Month: June 2010

hendel, proverbs 11.12 and jake

Last week, I offered my thoughts on the situation with Ronald Hendel and his decision not to renew his membership with SBL.  That post not only attracted a fair amount of traffic but also got my name mentioned on a few other blog sites; neither of which was my intent.  At first, I must admit, the mention and the traffic were nice surprises; but then further reflection prompted different kinds of questions, specifically: is either the mention or the traffic because something good or worthwhile was said, or is it because some are wanting to show what not to say?  While the arrogant Lilliputian in me wants it to be the former, the self-conscious Goliath in me fears it might be the latter.

While I stand by my thoughts about why someone should or should not leave an organisation like SBL, and even though I used his own words and tried to make a distinction between Hendel as a person and his decision, I was out of line in saying that his conclusion ‘was a bit cowardly’.  I fear that my comment was unnecessary and certainly unhelpful.  Admittedly, when I posted my thoughts, I was struggling with my own concerns and feelings of self-doubt; so it is entirely possible that I focused on Hendel in order to avert my attention off of my own cowardice.  However, even if that was the case, that does not absolve me from what was said.  My comments revealed a lack of wisdom and discernment on my part; I should have kept my mouth shut (Proverbs 11.12).

Shortly after posting my original thoughts, I was humbled by something on a friend’s blog.  My friend, Jake had a quote from Madeline L’Engle that said:

We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.

This quote is what ultimately caused me to reconsider everything and subsequently see the fault in my response.  It also caused me to realise (remember) that my words not only spoke to Hendel; they spoke to everyone else.  So, to Mr Hendel (and anyone else I may have offended with my comments): I offer my deepest apologies.  I was not being what I am called to be, and I certainly did not respond in a wise and discerning way.  I hope that you can forgive me.

cause for lapse

Just recently, I came across an announcement about a certain scholar called Ronald Hendel, who allowed his membership to SBL lapse.*  I’m not going to rehash what others have already said about Hendel’s decision (see here and here and here for incisive summaries), but the gist of it is because he feels that Christians are beginning to take over the organisation; that they are undermining the legitimacy of historical-critical and scientific methods of study; and that they are becoming too evangelistic in their presentations at SBL meetings.  Or, to quote his exact words:

I don’t want to belong to a professional society where people want to convert me, and where they hint in their book reviews that I’m going to hell. As a scholar of the humanities—and I might add, as a Jew—I do not feel at home in such a place. What to do? Well, I’ve let my membership in SBL lapse.

Less recently, after 5 years, I made the tough decision not to renew my membership to SBL–i.e. I let it lapse. Why?  Was it because I perceived a bias from those who are opposed to Christian perspectives?  Was it because I thought those who held such a bias saw people like me as less informed, or less critical, or less scholarly, or (heaven help us) less educated because I am a person of faith?  Was it because I saw various groups forming within SBL with which I disagree–either because of what they promote or because of what I perceive them to be doing with their approach?  Was it because I thought people were trying to convert me away from my faith?  Honestly, none of these reasons prompted my decision, primarily because none of these reasons are valid (in my opinion) to tuck tail and run.

I allowed my member to lapse simply because I am a poor student trying to earn a PhD and trying to pay for it out of pocket.  Because my wife is making an enormous sacrifice (i.e. she is the sole bread-winner) by making sure we can live, I simply could and would not justify paying for something I knew we truly could not afford.  Moreover, I could and would not justify placing more financial burdens on ourselves just so that I could have SBL on my CV and so that I could attend conferences at a lesser rate.

If money were not an obstacle for us, I would remain firmly within SBL and I would willingly dialogue with those who might have a bias, who might think me ignorant, who might disagree with me, and who are maybe trying to convert me.  It is only in such dialogue that true progress and true understanding can take place.  Running away because of perceptions that may or may not be true is not wise, regardless of what Shakespeare thinks.  So Mr Hendel, with all do respect: yes, your decision to let your membership lapse was a bit cowardly.

UPDATE: see here.

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* For those unaware, SBL stands for the ‘Society of Biblical Literature’.  For more details, go here.

qoute of the week

From here:

never become cynical. Cynicism, when it has conceived, gives birth to paranoia, and paranoia, when it is fully formed, brings forth despair, and despair teaches you to find hope in unhelpful places.

I appreciated this not just beacuse of its meaning and content, but also because of its (not-so) subtle allusion to James 1.15.

exposing ourselves

Well, okay fine (you naughty people): exposing our computer desktops.  This particular trend (for this time at least) seems to have begun with a chap called, Michael.  It then went to Nick, before getting picked up by Bitsy, then Jason, then Mark (who is absolutely bonkers for thinking his is boring–there is nothing boring about an Aston) and now it is here.  (It may have gone beyond those just named; they are simply the first ones I noticed). 

The deal with the trend is quite simple: post a picture of your computer desktop, explain the bits that are on it, post it on your blog and then sit back relishing in the fact that you’re just a nerd.  (I’m okay with that.  I’ve spent the vast majority of my life in school–because I’ve wanted to; how much nerdier can you get?).  So, here is the picture on my desktop with a follow-up explanation:

(Nick, please don’t shun me for having a Mac).  This is sadly more cluttered that it usually is, but I just recently downloaded a number of things and forgot to file them appropriately. 

The picture itself was taken a couple of months ago from our bedroom window.  These sorts of sunsets (i.e. the beautiful array of colours) are not uncommon for us when we have a cloudy evening.  ‘Serene’ just doesn’t even come close to describing this sort of view (when you ignore all the cars and old school aerials). 

Starting from the bottom, just to be different (and sorry for not having cool numbers or pointers to go with the items on my desktop):

  1. ‘the Dock’, which shows multiple applications open at once
  2. The red dot on the left indicates an e-mail–one that brought with it great news (but more about that much later)
  3. The word document files on the right of ‘the Dock’ are various projects that I’m working on–e.g. a sermon for this Sunday evening, the revised installment for a chapter in my thesis, teaching notes for when I get a job
  4. Moving up in the world (on the right): my brother’s most recent sermon, which was quite insightful and challenging
  5. A couple PDFs I needed for something, but now can’t remember what .  . . I should probably figure that out
  6. Next, a bunch of mp3s I yanked from St Mellitus‘ site, where they have posted the various talks from their most recent ‘Holy Spirit in the World Today Conference’
  7. Three more PDFs from Michael Halcomb’s site, but this time I know what they are for: theological French, since I need to be learning it (thanks, Michael; your outlines/summaries have been extremely helpful)
  8. Then two PDFs that are full-blown books to add to my digital collection (which is somewhere near 500 by now)
  9. Next is a Word-doc version of Xenophon’s Life of Cyrus the Great–I’m really interested in the Persian Empire at the moment, and I’m not really sure why
  10. Two more PDFs that are basic study charts for minor things–really just helpful memory tools for me
  11. iTunes player showing what I’m currently listening to–i.e. Lawrence Schiffman’s three-part lecture on the Dead Sea Community (from iTunesU)
  12. Unseen behind the iTunes player are a few more random files that are less important–hello, they’re hidden behind the player

There you go.  That’s it for me.