Faith & Scholarship

In the same  vein of Michael Fox (see my previous post),  Alan Lenzi , professor in the Humanities at University of the Pacific, argues in his blog that faith-based positions on biblical interpretations have no place in scholarship and in the membership of SBL. Lenzi states, “So when people start saying things based on faith instead of reasons and said assertions are tolerated by the editors, then there is an implicit approval that such constitutes scholarship. Is that what we want in the SBL?” And “I am not saying that people of faith (or Evangelicals) should be excluded from the SBL and its publications. I am not saying that non-faith-based scholarship is objective. I am merely saying that interpretations of the biblical text that are only rooted in assertion, particularly assertions that come from religious dogma, should be excluded from scholarly discourse in the SBL.”

I wonder why a critical study of the Bible cannot lead one to faith and thus still be scholarship? Is not faith a result of study?  Granted, faith is a presupposition for some in the study of the Bible but so is a lack of faith for others.

Lenzi is reacting to  Bruce Waltke (the offending evangelical) and his book review of Michael Fox’s  Proverbs (vol 2).

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4 comments on “Faith & Scholarship

  1. Alan Lenzi says:

    “I wonder why a critical study of the Bible cannot lead one to faith and thus still be scholarship?”

    Critical study is the basis of scholarship. If it leads you to have faith, which I suspect is quite rare, fine. But that doesn’t seem relevant to the actual scholarship part. Why does one need to constantly mix in one’s personal religion into one’s scholarship?

    “Is not faith a result of study?”

    Faith is not built on real, falsifiable evidence. If it were, it wouldn’t be faith. That’s why faith in, say, the inspiration or uniqueness of the Bible has no place in scholarship. It tends to skew the object of study and distort the results.

    “Granted, faith is a presupposition for some in the study of the Bible but so is a lack of faith for others.”

    You assume that all presuppositions are equal. That’s nonsense. A lack of faith in the Bible means I am going to treat it like I would all other ancient documents. That’s quite reasonable. The Bible is manifestly a text written by humans for humans. This is the basis for historical research in the Classics and Assyriology. Why not in Biblical Studies, too? Faith in the Bible as a unique document from god means one has to hold to a very close epistemological circularity about a document that can be quite reasonably explained as the result of historical and sociological processes. Even when affirming these processes, the faithful continue to believe there is “something more” about the book. Even when the faithful believe the book is full of inaccuracies and errors, they will still somehow drag in the idea of inspiration. There is so much special pleading in the field about these matters, especially among Evangelicals, that it seems normal. Well, if one were to step outside of the ghetto of Biblical Studies, one would see that it is not at all normal.

  2. Randall Scotti says:

    MM: “I wonder why a critical study of the Bible cannot lead one to faith and thus still be scholarship?”

    AL: “Critical study is the basis of scholarship. If it leads you to have faith, which I suspect is quite rare, fine. But that doesn’t seem relevant to the actual scholarship part. Why does one need to constantly mix in one’s personal religion into one’s scholarship?”

    RS: You have wrongly presupposed that Truth resides exclusively in the scientific method. Also, you have errantly defined faith=religion, and/ or blind trust, rather than faith=held beliefs, from the facts, with some facts existing outside of scientific inquiry as to cause. As such, you have presupposed that miracles, which by definition are caused outside of scientific inquiry, are scientifically impossible. As such, over and above the scientific method, you have positioned yourself as god.

    MM: “Is not faith a result of study?”

    AL: “Faith is not built on real, falsifiable evidence. If it were, it wouldn’t be faith. That’s why faith in, say, the inspiration or uniqueness of the Bible has no place in scholarship. It tends to skew the object of study and distort the results.”

    RS: The Apostle Paul stated, “If Jesus was not raised from the dead, then our faith is worthless.” Falsifiability exists- the body of Jesus. Therefore, your claim is erroneous, and until evidence is produced- the body of Jesus, my faith in Christ’s resurrection is valid as held. Thus, the null hypothesis- Jesus is dead. Thus, produce the body to falsify the resurrection, on which Christianity places its faith.

    MM: “Granted, faith is a presupposition for some in the study of the Bible but so is a lack of faith for others.”

    AL: “You assume that all presuppositions are equal. That’s nonsense. A lack of faith in the Bible means I am going to treat it like I would all other ancient documents. That’s quite reasonable. The Bible is manifestly a text written by humans for humans. This is the basis for historical research in the Classics and Assyriology. Why not in Biblical Studies, too? Faith in the Bible as a unique document from god means one has to hold to a very close epistemological circularity about a document that can be quite reasonably explained as the result of historical and sociological processes. Even when affirming these processes, the faithful continue to believe there is “something more” about the book. Even when the faithful believe the book is full of inaccuracies and errors, they will still somehow drag in the idea of inspiration. There is so much special pleading in the field about these matters, especially among Evangelicals, that it seems normal. Well, if one were to step outside of the ghetto of Biblical Studies, one would see that it is not at all normal.”

    RS: Again, ad nauseum, you continue to error in your definitions of words. Faith= held belief. As for presupposition- All are not equal? Does not your statement put you in the same camp with your claim against evangelicals- guilty of special pleadings, or alternatively, circularity? I would suggest that a better statement is- not all held conclusions are equal.
    As an additional note, are you not also guilty of special pleadings in your statement- all documents are equal= reasonable? In the end, the term special pleadings must be defined by words. The term is itself a special pleading subsumed in the words used to define it; as also is the case for each word used in the definition; these words become special pleadings from their own definition; and on and on… Thus, you’re afloat without rudder, nor anchor. Either, you are objective, or ??? The very accusation you claim against evangelicals is, at the least, true about yourself. You presuppose to be objective, while attacking biblical study methods implicitly as proof-texting. You eschew any/ all Rule under a variety of claims, while implying your own Rule, which, in the end, somehow escapes only your eyes in seeing it.

  3. Alan Lenzi says:

    RS you have attributed many ideas to me that I do not hold and that cannot be inferred from what I left here or on my original post without presupposing me to be a certain kind of thinker. Sorry, I’m not that guy. I don’t see any reason to begin a long discussion here, either. I’ve had my fair share recently. I will say that your idea for the falsifiability of Christianity is quite ingenious. But extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. So I would suggest that your “held belief” is not based on sufficient evidence. I’ll let you have the last word if you want to reply.

  4. Randall Scotti says:

    Ending the discussion does have value- it gets you out of the trick-box.

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