Saturday, September 19, 2009

Faith and History Déjà vu

According to April DeConick, "the MOST IMPORTANT discussion of my generation" is the question "whether we are willing or not to abandon our field to confessional claims to knowledge and truth in the post-modern age":
There is a big difference between confessional scholarship and its working assumptions and historical-critical scholarship and its working assumptions, and we must never confuse the two. . . . Confessional scholars are willing (some even feel compelled) to allow for the physical resurrection of Jesus to be historical fact. Of course it is not. Dead bodies don't come back to life. And Jesus' body did not come back to life. This is a theological doctrine that was historicized in the literature of the early believers. . . . [T]his is a very serious issue for our field, and now that post-modernism is gripping the academy, we see the abuse of philosophy in order to bolster the positions of confessional scholars who want to continue to make the argument that their theology (and their scripture) is history.
I confess to being puzzled why April thinks this is the "MOST IMPORTANT discussion" of her generation. I thought it was an important discussion in the 19th century--one that Albert Schweitzer believed had already been solved. Schweitzer was wrong. The debate continued because thoughtful modern scholars (not just apologetic post-modern wannabees) argued that the practice of history and theism can go together. Instead of recycling Schweitzer's arguments (or the ones he took for granted), it is surely worth examining the history of debate since Schweitzer to find out why his views have not carried the day.

For thoughtful contemporary responses to April's post, see this post by Mark Goodacre, and this one by Doug Chaplin. And here are a few links to my earlier posts on faith and historical criticism:

History, Criticism, and Christian Conviction - Part 1
History, Criticism, and Christian Conviction - Part 2
Barth and Barrett on Criticism
Martin Hengel and Historical Criticism
On Confessional and Secular Biblical Scholarship

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