Sheffield Biblical Studies represents Protests as Endorsements

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In 2009, the University of Sheffield proposed to close the Department of Biblical Studies, perhaps the world’s foremost and most innovative biblical studies department.

The response included a barrage of letters protesting the plan from academics worldwide. Many of the letters are preserved on the Save Biblical Studies website. Responding to these protests, the University promised to retain the Department of Biblical Studies and to strengthen it.

But as early as 2014, the University of Sheffield again decided to disband the Department. The Department no longer exists, and current academic staff are now employed to a “Research Institute for Biblical Studies“, which has been interpreted as a short-term stop-gap measure before biblical studies at Sheffield ceases completely.

But what about all those academic protests? Did they count for nothing? Not at all. The letters of protest have been mined by the University of Sheffield, and used as marketing endorsements for biblical studies at Sheffield:

sheffield-endorsements

“Sheffield is the only place where Biblical Studies are not undertaken in a context where theology is the dominant discipline; this unique approach, with a strong input from religious studies, cultural studies, gender studies and critical theory, cannot be missed!”
Jan Willem van Henten, Director of Graduate School and Professor of New Testament, University of Amsterdam

“Sheffield has long had a reputation for producing some of the most innovative research in Biblical Studies in the world. This is not simply due to the outstanding research published by the academic staff, but to the entire ethos of the department.”
James Harding, Lecturer in Hebrew Bible, University of Otago, New Zealand

“High quality pedagogical methods… the open exchange of ideas… an impressive tradition of inspiring innovative critical research by other academics around the world.”
Dr James R. Linville, Chair, Dept of Religious Studies, Lethbridge, Canada

“…the exceptional combination of creativity and independence of mind shown by members of staff in their publications and at academic conferences.”
MAURICE CASEY, EMERITUS PROFESSOR OF NEW TESTAMENT STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF NOTTINGHAM

All of these endorsements were culled from the letters of protest written in 2009 against the closure of the Department. They are now being used as “endorsements” of the University of Sheffield after the closure of the Department. To be clear, the protests are all being badly misrepresented as unqualified positive statements about biblical studies at Sheffield University.

What did the University of Sheffield fail to quote? The University missed those parts of the letters which were protesting against the very policy the University of Sheffield is now implementing, e.g.:

“I really hope you will reconsider the proposal to close the Department of Biblical Studies and that you find other solutions for coping with the consequences of the financial crisis for your university.”
Jan Willem van Henten, Director of Graduate School and Professor of New Testament, University of Amsterdam

“Dismantling the department would not simply have serious consequences within the University of Sheffield, but would have much wider consequences for the Biblical Studies guild as a whole. I know that I am not alone in holding these concerns. Over the last few days the internet has been alive with expressions of disquiet from scholars the world over whose academic work has been inspired by the work done in the department at Sheffield. Please do not allow this to come to an end by dismantling the department.”
James Harding, Lecturer in Hebrew Bible, University of Otago, New Zealand

“Let me add my voice to those who have already expressed themselves regarding the plans to close the world-class Department of Biblical Studies. I appreciate the financial difficulties your institution is in, but abandoning a department of the calibre and reputation of this one can only bring short term gains at a very long term cost to the university.”
Dr James R. Linville, Chair, Dept of Religious Studies, Lethbridge, Canada

“I am very sad to learn of your plans to close the undergraduate part of your Department of Biblical Studies and dissipate its research arm. I hope you are aware that this would lead to the wreckage of a quite outstanding feature of British education.”
MAURICE CASEY, EMERITUS PROFESSOR OF NEW TESTAMENT STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF NOTTINGHAM

If the academics who are quoted here know about these “endorsements”, we wonder what their reactions might be. Yet one of the protesting academics who were quoted will not be able to provide his reaction. Maurice Casey has since passed away since he wrote his original protest – a protest which is currently being represented as the deceased professor’s approval of precisely what he had protested against.

UPDATE (Sep 1, 2014): The University of Sheffield has now removed its page of “endorsements” for biblical studies at Sheffield.

NEWS RELEASE: Tesco Plc Announces Expansion into University Market at Sheffield

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Tesco Plc has announced an innovative proposal, now in its “pre-planning” stage, in which the supermarket chain will expand into the University Humanities Sector.

TescoUniversity will open for enrolment in the 2014/15 academic year, with an initial branch planned in Sheffield and further branches planned in London and Cambridge.

Vice-President Kath Embers stressed the synergies which would result from the initiative. “While universities have attempted to become more market-oriented in their approach, only in the private sector do we find the supporting corporate structure and skill-set available to positively transform tertiary education into a fully fledged market-driven product.”

“Sheffield TescoUniversity promises to provide high-end user-driven results in this space, going forward together.”

tescobiblicalstudies

The announcement has met with a mixed response from academics. While existing university faculty members in the Sheffield area have expressed their “dismay” at the development, there was nothing but praise from recent recipients of honorary doctorates from TescoUniversity.

“It’s about time these ivory tower types earned an honest living by teaching something that everybody understands, rather than some high-faluting theory about feminizing or some sort,” commented the new Dean of Humanities, Dr Barry McFettrick, former Assistant Manager of Tesco Furniture and Kitchen.

The Humanities has been targeted by the company as the academic area which has “thus far responded least to the reality of the market in the modern world” and so “offers the greatest potential for positive growth and development.”

Ms Embers outlined some details of the proposal at a press conference held yesterday, in which the Humanities would be organised into a series of “aisles,” ranging from the more “meaty” disciplines such as Economics and Tourism Studies, to the less substantial “confectionary aisle” which would include “sundry items” such as Philosophy and Biblical Studies.

“But even in disciplines which have traditionally offered little of end-user value, such as Biblical Studies, we intend to offer a range of courses which reflect our market-driven approach. In fact, we are in the process of negotiating an exciting joint-venture which we hope should eventuate in the establishment of the L. Ron Hubbard Centre of Religion,” announced Ms Embers.

“For example, in Biblical Studies, we are developing a strategic staircase to reorient the field towards a profit-focus while retaining all the advantages of the traditional discipline. It is not our intention to make significant changes to what has for many centuries been a successful product venture, so in most cases the changes will be undetectable. For instance, the Introduction to the Gospels will still be taught, but will be rebranded as an Introduction to the Prosperity Gospel.

“Students are always asking us what good will these courses do them in the real world. But at Sheffield TescoUniversity, we hope to produce graduates who can ask precisely the opposite question: ‘What good will we possibly find in the real world following an education at Sheffield TescoUniversity?’”

Read Further:
Don’t shut down Biblical Studies at Sheffield Facebook Group
SBL Announcement
Save Biblical Studies
Sheffield Student Union

Christology Class on the Resurrection Brought to a Premature End When Security Guards Escorted Theology Lecturer from University Premises

“Tensions have been growing at St Mary’s University College, Twickenham this week following the suspension of Dr Anthony Towey, Head of the School of Theology, Philosophy and History. Students report that Dr Towey was half way through a Christology lecture on the Resurrection when security men came to escort him out of the buillding on Monday.”
“St Mary’s University College – why a professor was suspended”, ICN: Independent Catholic News, 19 September 2012

“The grotesque incident yesterday, when a senior member of staff was interrupted in the course of a lecture and forcibly escorted from the premises, is for me a decisive sign that things have gone badly amiss with the Christian and Catholic ethos of St Mary’s.”
– Professor Eamon Duffy, quoted in Madeleine Teahan, “Top historian criticises St Mary’s for ‘grotesque’ treatment of professor”, CatholicHerald.co.uk, 25 September 2012

“The Governors have total confidence in the Senior Management Team who have worked diligently and in accordance with our constitution, due process and our Catholic ethos in what has been a difficult time as we continue to strive to gain our university title. This is a time of great opportunity for St Mary’s and I am confident that the University College will continue to develop and move forward as a centre of excellence.”
– Bishop Richard Moth, Chair of Governors, St. Mary’s University College,”Statement by Bishop Richard Moth, St Mary’s Chair of Governors”, smuc.ac.uk

“Kraft International, especially in developing markets, should continue to realize solid growth as it leverages the Cadbury acquisition and benefits from continued Cadbury cost synergies. The company is likely to realize $300 million of revenue synergies in 2012 by distributing Kraft’s biscuit products in Cadbury outlets in Mexico (approximately 380,000 outlets), distributing Oreo and Tang products in Cadbury outlets (approximately 380,000 outlets) in India and doubling its distribution in Brazil with this acquisition (from 300,000 to 600,000 outlets).”
– Ashish Sharma, “Kraft Foods: Safe Stock with Upside Potential”, The Motley Fool Blog Network, 13 August 2012

…. but wait, there is something even weirder going on here than the story of the Catholic theology lecturer having his lecture on the resurrection brought to a violent and premature end   … you can take a course in “Christology” at a London university? Really? Do they offer Muggle Studies as well?

New Zealand’s Associate Minister of Education John Banks Believes in Adam and Eve but not in Evolution

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On 20 August 2012, conservative evangelical New Zealand radio station, Radio Rhema, interviewed the Associate Minister of Education John Banks about the teaching of Creationism in schools. The interview follows the recent announcement of the plan by the free-market neoliberal ACT Party – of which Banks is the party leader and sole MP – to introduce private “Charter Schools” in New Zealand from 2014, many of which will be administered by evangelical Christian groups.

John Banks - New Zealand Associate Minister of Education and Creationist

John Banks – New Zealand Associate Minister of Education and believer in Adam and Eve rather than in Evolution

While the interviewer wanted John Banks to tell him whether he supported the teaching of Creationism in schools, Banks attempted to steer the question to his own personal belief. On the question of his personal belief, Banks agreed that he believed in the story of Adam and Eve and did not accept the scientific fact of evolution.

His answer on teaching Creationism in schools was more cagey. He refused to make a clear statement that he supported the teaching of Creationism, referring obliquely to the liberal humanist enemy – possibly the “basket-weaving, hairy-legged feminists” whom he has often referred to – who would pounce on his words (“we have to be very, very careful about parading all this…”). But his comments on presenting ‘both sides’ of the issue removes all doubt that he wants Creationism to be taught in schools as a ‘scientific’ option.

Interviewer: As the Associate Minister of Education, how do you feel about schools teaching Creationism?

Banks: What do you mean? Can you just explain it to me so I clearly understand.

Interviewer: I guess your question back to me is fair, because there would be many different kinds of Creationism. There would be Intelligent Design, there would be long earthers, there would be short earthers. But I guess to nutshell it, to stereotypically nutshell it: that God created the world, that Darwin’s theory of evolution is not accurate, that God created Adam and Eve and that everything else has come from it. What do you think about schools teaching that…?

Banks: That’s what I believe! That’s what I believe. That’s what I believe. But I’m not going to impose my beliefs on other people, especially in this post-Christian society that we live in, especially in these lamentable times. I’m not going to be judgmental; I’m too old and have moved past that now. But I know what is important to me, I know what’s important to you, I know what’s important to our families, and I know what will make this country great again. But we have to be very, very careful about parading all this, because there are reactionaries out there, humanists in particular, that overrun the bureaucracy in Wellington and State education that you and I would be an anathema.

Interviewer: So let me get this clear, John Banks, Associate Minister of Education, you disagree with Darwin’s theory of evolution, you believe the Genesis account of how life began?

Banks: Yes.

Interviewer: Well how do you feel, therefore, about the other question: about evolution being taught in our schools?

Banks: Well I don’t have a problem. There are a lot of things taught in our schools that I don’t particularly like being taught in our schools. That’s where we’re at now….

Banks: … I don’t see anything wrong with a Christian school teaching Christianity and Adam and Eve and everything that follows.

Interviewer: And do you think there is a place to teach these opposing views equally? Darwin’s theory of evolution would not sit on an agreeable level with those who teach the six-day creation story, and vice-versa. Can two opposing views like that be taught on an equal level in our schools?

Banks: I don’t have any problem with schools teaching opposing views, because I think it is important that children have a rounded education. So I don’t have any problem with them teaching those opposing views. But what we must clearly understand is this country has moved on from a Christian country to a nation of humanism and a post-Christian society and all the attendant ills have followed. I don’t have a problem with people teaching what your faith is. My faith and your faith we share, but it is not the faith that other people might want to share….

The media report that circulated today summarised that John Banks “believes the Genesis account of the start of life on Earth” and that “he has no doubts the first chapters of Genesis are true”. This summary is easily misleading in respect of such a contested passage, as Banks is consistently vague about his precise understanding of Genesis, preferring to broadly agree with the interviewer. But Banks did make an affirmative response to the interviewer’s question of whether he “believed the Genesis account of how life began”. It is not clear that Banks believes in a literal six-day creation as Gavin Rumney suggests after reading the media report, or as Hemant Mehta does, or that he is a young earth creationist (believing that God made everything about 6000 years ago). GayNZ is cynical, entitling their blog post, “John Banks Believes in Talking Devil Tree-Snake !

Bible & Critical Theory Seminar 2012 -The Programme is Out

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Robert Myles has compiled the programme for the 2012 Bible & Critical Theory Seminar.  More details at Auckland Theology, Biblical Studies, et al. All Biblical Scholars, or card-carrying members of the Frankfurt School are warmly welcome, for the price of lunch at the Queen’s Ferry.

Bible & Critical Theory Seminar, Auckland

Queens Ferry Hotel, Vulcan Lane

1 & 2 September 2012

Saturday

10:00 – 10:10              Opening session

10:10 – 10:45              Elaine Wainwright, Of Borders, Bread, Dogs and Demons: Reading Matt 15:21-28 Ecologically

10:45 – 11:20              Rebecca Lindsay, Overthrowing Nineveh with Postcolonial Imagination

11:20 – 11:30              Break

11:30 – 12:05              Kirsten Dawson, Gender and Violence in the Book of Job

12:05 – 12:40              Robert Myles, Homelessness, Neoliberal Ideology, and Jesus’ “Decision” to go Rogue

12:40 – 13:50              Lunch at QFH

13:50 – 14:25              Roland Boer, A Dead Spouse, A Vegetable Garden and a Cousin’s Field: On Private Property

14:25 – 15:00              Christina Petterson, Writing Death, Writing Life

15:00 – 15:35              Deane Galbraith, Interpellation Not Interpolation in Num. 13-14: The Non-Instrumental Ideology of Louis Althusser and Half-a-dozen Ways to Avoid a Death Sentence from Yahweh

15:35 – 15:45              Break

15:45 – 16:20              Holly Randall-Moon, The Secular Contract: The British Monarchy and White Diasporic Sovereignty

16:20 – 16:55              Yael Klangwisan, Gift and The Song of Songs

16:55 – Late                Drinks & dinner at QFH

Sunday

10:00 – 10:10              Opening session

10:10 – 10:45              Don Moffat, Ezra 9-10: A Split Text?

10:45 – 11:20              Caroline Blyth, ‘Whatever you needed…she had it’: Deconstructing the femme fatale in Judges 16 and Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely

11:20 – 11:30              Break

11:30 – 12:05              Julie Kelso, Irigaray’s Virginity

12:05 – 12:40              Niall McKay, A Political Reading of Luke 1:51-52 And 3:8-9 in the Light Of Ezekiel 17 – Inspired by John Howard Yoder and a Poststructural Intertextuality

12:40 – 13:50              Lunch at QFH

13:50 – 14:25              Debra MacDonald, John Gray’s Straw Dogs and Luke’s Satan: An Exploration into Human Nature

14:25 – 15:00              Mark Manolopoulos, Jesus on Wall Street: Overturning Temples, Tables, Empires

15:00 – 15:15              Break

15:15 – 15:50              Sarah Curtis, Considering the presentation of Magdalene by Luke and John: Neither fetish nor phallic but feminine

15:50 – 16:25              Tim Stanley, What Is This Strange Technological Thing Called the Bible?

16:25 – 16:35              Closing session

Complementarians and Martial Sex: The Jared Wilson / Gospel Coalition Saga

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The scandal started with this post by author and pastor, Jared Wilson, on The Gospel Coalition website, which features a quotation from author and pastor Douglas Wilson including the following description of what he considers is good, biblical sex: “A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts”.

(The post was since grudgingly removed by Jared Wilson, after a load of complaints.)

And then, following numerous expressions of outrage, Jared Wilson posted a defence of his quote from Douglas Wilson (also since removed):

Jared Wilson is a “Complementarian”, a euphemistic term for a group of Christians who support a hierarchy between men and women which, unsurprisingly, is in favour of men. Among Christian evangelicals, there is a rigorous ongoing debate between “Complementarians” and “Egalitarians”, the latter group opposing gender hierarchy, to some extent. While the Complementarian-Egalitarian division is the basic line of opposition, there are also – as Michael Bird and others maintain – various degrees of Complementarians, ranging from “Hard Complementarians” to “Soft Complementarians”. So Bird (Soft Complementarian) opposes Wilson (Hard Complementarian) … to some extent.

I tried to make clear that I don’t think the Wilsons are malicious or deliberately trying to liken martial [sic] sex to rape. But I think these comments are incendiary, needless, hurtful, unbiblical, insensitive, and do not help the complementarian cause.
– Michael Bird, Sensitive Soft Complementarian, “Sex is What I do WITH my Wife, Not TO my Wife: A Response to the Wilsons at TGC”, Euangelion, 18 July 2012

Let’s see, a man “penetrates”, “conquers”, and “colonises” a woman. I would make a guess that Douglas Wilson most probably sanctifies what many of us would refer to quite simply as “rape” as The Biblical View of Marriage. I truly believe that he is sincere in his belief; it’s just that Douglas does not begin to appreciate that his expression of divinely sanctioned sexual intercourse in fact condones and even advocates aggressive and violent sexual attacks on women. He just doesn’t see it. He undoubtedly also sincerely believes that what he describes would be what is best for women. But why stop with Douglas Wilson’s intent? Given Douglas Wilson’s use of a group of violent terms for sex (and despite his odd protests that the terms “penetrate”, “conquer”, and “colonise” can be used in really quite nice ways), it is obvious that we should read him with more than a little suspicion. For even though Douglas Wilson is speaking from ignorance, his words quite obviously do in fact liken marital sex to rape.

Or, to employ Bird’s malapropism from the quote above, what Douglas Wilson in fact advocates is “Martial Sex”. (Now there is the quintessential example of a Freudian slip!)

But Bird is not the only Complementarian stating that he disagrees with the Wilsons, while at the same time saying that we should really respect their honest intent. Here’s Denny Burk:

Egalitarians [e.g., McKnight, Held Evans, and Kirk] are out in full-force claiming that Doug Wilson, Jared Wilson, and TGC are openly supporting rape and abuse of women. If authorial intent means anything, then that is a slander. That is not what Doug Wilson meant, nor is it what Jared Wilson intended by quoting him. We can quibble over the language, but the false accusations need to stop.
– Denny Burk, Harder Complementarian, comment to “Sex is What I do WITH my Wife, Not TO my Wife: A Response to the Wilsons at TGC”, Euangelion, 18 July 2012

Denny Burk, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, also wants to let matters rest with Douglas Wilson’s intent – which is, as noted, fairly much completely ignorant that what he is advocating amounts to rape. But whatever happened to critical reading? Surely an Associate Professor of Biblical Studies is capable of reading between the lines and … oh hang on, I see: “Southern Baptist Theological Seminary”. OK, well, then, I guess because Wilson said it, Burk believes it, and that settles it.

It is worth noting that Denny Burk makes the same Freudian slip as Bird, referring not to “marital sex” to describe Douglas Wilson’s views, but to “martial sex”. Ironically, this whole scandal first erupted when Jared Wilson got hot under the collar about the portrayal of B&D in the novel 50 Shades of Grey. But why is it that the (soft and hard) complementarians are the ones banging on about “martial sex”?

Yet I guess psychoanalytic criticism isn’t at the top of the teaching menu down at the local Baptist Seminary.

Further reading:

Complementarians
Bekah Wilson, “Them’s Fightin’ Words”
Nancy Ann Wilson, “10 Reasons to be Glad When Your Husband is Slandered”
Heather Linn, “A Note for Rachel Held Evans”
Douglas Wilson, “The Politics of Outrage”
Douglas Wilson, “Probably Not! She Thundered”
Douglas Wilson, “Cloacina, Goddess of Sewers”
Michael Bird, “Jared Wilson takes down TGC Post”

Others
Ryan K. Knight, “Doug Wilson on The Gospel Coalition: How Christian Patriarchy Turns Sex into Rape and Pregnancy into Slavery”
Grace, “Conquer, colonize, enslave: On redefining words and rewriting history”
Paul Burkhart, “The Gospel Coalition & Sex as Conquest: Jared Wilson, you’re better than this {1}”
Paul Burkhart, “The Gospel Coalition & Sex as Conquest: it’s still misogyny, however unintended {2}”
Rachel Held Evans, “Thank you, Gospel Coalition and Jared Wilson”
Rachel Held Evans, “Some final thoughts on The Gospel Coalition, sex, and submission”
Rachel Held Evans, “The Gospel Coalition, sex, and subordination”
Eric Reitan, “‘Benign’ Christian Patriarchy and 50 Shades of Grey: A Response to Jared Wilson
Eric Reitan, “The Piety That Lies Between: A Progressive Christian Perspective”
Libby Ann, “Marital Rape? Doug Wilson on Dominance and Submission in the Marriage Bed
Dianna Anderson, “The Writer’s Burden
Scot McKnight, “Thank you”
Scot McKnight, “Take it down”
Eric Rodes, “50 Shades Of Circling The Wagons”
Sarah Over the Moon, “Rape: A Punishment for Egalitarians?”
Chaplain Mike, “Sex, Authority/Submission, and Remarkable Insensitivity”

Is there anything Tom Wright CAN’T do?! N.T. Wright sings Bob Dylan

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On 7 May 2012, freewheelin’ New Testament scholar N.T. (Tom) Wright treated his adoring fans to a rendition of Bob Dylan’s “When the Ship Comes In”:
 
The Freewheelin' Tom Wright
Perhaps Tom Wright was inspired by Robert Gagnon’s rap of the New Testament book of Romans (17 May 2010)?
 

New Zealand Advertising Standards Authority Rules Against Advertising that Jesus Heals Cancer

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The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint against a church billboard which read “Jesus Heals Cancer”. The billboard was erected by the charismatic-evangelical Equippers’ Church in Napier:Equippers' Church billboard: Jesus Cures Cancer

The Complaints Board of the ASA ruled that “the statement was provocative enough to be likely to cause serious offence to those people who were dealing with, or knew people who were dealing with, cancer.” The Board added that “the public nature of the billboard was likely to cause widespread offence in the light of generally prevailing community standards.” Furthermore, the Board ruled that the church billboard was in breach of the provision in the Code of Ethics which required “Truthful presentation”, and that “the advertisement was likely to deceive or mislead people.” Although the Board accepted that the church believed that Jesus could heal people from cancer, it ruled that the church’s claim to cure cancer was not substantiated. Contrary to some media headlines, the Board did not go so far as to rule explicitly that Jesus could not cure cancer, but in ruling that the billboard was “likely to deceive or mislead people” implied that the claim was untrue.

What is the ASA? The ASA is merely a private society, its membership comprised of various media and advertising entities. Now, given the propensity of commercial advertisers to tell lies, exaggerate, and annoy the public, just to make a buck, generally speaking it is a good thing that advertisers have got together to self-regulate.

But it’s another thing altogether to issue pronouncements on a local church’s misguided but honestly intended billboard. Who the hell do the ASA board members think they are? Do they think they are New Zealand’s Morality Police, pronouncing on any words they discover littering the landscape? On this occasion, the ASA has stepped way over the line. An organisation that is intended to self-regulate the advertising industry should simply be ignored when it makes pompous pronouncements on a local church’s billboard. If the Equippers’ Church weren’t such pious charismatic evangelicals, they should probably just tell the ASA where to go.

Equippers' Church: Senior Ministers Lyle and DebbieBut is it offensive to cancer sufferers in the neighbourhood? Of course. However, silencing an honest (albeit deluded) church’s proclamation sets a dangerous precedent. Who will be the next minority group to be silenced because their views or behaviour don’t agree with New Zealand’s pragmatic yet passionless middle-class values? While I personally consider that there is as much chance of Jesus healing somebody from cancer as there is for the Earth to start spinning in the other direction, if we don’t defend the right of the ignorant, the atavistic, and even the despicable to peddle their absurd views, we support a system which denies freedom of speech to those minorities who most need it. 

As Noam Chomsky said, in defending a famous French holocaust denier’s right to express his denial of the Jewish holocaust (despite Chomsky’s opinion that holocaust denial was quite incorrect, and the holocaust marked a terrible period in human history): “It is elementary that freedom of expression (including academic freedom) is not to be restricted to views of which one approves, and that it is precisely in the case of views that are almost universally despised and condemned that this right must be most vigorously defended.”

Fortunately, the ASA has no authority to enforce the rulings which they freely promulgate. So, the Equippers’ Church can decide for themselves whether they will use the same billboard again, or whether a different message might be a more persuasive evangelistic tool.

Soft Homophobia in Mainstream Biblical Studies

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Unnatural Tintin 1

Unnatural Tintin 2

Unnatural Tintin 3

Unnatural Tintin 4

Unnatural Tintin 5

Unnatural Tintin 6

Unnatural Tintin 7

For context, see Ben Witherington the Third, Michael Bird, James Crossley, Michael Bird, Michael Bird (with some Robert Gagnon and Robert Gagbag).

Divine Revelations on the Otago University Research Archive (OUR Archive): Paradise Landing by Joshua Davis

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As noted in our summary of Jeffery Jonathan (“Joshua”) Davis’s Master’s thesis a couple of days ago, Joshua references a “Divine Revelation” which he received “in the desert of Australia” in his thesis. This unique contribution to neuroscience is available to the public on the Otago University Research Archive (“OUR Archive”).

The Divine Revelation, entitled Paradise Landing, includes important insights for neuroscience, including this one:

From Jeffery Jonathan ("Joshua") Davis - Paradise Landing (a Divine Revelation)

From Jeffery Jonathan ("Joshua") Davis - Paradise Landing (a Divine Revelation)

And this one:

Also from Jeffery Jonathan ("Joshua") Davis - Paradise Landing (a Divine Revelation)

Also from Jeffery Jonathan ("Joshua") Davis - Paradise Landing (a Divine Revelation)

And this one, too:

More Revelation from Jeffery Jonathan ("Joshua") Davis - Paradise Landing (a Divine Revelation)

More Revelation from Jeffery Jonathan ("Joshua") Davis - Paradise Landing (a Divine Revelation)

Read the entire Divine Revelation on the University of Otago’s academic research website, OUR Archive.

Two Free Seminars on the Brain of Melchizedek: This Week at the University of Otago!

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Embodiment of Universal Spiritual Values Seminars

Joshua Davis is a recent Otago University Masters graduate in Bioethics. He will be presenting seminars  supported by Professor Grant Gillett in Dunedin this week, at The Otago  Room,  Downstairs,  OUSA  Clubs and  Societies  Centre,  Albany  St Dunedin  (opposite the University Library): 

  • Thursday 16th  February  2012  4pm-5pm
  • Friday  17th  February  2012   4pm-5pm
Some  background  information 

The Brain of  Melchizedek  and the  Cognitive  neuroscience  approach  to the  Embodiment  of  Universal  Spiritual  Values

For millennia the stories of many cultures and people have been written, sometimes in the form of books, sometimes on the rocks, sometimes on wood, and they are the records of our ancestors, of our families. Many of these records have been, through the centuries, the object of religious beliefs, religious worship and politics, and as a consequence we have lost the pure wisdom that they intend to keep for us. On the other hand when we look at the same processes of human behaviour from a neurogenetic spiritual perspective we can derive very valuable information from ancient wisdom and personal revelation, and if we combine these with modern scientific research we are left with a synthesis and a synergy which I have called the Paradigm of Melchizedek.

This Scientific-Spiritual paradigm gives us the possibility to understand the difference between Spiritual Universal Values and Behavioural Values and to study the inner transformations that a human being needs to undergo in order to find lasting Peace.

As a consequence, this also allows us to understand the transgenerational peace propagation process which can be mathematically modelled and explained with the aid of systems theory and systems simulation like a neurogenetic spiritual peace propagation process. This process I have called “Melchidynamics” considering that ancient scriptures talk about a people of peace outside of worldly powers and nation states that will facilitate peace on earth as universal, and considering that these people, according to the scriptures and their own accounts, have gone from human consciousness to God Consciousness, and also considering that many people in the world are undergoing such transformations with dreams, visions and aspirations like the one of Auroville (India) or Freedom Farms (New Zealand), we derive a unique opportunity to facilitate this process of peace propagation by consciously understanding the nature of the system and the nature of the unique needs of each people.

This series of seminars will introduce us to:
 
  1. A cognitive neuroscience approach to spirituality and its intimate relation to ancient wisdom.
 
  1. The neurobiology, psychophysiology and quantum physics of Spiritual Universal Values.
 
  1. The coordination dynamics and metastability of the dynamical system of peace propagation process, Melchidynamics.
 
  1. The Birth of a Nation of Peace, the modern Embassy of Peace and the particular case of  the ancient prophecies about the correction, purification, reunion and restoration of the Twelve Tribes of Israel as a Nation of Peace, other prophecies of different cultures and nations and the potential overlap between these prophecies and the Embassy of Peace.
 
  1. Freedom Farms, similarities and differences with Auroville and potential synergies.

Meet a University of Otago Master of Science (with credit) graduate and the author of The Brain of Melchizedek! See you there!!

Research into the Cognitive Neuroscience of Spirituality at the University of Otago

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In 2009, Jeffery Jonathan (“Joshua”) Davis submitted a Masters thesis to the University of Otago which examines the cognitive neuroscience of “spirituality”. The scientific thesis is entitled, “The Brain of Melchizedek: A Cognitive Neuroscience Approach to Spirituality”. The University of Otago has recently been publishing Honours, Masters, and PhD theses online, as part of its Otago University Research Archive (“OUR Archive”). Davis’s Masters thesis, supervised by Grant Gillett, earned him a Master of Science with Credit in 2010, and is available to read online in pdf format.

But a few of its key scientific findings are worth highlighting here.

Davis explains that his broad goal is:

to understand and communicate the neuro-genetic implications of Spiritual and Behavioural Values to the attainment of Social Harmony and Peace. This is why the thesis bears the name “The Brain of Melchizedek”, in honour to the King of Righteousness, The King of Peace (as portrayed in the Torah) the bearer of a brain encoded with a map to living in harmony and peace. (p. ii)

Davis distinguishes Religious Beliefs from Spiritual Values in a manner that may be familiar from mainstream popular culture:

Religious Beliefs are associated with Behavioural Values while Holiness, Wholeness and the State of Being Peace is associated with Spiritual Values available to any human being regardless of his or her behavioural map of reality. (p. v; cf. p. 3)

Davis claims not to follow any Religious Beliefs, but to uphold what he sees as the spiritual “essence” of figures such as Jesus (“Yeshua ben Yosef”) or Melchizedek:

What is important here regardless of the reader’s belief about the existence of people like Melchizedek and Yeshua Ben Yosef is the kind of wisdom and understanding about consciousness that their words and actions carry both in joyful or adversary situations. These characters and personalities identify themselves with The Creator’s essence and attributes and are inviting their fellow human beings to embrace the possibility to tap into the spiritual nature of human existence to find peace and harmony and to develop a brain capable of a higher cognitive map attuned to God’s Consciousness and the universe at large, its environment. (p. 5)

Despite his purported rejection of specific religious traditions, Davis sees fit to warn “theists, agnostics or Buddhists who are unacquainted with a personal relationship with The Creator” of the “extremely high cost” of rejecting the existence of a Creator, even if the probability of such is shown – by material, non-spiritual, empirical methods – to be very low (pp. 5-6). This allusion to Pascal’s Wager, together with his adherence to Jesus perhaps indicate the particular colour of his allegedly “universal” Spiritual Values. Davis also issues

an invitation for the reader to find the ‘Voice of God’ within their own garden of consciousness where the seeds of the Tree of Life have been planted to allow those ones who will embrace this exploration in the manner of a Tzadik/Scientist or Prophet/Scientist to taste of the fruits of this tree. Spiritual Values like Love, Grace, Truth, Certainty to name a few might eventually lead to one of those ‘aha’ moments in which a person can discern for him or herself what kind of behaviours and lifestyles are more akin to the expression of those universal and transcendental experiences suited to his or her own Personality, Character, Identity, and cultural and social context, the expression of his or her I AM Identity in the world. (p. 9)

Although his thesis is partly grounded in a scattering of quotes from scholars, ranging from neuroscientists to quantum physicists, Davis bases his thesis centrally on “spiritual wisdom … derived from my personal relationship with the Creator (revelation and insights)” (p. v):

As you read this work you will realize that most of the words of Torah and the stories of Israel are treated as my own instead of being quoted the way any other references are quoted. This is because I am one with the body, a fundamental part in the unity of this unbroken chain of divine revelation, both physically and spiritually (p. 4).

In this regard, Davis notes that he wrote an earlier work, Paradise Landing, after receiving it as a “Divine Revelation … in the desert of Australia” (p. 1). The University of Otago has kindly also made this “Divine Revelation” available on its academic website. As Davis explains in the Introduction to his Masters thesis,

Paradise Landing contains twenty one prayers of twenty one different Spiritual Values whose source is the Source of All Life. The prayers are grouped by seven colours and the three values associated to the fifth level or colour are Energy, Mastery and Triunity, mathematically referred as 555 in the context of the revelation and also associated to colour blue as in the light spectrum of blue. (p. 1)

Davis claims to be attempting no less than a synthesis of Science and Spirituality, subjectivity and objectivity, the material and immaterial realms. Accordingly, the proper point of departure for such an endeavour, he claims, is not in any traditional academic procedure or methodology, but in a prayer to “the Triunity” of “Father-Mother-Love” – and this he sets out in full in his Introduction (p. 2). Davis ambitiously seeks to prove that “the spiritual field, the quantum field and the matter field are intrinsically and dynamically interwoven together, as are mind, body and soul, part of an underlying unity which is only dichotomized through the accidents of limited perception and linguistic limitations” (pp. 4-5).

Davis notes that the Spirit has led him, in “childlike playfulness”, to address the reader as “Dear Reader” thoughout the thesis. The same Spirit licensed him to refer to “some authors by their first name to relate to them in an intimate, personal, intersubjective way” (6). Indeed, the thesis is punctuated with almost as many “Dear Reader”s as irregular capitalisations – the latter feature which he explains in this way:

Words like Personality, Character and Identity which I am attributing to a personal gift of The Creator in a personal spiritual relationship have also been capitalized, along with all the names of the Source of all Spiritual Values like for example The Creator, the Most High God, I Am the Love, or Unity to name a few, because of the sacredness and special meaning that they uphold for my person, my immediate blood line, the family of Israel at large, both the known and the lost tribes of Israel and the majority of the people who still stand in awe and reverence to those names, essences and inner spaces in all cultures, traditions and beliefs for all times.

In four chapters, Davis pieces together a tissue of quotations from various scientists, philosophers, and theologians who defend a spiritual dimension to humankind, who “allow themselves to move beyond the materialistic view of human function” (p. 17). This has the further consquence of providing

an open door to find meaning and inspiration to explore a universe which is populated with caring, loving and constructive human beings, a paradigm which sees Goodness, Beauty, Truth and Harmony available to all creatures (and particularly scientists, philosophers and theologians) to overcome selfishness, fear, greed, and ignorance based on transitional and temporal structures for physical survival, destructive behaviour and war.

Have a read of Jeffery Jonathan (“Joshua”) Davis’s complete thesis on the University of Otago academic research website, OUR Archive.

The University of Otago received first place among all New Zealand universities in the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) review in 2010. Academic performance is matched by its financial success: total revenue for the University of Otago in 2010 from student fees and other sources was $586,400,000, and the net surplus  (before unusual and non-recurring items) was $34,500,000. This is  up from $304,200,000 total revenue and $7,000,000 net surplus in 2000.

Religion and the Media: A New Project from the University of Sheffield

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PWhat An Unholy Welcome to Britain!rofessor James Crossley, in association with the Centre for Freedom of the Media (CFOM) at the University of Sheffield, has commenced a website to examine what goes on at the intersection of religion and media.

The Religion and the Media blog “will be dedicated to updates, news and analysis of a wide range of issues relating to religion and the media”. The critique of the media’s treatment of religion is especially welcome in a country like the U.K., where liberal sneering or feel-good reductionism usually substitutes for informed commentary or analysis. 

In Religion and the Media’s inaugural post, from 24 January 2012, James Crossley explains:

This new blog is going to be dedicated to all things media and religion, usually with some connection to issues relating to media freedom, linked as it is with the Centre for Freedom of Media at the University of Sheffield. In addition to news and updates, there will be regular analysis from a variety of people both linked to the Centre in someway and guest bloggers.

Professor James Crossley, International Biblical Scholar, Vienna 2007

Professor James Crossley, International Biblical Scholar, Vienna 2007

James Crossley was recently appointed to a Chair in the Biblical Studies Department at the University of Sheffield. His title of Professor of Bible, Culture and Politics reflects his ongoing interest in the reception and effect of the Bible in society, in particular in late capitalism and under the global impact of neoliberalism. Among the books which he has authored or edited that reflect this particular research interest are Jesus in an Age of Terror: Scholarly Projects for a New American Century (BibleWorld; Sheffield: Equinox, 2008), Judaism, Jewish Identities and the Gospel Tradition: Essays in Honour of Maurice Casey (BibleWorld; Sheffield: Equinox, 2010); and Jesus in an Age of Neoliberalism: Quests, Scholarship and Ideology (BibleWorld; Sheffield: Equinox, forthcoming May 2012). Crossley also publishes widely in New Testament studies, including an important recent philological contribution concerning the semantic range of things able to be done with the human “fist”, in “Halakah and Mark 7.3: ‘with the hand in the shape of a fist'” (New Testament Studies 58 (2012), 57-68).

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