I really don’t want to intrude on the spirit of Holy Weekend, but nevertheless, here I am with this post. From what began as a recent discussion on the Resurrection (here), Brian LePort posted this statement by Jon Stokes, which I have reproduced below:
“[I]f scholars admit divine explanations for historical events, then we get a lesser grade of scholarship as a result. Scholars don’t get to reach for divine explanations under any circumstances, regardless of what they personally believe about the past. As products of scholarly labor, such explanations aren’t accepted by the guild, and that’s a good thing.”
While this was made in the context of the Resurrection which many have picked up in the comments here, I was intrigued about Stokes’ absolute statement: “Scholars don’t get to reach for divine explanations under any circumstances, regardless of what they personally believe about the past.” Those who do are accused of producing “lesser grades” of scholarship.
It is evident that these statements are unsupported assertions at this point. Perhaps there may be some underlying and unstated suppositions that Jon was working from when he made these statements. So, to this, I reiterate my comment from the previous discussion here:
What I’m asking for is 1) what are the criteria we can use to determine what “lesser grade” and “greater grade” are, and 2) how do we objectively compare both sides? It would be helpful to me, for instance, to take what would be considered “lesser grade” and something that would be “better grade” and put those side-by-side and explain where the lesser is lesser and the greater is greater. I see the other sub-discussions as more peripheral until this is first established.
How exactly do we determine these grades of scholarship? And can someone produce something objective that we can examine in regard to determining these grades?
These are interesting question, John Dave. There are definitely differences between confessional scholarship and academic scholarship. I will have to think on it.
This is a really good question, and it gets at a lot of the point I was making. It also gets at the point that I tried to press another commenter on, but he never responded (i.e., a definition of “arbitrary”). I’m glad you hoisted it from the comments because I’m not able to really track the whole discussion and keep my day job 🙂
I’ll think about how to frame my thoughts on this and reply at length, later.
I think that the concept of gradated scholarship is pretty subjective. One may wish to talk of method but how does one determine who has the better method? We can talk of ‘honestly’ examining evidence but isn’t someone’s examination ultimately judged by their conclusions? So, e.g., if I conclude that Jesus rose from the dead because God raised him from the dead then my method will be judged as faulty by some because apparently I can’t allow for divine explanations in historical reconstructions of the past. Yet others will judge my method sound because the texts I have to work with all say this is what happened and I have to base my reconstructions of the past on the best available evidence. It really all boils down to presuppositions (it inevitable always does!) so until we deal with those everything that’s built upon them is pretty much irrelevant.
@Nick is absolutely correct. This is subjective and it does boil down to presuppositions as we saw in the comments on the last post. One commenter said we should have a warning label on “confessional” types. Fine, but we should also have a warning label on those who presuppose the idea of resurrection to be impossible. What neither camp can claim is so-called “objectivity”.
@Rod, great point. I wonder, though, if the differences are enough to say one is of lesser grade and the other of better grade. Looking forward to your thoughts.
@Jon, I thought you would like it. 🙂 Looking forward to understanding your perspective better.
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