Friday, November 06, 2009

BW3 and the deconstruction of Sheffield

James Crossley brought to my attention the Christianity Today article about the whole Sheffield fiasco, highlighting some rather strange remarks by Ben Witherington. The article is really poorly written, with a number of gross inaccuracies, so let us hope that BW3's remarks were also taken completely out of context.

Just to offer some examples: the article insinuates that "evangelically minded" faculty were purposely replaced with non "evangelically minded" scholars. I have no idea what this might look like in real life. My understanding of how the policies work, and I this is sheer conjecture, but when a NT scholar leaves who specializes in Paul, a faculty member with roughly the same specialization is sought. Andrew Lincoln left the department some time ago, and was replaced with another Pauline scholar, and Loveday who left rather recently (2008) and she was not replaced at all. Here is the CT quote:

"Evangelically minded faculty, including Andrew Lincoln and Loveday Alexander, were not replaced with scholars who held similar views."

Now to the BW3 quote:

"Other faculty were "bent on the deconstruction of the Bible, and indeed of their students' faith," according to Ben Witherington, a New Testament scholar at Asbury Theological Seminary."

This is a very strange statement that I can't even begin to understand, but let me take a shot at first "evangelically minded" faculty were replaced with "bad" non evangelically minded scholars, then "other" faculty, even worse than the "bad" non evangelical scholars were present who dabbled in the dark arts of deconstruction. Hmm, I am surprised a tornado didn't hit the 11th floor of the Arts tower. The BW3 quote starts with the word bent, which is presumably a pejorative in this context (especially for evangelicals, hence not straight) and then dives into the postmodern word of "deconstruction". Deconstruction is a nice, and less violent, way of saying destroy, so these "other" faculty wanted to destroy the very thing they were employed to study and ultimately their students faith. So the Bibs department is really just another Hogwarts, with faculty dressed in black (I have noticed that James favours the darker hues when it comes to wardrobe) bent on destroying the thing that ought never be named...FAITH.

Oh, I guess I can kind of piece this whole thing together after all.

Or perhaps BW3 was just talking about Stephen Moore's earlier project and the CT writer just assumed that it was a pejorative? I guess then the same thing could be said of Jamey Smith's work on Derrida down at Calvin College in Grand Rapids.

Very strange article indeed.


Anonymous said...

Praise be for the evangelically-minded Christian soldier on a mission to spread the Word, even if they are incapable of reading one word of the Bible outside of the pulpit. Read the comments made at the end of the article to justify why secular Biblical Studies is necessary; these people would no doubt prefer an all out war for Jesus than sensible discussions.

metalepsis said...

There are indeed some crazy people out there in Christianity land.

steph said...

FWIW I have been quizzing bw3 on his blog and this is his second response after saying it was 'sorted' and his blog wasn't the appropriate place. I had said I was looking forward to a public apology by someone:

' Dear Stephanie

I doubt there will be a public apology. There are too many wounded in action to account for. Honestly Stephanie, Sheffield did not act wisely in not hiring folks like Loveday Alexander or Andrew Lincoln once they were gone, as they at least nurtured people in their Christian faith'

He therefore said it and won't apologise!! That an American thinks he can tell who independent universities in England ought to appoint ought to be scandalous. This is outrageous.

metalepsis said...

WOW Steph, that is amazing...

I don't quite get his logic, didn't Barry Matlock replace Lincoln? And nobody replaced Loveday?

Perhaps he is thinking about the financial impact...? I can imagine that to hire a Simon Gathercole or Pete Williams (both smart and capable scholars) would be a good course of action if you wanted to bring in the overseas (read evangelicals) dollars?

But as far as I understand the situation the decision to close bibs was not solely a monetary one.

Why do some evangelicals seem to live such a conspiracy driven binary existence, where the "others" are out to destroy all that they hold dear?

On another note, I would just like to know what he was signifying by using the phrase deconstructing the bible and students faith?

thanks steph...

steph said...

He has posted even more false accusations on his blog to which I have responded - about Sheffield staff 'deliberately avoiding hiring people of faith' (in clear contradiction to their more recent appointment) and 'deconstructing' (destroying) the faith of students... so you're now an atheist are you?!! ;-) My goodness it's appalling. Jim West has blogged twice since all this stupid conversation between bw3 and me and James has blogged again ... but Ben is still not listening and making these false accusations. It's astonishing.

See bw3blog for this ridiculous conversation:
and Jim's and James' more recent posts on the ridiculousness.

I'm outraged... - oh, and he has no logic, just read his comments to me.