Sunday, November 9, 2008

F.F. Bruce on Evangelicals, Dogmatism and Scholarship

Making the rounds in Biblioblogdom is a great quote by F.F. Bruce on his hopes for the evangelical Tyndale Fellowship for Biblical Research:
No such conclusions [he is referring to pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic biblical scholarship] are prescribed for members of the Tyndale Fellowship. In such critical cruces, for example, as the codification of the Pentateuch, the composition of Isaiah, the date of Daniel, the sources of the Gospels, or the authenticity of the Pastoral Epistles, each of us is free to hold and proclaim the conclusion to which all the available evidence points. Any research worthy of the name, we take it for granted, must necessarily be unfettered. (F. F. Bruce, “The Tyndale Fellowship for Biblical Research,” The Evangelical Quarterly 19 (1947) 52-61) (HT: Michael Bird, who got it from Dan Reid)
Michael points to Bruce's autobiography and observes that the quote is surprising given that Bruce was "conservative as they come." This is true enough, though I got the impression from reading In Retrospect that Bruce was not as conservative as he let on. Here's another quote that hints at this:
A sense of security with regard to the foundations of faith and life encourages a spirit of relaxation with regard to many other matters. I am sure that an inner insecurity is often responsible for the dogmatism with which some people defend positions which are by their nature incapable of conclusive proof: there may be a feeling that, if those positions are given up, the foundations are in danger. I am sure, too, that a similar insecurity is responsible for the reluctance which some people show to acknowledge a change of mind on matters about which they once expressed themselves publicly: they may fear that their reputation for consistency is imperilled if they do . . . . Ultimately, the Christian’s faith is in a Person: his confession is ‘I know whom I have believed’, not ‘…what I have believed’ . . . . With this sense of liberty one can write freely – which is not the same thing as writing irresponsibly. A Christian will consider the probable effect of his words, whether spoken or written. - F.F. Bruce, In Retrospect: Remembrance of Things Past (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), 172-3.

1 comment:

Nick Meyer said...

The newtestamentperspectives blogspot shares a quote from Scot Mcknight's new book on reading the bible that supports your impression here. It's illuminating.