Leaving SBL, faith and reason

A number of folks have commented on Prof. Hendel’s declaration that he is not renewing his SBL membership. (As always, John Hobbins has an incredibly thoughtful take on matters.) Today SBL members received an email from “SBL” (personified!) and I share it with others below. My thoughts can be summarized as this: the bigger the tent the bigger the party.

I suppose this is because as an evangelical who, aside from 3 semesters at Wheaton College (Illinois, you know, not the one that Ann Curry visited), has spent my entire academic life in a world where my ideas, thoughts, and convictions were challenged I relish engagement with those of other views and visions. I am not intimidated by those who have different faith positions than my own or who seek to convert me, whether to their religious view or academic position. As a non-Jew working primarily in rabbinic texts I have had my fair share of encounters with scholars who have told me with solemn conviction that because I was not raised within a Jewish home and because I had not attended a yeshiva my work has no credibility and that I would never be successful in my field. I will let others speak regarding the quality of my academic work, but I have never felt that such people should not be at our conferences nor that they should intimidate me. Indeed, on many days if it weren’t for their voices telling me I could not do it I may well have never persevered.

So Pentecostals, Protestants, Orthodox (Christian and Jew), and everyone else no matter what label they choose or eschew  are welcome. And judging by SBL’s response, it appears that they feel that way as well.

Dear SBL Member,

Professor Ronald S. Hendel recently published an opinion piece in Biblical Archaeology Review (see “Farewell to SBL: Faith and Reason in Biblical Studies”) in which he argues that “[in] recent years [SBL] has changed its position on the relationship between faith and reason in the study of the Bible.” We encourage all SBL members and other interested individuals to read the article in its entirety, then visit the SBL website for several clarifications of Professor Hendel’s claims as well as a request for an open discussion of the SBL and its standards for membership and organizational affiliations.

We look forward to your feedback.


As an aside, I just noticed that the BAR article apparently has “no comments” yet. Somehow I find that hard to believe…Perhaps comments have been turned off?

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