Adherance to Doctrinal Statements
Westminster Theological Seminary's recent suspension of Peter Enns for his book on understanding the nature of scripture that board perceived as violating the Westminster Confession intrigues me.
It intrigues me because I just can't fathom the sanity of adhering to a creedal statement written in 1642. In 1642 they barely understood Koine Greek, biblical scholarship was only in its infancy, they had next to no understanding of the customs, practices and thinking of ancient world, and they had very few of the writings of the early church Fathers that we now have. For almost every conceivable reason there is evidence to think that people trying to interpret the bible in 1642 could have made serious errors. Indeed, the majority of scholars today would say they did.
In that century, Isaac Newton published one of the greatest works in the history of science. Yet today his work is a historical curiosity, marking the beginning of serious scientific study. In a like manner the Reformation and confessions of faith resulting out of it mark the beginning of serious biblical scholarship. No sane person today would reprimand a quantum physicist for failure to adhere to Newton's theories. Likewise, the thought that someone might reprimand a biblical scholar for failure to adhere to a seventeenth century interpretation of the bible seems like a joke.
It frustrates me that colleges actually exist who adhere to such doctrinal statements and see it as their duty to churn out students who believe such things. Such indoctrination results in a massive amount of bias, propaganda and apologetics contaminating scholarship. Modern interpretations and theories end up judged on their conformance with seventeenth century doctrinal statements! I have learned to steer clear of such biased 'scholarship'. Before reading any book I now attempt to ascertain whether it is written by a person who has been indoctrinated with seventeenth century confessional standards, because their bias so often completely undermines their scholarship and destroys any objective value in their work, as they always twist the evidence in such a way that it just so happens to end up proving the conclusions that they started with. In practice this seems to mean avoiding completely reading 'scholarship' produced by anyone in the Reformed or Presbyterian traditions, and careful filtering of Anglican, Catholic and Lutheran writings.
I think the fact that I myself abandoned the doctrinal teachings of my childhood church as a result of serious biblical study has resulted in me having very little tolerance of people who fail to do likewise and who simply push the party line and doctrinal statements of whatever group happens to have indoctrinated them.