Loren Rosson's unPapal conclave on the historical Jesus is now up and running with participants discussing the details on Chris Weimer's forum. Mark Goodacre has also provided a critique and Loren has responded. Mark writes:
One of the merits, as I see it, of Meier's idea is that it reminds us of the fundamental task of scholarship, a task that should not be about the attempt to persuade like-minded colleagues who share our own prejudices and presuppositions...but a rigorous and honest enterprise to engage with others who do not share our own prejudices and presuppositions, and so to have our own preconceived positions (and theirs) challenged. This is one of the reasons that I like to stress the importance of the public, democratic nature of scholarship. It is publicly available evidence and publicly coherent arguments...By publicly coherent arguments, I mean that the argument you make should be articulated in such a way that you are not primarily attempting to persuade those who share your own views. You are always paying special attention to those who do not share your own perspective. Scholarship should not be self-indulgent. It should not be used as an opportunity to proselytize. It should be self-effacing, paying attention to the dialogue partner's concerns and addressing them seriously.
I think that is right but one qualification needs to be added, namely that the intellectual make up of the discipline prevents this from happening at the moment. It is overwhelmingly and unsurprisingly of course Christian dominated and more and more questions could be raised with more and more perspectives. This is why the conclave is an honourable dream and could potentially throw up some interesting results. But in one sense it remains a dream because in reality NT scholarship just cannot function in the way hoped for if it remains a Christian dominated discipline or better a discipline where the overwhelming majority of his participants are Christian. As ever, the usual qualification: I am not attacking Christians in the discipline (if secularists were the majority I would advocate Christians in the discipline more and more) but rather the framing of the questions in the discipline that is inevitable when one group dominates (and that applies to any group).