Does Higher Criticism Attempt to “Destroy the Bible”? V
We are getting far enough into this that it is getting prohibitive to recap all that has been said so far. Basically, the first three posts considered some of the assumptions of scholars; and there are, of course, more assumptions than what I have highlighted, and other scholars may have emphasized different ones than I have, but for a blog conversation: good enough for the girls I go with! Then in post IV, I moved more into the procedures of scholars, and in that post I suggested that one of the things scholars do very well is read texts very closely. Which brings us to today’s conversation.
Reason, thinking, and inductive conclusions.
Now, we are not going to get to the bottom of epistemology, the scientific approach, tradition, interpretation, and authority in a single blog post, nor would I have any intention of doing so unless I was going to treat these matters in a book. However, allow me to make a couple points on the validity of using our brains.
First, everyone you know including yourself values Enlightenment categories and ways of thinking. Every single person in the western world has been inculcated, socialized, and deeply, deeply ingrained into Enlightenment categories of thinking. You simply cannot avoid how much every person values this way of thinking. We live in the scientific age and there is simply no way to avoid it; it is like being a fish in water. It surrounds you and is your environment. A good example of how hard it is for anyone to get away from these categories of understanding is apologetics.
Apologetics claims to “defend the faith” but really what it attempts is to offer evidence and argumentation so that you can have a certain and rational basis for your thought world. There is very little, if any space for “belief” or “faith”. More often at the end of the argumentation process the claim is offered that you can be “certain” or “sure” of what you already think. This is not faith. Really, what these apologists and their audiences value is rational ways of thinking, Enlightenment categories, and the scientific method which is why they go through such lengths and mental gymnastics to make their faith fit into that matrix. How can we know the Bible is true? The facts prove it.
From this observation comes our second point: if we are all trained, raised in, and value rational ways of thinking: Why? Here, I am indebted to a friend and colleague who stated this answer to me in one of our lengthy conversations. Simply put: it works!
It’s that easy: it works.
Take a look at the computer you are reading this on. Take a look around the world: flying hunks of metal in the sky that now have people communicating with each other around the globe through the internet. Recently while driving I called my uncle from my bluetooth to his iPhone, who unbeknown to me was in China, and we had a short conversation on little pieces of plastic held to our ears while on different sides of the planet. Looking around the world it would be hard to deny the amazing advances in medicine, science, and technology over the last few hundred years. Which is why we value those Enlightenment materialistic and scientific categories of thinking.
Now this is not to say these processes are perfect. The recent Oilpocalypse is a good example of this: just because we can drill 12 kilometers into the earth’s crust there are still serious ethical and philosophical questions to be answered on whether we should do so, and if we do, what is the cost of doing it right or wrong for the human race.
However, this post is not about the specific positives or ills of the scientific method, but whether biblical criticism attempts to destroy the Bible. Again, my answer would be ‘No’. Higher criticism favors certain categories of understanding–as we all do–for seeking truth and knowledge. Trying to analyze an ancient piece of literature using methods that have proven themselves reliable and profitable does not mean having an anti-bible or anti-Christian agenda. In fact, as I have stated elsewhere, I have met and worked with people who, while doing good scholarly work on the one hand, could care less about any “anti” anything agenda on the other. They are simply pursuing ways of understanding and knowing through methods that have great explanatory power and make much sense in the categories we all value.
We are all trained in it, experience has shown us it works, therefore, we value it.