This is perhaps not all that important, but I want to clarify on an objection Jason Engwer recently re-posted regarding a statement I made.
But he later writes:
Many Christian apologists point out the scholarly consensus on certain issues. They often rely on studies done by Gary Habermas, who writes here (HT DagoodS) that 75% of all scholars believe that the tomb of Jesus was found empty on the Sunday following his crucifixion. He also notes that of the scholars he's surveyed, 75% are what you would call "moderate conservatives."...
I pointed this out at Debunking Christianity, but instead of using the phrase "moderate conservative" I used "conservative Christian." For Jason, this is "misleading".
But the reason I did this is because to me, and also to the people I'm writing to at Debunking Christianity, "conservative Christian" is a better phrase for the definition Habermas has offered. As far as I'm concerned "moderate conservative" would best describe someone like Bart Ehrman. Ehrman has very conservative views regarding the dating and reliability of the gospels as well as the authenticity of many of the sayings of Jesus. Someone like Craig Bloomberg or William Lane Craig would be called "moderate conservative" in the eyes of Habermas, but from my perspective these people are not moderate at all.
They would be for Gary Habermas, and that's perfectly fine with me. I'm not objecting to the way Habermas is writing. He can define words any way he wants as long as he's being clear, and he is. I'm likewise being clear about what I mean when I say "conservative Christian" so there's no reason to object. I just think referring to people like William Lane Craig as "moderates" at DC would cause more confusion. The goal here is clarity.
He says that he's being clear and that the goal is clarity. Does he acknowledge, then, that his comments at Debunking Christianity were unclear, which leads him to want to make his comments clear now? The comments he made at Debunking Christianity weren't clear, if they had the meaning he's now claiming for them.
Jon ignores most of what I said in response to him. He writes:
I could deal with Jason's other objections, which are also quibbles, but for now I guess I feel they are just too irrelevant and not worth it.
What are those "quibbles" that "aren't worth it"? Jon's multiple misrepresentations of the work of Gary Habermas and resurrection scholarship in general. Here are some comments DagoodS made last year, which Jon endorsed:
In other words, 75% of the scholars are moderate conservatives—people who hold Jesus was actually raised from the dead.
Is there any surprise, that those who hold to Jesus actually being raised from the dead, believe an empty tomb is historical?
Within this particular topic, 75% of scholars writing on it believe Jesus was actually raised from the dead. The same 75% hold to an empty tomb. What is so remarkable about that percentage?
Notice that DagoodS is defining "moderate conservatives" as people who believe that Jesus was "actually" raised from the dead. He explains that there's not "any surprise" if such people believe in the historicity of the empty tomb. The implication is that DagoodS is claiming that 75% of the scholars Habermas studied believe in a physical resurrection of Christ. And Jon endorsed DagoodS's post. In the thread at Debunking Christianity last year, Jon wrote:
The vast majority of scholars are conservative Christians (see DagoodS's comments under my own blog entry here.)
In that thread he links to, he responds to DagoodS by saying:
Excellent information DagoodS....Apparently that majority precisely maps to the 75% who believe the tomb was empty. Fascinating.
DagoodS and Jon are wrong, for reasons I've explained. The two 75% figures DagoodS is citing are taken from significantly different groups of people. The phrase "actually raised from the dead", followed by a reference to these people's belief in an empty tomb, implies belief in a physical resurrection, yet Habermas doesn't say that these people all believe in a physical resurrection. And how would Jon know that these people are Christians? Non-Christians can believe that Jesus was raised in some manner. Some non-Christians even affirm a physical resurrection of Christ. And one of the issues under dispute is what sort of scholarship would affirm the data relevant to the resurrection. If an otherwise liberal scholar affirms such data, it's misleading to refer to that liberal as a "conservative Christian" just because his conclusions on those particular issues are in agreement with the conclusions of other scholars who are conservative Christians in general. The point of citing hostile corroboration is that the hostile party is generally hostile in a relevant way, not always hostile. It's misleading to refer to scholars as "conservative Christians" because they agree with a traditional Christian perspective on some issues relevant to the resurrection of Christ. Why does Jon cite Habermas for his conclusion about the "conservative Christian" nature of the scholarship when Habermas doesn't identify the scholars as such?
Even if we accept Jon's latest "clarifications" of what he allegedly meant, which I find dubious, his claims are still problematic. Instead of being a series of false and misleading assertions, Jon's claims would be a series of assertions that are still somewhat false and misleading, but not as much as I thought, because Jon was being unclear.
Jon concludes his latest post with the following:
The title of the post for Jason was "How Significant Is It When Modern Scholars Affirm the Historicity of a Biblical Account?" That doesn't sound like a quibble. It's a good question, and Jason's thoughts on that could be worthwhile. Unfortunately Jason doesn't answer that question but instead talks about my "misleading" terminology and other such nonsense. We call that "majoring in the minors".
What I posted was more than "quibbles" and "nonsense". It's not insignificant to, for example, correct Jon's misrepresentations of resurrection scholarship or to point out that even most critical and unbelieving scholars Habermas studied affirmed some of the data relevant to the resurrection. I documented several examples of skeptics posting at Debunking Christianity who seem to be ignorant of the information I went on to provide in response to them. Much of what those skeptics said is highly inaccurate. It's not a "quibble" or "nonsense" to correct them. Does Jon think that these skeptics were raising objections that, if true, would only be "quibbles" and "nonsense"?