Paul Tobin, an atheist, wrote:
Perhaps this would be a good time to explain why the word ‘scholarship’ cannot be used when referring to evangelical literature and why people like Hays are mistaken in placing their trust in such works.
The mark of scholarship is its dependence of evidence and reason regardless of where it leads.
Yet we find that many evangelical institutes have very strict rules about what their “scholars” are supposed to accept. Many evangelical theological seminaries, such as the Dallas Theological Seminary, Denver Seminary and Fuller Theological Seminary require its faculty to sign a strict statement of adherence to biblical inerrancy before they are allowed to teach there. Some institutions even require the faculty member to recommit to this statement annually, just in case they have changed their mind on inerrancy after signing the statement.
Not adhering to these statements could mean loss of one’s tenure and may even result in sacking or forced resignation. The recent case of Bruce Waltke, an evangelical professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, is one such example. He had to resign his post from the Reformed Theological Seminary in circumstances still unclear – but it clearly had to do with his advocating the compatibility of evolution and biblical creation, something clearly anathema to many, if not most, evangelicals.
How can honest scholarship be done when one is already adhering to a position of inerrancy? Imagine physicists being required to sign a statement affirming the “inerrancy” of quantum mechanics before they can get a teaching position in any university! One would not believe any “research” on the fundamentals of physics that comes out from such an institution.
It is the same with evangelicals. When they are already committed to an unalterable belief, then that very position cannot but produce “scholarship” which agrees with such a belief. Thus, it should come as no surprise that any book by Craig Blomberg on the reliability of the gospels will conclude that the gospels are “reliable.” And if Ben Witherington III were to write a book about the Acts of the Apostles, you can bet your bottom dollar he is going to “find” the book historically reliable and that Luke is its author.
Studies where the end results are known beforehand are not works of scholarship but of pure apologetics. As Robert M. Price noted in his recent book, “The Case Against the Case for Christ,” such “scholarship” has only one main goal – to “turn back the clock” to a time when the Bible made is safe from historical criticism.
Craig Blomberg then responded (partly to John Loftus and partly to Paul Tobin):
Hi John. Good to hear from you again. There are, of course, other possibilities about people like me, which are sometimes, though not always, the case. I was raised in a liberal Lutheran environment and went to a liberal Lutheran liberal arts college that held the mainstream critical views you describe. I then went to an evangelical seminary and then to a Scottish university (largely secular but with some Christian presence) for my doctorate. I did "crazy" things while there like decide to follow what I discerned to be the New Testament model and be immersed as a believer in a Scottish Baptist church, cutting myself off from being able to teach in contexts that required me to affirm the legitimacy of infant baptism. It was also where I finally decided that I could believe in an appropriately nuanced form of inerrancy after having been raised in an environment that held "biblical inerrancy" to be an oxymoron, going to a seminary where it was part of the very definition of evangelical and then becoming familiar with the British evangelical scene where it was viewed as a rather uniquely American shibboleth. So I don't believe in inerrancy because I teach at a seminary that includes that in its statement of faith. I teach at a seminary that includes that in its statement of faith because I believe in inerrancy. And I have had enough invitations over the years to teach in places with different perspectives that I hardly feel constrained in my scholarship by that conviction. I examine every new issue relevant to the topic that I become aware of (though I haven't run into very many that weren't already on the landscape during my three degree programs in the 1970s and early 1980s, just in repackaged garb) and if I should decide I could no longer affirm inerrancy, I will go teach at a place that doesn't require it. As for going wherever reason leads, how open are you to returning to Christian faith should reason lead you there? From my now fairly extensive reading of your published and web writings, my sense is "much less so than I would be open to changing my views".
I would add that non-Evangelical scholars often endorse the works of Evangelicals, like Craig Blomberg, and refer to those Evangelicals as scholars and refer to their work as scholarship. Evangelicals often contribute to books of scholarship with non-Evangelical scholars, belong to the same organizations, etc. Why should we believe Tobin rather than those non-Evangelical scholars?
We've addressed Tobin's appeals to a scholarly consensus many times. See here, for example.