In Support of Christopher Rollston

In Support of Christopher Rollston October 9, 2012

Thom Stark and others have blogged about the unfolding events related to Christopher Rollston, a widely-appreciated and well-known Biblical scholar and epigrapher, who is facing disciplinary action and perhaps even termination at Emmanuel Christian Seminary, because of an article he wrote for the Huffington Post about the marginalization of women in the Bible.

I have said before that there is a fundamental tension between schools having statements of faith (which aim to decide matters in advance), and encouraging research (which ought to mean following evidence where it leads).

But in this case involving Chris Rollston, a direct contravention of the school’s statement of faith doesn’t seem to be the issue. And so I want to avoid all potential side issues, and focus on one central point: If Chris is wrong about the marginalization of women in the Bible, as those who are seeking to have him disciplined or fired surely think, why not just disagree with him? There are plenty of Christians who agree with him, plenty who disagree, and no classic creed of the Christian churches takes a stance on this issue (not that that should matter to an institution connected with the Stone-Campbell tradition). Nor does the position statement of Emmanuel Christian Seminary as found on their web site takes a stance on this particular matter.

If Emmanuel Christian Seminary has failed to communicate to its students, some of its faculty members, and its board of trustees how to disagree constructively as Christians, and that it is possible to disagree as Christians without punishing, firing , expelling or otherwise using authority in an attempt to silence the person you disagree with, then they have failed to engage in the most fundamental mission of any educational institution, and have failed to live up to their identity as a Christian institution.

An action like this can only ever be self-defeating. For surely if your own stance were self-evidently true, a simple correction or pointing out of the error would be sufficient. Resorting to the use of power and exclusion indicates fear, not confidence. Rest assured that the views you fear will get increasingly more attention as you try to silence those who articulate them.

Here is a round up of letters and blog posts that I have come across by others in support of Christopher Rollston, from elsewhere around the internet:

Bob CargillJames BosJoe ZiasJames TaborJim West (twice, and he also shared more on academic freedom), Thom Stark (twice), Nathaniel E. GreeneDuane SmithTom VerennaJoel Watts (who also replied to Paul Blowers more than once), and Jim LinvilleTimothy Michael Law has recommended that some of the bloggers who’ve commented on this topic take a moment to think about whether they are doing more harm than good. See also Brian Le Port’s thoughts at Near Emmaus. Now there’s also a Bible and Interpretation piece by Paul Blowers on the topic.

UPDATE: Since I first posted this, Joel Watts has commented on the topic again, as has the blog Unreasonable Faith.

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