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

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Philip Davies interviewed and faith/secular debate

Alan Bandy's series of interviews continues with Philip Davies who has also written on the subject in a few places but particularly in Whose Bible is It Anyway?

Monday, March 27, 2006

The latest interview

Now it's Michael Bird's turn to get interviewed by Alan Bandy.

A Marilyn Manson concert?!?!?!?!

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.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Some updates

Loren Rosson has provided some comments on issues oftne commented on here: 1.) Jesus and the Torah and 2.) Secular and evangelical scholarship.

Blair on Iraq 1

I'm not sure why I bother but I suppose some effort needs to be made. Anyway, Tony Blair gave a typically disturbing (I mean that in they most negative sense) speech defending what cannot realistically be defended: his foreign policy. The speech - one of three - is available on the BBC website as is the story. What I find a constant is the ways in which the press just don't both to highlight the staggering inconsistency (or just downright lies). Here are some of the arguments.

"We are those who believe in religious tolerance, openness to others to democracy, liberty and humanitarianism, administered by secular courts.

"It will not be defeated until its ideas are confronted head-on, on its absurd anti-Americanism, absurd pre-feudal concept of government and its position on women and other faiths.

"Likewise, if they fail and these countries become democracies and make progress then not merely is that a blow against their own value system, but it is the most effective message against their wretched propaganda about America, the west and the rest of the world.

"We must reject the thought that somehow we are the authors of our own distress.

"This terrorism will not be defeated until its ideas, the poison that warps the minds of its adherents, are confronted, head-on, in their essence, at their core," he said. "By this I don't mean telling them terrorism is wrong. I mean telling them their attitude to America is absurd, their concept of governance pre-feudal, their positions on women and other faiths, reactionary and regressive.

"And then, since only by Muslims can this be done, standing up for and supporting those within Islam who will tell them all of this but more, namely that the extremist view of Islam is not just theologically backward but completely contrary to the spirit and teaching of the Qur'an."

So there you have it. It's all the fault of ideology. And strangely no mention of British support for dicators who boil their opponents and fincancing secret police. No mention of Western involvement in the Middle East putting in whatever governemnt, no matter how out-of-date, to support western needs. None of this is new fact. Blair knows it and is therefore grossly and deliberately distorting (to put it mildly) fact. It can be found as you get towards the back of newspapers but there's no front page splash on the sheer hypocrisy.

Why does anti-US anti-Western feeling occur? Many reasons no doubt but to ignore the blindingly obvious - Western support of brutal dictators and interention through bombing - is irresponsible (to put it very mildly). Supporting the international arms trade really doesn't help matters either.

On another note the idea of the reall truth of a religion (true Islam, true Christianity and so is typically Blairite) makes no analytical sense. Who decides? A meaningless analytical concept.

Interesting Blair's love for secularism and liberalism. I wonder how it squares with his acceptance of rich religious businessmen running schools?

I try to avoid personal remarks because this is a structural problem but words cannot describe the the complete lack of respect I have for this man's integrity and for those in in the House of Commons who just think it is all about 'misjudgment' not Blair's personal values.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

And even more...

Alan Bandy has managed to get even more scholars to interview on faith and scholarship. This time Craig Evans and Darrell Bock.

Update: And now Mark Goodacre.

Friday, March 17, 2006


I have to plug Alan Bandy's interview with me don't I?

Oh, and Brandon Wason's interview with Jim West.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Alan Bandy interviews...

Well worth reading are a series of interviews Alan Bandy is doing with evangelical scholars particularly focused on the question of faith based/secular scholarship. And a couple of big names to begin: Craig Blomberg and Scot McKnight. Any more to come?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Christian Origins and the Law

I'll get to answering the stuff on secularism in due course (it's been busy) but I felt I should add something on the widely blogged subject of Christian origins and the Law. More summarising previous arguments but nevermind. Michael Bird tempted me to write so how could I not?

1. The historical Jesus never once opposed a biblical commandment and I do not think there is a single verse or passage in the synoptics which contradicts this. Moreover, virtually every teaching of the historical Jesus, perhaps all, is paralleled in early Judaism. I find it interesting that scholars put Jesus beyond anything said in early Judaism without checking to see if there is anything paralleled in early Judaism. There were conflicts but intra-Jewish conflicts over the correct interpretation of the Law are known so this is no surprise. Moreover, I don't know how the 'Christian' hostility to the Pauline movement could have arisen if Jesus had been a law breaker in any serious way.

2. The earliest movement (say first ten years after Jesus' death) continued to be law observant. Whether the first gentiles attracted were circumcised is impossible to say for sure. Some might, some might not. I remain pretty agnostic on that one.

3. More and more gentiles meant more people likely to observe major parts of the Law. Then reactions come. Some say they should observe all the commandments and be circumcised, some parts, some other things.

4. The Antioch incident was a fair reflecton of this. I have serious reservations that it was to do with circumcision. It is not mentioned and to Judaise tends to mean to behave like a Jew with circumcision being something extra. the issue was probably food laws. When table disputes between Jews and gentiles are in early Judaism they tended to be about food and/or libations. We can rule out libations for obvious reasons therefore suggesting food was the issue. I woould argue that the problem those from James had would have been the movement looking suspiciously too gentile and what's more even Peter, irrespective of whether Peter was actually eating pork or whatever (there is no direct serous evidence that he actually ATE such food).

There are some points. I know they sound general but I have argued all of them in detail in print.

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???!!!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Terry Jones, Tony Blair and God

Here's a piece in today's Guardian by Monty Python's Terry Jones reporting on heavenly sources and the reaction to the news that Tony Blair has said God will judge him and all that. It's called "God: I've lost faith in Blair"

Friday, March 03, 2006

Good versus Evil

You choose which one. Anyway there will indeed be a fight of sorts between me and our Aussie friend Michael Bird who has all the details on his blog. What you don't know is that he has begged and begged for me to pull out in some tearful very emails but it's too late Mike!

Ok, ok, what I really mean to say is that there will be a co-authored book on Christian origins. One an evangelically minded person (Bird), one a secular-minded person (that's me obviously). It will be out with SPCK sometime in 2008 and is provisionally called:

Two Views of Christian Origins: An Evangelical and Secular Conversation

Here's the overview:

The objective of “Two Views” is to present two contrasting perspectives on the history of early Christianity. The contrast is evidently sharp as one co-author comes from a conservative Christian background (Michael Bird), whilst the other co-author (James Crossley) approaches the matter from a secular standpoint. The volume works sequentially through Christian origins and addresses various topics including the historical Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, the Apostle Paul, the Gospels, and the early church. Each author in turn examines these subjects and lays out his historical arguments concerning their origin and meaning. The volume also includes responses by two other scholars (Maurice Casey and Scot McKnight) to the arguments of Bird and Crossley as to give an even handed and broad evaluation of the arguments and debates that unfold.

I think this will be a good model for the debate on secular/religious perspectives which has been running across the blogs. Too often the debate is polarised and goes on as if there is nothing in common. I suspect that the secular/religious debate will grow in coming years so this could potentially provide a useful way of having a seriously interactive debate. I think this has at least one advantage over the Borg/Wright debate mentioned on Mike's blog in that that was an intra-Christian debate.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Private Eye, blogging and gender

Just another view on the question of gender and blogging from the satirical magazine Private Eye on the BBC's recent approach to news and public interaction. Not quite sure if Private Eye meant Nick Robinson runs a particularly macho blog (I don't bother reading it so I don't know) or if blogging is seen to simply be a male thing but anyway...

'Other manifestations of this obession with "accessibility" are...that Nick Robinson keeps a blokey "blog" for BBC online.' Private Eye, 17 Feb - 2 March, p. 12.