Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Speaking of Systemic Dishonesty

Jon Curry said:

Allow me to post a few excerpts from your recent post, Gene.

And this is a systematic lack of simple honesty. To begin with, these critics don't seem to feel that they are under any obligation to acquaint themselves with the actual position of the opposing side by consulting the opposing side.

And I think this raises a more general question: why do certain fundamentalist leaders or spokesmen feel that a Christian doesn't have to be honest? Why to they act as if they are exempt from doing the right thing?

It looks to me as if this attitude has been very entrenched. It's become so habitual that it's expected. This is their standard modus operandi.

What we're dealing with here goes to a fundamental breach of holiness. Pervasive dishonesty is unholy.

This is, in my opinion, common currency in the SBC at present in some respects.

Clearly Gene you are mistaken to suggest dishonesty on the part of these Christians. As we learned from Jason Engwer during our discussion on Eusebius and dishonesty, Eusebius at specific places in his writings actually talks about truth and how it is important. He talks about other virtues as well. Clearly anybody that speaks highly of honesty and truth could never be guilty of dishonesty.

Don't SBC people routinely talk about honesty and virtue? Doesn't Ergun Caner talk about similar themes? It therefore follows logically that they could never be guilty of pervasive dishonesty. You must be reading them wrong. Let me go see if I can find some commentaries by people deeply committed to the view that the Caners and the SBC are highly virtuous to help you properly understand what their words really meant.

For starters, you, Mr. Curry, are in no position to moralize, since your worldview simply does not have the metaphysical machinery for you to do so, as we have demonstrated repeatedly.

Second, you've confused premodern historiographical method and the problem of selection with writing any historical record, with being dishonest. This is a fairly basic distinction that you, in your interactions with Jason Engwer, have yet to grasp.

Third, apropos 2, if you were remotely concerned about honesty, you'd make an attempt to interact with actual church history scholarship and not beg the question in your favor by continuing to cite the ever more unstable Richard Carrier. Remember, Carrier is the one who rendered 3 mutually exclusive theories of what happened with respect to the Empty Tomb then decided that Jesus did not exist at all and still expects us to take what he says seriously and as valid. The blind follow the blind. So, your own appeals to honesty and reliability are duplicitous at best. Let's not forget for a moment that your claim rests solely on a prejudicial appeal to a particular quote from Eusebius. Your sweeping indictment of Eusebius in particular and early Christians in general is based a (i) single, (ii) second-hand (via Carrier, hostile source), (iii) out-of-context quote. It is not based on a demonstrable pattern of behavior that you have witnessed first hand. Your analogy to Ergun Caner is rendered specious on its face.

Fourth, apropos 3, neither you nor Mr. Carrier have been able to show that Eusebius was dishonest. To do that, you'd have to have access to the history Eusebius discards and be able to access it accurately yourself. But Eusebius' history accounts for one half or more of what we know about the period of church history his history covers, so, in discounting his history, you cut at least two legs from under the chair in which you wish to sit.

Fifth, you've been directed to the work of Pearce, among others. If you'd like to interact with that sometime, I'm sure those of us who have taken a church history course or, even better, published books are articles in that field or have taught that course would take a look at it.

Sixth, you ignore a lot of contrary evidence, and suggest that we don't have much evidence for the moral standards of the earliest Christians, so that we have to focus more on later Christians, like Eusebius and Cyril. Okay, fine, let's apply that standard. How does it follow that if the morals of Cyril or the motives of Eusebius are questionable that their body of work is incorrect or not up to snuff? If you say that Eusebius' premodern historiographical perspective and method renders his history unreliable, then you must acknowledge the same of every other premodern historian. That cuts out a large mass of secular history too, and you'd likely need at least part of that same history in order to assert Eusebius was incorrect and unreliable. There goes at least one more, if not both of the other legs of the chair in which you wish to sit. If you say that Cyril was less than ethical in his behavior, a fact that church historians already acknowledge (have you ever taken an undergraduate or graduate level class in church history?), then how does this render his theological insights invalid? Would it render Einstein's body of work invalid if he was less than ethical in his treatment of others? If we apply your own standards to your own body of work and that of the persons whom you follow ever farther down the primrose path, then might I say that we thank you for pointing out that duplicity renders a body of work unreliable, disaffirmable, and worthy of being dismissed. We no longer have reason to take anything you say or those of your compatriots seriously.

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