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Category: Education / Topics: Retirement Teaching Writing

Scholarship

by Dan Seagren

Posted: April 1, 2012

If you were to ask, I'd quickly inform you that I am not a scholar. I do read what some scholars write, and often I am impressed. But then…


If you were to ask, I'd quickly inform you that I am not a scholar. I do read what some scholars write, and often I am impressed. But then, there are those I find difficult to understand so I guess they may be scholars but if I can't grasp what they are saying, well, I suppose that reinforces my lack of scholarship. Or maybe we both lack something.

If you would have asked me before retiring what I would do in retirement, I don't know what I would have said. Maybe a quip like "I'd sit on my front porch in my rocking chair and watch the cars drive by." Now into retirement for quite awhile, I don't have a front porch with a rocking chair and actually I am not much of a car watcher.

A couple of years ago, I was asked to teach our senior Bible class in the absence of the regular teacher. Now, with the former teacher retired, I am it. Years ago, I happily gave most of my library to a gentleman who collects both secular and sacred books that he distributes to needy libraries overseas. Now I admit I do miss some of those ol' relics when I get stuck on a topic.

However, modernity comes to the rescue. I have discovered now that my library is gone much of what I miss I can dig up on the web. Even more, I can read that which I never would have paid to read in my earlier career. I can read, ponder, accept or reject some things that never would have crossed my desk years ago. But am I more of a scholar now or simply better read? Do my fingertips find both scholarly and "unscholarly" bits of "hay and stubble?"

It is true: we never know too much, and certainly not everything. While studying recently, I came across a New Testament passage telling the story of an ambitious mother seeking a favor for her sons. There was a cross reference which I looked up. It was the same story, almost, except it was James and John asking for the same outlandish favor. But which account was correct?

This forced me to recognize how easy it is to be a critic, to debunk a seeming inconsistency or a downright blunder. Both passages couldn't be true. I am quite sure this happened but why would the two writers differ? They couldn't both be right. Or could they?

Since I wasn't there, I couldn't say one way or another. And even if I were there, my forgetter could have set in as often it does. One writer may have been there but the other heard about it and maybe a bit confused but perhaps included it in his story because of its audacity. Or, could this have happened at two different times, each unaware of the request. At times critics do pounce on seeming disparities and draw erroneous conclusions. 

Whether young or old, expert or novice, biased or unbiased, even scholars wish they could recall a paragraph or a chapter after it is done. But then, as human, finite beings, it is quite comforting to realize that a blip or two may be inevitable but not necessarily fatal. Scholarly perfection is probably more rare than realized. 


Dan Seagren is an active retiree whose writings reflect his life as a Pastor, author of several books, and service as a Chaplain in a Covenant Retirement Community.

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Posted: April 1, 2012

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