Sunday, September 03, 2006

Blubbery unbelief

Matthew Green has posted a long, bitter, self-pitying hit-piece on Jason Engwer:

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/09/green-vs-engwer-defending-visions.html

This is one of those unintentionally revealing pieces which tells you a lot about the critic and nothing about the target.

In particular, we see that Green’s opposition to the Christian faith is essentially emotional rather than intellectual.

For example:

“I am pretty sure that Jason just looks down his nose at me personally, thinking what a waste my life is as an atheist, when I could be as high and holy as he is in the arms of Jesus! Please. The last thing I can think I would possibly want is to spend eternity with Mr. Engwer. I loathe arrogant, self-righteous, and judgmental people and if Mr. Engwer is offended that I loathe him, too damn bad! He needs to get over himself!”

Needless to say, this bears no resemblance to Jason.

Rather, Jason is merely a stand-in for MG’s father-complex. As a renegade P.K., MG is taking his arrested teenage rebellion at his old man, and redirecting it at the next available target.—which happens to be Jason

Continuing:

“I have no problem with that. In my opinion, Jason has long arrived at this point and I see him as little more than another spin-doctor out to fleece the world of faith.”

Yep, that’s what Jason is up to, all right. Jason is a prosperity preacher, out to fleece the flock in order to subsidize his grand mansion in Malibu, Lamborghini, Lear Jet, superyacht, and other accoutrements of his lavish lifestyle.

Continuing:

“I want to make it clear that while I have no problem accepting that the resurrection of Christ did, in fact, occur, and that it validates the claims made by the Christian gospel of the New Testament, I would never willingly and gladly accept the Christian gospel. On the contrary, I find the Christian gospel to be horribly repugnant but that doesn't mean that I won't be intellectually dishonest. If I came to believe that the resurrection happened, I wouldn't embrace such a conclusion gladly. Contrarily, I would only, ever, accept it extremely grudgingly, and I would have to be violently dragged kicking and screaming into the Christian faith. Since I have no desire to spend eternity with the Christian god, or his followers like Mr. Engwer himself, if I came to conclude that the Christian faith is valid, I would most likely take my own life. I mean, seriously, if I lived, knowing that Jesus Christ was alive and that the gospel claims about him were true, what would I be accomplishing by living as though he wasn't risen and alive and trying to avoid the implications of the gospel? If I found the Christian faith to be that repugnant, wouldn't it make much more sense to take my own life sense I am accomplishing nothing by delaying the inevitability of Hell itself? Oh, what? Mr. Engwer doesn't like that decision of mine? Pity I don't care. If he doesn’t like it, all I feel I can say to him is: drop dead!!!”

And:


“Even if my hypothesis proved invalid and there are good reasons, further, to believe that Jesus rose from the dead and the Christian gospel is true, then I would admit to such a thing, and then proceed to overdose on medication so I can take my own life and get judgment over with. Seriously. If Jason has a problem with this, then screw Jason!!”


And:

“Let me state that if the Christian gospel was true and I concluded such, I would not avoid the inevitability of Hell. I would take my rightful place there. I promise Jason this and if he doesn't like the fact that I don't want to be his "brother in the Lord", that I don't want to hug him and thank him for saving me, be his buddy, go to Church, adore those arrogant bastards in the Church, too damned bad! Jason can drop dead!”

So, by his own emphatic admission, MG’s rejection of the Christian faith is motivated by pure emotionalism.

The evidence for or against the faith is irrelevant. He hates Christians and he hates the Christian God. That’s his bottom line.

Continuing:

“My personal loathing of Jason aside, I have to say that although I have attempted a response here, I freely leave it to readers to judge for themselves.”

Thanks. MG. We’ve taken you up on the offer and judged you accordingly.

Continuing:

“I agree with Till. I find it bizarre that Jason would want to link to someone who is so idiotic such as this. If this is the quality and caliber of apologetics that Jason wants to associate himself with, I freely leave it to him, since by linking to and (in effect) endorsing Robert Turkel without qualification, Jason is only making himself look foolish.”

Yet another example of his raw emotionalism. Just a few months ago, MG was defending Turkel against Steven Carr.

Now, however, he’s turned against Turkel. And having turned against him, if Turkel is evil, then Jason is evil for linking to Turkel’s website.

Continuing:

“As for his appeal to Glenn Miller and the Christian CADRE, I wouldn't exactly put much stock in what these folks have to say in terms of a rebuttal. If Jason links to Turkel, I cannot reasonably expect the work of Miller or the CADRE to be of any higher quality. Neither should any other rational, carefully thinking adults.”

“I haven't read Mr. Price's discussion but being that Jason had linked to Robert Turkel, I am not expecting to be impressed with Price's discussion. I have seen what quality and level of caliber that Jason thinks is good apologetics.”

This is, of course, completely irrational. Even if Turkel were inept, that does not prejudge Glenn Miller or Christopher Price. To dismiss them unread based on guilt-by-association is yet another example of MG’s undiluted emotionalism.

BTW, I assume that Jason links to various websites for the simple reason that anyone who is reading Triablogue has access to the Internet. But many people who have access to the Internet do not have access to a good research library.

Therefore, Jason refers them to online resources when he can for their convenience.

Of course, Jason’s sources are by no means limited to the Internet. He often quotes from scholarly works. But there’s a limit to how much you can manually transcribe.

Continuing:

“I wouldn't trust Christian apologists to effectively rebut Carrier and Price.”

Just another example of MG’s reactionary hysteria.

What does “trust” have to do with it? You don’t have to take what they say on faith. Rather, you judge them by the quality of their argumentation.

Continuing:

“The fact that my ‘treatment’ of the issues was not as detailed and as extensive as Jason would like and that he feels the need to suggest that I am ignorant of New Testament scholarship and critical history in general is just meant as an insult to me personally.

“Apologists like Jason want more than anything to prove that their critics are uninformed, careless, stupid, ignorant- or else we would be Christians like him and just adore him!

Other issues aside, MG is several years younger that Jason. MG is also a fairly recent apostate.

By contrast, Jason has been doing this sort of thing for quite a few years now. So, as a matter of fact, Jason does know a whole lot more about the subject than MG.

But that’s not all. Consider some of MG’s own disclaimers in the course of this very post:

“I just lack the expertise to decide one way or another. The simple truth of the matter is that I would love to embrace Carrier's theory, in all its details.”

And:

“Both Richard Carrier and Robert Price seem to endorse the Radical Criticism school of New Testament thought. Although I find such an approach fascinating, Jason is right in that I don't necessarily commit myself to their views because I lack the scholarly expertise to make that kind of a judgment, although I would love to embrace the school of the Radical Critics; I'm just not sure if it's necessary or not. It all boils down to scholarly expertise.”

And:

“But the fact of the matter is that I am still undecided on the question of the genre of the gospels.”

So, by his own admission, MG is quite ignorant and uninformed.

Moving along:

“In each of these passages, Herodotus names his sources and how he got a hold of this information he finds worthy to pass on. Now I ask Jason: where do the synoptic gospels identify their sources? Where does John do so? Herodotus writes what he hears from the Egyptians, Carthaginians, and Persians. Does Luke say how he knows what women went to the tomb, or how he knows where Joseph took Mary and the baby Jesus after the dedication of Jesus? Does Mark say how he knows that Jesus cursed the fig tree? Does Matthew say how he knows about the story of the wise men and Herod? No. Does John's author say how he knows that Jesus cleansed the temple and overturned tables? or how he knows that Jesus supposedly raised Lazarus from the dead? No.”

“No names, methods, weighing of evidence, competing claims, or anything like that in the gospels.”

The problem here is that MG is comparing the incomparable. Herodotus is writing about events from the distant past.

This is quite different from contemporary history.

Suppose Peter Lawford wrote a biography of Frank Sinatra. Would we ask, where did he get his information? What was his methodology? Did he weigh the evidence? Sift through competing claims?

That would all be irrelevant. Since Lawford was a member of the Rat Pack, we know that he would be either getting his information from first-hand observation or from the testimony of other Rat Pack alumni.

MG is simply assuming, without benefit of argument, that the canonical gospels are either anonymous or pseudonymous.

Moving along:

“For many people ‘extraordinary evidence’ is indeed vague and often allows for critics to move the goal posts in terms of what the bar when it comes to evidence that will be enough to convince them. I, however, will tell people what it is that it takes to convince me that such ‘extraordinary events’ have occurred.”

And:

“I am committed to naturalism, philosophically, but this need not exclude an empty tomb by any means. I am committed to a naturalistic paradigm of Christian origins, something Jason cannot brook.”

The Resurrection is only extraordinary given his naturalistic presumption. And it demands extraordinary evidence given his naturalistic presumption.

Assuming naturalism, then any alternative explanation is more likely than a miraculous event like Resurrection.

All that MG has done is to beg the question in favor of naturalism. It’s not the evidence for or against the Resurrection that’s setting the bar, but metaphysical naturalism.

And where’s his argument for naturalism?

Continuing:

“Price points out well what is the problem with critics like Jason. He points out parallels between gospels like Mark and legendary accounts of immortals and suggests that Talbert’s research points to the gospel resurrection narratives as being legendary in nature.”

MG would do well to read David Aune’s detailed and devastating review of Talbert.

Continuing:

Robert M Price (who Jason will probably arrogantly scoff at if I know him like I know the back of my hand) has the following to say about critics like Jason:

“The research done by Talbert and others makes the set of alternatives proposed by the apologists (i.e., ‘’hoax or history’) a false one. It is considerations like this which make works like Andersons' The Evidence for the Resurrection hopelessly out of date. In this book, and a large number of others like it, the apologists manage to effect a resurrection of their own-- they bring back the deists and rationalists of the eighteenth century as their opponents in debate…New Testament scholarship has long since left both Anderson and Venturini behind, since it has shown at least that the facticity of the resurrection narratives cannot be simply taken for granted. Granted they are not lies, they may yet be legendary.” (“Guarding an Empty Tomb” in Beyond Born Again)

“[Jason] just assumes that folks like me or just like the critics of old. Sorry buddy, the shoes do not fit and no amount of shoe-horning on your part is going to change that, Jason. Price is right; New Testament scholarship has left the likes of Anderon and Venturini behind and I agree with Price that scholarship has shown that the facticity of the narratives cannot be taken for granted. Jason is simply wearing the old, warn out shoes of Anderson and McDowell in this case. It is sadly, Jason, and not me, who is stabbing at a foe long since dead.”

This criticism is about to boomerang on MG’s head, especially when he proceeds to issue a laundry list of Bible contradictions.

The funny fact of the matter is that MG is the one who’s operating with a precritical, 18C paradigm of what inerrancy should like look.

18C literature acted as if the Gospel writers were mere stenographers, recording speeches verbatim and reporting events in minute, chronological detail.

But the litany “contradictions” which MG regurgitates from the lips of traditional literature of infidelity dissolves under the lens of genre criticism, narrative criticism, redaction criticism, and the like as we make allowance for the literary conventions and historiographical techniques of the 1C AD.

MG is the one who’s stuck in a time-warp.

By contrast, Jason can readily defend inerrancy by appealing to contemporary NT scholarship.

MG likes to cite socio-rhetorical scholars. Well, what about Craig Keener and Ben Witherington, to name a few?

Finally:

At 10:19 AM, September 03, 2006, John W. Loftus said...

“If anyone believes what the people at Triablogue say then we are all totally ignorant about everything here at DC. And yet they betray themselves by dealing with what we write on a daily basis. Why spend so much time dealing with the arguments of a stupid site, if DC is one? They cannot have it both ways, for if they regularly argue against us, then they think we are intellectually worthy of their time.”

A non sequitur. DC is simply a convenient repository for stupid arguments against the faith.

Since the only objections are stupid objections, DC will do as well as anyone else.

10 comments:

  1. My lips curled in wry amusement when I read Matthew Green's statement:

    'I loathe arrogant, self-righteous, and judgmental people'

    Trouble is, the moment that we make a statement like that, we have just joined their ranks. In attacking a person because we feel that they look down on us, we are committing the same sin we have judged them guilty of.

    Too often we, like David, are our own judge and jury and we don't know it.

    The words: “I have no problem with that. In my opinion, Jason has long arrived at this point and I see him as little more than another spin-doctor out to fleece the world of faith.”

    Seem to me highly judgemental, the assertion that Matthew would rather slay himself than become a Christian because of deficient Christian morality self-righteous, and:

    "Mr. Engwer doesn't like that decision of mine? Pity I don't care. If he doesn’t like it, all I feel I can say to him is: drop dead!!!"

    Sounds like arrogance to me.

    But I won't call anyone any nasty names. We have all been guilty of such behaviour, telling people, even ourselves how 'humble' we are, pretending to be distressed at another's failure when in reality we are crowing over them in our hearts. Well, God looks on the heart, and we must keep this always in mind.

    And I am aware in writing what I have just written, I'm guilty in some degree of arrogance, of judging Matthew. I trust I am not being judgemental, for I assure you that this is written in a spirit of awareness of my limitations.

    And, Matthew, if you are reading this, I seriously recommend that you do NOT ever try to overdose on medication. Most of the non-prescription medication available kills you by causing massive internal bleeding. The process is agonising and takes forever. Many people assume that you just take a handful of pills, go to sleep and never wake up. This is not true, the pills thay are thinking of, powerful sleeping pills, can only be obtained in small quantities by prescription today. Your average medicine cabinet contains only the wherewithal to cause yourself to die very slowly and painfully.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'll tell you what: if Jason Engwer, who is, in my opinion, the champion of giving an answer in love, is guilty of being arrogant or unkind, then I'm in a bad position!

    ReplyDelete
  3. hiraeth said:
    "Trouble is, the moment that we make a statement like that, we have just joined their ranks. In attacking a person because we feel that they look down on us, we are committing the same sin we have judged them guilty of."

    It's hard to see how simply making such a statement puts us in their ranks. How does condemning arrogance, self-righteousness and judgmentalism does not make one arrogant, self-righteous or judgmental? Is it improper to loathe such traits? While surely one must not be arrogant, self-righteous and judgmental in doing so, taking pains to make sure that one does not assume that one is above such behavior, it is not wrong to hate such vices, nor does having such feelings necessarily mean that one has joined the ranks of the vicious.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Dave,

    I believe you're right that the objection of arrogance, if done in a humble manner, isn't necessarily performed from an arrogant perspective.

    But, in any case, Matthew Green did demonstrate such arrogance in the rest of his post.

    And Matthew's charge of spiritual pride is an interesting tactic. How is Jason supposed to respond, "No, guys, I'm really humble"? Whether or not the charge is true, the accused is left with no way to defend himself.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Dave said:

    "How does condemning arrogance, self-righteousness and judgmentalism does not make one arrogant, self-righteous or judgmental? Is it improper to loathe such traits?"

    Dave,

    You're assuming what you (and MG) need to prove. Making an accusation is one thing, proving it is another.

    All that you (and MG) have done is to beg the question with a self-serving slander.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Dai (Welsh for Dave), the operative word is 'loathe'. It is proper to deplore arrogance, I agree, but it must be done in humility, and I saw no humility in Matthew's statement. Maybe that indicts me, too. In fact, I'm not sure it doesn't.

    Correcting others is hard and must be done in love. I should never loathe people, only behaviour. Otherwise I am guilty of murder in my heart.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Evanmay, I didn't detect any arrogance in the post, but that's beside the point. Even if he did, incidentally, join the ranks of the arrogant, he didn't do it simply by defending himself. Hiraeth said that we join the ranks (of the arrogant, self-righteous and judgmental) the moment we say we loathe such people, and that in attacking them because they look down on us we are committing the same sin. I think that's simply untrue. That makes criticism of arrogance or self-defense against condescension impossible.

    Steve, I was responding specificaly to Hiraeth's comment about joining the ranks of the arrogant. I have not endorsed Matthew's comment, nor have I uttered or seconded any slanders.

    Hiraeth, you are right to point out that it is better to deplore, or loathe, arrogant behavior rather than arrogant people, though it's quite hard to separate the arrogance from the arrogant.

    In rethinking your point, I think you're correct that we do tend to put ourselves above others when we categorize them as arrogant. It implies that we think we are not in that category, and that can be a rather arrogant and self-righteous thing to do. Nevertheless, I don't think that's always the case. It seems possible that there are rather humble people who can loathe arrogant people. That doesn't mean that their detestation of their fellow men is a good thing, but it doesn't necessarily imply self-contradiction.

    The problem with communicating this way, via blogging, is that we only see a few facets of the other person's character. I'm sure if Matthew got to know Jason and vice-versa, they might modify their opinions of one another. Then again, maybe not. One can only hope, but I think it's likely.

    Whatever may happen, looking at these debates is proof to me that blogging and emailing are very flawed forms of interaction and poor substitutes for conversation. For some reason electronic communication brings out the worst in people, Christians and atheists (and agnostics like me) alike. I've seen my own Mr. Hyde go on a rampage more often than I'd like to admit. Seeing my interlocutor face-to-face forces me to tone down my rhetoric, even if it's only because I'm afraid of getting punched in the teeth.

    Cheers,

    Dave

    ReplyDelete
  8. Absolutely, Dave. I never meant more than to raise the precise objects you've identified.

    True humility would mean hatered only of the behaviour, not the person. But we are often too proud. While it does not necessarily imply self-contradiction, but it often does.

    And you're right, electronic communication is a bad medium, possessing as it does all the disadvantages of writing (tendency to dehumanise one's opponents) and of personal debate (tendency not to reflect). Most of us have been guilty of this.

    ReplyDelete
  9. forgive the typos above.

    ReplyDelete
  10. My apologies for the misunderstanding. I'm not sure we're on the same page about everything, but we're in substantial agreement.

    Regards,

    Dave

    ReplyDelete