John Webster describes, well, the pitfalls associated with engaging with Scripture in academic mode. He has been developing how Scripture, critically engaged, has fallen prey to a dualism (nominalism) that results with the practice of engaging it from a purely naturalistic standpoint; instead of dealing with it as it is, God’s Word! And I would want to extrapolate and apply his point out further into the realm of not just the academic (“critical”) handling of the text of Scripture, but also how that gets fleshed out in non-academic ways. For either the academic or the non-academic (Christian), Scripture, when dealt with dualistically—pressing a hard line between a so called ‘sacred & secular’—results in engaging with a Text that has been annexed to our own proclivities. For the academic, this means developing tools of inquiry that treat Scripture as if it is something that man has control over instead of the place where God contradicts man’s tools and thoughts. For the non-academic, this kind of approach results in engaging with Scripture as if it is a place where I get my daily spiritual fix, it is a place, again, that I largely control (by my emotional state), instead of a place where God is free to contradict our ‘spiritual fixes’ and various emotional states (as he did with Job for example). Here is what Webster writes in regard to the academic (critical) side of a faulty understanding of Scripture’s ontology (or placement relative to its location in God’s Self communication):
[W]hatever one makes of the details, these kinds of narratives can at least serve to unsettle some of the habits which sustain much modern – by, for example, showing that historical criticism is as much a metaphysical as an historical or literary enterprise. But the pathologies are not unproblematic. As the doctrinal level, they can exhibit something of an imbalance toward the order of creation, and, within that locus, an unease about making much of the distinction between created and uncreated being; and, in at least some accounts, the order of creation outweighs the order of reconciliation. But a further point should be registered: the heart of the difficulty we face in attending to Scripture is not the conceivability of revelation’s taking creaturely form but our antipathy to it. Lost creatures (and the not-so-lost in the church) make Scripture’s humanity a ground for despising its embassy. We do not care for prophets and apostles, because they set before us the sermo divina; and so we spurn them – sometimes in high theory, but more often in baser ways. Once again, the history of conceptions of the Bible is spiritual as well as intellectual history, an episode in the wider course of the sinner’s rejection of the folly of the gospel and preference for ‘eloquent wisdom’ (1 Cor. 1.17). Prophetic and apostolic speech is contested (Jer. 15; Ezek. 2.3); it occurs in the history of rebellion of creatures against the divine Word. Thinking our way out of nominalism may be a necessary part of reconceiving the nature of Scripture and scriptural interpretation, but it can only take us to the threshold, so to speak. Once we are there, the real contest begins: between the prophets and apostles and those who will not listen to them, because they will not listen to God (Ezek. 2.7). [John Webster, Domain Of The Word: Scripture and Theological Reason, (London/New York: T&T Clark, 2012), 12.]
When Webster refers to ‘nominalism’, this is the ‘dualism’ that I was referring to in my pre-word to the quote (we won’t get into detailing what nominalism entails at the moment). The basic point of Webster is hard core, and one that most Christians (so a time to be self-critical once again!) don’t want to cozy up to. We would rather just remain satisfied with our cushy pew seats, our casual quiet times (if we even have those), and our all to prevalent privatized faith where we have taken God’s Word captive to our own sentiment; and this captivity has been won precisely because of it. Meaning that we cannot even hear from God through Scripture because we think we are, and we aren’t; we aren’t because we have taken it captive by our own dire situations, our own life circumstances, and molded Scripture’s purpose into meeting those needs, and thus dis-allowing God’s “needs” to be heard through His Word against our words. We cannot distinguish God’s Word from our own, because we have made our words, His (all clothed in good purpose and good will, on our side).
The academic appropriation and engagement of Scripture flows, largely, from the posture I just sketched.