This "gripe" is not unfamiliar to contributors to biblical hermeneutics beta, and frankly it is probably as old as the hills. Ages ago when I was taking undergraduate courses in theology, I was introduced to the modus operandi of the so-called "higher critics" in biblical studies. These folks believed that a "new" approach to textual criticism was needed, an approach which divested itself of faith baggage. They insisted on approaching the biblical text as if it were just another text, leaving--they thought--those pesky faith-based presuppositions behind and going about their task of interpreting the Bible as they would, say, a sociology text, a 16th-century English poem, or Heroditus’s Histories.
I'm speaking, of course, of the "Fundamentalist-Modernist" debate which took America by storm early in the last century, though its roots can be traced back at least centuries to differing reactions of scholars to the supposedly "new" paradigms coming out of the Enlightenment, which spawned an increasingly polarizing distinction between sacred and secular.
Luminaries in the early 20th-century fray included on the one hand the great preacher and founder of the interdenominational Riverside Church in New York City, Harry Emerson Fosdick, who acted as a spokesman and popularizer for "liberal" theology, and on the other hand, a Presbyterian theologian and New Testament scholar at Princeton (and later, Westminster Theological Seminary, which he founded), J. Gresham Machen, who was a spokesman for conservative--destined to become epithetically "fundamentalist"--theology.
Ever since the great "modernist-fundamentalist divide," many theological scholars who claim to be Christians but who also subscribe to such modernist notions as macroevolution and to the ideals of higher criticism have in essence (and artfully) bracketed faith-claims in favor of a supposedly presupposition-free approach to theology, biblical hermeneutics, and truth--at least with a capital T.
Even scholars within non-theological academic disciplines and fields of study who claimed to be Christians jumped on the bandwagon of modernist ideals and either downplayed (or were virtually silent about) their religious beliefs, or who, like sociologist Peter Berger (co-author of The Social Construction of Reality), bracketed--but not jettisoned, he would likely insist--his Christian beliefs, so as to make his theories more palatable and less offensive to his non-religious or anti-religious peers within academia.
That said, my complaint concerns the assumption on the part of some contributors to this website that there must of necessity be a dichotomy between "faith-based hermeneutics" and--for want of a better word--"non-faith-based hermeneutics." To them, the former brand of hermeneutics is simply too "truth-based" and biased (if not blinded) by assumptions which serve only to cloud empirical, neutral, and academic pursuits with its theological baggage. Instead, they favor bracketing truth claims in favor of their ostensibly non-presuppositional, historical-critical approach to all texts, including the Bible.
(This is the penultimate paragraph before asking my question.) Some of the contributors to this website--perhaps even a majority of contributors--are perfectly comfortable with their faith-based biblical hermeneutics and in good conscience believe that faith does not ipso facto make them guilty of poor hermeneutics simply because they happen to believe in, say, biblical inerrancy, or miracles, or Truth with a capital T. On the other hand, some other contributors to this website are perfectly comfortable with an approach to biblical hermeneutics which treats the Bible, in part, like any other book. They of course respect its uniqueness and consequently approach the Bible fully cognizant of the complexity of the task at hand, given the Bible's having come originally from three ancient--and dead--languages, and its coming to us in numerous genres (e.g., history, poetry and songs, aphorisms, narrative, apocalyptic writings, letters, sermons and other hortatory content, and so on).
My central question, I guess, is as follows:
Since both of the above "camps" (and I realize I use the term camps somewhat loosely, imprecisely, and perhaps even inaccurately!) operate from at least partially diametrically opposed and partially mutually exclusive sets of strong first principles about the nature of Scripture, is it realistically possible for this site to be "all things to all people" (or perhaps all things to both camps) so to speak, and in so doing not show bias--whether intentionally or not intentionally--toward the non-faith-based hermeneutists?
Over and over again in the comments sections underneath each OP's question, I read moderators' comments about how BHB is a "secular" site, how it is not a Christian site, and how it is open to all comers, whatever their first principles happen to be. Yet, if BHB is in fact a "secular" site, doesn't it, ergo, default to the non-faith-based approach to hermeneutics?
The central irony of this situation, as I see it, is that some of the non-faith-based hermeneutists who tend quite naturally to hew to the traditional principles of higher (i.e., historical) criticism seem to assume that things such as "first principles," "presuppositions," and prima facie assumptions are the province of only faith-based hermeneutists. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Having read recently Paul Copan's book True For You, But Not For Me: Deflating the Slogans that Leave Christians Speechless, I've become extra-sensitive, I guess, to the tendency of non-faith-based hermeneutists, scientists, philosophers, theologians, and just plain people to assume their perspective is in some way superior to the faith-based perspective by virtue of its being more neutral, less biased, more fact-driven, and generally less baggage-laden. Again, nothing could be further from the truth, at least not in any inherent sense.
Now I know there are kooks in both camps. Neither camp has a corner on kooks. By the same token (believe it or not) I know there are great scholars in both camps. Goodness knows, both camps should be grateful for the good work the good people in both camps have done over the years in such areas historiography, the study of ancient cultures, papyrology, textual criticism, biblical archeology (or just plain archeology), biblical languages, and on and on and on.
Moreover, for every gadfly and blatant provocateur such as David Barash, Carl Sagan, and Clinton Richard Dawkins in the non-faith camp there are at least three other (or more!) blatant provocateurs in the faith-based camp. As the saying goes, "There is none so blind as he who will not see." In other words, close-mindedness is not proprietary to either liberals or conservatives, macroevolutionists or proponents of intelligent-design, and rabid materialists or other-worldly mystics. The truth is, they (and we) all are fundamentalists, each in his or her own way. To act as if one is somehow immune to fundamentalism is to be self-deceived.
So again, my question:
Since both of the above "camps" as I've described them operate from at least partially diametrically opposed and partially mutually exclusive sets of strong first principles about the nature of Scripture, is it realistically possible for this site to be "all things to all people" (or perhaps all things to both camps) so to speak, and in so doing not show bias--whether intentionally or not intentionally--toward the non-faith-based hermeneutists?
Furthermore, isn't the person who assumes we must bracket the sacred from the secular in fact simply tipping his or her hat towards the ones who define secular instead of towards the ones who--like me--consider this bracketing tantamount to creating a false dichotomy between sacred and secular? As if sacred truth and secular truth could never possibly be happily married?