First of all, I am not a member of the SBL. I have never been to a meeting. I am not sure that I every shall, though I think I would find it quite enjoyable.
What I do not understand, however, is the feeling that some have about SBL and believers. After the annual meeting last year, and again this year, I’ve read complaints by some that there are people at the SBL meeting who are evangelical believers. The issue is not always framed in these terms. Sometimes the term is “confessional”. Why complain about that?
The true issue is this; when we read the Bible as it presents itself to us we find that it is confessional in nature. It calls for us to believe in a Creator who is omnipotent, transcendent, omnipresent, benevolent, righteous, and holy. There are many other things we are called to believe, as well.
Not only so, but the Bible claims that it can only be truly understood by people who are believers. Proverbs 1:7 in the Old Testament AKA Hebrew Bible and 1Corinthians 2:10-14 are examples of this.
Oh, I truly understand that we can look at background, history, culture, society, literature, and many other things and we can understand them without being believers in Jesus. Much can be learned in these fields by people who are not believers. That I will not deny.
I find it somewhat strange, then, that those who do not believe in Jesus should complain about people who do believe in Jesus meeting with the SBL, presenting papers, and having meetings in conjunction with SBL.
What else should one truly expect? Should Christians lay aside their beliefs when they come to discuss the Bible? Should they stay away from academic discussion of their Holy Book? Should they..???
What should they do?
Methinks the complaining academics should remember what it is they are studying. It is a religious text.
Expect religious people to study it.