Compartmentalizing the Bracket and the Problem of Creep

A little while ago TT wrote about a debate in the field of Religious Studies concerning the role of personal judgment in scholarship. “Bracketing” one’s judgment, meant withholding a pronouncement of “superstitious”, “backward”, or even “good or bad” on the people or objects one studies. The scholar’s role in this regard is to provide an accurate and sympathetic account of religious attitudes and actions. S/he attempts to see the world from the place of an other, and understand them in their own terms. This is sometimes described as a methodological “agnosticism”, that at least leaves the door open for the real possibility of religious experience by not ruling it out from the get-go. Thus for LDS scholars, there is a strong benefit to this position in that it provides an opportunity to study and produce scholarship about religious claims without having to “come out of the closet” so to speak in regards to their personal beliefs which may not be widely shared (or accepted). Some form of bracketing in this general sense is the dominant position in the field.

The question I would like to pose here is whether it’s possible to compartmentalize this bracket. I imagine scholars of faith would not want to remain “agnostic” in their religious life. In this light is it possible to bracket one’s judgment in profession, but remove the bracket when in the environment of faith? 

I imagine some form of the strategy of compartmentalization is the strategy of choice by many LDS doing work in religion. Indeed, to some degree I do this myself. One problem with this strategy that I’ve noticed in my own case however, can be described as “the problem of creep”. Creep happens when the wall dividing “bracket-on” from “bracket-off” begins to give way. Creep can mean that “bracket-off” at times slips into one’s academic work (I imagine this is one way to conceptualize some of the critiques of Bushman’s RSR). It can also mean that “bracket-on” slips into one’s faith-life (one wears the bracket to church so to speak).

Regarding the latter, the bracket becomes harder, and in some regards less desirable to take off. So Sunday School, for instance, becomes more of an academic exercise in understanding the internal logic of the BoM, rather than the opportunity to affirm its “truthfulness” in the larger Plan of Salvation. Some of the language so familiar in church discourse also becomes less appropriate–”I know x is true” seems like such strong language. There are of course both negative and positive outcomes of this which I will not explore here. Instead I’d rather raise the question of how to handle the problem of creep.

I would also like to consider alternative conceptualizations of this situation. I’m convinced that “compartmentalization” is not the best scheme to employ, yet I’m at a loss for alternatives.

  • David Clark

    Compartmentalization works well for some but not for most. There are two dangers. One is that you never leave one compartment because you tend to spend most of your time there, so why bother leaving. The other is that you get terribly dizzy switching back and forth between compartments. I think many people develop (either consciously or unconsciously) a mediating philosophy allowing them to wear both hats simultaneously. I suggested in TT’s “On Criticism” post the following:

    “However, this approach is not appealing for believers who want a middle way. This involves putting on and taking off the hats of critical inquiry and faithful belief repeatedly which can become dizzy. In fact I think it is too dizzy for most people and they end up adopting a mediating philosophy which allows them to emphasize one over the other. If they want to emphasize the faithful belief part they might adopt a brand of post-modern relativism where the narrative they are weaving is just one of many possible narratives. This seems to be popular with the FARMS folks these days. If they want to emphasize the critical inquiry part then they adopt a fideistic approach to belief, which allows them to believe no matter what critical inquiry might discover, or they approach belief mystically and use lots of allegory and metaphor to narrow the gap between the critical and faithful approaches.”

    I think this problem is especially acute for Mormons because of a related social problem in Mormonism, there is not yet a sizable half-way house for Mormons who study religion using secular methods. Gerald Bray in this book “Biblical Interpretation, Past And Present” quips/suggests that conservative Christianity is a half-way house set up by people who were raised with a fundamentalist tendencies but trained with professors with liberal tendencies. Bray says that those living in the half-way house can navigate both arenas with some success. A half-way house would simply give more options to people to comfortable resolve this problem on their own terms. It also provides an arena where at least temporarily the [bracket] can come down.

  • http://www.libertypages.com/cgw Clark

    I don’t know if I’d call it compartmentalization. I’m too much the holist for that. But I do think there’s a danger that we get so caught up in academics of the scriptures (bringing out non-obvious structures) that we miss the point. I’ve noticed that in myself. I do academic reading about the scriptures in order to keep them interesting. But not reading it in what I might call a more naive way means that I’m missing a lot.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com SmallAxe

    David, your comments are always so thoughtful, thanks for engaging.

    If you don’t mind, I’d like to explore some of the alternatives you pose.

    If they want to emphasize the faithful belief part they might adopt a brand of post-modern relativism where the narrative they are weaving is just one of many possible narratives.

    To avoid the loaded connotations of “post-modernism” let’s call this the “relativistic approach”. The challenge of course with this kind of an approach is defining the boundaries of allowable interpretation. I imagine when one invokes this position as a LDS scholar, s/he does not have a true relativism in mind; but rather some modified version of it (this is if the term ‘relativism’ is invoked at all). As a matter of fact, few people, if anyone will take the position of true relativism. My problem, however, as it relates to this discussion, is that I’ve seen very few (if any) LDS’s articulate this nuance. My purview may very well be limited here, so I’m open to suggestions as far as who to look to. I know non-LDS’s such as Bernstein ( Beyond Objectivism and Relativism ) who builds on the hermeneutical theories of Gadamer and Habermas, but I have not seen LDSs with similar positions. So, in the attempt to develop such as position, and assuming that LDSs will not adopt a position of true relativism, what kinds of arguments for a relativistic approach have you seen?

    If they want to emphasize the critical inquiry part then they adopt a fideistic approach to belief, which allows them to believe no matter what critical inquiry might discover, or they approach belief mystically and use lots of allegory and metaphor to narrow the gap between the critical and faithful approaches.

    Let’s call this the “safe-spot” approach. My initial reaction to this is that it seems like a variation of the compartmentalization approach. Instead of having times in which one brackets and times at which one un-brackets, one instead has certain faith claims that are tucked into a “safe-spot” that no one can touch. The problem it would seem to have is to define the contours of this safe spot. Why/how are certain things off limits, whereas others are not? Is this built off of the assumption that these faith claims/values do not influence the work done in the area one examines?

    As far as a “halfway house” for LDSs are concerned, I see establishing one as a combination of exploring these kinds of alternative approaches and a critical mass of LDSs entering into the field. I’m even tempted to say the latter is perhaps a more important factor than the former.

  • David Clark

    You ask some hard questions, and I am not sure I have good answers, but I’ll try my best.

    So, in the attempt to develop such as position, and assuming that LDSs will not adopt a position of true relativism, what kinds of arguments for a relativistic approach have you seen?

    I haven’t really seen any arguments for this position, I have just seen it used without explanation. Though both would probably disagree with me here, I see Richard Bushman and Blake Ostler using this approach. In his introduction to RSR Bushman basically says 1) that getting an objective history of Joseph Smith is impossible and 2) he is a believer so this will color his views. I see this as invoking a kind of relativism in that it gives him a license to be unconsiously biased and it gives others a way to disagree amicably. Ostler in his Expansion theory gives a theory of Book of Mormon translation theory which is not fundamentalist and gives Joseph Smith a wide berth in expanding and interpreting the ancient source according to his culture, language, understanding, etc.. Again, I don’t want to put arguments in their mouths, because they DON’T invoke relativism. However the end product ends up allowing believers to enter the critical arena with a “get out of jail free card” so to speak, that is they can engage the issues critically but allow one to make faith claims when needed/desired.

    Why/how are certain things off limits, whereas others are not? Is this built off of the assumption that these faith claims/values do not influence the work done in the area one examines?

    My examples for this are even weaker than my previous ones. I think in some cases people physically limit the areas they will research/publish in and this creates their “safe spot”. Hugh Nibley, I think, is an example of this. His approach to the Book of Mormon and the PofGP was apologetic and not critical. He hardly ever touched the Bible in any way, apologetic or critical. Again I am just guessing here, but it looks like he just didn’t want to touch things that impinged on his faith in a critical way (at least in public). Most, if not all, of the peer reviewed articles he submitted simply avoided issues that would touch Mormon beliefs in any way. David P. Wright approached the Bible critically, but seemed to consider the Mormon church his spiritual and cultural home, i.e. the “safe spot” for him was the social and practical aspects of Mormonism. Since in the end that wasn’t much of a “safe spot” for him, I guess that might not be the best example.

    Before anyone flames me to death, I know that I am reading a lot between the lines and psychologizing without warrant. To be honest I simply am fishing for examples becasue I just don’t know of too many (I would love to hear better examples from other people). My suggestions were more theoretical than something I have seen work well in practice. I think there may be a chicken and egg problem here. These kinds of positions won’t get articulated until there is a half-way house, and the half-way house won’t get built until the positions get articulated.

  • http://www.libertypages.com/clark Clark

    I think that’s right David. I think one might call it the logic of vagueness. I think Bushman’s point was less to allow for being biased than to admit up front that they may be unconscious hermeneutical biases. I think he was actually trying to be as fair as possible. He just leaves vague many issues as opposed to say Vogel who attempts to fill more in.

  • http://www.libertypages.com/clark Clark

    Small Axe, while I agree we ough eschew the loaded and rather pejorative term “postmodern” I’m not sure “relativism” is any less loaded or any less pejorative. i.e. I think it’s just as bad if not worse. Further I think we can and must make a distinction between vagueness (i.e. leaving some issues for future determination and simply not taking a position) from relativism (taking a position but taking a position relative to a community)

    It seems fair, for instance, to claim that Joseph thought he saw God. If that’s all one says then one leaves vague the nature of God in Joseph’s conception. That is did he have a real vision from a real God or was he merely hallucinating or modifying his memories such that an original half truth becomes believed. The former is vague whereas the latter aren’t. If we say that because Mormons believe Joseph saw God that we’ll then say that Joseph did see God then that is being relativistic.

    I don’t like texts that are relativist. I do like vagueness. However I can accept attempts like Vogel that attempt to arrive at more determination although I may then disagree with Vogel.

  • smallaxe

    These comments are responses to both David Clark and Clark. Since the ideas in the comments overlap, I’ll try to respond to both at the same time.

    You ask some hard questions, and I am not sure I have good answers, but I’ll try my best.

    Don’t worry about it, we’re all shooting from the hip, so if someone comes along with more developed ideas, all the better for us.

    Regarding the Relativistic Approach:
    I agree that there could be a more appropriate term here, especially given that no LDS I know (and few people in general) will consciously take upon themselves a label associated with relativism (the moral theorist David Wong–a nonLDS–being one the few). Note however my purposeful use of “relativistic” above, which I take to mean “possessing certain characteristics of relativism”; so it is not necessarily synonymous with “relativism” proper. I’m open to using another label for these characteristics; or if this description proves inaccurate then I’m totally willing to scrap it altogether in the hopes of finding something more accurate (such as you suggest, “vagueness”).

    In terms of “characteristics of relativism” I had in mind the notion that 1) The act of interpretation is not to discover “the truth” or “the intent” of the situation/text/actors, because such a thing lays beyond our ability to perceive. 2) The event ‘x’ is comprised of numerous narratives.

    These two claims, are however mediated by the notion that there are still correct interpretation(s). This stops it from being a “relativism”. This is what I was calling above a “relativistic approach”; which I again am more than willing to call something else. The problem here is that I’m unaware of arguments being made for the bounds of proper interpretation for LDS scholarship.

    As for the “logic of vagueness” you allude to above, would you see this as an attempt to delineate the boundaries of proper interpretation within the framework just mentioned, or as an independent and alternative approach?

    I think in some cases people physically limit the areas they will research/publish in and this creates their “safe spot”.

    This is certainly hard to substantiate, but my hunch is that it plays out with LDS “Biblical scholars”. I’ve been told that most of the LDSs who tend to associate themselves with this field did most of their graduate work (and dissertations) in the linguistic elements of Biblical language(s) rather than in the texts themselves. I’m not sure we can draw the conclusion from this that they purposely avoided issues that might infringe on their “safe spot”, but I do believe that such is at least a likely consequence of pursing studies in that vein.

    That said, I’m not sure if one could extend this to areas of American religious history. Perhaps someone from JI could help us out here.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com Mogget

    most of the LDSs who tend to associate themselves with this field did most of their graduate work (and dissertations) in the linguistic elements of Biblical language(s) rather than in the texts themselves

    To this emphasis on linguistics or textual criticism might be added work in texts that lie outside the canon.

    There is a parallel from Catholic history. Before the Vatican opened up historical-critical work many Catholic exegetes worked with languages or worked on ‘secondary’ texts such as Wisdom literature or deutero-canonical texts. Back then, everybody knew that Wisdom lit. had no theological content…

    Mogs

  • smallaxe

    There is a parallel from Catholic history.

    In this case do you think it was a self-conscious attempt to avoid the ‘thorny’ issues, or was there some other line of thinking coming into play?

    In the LDS case under discussion here, I know very few people involved in the linguistic/extra-Biblical studies that would construe themselves as utilizing this “safe-spot” approach. Rather, my hunch is that they see themselves in a different light, perhaps as following after LDSs who have gone before, or engaging the issues from a different perspective, or… I’m just not sure. Perhaps you can shed some “light” on this. I can’t think of anyone who would confess to explicitly choosing an area of study such that it avoids conflicting with certain issues they take to be part of a “safe-spot”.

  • David Clark

    In the Catholic case Alfred Loisy was fired and later excommunicated for advocating a historical-critical approach to the Bible. I’ve got to think that his example made a lot of people avoid the critical approach for pure survival, though of course I can’t get inside anyone’s head.

    Interestingly Greg Prince here says he observed the same thing after the September 6 event.

    The bottom line is that I don’t think anyone is going to stand up and say, “I need my job and I don’t want to upset my social and family life so I am going to play it safe and avoid the tough issues, aren’t I brave?” It’s one of those things that you can only suspect happens, which isn’t proof that it does happen.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com Mogget

    Actually, Smallaxe, the Catholics were/are pretty candid about the fact that they were avoiding the tough issues. Very famous exegetes like Alfred Loisy were excommunicated around the turn of the last century for doing only what Protestants were doing, and doing it well. The documents suppressing his work and then excommunicating him are public so there’s no doubt.

    (BTW, evangelicals and fundamentalists do the same thing — and they’re usually quite open about what they can safely write on if they want to teach at schools such as those they came from.)

    As far as other LDS exegetes go, I really don’t know how they view their efforts. Since I’m not part of the “fold” I feel free to do my own thing. Certainly, in other settings it is common to “balance” the faculty across the canon, with representatives from the Gospels, Paul, and others. And it would be extraordinary to find a faculty where no one works within canonical interpretive areas. To my eye, it appears to be “safe spot” work avoiding the tough issues and it would probably take a pretty strong argument to convince me otherwise.

    Jackson’s proposal is also a “safe spot” approach, it seems to me. The safe spot is anything propounded by revelation. Under his “rules,” modern approaches and their results are appropriate until they run up against modern revelation. Then they’re out.

    It also occurs to me that LDS exegetes might have something of a “safe exit” by virtue of the apostasy complex of ideas. Since this seems to imply that everything we now have is tainted beyond reconstruction, those who take that option ought to be able to work on the received text to their hearts content, always maintaining the distance between what we have now and the autographs.

    Mogs

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com Mogget

    BTW, you can find “safe spot” approaches to the Bible for fundamentalists discussed in James Barr’s Fundamentalism.

  • David Clark

    Smallaxe,

    I am curious about the reasons behind asking the question. Are you looking for a philosophical basis for being able to combine critical and faithful inquiry? If so that’s hard. Are you wanting to stay out of trouble with ecclesiastical authorities? That’s pretty easy.

  • smallaxe

    Jackson’s proposal is also a “safe spot” approach, it seems to me.

    Me too. Given his position, however, could he have come up with anything else?

    It also occurs to me that LDS exegetes might have something of a “safe exit” by virtue of the apostasy complex of ideas.

    The problem I see with this approach is that it has surface appeal only. in other words it only works if people accept the apostasy complex. While I don’t see us giving up on the idea altogether, I imagine it could be significantly modified upon closer investigation. And one studying this area would be the first to find out that some of our common perceptions could be flawed.

    BTW, you can find “safe spot” approaches to the Bible for fundamentalists discussed in James Barr’s Fundamentalism.

    Do you recall any of them Mogs? Given my current reading load I don’t think I’ll have a chance to pick it up any time soon.

    I am curious about the reasons behind asking the question. Are you looking for a philosophical basis for being able to combine critical and faithful inquiry? If so that’s hard. Are you wanting to stay out of trouble with ecclesiastical authorities? That’s pretty easy.

    The former, but I can’t say that I composed this post with such lofty ambitions (it was more like just tossing something out there). But if I were to state it in (over) idealistic terms, I want a taxonomy of approaches to combining critical and faithful inquiry, followed by an evaluation of each approach.

  • http://www.libertypages.com/clark Clark

    As for the “logic of vagueness” you allude to above, would you see this as an attempt to delineate the boundaries of proper interpretation within the framework just mentioned, or as an independent and alternative approach?

    A bit of both. (Which I guess would make “independent” somewhat problematic)

    It is similar to the relativism in that relativism as you outline it allows for multiple views so long as they account for the data. In vagueness you have some determination (the data accounted for) but then some unknown. You suggest that this “open” area allows for multiple views. I think vagueness says merely allowing your view here is insufficient. Rather you should look for the range of views but simultaneously recognize that you don’t know which of these are correct. Ideally then this promotes further inquiry to narrow down which of these further views is correct.

    So it is both narrower yet broader.

  • http://www.libertypages.com/clark Clark

    In the Catholic case Alfred Loisy was fired and later excommunicated for advocating a historical-critical approach to the Bible. I’ve got to think that his example made a lot of people avoid the critical approach for pure survival, though of course I can’t get inside anyone’s head.

    Interestingly Greg Prince here says he observed the same thing after the September 6 event.

    I think that’s overstated since arguably a lot of apologetics uses a historical-critical approach. Although obviously it varies from person to person. I’m not about to deny there may have been a chilling effect in some narrow fields. But I don’t think there was overall. Indeed I think the 90′s saw the real progress of certain fields and an opening up of LDS theology to strong scientific and critical examination and criticism.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com Mogget

    These are the main points in one concentrated section. There are other formulations but it will take me longer to find them. The work in question is:

    Barr, James. Fundamentalism. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1978.

    Despite the fact that it is old and could really use update, Barr is still quoted quite a bit. He introduces a section with his chapter on fundamentalists and their approach to the Bible with this paragraph (p.128):

    A very striking characteristic of conservative scholarship is that, of the conservatively-minded people who take an interest in the Bible, a very large proportion interest themselves academically in the margins rather than the centre of the biblical field. Typically, they do not become scholars in the theology of OT, or in the concept of messianism, or in the Pauline doctrine of faith, or in the biblical concept of the covenant. Much more do they become scholars in fields like: textual criticism, the grammar of the NT, archaeology, and the Bible, Coptic, [or] Semitic linguistics. Many take up their field of study not even the periphery of bibical study, but a field which, though separate from it, has some contact with it: so for instance, Egyptology, Assyriology, Ugaritic studies. Is it not strange if scholars, whose personal faith is deeply anchored in the Bible and its religious authority, choose to be come specialists in the environment of the Bible rather than the Bible itself, or within the Bible to become scholars of the furniture and technical mechanics of the Bible, if we may so term them, rather than in the religious heart of the Bible?

    After that Barr goes on to surmise that the primary underlying reason is a desire to avoid becoming “involved with the critical problems.” Working on canonical books with real exegetical approaches means coming to grips with critical positions, which will certainly involve the scholar with controversy, require him or her to engage a significant number of obstacles, and to read many, many books with critical methods and conclusions.

    Barr also opines, based on reading the contributions of fundamentalist scholars of his era, that they seek areas where “a neutral and purely intellectual attitude is possible,” that likewise requires as little interaction as possible with theology. Textual criticism and grammar have very little intersection with personal and non-objective decision-making realms since they have little to do with the content of the works being studied. He also notes the relative proliferation in fundamentalist work of authors writing on the Bible who have real proficiency only in “environing areas.”

    Working along these lines, Barr suggests that this coheres with the fundamentalist’s idea of truth as “lying in the correspondence between written formulation and external actuality.” Fundamentalists long for intellectual validation of their position, since this is precisely what eludes a fundamentalist approach.

    If some part of this interests you further, I will pursue it.

    Mogs

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com Nitsav

    As one current LDS example, take Jared Ludlow (PhD, UC-Berkeley, then BYU-H and now BYU). He says in this T&S interview with Julie Smith that he essentially went for Pseudepigrapha to avoid things that might conflict with his beliefs. (See question beginning”You have specialized in intertestamental literature”)

  • http://www.libertypages.com/clark Clark

    Interestingly though the emphasis seems to be that he thinks LDS scripture entails some beliefs that would conflict with the main scholarly theories. But the move is to avoid conflict with those scholars rather than conflict with the Church (as is rather common as well). I can understand that although I think one can just do scholarship recognizing you can only write about the evidence everyone accepts.

  • http://www.libertypages.com/clark Clark

    Of course who am I to say that when I didn’t even go into ancient studies of any kind. It’s obviously easy for me.

  • David Clark

    arguably a lot of apologetics uses a historical-critical approach. I don’t think that it is arguable that apologetics uses a historical-critical approach, it doesn’t. It might consume results of historical-critical research if it fits the agenda. Am I barking up the wrong tree here?

  • smallaxe

    I think vagueness says merely allowing your view here is insufficient. Rather you should look for the range of views but simultaneously recognize that you don’t know which of these are correct.

    A significant difference, it seems, between this approach and the relativistic approach outlined above is the assumption of a correct view. With the relativistic approach there is the recognition that there are in fact many views, and while there are bounds of proper interpretation of these views, it doesn’t rule out the possibility that multiple views may in fact be correct.

  • smallaxe

    Regarding Barr, do please tell more. It eerily resonates with some of our observations more close to home. Is he using “conservative” and “fundamentalist” synonymously? What makes the characteristics he describes necessarily conservative (or fundamentalist)?

  • smallaxe

    Re Ludlow:

    Here’s the key quote:

    “I mostly went into this field because after a few semesters of doing Biblical studies I realized that the academic approach is very dependent on theories that can run contrary to my understanding of the gospel. I felt if I wanted to be professionally conversant and active in the field, it would go against some of my beliefs. By focusing on the extra-canonical literature, I could have an active professional field that is related and complementary to biblical studies, but not completely dependent on the same theoretical assumptions.”

  • http://faithprorumors.wordpress.com Mogget

    I realized that the academic approach is very dependent on theories that can run contrary to my understanding of the gospel. (Emphasis mine)

    Not to pick apart Professor Ludlow’s statement but theories aren’t the real issue. It’s the evidence that stands behind the theories that presents a challenge. His would appear to be an admission that he cannot explain the evidence in another fashion with similar credibilty.

    Protestant fundamentalists use a similar approach in their arguments against Darwin’s legacy.

    More later.

    Mogs

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    while I agree that avoidance of the canon was and continues to be a strategy for scholars to either reserve their own faith or protect themselves from ecclesiastical scrutiny, I am not sure that I is a fair generalization. In some ways, the feild as it has developed has reversed these conditions such that those who stick to the canon only represent a more conservative move to give the canon priveleged place, while those working outside the canon are taking more subversive theological positions. Like I say, I am not sure that my generalization holds any particular rule, only that I am not sure the idea that only consevatives work outside the canon is true amy more.

  • David Clark

    while I agree that avoidance of the canon was and continues to be a strategy for scholars to either reserve their own faith or protect themselves from ecclesiastical scrutiny, I am not sure that I is a fair generalization. In some ways, the feild as it has developed has reversed these conditions such that those who stick to the canon only represent a more conservative move to give the canon priveleged place, while those working outside the canon are taking more subversive theological positions.

    I think liberals, conservatives, and fundamentalists will each take a different approach to the canon.

    Liberals will tend to interpret and/or challenge views in the canon in light of non-canonical works,

    Conservatives, especially those in the reform tradition, will stick with the canon, since that’s what they consider authoritative (sola scriptura). However, they can and do reinterpret the canon because of their concept of “continually reforming.” They also have some tolerance for deviating from traditionally held views because that’s what you get when you are continually reforming.

    Fundamentalists (and I lump most Mormons here) have to approach the canon with largely predetermined conclusions and hence have really big problems with being perceived as unobjective. Hence fundamentalists focus away from the canon and on areas in which they will not be perceived as being unobjective.

    Given the assumptions of each group I think the strategies each employs are rational. Each groups’ decisions based upon the set of predetermined conclusions they must maintain and what counts as authoritative for each group.

    I also wanted to throw a question out to those who have been involved in graduate work in biblical studies. It seems like those who approach biblical studies as fundamentalists rarely maintain their fundamentalist allegiances, they tend to join one of the other groups or become atheists/agnostics. However, it seems like those who approach it as conservatives or liberals tend to be able to maintain their group allegiances. Is this something you have seen? I would also imagine that Mormons would tend not to take on conservative approaches (in the reform tradition) to religion because sola scriptura and “continually reforming” just don’t work in the Mormon church. Hence Mormons who feel compelled to give up their fundamentalist tendencies tend to become liberals even though conservatives tend to be doctrinally closer to Mormons. Is this something you have seen?

  • http://faithprorumors.wordpress.com Mogget

    Right. Nowadays, the reasons behind a scholar’s choice are key. At the time Barr wrote, which was thirty years ago, work outside the canon was rarer than it is now and more of the scholars themselves were formally associated with church leadership.

    The same might also be said of apocalyptic. Sometimes folks don’t want to admit the huge role that that sort of thought played in the early church so it has subversive potential as well, despite the fact that there are numerous examples in the canon.

  • http://faithprorumors.wordpress.com Mogget

    I also wanted to throw a question out to those who have been involved in graduate work in biblical studies.

    Let me see if I can find some statistics on this. I’m not sure, but I would think that someone has to have asked this sort of question.

    Mogs

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