Jim West Post

It’s nothing personal. I haven’t met him, but we’ve posted comments on each other’s blogs and I’m sure Jim West is a great guy. My impression of Jim is that he is very intelligent and well read. However, he is also undermining the foundation of academics while attempting to host an academically focused blog on biblical studies.

In a recent post Jim listed five sources that in his opinion should never be quoted in academic writings. Here are the last two on his list:

4- Anything Published by InterVarsity Press. Nothing really need be said here. When you open an InterVarsity publication you’ve opened the door to the dank and dark halls of fundamentalism. And fundamentalism just makes for very poor exegesis and theology.

And finally, the 5th source which should never be cited in an academic discourse:

5- William Dever. As the kids say, ’nuff said’.

I posted this comment on his blog:

I think the last two points should not be included in a list of things that should not be cited in academic work. While some things from both IVP and Dever are flawed, there are some things of great value as well. Furthermore, an attitude that rejects out of hand these two sources is not at all academic. A hallmark of academics is an open minded attitude that lets the data drive the scholar, not emotional or idealogical prejudice. Just because an idea comes from a so-called “Fundamentalist” does not mean that is wrong, just as ideas that come from so-called “Liberals” are not necessarily wrong.

Here is his response:

Ok I admit I should have put one of these things- :-)
next to Dever.

But as far as fundamentalism is concerned, it simply has nothing to say.

From this comment it seems that he has withdrawn his comments concerning Dever, but dug in his heels on blacklisting IVP.

Comments like these undermine the foundation of academics–academic freedom. In academics the worst insult that you can give to a scholar is to not cite them. By ignoring their ideas you are stating that they are not even worth thinking about or interacting with. Furthermore, by putting scholars of a particular ideological bent upon a blacklist of people that should never be cited in academics is reminiscent of the Hollywood blacklist in which supposedly communist artists were thrown out on the street and deemed untouchable and unhireable.

Furthermore, attaching blacklist labels to scholars is a frightening prospect that is happening more and more these days. For different camps the labels “Fundamentalist” and “Liberal” are almost like the new label “Terrorist” which then strips people of their constitutional rights. In academics, one only has to label someone as a “Fundamentalist” which excludes them from mainstream jobs and publications thereby stripping them of their academic right of intellectual freedom.

Let’s take a look at a selection of IVP imprint authors: Tremper Longman, Gordon McConville, Alan Millard, John Walton, John Sanders, Darrell Bock, Scot McNight, Don Carson, Mark Seifrid, Ben Witherington, Alister McGrath, Donald Bloesch, Chris Wright, Donald Wiseman, Bruce Waltke, Gordon Wenham, Tom Wright, Hugh Williamson, Bill Arnold, R.K. Harrison, Rick Hess, F.F. Bruce, Craig Blomberg, Greg Beale, I. Howard Marshall, Victor Matthews, Doug Moo, to name just a few. A position that self-consciously excludes IVP authors from academic publications arises either from profound ignorance or profound ideological prejudice. By definition neither of these can be called “academic.”

Furthermore, discounting scholarship because of the source, not because of the quality of ideas is disatrous and destructive. I’m not a Mormon and I don’t think their position is supported by the data, but should I then refuse to include any data from the Tell es-Safi dig because Jeff Chadwick from BYU is digging with them? I don’t think that N.P. Lemche’s reconstructions of ancient Israel adequately deal with textual and archaeological evidence from the ancient Near East, but do I refuse to ever cite him because some people choose to label him as a “Minimalist”?

In academics we discuss quality ideas that are supported by data. Many scholars from both camps that some choose to label as “Liberal” and “Fundamentalist” attempt to support their position with data and both sides should be respected and included in discussions and debates.

Why am I making such a big deal about a lonely comment by Jim West? Two reasons: there are signs that more and more people and ideological groups are being blacklisted and forced out of academics and Jim West is one of the most highly ranked bibliobloggers according to technorati and therefore his opinions are important.

How should we respond to comments like this? Well, we could retaliate and purge Jim from our blogrolls and never link to him again, similar to how he advocates we relate to IVP authors. However, I don’t think this is the right approach. We need to treat Jim the way we want to be treated ourselves. We should continue to learn from his good ideas–and he certainly has many of these–and we should critique his not so good ideas.

Hopefully, Jim will see the error of his ways and embrace a truly academic perspective that includes all well-thought and data-supported ideas into the discussion. Only then will he actually have an academically focused blog.

About the author

Charles Halton

18 Comments. Leave your Comment right now:

  1. by Gim Anderson

    I wouldn’t worry about it. Jim West is not an academic. Has never published anything academic. Has a fake doctorate from a fundamentalist institution. Ignore the trolls.

  2. Looks like we had the same thought. I just published a similar post on my blog…

  3. Thanks for your thoughts. I was thinking of many of these scholars when I read Jim’s post.

  4. by James

    Charles,

    I am having a special web sale at Eisenbrauns in celebration! 15 titles in the Ancient Christian Commentary on the Scriptures on sale. Dangerous stuff, those Ancient Christians, being published by a fundamentalist publishing house and all!

    James

  5. Pingback: Ketuvim: the Writings of James R. Getz Jr. On Bloggings and Book Sales «

  6. James,
    I am glad that at least something good came out of this. :)

  7. Pingback: Higgaion » The “who not to cite” kerfluffle, part 1: what’s wrong with Matthew Henry

  8. by Joe Cathey

    Charles,

    Your did a great service to the blogging community with your post here. It is first rate in its methodological understanding of what is driving West and his hatred of all things remotely to the right of his position.

    Continue the Great Work
    Joe Cathey

  9. Pingback: Fundamentalist Publisher? I Think Not... « The Searching Sage

  10. by jake mccarty

    Thanks for an excellent post. I looked through the link to the original blog and found it to be a curious. The school with which he is affliated and his publications seem “fundamentalist” to me. If his argument had any merit, he’d ought to discredit himself. Such honesty would be refreshing.

    As for Dever, I suspect he’s only read his more recent vituperations and not his more technical (and ground-breaking) work on EB III-IV, etc…. Enough said.

    I think, however, he is trying to make a valid point. But making it with naive bombast is less than helpful.

  11. Pingback: Jim West's "fatwa" against IVP « The readings of Daniel Clark

  12. Pingback: Higgaion » The “who not to cite” kerfuffle, part 2: what’s wrong with IVP?

  13. Wellllllllll Charles,
    Looks like you’ve gotten yourself into the fray on this one. I believe that you are correct in your analysis of his inaccurate stereotyping and the damage it does. If he really was serious in his comments, it is most likely only a reflection of the liberal elitist attitudes that have reduced all of our major universities and seminaries to anti-fundamentalist humanistic hotbeds of liberal agnostic republican hating, moral majority bashing pro-choice, green heterophobes. And how’s that for stereotyping? Can I put a smiley face here?

  14. Pastor Bill,
    A smiley face would be most appropriate. In fact, I’ll do it for you. :)

  15. Thanks Charles,
    After commenting on your thread here, I realized that I probably should have attached my reply directly to some of the other blogs, to see how it would be treated, exegetically or eisigetically. Would they respond to what I actually said, or to what they thought I meant, without carefully examining the small but important clarifying words I used, and without seeing examples of satire, sarcasm or hyperbole. (the very things they accused the ‘fundamentalists’ of doing)
    Peace,
    Bill

  16. Pingback: Codex: Biblical Studies Blogspot » Blog Archive » Banning Books and Blogs - Jim West’s Imprimatur

  17. by James Pate

    Whoa, I remember putting a comment here, and now it’s gone. Did I dream the whole thing?

    Basically, my point was that some professors I have had at liberal institutions are open to conservative scholarship, whereas others are not. The vast majority, however, have been rather accepting. Some may want students to broaden their horizons, however. I know one Gordon-Conwell student who went to Harvard for a masters, and he used only conservative sources in his paper. The professor told him to use a variety of sources. So my point is basically that I do not think that Jim West is totally the norm in terms of his Inquisition, at least not based on my experience.

  18. Pingback: Thoughts on Antiquity » Blog Archive » Some Book Reviews 2 of 2: Matthew

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