There is a growing tendency among Latter-day Saint academics to talk about “bracketing” faith out of scholarship (although not everyone uses that term). While I grant that this method has certain benefits as a provisional mental or intellectual exercise, and I have gained some valuable insights both from works where such “bracketing” has been done and from engaging such exercises myself, I fear there are also corrosive effects that are not often recognized by its practitioners.
He goes on to outline two of these perils, and the post is definitely interesting and worth your time. But here’s the observation that struck me as the most interesting:
The second byproduct is that it creates what I call a “One Way Street,” between reason and revelation. Because faith is “bracketed,” i.e., blocked off from traveling with our reason into the realm of scholarship, faith and revelation have no influence on the conclusions reached. But these conclusions are still imported back into the practitioner’s faith. That is, they reshape and reform their faith in light of conclusions reached without faith.
I would add just one additional consideration. There is an underlying assumption that bracketing faith leads in some sense to an objective and/or neutral viewpoint. In principle, there is validity to this. If you’re going to have a Muslim, a Mormon, a Jew, a Catholic, and an Atheist all provide mutually accessible analyses, then a great deal of bracketing is necessary. However, in practice the objectivity obtained via bracketing is anything but. Instead of shooting for a minimalist and open-ended neutral territory, bracketing is susceptible to becoming little more than a thin veil for a suite of ideological assumptions that are just as robust as those underlying any faith tradition.
The secularism of Western intellectuals is emphatically not a mere Blank Slate. It is, instead, a collection of metaphysical commitments (e.g. materialist reductionism, scientism) paired with stark political postures (always left-leaning.) This means that bracketing is not only susceptible to the theoretical flaw Rappleye expounds, but in practice is even more susceptible to far more serious pitfalls.
This doesn’t mean there is no place for bracketing. A tolerant, pluralist society must leave room for bracketing not only within academia but in broader social conversation. But this should be genuine bracketing. Even if it is impossible to hit the target perfectly, we should still be aiming at a truly neutral standpoint.