Scot McKnight on “Trickle-Down Scholarship”

trickle downA Christian theologian I follow closely (I read his blog 5 days a week and I’ve read a good number of his books) is Scot McKnight.

Professor McKnight (North Park University, Chicago) is well-known on the internet with one of the top blogs on theology and the Bible. He is well-known precisely for the reason I am writing this post: Scot McKnight believes that scholars should serve the community and not just write to one another.

The idea that scholars should write academic treatises o each other and that this high-level research will eventually trickle down into communities of faith is something McKnight calls “trickle-down scholarship.”

On a speaking tour in South Africa, McKnight’s presentations are being followed and reported on by Thomas Smith, a South African pastor and student of theology, of the blog Here is a piece by Smith explaining McKnight’s talk about trickle-down scholarship:

What I do want to highlight is a soapbox Scot went unto. He blasted the trickle down theory of education. According to Scot discoveries made in academia are not getting to people in churches because academics are not writing for the church. They only publish journal articles suited for their own guild.

This in my opinion is what makes Scot’s ministry so accessible and useful – he takes complex ideas and explains it to normal people.

Scot challenged the group to engage in scholarship to the church.

You can read the whole blog post here.

So, here is my point. Christian, Jewish, and Messianic Jewish communities need accessible scholarship. We need scholars who write not only for the academy, but for people who cannot take 4 to 8 years off from their income-producing work to learn the lingo, history, and themes of Biblical, historical, and theological scholarship.

There are a precious few who do this. And it is something I very much believe in. I plan to practice it myself as I develop myself in the field of Hebrew Bible studies. I plan to point to and draw attention to other scholars who make themselves accessible.

There is a gap in the Christian and Jewish communities between high-level scholarship and popular worship and congregation. Here’s to Professor McKnight for raising the bar and calling for some relief from trickle-down scholarship.

Want to check out Scot McKnight for yourself? Here are a few recommendations:

(1) Check out his blog on beliefnet:

(2) If you buy just one McKnight book, get the Blue Parakeet, which is about how to interpret the Bible and offers some of the most sane advice I have ever heard.

(3) If you buy a second, get The Jesus Creed in which McKnight teaches Christians to adopt the Jewish custom of reciting the Shema as the tradition is expanded and modified by Jesus himself.

(4) Other great ones include A Community Called Atonement and Embracing Grace.

About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christian, Judaism, messianic, Messianic Jewish, Messianic Judaism, Scot McKnight, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Scot McKnight on “Trickle-Down Scholarship”

  1. mchuey says:

    One of the reasons that a scholar like Bishop N.T. Wright is so popular, is because he is an excellent exegete of Scripture, and at the same time is also very readable. People like him are engaged in the work of ministry, while at the same time are engaged in the work of research.


  2. yinonblog says:

    Totally agree. Psst … we’ve crosslinked you on our new blog, Check it out!

  3. jonboze says:

    I completely agree. I can’t read most the academic works out there simply because I don’t know the terminology, or the ideas mentioned in passing. What we really need more of is the religious equivalent of “A Brief History of Time”. Something written for those of us who thirst for information but didn’t specialize in that field in college.

  4. rebyosh says:

    This has been a problem for some time. Scholars do not speak to the masses. And as such, much of great importance is missed. Scholars need to find ways to not only continue high levels of research, but be able to then get that message and findings out on a more popular level. The trickle-down idea really is a terrible idea.

  5. michellevl says:

    After working at an evangelical seminary in various capacities for the last 5 years, I’d like to add a resounding rebel yell “Amen!” to Scot McKnight’s observation. There is not much trickling down going on. Let’s face it – the competitive nature of life in the academy drives way too much of the research and writing happening up there in Ye Olde Ivory Tower. The work, then, is motivated by winning and scoring points, not about serving.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s