Considering, 1. the evident inconsistencies of the critical position as demonstrated by rebuttals on this blog, and 2. the willingness of the grad students and others to identify with the critical position, 3. the unwillingness to make course corrections when confronted with sound theological and philosophical arguments, and 4. the lengths one must go to rationalize the critical position and still claim to be orthodox, what is the critic methodology’s appeal to the student?
Based on the recent lecture series, it appears that acceptance of this position was not so much something that appealed to the student but something they were compelled to accept, a compelling they were willing to accept at a high personal cost. But is an idea and method so manifestly unstable worthy of engendering such a compulsion? The answer must be no. Truth is so compelling as to engender faith but doubt and uncertainty is undeserving of such compulsion and indeed does the opposite breeding skepticism and distrust. While expressing a common sense of compulsion to accept modern text critical methods, it seems that a liberal graduate course of study would militate against such unfounded dogmatism. Against an unstable method, and the healthy critical spirit that grad school should instill, it seems that the willingness to push against these benefits was learned from undergrad and grad school mentors and readings. Something about their education swayed them and moved their wills to adopt this critical methodology, their willingness engendered by myopic and monolithic lectures leaving the critic with only one unanswerable conclusion – pre-critical Bibliology is indefensible.
Why this should happen is unclear. Again, it seems conspicuous that the impact of professors upon students has both good and bad results, but either way, it is for the student to mark his or her own path, keep his head up and eyes open through the minefield that is higher education. Numbers 6, 7 and 9 of “13 Things to Remember When You Do Your Undergraduate or Graduate Work” are,
6. A professor can be just as full of nonsense as anyone else. The degree makes them informed, not wise.
7. Good students are critical thinkers and would never go along with a lecture simply because it was given by a Ph.D.
9.Take the good and filter out the bad. Professors and institutions have varying skill sets and capabilities. Not everyone you study under is worth your time. Use the institution to accomplish what you want out of it.
To allow your will to be moved against the reason of historic Christian orthodox theology based on sectarian, one-sided lectures falls to the student to correct. Adversarial environments serve the student best in that his argumentation and writing is vigorously and critically analyzed, thus capable of enduring future scrutiny. Familiar learning environments demonstrate less critical analysis giving the student a false sense of accomplishments that his or her work can withstand public examination.
Which brings us to no. 3 and the seeming unwillingness to make course corrections considering sound arguments to the contrary. On this point, the issue of diminishing returns takes precedent over a robust evaluation of the evidence. Too much of one’s academic and professional life has been invested in the course direction to make a change. Books have been published and lectures given. There may be the false perception that it’s too late to change course. Afterall, truth is not necessary for each day of life to unfold; guiding principles are sufficient, but at the end of life, such contradictions will haunt the conscientious scholar, especially when considering the possible damage done to a brother, family member, or the Church at-large. Allow me to include an anecdotal event.
I was called by a prominent religious leader in national circles to meet for lunch. I was a young pastor and he a seasoned academic and ecclesiastical operator. I soon learned that the reason for the meeting was for me to “absolve” him for the wrongs he had done to a previous pastor of the church. When young he spoke harshly, ridiculing the theological positions of the pastor, especially six-day creation, and the pastor’s emphasis on the King James Bible. Now very old, and the offended pastor in heaven, this religious leader wanted some resolution to the many unkind things he had done ostracizing a faithful minister of the word. I sat in the restaurant listening to the pathetic pleadings of an old man, one who decided the religious/political atmosphere, who decided who was politically accepted and who was not, wanting to make things right with me, the wrong person. I told him he was talking to the wrong pastor and that these were things he should have confessed and settled with the one he ridiculed and repressed, and to settle these things with the Lord. He said he had but it was apparent his conscience would give him no peace. You see, when he should have made things right, he couldn’t without being ridiculed himself. In the moments it was too high a personal price to pay. What he did to maintain his status in the past plagued him as he approached death’s door. He is now in glory, and by the grace of God, all has been made right. The point of my story is to say that a very influential Christian man, an educated leader of men, when considering leaving this world, was haunted by his unwillingness to make course corrections for perceived temporary gain and personal, political, institutional, ecclesiastical, and monetary advantage. What people think of us is of little consequence when considering standing in the presence of our Lord.
No. 4 is perhaps the most irresponsible bordering on Orwellian double-speak. It is impossible to say the Bible can be tampered with without Christianity being tampered with because the Bible is the fountain from which all theological streams flow. If the readings of Scripture are uncertain or changed, then so is the theology exegeted from it. No. 4 is wishful thinking on the part of the critic from which one of two trajectories will develop. 1. The critical methodology will be rejected for the failure it is. 2. The critic will double-down on the failed system and, like so many others throughout history, abandon any pretext of orthodoxy.