Duke Divinity School has a new Dean. Richard Hays, the George Washington Ivey Professor of New Testament, has accepted the job. He certainly has an idea as to what the post entails. For almost two years he has served in that post as an interim.
In many ways, the acceptance of an administrative post can distract from one’s research, writing and teaching interests. My guess is that the weighty managerial duties demanding a dean’s careful attention will at times prove difficult to balance alongside the tasks of theology and biblical studies.
But here is what excites me: at the helm of one of the world’s foremost divinity school’s is someone willing to un-think and rethink traditional and contemporary models of theological education. I do not envision Dean Hays as an academic iconoclast eager to tear up charters and wipe all slates clean—I just believe him to be ever at work assessing, critiquing, and envisioning the way pastor-theologians are being formed and shaped in academic halls for service within and beyond the ecclesial walls. His scholarship has caused many of us to stop and reconsider. In spite of the bold challenges he has offered to certain axioms in hermeneutics and New Testament theology, he has instructed us carefully, thoughtfully, and humbly. His leadership in theological education is sure to have similar effects in similar fashion.
I think often about what it means to “do” theology. Specifically, I am wondering how context shapes the theologian and her work. Is a fine office with a view of the well-kept university quad the only place a theologian can ply his trade? Is a classroom in view of a magisterial stone chapel the only place the biblical scholar can work her craft? “Doing theology” most certainly means more than reading, writing, and teaching in a formal setting. We now have the chance to watch a world-class exegete “do” theology from a vocational appointment that may permit writing and research but demands budgeting, staffing, fundraising, and the signing of document after document. With a monumental project on Gospel-shaped hermeneutics in the works, Dean Hays will continue to add to his legacy as a New Testament scholar. That legacy will now be extended to include the influence of pastor-scholars formed by his visionary leadership and sent out to serve and nurture the church.