I told my Pentateuch students last week that I didn't want academic research papers from them. I do assign them research papers, and I told them that academics was part of this class. But the academic dimension is absolutely subordinated to the ministry dimension of the class - i.e., the academic dimension is entirely and only in service to being transformed into the image of Christ as ministers in the kingdom. I think that making coherent arguments and being able to interact with what other Christians have said about the Bible is a very important part of being able to minister effectively to others. People who are unable to do these things are hampered in their ability to minister to others. I was most struck by this advice to a pastor who never read: http://christisdeeperstill.blogspot.com/2007/12/reading-plan-for-2008.html We need to take that seriously!
At the same time, I told my students not to try to write an "academic" paper, merely thinking about ideas, and writing for whatever their idea of what an academic wants is. Rather, I wanted them to mull over and digest the Bible in a deep way - to read it prayerfully and constantly, to think about it, and even more, to interact with it in their heart/being/essence/guts. The Hebrew word for "heart" has none of the connotations of romance or merely being the seat of emotions which it does in English (in the OT, you can think with your lev/heart) - it denotes more that essential you, the deep core of you. And I want my students to bring that into play when they write and read, and I want their writing to come out of the overflow of their lev, all done coram Deo. Those papers are so much more fun to read! Augustine is, by the way, a superb example of a brilliant mind who is the farthest thing in the world from a mere academic - that man knew how to write out of his guts.
I want to create a kind of culture in my classes in which that deep soul transformation becomes the issue and the goal. God willing, that will start to happen.