Over at B&I there is a great article posted by Tim Bulkeley which I believe a lot of my friends and colleagues could benefit from. I wish to address the issue of labels at some point; this article is a good example of why we need to be careful when making any cultural generalizations.
The Bible’s most vociferous cultured despisers, the so-called neo-atheists, argue that (read literally as some sort of instruction manual) the Bible supports all sorts of barbarity. Christopher Hitchens calls it “a warrant for trafficking in humans, for ethnic cleansing, for slavery, for bride-price, and for indiscriminate massacre, but we are not bound by any of it because it was put together by crude, uncultured human animals.”1 Sam Harris points out that thankfully few Christians follow the advice of Dt 13:7-11 and stone to death any of our children who convert to other faiths.2 That’s not strange, the challenge they pose is a reasonable and necessary one. What is strange is that their reading of Scripture is one that Jewish and Christian tradition across the millennia has NOT practiced. Religious reading of sacred texts has been more nuanced and careful.
In this article I am not addressing those new Atheists, nor the a-religious biblical scholars, my target is those, like myself who teach Bible with religious motives, and in particular my fellow Christian biblical scholars who teach in seminaries.
His most compelling point?
It was not only the University departments and faculties that were captured by the materialistic practical atheism of this wave of non-religious scholarship. Seminaries too have increasingly bought into4 these modern and post-modern styles of Bible reading. Students in these seminaries across the wealthy Western world (and in privileged, and so prestigious, Western-supported institutions elsewhere) learned more about J, E, D, & P or M, L, & Q than about the religious meaning of the Torah or of the teaching of Jesus.
This creeping, but near total, takeover by humanistic practical atheism5 in the academies does not seem to students to suggest ways to preach the Bible texts they study. Their teachers are more concerned to get the history, or the methodology right than to reveal spiritual significance. So the students become schizophrenic in their approach to Scripture: Atheist in scholarship, Fundamentalist in preaching or personal faith.
Quite a read. Check it out.
Edit: Jim West is right to point out the following: “…except for the swipe at minimalist historiography. It is my opinion that minimalism FORCES us to think theologically about scripture instead of constricting it with some supposed historiographic slavery.” I couldn’t agree more.