I’ve wanted to join in the discussion arising from Dan Wallace’s post about the Society of Biblical Literature, the low representation of Christians (whom he defines in specific terms as those taking a conservative stance on key tenets of orthodoxy) in the guild, and scholarship. But I’ve been resisting doing so for a variety of reasons. On the one hand, I have known and continue to know individuals who have studied or are currently studying at conservative seminaries and similar institutions, who have been threatened with or undergone heresy trials or been hassled for even discussing topics that are simply mainstream Biblical scholarship. On the other hand, I certainly recognize the perils of presenting as “liberal” an approach that in fact seeks to engage only other liberal voices in discussion. Like Tevye, I have several “other hands” I could add, including the fact that I personally had positive experiences of open discussion of ideas in the context of conservative/moderate Evangelical Bible colleges in the UK, and so I certainly agree with Dan that both closed-mindedness and genuine openness can be found on both ends of (and indeed all points on) the theological spectrum.
There seem to be a number of posts around the blogosphere this morning which relate to this theme conservative Christianity and Biblical scholarship. Perhaps most striking is an article in USA Today (HT The Bible and Interpretation) which highlights that Ken Ham of Creation Museum infamy will not be having his museum depict the infant Jesus in a stable, because the best Biblical scholarship suggests that Jesus was born in a private home. My only question is why Ham will accept the best Biblical scholarship about the nativity stories, but not the best Biblical scholarship about the creation narratives.
Dan Wallace’s post defined the majority of Biblical scholars out of his definition of “Christian.” Meanwhile, Nick Norelli asked just what “Evangelical” means when defined broadly, while Scot McKnight shared a video presenting an Orthodox answer to the question “Are you saved?”Brian LePort is blogging through Nick Perrin’s book on the Gospel of Thomas including a post relating to Thomas’ apparent interaction with other early Christian texts.
I’m not sure what to make of all this, but several issues seem worth discussing further.
– Should Christianity be defined in terms of adherence to some particular understanding of orthodoxy? Can Christianity be defined at all, and if so how?
– Has Biblical scholarship been a blessing or a curse as far as your perception of its influence on your life, faith, and views is concerned?
– Have you had an opportunity to experience discussion of scholarly ideas in both conservative and liberal, or both religiously-affiliated and secular, contexts? If so, what was your perception of the advantages and disadvantages of each?
I encourage anyone interested in doing so to share their experience, and to engage one another in conversation. I also encourage you to click through some of the links I shared and join in (or where necessary start) the discussions going on elsewhere in the blogosphere.