The roots of modern biblical scholarship go back at least 200 years but I think it's fair to say that in the 20th century, there arose some new ways of looking at the scriptures that have changed the landscape of biblical studies forever. Source analysis, form analysis and redaction analysis are just a few of the disciplines that now play an indispensible role in contemporary exegesis.
A deeper understanding of how the Bible came into existence, the contexts in which various books were written and the historical realities of its stories has been a part of most seminary studies for more than 50 years now. So I'm still surprised that most of this knowledge has yet to find its way into our congregations. When you think of the number of sermons the average churchgoer hears in a lifetime, you might expect that somewhere they might have come across this fascinating new knowledge.
The only conclusion that I can come to is that those who are hanging on to this knowledge are also desperately hanging on to power. I am becoming increasingly attuned to the nature of power dynamics between people and within organisations. This is something that I've avoided for a long time because I have no desire for power myself. However, I've recently become aware that to ignore the power struggles that go on around us is to allow the powerful to continue to exploit the powerless. As a result, I am becoming more and more critical of structures and systems that are designed to keep people in their place.
When we stop Christian teaching after Sunday School, when we encourage people to just maintain a 'simple faith' and when we accuse people of heresy because they have a different understanding of Christianity to our own, we are not simply 'safeguarding the faithful'. We are maintaining our own positions of power and our sole right to be the definers of truth.