Thursday, June 15, 2006

The liberal tug-of-war


Ibelieve early Christian preachers simply went into the Old Testament looking for verses that would support their view of Jesus. They took these Old Testament verses out of context and applied them to Jesus in order to support their views of his life and mission. None of the them proves much of anything significant with regard to Jesus' nature or mission.

It is more probable that the New Testament writers were influenced in the construction of their stories about Jesus by making his life fit some of these details. That may also explain Luke’s concoction of a census in order to get Mary to Bethlehem so that Jesus could be born there, according to “prophecy” (Micah 5:2, Matthew 2:6).


This only calls for a few comments:

1. Loftus wheels out the usual tray of overcooked chestnuts, viz. Mt 1:23, 2:15, 2:23.

He also quotes from a couple of liberal commentators to prove that liberal commentators don’t believe in Messianic prophecy.

Now, if Loftus were a real scholar or serious debater, instead of a flake, he would actually try to make a case for his position, not by a lop-sided presentation of the exegetical options, but by also quoting from moderate to conservative scholars on Isaiah (e.g. Motyer, Oswalt, Young), Zechariah (e.g. Baldwin, McComiskey, Merrill), Matthew (e.g. Blomberg, Carson, France, Gundry, Hagner, Keener, Nolland), and the Psalter (e.g. Grogan, Van Gemeren), then set up a comparison and contrast between the respective arguments of the liberals and the more moderate-to-conservative scholars.

But let us also note the fault lines internal to his position.

2.Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the census of Quirinius is a literary device. Now, liberals ordinarily accuse Luke of an anachronism by dating the census to the tenure of Quirinius.

If, however, Loftus is going to maintain that the census was only a literary device to “get Mary to Bethlehem,” then Luke is not in error inasmuch as his “concocted” census was never meant to refer to a real world situation.

So Loftus must pay a toll if he’s going to cross this bridge. He can only offer a liberal interpretation of the census as a literary device by forfeiting another liberal interpretation of the census as a literal mistake.

3.Let’s also assume, for the sake of argument, that Matthew and Luke did cite the OT out of context in order to force the life of Christ into a prophetic pattern.

Now, they would only resort to this expedient if they were confronted with certain stubborn facts about the life of Christ. There was no flexibility over what Jesus said or did, or what was done to him. They were stuck with the hard data of history.

So their only recourse was to rip OT verses out of context and misapply them to the life of Christ. But once again, Loftus must pay a toll if he’s going to cross that bridge.

After all, if would be so much easier for Matthew and Luke to begin from the other end of the equation. To cherry pick some yummy Messianic prophecies, and then weave a story around these handpicked prophecies so that you had a seamless fit between the OT job description and the NT applicant.

So Loftus can only offer a liberal interpretation of OT prophecy by assuming a conservative view of Evangelical historicity. He can only deny Messianic prophecy by affirming the factuality of Matthew and Luke.

For Matthew and Luke would only twist OT prophecy to fit the events if they did not feel free to fabricate made-to-order stories about Jesus.

4.So this is the liberal dilemma. There’s no consistently liberal view of Scripture. If Loftus takes a liberal view of apostolic exegesis, then he must take a conservative view of Evangelical history.

There is, by contrast, a consistently conservative view of Scripture, in which conservative historiography and conservative hermeneutics go hand-in-hand.


  1. if Loftus were a real scholar or serious debater, instead of a flake, ...

    That's my favorite line. It doesn't advance the argument at all, but it makes Steve's position clear.

    I'm for clarity.

  2. I'm just finding it more and more difficult to believe that John Loftus was ever a pastor like he claims. I mean, anyone who has gone to even a basic seminary ought to know all the answers to the uberlame questions he asks. At the very least, he should know that there are people who have provided responses to everything he's brought up (it's not like any of it is unique) and that it might be helpful, if he's trying to prove a point, to actually address those issues.

    I especially liked the part in Loftus's "argument" where he says that Psalm 110 is not Messianic, but instead refering to David's coronation of Solomon. Which, as I pointed out in my blog refutation of his bunk, is totally absurd given verse 4 states that the "Lord" David is addressing is "a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" and Solomon was never a priest, much less one forever, and no Jew at all would have considered these comments to be anything other than Messianic.

    But I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for Loftus to acknowledge his errors since he's not interested in the truth in the first place, but only in trying to plant seeds of doubt in the mind of those who are interested in the truth.

  3. Calvindude, the thing to remember is that, even if Loftus went to seminary (note to Loftus, if you claim to have studied under all sorts of big wallahs, beware of silly errors), it is not necessarily the case that he was awake in all the classes.

    But I agree with your general point. This wallah isn't coming from a liberal background, yet he seems to think that liberals have a corner on scholarship. What books has he read, I wonder?

    And yes, Lofus, ole boy, if you're tuning in, I did just insult your intelligence. As you seem to do it on a regular basis, I assume it's open season now.

    Oh, and I agree over psalm 110, too. Only one king ever tried to be a priest too, and we all know what happened to him. Does Mr. Loftus believe that the Jews didn't believe in a coming Messiah? If he doesn't, then why has he dug a massive hole and jumped into it?

    Not clever, laddie.

  4. There aren't just a few select verses in the OT that support the early Christian's view of Christ. The whole OT supports it. For example, the Exodus story is remarkably similar to the story of Christ, just on a smaller scale. The story of salvation in the covenants with the Patriarch's forshadows the new covenant that we find in the NT.

    I think Loftus' argument fails because he does not fully understand the beauty of how the OT and NT tie in together. The Christian's didn't just pick a few verses. They knew that the whole OT supported the truth, that Christ came and died for the sins of the elect, etc.

    The Bible is made up of seperate books, but that does not make its overall themes choppy and incoherent. It is a symphony of truth, where Scripture supports Scripture.

    Mr. Loftus' wild hypothetical ideas aren't even given backing. He doesn't support them, he just says "This is how I think it probably was". HE starts out with an assumption and, instead of searching for the truth open-mindedly (and thereby picking the most logical answer), he chooses one that he 'thinks' 'might be' what the early Christians did.

    God bless,

    A. Shepherd
    The Aspiring Theologian