The new issue of Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses has an article in it by Zeba Crook (don’t assume that’s a female name, for your own good) entitled “On the Treatment of Miracles in New Testament Scholarship.” The abstract is as follows:
All introductory textbooks to the New Testament have something to say about the miracles and resurrection of Jesus, sometimes implicitly but more often explicitly. Not surprisingly, conservative textbooks take a conservative approach, rejecting outright the ‘naturalism’ that governs other human and natural sciences. Yet even liberal textbooks stop short of assuming a fully naturalistic paradigm. This paper analyses the assumptions that serve as the foundation of both conservative and liberal treatments of the miraculous, and joins others in calling for the academic study of Christian Origins to situate itself more fully within the academic study of religion.
It’s an interesting article, and I think one of the concluding paragraphs is particularly important:
To rely on the supernatural to explain events in history—or anti-naturalism—is an emic perspective because it assumes, against modern (etic) science, the perspective of the subject (ancient people and their texts). To seek a critical naturalist understanding of the origin of a belief (say, the resurrection) is an etic perspective. The study of theology requires an emic approach, the academic study of religion requires an etic approach. To confuse the two, or blur the boundaries between them, will only perpetuate the impasse that is apparent in introductory textbooks to the New Testament.