Who among us would accept the work of F.C. Baur, or Rudolph Bultmann in its totality? And yet, who would not say that their work had a major effect on the study (and our knowledge) of the New Testament?
There are four letters written by Paul that absolutely no one (who is a serious New Testament scholar) would contest. The most unfriendly kinds of critical scholars that we can imagine hold that, of Paul's letters, at a very minimum, Romans, Galatians, and 1 and 2 Corinthians are absolutely, unquestionably written by Paul. To one degree or another, others argue that some or all the rest are pseudepigraphical; usually they argue that they were written by someone in Paul's circle of disciples, in his name.
Yet a scholar like Thomas Schreiner (and with him, Carson and Moo) can not only say that they hold all 13 Pauline epistles as authentic (and the works of 1 and 2 Peter to be authentic as well, for example), they are able to say precisely what the theories are of the scholars who disagree with them, and in the process of stating these other theories as clearly as they can, they also argue strenuously for their own (conservative) positions.
This is the most intellectually honest approach that I can imagine, and it's one that I try to emulate. And as a result of their work, and contra someone like Mark Noll, it's possible to say that conservative, evangelical biblical scholarship is more well-respected in critical circles than it has ever been.
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David Waltz stopped by last night to accuse me of intellectual inconsistency. It's funny, he's always so cheerful with me, who would have guessed that he harbored such doubts?
He said: I still cannot help but suspect that his anti-Roman Catholic bias has some negative ramifications on his research and beliefs.
David, you have got this precisely backwards.
I do not hide the fact that I dislike the Roman Catholic Church. I came out of that organization and religion after a long personal struggle, one that has occupied most of my life.
Briefly, I grew up as "a good Catholic boy" from the ethnic neighborhoods of Pittsburgh; I heard the Gospel® as a young man, and saw it lived out in the lives of some friends -- one good friend from my closest circle was a Baptist, (and yes, we argued religion), and others were from more Charismatic circles. I admired them for their adherence to their faith. I moved around back then (late 70's, early 80's) -- and I moved from Charismatic Catholic circles to Protestant Charismatics, and several years later I landed in a Reformed Baptist church with a pastor who has become a lifelong friend.
Some time later, other friends were starting up a fellowship for "completed Jews," Jewish believers who wished to express that Jesus was their messiah. Don't you know, that fellowship had some serious difficulties determining who was in charge -- who would set the theological theme for that body: the pastor, who had studied at a very fine southern seminary (and whom they brought in just because of that fact), or the church council, among them major donors, in whose homes the fellowship began, and whose large donations helped to secure the mortgage on the building that they purchased.
It was about that time that I went back to the Roman Catholic church, on the ground that "such disputes had been fought and settled in the early church."
I don't mind to say that I was naive at that time. At that time I was devoted enough to have thought I wanted to study to become a priest. Over a several-year period of time, I considered both the diocesan and the religious priesthood -- and at one point I had applied for and was accepted into a local seminary program. Some time later, I married. My wife and I have six children. I attended Opus Dei "Evenings of Recollection" for about two years.
In my lifetime, I have earned the right to have a "bias" against the Roman Catholic Church. My "beliefs" have been shaped by a willingness to give the Roman church far, far more benefit of the doubt than it ever deserved. My "beliefs," far from being shaped by a bias, were forged in the process of having wholly abandoned myself and my life and my family's life into the bosom of "Mother Church," the much vaunted authority of which, the further in I got, seemed to be further and further contrived.
I won't go into details about the Seminarian friend (St. Mary's, Baltimore) who was a daily communicant at the same time I was, whose masses I attended after he was ordained, who put the homosexual moves on me. Nor will I go into details about the parish priest who married my wife and me, who baptized our children, who playfully licked my three-year-old son's face (pretending to be a puppy). I won't go into the details of how he was one of the "pedophile priests" who was at first moved, and only later de-frocked. There are some horrific details that go along with his name, and I could give you his name and you could Google him and find the news stories about him. (And in fact I have sent his name and some links to my friends and fellow bloggers here for corroboration).
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But such issues genuinely are peripheral to the issue at hand. As James Swan often says, if you're going to tell a story, tell the story of Christ -- the Gospels of Jesus, and Paul's Gospel, and Peter's Gospel, and the truthfulness and the trustworthiness and the authority of Scripture.
As for my "research," I read everything that's available that I can get my hands on. I'm a 50-year-old man with a wife and a family -- and some of the folks here know some of the difficulties that my family has been through in recent years. I don't have access to a seminary library, and with it, the research journals that might put a finer and more current touch on some of what I've been reading. I am not a scholar, though I would like to be one. Still, that does not mean I am not taking the most fundamentally honest approach that I can take.
But there is nothing I'm writing, that I am aware of, that is being intellectually dishonest with the materials. If anything, what I am finding is that there is a flood-tide of scholarship that is coming to "anti-Catholic" conclusions -- including the work of such Catholic writers as Raymond Brown, Eamon Duffy, Robert Eno, Francis Sullivan, Klaus Schatz, and others.
One might go so far as to suggest that David Waltz does not understand what it is that he is reading -- the particular conclusions that make a scholar liberal or conservative, or how they arrive at those conclusions. What might be agreed with or disagreed with, and on what basis.
The name Raymond Brown comes up among some of the more traditionalist and devoted Catholic folks, as if Brown was somehow a traitor. But I have (briefly) studied Greek under an individual who knew Brown personally. Raymond Brown was, in my opinion, one of the best friends that some of these conservative Catholics could have. They don't know it, but Brown's method was (a) to study the critical sources and know them the best that he could, while (b) not moving beyond what positions that "the Magisterium" had staked out. In doing this, he was one individual (among others) who prevented Roman Catholicism in its traditional form from sliding completely into the hole that the ultramontanist, ultra-anti-modernist popes dug with their defiant cries of "I AM Tradition" and their anti-modernist oaths. Without scholars like Raymond Brown, the Roman hierarchy would have died the death of a complete laughingstock, drunk on its own imagined sense of authority.
And I'll give you an example of it. Near the end of the Brown/Meier work "Antioch and Rome", Brown was worried that his conclusions would be dismissed because he was too Roman Catholic.
"On both sides many scholars oversimplify the historical situation, agreeing only that for better or worse I Clement had remarkable success in shaping future church thought.
The discussion is not facilitated by the fact that the underlying motif is often a conflicting view of church organization today. The battle offer the unimpassioned pages of I Clement is often a surrogate for a battle between the impassioned descendants of the Reformers and of Trent; and since I am a Roman Catholic, I rather doubt I shall be judged objective about the issue. (pg 177, emphasis in original).
David Waltz said: For instance, John eagerly endorses the critical German scholar Lampe concerning the status of the Roman church/s during the 1st and 2nd centuries, and then thoroughly recommends Andreas Kostenberger and Michael Kruger's The Heresy of Orthodoxy which is at odds with some important conclusions of Lampe.
David, I would like for you to show me where you think I might disagree with Lampe, or where you think Kostenberger and Kruger might disagree with him. Perhaps you're willing to tell me just how the work of these individuals is at odds and then we can discuss the specifics of it, and only then you can genuinely begin to charge me with intellectual dishonesty. Or not.
But I'll do you one better. Kostenberger and Kruger approvingly can cite Baukham's "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses," even though Kostenberger also wrote a substantial (and substantially critical) article taking issue with Baukham's conclusion that someone other than the Apostle John wrote the Gospel of John.
Such a disagreement neither negates the validity of the rest of Baukham's highly significant work, nor does it make Kostenberger somehow "intellectually dishonest" for both (a) citing Baukham while (b) disagreeing with some of his conclusions. Kostenberger has shown that he is well prepared to talk about where he agrees and where he disagrees with Baukham, and he is well prepared to say exactly why. It is the very same method used by Carson, Moo, and Schreiner that I've alluded to in the opening section of this post.
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David Waltz: the fact that John, James White, and many other epologists are willing to solicit liberal, critical scholarship ONLY when it furthers their aggenda/s, whilst denying the same method to their opponents, is an all too common practice—that you do not discern commonality and/or inconsistency here is a bit troubling...
I've mentioned just recently that there is a confluence in the work of some of these scholars, and I'll give you one more such example, a blatant one at that:
Harvey Cox, who no conservative Christian would consider an ally, recently summarized the work of the Jesus Seminar: while setting out to disprove much about history, in the process they proved he was a first century Palestinian Jew who claimed to be God and who was crucified under Pontius Pilate; his disciples fanned out to the world with the story that he was raised from the dead. Cox said:So yes, I've not failed to cite this aspect of Cox, a thoroughly liberal thinker -- but I am not the one straying into the liberal camp here. Rather, it is Cox who has been forced, by the facts and evidence, to admit such things that the vast majority of his liberal fellows can only cringe at.
“Despite widespread discrepancies among the researchers, some things were not contested. All agreed that Jesus really had existed, and that he was a first-century Palestinian Jew living under the heel of a Roman occupation that – like many such occupations before and since – had split its captive people into feuding sects and warring factions. They also agreed that he was a rabbi who taught the imminent coming of the kingdom of God, and gained a following as a teacher and a healer in Galilee, especially among the landless and destitute, but that he aroused the ire of the nervous ruling religious circles and the tense Roman authorities. When he and some of his followers arrived in Jerusalem for the Passover holidays he caused a stir in the Temple, was arrested, interrogated, and executed by crucifixion, a form of death by torture reserved by the Romans for those suspected of subverting their imperial rule. But after his death, his followers insisted that he had appeared to them alive, and they continued to spread his message even in the face of harsh persecution.” (Harvey Cox, “When Jesus Came to Harvard,” ©2004, pgs 18-19).
Even “critical scholarship” is confirming the facts of the life and death of Jesus Christ. We have come a long way since the days when the someone like Bertrand Russell could say that Jesus didn’t even exist.
This is a Harvey Cox conclusion that we can agree with. But we also know precisely where we would disagree with him. Such is the nature of the confluence of conservative and critical scholarship. And guess what? No one is being intellectually dishonest here.