According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Friday, January 11, 2013

Popular False Claims About Biblical Scholarship & Historical Criticism

3 Things I Would Like to See Evangelical Leaders Stop Saying about Biblical Scholarship
On occasion I come across some sweeping public claims made by Evangelical leaders about the state of biblical scholarship. These claims may be genuinely felt, but they are still false, though they persist in the Evangelical subculture.
 
 
1. Historical Criticism is either dying or at least losing momentum in academia.
 
Rather than assuming that the Bible is revelatory (revealed by God, inspired) and therefore historically accurate, historical criticism seeks outside verification through various means of historical and textual analysis. Historical Criticism has its roots in Europe and has governed the academic study of the Bible for about 300 years.
 
I’m not saying anyone has to like it or agree with it. I’m only saying historical criticism isn’t dead or dying. Ask anyone who has taken Bible classes or earned a degree in Bible from a university.
 
True, many universities also engage in postmodern approaches that are critical of historical criticism (e.g., Feminist studies), but you’d still be hard pressed to find academic programs in Bible that don’t take as their axiomatic starting point a historical critical approach to the Bible. Look at course descriptions on the internet of departments of Religion, Judaism, Near Eastern Studies, Christian Origins, Hebrew Bible, etc. “The Historical-Critical Method” is what defines these programs.
 
Claiming that historical criticism is passé may suggest to some that conservative biblical scholarship has won the “battle” against historical criticism and is now finally vindicated. This may sound appealing in popular circles, but it is not true in academia.
 
 
2. Source Criticism of the Pentateuch is in a state of chaos.
 
Rather than accepting the traditional view that Moses wrote the Pentateuch (first five books of the Old Testament) in the middle of the second millennium BC [(~1400 BC) - res], source criticism claims that scribes living after the Babylonian exile (after 539 BC) created the Pentateuch out of various pre-existent “sources.”
 
Source criticism has been a major thorn in the side of conservative Christians since the 19th century. But again, like it or hate it, source criticism is not dead. What is dead is how the earliest source critics theorized about these sources, most notably Julius Wellhausen in the late 19th century. His theories have been criticized from almost the beginning, but a you’d have a hard time finding a research institution where the basic outlines of source criticism that Wellhausen popularized aren’t a given.
 
In my experience, the motivation behind this claim is apologetic. Casting doubt on the reigning theory of the Pentateuch supposedly elevates by default the traditional view. But this does not address the serious problems with the traditional view that gave rise to alternate explanations in the first place.
 
 
3. Biblical archaeology basically supports the historical veracity of the Bible.
 
Biblical archaeology has helped us understand a lot about the world of the Bible and clarified a considerable amount of what we find in the Bible. But the archaeological record has not been friendly for one vital issue, Israel’s origins: the period of slavery in Egypt, the mass departure of Israelite slaves from Egypt, and the violent conquest of the land of Canaan by the Israelites.
 
The strong consensus is that there is at best sparse indirect evidence for these biblical episodes, and for the conquest there is considerable evidence against it.
 
That doesn’t mean there isn’t more work to be done and people don’t need to keep an open mind. Who knows what the future will bring? But, my only point is this: at present to say that archaeology is a friend to the historical accuracy of the Bible may be true for some things, but not for the foundational story of Israel’s origins - slavery, exodus, and conquest. This has been and continues to be a big problem, and claiming otherwise just makes the matter worse.
 
Anyway, I know that across the Evangelical spectrum–especially with Evangelical biblical scholars–you will find various nuances and differences of opinion on these three issues, especially off the record. I’m only talking here about uninformed public claims made by Evangelical leaders. They may be rhetorically effective, but they are false and only lead to more cognitive dissonance.
 
 
 

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