Grant Macaskill

Grant Macaskill

I come from a rural background in the Highland and Islands of Scotland. I left home to study Veterinary Medicine at Glasgow University in 1991, but after two years transferred to the Faculty of Science to complete a B.Sc. I then studied Theology at the Free Church College in Edinburgh before moving to Dundee, where I worked in pastoral ministry for several years. In 2002, I began doctoral studies with Richard Bauckham at the University of St Andrews, graduating in 2005 and securing a position as British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at that University. I was appointed Lecturer in New Testament in 2007 and made Senior Lecturer in 2012. I have published three monographs: Revealed Wisdom and Inaugurated Eschatology in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity (Leiden: Brill, 2007), The Slavonic Texts of 2 Enoch (Leiden: Brill, 2013) and Union with Christ in the New Testament (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

The New Testament and Intellectual Humility

This project examines the significance of the New Testament writings for a constructive theology of intellectual humility. As part of the canon of Scripture, the New Testament both resources and, in certain senses, norms Christian theology, but it does so as a largely un-systematized and variegated collection of writings. If this is neglected, the contribution of the New Testament to theology may be distorted. Readers may allow one author’s writings (e.g., Paul or John) to govern the reading of the whole, overlooking the genuine diversity of the canonical evidence, or they may seek to read the work according to a systematized logic that is alien to it. Both tendencies potentially lead to the neglect of elements that demand a more complicated theological account, and this bears on the specific topic of intellectual humility. At the same time, the tendency of biblical scholars to overlook coherence in favor of conflict, and to map the diversity of the New Testament writings onto a developmental timeline is also problematic, and has itself distorted the appropriation of New Testament scholarship by theologians.

This project, then, will contribute to a constructive theology of intellectual humility by analyzing the complex evidence of the New Testament as a distinctive and normative resource for such a theology. The study will identify points of coherence and commonality across the corpus, while also identifying the distinctive contributions of particular authors, or points of gravity within their writings. By allowing both coherence and diversity to emerge, the study will ensure that the New Testament plays an appropriate corrective role in the development of a constructive theology, challenging accounts that wrongly marginalize or exclude elements vital to theological reflection on intellectual humility and demanding that other elements are properly incorporated into such accounts.

My core argument will be that the New Testament demands a theology of intellectual humility that is centered on the divine self-disclosure (apocalypse) that has taken place in Jesus Christ and on its redemptive implications. This recognizes both human finitude and the noetic effects of sin; it demands humility before a holy God and transformation of the disciples mind by his presence, rendered in terms of the Holy Spirit. This makes intellectual virtue a necessary part of Christian discipleship (against those traditions, and the systematic theology that they have generated, that represent virtue as a work). It also, however, retains space for a properly limited natural theology, for scientific inquiry and for philosophy. These elements are crucial to what the New Testament says about intellectual humility, prohibiting both academy and church from considering themselves intellectually autonomous and exposing the hubris that each has often manifested.