An Army Of Straw Men: Responding To Ronald Hendel -- By: Henry B. Smith, Jr.

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 23:4 (Fall 2010)
Article: An Army Of Straw Men: Responding To Ronald Hendel
Author: Henry B. Smith, Jr.

An Army Of Straw Men: Responding To Ronald Hendel

Henry B. Smith, Jr.

This is an abridged version of the original full article posted on the ABR website.1

In the July/August 2010 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, a disturbing and highly prejudicial column was published, entitled: “Farewell to SBL: Faith and Reason in Biblical Studies.” This article was written by Ronald S. Hendel, Professor of Hebrew Bible at the University of California, Berkeley.

Hendel informs his readers that Christian faith has nothing to do with the world of facts:

“The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know.” This famous line from Pascal’s Pensées draws a wise distinction between religious faith and intellectual inquiry. The two have different motivations and pertain to different domains of experience. They are like oil and water, things that do not mix and should not be confused... That is to say, facts are facts, and faith has no business dealing in the world of facts. Faith resides in the heart and in one’s way of living in the world (2010: 28, emphasis added).2

“Two-Story” Theology: A Haughty And Erroneous Faith Presupposition

With this proclamation, Hendel throws out the God of the Bible and the claims of biblical revelation about the nature of reality from word one. By declaring “faith” an activity that is divorced from the physical world of so-called “facts,” Hendel can now lecture his readers about the applicability of autonomous human reason to critical study of the Bible.

This illegitimate bifurcation of reality is a postmodern faith position, blindly accepted by millions of Westerners. The Christian author and apologist Francis Schaeffer used the simple illustration of a two-story house to illustrate the tenets of this belief system, which has many of its roots in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Essentially, faith is relegated to the second story of the house. Faith is detached from the realities of the physical world, nature, science and archaeological and biblical studies, which reside on the first floor of the house. One has nothing to do with the other.

This view of the world is, of course, completely antithetical to what the Bible teaches about the Lordship of God in Christ over the entire cosmos. It is also blatantly anti-Christian, as it demands that those who hold to orthodoxy have no place in Hendel’s world of scholarship. Orthodoxy needs to shut up and stay upstairs. The orthodox can participate, but only if they accept Hendel’s erroneous and anti-Christian presuppositions about the nature of reality.

A Christian who accepts Hendel’s view of ...

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