Higher Criticism and "The Fundamentals"
Jim pointed out an interesting article on the Bible and Interpretation website describing the scholarly controversies around the turn of last century and fundamentalists reactions, with special emphasis on The Fundamentals. The debate stills goes on to a certain extent, I suppose, but it looks very different now than it used to.
My first significant exposure to "higher criticism" was in college, where we were required to read Blenkinsopp’s The Penteteuch. Though I’m still not sure how to respond, I appreciate the introduction (much more now than then, actually). There are a number of issues raised by higher criticism that I’m still undecided on, but I’ll figure it out one day!
In my opinion, the greatest benefit of exposure to higher criticism for the more conservative individual (which I still consider myself, more or less) is the mental flexibility it brings. For example, if you’re always reading books by reformed theologians (or dispensational, postmodern, liberal...whatever), it is going to be VERY difficult for you to break out of that way of thinking because you are trained to think only in a particular system. You could say the same for any general approach, certainly including one who only read from a particular branch of higher critical scholarship. This, frankly, is just not helpful. We’ll be debating forever which tradition most closely resembles a proper understanding of the Bible, but surely we can recognize that no particular approach is ALWAYS correct in its assumptions and positions. The variety helps us break out of our mental shackles and lets us see the text in fresh, new ways.