Confessions of a Perfectionist Ph.D. Student: Love and Scholarship

Confession: Forgive me reader, for I have sinned. I thought scholarship was only about my whit and intelligence–not my love for others.

At the heart of perfectionism lay both fear and pride. On the one hand, there is fear that you will make a mistake, lead people astray, or look bad. It is the last one that reveals the pride in perfectionism. In hoping not to look bad you want others to look well upon you and your work. In fact, at least for me, I wanted people to see a great body of work that settled many issues. You want to write the perfect paper, express the right ideas, in a way where everyone will be persuaded by your whit or logic–maybe even think that you have put to rest all other arguments.

Displaying our whit should not be a goal of our scholarship. Avoiding this is one of the goals I have for my “2nd Chance Ph.D.” In On Christian Doctrine, Augustine says this:

Whoever, then, thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but puts such an interpretation upon them as does not tend to build up this twofold love of God and our neighbor, does not yet understand them as he ought.

The goal of any work done by the scholar is to express love for God and love for man. If the work of a Christian scholar does not center around this love then they have missed the whole point of why they do what they do. In fact, if the Christian scholar who desires for people to marvel at their intellectual musings actually proves that they are ignorant of the true purpose of the scriptures; if Augustine is correct in his statement.

Even if we don’t agree with Augustine that we must have this love to interpret scripture (for what do we do with non-Christian interpretation…is there any merit to it?) we can at least say for the Christian scholar that this love of God and man should be present in his/her work.

That, was something I did not do well before. I hope to be better about it this time around. Bear with me as it will be a process.