It's good that God has blessed us with towering intellectual pastors/Christian writers like D. A. Carson, John Piper, John F. MacArthur, etc.

Many of the aforementioned people belong to Baptist, Reformed Baptist, Presbyterian or Cessationist, etc. church/ministry backgrounds, and some cases even the typical Catholic church/ministry background. They generally teach The Bible in a relatively more erudite/academic manner than pastors in the Charismatic/Pentecostal Christian churches or ministries.

However, what are the drawbacks of studying the Bible in an overly erudite (overly academic) manner?

  • 5
    There is a danger inherent in selling out to a theological school wherein the theological system begins to take precedence over the Spirit speaking through the Word and the tendency is to "tweak" scripture rather than the theology. I don't know that this is relegated to the halls of academia. Jan 6, 2022 at 0:43
  • 2
    @MikeBorden looks like the start of a good answer Jan 6, 2022 at 19:41

5 Answers 5


The primary danger in studying the Bible in an overly erudite, scholarly, and academic way is the temptation to skip the all-important process of the application of Scripture to a lived life. All other dangers--apart from gross misinterpretation--pale by comparison.

Not that every passage of Scripture is applicable to one's life. Far from it. In the final analysis, however, the failure to apply relevant scriptures to relevant real-life situations--whether behaviors, thought patterns, or attitudes are involved--is a mistake made by all students of the Bible, whether they are scholars or not.

Since the Holy Spirit indwells every true believer in Jesus, He can certainly guide believers into correct interpretations of relevant scriptures, but believers can, in a sense, hobble Him, when for example their presuppositions are not in line with biblical truth. The Holy Spirit desires to guide us into all the truth, as John 16:13 reminds us:

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.

Since the Holy Spirit alone is capable of revealing the truth to the spiritually sensitive, yielded, and obedient believer, why then are there so many seemingly contradictory interpretations and applications of Scripture within Christendom today?

In your question, you differentiate between the Charismatic and non-charismatic approaches to Scripture. As commenter Mike Borden astutely observed,

There is a danger inherent in selling out to a theological school wherein the theological system begins to take precedence over the Spirit speaking through the Word, and the tendency is to "tweak" scripture rather than the theology. I don't know that this is relegated to the halls of academia.

I agree with the commenter. I am also assuming there are scholars on both "sides" of the Charismatic/non-charismatic divide. Who, then, is to say a believer--whether a scholar or not--is "selling out" to a theological system and "tweaking" the Scripture rather than a defective theology?

A critic of the "tweaker" could, perhaps, examine how the believer is applying the Scripture to life. The misapplication of Scripture is likely as common as the failure to apply Scripture to a lived life.

A Bible dipper, for example, might misapply a scripture through his or her method of application that bypasses hermeneutically sound interpretation of said scripture.

The story is told of a Bible dipper who thought he received guidance for his life by opening (i.e., dipping into) a Bible and randomly pointing to an isolated scripture for his marching orders for the day. On the first dip, his finger found Matthew 27:5.

And he [Judas] threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed, and he went away and hanged himself.

"Well, that verse cannot be God's guidance for me today," said the Bible dipper. "I'll just take another dip," which he did. Unfortunately, his finger landed on Luke 10:37, which reads, in part,

Then said Jesus unto him, "Go, and do thou likewise."

As risible as this Bible dipper's method of Bible "interpretation" and "application" might be, he is neither erudite nor correct in his approach to Scripture.

In short, overly erudite teaching and its opposite counterpart, foolish teaching, are two sides of the same coin, and they have this in common: They either bypass hermeneutically sound interpretation and application, or they bypass application altogether. Neither approach is truly biblical.

  • 2
    Very well written and I agree with @MikeBorden. Almost wrote an answer along the same line but you said it all already. Jan 7, 2022 at 1:50

There is nothing wrong with any person being erudite in any chosen field. Let's get that straight, at the outset, for to be erudite is to be able to teach or to write as a learned person who is fit to instruct and to train others. This means that you need to spell out what you mean by "overly erudite". Saying "overly academic" does not explain anything because what might be overly academic to you might be needfully instructive to another person. The impression given is that you consider certain Christian teachers to be "towering intellectuals" who you then compare with pastors in Charismatic/Pentecostal circles. That's a tad insulting to the latter. Some of them may be highly qualified, academically, but they don't make that known, simply dropping any academic presentation when preaching.

What does the word of God say? We are told that men like Peter and John were "unschooled, ordinary men" who had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). Yet then we get Paul who was peerless in his education, a linguist, excelling in Judaic law, taught at the feet of Gamaliel, and God also used him to preach and teach (Acts 22:3). Some of Paul's writings are intensely deep. Some people took his hard sayings to twist them (2 Peter 3:15-16) - "to their own destruction". But verse 15 also tells us that God gave Paul the wisdom he had! If some people found him too difficult to understand, that reflects badly on their ignorance, and not on Paul's erudition! Did Paul's intellectualism stop him being an outstanding preacher and teacher of the gospel? No, it did not.

So there we have a good example to follow when it comes to teaching the Bible, which is equally as good as the example of the unschooled first century teachers. Both 'types' are needed. But there is a key factor over-riding all of this.

It is only those who have sat at the feet of Jesus, to be taught of him, who are then qualified by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Where are the believers who search and study the word of God, day after day - not to gain academic qualifications, or to promote a theological stance, but to be able to live Christ and to point to him, by word and deed? Yet if they gain academic qualifications along the way, there's nothing wrong with that. However, when a truly godly person teaches or preaches, the difference between that and merely head-trip teaching and preaching is like the difference between night and day.

So, whether erudite or stumbling in speech or writing, the key is that the Holy Spirit works through any clean vessel to point others to Christ, and the way of salvation. Those who don't rely on that are a stumbling-block, not only to themselves but to all who are impressed by them. Christians who fear the Lord and who tremble at his word do not gather teachers around themselves to have their ears tickled:

"For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." - 2 Timothy 4:3 NIV 1987 ed.

Two particular drawbacks with placing great emphasis on academic study in order to preach and teach the Bible is the likelihood of lack of personal spiritual experience of salvation, and lack of God's actual calling to embark upon the venture.

The real drawback is not in the level of study, but in not being humble before God, dependent on the Holy Spirit to teach, and in people being eager to sit back and let others teach them rather than going daily to "the scriptures to examine whether those things are really so" - Acts 17:11.


Active study, preaching, and teaching are all mentioned as important throughout the Bible.

Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. [Joshua 1:8 (NLT)]

How can people have faith in the Lord and ask him to save them, if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear, unless someone tells them? [Romans 10:14 (CEV)]

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! [Hebrews 5:12 (NIV)]

But some of the drawbacks and risks of studying/teaching the Bible "overly academicly" are pointed to in the Bible. Similarly, as in academia in other fields, those who study and teach are not necessarily good practitioners that can serve as good examples to deal with applications.

2 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. 3 So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. [Matthew 23:2-3 NIV]

22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. [James 1:22-25 NLT]

The scientific method and academic style often aim at abstraction and objectivity. This is not necessarily wrong, but when the goal is to study and teach to serve God also the heart should be involved.

7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: 8 “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 9They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ [Matthew 15:7-9 NIV]

Sometimes an "overly academic" perspective can cause the focus on secondary issues while neglecting essential principles.

23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You pay tithes of mint, dill, and cumin. But you have disregarded the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. 25 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. [Matthew 23:24 BSB]

Matthew chapter 23 contains many implicit warnings about possible consequences of an overly academic style of teaching when Jesus addressed the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. All things he mentioned could distract from the main message of the subject matter.

Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that. Mark 7:13 (NIV) (See also Mark 7:9)

Another principle that seems to apply here is that “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up” [1 Corinthians 8:1]. But of course, all this does not mean that studying and teaching about knowledge is something bad in general. But there are risks.

In my experience with studying and teaching various topics, it is important to first focus on the essentials of the big picture, and then gradually zoom in and out on various aspects in detail if necessary. One of the main concepts to study and teach from the bible is related to love. But to master this “skill” requires continuous practice and interaction with others. The term “overly academic” is arguably vague, but one way to define it is: when study and teaching lose balance with practical real-world situations and applications. Maybe there should also be a distinction in the answers between studying and teaching the bible in a too academic way. The latter seems more harmful than the former.

  • 1
    Thanks for your posting. Maybe I should have just used "overly erudite/overly scholarly" instead of “overly academic” Jan 15, 2022 at 16:19

What are the Drawbacks of studying / teaching The Bible in an overly erudite ( overly academic ) manner?

As long as the purpose of our study and teaching is to gain God's approval and to rightly divide the word of truth, 2 Timothy 2:15, there is no downside. However, if our study leads to contradicting the plain, clear, simple and unequivocal statements of God, then our studies is leading us more like the serpent that twisted and contradicted God's word.

(Genesis 2:16-17 ASV)

When Jehovah God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. Adam and Eve clearly understood God's command, Genesis 3:1-3.

But in Genesis 3:4 ASV And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

We learn in Genesis 3:4 that the serpent twisted and contradicted God's clear command and the consequences of disobeying it. Eve had fallen to the serpent's lie and temptation. Thus, we should use what we learn to expose fallacies that twist God's clear and simple truths and be obedient to God's word.

In our learning, may we be like what Jesus said in Matthew 10:16, Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.


In the Charismatic/Pentecostal Christian churches / ministries, there is emphasis on the charismatic gifts like Divine revelatory messages, speakin-in-tongues, exorcism, public healings, prophecy, visions, dreams, Rhema, unction, etc.

( Credit Reference: https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/69613/better-understanding-of-1-timothy-48-bodily-training-is-just-slightly-be )

Lets say a single Christian person is struggling with sexually lustful feelings at night while they are in lying down alone in bed which could lead them to indulge in sexually-related lustful thoughts, and/or possibly end up watching pornography...and/or possibly doing something even worse....etc.

Therefore, let's say that said single Christian person starts to get into intensive prayer that will help him/her fight the temptations yield to said feelings. Moreover She/He might even start reciting scriptures related to fighting immoral sexually-related lust like:

-Matthew 5:28 --".....everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery ......"

-1 Thessalonians 4:3 ----".....abstain from sexual immorality;"

-Ephesians 5:3 --"But immorality [a]or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you.....

-1 Corinthians 6:18 --"Flee immorality......"


Regular prayer, and reciting of relevant scripture verses during battles of fighting temptations are actions that all churches/ministries recommend, and that's all fine so far.

However, let's say that said single Christian person's next step is to be led by The Holy Spirit to take the unction that involves opening up The Bible, and she/he lands on the following Bible verse:

1 Timothy 4:8

for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

The aforementioned bible verse emphasizes the importance of Godliness as being beneficial for all things, and that bodily training (i.e., Physical Exercise ) is just slightly beneficial, however, it still at the very least states that physical exercise is beneficial even though it is Only slightly beneficial.

Even the secular world emphasizes the benefits of physical exercise, please take a look at the following Harvard Health Publishing website's article:

( Reference: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax )

".... Exercise reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators. Endorphins are responsible for the "runner's high" and for the feelings of relaxation and optimism that accompany many hard workouts...."

Now, said Christian single person might use (1 Timothy 4:8) as a way of Helping in Fighting/Reducing Inappropriate Sexual Lustful feelings (especially if it leads to pornography or masturbation). Therefore, said Christian person might get out of bed, and go to her/his treadmill that she/he has in her/his basement/garage, and start running.

The problem with the Baptist, Reformed Baptist, Presbyterian or Cessationist, etc. church /ministry backgrounds, and in some cases even the typical Catholic church/ministry background is that they might say that said Christian single person is taking (1 Timothy 4:8) out of context because 1 Timothy 4:8 just mentions physical bodily exercise in order to emphasize in comparison the far greater benefits of Godliness . Furthermore, they might say that the author of 1 Timothy 4:8 would Not have any knowledge of science-based discoveries and/or technical terms like endorphins, adrenaline and cortisol hormones, etc.

Therefore, this is where the overly erudite ( overly academic ) manner of studying/teaching The Bible sort of fails in some ways.

  • 2
    I think the issue might in this case be because the person is studying at a Bible college. So, sound hermeneutics is key. However, I doubt any pastor, given a scenario where a young person in such a situation came to them for advice, would start spouting correctives on the quoted verse. The problem is, if you get something wrong but don’t really mind because it works… that’s a bit of a slippery path. I’d rather study hard and get my exegesis right - then work equally hard at communicating it, if I were a minister.
    – user56152
    Jan 6, 2022 at 15:18

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .