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The Facebook Group NTSW

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  • Michael Grondin
    There s a Facebook group established fairly recently (Sep 1st) called New Testament Scholarship Worldwide , which now has over a thousand members, including
    Message 1 of 11 , Dec 2, 2010
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      There's a Facebook group established fairly recently (Sep 1st) called
      "New Testament Scholarship Worldwide", which now has over a thousand
      members, including myself (out of curiosity) and our own Mark Goodacre
      and Stephen Carlson (possibly more of our members as well). Yesterday,
      I had an indirect exchange with the the group's titular leader, one Johnson
      Thomaskutty, which may be of interest here, as it raises questions about
      the relationship between scholarship and faith with respect to that group.
       
      The group describes itself as follows: "This group is exclusively a scholarly,
      theological, exegetical, hermeneutical, reflective, and open-minded one by
      combining both the past and present NT scholarship worldwide." Aside from
      bad grammar ('by combining' should be 'which combines', I think), I've been
      wondering where Thomaskutty would go with it. He has been issuing periodic
      e-mail messages to all group members (which don't, however, show up on the
      group page). It has so far seemed to me that those messages had a definite
      Christian tinge to them, but yesterday he sent one that I thought went over the line.
      It was in the nature of Advent wishes, which I took to be inappropriate for a scholarly
      group, since Advent is a Christian "season". Apparently aware of this (but unable to
      stop himself from mentioning Advent), Thomaskutty made an attempt to add
      what he seems to have taken as a sort of universal theological covering:
       
      > As we are entering the Advent Season, let us wish each other in the name of
      > the Universal Figure of Salvation, who manifests "the Divine Glory" as Jesus
      > of History & as Christ of Faith.
       
      It's apparent that JT has left out what it is that we're supposed to wish each
      other, but it scarcely matters. He's fallen into the trap of thinking that a basically
      Christian message isn't such if it's veiled with a universalist-sounding theology.
      As I wrote (rather too bluntly, perhaps) in response on the group page:
       
      > "The Universal Figure of Salvation"? Don't even try it, Thomaskutty. There's no
      > such thing as a sectarian-free theology. What are you doing sending Advent wishes,
      > anyway? Stick with the scholarship and stop sending veiled Christian messages.
       
      I haven't received any direct response from JT (or from anyone else for that
      matter), but it's obvious that he must have looked me up, since he posted a
      link to my website about six hours after I posted my comment. Hopefully,
      this little episode will cause him to think twice in future about sending sectarian
      messages to a group that's supposedly faith-neutral. Either that or make it a
      Christian group. I don't care which, but one can't have both.
       
      Mike Grondin
      Mt. Clemens, MI
    • David C. Hindley
      Mike, Don t you think you re being a little harsh? After all, probably more than half of those with an interest in historical critical study of biblical
      Message 2 of 11 , Dec 4, 2010
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        Mike,

        Don't you think you're being a little harsh? After all, probably more than half of those with an interest in historical critical study of biblical literature & history are moderate to liberal Christians? I guarantee you that in many "mainline" congregations (Roman Catholic, Luteran, Anglican/Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Methodist, even some Baptist) there are adult bible studies discussing things discussed here, or Crosstalk2, or Ioudaios, or Synoptic-l, Or Corpus Paul, and similar discussion lists. Seasonal greetings are often expressed on all those lists.

        Sometimes they get a little too syrupy sweet but that's the way some folks are, hopeless romantics. You wouldn't want your significant others to be hopefully un-romantic, would you? We sinply allow for occasional excess and roll with it, because we get more from the relationship than what annoys us about it. To some of these, the Christian (or Jewish, or Islamic) message itself is a positive thing for society in general, and they find study of the history and literature enlightening, letting the social, economic & pastoral insights from the past help us deal with life as we experience it today, and maybe not share in some of the mistakes of the past.

        Dave Hindley
        Newton Falls, Ohio, USA

        --- In gthomas@yahoogroups.com, "Michael Grondin" <mwgrondin@...> wrote:
        >
        > There's a Facebook group established fairly recently (Sep 1st) called "New Testament Scholarship Worldwide", which now has over a thousand members, including myself (out of curiosity) and our own Mark Goodacre and Stephen Carlson (possibly more of our members as well). Yesterday, I had an indirect exchange with the the group's titular leader, one Johnson Thomaskutty, which may be of interest here, as it raises questions about the relationship between scholarship and faith with respect to that group.

        > It's apparent that JT has left out what it is that we're supposed to wish each other, but it scarcely matters. He's fallen into the trap of thinking that a basically Christian message isn't such if it's veiled with a universalist-sounding theology.

        > As I wrote (rather too bluntly, perhaps) in response on the group page:
        >
        > > "The Universal Figure of Salvation"? Don't even try it, Thomaskutty. There's no such thing as a sectarian-free theology. What are you doing sending Advent wishes, anyway? Stick with the scholarship and stop sending veiled Christian messages.
        >
        > I haven't received any direct response from JT (or from anyone else for that matter), but it's obvious that he must have looked me up, since he posted a link to my website about six hours after I posted my comment. Hopefully, this little episode will cause him to think twice in future about sending sectarian messages to a group that's supposedly faith-neutral. Either that or make it a Christian group. I don't care which, but one can't have both.
        >
        > Mike Grondin
        > Mt. Clemens, MI
      • Michael Grondin
        Hi Dave and welcome back! There is some truth in what you say, and I ve admitted that the wording of my FB message might have been unduly blunt, but there are
        Message 3 of 11 , Dec 4, 2010
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          Hi Dave and welcome back!
           
          There is some truth in what you say, and I've admitted that the wording
          of my FB message might have been unduly blunt, but there are a number
          of factors you may not have considered. In the first place, JT (Johnson
          Thomaskutty) isn't just a member of NTSW - he's the director. Individual
          NTSW members can and do post whatever they like to the group's main
          page at FB, and I accept that, but the director of an organization which
          purports to be faith-neutral should himself stick to that rule. Remembering
          that Advent is a Christian "season", not a widely-observed holiday like
          Christmas, it would have helped somewhat if JT had said that his Advent
          wishes were intended for the Christian members of NTSW, but still I think
          the far better course is that he abstain from sending sectarian messages entirely.
          Being new at his job, I think my FB message might have had a positive effect
          in reminding him that, although the majority of his group is no doubt Christian,
          NTSW can't long remain faith-neutral if his own official email messages aren't.
           
          Mike Grondin
          Mt. Clemens, MI
           
        • Bob Schacht
          ... I have considered all of those factors, and I agree with Dave. However, I would agree that the director should add to the statement of NTSW purpose, the
          Message 4 of 11 , Dec 4, 2010
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            At 11:46 AM 12/4/2010, Michael Grondin wrote:
             

            Hi Dave and welcome back!
             
            There is some truth in what you say, and I've admitted that the wording
            of my FB message might have been unduly blunt, but there are a number
            of factors you may not have considered.

            I have considered all of those factors, and I agree with Dave.
            However, I would agree that the director should add to the statement of NTSW purpose, the warning that occasional Christian seasonal greetings, within limits, are tolerated.

            Bob in AZ

            In the first place, JT (Johnson
            Thomaskutty) isn't just a member of NTSW - he's the director. Individual
            NTSW members can and do post whatever they like to the group's main
            page at FB, and I accept that, but the director of an organization which
            purports to be faith-neutral should himself stick to that rule. Remembering
            that Advent is a Christian "season", not a widely-observed holiday like
            Christmas, it would have helped somewhat if JT had said that his Advent
            wishes were intended for the Christian members of NTSW, but still I think
            the far better course is that he abstain from sending sectarian messages entirely.
            Being new at his job, I think my FB message might have had a positive effect
            in reminding him that, although the majority of his group is no doubt Christian,
            NTSW can't long remain faith-neutral if his own official email messages aren't.
             
            Mike Grondin
            Mt. Clemens, MI
            Ref: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=151949818157846
             
          • Michael Grondin
            ... It s not a question of being tolerated ; it s a question of the director himself initiating such greetings in official email messages that are sent to all
            Message 5 of 11 , Dec 4, 2010
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              [Bob Schacht]:
              > ... I would agree [?] that the director should add to the statement
              > of NTSW purpose, the warning that occasional Christian seasonal
              > greetings, within limits, are tolerated.

              It's not a question of being "tolerated"; it's a question of
              the director
              himself initiating such greetings in official email messages that are sent
              to all members. But if it's to be allowed, why limit it to Christian seasonal
              greetings? Why not Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, etc? Aren't they also entitled
              to greetings for their holiday seasons? (Actually, I don't know if Buddhists
              have any holiday seasons, but I thought I'd throw that in there.) Is it that the
              majority gets holiday greetings and the others not? Or does the director get
              to favor his own religion over others? Now mind you, I wouldn't quibble
              about a Christmas greeting, but I wonder what your Xtalk director Jeffrey
              Gibson would say about the propriety of his issuing greetings for Christian
              holidays/seasons other than that (has he ever done that?), or what the response
              would be if, say, the SBL chairman were to do that?
               
              Cordially, Mike G.
              (Here's the full text of JT's 12/1 email message to all NTSW members,
               earlier quoted [and gratuitous and ungrammatical] material in bold italics):
              Johnson ThomaskuttyDecember 1, 2010 at 12:48am
              Subject: New Testament Scholarship Worldwide
              Dear NTSW Member,

              It is joyous to bring to your kind notice that NTSW completes 3 months' fulfilling service to NT Scholarship. Many people, including renowned Biblical scholars, students, and enthusiasts, expressed their strong gratitude toward the initiatives of NTSW. As we are entering the Advent Season, let us wish each other in the name of the Universal Figure of Salvation, who manifests "the Divine Glory" as Jesus of History & as Christ of Faith. If any one of you are interested in posting resources about the Birth Narratives, Genealogy, Christmas, and related topics, feel free to do that. At present, NTSW has 1,031 members from around the world. We are trying to increase our membership status in the succeeding months, so that we may plan many interesting discussions. Also request you to kindly check the new posts posted on the wall.

              Have a nice Advent Season ahead...

              Johnson Thomaskutty
            • Bob Schacht
              ... Sorry, I should have written religious seasonal greetings. But then, atheists might object. ... He hasn t, IIRC, although he may have. But I have, and so
              Message 6 of 11 , Dec 4, 2010
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                At 12:07 AM 12/5/2010, Michael Grondin wrote:
                 

                [Bob Schacht]:
                > ... I would agree [?] that the director should add to the statement
                > of NTSW purpose, the warning that occasional Christian seasonal
                > greetings, within limits, are tolerated.

                It's not a question of being "tolerated"; it's a question of the director
                himself initiating such greetings in official email messages that are sent
                to all members. But if it's to be allowed, why limit it to Christian seasonal
                greetings? Why not Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, etc? Aren't they also entitled
                to greetings for their holiday seasons? (Actually, I don't know if Buddhists
                have any holiday seasons, but I thought I'd throw that in there.)

                Sorry, I should have written religious seasonal greetings. But then, atheists might object.

                ...Now mind you, I wouldn't quibble
                about a Christmas greeting, but I wonder what your Xtalk director Jeffrey
                Gibson would say about the propriety of his issuing greetings for Christian
                holidays/seasons other than that (has he ever done that?),

                He hasn't, IIRC, although he may have. But I have, and so far as I know, there have been no protests. There may also have been Jewish seasonal greetings as well, because we had a number of Jewish participants, such as Lewis Reich, from time to time. And the holiday greetings were not necessarily all sectarian (I have been known to wish people a Happy Hanukkah, so the greetings were not necessarily restricted to one's own religious persuasion.) It was all done in the spirit of bonhomie, and I do not recall any expressions of grinchiness, IIRC. Perhaps if anyone responded with a Bah! Humbug!, I have forgotten.

                Cheers, and Happy Kwanzai, too! :-)

                Bob Schacht
                Northern Arizona University
              • Tom Hickcox
                ... The people in that group seem to be flyweights acting like they are heavyweights. Rule 62 should be in effect here. Tommy
                Message 7 of 11 , Dec 5, 2010
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                  At 01:07 12/5/2010, Michael Grondin wrote:

                  [Bob Schacht]:
                  > ... I would agree [?] that the director should add to the statement
                  > of NTSW purpose, the warning that occasional Christian seasonal
                  > greetings, within limits, are tolerated.

                  It's not a question of being "tolerated"; it's a question of the director
                  himself initiating such greetings in official email messages that are sent
                  to all members. But if it's to be allowed, why limit it to Christian seasonal
                  greetings?

                  The people in that group seem to be flyweights acting like they are heavyweights.

                  Rule 62 should be in effect here.

                  Tommy
                • Michael Grondin
                  Bob- We will never agree on this. In order to be fair to everyone, your little scheme would require asking members about their belief-systems to determine
                  Message 8 of 11 , Dec 5, 2010
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                    Bob-
                     
                    We will never agree on this. In order to be fair to everyone, your little
                    scheme would require asking members about their belief-systems to
                    determine which were represented at any given point in time. Either
                    that or arbitrarily choose a few favored groups, as you seem to have
                    done. Fooey. Far better, IMO, not to even get into that quagmire. It's
                    OK for you, because you're not the list-owner of XTalk, but if you were,
                    I'd have the same objections.
                     
                    Mike
                  • E Bruce Brooks
                    To: GThomas On: Greetings and Presumptions From: Bruce Mike Grondin had recently said: We will never agree on this. In order to be fair to everyone, your
                    Message 9 of 11 , Dec 5, 2010
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                      To: GThomas
                      On: Greetings and Presumptions
                      From: Bruce
                       
                      Mike Grondin had recently said: "We will never agree on this. In order to be fair to everyone, your little scheme would require asking members about their belief-systems to determine which were represented at any given point in time. Either that or arbitrarily choose a few favored groups, as you seem to have done. Fooey. Far better, IMO, not to even get into that quagmire.
                       
                      Bruce: I think that last sentence will cover it. In a mixed group, expressions implying co-membership in any smaller group (religious, political, or whatever) are out of place. The person working the library circulation desk should not wear campaign buttons: she is there not to express her ideas (which she can do on her own time, in her own persona) but to help the general public arrive at their own ideas.
                       
                      If people want festivals, I recommend (for a start) that those in the text sciences regularly remember some of those who over the centuries have established, or made possible, various important results in those sciences. Our little group's current list is the following (it contains a lot of Chinese names; if the balance were to be shifted, I for one would vote to include Bishop Spyridon):
                       
                       
                      Nobody in these exacting fields should go more than two weeks without a chance to party. The Philological Calendar is arranged to fill those long gaps in the present commercial year.
                       
                      The science of finding things out, especially when the evidence for them is textual in nature, is neither well developed in the profession nor well understood outside it. Until this changes, a little mutual fellowship and support and opportunity for small talk might be no bad thing. Once in a while.
                       
                      Bruce
                       
                      E Bruce Brooks
                      Warring States Project
                      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
                       
                    • Bob Schacht
                      ... Wha...? What did I write that would require that? ... ??? I don t see that as a logical consequence of anything I said. I m more interested in maintaining
                      Message 10 of 11 , Dec 5, 2010
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                        At 10:47 AM 12/5/2010, Michael Grondin wrote:
                         

                        Bob-
                         
                        We will never agree on this. In order to be fair to everyone, your little
                        scheme would require asking members about their belief-systems to
                        determine which were represented at any given point in time.

                        Wha...? What did I write that would require that?

                        Either that or arbitrarily choose a few favored groups, as you seem to have done. ...

                        ???
                        I don't see that as a logical consequence of anything I said.
                        I'm more interested in maintaining and promoting congeniality on the list more than Purity of Principle.

                        I'll give you points for consistency, but not for congeniality.
                        I'll also grant that seasonal greetings from whatever religion are out of bounds if they amount to hectoring sermonizing, rather than good wishes.

                        I'll also give thanks for your efforts to keep this list going and on-target. It takes a lot of work, and I appreciate it.
                        Is that out of bounds?

                        Bob Schacht
                        Northern Arizona University
                      • Rick Hubbard
                        It strikes me that everything that can be said about this topic has been said. Does anyone disagree? Rick Hubbard
                        Message 11 of 11 , Dec 5, 2010
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                          It strikes me that everything that can be said about this topic has been said. Does anyone disagree?

                           

                          Rick Hubbard

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