Re: [asa] Methodological Atheism in Biblical Studies

From: <>
Date: Thu Oct 02 2008 - 12:09:47 EDT

There are certainly aspects of biblical studies in which a methodological naturalism ("atheism" prejudices the question) is appropriate - e.g., with geographical matters. But there are at least 2 basic problems with this claim.

1) Reading the Bible in this way often, if not always, means not seeing the overall theme of scripture. It's like a literary critic discussing all the textual details of a novel & ignoring the plot.

2) While it doesn't have to, an "atheistic" approach will often mean ruling out the possibility that biblical stories of miracles describe real miraculous phenomena. (& Isay that as one who - as those on the list will know - I'm not a fan of a "the more miracles the better" approach.

George Murphy

---- David Opderbeck <> wrote:
> There is an interesting conversation on the Biblioblogs site between a
> couple of Biblical scholars about the role of faith in Biblical studies (
> The parallels to methodological naturalism and the role of faith in
> scientific studies is fascinating. Here is a key quote:
> Ideally, however, academic believers should tune out what you are calling
> "static," that is, their theological beliefs, in their academic work. (You
> suggested the metaphor!) That's my advice. They should practice
> methodological atheism when pursuing academic Biblical Studies. They should
> remove their theological commitments from their mind's throne and welcome
> the hegemony of self-critical human autonomy.
> Well, I'm not a Biblical scholar, but I heartily disagree with respect to
> Biblical scholarship, my own discipline of law, or any other discipline.
> Particularly with respect to Biblical scholarship, if Christian scholars
> take the Biblical text as scripture, how can they consider that "static"
> when studying what the Biblical text means? And, doesn't the same reasoning
> apply to the study of "nature" -- a term that Christians ultimately must
> contest in favor of "creation?"
> --
> David W. Opderbeck
> Associate Professor of Law
> Seton Hall University Law School
> Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology

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Received on Thu Oct 2 12:10:05 2008

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