This week,New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado offered a post on his concerns about admnistrators and their dictatorial ways. Of course, it’s easy to NOT disagree with Hurtado for people who affirm the idea of academic freedom, as an expansion of freedom of expression and all that jazz.
However, I have to agree with Deane Gilbreathe in the comment section,
“Do the degree-granting institutions in question have “statements of faith” or similar professions to which their “academic” staff must adhere? If so, as I suspect some may have, they could hardly be said to be “committed to academic excellence” in the first place. Can they properly be termed “academic” institutions if they refuse some possible conclusions of academic work from the outset? I don’t think so. The dismissal of those who think beyond the permissible boundaries merely confirms that some such institutions are mere farces of academia – and that the degrees they issue are not worth the paper on which they are written.”
Part of being part of the academy in the area of religious studies, is that it is the scientific study of religion, whether we like it or not. This necessitates the qualified and differentiated use (each field will use it differently) of the scientific method. We ask questions, form a hypothesis and then work to see if our hypothesis works out or not. What so called confessional institutions and do, if they have “Statements of Faith” or Dogmas that their faculty must adhere to is have a tailor-made answer already available, and it is up to the researcher, bound by her oath, to affirm these answers. This is not research; it’s called preaching to the choir. Call it anything, but do not called it objective or research or anything of the like.
The funny part of all of this is as a black man, who still wades his foot in the Academic pool, these white men from conservative “confession” institutions, wave their fingers and me, and decry my work as subjective, but their work is “objective” even though they in no ways believe in scientific reasoning or even a debate about a plethora of topics, of which I can name: penal substitution [some scholars are members of bodies that force you to hold to that one], inerrancy, plenary inspiration, Christian supersessionism, imperial Christian politics, Just War Theory, among others). But I have always considered their claims to “objectivity” to be pseudo-science and fraudulent, and will maintain so.
I do not have the words right now (that are not NSFW) to describe a person who does “research” only to present her employers belief system. Isn’t that called propaganda? I think Hurtado’s comparison of “secular statements of faith” about race, sexual harassment, etc. utterly fails. Banning sexual harassment is about promoting the common good and a person’s human dignity. I know cases in which statements of faith actually lead to the harassment of the violator, and not just “Christian discipline.”