I found many profound and stimulating statements in this brief interview with Oliver Donovan, one of the greatest minds and hearts at work in Christian ethics in our time.
I particularly enjoyed some comments on his use of other scholars. Here are a few to ponder:
I often feel that biblical studies get too close to the text actually to read it. But we need them, and owe an incalculable debt to them for their most important insights.
My relationship to the systematic and philosophical theologians can also be difficult. A book can be too close up, its thoughts press in too hard and block the flow of my own thoughts, so that I feel suffocated. I need to strike a carefully balanced relation to a contemporary theologian, of a sort one cannot form with just anyone, that gives me the right combination of stimulus and breathing-space. A good book is one that leads me to the questions and then allows me to grasp hold of them; a lot of time with a theology text is spent striding about the room trying to get my mind around what I have just read, or at my desk, framing a few sentences of comment on it.
Those few contemporaries who sit at just the right distance, close enough and far enough, and can address their questions with real mastery of their craft, offer me something I cannot get from historical texts — a sense of being exercised, compelled to follow every move of theirs with one of my own. They are like intellectual chess-partners. They belong as much to the intellectual world I inhabit as I do myself, and I haven’t picked them out of some period in history just because they suit my mood. What I learn from them is something about the task of a theologian in my own age, the task that I can never shrug off nor take for granted.
May God grant this good brother in Christ many more years to reflect on the riches of God’s truth and to share his insights with us.