Friday, September 03, 2010

Craig Blomberg and the argument that scholars who teach at schools that require inerrancy statements are biased

This is an argument you hear frequently. Everyone has methodological presuppositions, including methdological naturalists like Bart Ehrman. Craig Blomberg responds to the charge that his teaching at a seminary that requires an inerrancy statement makes his work biased, in a comment on Debunking Christianity.

Hi John. Good to hear from you again. There are, of course, other possibilities about people like me, which are sometimes, though not always, the case. I was raised in a liberal Lutheran environment and went to a liberal Lutheran liberal arts college that held the mainstream critical views you describe. I then went to an evangelical seminary and then to a Scottish university (largely secular but with some Christian presence) for my doctorate. I did "crazy" things while there like decide to follow what I discerned to be the New Testament model and be immersed as a believer in a Scottish Baptist church, cutting myself off from being able to teach in contexts that required me to affirm the legitimacy of infant baptism. It was also where I finally decided that I could believe in an appropriately nuanced form of inerrancy after having been raised in an environment that held "biblical inerrancy" to be an oxymoron, going to a seminary where it was part of the very definition of evangelical and then becoming familiar with the British evangelical scene where it was viewed as a rather uniquely American shibboleth. So I don't believe in inerrancy because I teach at a seminary that includes that in its statement of faith. I teach at a seminary that includes that in its statement of faith because I believe in inerrancy. And I have had enough invitations over the years to teach in places with different perspectives that I hardly feel constrained in my scholarship by that conviction. I examine every new issue relevant to the topic that I become aware of (though I haven't run into very many that weren't already on the landscape during my three degree programs in the 1970s and early 1980s, just in repackaged garb) and if I should decide I could no longer affirm inerrancy, I will go teach at a place that doesn't require it. As for going wherever reason leads, how open are you to returning to Christian faith should reason lead you there? From my now fairly extensive reading of your published and web writings, my sense is "much less so than I would be open to changing my views".


Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:

I personally have a huge problem with the term "Biblical Innerancy", since I do not beleive there is one, agreed upon definition of what the term actually means. For myself, both of the following statements are true:
I believe in biblical innerancy.
I do not believe in biblical innerancy.

It all depends on how you define the term. PLUS - there exists a vast nimbus of secondary ideas swirling about the term that muddy the waters beyond hope of clarification. You find yourself unwittingly buying into a host of peripheral issues you had no intention of siding with when the person you are speaking with has a different understanding of what is entailed by "inerrancy".

My 30 years experience as a Russian linguist taught me to never underestimate the slipperiness of meaning in language, and to always appreciate the role of interpretation of words, phrases, figures of speech, etc., when dealing with any text, inspired or not.

Blue Devil Knight said...

The only justification I could see for such a backwards practice is if I was in financial straits and had to compromise my morals to eat and support my family.

I would never work at a school that required all the employees and students to sign a statement averring that consciousness is a neuronal phenomenon. I have reached that conclusion with a great deal of concern with evidence, gone to school to study it explicitly, studied a bit of neuroscience. That's not the point, not the point at all.

There is a lot of argument that would need to be inserted between between "I believe the document being signed" and "I would willingly work at such an institution, ceteris paribus."

It is so obviously antithetical to the spirit of a liberal university, critical inquiry, search for truth, especially for an undergraduate institution, I would never consider sending my child to such a school (whether it be materialist or evangelical). I would actually consider it immoral to do so, and would be disappointed in myself as a parent if my child ended up wanting to go to such a school. Ceteris paribus, of course.

Walter said...

All of us are biased to some degree, it's part of being human. What is disturbing to me is signing some kind of binding agreement to the effect that your research can never come to any other conclusion than the one deemed appropriate by the institution employing you. I guess this is par for the course when a religion proclaims that "right belief" is a requirement for inclusion among the "elect." In most Christian circles orthodoxy is considered far more important than orthopraxy.

BenYachov said...

Well if I may flex my Catholic bias.

Innerancy is not the problem & there is no logical reason to reject innerancy. It's Innerancy plus the so called perspicuity of Scripture which is the problem.