Shuck and Jive

Friday, July 02, 2010

Serving Two Masters

The July/August Biblical Archaeology Review arrived in the mail today. I thumbed through it and found this editorial by Ronald Hendel, Farewell to SBL: Faith and Reason in Biblical Studies. It was a depressing piece. Hendel suggests that SBL, in order to increase its numbers,
"has reached out to evangelical and fundamentalist groups, promising them a place within the SBL meeting....What's wrong with bringing in these groups? Well, some of them proselytize at the SBL meetings. One group invited some Jewish scholars to their session, asked them if they observed the Sabbath, and handed them materials intended to convert them. And recently the SBL online book review journal (Review of Biblical Literature) has featured explicit condemnations of the ordinary methods of critical scholarly inquiry, extolling instead the religious authority of orthodox Christian faith....The views of creationists, snake-handlers and faith-healers now count among the kinds of Biblical scholarship that the society seeks to foster."
I don't know much about the SBL. I bought a membership for one year but didn't attend any meetings. I assumed SBL was about critical scholarship. I thought Hendel might be exaggerating. But I then read some of the online responses to this article and realize that he is probably right. Here is an example:
In Response to your quote: "The views of creationists, snake-handlers and faith-healers now count among the kinds of Biblical scholarship that the society seeks to foster." Remarkable...I am a creationist that believes God was solely responsible for the created world sans evolution. You have already judged that opinion without hearing my thought or research. Doesn't that put you in the same camp as those with whom you disagree? I thought the SBL was for debate not singularity of position.
Yep. The fundies have come home to roost. From my soapbox, the PC (U.S.A.) is in a similar position. The central issues before us are not the gay, Israel/Palestine, or right or left politics. They have to do with religious literacy and critical scholarship vs. orthodox Christian dogma and fideistic approaches to the Bible. We can pretend to have both for a while, but as our Lord told us, "You cannot serve two masters." Which will you choose?

1 comment:

  1. This subject is fascinating to me, a layperson. I've spent the last 20 years in conservative Reformed churches, and finally have started to come to terms with authentic historical-critical Biblical scholarship. Wow, what a change. My initial assessment is that to maintain the 'historic' (fundamentalistic?) position you essentially have to ignore or deny the scholarship of the last 100-200 years -- is that too much of an overstatement? In any case it seems that there are people with very good gigs selling tapes and books avoiding difficult questions and giving people what they want to hear. I'm still grappling with this.