James Crossley's blog Contact: jgcrossley10 - AT - yahoo - DOT - co - DOT - uk

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Myth of the Myth of Secular Objectivity

Michael Barber reponds to Alan Bandy's interviews on faith/secular scholarship in a post called 'The Myth of Secular Objectivity'. This is a criticism I hear a lot but there is not one secular scholar who I have spoken to (there may be some I don't know of course) who thinks this (actually I prefer to distinguish between neutrality and objectivey but that can wait for now). My issue is an increase in different persepctives, the very opposite of supposed secular objectivity, so that a whole range of new and different questions get asked.

Incidentally, the following is mistaken:
What is noteworthy to me is that it seems that the only scholar who didn’t talk about the role personal bias plays in his scholarship was James Crossley, who identifies himself as a “secular” scholar.

Firstly, I certainly don't think like the secular schoar constructed by Michael Barber. Secondly, I implied the opposite of what was attributed to me, even if I didn't explicitly describe my own work. Hence,

Personal faith has an important role to play in scholarship as does just about any perspective.

I don’t think a secular approach is inherently superior to any other approach but like evangelical perspectives it offers new ways of looking at the history and the texts. It too would offer new questions which would (hopefully) have to be answered. My own particular hope is that more and more secular types could provoke differing ways of looking at history such as a more causal based explanation for the emergence of Christianity rather than explanations grounded in description or history of ideas.

If I didn't imply that I was included in that then we get the very unusual argument that someone who identifies himself as a secular scholar and who works with causally based approaches to Christian origins doesn't include himself in the biases of secular scholars and ones who want causal approaches. You would have to read my argument as someone who thinks he is above not just faith approaches but all other secular approaches! I may be arrogant but surely not that bad.

I also discuss the particualr bias or perspectives of different people like Marxists or whatever.

I also imply pretty strongly that perspectives from all sides can learn from one another. E.g.,
More generally, interactions with works of opponents and answering their questions is one positive way forward.
...scholars who have made an impact through differing perspectives and how a perspective can be a positive thing.

None of this looks even remotely like the constructed myth of secular objectivity.


Blogger J. B. Hood said...


That's a great response.

March 27, 2006

Blogger steph said...

I feel much better now. I don't know anyone who hasn't been clearer about bias in all approaches than you. Always. What about the discussion on Loren's "Dangerous Ideas"? I wish there was more care taken before attributing things to others.

But I wonder what else you have been said to have said and haven't!

March 27, 2006

Blogger Jim said...

Well said James. Well said indeed. The whole series of interviews has been something one sided and I think intentionally so. Faith has nothing to fear from fact, though; but when it is protected by a layer of misrepresentation as to the "other sides" motives and methods it's being disingenuous itself.

March 27, 2006

Blogger Alan S. Bandy said...

James, I appreciate your integrity and honesty. Thank you for the way in which your present your views in an open and forthright manner. I really wish more "secular" scholars (whatever that means) would be willing to contribute as you have. Thanks again.

March 27, 2006

Blogger Michael Barber said...

Dr. Crossley,

I deeply regret implying that you equate secular scholarship with objectivity. While I still think many "secular" scholars seem to do that, it is clear that you are not one of them. I am very sorry for in any way making that implication about you.

Please know that I am grateful for your work and for your contribution to academic work. I am also very appreciative of your interview over at Alan Bandy's site.

I have added an update to the original post on my site.

Again, I apologize for in any way misrepresenting your views. Mischaracterization is one of the biggest obstacles to authentic scholarship and I certainly do not want to make that mistake myself.

March 27, 2006

Blogger James Crossley said...

Don't worry Michael. I tend to think I get too polemical without thinking. And please feel free to tell me off whenever you want!!

March 27, 2006


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