Super Duper Bonus Exam Question! Name that biblical kitty (or puppy)!

Just finished the take home exam for my Bible Survey class. Alongside the three essays they must write, I’ve included a Super Duper Bonus Question:

After which biblical character would you name this kitty and why? If you don’t like cats, you can name the puppy. If you don’t like kittens or puppies you are a heartless, evil person and should be ashamed of


So, any answers?

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Creationisming Another Conference Paper

Yep, I get around. I got another conference paper accepted. This on is for the “Highway 2 Conference” in Lethbridge on May 9.  The conference is just Alberta-wide: Highway 2 runs north-south through Edmonton and Calgary. It doesn’t actually get to Lethbridge, which might imply rather low attendance. The conference is about highlighting one’s current research project and so my paper is an overview of my creationism project.


In the Beginning Was Their Own Image:
Young Earth Creationism’s Modern Mythology

Academic work into Young Earth Creationism (YEC)—the position that the universe is only ca. 6000 years old and that the Bible accurately describes its origins—typically addresses the movement’s history and political agendas and strategies. Another large body of work addresses a more popular audience and openly contests YEC’s “scientific” claims. Both areas of study typically share the view that YEC forces ancient biblical myth into a pseudoscientific straightjacket that furthers an anti-modernist discourse. The multiplicity of creationist cosmologies and differing strategies of accommodations between biblical creation narrative and perceptions of social and scientific realities is less well researched. My new project explores these areas by studying creationist cosmologies as components of a totalizing myth-making endeavor in which meaning and identity for creationists are actively created and re-created through a “play” between various biblical, social, and historical paradigms and models. This includes the paradox of conceptualizing “science” as the arbiter of revelation’s meaning. The resulting creation myths are part of a larger mythic world view in which the many “Creation Museums” and conferences in North America serve as pilgrimage sites and centers of social integration and cultural transmission and transformation.

Another SBL Paper of (Anti-mythic) Proportions Accepted

I found out a while ago that my second proposal for the great and glorious Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting in Atlanta (in November) was successful. It’s on something that has been bugging me for a long time.

The Priestly Creation Myth and Anti-Mythic Myth

It is widely understood the Priestly creation account [Genesis 1:1-2:4] is, in some ways, written as a polemic against key aspects of Babylonian mythology, such as the struggle against Chaos motif and the divinity of the sun and moon. It is also often claimed that the Priestly writer offered a “demythologized” version of creation. There is considerable academic debate, however, over the presence of an Israelite Chaos-kampf in the biblical materials (e.g. Tsumura, Creation and Destruction, 2005; Watson, Chaos Uncreated, 2005; Ortlund, Theophany and Chaoskampf, 2010; Scurlock and Beal, Creation and Chaos, 2013). After a critique of the current state of the debate, and the role of modern day, theologically motivated, Israelite exceptionalism, this paper argues that while it is plausible to identify a struggle against Babylonian mythology in Gen 1:1-2:4, scholars should be at least equally interested in its implied polemic against other Israelite creation and cosmological traditions, including those that see Yahweh combatting Leviathan, Rahab, the sea, and rivers. Above all, the Priestly creation must be seen as especially affirming key parts of priestly theology of sacred times, acts and places. In this light, the creation week story hardly represents a demythologization of creation at all, but a restated mythology to serve a new theological and ideological context.

My first paper is described here.

I should only do one paper at this meeting but since I have to meet with program unit committee members I need to be sure of getting university funding. They won’t provide funding for committee meetings, but will give some ($900) for presenting a paper. So I propose two just to increase the likelihood that one will be accepted. The past few years, however, I’ve been lucky enough to get two accepted. I then feel like a jerk at the thought of backing out of one once another committee has made its list (it is a bit of work). So I agree to do both. And then I panic trying to get both done. At least this year I will be on study leave!

SBL 2015 Paper Accepted

Woot! I have one of my SBL proposals accepted for Atlanta in November. It is in the “Use, Influence, and Impact of the Bible” section.

Creating Genesis in Their Own Image: On Young Earth Creationism’s Creative Mythology

Biblical scholars and theologians often deride Young Earth Creationism (YEC) as “bad theology” that represents an unsophisticated anti-modernist hermeneutic based on a simplistic doctrine of scriptural inerrancy. Consideration of YEC’s modern creation mythology often takes place in polemical contexts that accuses it of irresponsibly forcing the ancient biblical materials into a pseudoscientific straightjacket. Studies of YEC’s history and political agendas tend to take the phenomenon more seriously as an object of study in its own right. Some researchers note how YEC anti-modernist discourse builds on particular mythic notions of American identity (e.g., E. Caudill, 2014, on the cultural myths of the “Garden”, “Frontier”, “Progress”, and “Individualism”). These studies do not, however, examine in detail creationist hermeneutics and mythic constructs based on the Bible. I argue that YEC needs to be studied as a totalizing myth-making endeavor that embraces stories about origins and models of the universe developed from the intersection of Bible passages and appropriations of scientific concepts and language, along with myths about the Bible and of human religious, moral and intellectual history.

This paper presents the variety of YEC cosmologies as part of a more expansive myth-making process through by which creationists continually create meaning through a “play” between various social, cosmic, and historical paradigms and models, including the place and nature of science as method of gaining knowledge of the divine and as a factor in society. My methodology develops from thinkers such as J. Z. Smith, Wendy Doniger, André Droogers, and Bruce Lincoln. YEC’s myths of origins center on Genesis and adapt various interpretations of such things as the “firmament” and the origins and fate of the waters of the deluge. There are also various accommodations of biblical creation passages outside of Genesis. These models are typically placed in the context of a Western Christian view of Original Sin and Salvation. In some cases, the nemesis of YEC, “evolution”, becomes a facet of human apostasy from the origins of human society, preceding Darwin by millennia, thus positing the modern debate as intrinsic to the nature of the fallen world. This paper also traces some aspects of the paradox creationists face in having to cast revelation in a “scientific” light to affirm its cultural relevance and inherent integrity, and of the inner YEC dynamics surrounding the multiple cosmological options. I argue that this opens up opportunities for “scientific” debate not dependent upon the approval of secular scientists, thus the disagreement leads to a strengthening of creationist identity.

The Joys of the “Oh,Christ, Masses of Grading” Season.

Bah, Humbug!


On My Way Home!

I’m sitting in the San Diego Airport heading home from a very good time at the AAR/SBL, even if a lot of it was taken up by writing my damn papers. Both went OK so I’m pleased. I did take in a GREAT session on Mythmaking at Christian Tourist Attractions. Lots of food for thought for my creationist research project.  It was great to spend some time with Francis Landy, and I had a very good Indian meal with Anne Moore. Rebecca Raphael had a nice chat with Claudia Camp about a book. I also appreciated the meeting with Steve Wiggins who works for Oxford UP and blogs at Sects and Violence in the Ancient World. And speaking of bloggers, James McGrath was in fine form with a great paper in the Metacritizing Biblical Scholarship, and the blogging session and panel in which I was involved (James presided) was also really good, and I finally met a few more bloggers in person. Had a nice chat with Michael Kok and Willi Braun. Christopher Rollston talked about some of the behind the scenes academic freedom atrocities perpetrated by his former employer, Emmanuelle Christian college. He was told to resign or be fired for writing a Huffington Post article about how the disenfranchisement of women is an embarrassing biblical principle not enough Christians are wiling to admit. He said he NEVER had to sign a faith statement. The faculty handbook reproduced word for word the entire AAUP statement on academic freedom. Prof. Rollston had tenure.  The president and a colleague get pissed that he wrote something in a secular press, not even identifying his connection to the college, a donor threatens to pull out money and he is no longer welcome.

I didn’t end up spending too much money in the book exhibits. I got four or five volumes this time, most of which deal with modern atheism and fundamentalism.  I did see one volume of great interest:


This is the brand new, second edition of World Religions: A Guide to the Essentials, (Baker) by my colleagues, Hillary Rodrigues and Tom Robinson, with some chapters contributed by the rest of us in the department. I did the chapter on ancient religions. Buy this book. For a textbook, it is not very expensive. It’s nice to see it in print!

I’ll post some more later. Gotta run!

Can’t Miss Session: Mythmaking at Christian Tourist Attractions

Can’t miss this one! Directly relevant to my new research project!
North American Association for the Study of Religion
Theme: Strategies of Mythmaking at Christian Tourist Attractions
Saturday – 9:30 AM-11:50 AM
Hilton Bayfront-202B
wiki commons photo

wiki commons photo

This panel theorizes four present-day Christian tourist attractions as sites of ongoing social and mythic formation: The Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY, the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, KY, Bible Walk in Mansfield, OH, and the Holy Land Experience in Orlando, FL. Working from Bruce Lincoln’s observation that “myth is ideology in narrative form,” the papers examine various strategies by which Christian tourist attractions enable visitors to interact directly within mythic configurations. This direct interaction functions as a type of pilgrimage, whereby visitors locate themselves within a mythic trajectory that begins with the creation of the world and points toward an eternity with (or, perhaps, without) Christ.

Erin Roberts, University of South Carolina
Mythic Formation at the Holy Land Experience
Jennifer Eyl, Tufts University
Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego…and Jesus?: Anachronism as a Constituent Feature of Mythmaking
Steven Watkins, Northern Kentucky University
Myth, Anachronism, and Fiction: The Creation Museum’s Production of Scientific and Biblical Misplacements
James Bielo, Miami University
How to Build an Ark: Intertextuality and Authority Among Creationist Artists
Sean Durbin, Macquarie University
“It is what it is”: Rhetoric of Legitimation and Authentic Identity Construction on a Christian Zionist Tour of Israel

Safe and Sound in San Diego

Well, here I am in glorious San Diego for the AAR/SBL!  Finishing a paper today and going for a long walk.

Here’s the view from the 14th floor of the Omni Hotel








San Diego, here I come!

Off to San Diego for the AARSBL conference. Do I have my presentations done? Of course not. But I’m missing class today and on Tuesday, so do I care? Yes, yes I do. I think I’ll just make some powerpoint presentations with cat pictures, and that should work. I am dreading the question time though. I always get “What the hell was that all about?” or “Is it over yet”?lolcatOohGeez

If anyone wants me I will be at the Omni Hotel…

My sessions are both on Monday:


1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: 410 A (Level 4 (Sapphire)) – Hilton Bayfront (HB)

Theme: Academic Freedom and Biblical Studies

Rebecca Raphael, Texas State University–San Marcos, Presiding
Jim Linville, University of Lethbridge
In Search of the Biblical Flintstones? Some Thoughts on Creationism, Academic Freedom, and Scholarly Obligation(30 min)
Hector Avalos, Iowa State University
Academic Freedom and Creationism in Public Universities (30 min)
James F. McGrath, Butler University
Can University Walls Keep Out the Internet? (30 min)
Christopher Rollston, George Washington University
Freedom of Religion and Academic Freedom: Symphony and Cacophony in Confessional Higher Education (30 min)
Discussion (30 min)



4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Room 1 B (Upper level) – San Diego Convention Center (CC)
The session will conclude with a panel of scholars who blog (including Chris Keith and Anthony Le Donne, among others), talking about key moments in the intersection of academic blogging and Biblical studies from recent months. One of the great things about blogging is that it allows discussion of Biblical studies and other academic news over the course of the year. This panel thus makes room for discussion of topics that could not be foreseen when the program was finalized in April. Expect mention of specific topics and panelists on the scholarly blogs prior to November!

James F. McGrath, Butler University, Presiding
Kimberly Majeski, Anderson University (IN)
Biblioblogging: A Bridge for Church and Academy (30 min)
James Linville, University of Lethbridge
May Contain Nuts and B.S. (Biblical Studies): The Politics of Academic Legitimacy Online and the Need to Properly Theorize the Category “@%!#*! Loonie” (30 min)
Other (90 min)



Hitler, Putting the “Win” Back in Darwin.

Take that, Ben Stein!

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