Tuesday, August 15, 2006

"Critical" Scholarship

I must confess that I never read Ben Witherington's blog, he's too wordy for me, but Tyler Williams mentioned this post, which is something I had been thinking about for a while now. I quote the relevant section:

Skepticism is itself a faith posture, a presupposition that affects and infects how one reads Biblical texts, just as ardent faith is also a faith posture. It is of course necessary for any historical scholar to recognize and take into account what his or her faith posture or inclinations or predispositions are as one approaches the Biblical text.

But here’s the rub. Some scholars, mistaking skepticism for critical thinking, assume that they are being ‘objective’, approaching the text in a value free way with no axes to grind, while person’s of ‘faith’ are approaching the text in a ‘subjective’ manner that is tendentious and necessarily predetermines the outcome of the interpretation of the Biblical text. This is not necessarily true at all on either side of the equation.

There is of course no purely objective value free scholarship out there. It is just that some do a better job of admitting this, and owning up to their presuppositions and inclinations than others do, and some do a better job of being objective than others. And I would say that it is those who are aware of their own commitments and take them into account and even correct for them that are the persons who really ought to be called critical scholars whether they are persons of no apparent faith, agnostic, or persons of one or another sort of ardent faith. A critical scholar is one who is capable of being self-critical and self-corrective, as well as being able to cast a discerning eye on this or that Biblical text.

<idle musing>
I was reading in Acts in the Greek New Testament a while back. When I came to Paul's defense before Agrippa (Acts 26), I found it interesting that Festus interrupts him crying, "Your great learning is driving you insane" (NIV). These days we would say that it was a sign of unlearning or ignorance that would cause him to believe in the resurrection. Strange mutation, isn't it?

Of course, the bottom line is that it wasn't easily accepted then just as it isn't accepted now. So, maybe it isn't really a mutation, just a morphing of the expression of unbelief...
</idle musing>

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