Friday, 25 June 2010

Theology, science, and Hendel

A lengthy discussion has ensued from my post responding to Hendel's recent critique of SBL. To put it starkly: I'm claiming that Hendel wishes to impose a particular theological dogma as a norm for determining who may legitimately read the Bible. This is a faith decision. There's nothing wrong with this per se - confessional schools do it as a matter of course, including, ironically, those institutions which gave birth to and still nourish critical Biblical study: the German theological faculties (see this fascinating article on the legal status of Gerd Lüdemann).

I'm grateful to Michael and Kyle, two valuable interlocuters who sit on opposite sides of the fence on this issue. Kyle has shared a link to an interesting article that might put Hendel's comments into perspective: "What Has Theology Ever Done for Science?" According to the author, the answer is "quite a lot." Of particular interest to me is the way that the actual content of our theology can effect the scientific enterprise, for better or worse.

I'd like to emphasize once again that I affirm the existence of an empirically reality that can be comprehended by reason and which can constrain our interpretations in a limited number of directions. Contrary to the author of the article above, however, I do no think that this necessarily contradicts "postmodernism" - though it does depend whose postmodernism we are talking about (for my interaction with an inadequate variety, see my posts on Walter Brueggemann). A very helpful take on this is James K.A. Smiths' The Fall of Interpretation . I quoted this book precisely on the issue of subjectivity and objective reality in my post Postmodernists believe in objective reality too! (Smith, by the way, also happens to author an excellent blog).

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