on the misuse of archaeology for evangelistic purposes

i have written an article at bible and interpretation entitled “on the misuse of archeology for evangelistic purposes.” the article provides an update on the ridiculous claims earlier this year from a hong kong group called noah’s ark ministries international (nami) claiming they had found noah’s ark. in the article, i demonstrate how their intentionally misleading claims were designed purely to attract people to jesus. the article is essentially a sandwich of introducing the problem of pseudoscience and recommendations for proper ‘biblical’ archaeology, with some debunking of the noah’s ark folks in between.

i conclude the article with a list of more appropriate tips for doing archaeology in areas mentioned in the bible.

please check it out and feel free to leave comments there or here.

finally!! verizon to provide service for iphone

Verizon iPhonebehold the power of my words of chastisement!!

it’s about time!!! verizon is reportedly going to begin providing service for the iphone.

when it’s ready and available, i shall purchase my iphone 4. at which point, i shall bid farewell to the most miserable phone service experience i’ve had since my phone kept inexplicably hanging up when i kept calling that one girl i liked when i was 15.

perhaps one contributing reason why california is broke: gambling with welfare money

Gambling with California EBT cardsthis is both typical and representative of the welfare state california has become: the la times is reporting that california ebt cards (‘electronic benefits transfer’ – the new electronic form of food stamps) allow users to withdraw cash at casino atms.

california adopted the ebt cards because they were more convenient and less stigmatizing to those on california’s public food assistance program.

less of a stigma. sure. and using the tax-payers’ good will to gamble equally elevates that stigma right back where it was.

the mere fact that gambling is legal in some places in california, where gambling is supposedly illegal, and that these gambling areas are largely tax-exempt or tax-reduced is infuriating in its own right. the fact that you can use your food stamps to withdraw cash at a casino atm is icing on our very broken cake.

no new iphone until i can use anyone but at&t

iPhone and AT&Ti’m just putting it out there for the record: i shall not be purchasing a new iphone (i still have the original model) until i have some other option of service provider than at&t. the sooner i can use verizon, the sooner i’ll buy a new iphone. if that doesn’t happen soon, droid is calling my name.

the exclusive iphone contract with at&t tarnishes the apple brand.

’nuff said

get well soon scott!

today my thoughts and prayers are with scott hamilton, who had a brain tumor removed today. we attended church together in malibu. scott and his family are wonderful people. i wish them the best and scott a speedy recovery.

a study in professionalism: the sbl responds to ronald hendel’s letter

Society of Biblical LiteratureThe Society of Biblical Literature responded today to an op-ed letter written by Cal Berkeley’s Dr. Ronald S. Hendel entitled “Farewell to SBL” published in the July/Aug 2010 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. I commented on Dr. Hendel’s letter yesterday.

In their response, the SBL takes issue with and offers responses to four claims made by Dr. Hendel:

  1. Claim: The SBL has diluted its standards of critical scholarship, as evidenced in the 2004 change to the Society mission statement
  2. Claim: ASOR and AAR stopped meeting with the SBL “due to petty disputes among the leaders of these groups.”
  3. Claim: Since the AAR decision to discontinue joint meetings, the SBL has loosened its standards as to the types of organizations that can be included at the SBL Annual Meeting.
  4. Claim: The current SBL environment, which includes instances of proselytizing activity as well as veiled theological denunciations of certain individuals or groups, is hostile to a critical approach to biblical studies.

The SBL counters that each of these claims is in need of some clarification ranging from a correction of facts to an explanation of the manner in which the SBL arrived at some of its various positions. You can read the SBL’s responses here.

Ronald S. Hendel, Professor of Hebrew Bible at the University of California, Berkeley

Dr. Ronald S. Hendel, Professor of Hebrew Bible at the University of California, Berkeley

In a refreshing invitation to debate the opposing views, the SBL sent a letter to all its members inviting them to review its response to Dr. Hendel’s letter. The SBL provided a link to Dr. Hendel’s original letter in BAR and invited members to offer feedback to both Dr. Hendel’s letter and SBL’s response via email at feedback@sbl-site.org.

The SBL went a step further and asked members for their feedback concerning three areas:

  1. To what extent do you believe that the Society successfully balances its commitment to scholarly integrity while maintaining an atmosphere in which all voices may be heard (specific, first-hand examples are encouraged)?
  2. Should the Society establish a standards-based approach to membership? That is, should there be a set of minimum standards, qualifications, or achievements for SBL membership?
  3. If you favor a standards-based approach, what specific standards would you advocate for SBL membership?

And this is where I am proud to be a member of the SBL. Although I too feel that the SBL should seek to re-establish maintain its role as the top critical society for biblical studies, I am proud of the SBL’s professional and timely response. Rather than firing back unprofessionally and starting a cat fight (as many are wont to do online), or going the Golb route and employing an army of anonymous internet aliases to attack personally those involved in this difference of academic opinion, the SBL has used this as an opportunity to respond professionally to the complaint and (and this is important!) to poll its membership for their feedback regarding the issues raised by Dr. Hendel’s letter.

This is how to manage an organization properly. This is how to conduct academic business professionally. The SBL is using criticism – warranted or not – to improve the organization by asking its membership’s opinion. This not only demonstrates the SBL leadership’s willingness to listen to its members, but demonstrates the confidence SBL has in its various positions. If the positions are good, the members will state as much in their responses. If the positions are in need of improvement, the SBL will have the raw feedback it needs to open discussions on various changes to its mission.

This is how to make something positive from something negative. And this should be the purpose of true criticism: to provide grist for discussion for the purpose of bringing about needed change. The prophetic voice is about righting a wrong, not destroying the enemy. Likewise, the critic’s voice should not be about simply tearing down another scholar’s position (or the scholar personally), but about moving readers toward thinking about their world, offering an alternative rooted in fact, science, and logic, making changes for the better, and bringing about a better understanding of the topic under discussion. The same critical method used in doing literary criticism should be used to improve our society.

Both Dr. Hendel and the SBL have demonstrated class and professionalism in their stated positions. Now let’s see if this scholarly process brings about beneficial change.

the flies pay obama back for an earlier smackdown

could it be that this

Fly lands on Obama's Face

is payback for this?

jason boyett on the creepiness of guardian angels

guardian angelmy friend jason boyett has a great post on the creepiness of guardian angels. it’s quite good. if you don’t follow jason’s blog, you should.

of course, i don’t buy the concept of guardian angels at all. the last thing christianity needs is a larger pantheon. somehow we went from the monotheistic concept of ‘one god’ to a trinity, then to angels, demons, saints, and now to personal guardian angels to serve us individually in our consumer-based, me first, ‘spiritual but not religious,’  ‘i can be religious without the church/community’ world. the espousal of guardian angels is the pinnacle of a self-centered christianity and betrays one’s concealed doubt that god alone is not big enough to do the things the faith traditionally says he can do.

as always, boyett communicates his thoughts with a smirking sense of humor, making it all the more enjoyable. check it out.

conversations on science and religion

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Logo

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

Christian Brady has brought my attention to a wonderful June 17, 2010 article by David Moltz at Inside Higher Ed entitled, “Science Gets Religion.” The article examines the real tension between faith and science within academic circles. Simply put, there are just as many scientists that dismiss out of hand anyone espousing any form of faith or belief in a god whatsoever as there are fundamentalists of all faiths who dismiss science as a manner of understanding the world. Those of us standing somewhere in between the two extremes experience difficulty arguing in support of the need for dialogue between these two worldviews. Just as moderate politicians often find themselves defending against attacks from both sides, often (and unfortunately) resulting in their gravitating towards one pole or the other in an effort to maximize financial support and minimize political exposure, so to do many scholars gravitate towards one extreme or another, often for the same reasons. Rational dialogue is sacrificed for political and/or religious ideology and institutional funding.

The AAAS’s new Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion (DoSER) will assist with facilitating dialogue between the two groups. It will be interesting to see what kinds of discussions this group produces. Will it be junk science disguising religious fundamentalism pretending to be science? Will it become a target for attack from Dawkins’ “militant atheists?” Or, will the group ask for honesty from both sides and discuss matters of ethics and faith without sacrificing the fundamental principles of science?

The article is worth a read.

(via christian brady)

hendel’s must-read critique of sbl

Ronald S. Hendel, Professor of Hebrew Bible at the University of California, Berkeley

Ronald S. Hendel, Professor of Hebrew Bible at the University of California, Berkeley

Cal Berkeley’s Dr. Ronald S. Hendel has written a letter in Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) that all biblical scholars should read. In his “Farewell to SBL,” Hendel examines the loss of the ‘critical’ part of biblical scholarship in the SBL. He laments the apparent exchange of critical investigation and rational scholarship for fundamentalists and charismatics, all for the sake of an increased membership and a few extra dollars. He highlights this very issue – the removal of the word ‘critical’ from SBL’s mission statement:

I wrote to the director and cited the mission statement in the SBL’s official history: “The object of the Society is to stimulate the critical investigation of the classical biblical literatures.” The director informed me that in 2004 the SBL revised its mission statement and removed the phrase “critical investigation” from its official standards. Now the mission statement is simply to “foster biblical scholarship.” So critical inquiry – that is to say, reason – has been deliberately deleted as a criterion for the SBL.

I agree with the good doctor from the University of California. The moment that critical scholarship is abandoned and fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible are entertained as equally authoritative, scholarship has lost its way. While the SBL should welcome all comers, its authority lies in its pursuit of academic excellence, not the appeasement of all points of view. For while the democratization of knowledge fostered by the Internet is a welcomed and beneficial advance in the accumulation of knowledge, the authority and credibility of scholarship comes from the training and expertise exercised in differentiating the credible from the problematic, the veritable from the sensational. The authority of scholars comes from the creation, cultivation, preservation, and dissemination of verifiable knowledge and critical scholarship, not from ecumenism or the sheer size of its membership. The SBL should embrace the critical method, not a popular membership, for after all, the SBL is a society, not a church, and the letters designate a conference of scholars, not an ecclesiastical order.

(For those interested, there is a facebook group dedicated to putting the word ‘critical’ back into SBL’s purpose statement.)

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