Go Where The Evidence Leads…But Don’t Let It Lead You THERE!

Following up on my post about the Bible, scholarship, and a recent blog post by Dan Wallace about liberal openness as a “myth,” Doug Mangum offers a post that highlights the tension between Dan’s motto (“go where the evidence leads”) and the penchant for heresy trials and excommunications at conservative institutions, which clearly send the message “if the evidence leads you there, you’re out of here.”

Also related is Jim Linville’s take on how to deal with the multiplying of sessions at SBL and the increasing presence at conferences not only of “faith-based approaches” but also of things that are simply not scholarly in any sense of the word. And so I do agree with Jim (and Alan) that having standards for membership is appropriate. But I’m not entirely sure that having numerous smaller sessions is in every respect a bad thing (although clearly it can go too far). Those small sessions usually include an audience that is genuinely interested in the topic of the session, and the interaction that takes place is thus often valuable. But I do agree with Jim and April that there are issues that need to be looked at and addressed.

(If you usually look to Dr. Jim for amusement rather than serious treatment of serious subjects, then he also shared a humorous retelling of a famous parable).

And since this topic was started at the Reclaiming the Mind blog, I should draw attention to another recent post there. This one dismisses a plausible historical scenario regarding the burial of Jesus as having no evidence to support it, ignoring even Evangelical scholar Craig Evans’ work on that very topic, presumably in the interest of apologetics, since some have apparently tried to offer this scenario (that Jesus was buried in a common grave for criminals) as an alternative to the resurrection. I left a comment, mentioning the work on this subject of Raymond Brown, Byron McCane, and myself.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03089281236217906531 Scott F

    I find it interesting that a site like Reclaiming the Mind which stresses the supremacy of Scripture argues from tradition when it suits them in supporting, say, December 25 as the date for Jesus' birth.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10828225180668865911 Mystical Seeker

    That's always the problem with authoritarian institutions that pay lip service to or see some value in intellectual inquiry. The Catholic Church values its theologians, as long as they don't think too much or too hard in such a way as to question received dogma–just look at what happened to Hans Kung.When you try to use intellectual only inquiry for the purpose of serving theological dogma, it needs a certain amount of freedom in order to do its job; but as soon as you grant it that freedom, you have to throttle lest it do its job a little too well. This tension between the desire for an intellectual foundation for dogma and the fear of what that intellectual foundation will produce is always self-defeating and self-contradictory.

  • Anonymous

    The problem with "going where the evidence leads" for Christians is that it can never lead to Christianity.Seriously, what exactly is the "evidence" that God is three persons or that he sent his son to die for our sins or that our souls fly to heaven when we die? Is there "evidence" in any rational sense of the word that God is simultaneously monitoring the behavior and opinions of six billion as part of an effort to judge us, like some deranged Jack Chick tract? If indeed we could prove that some 2000 years ago a Jewish peasant said certain things or that a guy named Paul wrote similar things in letters, does that constitute "evidence"? Of course not, if evidence is meant in any normal sense of the word. Nothing turned me from my faith more than listening to Christians attempt to defend their beliefs from scholarly questions. People are free to believe, and it might well turn out to be true, but Christian faith is believing in something for which there is absolutely no evidence. None. Nada. Zip.pf

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03089281236217906531 Scott F

    "deranged Jack Chick tract"Isn't that redundant?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05792458157352244029 Solly Gratia

    ROFL in the public library!!