Peter Berger on Gynecologists and Biblical Scholars

Eminent sociologist of religion Peter Berger has penned a very interesting post at The American Interest asking, parabolically, how gynecologists can enjoy intercourse.  More to his point: how can a biblical scholar who examines the Bible according to historical-critical method also be a person of faith.  Bart Ehrman has failed at holding these tensions together, as have several of my closest friends.

I have not.  In fact, I would find it disconcerting if the Bible were less parabolic, obtuse, and paradoxical than real life is.  And life is, if nothing else, parabolic, obtuse, and paradoxical (at least in my experience).

Berger goes on to muse about the Society for Biblical Literature, now under the leadership of my friend, John Kutsko.  John is sailing the SBL through some choppy waters these days.  There was the divorce and then impending remarriage with the American Academy of Religion.  And now a high profile Jewish scholar has publicly resigned because he feels that the encroachment of evangelicals threatens the “critical” nature of the SBL’s scholarship.

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Denim, Colored T-shirts, and AAR/SBL

Well, I have to eat my words a bit, friends. I actually had a great time at AAR/SBL. It’s not because of the seminars attended and papers I heard presented — I did neither. But I had an absolutely great time meeting up with friends old and new. I saw several friends from Fuller days, as well as various folks who are interested in things emergent. There was a really good breakfast meeting on Saturday at which several of us began to plan one of the TWO Emergent Theological Conversations that we’re co-hosting next fall. That one will be on recovering Paul for the emergent church (I wanted to call the conference, “Beyond Paulophobia,” but that might be too negative).

The panel discussion later that morning was great fun. Scot McKnight was bedecked in his brand, spanking new jeans (which I exhorted him not to call “denim trousers”). He also wore a colored t-shirt beneath his flannel, which was a good look. His shirt was tucked in, as was mine, since that’s coming back now. Diana Butler Bass was wearing pearls, as usual, and she did make note of that. Before, when I’ve asked her how she can get away with delivering such hard news to mainliners, she’s said, “Tony, with a blue dress, a string of pearls, and a Ph.D. from Duke, you can say just about anything to mainliners.” I think that’s a great line! And Keith Matthews, the moderator, looked like he was ready to hit the links that afternoon. Keith’s greatest fashion accessory: his ever-ready smile.

We led off with some introductory comments. Probably the most helpful were Scot’s — he listed six questions that he hears emerging people asking. Later in the 2.5 hour panel, however, things heated up when Diana and I heartily disagreed when responding to questions from the audience. We will be posting this as an EV podcast down the road, so listeners should know: Diana and I have a great respect and love for one another, and this is an ongoing conversation/debate that we have. Though it can get heated, it’s all done in the context of love and friendship. The bottom line: we have honest disagreements about the future of mainline Protestantism in America.

Other drinks and meals were had with Kelly Hughes (who will be doing publicity on The New Christians), Kenda Dean (my jilted dissertation advisor), Andy Rowell, LeRon Shults, Bruce Benson, Marianne Meye Thompson and John Thompson, Jon Sweeney, and several friends in various publishing companies.

All in all, it was a great time. And I thank Paraclete Press for paying my way.