A “no-no” in any genuine intellectual enquiry is to pick selectively only the data and research that supports your hypothesis and giving scant attention to whatever denies it. By “scant attention” I mean ad hoc rationalization, routine focusing on only those articles that point to limitations of the problematic data and its interpretation, or simply opting to ignore it.
This, of course, is an obvious truism, so how could one possibly do this? One answer: by working with a hypothesis that is ultimately rooted in a “faith” or “belief” as opposed to hypothesis that is methodically or intuitively worked out through a grappling with tests, data, research and the methods and values that underpin the selection and understanding of these. Add to this a failure to appreciate the next step: a hypothesis is just a hypothesis and needs to be thoroughly tested, not rationalized or selectively supported.
This is why there is no place in true scholarship for a “biblical scholar” selecting a hypothesis that coheres with their faith and backing it up with whatever evidence respectably does the job. Michael Fox states what should be obvious:
Faith-based study is a different realm of intellectual activity that can dip into Bible scholarship for its own purposes, but cannot contribute to it.
Should one school of faith-based scholarship ever dominate the scholarly field we would see an end of genuine intellectual enquiry and a return, in effect, to the philosophical level of mediaeval scholasticism. One scholar calls it modern day Anselmian hermeneutics. (I made some comment about this in my discussion of Bauckham’s Eyewitness 15th chapter.)
The creation of new questions, new directions, new and deeper understandings of how the world works outside the framework of the faith, would die. Since faith and belief have a black and white perspective it could even be said that this state would be a return to a new dark age. That sounds ridiculous on the face of it, but less so when one recalls how little hold true science has taken hold in the US. The depressing stats repeat the facts often enough: huge majorities believing in Adam and Eve or at least a rejection of evolution, beliefs in angels and miracles, in the resurrection of Jesus and the second coming, atheism potentially being the ruin of a public, especially political, figure.
Vardis Fisher’s novel of those days, My Holy Satan, has a memorable line where the only true light of day is found the dungeons. And the closing words of that novel were the thoughts of one of those dungeon victims whose body had been broken by torture, the painfully ambiguous, “He was sure now that a light was breaking. . . .”
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