Bill Hamblin wrote:I actually agree that BYU should not be publishing apologetics; and if the it didn’t want to publish apologetics, BYU should never have forced FARMS to join the university.
Of course, it was President Hinckley who "invited" FARMS to join BYU. So, BYU did not force FARMS to join the BYU community. Had the president of the LDS Church never forced the issue, FARMS likely would not have joined.
This poses a rather big theological problem for the classic-FARMS apologists. Think about it: A system in which everything is geared to be guided by revelation from the LDS prophet, a board that is made up of GAs, and administrators who hold the Melchizedek priesthood decided to bring FARMS into BYU and then ultimately end it. Either this was a horrible tragedy, in that all of these inspired people inadvertently contributed to the demise of FARMS, or, as seems more likely, the system did exactly what it was supposed to do in ending FARMS.
Knowing all of that, Hamblin might well reflect on why it is he--a man who never thought apologetics belonged on BYU campus (and boy was he right about that)--is supporting Daniel Peterson in his quest to return attack-dog apologetics to their old home at the Maxwell Institute. Perhaps to prevent the Institute from using the donations of guys like Yahoo Bot on perceived liberal or secular scholarship? Yahoo Bot, you will recall, thinks BYU is within its rights not to allow apologetics to be published on campus.
So, at the center of all of this agreement that BYU should not publish apologetics, Daniel Peterson seems to be the only former BYU FARMSian who is publicly pushing to restore attack-dog apologetics to BYU. Even recently, he and BYU's Professor Jack Welch were musing about how they proposed the continuation of the very attack-dog-apologetic Review along side whatever it was the others wanted to do. Welch, as usual, has made no public statement about any of this (something I point out not to question Peterson's honesty but partly to emphasize the lonely nature of Peterson's public quest to save the FARMS' apologetic legacy). Most everyone else who actually still works at BYU is uninterested in having attack-dog apologetics at BYU. Heck, Blair Hodges at the Maxwell Institute seems more interested in keeping some form of apologetics at BYU than Bill Hamblin is.
Since it appears that, of BYU's active faculty, only Daniel Peterson is willing to go to the mattresses to save attack-dog apologetics on BYU campus, perhaps the rest of us can amicably agree that their absence from BYU is a good thing and move on to the real issues.
Part of the problem is that everyone has her or his own issues. One thing that is beyond dispute, in my opinion, is that the Maxwell Institute represented big resources. This was true before FARMS joined BYU, and it is probably one of the chief reasons FARMS was "invited" to join BYU. LDS donors with deep pockets were willing to write checks to Daniel Peterson in order to have him engage in attack-dog apologetics. To a more limited extent, perhaps, (I don't know) they still are. But as bad as the situation was, it was probably beneficial in terms of resources for attack-dog apologetics to bear the BYU brand. Many BYU folk may not have liked that, but it was the case.
No doubt Hamblin and others were upset to see the institution they fostered publish an article mentioning queer Mormon Studies, thanks in no small part to the donations of people who hate the very idea of queer studies. So, now we have this ideological war in motion, and Ralph Hancock is leading the charge with his protege Hedelius. If there is one thing the Maxwell Institute should not do, in the view of these folks, it is to incorporate liberal academic approaches into an institute of religion at BYU. Hamblin may not want apologetics at BYU, and Hancock hasn't even read much of what the old Review published in the first place, but by golly these damned liberals are not going to gain a foothold in the study of Mormonism on BYU campus on their watch!
And Daniel Peterson is no doubt an ally in preventing the same, regardless of the fact that what he really wants is the return of attack-dog apologetics on BYU campus.
Meanwhile, the new MI folk are happy to have an opportunity to breathe freely in an atmosphere where attack-dog apologetics and witch hunts are no longer the order of the day. They are happy to interface with the broader academic community in the study of Mormonism. It should be recalled that the academic study of most religious traditions has been spearheaded and nurtured by people within the respective communities. Mormon Studies on BYU campus and elsewhere will gain ground as an academic topic because of this kind of support.
Is there something "liberal" about it? Probably at least in part. I doubt that everyone who engages in scholarship of this vein is politically liberal, but no doubt the new face of Maxwell Institute is welcome to more than a couple of liberals inside and outside the Institute. However, I don't see this as the real issue.
The big question lurking behind all of this is what role a private religious institution should play in the representation of its faith to the broader LDS community and the world. Folks like Daniel Peterson see the Maxwell Institute, as a part of BYU, playing an active role in educating the community by tangling with the Church's enemies, as defined by Daniel Peterson and his friends, and intellectually/spiritually enriching that community through study of Mormon scriptures in their purported ancient context. The philosophy at the new MI is one of dropping the polemics in favor of seeking academic credibility primarily through the study of Mormonism within the historical horizon of the 19-21rst century LDS Church and its literature, and through antiquity (though perhaps to a lesser extent than in the past).
I don't see this argument ending anytime soon. My cause was opposition to the practice of religious polemics on BYU campus and with the official support of BYU. I am satisfied regarding the outcome. And, I take no small amount of comfort in the fact that people with whom I vehemently disagree on most issues agree that attack-dog apologetics should not be published under the aegis of BYU. My continuing interest is to see that there is no reversion to the old Review. I undertake this as a BYU alumnus who continues to care about his alma mater, and as a member of the LDS community.
Being an optimist, I suspect that BYU incorporated FARMS to tame it or kill it. One might describe what happened either way, but it did happen. Still, I see FARMS as having a partly positive legacy. The emphasis on antiquity at old FARMS inspired a lot of young people such as me to pursue careers in the study and teaching of antiquity. What I and many, many other people did not like was the polemical treatment of authors and personalities who did not hew to the party line of certain Mormons and a couple of LDS authorities (I do not contend that FARMS acted according to their bidding). I am happy that those days are past. Had pieces like Peterson's article on Nephi and his Asherah, been the sole legacy of FARMS, we would not, I submit, be having this discussion now. And that is why David Bokovoy's recent post is, regardless of Hamblin's unfocused objection, right on point.