Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Talk About Scholarly Hubris
11/27/2010 - James WhiteSome will remember that I invested some time responding to Michael Heiser, the academic editor for Logos Bible Software. Years ago one of Michael Heiser's supporters contacted us, promoting his views of Psalm 82. Rich Pierce had some brief interaction with him. In any case, since I had been asked a number of times about Heiser's views, I took some time to explain why I reject them. Here is my blog entry, and here is another by TurretinFan. You will notice that both entries are actually understandable to, well, plain ol' Christians. I wrote mine so that fellow believers would understand the issue, and could interact with Mormons and others who utilize this text. That's why I do what I do, and I'm sure that's why TurretinFan does what he does, too.
I have commented many times that after attending the ETS conference in 1998 in Orlando, I have never gone back. I had a good time there, in general, and the book deals are great, but I was badly turned off by the academic snobbery that pervaded the place. I'm sure there were plenty of fine servants of the church there, but they were vastly overwhelmed by the nose-in-the-air academics who would never dirty themselves with plain ol' ministry that would involve abandoning their specialized vocabulary and actually explaining things so as to edify the body. If knowledge puffed up physically, we never would have gotten anywhere because the doors would have been impassable. In any case, I made a commitment then that I would never allow myself that kind of hubris---Christian scholarship is a practice of SERVANTHOOD, period, end of discussion.
So this morning I was referred to this article posted by Michael Heiser. It is the quintessential example of scholastic hubris. He goes to lengths to make sure that everyone knows he does not take my criticisms seriously---which is why he presented a paper on the topic at ETS, of course. But, as he notes,
The Psalm 82 paper was also prompted by criticisms posted in 2009 by Alpha and Omega Ministries (AOM). That I really donít consider these criticisms serious is indicated by the fact that they have existed on the web since 2009 with no online response on my part (though many have emailed me the link and asked me to respond). Rather than engage people on the internet on these matters, my choice was to submit my views to public peer review at an academic evangelical conference (and Iíve actually done that several times now at ETS in a piecemeal sort of way via other papers). Eventually, I will be merging the two papers to submit to a peer-reviewed journal, hopefully sometime in 2011.
See, "peer review" is the standard of orthodoxy in the rarified air of the academy. Never mind every journal pouring forth heresy and soul-destroying skepticism is "peer-reviewed," and never mind "peer reviewed" normally means "completely disconnected from the body of faith," this is the only standard by which truth is now known. Of course, just about every discredited, nutty theory of the past hundred years first appeared in a "peer-reviewed" journal, too. Too bad having a "church reviewed" journal doesn't seem to be a really big idea these days. But this clear statement of his priorities (and his disrespect of anyone who actually takes these matters to the believers as a whole rather than keeping them strictly in the academy) was not enough, he had to repeat himself for emphasis:
The AOM response is curious. On the one hand, AOM has found my material useful with respect to countering Mormonismís use of Psalm 82 (see the above link; better, see my article critiquing Mormonismís use of Psalm 82 ó published in a Mormon journal no less ó kudos to them for fair play). But on the other hand, my views are criticized in the same AOM post and answered with rather feckless arguments. That it doesnít even get my job title right (not hard to check Ė Logos has one Academic Editor, not several) doesnít speak well of the quality of the research that went into the response. Nevertheless, the criticisms are understandable in that they are motivated by a desire to defend monotheism. Unfortunately, it doesnít appear that the AOM writer has much of a grasp of how my position reinforces orthodox Christology (see the last paragraph of the link, but it may be the case that the new Psalm 82 paper probably does a better job of articulating Jesusí use of Psalm 82 in John 10).
Then Heiser climbs even higher up into the stratosphere, explaining that he has been "impugned" by...someone disagreeing with him, and not doing it, evidently, in the proper place (which is the conference or the journal, never the wider audience of the church, where people are actually doing ministry---the very same issue that arose when I reviewed the long-standing statements of Mark Seifrid back in 2004 and got the very same kind of response of "How dare you talk about this in public! These things are only to be discussed within the walls of the academy!"). He demands an apology! I am not sure for what, but my guess would be for simply daring to disagree with someone so much "higher" in the academic pecking order:
Frankly, I wouldnít care at all about what AOM posted about me were it not for the tone. The AOM post has the distinct feel of calling my evangelical commitments into question (again, see the posted link, especially the last half of the post). The AOM response is a shame, since I have directed a good number of emailers to their site in the past since there is some good material there. Iíd like to continue doing that, but my recommendations will end as of this Naked Bible post unless I receive an apology for the way the AOM post impugns me. And as an integrity check, Iíd also like that apology to be appended at the end of the original AOM post itself (or just remove it). I will of course post an apology here so readers see it (and amend this post). I have no interest in keeping readers from AOM material, but it just isnít congruent for me to recommend people who need answers to questions to a site that impugns me.
Excuse me, but I really do not think we are overly dependent upon "Naked Bible" references for our readership, and, I don't believe Michael Heiser has the power to "keep readers from AOM material" unless he will soon be appointed Internet Czar for Academic Orthodoxy or something like that. So I am left wondering just what it is he wishes me, or TurretinFan, to apologize for. I do not apologize for calling for an interpretation of sacred scripture that actually takes the entirety of its revelation into consideration. That Heiser is basically attempting to "pull rank" based upon some kind of academic authority comes out plainly here:
Finally, if anyone wants to respond to my views on Psalm 82 in the future, the new Psalm 82 paper makes it apparent as to what needs to be done: (1) engage the Hebrew text rather than proof-texting the English Bible; and (2) provide coherent responses to the list of items in the conclusion to the Psalm 82 paper. I want to see something with explanatory power and answers to specific issues I bring up in my article, not dismissive online glibness. I want you to tell me Ėand of course the online or academic communities ó how your position faithfully takes all the germane material into account in a way more coherent than my position. Letís have it. Iíll be happy to post it and interact with it. In the absence of a substantive response, I donít plan on posting on this again. I have better things to do.
Note the "you can't even begin to interact with my theological conclusions unless you read Hebrew." Well, I've taught Hebrew, and found Heiser's assertions wanting. So what? Here's my contention: there are great riches to be mined from the original languages; however, if you cannot teach the meaning of a text without teaching your audience the original language itself, you aren't much of a communicator/instructor. I love teaching the languages, but there is truth in the criticism of some that sometimes academics turn the languages into a key of gnosis, all because they do not seek to edify the saints first and foremost.
Personally, I honestly do not care if Michael Heiser finds my position "feckless" or "glib." If my goal was to be "in" with his crowd, I would not write the vast majority of what I write, address the vast majority of what I address. We have different audiences, to be sure. But I refuse to give up the middle, balanced ground we have staked out over the decades. On the one side you have the likes of Dave Hunt, who mocks all study of the original languages (except when it suits his purposes). He represents the reprehensible attack upon serious study of the biblical text that is so common in certain elements of evangelicalism. On the other hand you have the attitude expressed by Heiser here, which elevates the academy above the church, makes "peer review" the standard rather than the expression of the mind of the church in the wisdom of those men called as elders whose duty it is to actually teach and preach the Word of God, so that the edification of the body and training in godliness and truth becomes a mere "by-product" of the all-important intellectual activity of the academy. Hebrew and Greek are vital, but if you become so focused upon the languages so as to lose the balance and harmony of all of Scripture, well...you are not helping yourself or anyone else.