Saturday, December 20, 2008

George Eldon Ladd and his Drive to be Significant

I am reading the recent biography on George Ladd, A Place at the Table: George Eldon Ladd and the Rehabilitation of Evangelical Scholarship in America. My co-blogger reviewed the book on the blog back in June. See his post for a full review of the book. Here I want to reflect on his intense struggle to be recognized, affirmed and significant. While the accuracy of D'Elia's portrait of Ladd will be for others to decide, the story D'Elia tells is both compelling and dare I say common. D'Elia describes Ladd's struggle with his own inadequacies as a "wound that had existed in Ladd's psyche from his earliest days, one that had grown virtually unabated during his adult life" (p. 180). This wound became nearly mortal after receiving a negative review of his 1963 book Jesus and the Kingdom by Norman Perrin. As D'Elia describes it, this event was a turning point in Ladd's academic life and a self-preceived failure from which he never recovered. 

What drives us in our study? What compels us to earn MA's, ThM's and Ph.D.'s? What motivates us to write and present and publish? If I am honest I have been driven by much deep things than a quest for truth or a historical interest or even a spiritual hunger. While all these play a part in my motivation, a more profound and often unrecognized force is at work: my own insecurity and need to be significant. My need to be recognized and affirmed and to be viewed as a contributor. I can say that I understand why Ladd was so devastated by Perrin's negative review. I too feel the tendency within myself to be obsessive about the reaction of others. I too know the emotional ups and downs associated with scholarly acceptance. 


Michael F. Bird said...

Joel, I did a blog review of this biography sometime ago. FWIW, I concur. While it is always good to get positive reviews, gain a good reputation, and acquire academic credibilty, ultimatley, we are playing for an audience of one!

Rich Robinson said...

I read somewhere a long time ago, that some of the most successful people in life feel not only inadequate, but that in some way they've "pulled the wool over the eyes" of everyone who admires them. Perhaps that's true for those whose use of their skill set comes relatively easy for them, and maybe true for many others besides.