One of the criticisms that ‘progressive’ Christians level at orthodox Christians is that they are anti-intellectual since they oppose the idea of applying insights drawn from critical theory and social sciences to interpret the Bible. This criticism is surely unfounded. For orthodox Christians, “All truth is God’s truth,” and the scholar of the Book should also be a scholar of many other books. As such, they would welcome any interdisciplinary exercise that seeks to enrich our understanding of Bible on its own terms. However, orthodox Christians who engage in interdisciplinary studies should be clear about their presuppositions and priorities so as to avoid compromising their faith inadvertently.
Three professors – a biblical scholar, a systematic theologian and a philosopher were in the same coach as the train was passing by a meadow.
Biblical scholar: Look at the great variety of grass and plants! – Just penta-species to start with: Andropogon Gerardii, Bouteloua Gracilis,Erechtites hieracifolia, Vernonia Cinerea, Helictotrichon Pratense, etc. You must carefully identify the multiple grass sources. What milk you get is what grass the cow eats.
Systematic theologian: Hey! Are you sure this is milk? Is it kosher-halal?
Philosopher: I don’t know what cow, grass and milk you guys are talking about.
NKW: I don’t know what grass I smoked to come up with this lame stuff.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
Academic Directive #27
Evangelical scholars seeking acceptance by the secular academia must demonstrate that their scholarship is “objective’ and “up to date.” This would require them to submit journal articles that are replete with copious footnotes which refer to a wide spectrum of ancient texts and archaeological sources, and comply with the critical presuppositions and methodology that are prevailing within the secular academia.
Credit may be given to evangelical biblical scholars who have taken up the challenge to match the terms and conditions set by the secular academia. They are unlike their theological cousins belonging to the “Old School of Medievalists and Puritans” who remain recalcitrant in purveying ancient superstitions as they continue to spout outdated scholarship learned from dusty tomes of ancient writers whom they reverently referred to the ‘Church Fathers’ or the ‘Scholastics’. It is irksome as these academic wannabees fail to separate their confessional faith and rigid tradition from objective, historical scholarship. May His Infernal Majesty reserve the hottest fire for these theological fools and fanatics for their academic fraudulence! Continue reading “Scholarship without Wisdom and Spiritual Discernment”
An adequate understanding of Scripture is attained only when exegesis of the biblical text (assisted by believing historical criticism) is unified with theological interpretation of Scripture. How then do we overcome the unfortunate dichotomy between exegesis (assisted by believing historical criticism) with theological interpretation of Scripture (TIS)?
Perhaps the most succinct proposal is given by Kevin Vanhoozer in his “TEN THESES OF THE THEOLOGICAL INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE.”
A preliminary definition of theological interpretation of Scripture is given by D. Christopher Sprinks as “those readings of biblical texts that consciously seek to do justice to the perceived theological nature of the texts and embrace the influence of theology (corporate and personal; past and present) upon the interpreter’s enquiry, context, and method.”
God’s verbal revelation to Israel is inscribed in written texts. The inspired authors of scripture crafted the revealed words into whole texts and into differing literary forms, such as narrative, wisdom literature, poetry and prophetic proclamation. Narratives comprise a significant portion of the inspired texts. These narratives depict a literary constructed world (textual world) which is meaningfully related to the real world. That is to say, the literary constructed world necessarily conforms to the requirements of the real world in order to present a world that bears semblance to empirical reality or life as we experience. This may be represented diagrammatically in figure 1
As a reader reads a historical narrative he is ‘drawn’ into the world of the text, but the text also makes an “ostensive reference” to the real world behind the text which may also be accessed by the reader by other means, e.g. archaeology, relevant historical texts etc. But the two worlds (the world of the text and the background real world) must not be confused or identified. Continue reading “Historical Criticism and Textual Interpretation – Part 3/3.”
Why do controversies rage among archaeologists whose expertise is of the highest order? Perhaps a reality check on the nature of archaeological evidence is in order. Edwin Yamauchi points out in his book The Stones and the Scriptures that archaeological evidence is inherently fragmentary because of the following contingencies of history:
1) The fraction that has survived (this is self-evident).
2) The fraction that has been surveyed. All told, close to 2,000 sites were examined by the Israeli teams, of which about 800 were previously unknown.
3) The fraction that has been excavated. Way back in 1963, only 150 of 5000 sites were excavated and only 26 were major excavations. More than 1000 new sites have been identified since then.
4) The fraction that has been examined. With limited sampling from excavation, negative conclusions can be premature and dangerous. Continue reading “Historical Criticism and Textual Interpretation – Part 2/3”
One of my readers suggests I have been too simplistic when I dismissed the Documentary Hypothesis and questioned the validity of historical criticism. After all, rational discourse demands interrogation of texts. He submits that my rejection of historical criticism is erroneous as Christianity is a faith grounded in the “God Who Acts in history”. Worse still, insulating the Bible from rational historical criticism amounts to adopting a dogmatic mindset that is no different from that of the Islamists.
It is true that I reject the Documentary Hypothesis for literary and historical reasons. However, my assessment of historical criticism is more nuanced. Unlike the Islamists and other extreme fundamentalists, I make careful use of the historical method. To be sure, there is historical method and there is historical method. The historical method that I reject is that based on the Enlightenment rationality championed by Ernst Troeltsch who taught that history is a closed continuum that precludes reference to divine revelation. Human reason becomes sovereign in historical judgment with pretensions of neutrality in interpretation. Not surprisingly, critical scholars who elevate human reason above divine revelation display skepticism towards the reliability of biblical history and its truth claims. However, their claim of neutrality has been debunked by the hermeneutical critique of Hans-Georg Gadamer and Paul Ricoeur.
My presuppositions for relating history and the biblical texts is one of believing criticism and post-critical hermeneutics. I seek to apply a historical method that is consistent with belief in God’s manifestation of himself through mighty acts, prophetic interpretation of the vicissitudes of the history of biblical Israel, and the final inscription of God’s Word in the Bible. Such a belief is rejected by critical scholars who then deploy a critical historical method that takes liberty with the biblical text which they do not regarded as inspired or authoritative. Continue reading “Historical Criticism and Textual Interpretation – Part 1/3.”
1. For a defence of the inspiration and authority of the Bible. I first go to B.B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible because of its solid exegetical analysis. Next, I turn to E.J. Young Thy Word is Truth for its engagement with modern criticism. Finally, I refer to John Frame, The Doctrine of the Word of God for a sober and theologically integrated formulation of the doctrine that meets headlong the latest theological assaults on the authority of Scripture. However, for an engaging read, I recommend J.I. Packer, Fundamentalism and the Word of God (Eerdmans reprint, 1977).
Believing Christian scholars are accused of being closed minded as they fail to take seriously critical scholars, which is a euphemism for scholars who don’t believe in the divine inspiration of the Bible. For these critical scholars, believing scholarship is an oxymoron. But, why should believers subject themselves to the judgment of unbelievers? Apparently, the authority of these critical scholars stems from their learned and objective scholarship. That these critical scholars are learned is duly acknowledged, but the objectivity of their scholarship is the issue in dispute. Continue reading “Critical Consensus and Believing Scholarship”