Sunday, November 11, 2007

On Religious Fundamentalists and the Exceptional T.K. Cheyne: He seems to have allowed his being a Baha'i to influence his scholarship

Do we have an innate desire to ask questions or is interrogation something we need to learn? If questions are the means by which one stirs the passive mind and awakens the soul, how can they be asked so as to alert the mind to passionate inquiry rather than providing it with false choices?

Why do we sometimes fear questions? Or is it the answers that we fear? How can we guard against questions that coerce, that manipulate? Can questions freely asked tap the vast resources of spiritual, intellectual and emotional power?

Dr Nahkjavani challenges fundamentalist thinking by asking questions about:

* scholarship; * priestcraft; * fear; * freedom; * women; * the law, and about the nature of fundamentalism itself.
Bahiyyih Nakhjavani (1990). Asking Questions: A Challenge to Fundamentalism. Oxford, UK: George Ronald. ISBN 0-85398-314-3.

This is a book I dearly love. It's subject is fundamentalism, which is also the subject of a post by the blogger of Plowman Ministries, MRU, Inc., which consists of the text of a letter he has written to one of his old professors. "I had confessed to him that I am no longer a fundamentalist, and therefore no longer felt threatened by a number of the old bogeys we were trained to do battle with," he writes in providing the context for the letter. In his letter he mentions T.K. Cheyne, who met Abdu'l-Baha and became a Baha'i.

Another thing that has disappointed me as I have broadened my study a bit is to find that Wellhausen and other higher critics are misrepresented by their fundamentalist opponents, just as much as fundamentalists are misrepresented by hard-core liberals. I was led to believe that guys like Wellhausen rejected the inspiration of Scripture outright. The truth is, it’s a lot more complicated than that. When I read William Robertson Smith’s Religion of the Semites, a century-old work heavily influenced by Wellhausen, I was deeply moved by the devotional tone of his work, especially in the second and third series of lectures which were recently published from his notes. The early higher critics were men of faith. This does not mean that their ideas are necessarily correct, but we should at least approach them as our brothers and sisters. (There are a number of exceptions, of course. Cheyne, the editor of Encyclopedia Biblica converted to Bahai late in life, and seems to have allowed this to influence his scholarship to a great degree.)
Here is background on Canon Cheyne. -gw
"Harris Manchester College "
Uploaded on August 8, 2007 by RiskFate on flickr
The most significant event in this association was the visit of Abdu’l-Baha to Oxford on 31st December 1912. At the invitation of Canon T.K. Cheyne, D.Litt, D.D, he spoke to a large and varied audience in the library at Manchester College (now Harris Manchester College). The title of his talk was “Aspects of Nature and Divine Philosophy”, and he spoke about the two branches of human knowledge, science and religion. Science had begun to enable mankind to escape from the physical constraints imposed by nature, and religious knowledge and understanding now needed to catch up. The fundamental basis of religion was love, but this had been forgotten. Religions must unite to create peace

The lecture, chaired by Dr Eslin Carpenter, Principal of Manchester College, was extensively reported in the Oxford Times of January 3rd 1913 and in the Oxford Chronicle the following day. After the event, Abdu’l-Baha took tea with Canon and Mrs Cheyne at their home at South Elms, Parks Road, and then took a train back to London. A month later Canon Cheyne wrote to an acquaintance, John Craven:

"Why I am a Baha’i is a large question, but the perfection of the character of Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha is perhaps the chief reason…I am one of the Baha’is who remain in their mother church."

{Harris Manchester College photo licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic}

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For more information on Professor Cheyne, please see this URL: