Thursday, October 11, 2018

Craig A. Carter's "Thought Experiment" on the Modern Historical-Critical Method

Still working my way through Craig A. Carter’s Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition (Baker Academic, 2018) and getting closer to the end.

One of the most refreshing aspects of this book is Carter’s unrelenting critique of the sterility of the Enlightenment-influenced, modern historical-critical method of Biblical studies.

In a closing chapter, Carter offers this “thought experiment”:

Consider the following thought experiment. If astronomy ceased to use telescopes and never looked at the stars, focused all its attention on mentions of the stars in literary sources and the history of human thought about the stars, all the while entertaining an ongoing discussion of the sense in which stars could be legitimately be said to exist, with the most radical astronomers expressing doubts about the very existence of the stars in the traditional sense, and if astronomers  debated endlessly about what earthly realities the idea of “star” might be said to refer to and whether and to what extent traditional ideas about stars reflected class, gender, or racial bias—would we be justified in viewing the endeavor as “astronomy”? There might still be university departments of astronomy, learned societies at which papers were presented, journals of astronomy, conferences on topics of interest to astronomers, and doctoral programs in astronomy, but would it be astronomy? Or would it be something else operating under the name “astronomy”? And if we were persuaded to call it a science, would it really be the science we know today as “astronomy”? (p. 217).


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