Re: [asa] Methodological Atheism in Biblical Studies

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Thu Oct 02 2008 - 13:49:39 EDT

Law might (these days) be more open to the insertion of specific religious
perspectives/beliefs/commitments than most other areas of academic
discourse. There was an article about Christian perspectives at various law
schools a few months ago in CT. Perhaps you saw it, David?

In history of science, it's very hard to insert a specifically Christian
perspective into academic discourse--that is, it's very hard to get it
published in a secular journal. Fortunately, the mainstream view in my
discipline is, that the older way of writing history of science and
religion--the "warfare" school of AD White and company--is highly inaccurate
and misleading. I buy that 150%, obviously, and so I am very happy to do
mainstream history of science (which is what the lion's share of my
scholarship has been).

I have in recent years however begun to write more things that are either
(a) aimed mainly at a Christian audience, but still drawing heavily on
mainstream scholarship; or (b) aimed at a secular academic audience but are
attempting to highlight specific ways in which the faith of important
scientists shaped aspects of their careers in science. Category (a) is a
type of popularization, not traditional scholarship, and my faith
commitments are transparent in that arena. (This is no different IMO than E
O Wilson or Michael Ruse or Francis Collins writing for a popular audience.
It's understood in that arena that worldview insertion takes place.)
Category (b) could be a new genre of scholarship, or at least and
underutilized one. The people about whom I have been writing these past few
years were all Christians, at least in their own minds if not necessarily in
someone else's (e.g., was Newton a Christian, given that he rejected the
divinity of Jesus? was Millikan a Christian, given that his concept of God
was pretty close to that of Einstein?), but I'm not trying to hold them up
as role models (some might say that I did do that for Boyle, but he really
was a pretty good role model for Christians in science and an honest
historical picture is likely to underscore that); I'm trying to understand
them on their own terms, and in the context of the circumstances in which
they did their science. IMO, for many of the people I'm looking at, the
interaction of the religious and scientific parts of their lives is only
rumored and not really understood, simply b/c no one has ever tried to
understand it before (for Newton and Boyle this is not true, but for the
modern people I'm working on it is definitely true).

In all of my historical work, however, I employ standard historical
methods. There are no other methods. I've written about this here:


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Received on Thu Oct 2 13:50:40 2008

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