Friday, August 06, 2004
- In Response to 15378: Jason BeDuhn [Tue Aug 10, 2004 9:47 am] (Re: John 8:58 - Jason #5:burdens of proof)
- Up to Rob #5
- Down to Rob #3
You may be surprised to hear that I also have training in religious studies and have some experience teaching religious studies (in the community college setting). I do place the burden of proof on non-adherents to support their claim that most adherents have misunderstood their own religious writings. Assigning the burden of proof in this way is perfectly compatible with “the principle of ‘bracketing’ personal faith commitments in the research and teaching process.” It appears that we may still be speaking past each other somewhat, since you think it necessary to reject an “argument from authority” and to tell me that religion scholars conduct research into religions other than their own “without submission to religious authority.” I thought I was quite clear that I was not advocating the need for such “submission” to inside scholars as religious authorities. Outside scholars are free to argue for their own interpretations of religious writings; I simply maintain that they bear the burden of proof when they claim that their interpretation is superior to that of the mainstream of scholarship within that religion.
It appears to me that you have now made two conflicting claims. On the one hand, you now assert that outside scholars actually have something of an advantage because they are free to make new discoveries while inside scholars feel pressured to conform and are seeking only confirmation of existing beliefs. Yet in your second post, you acknowledged the “generations of transformation within the faith,” even pressing this point. “The myth that religions are timeless and changeless is just that – a myth.” Indeed it is. A more nuanced position would consider several factors:
- The apologetic motive of some insiders to confirm what they already believe
- The creative motive of some insiders to learn more and to solve certain puzzles or difficulties in the prevailing system
- The polemical motive of some insiders to defend their position on matters of controversy within the community
- The anti-apologetic motive of some outsiders to show the fallible side of the religion
- The preemptive motive of some outsiders to show the coherence of the religion with another religious perspective
The myth of the objective outsider is just that – a myth. Both insiders and outsiders can and should strive for objectivity as an ideal, and both can make valuable strides in the pursuit of knowledge. But the notion that “religion scholars” are characteristically objective while theologians and “apologists” are characteristically captive to their religious authority is an oversimplification of a high order.