On Labels and Scholarship: Secularism and Faith in L’Accademia

Up until a little over a year ago, I would have called myself an atheist, a secularist; I have no doubts that many scholars might identify with labels like those or others similarly linked to a lack of faith.  But I have wised up a bit since those days.  On the one hand, I don’t think I can really call myself an atheist as I don’t think I identify with the label.  I can’t idealize Dawkins and, even though I am an existentialist, I cannot push aside burning questions about the value of the current trends of atheism.  Am I a humanist?  Yes.  Am I a Christian?  No.  But an atheist as far as the existence of a sort of supreme being?  I am not that either.  Certainly, even when I did take on the label, I was not really identifying with something I was, but something I believed I was not.  Consequently, I think a lot of us do that; we identify with what we aren’t as a way to define what we are and, as a result, we caricaturize and label.  We create whole socio-cultural groups, opinions, delusions, about others that simply don’t exist.  Watch Fox News or MSNBC, tune into any political debate on CSPAN, sit in at a town hall meeting for an hour and you’ll immediately catch on to my reasoning.   That such a thing occurs in politics is expected.  But that it also exists in scholarship is something that both shocks and disappoints me.

This post deals with this fiction we all create, not just within the community of l’Accademia but with the general public as well.  We fabricate these perspectives–whether about BAR and Shanks, about Jesus, about Christians, about which side we aren’t on and which side we idealize–and then we distribute these fabrications to others as part of a means to eliminate, albeit unintentionally, the very purpose of scholarship: the purpose to continually challenge and question and, more importantly, to educate and disseminate information about the past for the preservation of the future.  Instead of preserving the memories of the past, we are dissolving them in the bitterness of the labels we use.  We are the Wormsley Commom Gang from Graham Greene’s The Destructors rather than being the Solomon or Hiram of 1 Kings.

There has been a lot of discussion lately in the biblioblog-o-sphere about the battle between secularism and the seminary over Biblical Studies.  Tim Bulkeley has recently posted up an article on B&I on the subject, of which has garnered as much attention as the article is enjoyable.  He writes (read the whole article, it is quite good):

“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…. 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… So how can this new wave of atheist argument get away with such misuse of Scripture?  Only because vociferous groups of Christians also use and advocate just such blind simplistic readings.”

In an earlier article on a subject similar to this, he also wrote words so profoundly astute I must reiterate them here:

“So, the issue at heart is about a basic attitude of either skepticism or trust towards the object of study. Jim West’s person of faith trusts Scripture; therefore, he argues, their relationship to this object of study is different from, and richer than, the relationship a skeptical reading permits. By contrast, both Avalos and Lemche see such committed reading as full of social and intellectual dangers…. These two distinct genres of skepticism and trust should not be confused, for they are different…. What is needed is a frank recognition that there are two (related but different) disciplines studying the biblical texts. Then their practitioners need to identify more clearly what they do similarly and what they do differently. In such an environment, discussion of whether any, all, or no religious study of Scripture is scholarly might be possible without a slinging match. But that, of course, is not the world we live in, so we will no doubt continue to read abusive missives aimed from one set of trenches to another in the religious, as in the historical, wars.”

To be fair, I can’t say that I am responding directly to these articles as the former is concerned more with helping seminary students in Biblical Studies deal with the theological issues rather than the existentialism of what Tim calls ‘new atheism’ which is so much more common in Universities and the latter, an article in response to several discussions of the relevancy of Biblical Studies over at B&I, was about finding common footing as much as it was about establishing a dialogue.  Neither of these issues are the foci of this blog post.  However, their relevance is in the use of language which has become more pervasive in academia over the last few years.  Roland Boer recently published a collection of essays entitled Secularism and Biblical Studies (London: Equinox, 2010), which directly engages the debate; what is the value of secular critical scholarship and what impact is it having–or could it potentially have–on Biblical Studies?  “Coming out of current debates that have been flaring within biblical studies over the issue of secularism, the essays crystallize the various positions that have been taken.” (via)

Yet, what is in need of clarification is why such distinctions exist at all.  A few years ago, when I was first introducing myself to modern critical scholarship, I saw a flux of archetypes which in truth, for all my trials, I could find no real substance.  Terms like ‘critical scholar’ and ‘conservative scholar’ and ‘liberal’ were tossed around as if such blatant fictional topoi were living and breathing individuals.  And, I must confess, I did fall into such a trap.  Niels Peter Lemche reminds us that such tactics have existed for some time and Philip R. Davies even dedicates substantial time to the discussion in his Memories of Ancient Israel (Louisville: WJK, 2008).  However, Philip has done us a great service by isolating the value of the argument rather than the label by focusing–not so much on terms like ‘minimalist’ and ‘maximalist’ (though he does to some extent)–on the value of trust and the value of doubt (esp. pp. 124-169).

Trust and doubt have a large role to play in the study of the ancient world.  Since history is a field formulated in and upon inductive, rather than the deductive, investigations, what will inevitably happen is that someone with more investment in the material will trust it more than a person who does not have in it as much of an investment.  This is a byproduct of many different vagaries of life and little of it, if any, has to do with Biblical Studies–or perhaps, it simply shouldn’t.

Alas, I may be naive in believing that scholarship can do away with such labels.  I know that the biggest criticism I will receive about this post is that my idealism is not well-grounded. Some arguments are rather ‘conservative’ or ‘maximalist’ or ‘evangelical’ or, perhaps, “too Christian (or Jewish)” and others will undoubtedly be more ‘liberal’, more ‘postmodern’, more ‘secular’–“too Dawkins-esque”.  But the problem with this terminology is that, as parts of language, these labels will bring in more than their share of cultural (or, as Roland Barthes might put it, their diachronic) contexts, many of which will simply not apply to the work or individual(s) to which the label is being applied.

Unfortunately, too many people are working against me on this.  I do not believe that secularism is the cure for Biblical Studies.  I do not believe we need to limit secularism, either.  Jim West is probably more right than he knows when he wrote:

“It seems to me, at any rate, that biblical studies cannot move forward any further along the historical-critical path alone. Furthermore, it seems to me that the only useful approach to biblical studies which can move us forward is theological exegesis. And, to be honest, returning to our roots in theological exegesis as practiced most efficiently in the Reformation writings of Zwingli, Luther, and Calvin.”

It’s certainly true that “historical-critical tools are useful but…Theological exegesis is the missing link in most modern biblical scholarship.” (ibid.)  And I’m sure Jim would argue that the only way to exegete Theologically (correctly) is to have faith (and being a Baptist wouldn’t hurt either–eh, Jim?).  But what he doesn’t argue for is fundamentalism, even if many out there would say otherwise (yes, I’m looking at you John Loftus).  Jim’s quite astute and an excellent scholar; I would value his exegetical prowess over Sam Harris or John Loftus (even if he were still a Christian) and put more stock in his interpretations, even if they lean away from what many would call “secularism”.  The Bible wasn’t written by new atheists (unless, by some crazy coincidence, Carl Sagan invented a time machine, lent it to Bart Ehrman and Hector Avalos, and sent them back to do just that…)–though I have heard it argued that Job didn’t believe in God (this is neither here nor there).  But the Bible was not written, collected, nor edited by Baptists, Reformers (well, maybe just the KJV), or Catholics either, for that matter, regardless of what Pope Benedict would have you believe.  And Jim seems to have a better grasp of that than his detractors–and Tim Bulkeley was right to point out their misuse and abuse of scripture.   But again we come back to labels, don’t we?  Jim West, though a Baptist and seminarian, and pastor (who, admittedly, puts people to sleep), still recognizes that:

In sum, the Bible, from beginning to end, is primarily interested in God. The stage is set in the opening verse of Genesis where we learn, “In the beginning, God….” The Bible’s aim is not to tell a historical tale; its aim is to tell a theological tale. For that reason its authors, minimalists all, recognized that their work and aim and calling was something other than to use traditions and tales for historical reconstruction. “What, when, and how” were of no interest to them at all; but “why and who” mattered supremely.

In other words Jim, like his portrayal of the authors of the Biblical narratives, has little interest (if any) in the historiographical background of the narratives.  So it may be shocking to see him putting the contradictions on display as he does, because he, like other scholars, knows full well that “contradiction” is just as anachronistic a phrase for an ancient author as was “historiography”.  Does one really believe that the author of 1 Kings was any more interested in history than the Dionysius of Halicarnassus or Josephus or Livy?  Does anyone believe they were less interested?  Perhaps, but then they can argue that at the next scholarly colloquium.  In the end, what matters is not the position that Jim holds here, but that he is defying a stereotype which I feel is often applied to Christians by other, more “secular” scholars.  Indeed, the reverse is just as true.  By generalizing about new atheists, Tim Bulkeley has committed himself to tearing down Old Misery’s house.   When one follows a part of a school or train of judgment, fabricating and building upon existing archetypes (i.e. the evil atheist or fundamentalist Christian), the arguments–the discussions–fall through the cracks.  Albert Schweitzer recognized this fabrication in his day, when analyzing the first quest for the historical Jesus.

The mistake was to suppose that Jesus could come to mean more to our time by entering into it as a man like ourselves. That is not possible. First because such a Jesus never existed. Secondly because, although historical knowledge can no doubt introduce greater clearness into an existing spiritual life, it cannot call spiritual life into existence. History can destroy the present; it can reconcile the present with the past; can even to a certain extent transport the present into the past; but to contribute to the making of the present is not given unto it.

And his conclusion cements the very reason why such labels are useless:

“Jesus means something to our world because a mighty spiritual force streams forth from Him and flows through our time also. This fact can neither be shaken nor confirmed by any historical discovery. It is the solid foundation of Christianity.”  The Quest for the Historical Jesus (London: A. & C. Black, 1910), 397-98; German original: Von Reimarus zu Wrede: Eine Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung, Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1906)

This perspective was echoed, also, by the students of Bultmann.  Bornkamm wrote, quite prophetically of the current dilemma:

“Why have these attempts failed? Perhaps only because it became alarmingly and terrifyingly evident how inevitably each author brought the spirit of his own age into his presentation…” G. Bornkamm, Jesus of Nazareth (New York: Harper & Row, 1960), 13

Where is all of this leading; I know that is the question going through a lot of readers’ minds.  I suppose my conclusion is that labels are not useful; they do not contribute to the end-goal of academia.  Let’s face it, is secularism really a bad thing?  Is religious theology?  Is spirituality?  I tend to believe all are necessary.  Is there one systematic approach to the answers about the past?  Is there one way to teach seminary students about the Bible without making them schizophrenic? At a university, is there a way to educate the student about the value of Theology and a spiritual reading responsibly?  The question I would ask is, is there really a single, methodological way to teach the Bible?  When we say Dever is a Maximalist, or that James McGrath is a progressive, what are we really doing?  What exactly is Dever putting his faith in and, conversely, what is it that McGrath is not?  When we read William Dever’s contributions to scholarship, are we going to find postmodern thoughts and arguments, minimalistic perspectives, and some doubts as well?  Certainly we will, because Dever is as much a product of his day as were the historical Jesus scholars of Schweitzer’s and Bornkamm’s.  But I’m sure if Dever read my post here, saw that I labeled an argument of his as minimalistic, he’d probably object (and I would probably object if someone labeled something I wrote as maximalistic).  But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t true, or that there is no common ground.  Labels are not so much wrong in that they can’t be true; labels are wrong in that they oversimplify and muddy the water.  They cause confusion when there is none, they force us to misread, misinterpret, and misjudge.

We forget simple things; Theology is just as important as critically analyzing the historical competency of the author.  History is inductive and so we must induce things about the past that are sometimes wrong.  Oh well.  Atheists, secularists, agnostics, should not fear the thought of having to use theology to exegete and, conversely, theists, Christians, evangelicals should not fear reason and critical perspectives about the historical core of the Biblical narratives.  As Schweitzer remarks, such a history may never have existed–but the past has no grasp on the present, in that it can change it.  I believe Tim is correct:

“If we continue as we have been, seeking to separate faith from biblical studies, then all we can expect to foster are sharper and wilder fights between the extremists, with the middle ground left as a muddied no-man’s-land.”

As a friend of mine once said, “atheism and theism died in the trenches of World War 1.”  Indeed.  If we continue to fear each other, the answers will always elude us and, alas, the past as we know it will disappear to us entirely.

31 Responses

  1. much to think about here, tom

  2. Glad you think so, Jim.

  3. truly, a good piece with lots to weigh. i hope it receives the attention it deserves.

  4. Thanks! Took me some time to compile my thoughts enough to make it coherent.

  5. […] West points out Tom Verenna’s thoughtful discussion of labels in the debate over faith and secularism in biblical scholarship. It’s a good […]

  6. I disagree, but I know it wont make a difference either way. I hope you’re enjoying the world of academia.

  7. I think I partly disagree with part of what you say… :)

    I’m quite happy calling myself an atheist, or an atheist with a dash of agnosticism – but I reserve the right to qualify and define it. It’s my belief, not yours or anybody else’s, it’s inspired by my environment not Dawkins’ or America’s or the self identifying group of ‘new’ (or ‘gnu’ [sic]) atheists. It never never NEVER had anything to do with that and nothing like their belief(non) at all. It’s MINE. I think I was fairly self aware, privately (as all beliefs are generally private in small towns I’ve lived in) of being a non believer when I was four. I knew then I remember that I could never believe in gods. But it wasn’t until I came to the UK that I really heard of the ‘new atheists’ and the American phenomenon provoked by American fundamentalism. It wasn’t really until I came to the UK that I became aware either, of the British ethologist and evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins’ popularity particularly in America. I had only recently heard of him anyway and hadn’t shared his opinions about religions (which seemed simplistic), or his anti religious sentiments that I had recently read. I cannot believe in an ultimate reality but I cannot reject one either. I don’t know any other explanations and I can’t disprove an ultimate reality and don’t care to. However, an ultimate reality is not necessary in my life philosophy. Believing in one would not affect my life philosophy any more than not believing in one does.

    I believe it is important as part of any honest scholarship to declare one’s cultural context. This doesn’t imply labelling it but I suggest describing it is an important part of scholarly integrity. Belief or non belief does not make one better than another, but it is still better to be understood by all, as other aspects of our cultural context should be declared and understood too.

  8. Tom, what is it you have against me?

    Why attack my scholarship when scholars have recently said good things about my book, The Christian Delusion?:

    From Dr. Dale C. Allison, Jr., author of Resurrecting Jesus: The Earliest Christian Tradition and Its Interpreters:

    Forget Dawkins. If you are looking for a truly substantial, well-informed criticism of the Christian religion, this is your book. Defenders of the faith will do believer and unbeliever alike a disservice if they do not rise to the challenge and wrestle with the thought-provoking arguments of Loftus and company.

    From Dr. Keith Parsons, Professor of Philosophy, University of Houston, Clear Lake, and author of the book, God and the Burden of Proof:

    For nearly two thousand years apologists have striven mightily to show that the dogmas of Christianity are rationally defensible. For much of the Christian era critics have sought to debunk those apologetic claims. In that long tradition of criticism, there can have been few works as effective as The Christian Delusion. The essays are incisive, rigorous, and original, shedding new light on old issues and boldly exploring new paths of argument. The selection of topics is outstanding—at once both comprehensive and innovative. For fresh insights into an old debate, The Christian Delusion is strongly recommended.

    Have you ever gotten such recommendations?

  9. Tom, the author of Kings had his own agenda.

    So do you.

    Let’s not pretend otherwise.

  10. And moderate all you want, Tom, you and I both know you have an agenda.

  11. Dear Tom,

    The term that I would recommend is “naturalist”. The reason I recommend it is that it facilitates the natural followup conversation if someone asks further on the subject, AND directly addresses the issue that I think is important. You are a “naturalist” as opposed to a “supernaturalist”. That conversation is the core conversations that is useful to have. All Christians, Muslims, Hindus, etc… are supernaturalists. Often times some complain about the religion that is popular in their land. So in the USA, you get a lot of folks that talk about “Christians this” and “Christians that”. This pisses off Christians cause it appears that you are attacking them. But if you start saying “supernaturalists this” and “supernaturalists that” you talk at the larger issue. Someone might try to work to stop Christians from having political influence. But… if you removed all the Christians from the USA, and replaced them with Muslims, that person would have the same problems they have now. It would simply be different specific supernaturalistic beliefs they would be arguing against.

    The only problem I see with the term is there is some philosophical view called “naturalism”, and you might not agree with the tenants of that particular view. I don’t know of care what they are, I just happen to know the group exists. But you can easily say, “I don’t naturalist as in philosophical naturalism, in fact, I am don’t even know the particulars of that. I mean it simply as ‘naturalist’ as opposed to ‘supernaturalism’.” And that takes care of potentially getting side tracked into a discussion of philosophical naturalism.

    Since I am interested in the study of history, and particularly the study of the history of Christianity, and have talked to hundreds if not thousands of people over the years, because I am also a computer person, and have used the computer to talk with people since pretty much 1984 when the IBM PC came out. I have found that a HUGE number of people in the religion industry, and with religion studies interest are supernaturalists. Even the professional religion industry is dominated by supernaturalists. You may not realize this because many of them purposely hide this fact. Not all do, do many many do, and it is a growing trend. And they will say things like “my faith is not an issue, I study the subject academically”. But this is both sneaky and something anyone that studies the subject should constantly be aware of.

    I like you applaud you for avoiding the term “atheist”. It is a stupid term. Do you call yourself a aplumber, afootball player, and aautomechanic? No, so why pick out one thing you are not (a theist) and choose to label yourself by that one thing. In fact, let’s say that some naturalists got their dream, and all theists suddenly gave up their theistic beliefs. If naturalists called themselves atheists, a thousand years from now theism would still live. Why? Cause some little girl would say, “but Daddy, why are we atheists?” And the Dad would have to explain how once in a time long ago there were people that believed in invisible creatures, and they were called theists.. and that concept would once again have to be dealt with. But… if you call yourself a “naturalist” I doubt anyone would ever even think of the idea of the word “supernaturalism”.

    So continue to not call yourself a atheist, but may I suggest if you have to use a word, you consider simply the word “naturalist”.

    Cheers! RichGriese@gmail.com

  12. Tom, I can’t keep up with you intellectually or academically, but I do think we are on the same wavelength regarding the distraction that labels and groupings bring.

    For me, this path led to a divergence between faith in Jesus and faith in the church. I finally realized, and the Bible confirmed, that church was a transitional movement between ancient Israel and the kingdom of God, and it was only sanctioned by God to last for the New Testament age. Since then the kingdom of God has reigned and the church (all of them) are a diversion of human devotion away from God to an unsanctioned institution.

    More specially, I found in the Bible that 1) everyone is going to heaven, 2) the Second Coming of Christ already occurred and that all Bible prophecy has been fulfilled, 3) and, the judgment of God is a great reality.

    I recogize that these ideas are not common or traditional…at least not yet. However, they are the result of a common-sense reading of the Bible with an eye on Christ as the supreme revelation of God and with a willingness to forsake all other conflicting notions, no matter how traditional or popularly-held they might be.

    These understandings lead to a worldview where labels like “Christian,” “atheist,” and such are irrelevant. It matters not which group with which we affiliate because God completely disregards such labels in His mercy as well as His judgments. To be blunt about it, God doesn’t care whether we call ourselves Christian or not but it matters very much to Him how morally we live our lives.

  13. Hi Tom,

    What exactly do you mean by “theological exegesis”? Do you mean trying to trying to extract the biblical author’s theology — his view of god or at least the view of god he wants the reader to get? Or do you mean trying to figure out what god, if he exists, is trying to communicate through the text or how a particular text’s theology fits into a larger systematic theology? The former seems to me to be a job for historical and literary textual analysis, which is a job for any biblical scholar. The latter is more of what I would call “doing theology.” It’s all fine and well if you’re into that type of thing, but do you really want more of that in biblical studies?Assuming you want biblical studies to be an academic discipline similar to the other humanities. Personally, I think we could “move forward” without that kind of stuff. My classics professors, for example, seem to be generating plenty of new scholarship without trying to figure out what Zeus is trying to say to modern man.

  14. Any term is ‘stupid’ or rather inadequate, without personal qualification, definition and context. It can be helpful with these and not without. As far as agendas and scholarship goes, I think it’s important not to change your opinions in order to ‘fit in’ and ‘be accepted by the right people’ but to merely be constantly self critical, independent and aware.

  15. Hi everyone,

    I hope you all have a great New Years Eve; I apologize for the wait everyone has had to endure since last night. I moderate comments because I do not allow anonymous commenters (see here), but I don’t moderate content. So I apologize if anyone felt as though they were being censured. I woke up this morning to nine comments all waiting to be approved.

    Emanuel, I am not sure what my ‘agenda’ is, other than to promote dissemination of better, accurate historical information. Is that wrong? I don’t presume to have all the answers nor do I pretend that I will one day have them. Being in or apart of academia precludes the self. But you are quite right about the author(s) of (1? 2? Both?) Kings. Are you suggesting we have the same agenda by linking the two?

    John Loftus, I am not attacking you or your scholarship. I have long ago put our past differences aside. However, I do think your scholarship is not nearly as reliable, in some areas (not all), as Jim West’s scholarship. There is no shame in that; everyone is more reliable in some areas than others. And I don’t need to quote scholars who have said good things about me in order to prove something; I know what my colleagues think of me and I don’t really care to get into a ‘who has the most genuine positive review’ pissing contest with you on New Years Eve day. Also, congrats on your recent publications.

    Steph, so glad you commented. I believe you are probably correct about integrity–that is, if one asks, I believe it is only proper to be honest. I don’t mean to imply that I think cultural context is not important, it most certainly is, but I do think it must be handled delicately and with great definition in order to prevent the takeover of the conversation by additional contexts and connotations which do not belong.

  16. Tom, you had said: “Jim’s quite astute and an excellent
    scholar; I would value his exegetical prowess over Sam Harris or
    John Loftus (even if he were still a Christian) and put more stock
    in his interpretations, even if they lean away from what many would
    call “secularism”. Really? Did you know how Jim West exegetes Psalm
    14:1? Read this:
    That’s the only time Jim West and I disagreed about an exegetical
    point and he was dead wrong. And did you see what he said about you
    as an atheist? And you want to defend that crap? As far as I know
    people want to rise in the biblioblogger ranking and one way to do
    that is to be friends with West so he links back to you. Why would
    you ever come to his defense knowing what he thinks of you? As to
    our past differences let it be known that we disagree whether there
    was a historical founder to the Jesus movement and he was not Paul.
    I agree with Bart Ehrman. Cheers.

  17. John, I am not an angry atheist, and I am not friends with jim because I need the hits. I’m friends with Jim because he is a good person, a great scholar, and a reliable human being. He has continually proven his resourcefulness as an academic. In addition, I dont take jim’s comments personally because I know he isn’t talking about me. I’m sure jim would tell me directly his thoughts.

  18. Tom, Jim West was exegeting Psalm 14:1. You can ask him if he thinks his exegesis applies to all atheists and if not, why not.

    And what’s this about an angry atheist? If you think I am one would you please document this absurd claim of yours.

  19. Tom,

    You’re beginning to mature in your outlook.

    I don’t mean that in any patronising sense but there has in the past been a dogmatism about your work which precluded rational debate.

    I’m very glad to see you cast off off that protective cloak and to allow yourself to be challenged intellectually. That doesn’t of itself involve divesting oneself of beliefs held dear, but it allows for a much more open and rigorous analysis of the issues.

    I’ve been rendered tired by the Dawkins’ efforts at prosletysing and by the other dogmatic atheist preachers. I agree with their conclusions, but I have major issues with how they broadcast them. Measured and reasonable voices are needed in this sphere. Such voices will of course be dinned out by other raucous calls, but volume is not the point. Reason and logic are more valuable than a megaphone and they will prevail.

    Have a great 2011.

  20. Tom, I wasn’t suggesting that we declare where we come from only if we’re asked. I believe it is an important part of every introduction to any academic monograph. What sort of people have the opportunity to ask the author personally that sort of question anyway??? Scholarly integrity is about offering the information without being asked. And it’s not about applying a label to yourself. It’s about defining and describing who you are. I’ve spent hours doing research to contextualise those who don’t and only get unsatisfactory results, but many scholars already do define themselves in introductions to their work, from Roger Aus to Casey, to Crossan, even Price, and to his great credit, John Loftus has done it very well.

  21. John, please stop being so defensive. You really don’t seem to recognize that I’m not attacking you. You’re either misreading what I’m saying or reading too much into it. All I’m saying is that Jim may very well think that all atheists are fools. But he does so from a theological standpoint; he doesn’t really believe they are fools in everything they do; simply about their lack of belief in God. You can fault him for that if you wish. I look past that because I don’t take it personally. I also don’t associate myself with atheism outside of Christianity. I know who I am and I don’t really care what you or anyone else wants to call me. I am not an atheist except with regards to the Christian/Muslim/Jewish God. I’m sorry if that upsets you. Happy new year!

  22. Tom where do you get your opinions about me? I am not upset that you’re not an atheist. Where did that come from? Why is it you assume the worst about me? Since some people gain their opinions about me from reading people like you I do not have to take what you write with a grin. I could dispute everything you have said but I won’t belabor the point if you don’t.

  23. […] by Doug Chaplin (Clayboy), Steve Douglas (Undeception), Charles Savelle (BibleX), and Tom Verenna (The Musings of Thomas Verenna). Hector Avalos (Bible and Interpretation) thinks we need more genuinely secular introductions to […]

  24. I like you John – I met you, and your wife, and I’ve read some of your work. I admire you because of your honesty in what you write. And Tom, I think you’re a hard worker, and I like you too. So HAPPY NEW YEAR to both of you and may it be fruitful … I know I’ll be having lots of oranges and berries and melons anyway – I’m a fruiterian… :)

  25. Steph, thanks, and thanks also for the heads up notice you gave me about Maurice Casey’s new book on Jesus. I’m going to take a look at it. I don’t think it will convince Tom otherwise but it’s nice to see a biblical scholar weigh in on the mythical Christ views.

  26. Sticks and stones, John.

  27. John – Maurice’s refutation of, and engagement with
    mythicists is over half way through the first draft. The historical
    jesus book barely touches on it. I convinced him to write this
    current one because I think it would benefit the jesus book and
    also because serious mythicists (like Price in particular and the
    excellent OT scholar Thompson) deserve to be engaged with honestly
    and taken seriously instead of rudely dismissed on the basis (if
    any) of outdated previous brief refutations from the past. Even
    Five Views of Jesus was disappointing – the only one who even
    attempted to take Price seriously was the apologist Luke Tiimothy
    Johnson – perhaps precisely because he is so literal… Anyway the
    Jesus myth book is at least a year from release, it’ll be as big as
    the current jesus book and published by T&T Clark probably.
    I don’t think Tom is a mythicist any more though John. Tom I do
    hope you read Maurice’s book for yourself though … our James and
    me were quite involved in its process and it’s not a bad price. Tom
    – you just reminded me of Pooh sticks … have you ever played Pooh
    sticks off a bridge before? I love watching rivers flow. I like
    watching those cheeky contrary little salmon fighting the current
    and weaving their way upstream… tangents …

  28. […] On Labels and Scholarship: Secularism and Faith in L’Accademia (Important Read!) […]

  29. […] precisely because each side has refused to budge, has refused to allow any sort of conversation.  I’ve written on these fabricated mythical figures before.   Wise words on deaf […]

  30. […] this touches on a more pertinent question which I raised some time ago–the question of labeling and how it can directly impact scholarship (or ones […]

  31. […] That doesn’t mean I don’t have an edge.  What it does mean is I just find labels to be useless.  Even the labels I used above have connotations that I don’t agree with or don’t […]

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