Friday, February 13, 2009
F.F. Bruce on the Tyndale Fellowship and Biblical Studies
Now is one of those stop what you're reading and read this now moments. I am referring to F.F. Bruce, "The Tyndale Fellowship for Biblical Research," EQ 19.1 (1947): 52-61. It gives the background and basis for the creation of the Tyndale Fellowship in the UK. I was initially alerted to this article by Dan Reid and intend on interacting with it considerably in a forthcoming paper about the future of the Tyndale Fellowship which I'm delivering in July.
The Tyndale Fellowship has its roots in discussion as early as 1938 when a group of evangelicals were discussing the obscurantism and anti-intellectualism of evangelicalism at the time. Soon a committee was formed and after the second world war it was decided to hold an annual summer school, to found two annual lectures in biblical studies, and to secure a residential centre and a library for biblical research. Its doctrinal basis was to be the IVF (now UCCF) statement of faith. Bruce says: "Its object is to maintain and promote Biblical studies and research in a spirit of loyalty to the Christian Faith as enshrined in the consensus of the Historic Creeds and Reformed Confessions, and to establish the authority of Evangelical scholarship in the field of Biblical and theological studies" (p. 55). Its activities were to include: (1) to encourage younger scholars to engage in Biblical research along linguistic, historical, archaeological or theological lines; (2) to call attention to and to examine contemporary research bearing upon the right understanding of the Bible; (3) to urge the claims of Biblical studies to a permanent and influential place in the national system of education; and (4) to create opportunities for intercourse and co-operation between those who have at heart the objects which the Fellowship desires to promote and co co-operate with similar bodies among the English-speaking nations and on the European continent and elsewhere (p. 56). This lead also to the rise of Tyndale Bulletin (now on-line!!!) as well.
Bruce raises a good point whether the TF can be totally free of the stigma of obscurantism since it retains its acceptance of the IVF Doctrinal Basis. He asks: "Are not its conclusions in the field, say, of Biblical criticism, prescribed and settled in advance? The answer is, unreservedly, No" (p. 56). He goes on to say that a committment to "infallibility" means "that the Scriptures themselves, in their proper sense, never lead astray the soul who is sincerely seeking the truth" (pp. 56-57). The TF has its presuppositions, distinctive point of view, and it is committed to the "Catholic Evangelical Faith" (p. 57). He differentiates the ethos of TF from Catholic scholars who are constrained by Church Dogma (though keep in mind that this is pre-Vatican II) and also from liberal scholars who have no belief in the supernatural. Nonetheless, TF members are free to explore with a measure of academic freedom. In a statement that will obviously shock some readers, Bruce writes: "No such conclusions are prescribed for members of the Tyndale Fellowship. In such critical cruces, for example, as the codification of the Pentateuch, the composition of Isaiah, the date of Daniel, the sources of the Gospels, or the authenticity of the Pastoral Epistles, each of us is free to hold and proclaim the conclusions to which all the available evidence points. Any research worthy of the name, we take it for granted, must necessarily be unfettered" (pp. 58-59). In a footnote Bruce appeals to different views among the members of TF about the authorship of Revelation and the Fourth Gospel as examples of members differing over biblical-critical issues.
Bruce declares that the necessity of linguistic study has been emphasized at length because, "Sound theology must be based on sound exegesis, and sound exegesis on a sound text, and to establish and understand a sound text we require a thorough acquaintance with the original languages ... The New Testament idiom cannot be properly understood without some knowledge of Hebrew and Aramaic, and the intensive study of these Old Testament languages leads one into such other languages as Sumerian, Akkadian, Hittite, Hurrian, Egyptian, Persian, and Arabic" (pp. 59-60).
Finally, the TF exists to show the rational intelligibility of Evangelical Christianity. Bruce concludes: "we confidently look for the sympthetic interest of all who have at heart the revival of the full-orbed historic Evangelical Faith, and invite the cooperation of those like-minded who desire to pursue the paths of Biblical scholarship to the glory of God and the blessing of their fellows" (p. 61).