The Mythical ‘Status Quo’ of Modern Academia and Persecution Complexes

I received a blog comment last night from Stephan Huller that I would like to address as its own post.  Why?  because I think it’s relevant.   First I shall post the comment with my remarks under it.  Huller’s remarks are in quote-blocks.

This new list of criterion is aimed at keeping those who question the existing paradigm of Christianity from belonging to the forum. It is that simple.

That’s a rather silly comment.  I question the existing paradigm of Christianity all the time.  Which part of the criteria has anything to do with limiting questioning?  If you don’t blog about subjects related to Biblical Studies, you’re not a Biblioblogger.  It can’t be that difficult to understand…

The people who run this list are members of a dying culture.

Another silly (and, quite possibly, delusional) comment.  This ‘culture’ of scholarship is going nowhere and rightfully it shouldn’t.  Biblical Studies is quite important, but not necessarily for any religious reasons.  Here is why:

Nobody listed there is interested in ‘upholding the existing Christian paradigm’.  And I don’t believe for a minute that anyone (Steve Caruso included!) is seeking to make the Biblioblog list a sort of fundamental orthodoxy molded to believe in some religious doctrine.  I would tread carefully, however, as your own bias is starting to show.

They allowed the heathen in for a while and saw that their influence was growing. As a result the two of the blogs from last months top 20 (mine and Neil Godfrey’s) have not been included in the new organization.

Just by reading your comment here, you’ve shown a complete lack of intellectual integrity.  Instead of recognizing the value of most of the blogs on the list, you would rather insult individuals like Mark Goodacre, Roland Boer, James Crossley, Jim Davila, and Bob Cargill (among others) by lumping them into the same group, labeling them as ivory-tower elitists who wish to close the door on all critical thought—a completely fictional category which you have invented, it seems, out of spite or jealousy alone.  If you don’t meet the three core criteria, I can’t help you and certainly nobody else can either.  The criteria aren’t that difficult to meet.

Why isn’t membership tied to knowledge rather than belief system?

I promise you this isn’t some grand Christian or religious conspiracy.  Did you ever think your paranoia or your presuppositions about the position of Bibliobloggers have something to do with your non-acceptance?  Being a Biblioblogger has absolutely nothing to do with belief system; if it did, you’d have to explain the inclusion of Jim Linville and Roland Boer, among other nonChristian or secular Bibliobloggers.

At the end of the day I wanted to share ideas with people who didn’t necessarily agree with what I was saying before going into the discussion.

Funny, because so do most scholars; almost every Biblioblogger I know enjoys debate and discussions with those who do not agree with them.  That is part of scholarship.  You’re not a pioneer here.   I wonder how many scholarly monographs, articles, magazines (real ones, not BAR) or journals you have actually read?  I can’t imagine any, if this is your position.

Call me naive but that isn’t that what academia is supposed to be about? Since when does everyone have to agree with everyone else’s presuppositions? This is only the sign of decline and is typical of this dying religious culture.

I can assure you, you are displaying naivety.  But your misconceptions are about scholarship and a lot of false ideas about where you believe scholars stand.  You were excluded for a reason, and you clearly are naïve about what that reason might be.  I hope you figure that out before you continue to trod down the path you’re on.

But life goes on …

It does.  And so will the Biblioblogosphere.  Your quality is not judged just by what you know, but how you portray yourself, how you express your thoughts and feelings, how you treat other people.  Based on your blog post and on this comment, you’ve shown not only that you won”t be included on the list, but that you shouldn’t.  And this is decided not by me, nor some grand council, but by your own actions.  Congratulations.  If you can come to your senses, you might even be welcomed back.

————-

Now onto a brief discussion.  Huller believes (per his linked blog post) he and his ‘scholarship’ have not been given a fair hearing and that it is because of his views on religion and Christianity that have had him removed from the list.

Caruso carefully words his explanation for why I will be placed in a separate ranking away from the main body of Bibliobloggers but the gist comes down to the fact that even though I have published serious articles in peer reviewed journals and Joel hasn’t – I question the legitimacy of the history of the Church and Joel and everyone else accepts it.

This sort of thinking is completely ridiculous.   I see this mentality a lot, however, as if people outside of academia are outside because they were expelled unjustly.  I have witnessed a growing trend of this sort of ‘me against the ivory tower’ mentality especially in atheist and christian fundamentalist communities.  Fundamentalism, particularly its creationist wing or its literal interpretation wing have kept a distance from the academy.  In the atheist and secular communities, a great deal of this sort of thinking can be seen in the followers of Zeitgeist.  In fact, one might say that the Zeitgeist movement had a large part to play in the vilifying of modern scholarship.  Those followers of the movement might even believe they have a reason to regard the academy in such a fashion, as Zeitgeist is not taken seriously (nor should it be).  And their reactions have been quite similar to those of the creationist movement’s attack on the life sciences.

Where does this disparagement of modern scholarship come from?  I believe it stems back to the German schools of a generation or more ago when scholars did, in fact, get ridiculed and shamed for critically calling attention to the falsities of the tradition of Biblical history.  Bruno Bauer was shunned, for example, and rarely does one come across a study from the period which incorporates some of the more critical points of the Dutch Radicals.  At one point, the ‘status quo’ was a very real and scary hurdle for many aspiring scholars, and in one case it directly effected a friend and colleague of mine at a point in his (now very successful) career.  Indeed, up until about 40 years ago, critical scholarship was only barely making a dent.  But this is not the turn of the twentieth century and we’ve come a long way since the 1970’s.   Generally speaking, especially on the European front, the academy has changed substantially, not just in ideology and methodology, but also in terms of class (if one can call it that).  Even the more conservative scholars are critical to a large degree (William Dever, for example, while still a ‘maximalist’, is quite critical about a great deal of Biblical tradition).  What marked this shift?  I believe their were several reasons.

First, the second quest for the historical Jesus had a large part to play.  It was a reassessment of the failures of the first and the German schools at the time were all but thrilled to reevaluate the conclusions of Schweitzer, et al, in an attempt to locate a more socially-conscienced savior (if one could be found at all).  The idea that the historical figure behind the Jesus of the Gospels and early Christian traditions had been lost simply had not been acceptable to the students of Bultmann who came up with rather interesting methods in an attempt to locate him.  They fractured narrative into thematic elements, into liturgical sayings, ecumenical meals, the Eucharist, and so on in the hopes of pushing past Bultmann’s kerygmatic message–the post-Easter tradition, as he often called it.   The distinction between tradition and history, of tradition memory and historical memory, made a large impact on the German schools.

In America, a similar push was happening.  Following WWII, many soldiers–thousands of them–reentered American society, most with a great deal of money in their pockets from the G.I. Bill and service pay, and they reentered at a time where the American economy was at its absolute height (since we bombed all the competition out of existence for a few years).  Many soldiers, a great deal of them from middle or lower class families, were using that money to go to college.  A shift in academic interest occurred around this time as well from the sort of Hegelian monopoly on history to a new sociological approach.  Richard Carrier posits that the two might be linked (and it seems logically sound).  Regardless, the generation of scholars that came from that era started exciting new research in a way which hadn’t been done before and produced interesting results.  Following the contemporary scholarship of their time, they were growing just as critical, just as suspicious of the value of the claims made by the authors of the past.

The critical movements in scholarship were greatly helped along by the decisions of the Catholic Church concerning dei verbum during Vatican II.  While affirming Scriptures divine provenance, the council determined that there were distinctions to be made between Sacred Scripture and sacred tradition.  While both were considered divine and correct, interpretation would be key to understanding God’s message hidden within.  For the academy, this was a thought-shift that needed to occur, especially in those schools where the church still held authority.

Finally, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi texts, as well as those fragments found at Oxyrinchus, have shed new light on the trends of the traditions.  While the Early Church Fathers were only available to many scholars of the past, having these additional documents have helped establish time lines and develop models of certain cultural centers and religious movements of the time.  And those uncovered at Herculaneum might provide scholars with even more information!

In the end, the days of facing persecution by the majority of the Academy for disagreeing with the church is not such a threat anymore.  It doesn’t help the Zeitgeist movement at all, however, when they use dated material from scholars who wrote on subjects over one hundred years ago–is it any wonder they are shunned?  However Stephan Huller’s vilification comes from a place on the fringe, as it is not often that someone is in his position anymore.  In fact, scholarship has opened its arms to some very odd perspectives over the course of the last three decades.  That this venue of scholarship has chosen, in this instance, to disregard Huller has nothing at all to do with its shortcomings.  In fact, it seems, it has more to do with those shortcomings of the mindset that produced this comment.  Take this remark from the same post from his blog:

These people simply haven’t read cutting edge scholarship with respect to early Christianity, you know the stuff that comes out of Europe and because it is written in languages other than English it makes it inaccessible to North Americans.

Besides the arrogance latent in the statement, he clearly doesn’t realize that many scholars who make up the Biblioblogs list not only are aware of ‘cutting edge’ scholarship (whatever that means, I assume he means ‘recent studies’ or ‘recent reassessments’)–they presented those new studies!  And far be it that a good portion of the list of Bibliobloggers are well-known in European circles (Jim West, most notably) or are European themselves (Mark Goodacre, James Crossley) or neither (Roland Boer).  The presumption that Huller is ignored for his erudite (but oh-so-controversial) academic position is a fabricated delusion bent on Huller ignoring the erudite (yet critical) conclusions of the rest of the world.  Huller is his own worst enemy, and his blog post is peppered with the ramblings of someone suffering from a deep persecution-complex.

I personally believe that Steve has done an excellent job organizing and categorizing the list.  All those involved in the discussions have contributed a great deal to it and we’ve begun to make progress.  What exactly has Huller contributed?  I can’t think of anything…

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6 Responses

  1. So let me get this straight I read this at the Biblioblog site today, I am not supposed to wonder if I am in some Kafka novel:

    “Everyone who was on the original Biblioblogs list is now in the new database and can use the tracker, and once I slog through the Related Blogs I’ll be opening up similar lists and rankings for them as well.”

    My blog (which finished above yours last month) and Neil Godfrey’s blog (which finished above both my blog and yours) are not included. So the statement is incorrect. ‘Everyone’ who was on the original Biblioblog list was NOT included this month.

    So let’s not make this about me. Why is Neil Godfrey not included in the new list? He is not offensive, he publishes reviews of books and is generally quite an interesting blogger.

    I don’t see any difference between his qualification and Joel Watts. The only difference is that Joel Watts is a Christian (according to the popular American heretical definition) and Godfrey is not.

    There’s no difference in the quality of their blogging. I happen to like Godfrey’s blog. But there are probably more bloggers on the list that like Watts’s blog.

    But is this all about ‘liking’ someone? Isn’t that the bottom line to all the pretense involving these criteria?

    I have published an important article in a peer reviewed journal. While I am certain not AS qualified as some of the people accepted into the club of Bibliobloggers, I am by no means at the bottom of the list.

    Indeed I need only cite that my ideas are not completely crazy. I have serious scholars like Markus Vinzent of King’s College London – one of the best Patristics in the world seriously considering my theories.

    http://www.kcl.ac.uk/artshums/depts/trs/people/staff/academic/vinzent/index.aspx

    Just look at how much time we spend in a serious dialogue about the shape of the Marcionite gospel:

    http://markusvinzent.blogspot.com/

    A mere sample of how seriously he takes my thought seriously:

    your comments are anything but time consuming, on the contrary – it needs queer thinking in a field which is so cluttered with apology and for all of us so remote through sheer hundreds of years of apologetic distortion. Whether to trust a source, never any trust, but detective eyes.

    The idea that I am good enough for one of the best scholars anywhere and at any time in history but not good enough to be included in this silly club of a dying religion is simply outlandish.

    There is a concerted here to curb the free-dissemination of ideas and restrict discussion to ‘safe’ topics like Luther or inane discussions about salvation.

    The real topic should always be – can we connect these or any other ideas to the earliest Christians. Is this what they believed? How do we know this? What are sources? etc.

    Anyone who is not engaged in this level of criticism is in my opinion just engaging in nonsense. Why are we talking about daddy’s and mommy’s beliefs? Let’s roll up our sleeves and engage in the hard work of pursuing truth where it may be hiding.

    The only way this gets accomplished is by encouraging the free flow of ideas and most especially those ideas you might disagree with or contradict your inherited presuppositions.

    Stephan

  2. And to make clear ‘the month before’ in the last email means ‘before the first time I was included in the rankings.’ Which only was accomplished by ‘whining’ as Joel makes clear.

    I have nothing against you. Yes it’s true I did not devise a system like Steve Caruso which kept out the Godfrey’s blog and mine. Yes surprisingly I didn’t accomplish the will of Joel Watts. What good am I …

  3. hahahhahahahahahahahaha. This is about as funny as anything that comes from the Answers in Genesis site.

  4. […] dealt with Huller for a while a now. So, instead of coming to my blog and talking to me, he goes other places, like a coward. So, he’s at Tom’s place – and a delightful place it is – […]

  5. […] board.  They’ll probably be cited for plagiarism.  The ‘status quo’ argument is nothing more than a myth, idealized by those who refuse to do what is necessary to earn […]

  6. […] The Mythical Status Quo of Modern Academia and persecution complexes […]

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