JASON ENGWER SAID:
But you keep drawing conclusions about Cain's critics without waiting for evidence from a trial. Why would we need such evidence? Do you apply the same reasoning to other areas of life, like Jesus' resurrection?
Are you aware that some of the arguments you and others are using against Cain's critics are highly similar to arguments that are often brought against Christianity (e.g., the anonymity of early Christian sources, the possibility that early Christian sources are wrong, the notion that the evidence for Christianity doesn't meet modern legal standards)?
This is Jason’s most significant objection–significant because it raises a serious issue over and above the ephemeral Cain controversy. So I’ll address it separately.
This is a comment that Jason directed at Wintery Knight rather than me, but it’s worth discussing in its own right.
i) It’s hard to address Jason’s comparison in general, for the validity or invalidity of the comparison will necessarily turn on the specifics in any given case.
ii) I don’t think anonymous sources are inherently suspect. Whether or not anonymity is suspect is contingent on more specific or topical considerations.
iii) Except for Hebrews, I don’t think the NT is anonymous. So I don’t grant the premise of the critics.
iv) But perhaps Jason means that even if the four gospels, or Acts, or 1 Corinthians, is not anonymous, these documents incorporate anonymous sources.
Whether or not that’s suspect depends on the motivation.
a) For instance, scribes are typically anonymous. That’s not suspect, for there’s no expectation that scribes would sign their work. That’s not a part of scribal culture. They were hirelings. The author, who dictated the material, got the credit.
b) Likewise, one reason (maybe the primary reason) a historian like Luke won’t name his sources is that Luke isn’t simply writing history, but narrative history. He’s telling the reader a story. To interrupt the story by naming his sources would take the reader out the narrative. Break the narrative flow. Disrupt the continuity of the story.
c) Another potential reason for anonymity is if the document is circulated to a close-knit community where everyone knows everyone else–like a small town. In-house literature. That’s perfectly innocent.
d) Yet another potential motivation for anonymity is fear of retribution. That motivation can be honest or dishonest–depending on the circumstances.
On the one hand you may have the whistleblower or undercover informant who is doing a good thing by exposing crime or corruption, but also has good reason for fear for his safety if he goes public.
On the other hand, you may have an unscrupulous accuser who wishes to retain anonymity because his allegation wouldn’t survive scrutiny if it were traceable.
e) This also goes to testimonial evidence generally. What does the witness have to gain or lose by telling the truth? What does the witness have to gain or lose by lying?
iv) I assume Jason is alluding to Bauckham’s thesis that NT writer sometime use anonymous sources to protect their sources at a time when Christians were subject to persecution. That’s an innocent motivation.
v) To what extent the Cain controversy is analogous to these considerations is something one would have to argue for (or against) piece-by-piece.
vi) There’s a prima facie presumption that the more accusers who come forward, the more likely it is that basic allegation is true. That establishes a pattern. The accused has a modus operandi.
vii) But that has to be counterbalanced against other considerations.
Are accusers coming forward? Or do we have spokesmen for accusers coming forward? It’s not the accuser, but the spokesman, who’s coming forward.
In principle, an accuser can have a valid reason to shield his or her identity. But by the same token, we’re not really dealing with the accuser. That doesn’t count as another accuser.
Rather, we’re dealing with a spokesman (e.g. lawyer, reporter) who presumes to speak for the accuser. The spokesman attributes statements to the accuser, who attributes statements to the accused.
Allegations are leveled against the accused. But by the same token, if the accuser is anonymous, then it’s really an allegation by an alleged accuser.
That doesn’t mean the allegations are false. But between the anonymous accuser and me is a filter. All I have to go by is the filter. The spokesman.
viii) If the accuser actually comes forward, then we have to assess the credibility of the accuser. And, of course, we must also assess the credibility of the accused.
ix) Are the accusers coming forward spontaneously? Or is this orchestrated? Are they, in a sense, recruited? Or did they take the initiative? If it’s spontaneous, that carries more prima facie weight.
x) Cain could well be guilty. Some men in positions of power exploit their position for sexual gain. Examples are endless. That's as old as dirt. So that’s a plausible scenario.
xi) But there are other plausible scenarios. The base of the Democrat party consists of core constituents and special-interest groups, viz. blacks, women, latinos, unions, trial lawyers. It’s a threat to the political viability of the Democrat party and the liberal establishment if the conservative movement can produce rivals. That’s why the liberal establishment tried to destroy Clarence Thomas and Sarah Palin. That’s why Congressional Democrats refused to put Miguel Estrada’s nomination up for a vote.
(BTW, I have no opinion on who was telling the truth in the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill imbroglio.)
There’s a vested interest in destroying a black conservative like Cain by any means necessary.
That doesn’t mean he’s innocent. But that’s one of the factors you have to take into account when you access the credibility of anonymous accusers or even named accusers and their handlers. Are they just being put up to this? What, if anything, do they get in return?
xii) Likewise, the liberal establishment is trying to redefine manhood and womanhood. Sexual harassment suits can be a political tool to intimate. To coerce social change. You have power politics in academia and the workforce as well as the campaign trail. So that’s another factor we need to consider. That may dovetail with other factors.