Friday, November 13, 2009

Should Ben Witherington apologize?

There is apparently a mini-storm over Ben Witherington's comments about Sheffield's Department of Biblical Studies. This appeared in an article about the department's survival in Christianity Today.

In one of the paragraph, it says:
"Bruce, the noted author of books such as Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free and The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, founded Sheffield's department of biblical history and literature in 1947. But not all faculty have shared Bruce's conservative convictions. Evangelically minded faculty, including Andrew Lincoln and Loveday Alexander, were not replaced with scholars who held similar views. Other faculty were "bent on the deconstruction of the Bible, and indeed of their students' faith," according to Ben Witherington, a New Testament scholar at Asbury Theological Seminary."

This led to Stephanie Fisher confronting Witherington on his blog, and snowballed further when he defended his views about the way Sheffield conducts its teaching on those who are more conservative in their faith. You can read James Crossley's response to his comments here.

My thoughts on the matter is that I think the secular and critical way Sheffield do biblical studies is actually a good thing. As long as students who go there know what is in store for them (a secular education), I think the existence of Sheffield department of biblical studies definitely adds value to the overall academic world.

However, judging by Witherington's comments, he is probably not too happy about some who have lost their faith because of their education there. That is unfortunate from a religious point of view, but it is just private opinion. Now that there are those who demand an apology for his deeply-held sentiments, demanding proof of his accusations. How can such evidence be produced without leading to more unhappiness? I don't think that is possible. I guess the best he could do is to apologize for making his private unhappiness public, but that would satisfy no one. Now he is just choosing between a rock and a hard place. Poor guy.

No comments: