Evangelical Faith and the Challenge of Historical Criticism (Skinner)

Hays.AnsberryLast summer I was on a plane to England and I found myself with seven hours to spare. (Between teaching, writing, and family responsibilities, when does that EVER happen?) So I reached into my bag to look over the books I had brought along for the trip. The one that struck me as most interesting at that moment was Christopher M. Hays’ and Christopher B. Ansberry’s book, Evangelical Faith and the Challenge of Historical Criticism (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013). I had picked up the book at the 2013 SBL meeting in Baltimore, but hadn’t yet had a chance to read through it. I have been meaning to post about this volume since the summer but have just now gotten around to it. This book has already been reviewed in numerous places on the web, both positively (see here, here, here) and less positively (see the somewhat shortsighted review offered here). Thus, I don’t intend to provide a review here, though I would like to offer an endorsement. In fact, when I was in the book stall at this year’s SBL meeting in San Diego, I stopped a friend and said, “You need to buy this book. While you and I have moved beyond these conversations years ago, our students have not.”

Here’s the Table of Contents:

1. Towards a Faithful Criticism, Christopher M. Hays
2. Adam and the Fall, Christopher M. Hays and Stephen Lane Herring
3. The Exodus: Fact, Fiction or Both?, Christopher B. Ansberry
4. No Covenant before the Exile? The Deuteronomic Torah and Israel’s Covenant Theology, Christopher B. Ansberry and Jerry Hwang
5. Problems with Prophecy Amber Warhurst, Seth B. Tarrer and Christopher M. Hays
6. Pseudepigraphy and the Canon, Christopher B. Ansberry, Casey A. Strine, Edward W. Klink III and David Lincicum
7. The Historical Jesus, Michael J. Daling and Christopher M. Hays
8. The Paul of Acts and the Paul of the Epistles, Aaron J. Kuecker and Kelly D. Liebengood
9. Faithful Criticism and a Critical Faith, Christopher B. Ansberry and Christopher M. Hays

One of the things I most appreciated about the book was its balance between eloquence and substance. In recent years I have seen a whole new crop of young scholars with the ability to address substantive academic issues in compelling and interesting ways with the result that these “academic” books are actually fun to read (see e.g., Timothy Michael Law, Chris Keith, Anthony LeDonne, Chris Tilling). At the end of the day, some will feel that the contributors have perhaps not gone far enough in their conclusions. I am of the opinion that this is an ideal resource for seminarians (and potentially advanced undergraduates) who hold the Bible to be authoritative but don’t wish to jettison all intellectual honesty when studying the Scriptures critically. I have long abandoned using the term “evangelical” when self-identifying because of the negative connotations so often attached to the word, especially here in the United States. Perhaps the highest praise I can give this book is that it handles important subject matter in a way that makes me think there *might* be–sometime in the distant future–a context in which it would be okay to begin calling myself an “evangelical” once again. Then again, maybe not…..but as long as scholars like this are shaping and advancing the conversation, I’d be open to the idea.

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