Among a certain class of LDS biblical scholars, there exists a definite nostalgia for earlier eras of biblical scholarship. It has been reported to me that one senior scholar has repeatedly professed his preference for 19th century biblical scholarship in terms of the methods, questions, and assumptions on which it was based. A recent Mormon Times report about an Education Week presentation by a FARMS employee emphasized early Christian methods for studying the scriptures, including personal imagination, historical literalism, and a search for “hidden” Christian symbolism as normative guides for modern scripture study, where the devotional is entirely sufficient for understanding.
These sentiments share a studied avoidance of critical biblical studies as they have arisen in the last century which emphasizes historical context, hermeneutical strategies, sociological models, and a de-privileging of tradition. For instance, the contemporary ethical and hermeneutical questions around the Christian practice of reading Jewish scriptures as Christian allegories and typologies is simply ignored. (In practice, I think, these scholars do in fact value these insights, though their rhetoric does not).
Rather than seek to engage and synthesize modern critical biblical studies, some seem to suggest that it is best to simply ignore it. We can just continue to do what we have been doing all along, and hey, look, other premodern people did it too! It seems to me that while such a strategy has worked for the last 100 years, it is not a winning strategy either intellectually or practically. The values that inform modern biblical studies are the same values that inform modern thinking in all other aspects. The attempt to live a modern life in other respects, but to practice a premodern reading of scripture simply cannot sustain itself for long.
What is need is not a revival of the precritical, but a thorough engagement with the critical. Such a stance need not be adversarial, but advantageous. Other Christian and Jewish thinkers have engaged this scholarship fruitfully and found their faith enriched as a result. We too, should embark on this intellectual transformation and emphasize compatibility rather than combat.