It took us by surprise.
This week the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), which is the society of religion scholars who meet every year to discuss endless issues concerning the Bible, said that it is considering banning InterVarsity Press (IVP) from its next annual meeting.
This is a meeting, held in conjunction with the American Academy of Religion (AAR), that attracts six to eight thousand scholars from around the world every year. Almost more important than the sessions in which we scholars debate one another are the book exhibits where we see and buy new books, talk to editors about our own ideas for books, and showcase our own books.
So the letter from SBL to IVP was disturbing to many of us. What is SBL’s reasoning? They say that since InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) announced last week that it would fire those campus workers who do not agree with historic Christian teaching on marriage (Time magazine reported this, and the report has gone viral, with hostility directed toward IVCF and its staff all around the country), and since IVP is connected to IVCF, this means that IVP does not demonstrate “intellectual capaciousness.” This “capaciousness” would be manifested by “diversity of participation and unhindered critical discourse.” As a result, according to SBL in its letter to IVP, “free inquiry appears to be severely restricted” at IVCF and therefore IVP.
All of this is proclaimed by SBL in the name of, as it puts it,”respect for critical inquiry, inclusivity, openness to change, respect for diversity, scholarly integrity, and tolerance.”
Perhaps you notice the disconnect between SBL’s declaration of “tolerance” and its threat not to tolerate the age-old teaching of Christian marriage. Or the contradiction between claiming to want “unhindered critical discourse” but now threatening to hinder discourse by banning arguments for a particular position. Or “respect for diversity” while not wanting intellectual diversity in discussions of the most debated ethical issue of our day.
Some of us have written SBL in protest. We will keep you posted on how this develops.