About ten years ago, some of my fellow professors and I began to observe a trend among undergraduate Biblical & Theological Studies majors at Biola. We noticed that freshman students arrived on campus eager and ready to learn, but at some point during their sophomore year, these Biblical Studies majors became aware that on average they generally knew more theology than did the average Biola student. For some of these students, the realization of superior biblical knowledge fostered a sense of superiority; in the worst cases, this awareness spawned brashness and immodesty about their knowledge, especially as they interacted with other Biola students. Now, in many cases, by the time these students reached their junior or senior years, they became cognizant of their folly and began to pursue a more sober and humble assessment of their theological acumen.
We dubbed this phenomenon “the sophomore syndrome.” It seemed far better to name it than ignore it; a syndrome can only be treated if it is accurately diagnosed. In the intervening years, Biblical & Theological Studies professors have made it a central aim to emphasize—and hopefully model—the need for humility in handling the Word of God. We feared that all our labors to raise up a new generation of biblically-rooted and Christ-centered pastors, missionaries, and ministry leaders might go unrealized if students graduating from our program were deficient in submission to God and hadn’t learned to humble themselves under his mighty hand.
I am happy to announce that despite the ongoing challenges the sophomore syndrome presents each year (it is a diagnosable “syndrome” after all!) we are increasingly graduating majors in Biblical Studies who recognize the importance of humility toward God and grace toward others as they handle the Word of God. That’s a good thing; they will sorely need it in their future ministries.
Are any current Biblical Studies majors reading this? Is this the first time you’ve heard about the sophomore syndrome? Let me encourage you to “humbly receive the implanted word,” as James puts it so well (James 1:21) and grow in grace as you talk with others about all the wonderful things you are learning in your classes.