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Wednesday, October 28, 2009
  Memento Mori, Secular Biblical Studies and why I do not wish to be a "Scholar"
Philippe de Champaigne's Vanitas (c. 1671)
For some reason that I cannot explain (but which was NOT the skill of other drivers ;) I was thinking on my drive to work this morning about the question: What would I change about my life if I KNEW there was no God and that death was the final curtain.
  • Would I still have wanted to be a faithful husband and father? Yes!
  • Would I still love teaching? Yes!
  • Would I still be glad we spent a decade teaching in Africa? Yes!!
  • Would I still want to have been a Bible teacher for almost all my working life? No...
Then I remembered all the discussion on the biblical studies list, and the badge wars among the biblio-blogeratti, about the question of "secular biblical scholarship". Or if Philip Davies is right, and that term were to be recognised as redundant 'biblical "scholarship"' as opposed to the careful, debated and discussable study of the Sacred Texts of Jews and Christians which - I guess by analogy - we have to call 'Beliving Biblical Study' (at least if Philip is roight and the term Believing Scholarship is an oxymoron).

Frankly, if I did not believe (I do not use "know" for probabilities I assess as less than 85%, actually I am reluctant to say "know" at much higher probabilities than that, I am not even sure I would say 'I know that night will fall this evening' for I can envisage possibilities with greater than zero probability that it might not, but for this conversation let's set the bar low ;) that God exists, and that the Bible in some sense reveals God to us, then why bother spending the hours I do studying (even if not scholarshiping - since Philip and the others would claim that scholarship is not what I do) and teaching the Bible?

OK, the Bible is an interesting ancient text, its narrative style and poetry are striking and often beautiful... but to spend my life digging at it and encouraging others to do the same? Surely without belief that is הֲבֵל הֲבָלִים and great weariness of the flesh.

What a shame!

If I believe Philip and the other Secular Biblical Scholars that this title is redundant, and Believing Biblical Scholarship is an oxymoron, then I'd rather be no scholar, but continue to study (am I allowed that word or is that too an oxymoron?) Scripture, because it is Scripture. I just hope my fellow students (who are, at least some of them are, like me, no-scholars but believers of a sort, and so bereft of the Olympian certitude of the much-proclaimed "scholars") will continue to criticise and debate and discuss and test what I write as they always have and not descend into the moronic dictats that the "scholars" claim is the inevitable result of studying anything one actually ascribes value to!
Image above from Wikipedia

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