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Saturday, September 02, 2006

BNTC 2006

All good fun this year and it is a different experience to see what happens behind the scenes. It was fairly non-stop this year I didn't miss anything for the first time since my, well, first time which I think was 2000 (Roehampton). I'm pretty tired now and this post is between tasks (one of which was playing a big football match against some local rivals - another time, ok).

The Jesus Seminar (no relation to the US one) went very well this year with plenty of discussion which could have gone on for must longer. More than any year or paper given anywhere else the faith/secular thing played a role in a paper I gave (and beyond the seminar too) and it is on an issue I probably naively never thought was that controversial but increasingly is when I mention it: conversion. It was only one sentence or so made in passing in the whole paper but for a couple of conservative evanglical people this (understandably) hits a raw nerve because, presumably, many have undergone a conversion. There is a misunderstanding of sociology, or at least the way people like me use social sciences, that it explains things away. Some sociologists of the past may have acted like this but I prefer to see it in terms of putting that issue to one side and neither affirming the faith side nor denying it, at least for what I want to do, i.e. explain why things happened. Faith won't get you too far there I don't think (to put it mildly). I try to emphasise that faith is a completely different question but it is difficult to get through to people with such deep feelings about this. This raises a problem for my open view of scholarship: how can academic ideas be discussed without having to worry whether this impacts faith or not, i.e. how can ideas be discussed as they are in certain other disciplines? The kind of discussion I was having to engage with was a discussion for church not me and it makes it very difficult to discuss these things in an academic manner which is what something like the BNTC is meant to be. But, anyway, it all went well, good discussion etc etc etc.

Mike Bird's paper and Steve Moyise's paper both went well. It seemed there was general agreement in both cases with most of the debate over specifics, and some strange but interesting diversions, especially in Mike's (not at Mike's prompting it has to be added). I remember a nicely heated exhange with Mike Bird over the cleansing of the Temple (the issue of nationalism in particular). It may have been a wee bit pedantic but isn't that what we go for? Steve Moyise gave a good, detailed and particularly helpful overview of Jesus' use of scripture (with some interesting statistics as it turns out).

I kind of told a lie above: I didn't miss anything (alomst literally in fact) as I went to all of the simultaneous short papers (beat that) but it was to take photos so I couldn't really stay to take things in. I suspect one or two I would have enjoyed the debate but hey.

Main papers were most visually interesting when Peter Williams gave a kind of grand powerpoint exhibition with a little microphone thing attached to his tie. I just wish he had worn one of those Madonna microphone that are attached to the ear and come just below the mouth but you can't have everything. What would have been even more fun would be to see Maurice Casey and Graham Stanton do the same thing (plus Madonna mic).

A bit hazy right now but it was good to catch up with people I like and there were some good debate in the bar where people are often more willing to speak openly. Now for whatever I have to do next (it's not work by the way).


Blogger steph said...

Miracles never cease as you attend all papers simultaneously... so where are the photos and the recordings? Is your paper available to read? And why didn't they televise the famous football match internationally? Was it by the duck pond under the sports complex?

I don't think the Madonna thingies are a very good idea. They'd get in the way of the wine glass and that's not very fair for Maurice.

The whole conference sounds too good and I'm xyz that I wasn't there on the wall somewhere.

I'd be interested in Steve Moyise's statistics too.

Have a good rest.

September 03, 2006

Blogger J. B. Hood said...


ditto what Steph said about Moyise's stats--did you get them, or should one email Moyise?

Have you seen Scot McKnight's conversion studies? Very sociological and very interesting.

September 04, 2006

Anonymous Christopher Shell said...

Re conversion: I guess some people (the more academically trained and dispassionate) can distinguish the following two phenomena:
(a) an intellectual paradigm shift, which may well be experientially based, and can in principle be counter-cultural);
(b) a birds-of-a-feather inevitable gravitation to a certain group or level.

I agree that (b) is awfully common, and what people claim to be theology can often actually be reduced to autobiography or sociology.

Both (a) and (b) are real. There is possibly a danger that sociologists will tend to favour sociological approaches and converts will favour realist approaches. ('They would, wouldn't they.') That is why one is most impressed by arguments that (firstly) recognise that both (a) and (b) obviously occur, and that (secondly) don't necessarily go along with the predictable biases of whatever discipline one happens to have been trained in, but rather take a more realistically holistic, multi-dimensional approach.

As to which kind of 'conversion' is more common, (a) or (b), here the social-scientists can help us, by seeing what links exist between conversions and particular social backgrounds, environments, life-stages etc.. I would hazard that the links are strong; on the other hand, converts are often educated and know an intellectual [paradigm shift when they see one.

September 05, 2006

Blogger James Crossley said...

Ok, I think I will do a post on conversion in the next couple of days. That should, erm, sort everything out.

September 05, 2006


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