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Thursday, March 09, 2006

More on secularism on SBL Forum

There is a follow up response to the Michael Fox piece on the SBL forum by Jacques Berlinerblau, author of The Secular Bible. His position (in this piece) is quite close to what I have argued on this blog and what I have argued in the opening chapter of a forthcoming book (oh, don't worry that WILL be plugged). Here's a taster:

Professor Fox has called attention to a topic that is virtually taboo in biblical scholarship. I disagree strongly with some parts of his analysis. Yet I sense that his remarks may be a cause and an effect of a significant change. We are, after all, conducting this dialogue on the web page of the Society for Biblical Literature — an organization that has traditionally shown itself to be somewhat impervious to the charms of both self-reflexive scrutiny and secularism.

This is a crucial point:
We would both agree that faith-based Bible study has every right to take place in seminaries and religiously chartered institutions. I am a bit concerned, as I imagine he might be, by the degree to which explicitly confessional researchers sit on editorial boards of major journals, steering committees, search committees, and the hierarchy of the Society of Biblical Literature...Assume for a moment that you are an atheist exegete. Now please follow my instructions. Peruse the listings in Openings. Understand that your unique skills and talents are of no interest to those institutions listed there with the words "Saint" and "Holy" and "Theological" and "Seminary" in their names. This leaves, per year, about two or three advertised posts in biblical studies at religiously un-chartered institutions of higher learning. Apply for those jobs. Get rejected. A few months later learn — preferably while consuming donuts with a colleague — that the position was filled by a graduate of a theological seminary. Realize that those on the search committee who made this choice all graduated from seminaries themselves. Curse the gods.

This is worth noting!! -
I am always amused to hear how some higher-ups in the latter society complain about the religious conservatism of the SBL — as if the AAR embodies the blasphemous spirit of Jean-Paul Sartre, Chairman Mao, and the Oakland Raiders of the 70s.

Oh, and this:
...in recent years I have increasingly noted the presence in both societies of a small, but growing cadre of non-believers, heretics, and malcontents. Whether we have anything of substance to offer our disciplines remains to be seen. Of course, this begs the question of whether our colleagues will ever consent to listen to us.

I wonder who he could be talking about???!!!


Blogger Jim said...

We all look forward to hearing what you have to say in your forthcoming volume James. And we expect to hear about it BEFORE it comes out and we find it on some website. We shall scold you mercilessly if we don't!

March 09, 2006

Anonymous steph said...

I'll be there with a colleague but preferably not eating "donuts". No no... I think I'll be smoking the evil weed and skulling the poison juice like all good heretics... well I wouldn't eat a "donut" anyway.

Thanks for the article. I like him alot.

March 10, 2006

Anonymous J. J. Ramsey said...

One thing I wonder, though, is if the problem is so much a lack of scholars with a secular view so much as a lack of scholars who admit having a secular view. It seems commonplace for scholars who are nominally religious to nonetheless come to "laudably heretical" conclusions.

March 10, 2006

Blogger J. B. Hood said...

I read this yesterday from SBl, and knew (sooner or later) you'd comment--which saves me from doing the same on my blog.

As an American, I feel obliged to help with cultural translation: The spirit of the Oakland Raiders, an American football team, would roughly be analogous to Leeds Utd fans (before their humbling).

I'm certainly looking forward to November. It's funny to me that almost every ideological sub-group within SBL sees its self as neglected: minorities, women, evangelicals, secularists. The only exception are what I call "Secular Xians/Jews"

March 10, 2006

Anonymous Christopher Shell said...

Faith-based bible study has every right to take place in seminaries?

The trouble with this is threefold:(a) it is dualist;
(b) it misunderstands what the NT generally and centrally means by faith, namely trust in / commitment to something worth trusting / committing to;
(c) if seminaries (and indeed universities) are not prepared to examine their presuppositions, they should relinquish their claims to be open-minded and/or foster scholarship.

Why then is he so happy for 'faith-based bible study' (in contradistinction presumably to more scientific bible study) to take place?

March 14, 2006


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