Mickey Maudlin, the capable and well-connected managing editor at HarperOne (think Rob Bell), has an interesting thought in his latest newsletter. He is promoting the latest book by NT Wright, and proposing the Wright breaks the mold of biblical scholarship by writing from a confessional posture, but still producing popular books.
But I’m most intrigued by his intro:
The late great Bible scholar F. F. Bruce once remarked that he would not have been able to do his work if he had taught within a confessional institution, such as a seminary or Christian college. What I found odd about his comment was that he was, at the time, often listed as one of the top evangelical New Testament Bible scholars of the day. Why would his work change if the results of his scholarship aligned with the faith commitments of those schools?
I think the answer helps explain why conservative Bible scholars rarely write books that break out into the wider market. What many admired about Bruce’s work was the sense that his conclusions were based on where his arguments led him and not on where he needed to land. One did not perceive that he was steering his readers to the “evangelical” position; instead, readers sensed his curiosity and delight in solving the puzzles he posed. (via Surprised by Bishop Wright by Mickey Maudlin | News and Pews from HarperOne)
Let me ask — and be honest — Do you think that a scholar at a confessional school truly has the freedom to come to whatever conclusions her/his scholarship leads to?
I don’t. Not if they don’t want to be fired. And I can affirm this by the emails I’ve received from evangelical college professors who affirm gay relations and rights based on their own academic work, but are unable to publicly state that because they’d be fired.