Alan Lenzi has an interesting post, inspired by an SBL review that denigrated mainstream critical scholarship, which concludes with the suggestion that SBL ought to change its motto from “To foster Biblical scholarship” to “To foster critical Biblical scholarship.” While I appreciate the spirit of his post, the notion of “uncritical scholarship” seems to me to be an oxymoron (although that does not mean there are no examples of it). But more than that, it seems to me that the biggest hurdle in the way of promoting scholarship is precisely the fact that some denigrate it in the name of religion, and many people who need to encounter scholarship never do precisely because of the attitude of the leaders of their religious tradition.
In a sense, I suppose this issue is comparable to the debates about evolution and religion that are going on among biologists about “accomodationism,” with some wanting to emphasize that there is no necessary incompatibility between science and faith, and others wanting complete separation.
My own concern is that thinking critically is extremely challenging, and something that even the best of scholars sometimes fail to do. Is it not better to have critical scholarship interacting and connected with those whose scholarship is done in the framework of a religious tradition, rather than encouraging those for whom faith is important to isolate themselves from mainstream scholarship, as some are anyway inclined to do? Would the end result not be that we did harm to critical Biblical scholarship, precisely because we drove away those who would, over the course of wrestling with the topics and methods in the field, eventually have embraced a critical approach?
What do other readers, and particularly those in some way connected with academic Biblical study, think about this topic?