Michael Bird’s Advice to Younger Scholars

On his blog Euangelion, as well as on Zondervan’s blog Koinonia, there’s a short Youtube video of Dr. Michael Bird offering advice to young theologians. He gives three basic tips: 1) don’t be a man-pleaser, 2) work in the primary languages and sources, and 3) take measures to keep your work spiritually fresh. The video is available here:

If you can’t tell from the accent in the video, Dr. Bird is an Aussie who teaches theology at Ridley Melbourne College of Mission and Ministry. For the past several years, he has been publishing at a breakneck pace on a wide variety of theological topics, but especially on the historical Jesus and Pauline studies. He has made a name for himself in carving out a via media between Old and New Perspectives on Paul (he is Anglican, after all). Here is a short list of works by Bird that I would recommend:

  • “Incorporated Righteousness.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 47/2 (June 2004): 253-75. In this article, Bird argues that it is still possible to retain the traditional Protestant doctrine of imputation, in spite of its less than obvious exegetical support. He suggests that the key to imputation is found in the doctrine of union with Christ. As such, it might be better to speak of an “incorporated righteousness.”
  • “Progressive Reformed View.” In Justification: Five Views, edited by James K. Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy, 131-57. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011. In this essay, Bird roots his view of justification in the historic Reformed tradition, while adding some nuances where the tradition’s systematic categories have drifted a bit from their exegetical moorings.
  • “Inerrancy Is Not Necessary for Evangelicalism Outside the USA.” In Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy, edited by J. Merrick, Stephen M. Garrett, and Stanley Gundry. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013. Bird is firmly committed to the truthfulness and authority of Scripture. However, he wonders if “inerrancy” is a parochially North American concern. While I still personally hold to the language of inerrancy (see especially Vanhoozer’s essay in this volume), Bird offers some much needed insights, and also points out where inerrancy (a doctrine about the nature of Scripture) has become unhelpfully entangled with literalism (a doctrine about the interpretation of Scripture).

About Kyle Dillon

A teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), assistant pastor of theological instruction at Riveroaks Reformed Presbyterian Church, and theology/languages teacher at Westminster Academy in Memphis, Tennessee.

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