yep.

Jipp
Helmsman! One for one. Um, which Star Trek captain has an artificial heart? Is it Jonathan Archer, Benjamin Sisko, or Jean-Luc Picard?

Luy
I’m going to say Jonathan Archer, because I never watched that series as much and I don’t recall either of—

Knight
No, it’s Picard. It’s Picard.—

Jipp
No.

Luy
Is it really Picard?—

Knight
It’s Picard!—

Jipp
Oh my gosh. Okay, maybe all of TEDS has Trekkies. [KNIGHT LAUGHS]—

Luy
Oh man.

Jipp
This is the last one. You need two out of three, and then there’s a bonus question. Alright?—

Knight
David.—

Luy
Oh my goodness. That’s very embarrassing. This next generation was really the show that my family watched, so I should have known that. [JIPP LAUGHS]—

Knight
I…I…I’m shocked! That was an easy one, David!

Jipp
Uh, alright. Who was the first Vulcan Science Officer aboard the starship? Was it Spock, was it, uh, Sarek, or was it—I don’t know how to say this person’s name—T-Pol…or T’Pol or something like that?

Knight
[PRONOUNCES IT CORRECTLY] T’Pol. It’s T’Pol.

Jipp
Yeah.

Luy
Can you rephrase the question? The first Vulcan to have, like, a position?

Jipp
First Vulcan Science Officer aboard the starship.

Luy
Aboard the starship.

Jipp
Yeah.

Luy
I’m still a little unclear here, but I’m going to go with Spock.

Jipp
It…this…the…the answer—do you know, Michelle?

Knight
[LAUGHS] I do know.

Jipp
[LAUGHS] Oh my gosh! [LAUGHTER]

Knight
[LAUGHS] I do!

Jipp
[LAUGHS] So, I didn’t think this was going to happen, but the real Trekkie is Dr. Knight. [LAUGHTER] Oh my gosh. Alright.

Knight
[LAUGHS] Because I’ve watched…I’ve watched the earlier ones, and it sounds like David hasn’t watched those.

Jipp
Last…last one—

Luy
I did watch them, but it’s been awhile.

Knight
Okay.

Luy
But I’m happy to be bested by Dr. Knight. That’s…that’s okay.

Jipp
Alright, this is for any of you—

Knight
No. This is not something I have pride in winning, so…please. Please win this, David. [LUY LAUGHS]

Jipp
Michelle or David, what does this mean: [SPEAKS IN ALIEN LANGUAGE]

Luy
[LAUGHTER] I’m going to fault your pronunciation. [LAUGHTER] Uh, I think I… [LAUGHS]

Knight
David, did you actually—

Jipp
It’s Klingon!

Knight
Obviously.

Jipp
It’s Klingon for “Your mother has a smooth forehead.” You knew that, Michelle? And it’s not something you’re supposed to say out loud unless you’re trying to start a fight.

Knight
It’s a thing.

Jipp
So anyway, David, thanks for…thanks for humoring me. I don’t know if—

Luy
You know, Josh, there is actually a Klingon version of the bible. Are you familiar with this?

Jipp
Uh, you know, I’m not actually, but…

Luy
Well, it’s something you should consider, maybe, when you’re teaching text criticism or something. [JIPP LAUGHS] It’s a…it’s a modern version. [KNIGHT LAUGHS]

Jipp
Okay.

Luy
It’s something to…to think about.

Jipp
All I know so far is how to say “Your mother has a smooth forehead.” [KNIGHT LAUGHS] So I’ve got a ways to go here, but um—[LAUGHTER]

Knight
Wow.

Jipp
Alright, to be…to get to our serious question here, David, um, as I said before, you’ve been here almost ten years. I think a lot of our listeners would love to hear a little bit about your vocational journey—how it is you ended up wanting to even be in this profession of teaching theology.

Luy
Yeah, great! Thanks! It’s a real privilege to be here. Uh, my journey to theology was a bit indirect, I guess. I…my two great loves in high school were really biology and music. And I ended up actually studying music in college and taking a lot of weird biology classes just, uh, for fun. And, um, towards the end of my time—this was at Wheaton College—I…I took a number of bible-theology classes and just kind of got hooked, but I really just had the enthusiasm of a beginner. I didn’t have any conception at all of what it meant to undertake, um, a course of theological study in a formal way. So I went to seminary, just kind of stumbling my way through—taking as many classes as I could—and it kind of, um, you know, just sort of emerged organically as I kept sort of following, you know, one question to the next. I will say that, you know, for me, what…what initially drew me to theology was, I think, a sort of deep existential set of questions that sort of took hold of me—in retrospect, even when I was in jr. high. And I’ve always sort of had a deep interest in the kinds of questions that theology is really addressing. And so, um, as someone who teaches theology, I recognize lots of people don’t feel that way. Um, they often don’t feel that sense of deep existential connection with the sorts of questions theologians are asking. So I’ve had to kind of learn over the years to build bridges, um, in those kinds of contexts, because for me, it always has just felt very obvious that the stakes are pretty high with these questions. And then, how we’re going to live and the kinds of things we are going to prioritize very much hang into balance, depending on what judgments we reach about questions about who God is, and what God is calling us to do—and calling us to be—and that sort of a thing. So that’s a bit of a snapshot. I can say more if you want, but that’s a very, uh…yeah, very short version of the story.

Jipp
[00:10:45] Yeah, yeah. I…I guess I would love to hear—was there, you know, sometimes I look back and think—and I don’t know, Michelle, if you feel this way— “Why did I go into New Testament instead of Old?” Or, “Why Old instead of New?” Was there any reason, like, it was theology that grabbed you, David, as opposed to—I…I’m sure some other discipline you could answer some of these questions, but theology in particular that was attractive?

Luy
Yeah, I mean, I suppose, like, a…a kind of a glib way to answer the question would be, I think I chose systematic theology because I was…I was reluctant to choose between disciplines. And so, I felt like systematic theology affords one the opportunity to be interdisciplinary—perhaps in a way that some other disciplines don’t permit to the same extent. Um, I think more fundamentally, though, it really did ultimately sprout from these kind of existential questions—most of which, really, finally get at the question of “What does it all add up to?” I mean, “What is most fundamentally true about the reality we inhabit? And…and what does that mean for what we ought to believe and how we ought to live and the sorts of things we ought to value?” And, I’ve always found the moment in our theological reflection where we start really reckoning with those synthetic judgements—those, you know, fundamental, um, you know, issues of…of what’s most fundamentally real—to just be very thrilling. And, um, and…and for me, at least, those kinds of questions cast a very long shadow for human life—just generally speaking. So I think a lot of it is motivated from that. I’m super grateful for, you know, those occupying other disciplines, because I see those things as indispensable to those larger kinds of questions. But, for me, there’s always this kind of irresistible pressure, no matter where we’re located in our inquiry—ultimately, I’m wanting to sort of push to “What does this add up to?” You know, “What…what’s really fundamentally true, then, and what exactly does that mean for us?” And I think systematics is…one way of thinking about systematics is it’s the juncture at which those kinds of questions are allowed to occupy center stage.

Jipp
Yep. Yep, I agree.

Knight
That’s really well articulated, David. That’s super helpful. And you’ve spoken quite a bit about the…the integration of the disciplines, and the way that that can be enriching. I’d love to hear more about that. How do you see the relationship between biblical studies and theology to play out? Um, and even if you haven’t seen it that way, what’s ideal? Uh, how can that be enriching? What can that look like when it’s at its best?

Luy
Yeah, thanks! That’s a great question. Um, I mean, like a lot of people these days, I think I would want to start by saying—I think that the practice of theology in all of the disciplines has been hindered in certain ways as a consequence of the way in which we have kind of allowed ourselves to be fragmented into these different disciplinary silos. I think we’ve gained a lot from that as well, so I’m…it’s not a sort of, um, a qualified fall narrative here—

Knight
Sure. Sure.

Luy
—but for example, just to be critical of my own discipline for a moment, there was a time when really, theology just was thick exegesis.

Knight
Yeah.

Luy
I mean, that’s really fundamentally what theology was. Obviously, it involved conversation with philosophical traditions and…and that sort of a thing as well. But this notion now that we have one thing called “exegesis” and another thing called “theology,” or however you label the departments, I think for most theologians across the history of the church would…would…it would strike them as a very bizarre, um, you know, state of affairs. So I think, you know, ideally, I think, um, we’re kind of constantly—those of us who still have a vested interest in a unified Christian vision of the world—I think we’re all sort of looking for ways to kind of piece together that holistic, you know, synthetic approach—even as we try to reap the benefits to the best we can of the increasing disciplinary specialization. And there are many. I don’t want to… you know, there’s a both/and to this.

Knight
Sure.

Luy
Um, so that’s kind of a…a 20,000 foot, um, question.

Knight
Yeah.

Luy
I’ll pause there to see if maybe you want to follow up with something more specific, but that…that’s a starting point, at least.

Knight
Thank you.

Jipp
[00:15:15] No that’s… I think that’s really good, and I think we can drill into it a little bit more deeply, David, because one of the things we did want to talk to you about is, um, the class that you Eric Tully teach—co-teach—together on the Psalms. Um, what your…your response to Michelle’s question, at sort of the…the overarching level, I think we can probably—I mean, your…your desire to even teach that course with Eric on the Psalms I’m assuming is deeply connected to the answer that you just gave. Do you want to… do you want to tell us a little bit about what…what is this class? What are you and Eric trying to…to do?

Luy
Yeah! It’s…it’s really a fun class. We’ve taught it twice now and hope to teach it many more times in the future. I would say it began—really grew out of—my friendship with Eric. You know, we…we carpool together, we hang out a lot, and, of course, we talk about bible and theology quite a bit. And, um, you know, through a variety of conversations, both Eric and I, you know, recognized that the current state of the discussion when it comes to exegesis—you know, there tend to be these kind of silos that operate within the academy, where there’s a lot of mutual distrust and a lot of dissonance between, say—for example, when theologians kind of circle up and talk about things like theological interpretation or figural exegesis or what have you—um, that…that’s sort of one conversation that’s taking place—and meanwhile, um, in the guild of Old Testament scholars, there are different conversations happening. And, you know, we sort of came to realize that oftentimes…that these are actually very fruitful conversations, but unfortunately, they’re not intersecting enough, and there’s a lot of a kind of failure to understand, um, the other side of the discussion from both sides. And, you know, Eric and I disagree on some pretty significant questions of exegetical method, but in a friendly way, where we both respect one another, and so we thought it would be just a really fun opportunity to teach a class. And rather than to make it super formal and super theoretical and simply spend our time talking about hermeneutics and exegetical methodologies, we would actually root it to a particular text, namely the Psalms, which for a lot of reasons, is such a…you know, provokes so many interesting questions about the nature of…of interpretation and exegesis. And if I can—if you’ll permit me just to brag briefly about TEDS—um, one of the things that I’ve been…that I’ve really loved about the class is, you know, it has a pretty steep set of prereqs. You have to have both expertise in Hebrew and you also have to be able and willing to engage complex texts from systematic theology. And we read a lot of texts from the history of interpretation—from people like Augustine, Luther, Aquinas, and Calvin—and my observation, just generally across the landscape of the theological academy now, is you could very easily at many schools get students enroll for a class that would do one or the other of those two things.

Jipp
Yeah.

Luy
In…in other words, you could get a certain batch of students who really is into Hebrew syntax and, you know, Hebrew lexicography and so forth, uh, to take a class on the Psalms that really emphasizes those questions. And then, at other, you know, other schools, you could get the batch of students who would love to read, you know, Augustine’s, um, sermons on the Psalms and, you know, and talk all about pre modern exegesis. But I…I don’t know of too many places right now where you would actually get, you know, 20-odd students in a room, who are not only capable of doing both of those things at the same time, but are actually super excited about engaging both sets of literature. So, a little shameless bragging on behalf of TEDS [KNIGHT LAUGHS]—

Jipp
Yeah.

Luy
—but I always feel kind of proud that it’s like, “Wow! There’s like 20 other human beings in the world, [JIPP LAUGHS] all in this room, who…who really want to do this.”

Jipp
Yeah.

Luy
So, that’s…that’s kind of fun.

Jipp
And if…and if you’re out there listening to this, and you want to do that, and you’re not at TEDS, why not? Come—[LAUGHTER] it’s ok. It’s ok, David. You can…you can brag and market all we want here, so… [LAUGHTER]

Knight
We obviously are “pro-TEDS” on this podcast—

Jipp
Yeah.

Knight
—so there’s no problem there. Well, uh, David, you kind of signaled the fact that there are a lot of disagreements that come up in this class in a kind of friendly manner—and we on this podcast have talked quite a bit about how we think that’s something that the academy desperately needs, uh, are these spaces in which we can disagree charitably and ultimately work toward understanding God better through the medium of Scripture. Uh, can you kind of point us—

Jipp
Yep.

Knight
—to some of the disagreements that come up in that class, either between you and Eric or between some of the students? What are some of the things that are on the table that people have differing perspectives about?

Luy
[00:20:02] Yeah, that’s a good question. There’s a whole range of disagreements that come up, but I think a couple fundamental questions would be…well, first of all, um, most of…throughout most of the history of the church, the Psalms have been received as the prayer book of the church—that is to say, the Psalms are not simply “model prayers” that we observe and then kind of pray in an imitative way—we might do that. That…that would be perfectly appropriate. But I think that, um, the history of appropriation of the Psalms has…has involved something stronger than that, is that we actually pray these words. We’ve…we actually put the words of the Psalmist onto our lips. Um, and that raises a lot of really interesting questions about, um, you know, what’s…what’s going on when I do that. In other words, just to give a very concrete example, what does it mean…what does it mean for someone like me, living in 21st century Chicagoland, to pray the Psalms of Ascent? Um, I’ve never been   to Jerusalem, I’d like to go some day, but even if I visited Jerusalem—I mean, the temple mount is no longer the distinctive locus of God’s presence on Earth from the perspective of Christian theology. So what does it mean to…to pray—not just imitate praying the Psalms of Ascent in some sort of…maybe principilized way—but what does it mean to actually appropriate these words and to pray them? And so it…it really raises the question…I mean, one question that comes up is sort of, like, “What happens to the contextual embeddedness of the Psalm—of the Psalter—when it is appropriated by Christians?” And so, “…and what does it mean to actually respect the particularity of the Psalm when we…when we engage in that kind of creative appropriation?” And so, as you can imagine, there’s different ways of thinking about that. I mean, Augustine for example—he thought a lot of that…a lot of the contextual embeddedness of the Psalter sort of maps onto a kind of spiritual typography. So I may not “ascend” the temple mount, but I am called to engage in a kind of “spiritual ascent” in which, you know, where there is a sort of—I suppose you could say “figural,” or possibly even “allegorical,” although I like to avoid that word because it tends to be…it tends to be controversial. Um, but there’s a way in which somehow I, as a Christian, am still, um, being called by God to ascend in a way that is sort of figurally represented by the literal typography of…of Ancient Israel. I mean, that’s one approach, um, but there’s others—

Jipp
Can I interrupt, David? How would Eric feel about—

Luy
Yeah.

Jipp
—does Eric, kind of…does that make him a little queasy when you, uh, talk about some of Augustine’s moves there with respect to the Psalms?

Luy
I don’t know if “queasy” is quite the right word, [LAUGHTER] but certainly nervous.

Knight
Yeah.

Jipp
Alright, that’s—yeah, nervous. Yeah.—

Luy
Something…something I’ve noticed that I think is an interesting, um—I don’t know if “paradox” is the right word—but there’s an interesting way in which I think both approaches, um…there are various ways in which scholars or theologians seek to hold onto the particularity of the Psalm. The impulse that you find, I would say, among many contemporary Old Testament scholars is to say, “The reason we don’t engage in that kind of allegorization—or the reason we don’t engage in that kind of figural reading—is because things like figural reading and allegory, they displace the historical particularity of the Psalm. And so you end up with something that’s kind of sanitized, run through a Christian, you know, hermeneutical lens, and you…and you essentially denude the Psalm of its distinctive contribution within the Canon.” And I think that’s a very, uh, important concern—

Jipp
Yeah.

Luy
—that we need to hang onto. On the other hand, there’s sort of a…a catch-22 to that, because, if you refuse to engage in figural reading, then what you probably will have to end up doing in order to pray that Psalm is to engage in some kind of principlizing. So, in other words, what I pray from the Psalms of Ascent is not actually the Psalms of Ascent. It’s sort of being run through, you know, some kind of diagnosis of “What’s the principle at work here?” And then I pray that principle. And so, there’s a kind of ironic way—I think if Augustine were with us, he’d say, “Actually, that denudes the Psalm of its particularity,” because, you know, I…I think Augustine would say, “I want to sort of hang onto and meditate on these, like, particular themes of, like, ascending the mount and so on and so forth.” And, um, there’s a sort of weird way, maybe a counterintuitive way, in which Augustine’s approach allows you—precisely because you’re willing to engage in figural interpretation—you’re allowed to kind of hang onto the particular furniture of the Psalm in a way that if you’re principlizing, you don’t, because you’re sort of abstracting out universal principles or something.

Jipp
Yeah.

Luy
So, you know, I don’t mean to frame that in a prejudicial way as if one is obviously right or one is obviously wrong, but I think both are kind of grappling with the question of “What does it look like to—

Jipp
Yeah.

Knight
Yeah.

Luy
—to really keep this Psalm and to respect it and honor it, um, as it is?”

Jipp
That’s good.

Knight
[00:25:37] No, that’s super helpful, David. And I think you…you articulated well the ways that, like, Old Testament scholars get nervous about kind of, um, dehistoricizing some of these texts. I’ll say for me that when I get nervous about that, it’s not even so much that I’m trying to keep the history in place, so much as I’m trying to provide interpretative controls. And occasionally, to so many of us, figural reading or allegorical reading or whatever we want to call it—um, students label it “eisegesis,” almost, uh, because it feels like we’re just doing whatever we want. That historical particularity provided some, you know, some guidelines, uh, for handling Scripture rightly. And this kind of leads to a question that one of our Twitter followers…they were hoping to ask, um, as part of this podcast. They were wondering about the fact that we tend to teach this kind of exegetical rigor where we really pay attention to those particularities and…and the extra bounds they offer, but they have observed—and it’s been observed widely—that sometimes it feels like what Paul is doing in the New Testament, um, with his Old Testament usage, seems more creative than what we would teach in an exegesis class. And so he wants to know, uh, whether he gets to interpret like Paul, and that kind of goes with what we were talking about. What do we…how creative are we allowed to be and how do some of these other strategies, um, allow us to, um—where are the interpretive guidelines if they’re not in historical particularity?

Luy
Yeah, let me just start by affirming the premise and the concern that’s sort of nestled in the question. It…as much as I may, um, have a certain fondness for pre-modern biblical interpretation, I’ve never…I’ve never really identified with the approach which says that, you know, “These pre-modern interpreters can do no wrong.”

Knight
Sure.

Luy
I have been in…in, you know, circles of conversation where that was the place where there was such a thorough browbeating of modern, you know, methodologies that, you know, to critique origin or something was to be accused of being sort of, uh, you know, parochially modern or something.

Knight
Yeah.

Luy
So, I…there’s a good…there’s very good reason—I mean, frankly, some of the exegetical claims that Augustine makes I think are just, you know, completely ridiculous. I mean, there…there’s no getting around that fact, that the issue of hermeneutical control is an important one, and, um—anyway, I’ll…I’ll circle back to that—

Knight
Sure.

Luy
—but that’s just sort of a…an initial, just sort of—I think it is a really important question and something we need to think very carefully about. In terms of whether we can interpret the bible like Paul; um, it’s a tricky question to answer in a straightforward way, because it of course presupposes that we’ve diagnosed what it is that Paul is doing—

Knight
Yes.

Luy
—when he interprets, um, the Old Testament. And I’m not entirely sure that, you know, Paul has just one way of doing that. In fact, I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t. And there’s also, you know, we would…we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge that, you know, what exactly Paul is doing is itself the object of ongoing, you know, debate among…among Paul scholars.

Knight
Yeah.

Luy
Um, once we have sort of settled on some kind of diagnosis of what…what it is that Paul’s doing, then there’s the kind of question that I think maybe the student is getting at, which is, “Are we…are we…should we conclude, on the basis of the fact that Paul did this, that we should go and do likewise?” And there’s some differences among modern biblical scholars on that question as well. Um, in an attempt to not be quite so evasive by saying, you know, “People disagree about it,” [KNIGHT LAUGHS] I’ll just sort of put my cards on the table.

Knight
Thanks!

Luy
Um, I do think…I do think that, um, the New Testament use of the Old Testament should be a governing criterion for us as we think about, um, our own hermeneutical approach. I…I hesitate to say this in the presence of an Acts scholar, but it just seems to me that one of the crucial issues at stake in so much of the book of Acts is who is appropriating the story of the Old Testament according to its actual, you know, that which really is unifying the story, in a sense. I mean, what are…what is the actual…what is…what is it in which the Old Testament actually coheres? And so it would strike me as kind of a bizarre conclusion to, um, to read Acts, and then to sort of say, “Well, that was ok for them, but we…you know, should deploy different reading strategies now.” I mean, it seems to me that there are certain reading strategies deployed in Acts which are the grammar of, um…you know, the basic grammar of early Christian identity. And so, that isn’t to say that it’s easy, or that there aren’t some really perplexing examples where I’m not quite sure what the New Testament writers are doing, but I do…I…I would want to say, at least for my money, that the notion that we could somehow diagnose what it is they are doing, and then sort of safely leave it behind as not really pertinent to our exegetical method, I would find that to be…um, that’s not an approach that I would endorse. I think that it is…it ought to be instructive for us.

Knight
That’s very helpful.

Jipp
[00:30:40] Yeah. Well said, David. I, uh,want to keep talking about Acts, but, uh, [KNIGHT LAUGHS] this isn’t a podcast for me today. So let me…let me…let me move on one more question. You’re Lutheran, right? Is that true?

Luy
I am. That’s right. Guilty as charged.—

Jipp
You did your dissertation—

Luy
—And we love guilt…as Lutherans. [LAUGHTER]

Jipp
And you did your dissertation on Luther.

Luy
I did.

Jipp
We’ve only got a few minutes. You know, we can’t…we can’t go too long here, so I’m just going to basically give you an opportunity to say…to answer a question—make a pitch. What…um, Luther gets a bad rap, you know, for so many different things, but tell us one thing you love about Luther, and maybe one thing you love about Luther that we could, uh, also learn to love or benefit from.

Knight
Yeah.

Luy
Wow. How much time do we have? [LAUGHTER]

Jipp
I mean, you’ve got…you’ve got a few minutes. You’ve got a few minutes. I’m not—

Knight
You’ve got time. It’s ok.

Jipp
—Yeah. Don’t be…don’t feel rushed. Yeah.

Luy
Yeah, I…um, so I mean, I should probably start by saying I don’t love everything about Luther.

Jipp
Sure. Yeah.

Luy
Um, there’s plenty of stuff about Luther that I think we can…we can, uh, rightfully repudiate, and there are other things where I think, uh, Luther benefits from being one voice within the larger cloud of witnesses. So there are kind of deficiencies in his thought that’s it’s…it’s a good thing that he’s not all we have. Um, as far as, you know, something I think we could learn from Luther; there’s a lot of things I could mention here. I think…I think something Luther really did well is he recognized that, um, as an exegete of Scripture, I think Luther was uniquely attentive to the ways in which Scripture is used by God as a kind of crucible for spiritual formation. If we wanted to map that into sort of medieval categories with which Luther was comfortable, we might say that for Luther, the kind of tropological sense—which is the reading of Scripture which is, um, the point at which there’s really an existentially formative impact on the reader—that he’s very attentive to the…to the way in which Scripture is ultimately meant to form a certain kind of person—a certain kind of Christian. And as a result, there is a kind of, you know, I guess “pastoral” or “existential” thrust to Luther’s biblical exegesis which just makes it very soul nourishing in a way that perhaps our more scientific, um, objective approach to the…to the task of biblical commentary sometimes is. And um, you know, Luther’s infamous—or famous, depending on where you’re coming from—his…his understanding of a kind of dialectic between law and Gospel is one place where I think that comes through. I think that…that distinction can sometimes be misunderstood, but essentially, I think what Luther is really getting at is it’s a recognition of the way in which when God works on us through Scripture, He is working both to deconstruct us—through a sort of intentional pedagogy—and to build us up and to…and to sort of forge an identity in Christ, which…which is sustaining for us. So, yeah. I…I don’t know. There’s other stuff I could mention, but I think this kind of pastorally inflected, um, approach to theology and exegesis is one of the reasons why—I’ll just give an anecdotal example here. If I, um…there was a time when I was foolish enough to read long excerpts from theology textbooks to my wife, Pam. [LAUGHTER] And, you know, and a lot of the times, it would sort of, you know, it’d be something that to me was, like, super interesting, and it just kind of fell flat. But I’ve found when I read an excerpt from Luther, it usually is something that is very impactful. And I…and I think there’s something about the way Luther wrote, and it’s this kind of pastorally inflected, existentially emphasized approach to theology, which is…is a reason why Luther, perhaps more than many other theologians, is someone that all Christians kind of find resources for the Christian life in, to an extent that I think is…is valuable for us to imitate.

Jipp
Thanks, David.

Knight
[00:35:11] David, that’s super helpful. Thank you so much. I wish we had more time to talk about that. I feel guilty, actually, because we made you talk about biblical interpretation and then didn’t let you talk a lot about Luther. [JIPP LAUGHS] Uh, that’s what you get for having two biblical scholars as your hosts today, I guess. Uh, but we’ll have to have you back on. But before we finish up, can you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on right now? What are you writing? What…what are you researching? What’s capturing your attention?

Luy
Yeah, thanks for asking! Um, right now, I’ve got kind of two projects in the hopper, with a few others in the queue, I guess. [KNIGHT LAUGHS] Uh, the main one is, um, a book-length monograph, um, focused on what I’m calling “The fate of modern Christocentrism.” And it’s essentially looking at…um, if you…if you read, you know, theology, there’s a kind of interesting development that begins around the early 19th century, and that is that right around that time, for some particular reason, theologians begin sort of latching onto this notion that the way to sort of steer theology forward and to overcome certain deficiencies of theologies past is to embrace in a more radical and intentional way a…a Christocentric approach to dogmatic theology. And it spreads quite pervasively throughout the 19th century—it’s probably made most familiar for many of us in the work of the Swiss theologian Karl Barth. But, you know, contrary to the way history is often told, Barth is in no way the innovator of this. He’s actually—ironically, this is one of the areas where he’s demonstratively still very indebted to, uh, the liberal Protestant teachers who he’s supposed to have broken with in the early 19-teens. And so, my question in the book is really, um, “What accounts for this sudden proliferation of Christocentrism as this kind of programmatic, uh, principle in theology? Um, where does the movement actually, um, go?”—so to kind of narrate what I’m calling “the fate of the movement.” You know, “Where are we now? Where has it taken us?” And then to do a little bit of constructive reflection on, you know, “To what extent and in what way should Christian theology aspire to be Christocentric?” Um, you know, “Is that…is that sort of criteriological principle still useful for us, and if so, in what particular way should we affirm it?” Um, you know, “And…and what are some ways that are maybe not so helpful?” So that’s…that’s kind of the…the project, very broadly construed, that I’m working on right now.

Knight
That sounds, uh, really timely.

Jipp
Yeah.

[THEME MUSIC BEGINS]

Knight
I look forward to hearing more about it. Well, at this point, I fear that we’re going to have to close out. Uh, and what we always say is, “That’s just the Foreword.” Uh, our hope is that, uh, you’ll have the opportunity to hear more from Dr. Luy, whether you are reading his book in the years ahead, or whether we’ve talked you into coming to TEDS. One of the joys of the podcast today was actually getting to talk about some of the classes that make this such a special place to study. And if that really struck your attention, y’all, if you’re a student at TEDS, make some time with your electives to take these classes. And if you’re not, consider coming and doing a master’s in theology or doing an MDiv and spending some of those electives digging deeper into some of these topics. We would love to have you. We’d love to chat with you more. But, we also encourage you to watch for Dr. Luy’s work coming out in a couple of years about Christocentrism and the effect that that’s having on biblical interpretation. I want to take just a second to thank Dr. Luy for joining us. It was so fun to talk. I want to thank my co-host, Josh Jipp. I definitely want to thank our listeners for tuning in so patiently, because we’re…we’re crazy sometimes, but y’all keep coming back, so we really appreciate that—uh, and so devotionally, so thank you for that. But we definitely want to thank our producer, Curtis Pierce, for all of the work he does behind the scenes, for our faithful GA, Lauren Januzik, uh, and ultimately, y’all, it’s just so fun to do this with everybody, so thanks for being a part of this work. I’m Michelle Knight.

Jipp
I’m Josh Jipp. We’ll see you next time—

Knight
Thanks…[LAUGHTER] yes!

Jipp
[LAUGHS] I thought that was my part! Thanks, everyone!

Knight
It was your part. Yeah, thanks! [JIPP LAUGHS]

Outro
Foreword is a podcast hosted by faculty at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. You can subscribe to our newest episodes on your preferred podcast app or at forewordpodcast.com. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook @forewordpodcast to get updates and additional links to content. Trinity Evangelical Divinity School is located 25 miles north of Chicago, with extension sites across the country and online. Trinity educates men and women to engage in God’s redemptive work in the world by cultivating academic excellence, Christian faithfulness, and lifelong learning. You can find more information at teds.edu.

[THEME MUSIC ENDS]

Follow @forewordpodcast.

All content © 2020 Foreword Podcast.