Monday, 3 May 2010

Whatever happened to British scholars?

My husband is still looking for a local church which is clearly faithful to the reformation heritage. So he contacted the reformed wing of the Church of England, for advice. Hence, last night, we keenly attended a recommended church, "to test the waters" and listen to a talk by an academic, from a famous, leading University: "Can the New Testament be trusted?".

This should be a magnificent subject, full of fluent, strong, black Greek handwriting on ancient papyrus, conserved only in Egyptian sands for nearly 2000 years. However, the speaker made a shambles of the topic, with no structure or new knowledge to share with his audience, which included several pastors. From my casual reading, I knew the basics already and learnt only one fact: that in the Hellenistic world, only 10% of people could read. Sadly, the speaker "dumbed" the topic down so much that we soon felt as if we were in primary school, unable to concentrate, for more than 5 minutes. Armed with paper to take notes, we did not write a single word. The speaker kept interrupting himself, asking for audience questions, some of which he could not answer, and told us nothing that we did not know already. He never even answered the question in the title, with any structured argument. I don't want to be over critical, because he may have been "under the weather", but all I know is that Prof. Richard Dawkins would have had a "field day" last night, not without justification.

Are we entering a new Dark Age in the UK? In the US and in Italy (I mention Italy as we know about academic "IFED" in Padua) , there are fine Bible "think tanks", employing clear thinking scholars. So why not in the UK? There are many church people in the UK, including my pastor husband, would could have given fine, illuminating, illustrated talks on this topic, clearly explaining the solution to controversies about conflicting texts (which do exist). But in post modernism, jobs go to people who seem to know nothing. The wrong people get into the wrong jobs.

Are fundamentalist atheists appointing the wrong people to undermine Christian scholarship? Modern music is a kind of "conspiracy" in which academic appointments do not go to people who can write and appreciate real music. In the UK, in relation to theology, we seem to be going the same way. Educated Christians across Europe should respond to this post modern collapse of learning with vigour, and a touch of contempt. They must take scholarship into their hands and use the internet to its fullest potential, to share the wonderful hard core evidence and documentation for the New Testament, which even Dawkins cannot dismiss as a "forgery".

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