Thursday, May 10, 2012

Anthony Le Donne

I have been an admirer of the work of Anthony Le Donne for a few years now, and I have read with profit his Historiographical Jesus: Memory, Typology, and the Son of David (and what a fine use of the Oxford comma in that title!) and his recent, shorter Historical Jesus: What Can We Know and How Can We Know it?, which is a great way to spend a couple of hours stimulating your thinking.  I was present at a great session at the SBL a couple of years ago that focused on Anthony's first book.  And we were delighted to publish in the Library of New Testament Studies the book he co-edited with Tom Thatcher, The Fourth Gospel in First Century Media Culture.

Anthony is an original thinker, a fine scholar and an obvious star of the future.  I was really shocked, therefore, to hear that Lincoln Christian University recently terminated his employment, apparently because of some perceived problem with his recent book on the Historical Jesus.  It makes no sense to me that an institution that uses the name of "university" would do something so stupid and so damaging to its reputation.  Nothing good can come of this.  I offered my sympathies to Anthony privately when I first heard about this several weeks ago, but now that it is public information, I wish to make a public statement of how disgusted I am by this folly.

I mentioned to Anthony and to Chris Keith that in the light of this action, I would not be willing to participate in the planned conference on Jesus, Criteria and the Demise of Authenticity, scheduled for October, if it were to take place at Lincoln Christian University. I am pleased to hear that there are now plans to host the conference elsewhere, and I do hope that those plans will come to fruition.

Many other bloggers have commented on the shameful affair. Jared Calaway is Appalled and Angry, Michael Bird writes about Evangelical Confessionalism and Academic Freedom, Brian LePort writes about Academic freedom, evangelical confessionalism, and the word “university”, James Crossley weighs in with Academic Freedom, Christian ‘Universities’ and ‘Secular’ Universities, James McGahey has a post on Another Unjust Firing: Reflections on Anthony LeDonne's Dismissal from Lincoln Christian University, Jim West speaks about When Ideology and Indoctrination are More Important Than Education: The Bizarre Firing of Anthony Le Donne, Christopher Skinner writes on The Curious Case of Anthony Le Donne and James McGrath asks if it is Time for the End of the Sectarian University?  Larry Hurtado speaks more generally about this kind of affair in Academic Injustice and Shameful Cowardice, with a response by John Hobbins.


Jens Knudsen (Sili) said...

Why do I not expect to hear much about this from Fox News and the Discovery Institute?

Michael Holmes said...

I haven't read the book, but I get the gist from most people who have that there was nothing very radical about it. What was the hypothesis or suggestion that the university had a problem with?

Michael Holmes said...

... sorry if that's asking for too much information. But it does make one curious

Chris Skinner said...

Mike, the book was a popular-level look into historical Jesus studies from the perspective of memory theory. He pointed out how flawed memory is (which an overly conservative constituency might perceive as a threat to their understanding of historicity as it relates to the material in the gospels). Again, as you said....not very radical.

Michael Holmes said...

thanks Chris. Unfortunate.

Anonymous said...

There are academic studies that indicate memory when dealing with dramatic events improves with time.

I wish I could recall the French researcher who wrote on this.

The events have to be dramatic.

Anonymous said...

I wrote to President Ray of Lincoln Christian directly, asking whether this news was true and telling him how much damage it did to his institution. I'd suggest others do likewise.

His email is

Mark P

james Lamuy said...

This is not as surprising as it seems. The history of Christianity is littered with instances of exclusion and excomunication even in university circles. Its alleged universality strictly applies to the rhetorical realm. In practice Christians have generally behaved as a haughty click, and increasingly so after the Reformation, giving birth to the myriad denominations we now see.

There's no reason for scandal, this is their genuine tradition which overrides any other consideration -scholarly or whatever.

One mustn't forget, for instance, that non-conformists where excluded from Oxford and Cambridge up to the 1870's.