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Friday, January 28, 2011

risks ...

Getting embroiled in long term intellectual interaction with secular or neo-pagan frameworks involves serious risks.  In the world of biblical studies Peter Enns[1] is by no means the first person to have problems from over exposure to secular biblical scholarship. Robert Gundry became the center of a similar tempest-in-a-teapot after the 1982 publication of Matthew: A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art. The point of contention was Gundry's affirmation that Matthew took artistic liberties with the historical facts. Doesn't sound that threatening to us now but in 1982 it was radical, coming just a few years after the Chicago Statement had been hammered out.  

While I was a Francis Schaeffer disciple forty years ago, I became very deeply engaged with popular Existentialism primarily in literature, music and the visual arts. I didn't sit around reading Sartre [ Nausea was assigned reading] ,  but I did spend a Christmas break in 1969 reading modern theater, Beckett, Ionesco, Genet, Pinter, Albee. In visual arts it was the Abstract Expressionists and the Pop Art of the sixties. The excuse for this was Schaeffer's notion that you cannot speak to a culture you don't really understand. The real reason, there was something attractive about this world view, it was not just an exercise in cultural education.

Seriously engaging with contemporary culture is going to have an impact on your world view. You may not notice it at the time it is happening but you can not consume many thousands of hours of popular culture without taking on the impress of that culture. It is a problem for everyone. We live in a culture which is hostile to orthodox christian theism. We are bombarded constantly with persuaders that undermine our faith.

Biblical studies is probably the most lethal field of intellectual endeavor for an orthodox christian. The biblical studies mainstream is ultra-secular, the whole driving force behind it is hell bent on proving that the bible is just another book of religious nonsense. To earn a-place-at-the-table in biblical studies one will be constantly tempted to adopt the controlling framework, which operates on the assumption that everything in the “real world” must be understood on the assumption of the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system. Evangelical biblical scholars have been sitting at the table for decades now and it is often difficult to distinguish their publications from the rest. The methodology is the same, the unspoken assumptions appear to be the same. If you pressed them they might protest and point out how the are different but just reading thier works you will often see no material difference.

There are of course notable scholars like Richard Bauckham who have made a career out of rocking the boat in biblical studies. Bauckham launched a series of projects that not only call into question the conventional framework but replace it with something much better.  People like Bauckham are as rare as hen's teeth.

[1]Inspiration and incarnation : evangelicals and the problem of the Old Testament / Peter Enns. Baker Academic, c2005.


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