Fugitives from Fundamentalism

The Musings of Adult Missionary Kids (MKs) & Former Born-Again Believers

Old Testament Scholars Face Reality

Posted by Ann on December 12, 2009

On a blog I follow there’s an interesting article by Jaco Gericke about the issue of cognitive dissonance and its effect on Old Testament scholars. According to Gericke, most Old Testament scholars begin their studies with scant knowledge of the views of critical scholars and atheists. What they know is based primarily on stereotypes, secondary sources, and straw men. The majority of these scholars consider themselves Christians committed to realism in their study of God. When faced with the fatal flaws in their belief system, Gericke states they experience cognitive dissonance with sometimes serious consequences (mental illness or suicide in rare cases). His article reminded me of a post of mine on this topic, Cognitive Dissonance and the Religious Mind.

Gericke’s full article:

“The Collapse of Realism, Cognitive Dissonance and the ‘Died-Again’ Christian Syndrome”

4 Responses to “Old Testament Scholars Face Reality”

  1. Great article, Ann. I’m hoping Jerry has something to say about his experiences in seminary and how they compare to what is said in the essay.

  2. Jerry said

    I just saw this article and probably do have a few observations from my experiences. The seminary I attended had very few, if any, real evangelicals on staff. Most were mainstream protestants, but there was a huge variety of protestant denominations represented. We had a very strong OT department, many were Harvard educated, and there was a heavy emphasis on the historical-critical methods, archaeology, and the ancient languages. I think that some people had gone into OT study because it was less threatening to their faith than trying to deconstruct the New Testament (and Jesus). The main strategies I saw were: compartmentalizing (keep critical studies away from Sunday worship), professionalism (“this is my profession so I do my job, but it doesn’t affect my faith”), and repression (“I just won’t think about these kinds of problems reconciling historical-critical methods with my faith”). I knew of some who had become very liberal, almost atheists, but they dare not talk about it for fear of losing their jobs. What astonished me the most was the prevalence of so much mental illness throughout the seminary (students & faculty alike). Many of these people were, to put it simply, professional hypocrites who had no respect for living honestly and truthfully. Lying, cheating, nasty politics, adultery, addictions of all sorts, closet homosexuality, hoarding money, aggressive and hateful tactics — these were commonplace. Some of my fellow graduates were defrocked for any number of reasons, and some are now in jail, appropriately. Probably the most awful group of people that I’ve ever known personally, without exaggeration, and many of my fellow students agreed that something was very wrong at that place.

    • Interesting. Of course, you did go to a “liberal” seminary. I’m sure they never haves those kinds of issues at the godly, evangelical ones that preach inerrancy and the truth of God’s Word made flesh! 🙂

      • Jerry said

        No, I’m sure that only happens at liberal places :). The conservative seminaries might feel they have to try harder to cover up that kind of stuff, but of course, everybody knows anyway.

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