CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

A favored tactic of John Loftus is to try and play Christian scholars off against each other. Consistent with this tactic, in his book, Why I Became an Atheist, John Loftus leads off his assault on the empty tomb with this assertion:

Several mainline Christian scholars, both Catholic and Protestant, argue against the empty tomb, including C.H. Dodd, Rudolf Bultmann, Raymond Brown, Reginald Fuller, Hans Kung, Karl Rahner, D.H. Nineham, along with many others.

Ibid., page 365.

Loftus provides no citations to support this assertion. When I read this passage while thumbing through his book, the listing of Raymond Brown quickly caught my attention. A moderate Catholic scholar, I seemed to remember that he was at the very least sympathetic to the empty tomb story. I did some research and confirmed my initial reaction, but because I had not read everything written by R. Brown and scholars sometimes modify their positions, I e-mailed John Loftus in April 2009. I asked for his basis in listing Raymond Brown.

Loftus responded that he would check on his information and get back to me. When I did not hear back from Loftus for over two months, I e-mailed him again and asked if he had found a source regarding Raymond Brown. By this time I had also become curious about his inclusion of C.H. Dodd on the list, another moderate Christian scholar who I was surprised to see listed as someone who "argued against the empty tomb." Accordingly, I also asked Loftus if he could provide a source for C.H. Dodd. Loftus replied that he could not find any support for listing either on the list but insisted that "[a] reliable source led me to mention their names, but I failed to research it myself."

I asked Loftus who the reliable source was and why he trusted this source so much that he did not research himself the claims he was making in his book, but Loftus has not responded to my query. I did some google searches to see if anyone else had made such a claim and the closet I found was an assertion by J. Shelby Spong:
If the resurrection of Jesus cannot be believed except by assenting to the fantastic descriptions included in the Gospels, then Christianity is doomed.... If that were the requirement of belief as a Christian, then I would sadly leave my house of faith. With me in that exodus from the Christian church, however, would be every ranking New Testament scholar in the world--Catholic and Protestant alike: E. C. Hoskyns, C. H. Dodd, Rudolf Bultmann, Reginald Fuller, Joseph Fitzmyer, W. E. Albright, Raymond Brown, Paul Minear, R. H. Lightfoot, Herman Hendrickx, Edward Schillebeeckx, Hans Kung, Karl Rahner, Phyllis Trible, Jane Schaberg, D. H. Nineham, Maurice Goguel, and countless others.

John Shelby Spong, Resurrection: Myth or Reality? A Bishop's Search for the Origins of Christianity, page 238 (as cited by a couple of skeptical online articles).

All of the pertinent scholars are mentioned as is the claim about "Catholic and Protestant" scholars being represented. However, the assertion does not address the empty tomb but the resurrection as recounted in the gospels and it includes scholars that Loftus did not mention by name. So this is suggestive but perhaps there was a mediating "source" for Loftus. Only he can say. In any event, whether originally descended from Spong or elsewhere, the question is whether there is substance to Loftus' particular assertion.

I have spent more time reviewing the claims packed into the statement at issue and believe it contains two significantly problematic assertions. The first is that all of these scholars argue "against the empty tomb." I take this to mean, as it plainly states, that these scholars are not advocates for the empty tomb nor are they agnostic on the issue. That is, for Loftus to be right in his characterization, each scholar must affirmatively argue that the empty tomb was a legend or has no historical basis. It is not sufficient that they say that we do not or cannot know whether the empty tomb story is historical. The second problem is Loftus' assertion that all of the scholars listed are "mainline Christian scholars" of the Protestant or Catholic variety. I take this to mean that they are at least loosely orthodox in their adherence to either tradition, though not necessarily inerrantists or conservative in their doctrine.

So far as I have been able to tell, at least three of the scholars listed by Loftus advance arguments in favor of the historicity of the empty tomb though they may not think such a conclusion is certain: R. Brown, C.H. Dodd, and Reginald Fuller. A fourth, Karl Rahner, contends that the empty tomb tradition is very early but is less than specific about his ultimate conclusion on its historicity. In any event, he does not seem to argue "against the empty tomb." I am open to correction, of course, and would appreciate any clarifying citations from any of these scholars.

R. Brown adduces many arguments in favor of the historicity of the empty tomb in The Virginal Conception & Bodily Resurrection of Jesus. Brown rejects the notion that the empty tomb was invented for apologetic purposes, observes that "our earliest traces of Jewish apologetics against the resurrection do not reject the empty tomb," and contends that "were the story entirely an apologetic invention, women would not have been chosen as the ones to discover the tomb, since their testimony would have less public authority." Ibid., page 122 n. 204. The meat of Brown's case is his contention that it is "reasonably certain that either the tomb was not known, or that, if known, it was empty." Ibid., page 126. The answer to R. Brown is the latter because he spends a substantial amount of time -- in this book and in his later epic work The Death of the Messiah -- arguing that the tomb of Jesus was known because the story of Joseph of Arimethea is historical in its essentials. As he states in The Virginal Conception, Brown notes that "an almost insuperable obstacle" to the notion that the location of Jesus' burial was unknown is "the person of Joseph of Arimathea who appears in all four gospels. It is virtually certain that he was not a figment of Christian imagination...." Ibid., page 113.

C.H. Dodd also advances arguments in favor of the historicity of the empty tomb. "I should be disposed to conclude that while the general tradition held that Christ 'rose from the dead' (commonly understood to mean that he emerged from the tomb in which his body had been laid) it preserved also a genuine memory that on that Sunday morning his tomb was found broken open and to all appearance empty. At first the discovery was disconcerting and incomprehensible; later it was understood to mean that Jesus had in some way left his tomb. Whether this meaning was rightly attached to it, and if so in what sense, is another question, and one which lies no longer in the sphere of the historian. He may properly suspend judgment." Dodd, The Founder of Christianity, Chapter 9 (available online) (emphasis added).

R. Fuller argues that the empty tomb "belongs to the primary stratum of Gospel tradition despite its absence from Paul." The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives, page 179. Fuller contends that the story of Mary Magdalene visiting the tomb, finding the stone rolled away and the tomb empty "stands right at the beginning of the history of the tradition and is doubtless very early." Ibid., page 56. He acknowledges that Paul does not narrate or proclaim the empty tomb, but contends that "a resurrection from the grave is implied by the statement, 'God raised Jesus,' since the apocalypitic conception of resurrection is precisely resurrection from the grave." Ibid., page 49. Fuller concludes that the women thought they found an empty tomb, but whether "the women's story was based on fact, or was the result of a mistake or illusion, is in the last resort a matter of theological indifference. The historian will never known the answer to this question."

Next is Karl Rahner, a leading Catholic theologian influential at the Second Vatican Council. I have not found any evidence that he "argued against the empty tomb." He may have thought -- at times -- that it was irrelevant to the more important theological issue of its significance, whether literal or other. In Incarnation and Resurrection: Toward a Contemporary Understanding, Paul Molnar notes the following:
Rahner does not have much to say about the empty tomb. In his Theological Investigations he expresses the belief that it is part of the oldest NT tradition and he also states that the empty tomb is "an expression of a conviction which had already spread for other reasons -- the conviction that Jesus was alive." (TI:17.20).

Ibid., page 143 (emphasis added). Although K. Rahner's theological writings leave it unclear whether he believes history is required and where belief is sufficient, I have not found any reference to him arguing against the historicity of the empty tomb. Rather he thought it part of the "oldest" New Testament tradition. It appears, therefore, that Loftus' listing of K. Rahner was erroneous as well though not as egregious as the previous three scholars.

But how about the rest?

R. Bultmann and H. Kung clearly argue "against the empty tomb" in the sense that they deny there is any historical basis to the narrative. However, as Loftus should have known, neither can be called a "mainline Christian scholar" with a straight face. Not while doing any justice to those terms.

R. Bultmann was a German theologian. His goal -- notably presented in his lecture New Testament and Mythology: The Problem of Demythologizing the New Testament Message -- was to "demythologize" Christianity by stamping out any supernatural elements attributable to the primitive mythological barnacles of the first century Jewish mindset. (A helpful review of R. Bultmann's theology is provided here). This included rejecting any accounts of miracles, including the resurrection. It is clear, therefore, that Bultmann had theological reasons for denying the empty tomb. It should have been clear to Loftus that R. Bultmann, with his "Christianity" excised of all supernatural elements, could not fairly be classified as a "mainline Christian scholar."

Nor does Hans Kung qualify. Although Kung was a Catholic theologian at one point his rejection of so many basic doctrines compelled the Catholic Church to revoke his status as such and remove him from his professorship. Far from being a mainline Catholic, he rejected core Catholic and Christian doctrines and was ashamed of the Catholic Church:
[T]he Sacred Congregation waited only seventy-two hours after his trial before condemning another progressive theologian, fifty-one-year-old Hans Küng. Because of his "contempt for the magisterium of the Church" on the issue of papal infallibility—expressed most recently in his Kirche—Gehalten in der Wahrheit?—as well as on the issues of the divinity of Jesus and the virginity of Mary, the Congregation declared Küng barred from his chair of dogma and ecumenical theology at the State University, Tübingen, in West Germany. "I am deeply ashamed of my church," he told reporters, and a day after the decree was announced he defied the Pope by holding a public lecture in which he told two thousand cheering supporters that he would fight the Holy See's Lehrverbot.

(bold added).

This leaves D.H. Nineham. I have uncovered little about Nineham other than he was a British theologian described as liberal. This obviously does not mean that he argued "against the empty tomb," but it is possible. I would appreciate any information on his views on the empty tomb or even more generally about historicity and the Christian faith.

All told, it appears that Loftus misrepresented the arguments or theological positions of at least 6 out of 7 of the scholars he relies on. They either advance arguments in favor of the empty tomb, claim it is part of the earliest NT tradition, or cannot fairly be characterized as "mainline Christian scholars." Although I am open to correction or clarification of their views, it seems clear that Loftus -- at the very least -- did not do his homework. How could he get the views and dispositions of so many scholars wrong in such a short space? Who or what is the "reliable source" that provided him with this list? How many other arguments in this book and elsewhere has he accepted from such other sources without doing any of his own research?

Addendum: It is unclear whether Loftus intended to include Uta Ranke-Heinemann in his list of "mainline Christian scholars." Just after referring to "along with many others" Loftus quotes her as arguing against the empty tomb. Ranke-Heinemann was a professor of Catholic theology and there is no doubt that she rejected the empty tomb. She also rejected the virgin birth. Because of her literally unorthodox views, she was excommunicated. So she could not be fairly characterized as a "mainline Christian scholar."

27 comments:

As a possibly incidental aside: I notice that John's list of names comes in the exact same order as Spong's, with only one local reversal:

John Loftus
-----------
C.H. Dodd
Rudolf Bultmann
Raymond Brown
Reginald Fuller
Hans Kung
Karl Rahner
D.H. Nineham

J.S. Spong
----------
C. H. Dodd
Rudolf Bultmann
Reginald Fuller
Raymond Brown
Hans Kung
Karl Rahner
D. H. Nineham


There's an extremely high mathematical probability that you've found the "reliable source that led" J'oftus "to mention their names". (That, or he borrowed the list at secondhand from someone else who borrowed it from Spong. Or at thirdhand from someone who borrowed from someone who etc.)

In effect, it was "mainline Christian scholar" John Shelby Spong whom John trusted on this point. I expect J'oftus read the list of "fantastic descriptions" on the previous page ("angelic messengers, empty tombs, ghostlike apparitions"), and inferred from this that Spong (surely a reliable source if ever there was one!) was saying that everyone on Spong's list rejected angelic messengers, ghostlike apparitions, and an empty tomb.

I would be willing to bet, however, that a sizable number of those listed scholars, even in Spong's list, agree that ghostlike apparitions and angelic messengers literally happened as events to the first core Christians. Indeed, so does Spong, in this book at least. It isn't the ghostlike apparitions that Spong has the problem with as being the fanciful, fantastic thing--on the contrary, he has no problem believing Simon saw a ghostlike apparition walking on the lake afterward, and he positively wants people to believe in Simon Peter's real (not merely metaphorical or delusional) vision of Christ in the heart of God, there on the beach of Galilee Lake.

It's the concrete objective story details, or some of them anyway (not all of them), that Spong wants his readers to reject: first among them the detail of the empty tomb. (Not the idea of the empty tomb as a metaphor; Spong is glad to present the disciples as mixmastering this up for mythopoeic purposes out of Feast of Tabernacle details months later. But notably, he contrasts this idealization with the "real" vision of Christ that he truly believes Simon Peter "saw"--as a start for others also really seeing the risen and elevated Christ, such as St. Paul.)

So, to clarify: empty tomb == fanciful legend that sadly those who have attained to the modernity of Spong cannot literally accept these days; it must go, or Christianity must go, one or the other. Seeing ghostlike apparitions or heavenly messengers from God, actually good and acceptable for modern enlightened believers like Spong; and indeed an event of this sort must be the massively powerful impetus for transforming the defeated Christians into victorious proclaimers of the truth (the really real truth, not some delusion) of God in Christ and Christ in God, etc.

(Unless apparitions and/or heavenly messengers are testifying somehow to the empty tomb thing. Then ghostlike apparitions and heavenly messengers are fanciful legends cooked up by the disciples. Any detail connected positively to that is, not by accident, expunged from Spong's theory, in this book at least, of what actually happened. Except for the Magdalene being distressed about not finding the body, because he can sorta kinda squeegee that into the notion of Jesus' body rapidly decomposing into unidentifiable scavenger mess.)

JRP

Excellent post.

JP,

I had not picked up on the similarities in order. That reinforces my suspicion that this is the ultimate source of Loftus' assertion. I believe it likely was mediated, however, by any number of third parties who Loftus took at face value.

If he did rely directly on Spong, why excise some of the scholars? And surely even Loftus would see how even Spong's representations do not support his parsing of the sources?

{{If he did rely directly on Spong, why excise some of the scholars?}}

Good question. Maybe he'll answer. (You've told him you now have posted this up, right?)

The question could be asked of the hypothetical third-party, too, though: why did they excise some of Spong's list?

(From past experience of relating lists myself, my guess either in regard to John or the hypothetical mediant source, is that he-or-they kept the most familiar refs. Eye-travel back and forth from printed page to typing would easily account for the transposition of Fuller and Brown in the list; I nearly did it myself at least once, before I realized I could copy-paste and edit-format the result! {lopsided g})

{{And surely even Loftus would see how even Spong's representations do not support his parsing of the sources?}}

Spong didn't notice that a substantial number of those scholars not only (himself included!) have no problem with admitting ghostly apparitions and heavenly messengers (even really real heavenly messengers as per Spong's own theory), but either didn't notice or bother to mention that a substantial number of those scholars are willing (unlike him, in this book anyway) to accept an empty tomb.

Why would J'oftus be any different (in regard to the empty tomb disbelief anyway), especially if he was cribbing the list from Spong (whether directly or through mediation)?


Incidentally, you can add Bart Ehrman to the (cough) "mainline scholar" list who is willing to accept an empty tomb. {g} (Watching him flounder around scatting up hypersceptical theories about it, during his debate a couple of years ago with William Lane Craig, was the high point of that debate for me. Or low point maybe. {wry g!})

JRP

You wonder if the resurrection skeptics are ready to provide empirical evidence that the tomb wasn't empty, or if their radical empiricism is, as I suspect, a one way street.

See The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Jason,

I just noticed that -- only a few pages later in his book -- Loftus relies on Spong's book to explain "what really happened" regarding the resurrection.

If he relied on Spong, why not just admit it?

Perhaps because buried in a footnote is Loftus' tacit admission that Spong is not a historian or New Testament scholar. So why cite him and not one of the more liberal scholars out there with actual credentials? Because Loftus is less concerned with scholarship than he is with propaganda. He would rather rely on a liberal "Christian" with few credentials than a bona fida liberal scholar with impressive credentials.

Loftus lamely defends his reliance on Spong by arguing that he once appeared in a debate with William L. Craig. It is beyond me, however, how getting crushed by Craig in a debate qualifies someone as a legitimate scholar.

Chris,

Heh! {gggg!}{bow!}

The sadder thing, is that if he cherry picked through the liberal (and maybe even the moderate and conservative) field of actual scholars, he could possibly arrive at more-or-less the same result. But that would take work.

JRP

Which, to be fair, maybe he did do later in the book. {shrug} Not that that would explain or excuse the quote you gave at the top of the OP.

(And by 'cherry-pick' I mean that maybe he could synthesize his position in syncrisis with those scholars. That wouldn't necessarily be bad procedure; other people do that all the time, where they agree with a scholar in regard to one rationale but not in regard to another one.)

JRP

I deleted Derek's comment, as it has no particular bearing to this thread, and seems to have been aimed at another thread somewhere. He's welcome to repost it there instead. (I didn't permanently delete it, and can reinstate it temporarily for recovery if necessary. I think. Probably. Never tried that before, but Blogger says it can be done. {lopsided g})

Just wanted to point out, it wasn't punishment for violating board protocols or anything like that.

JRP

Derek was commenting on someone plugging a book (including an amazon link) who I deleted this morning.

BUSTED!

Jason,

I can see how random and insane I must have sounded without the post before mine. :)

I was so thrown by the insane veiw being promoted that I couldn't help but rant a little. I e-mailed JP Holding about it for his monthly screwballs list and he has informed me that he ordered it for a review. So keep you eyes open over at tektonics.org!

In Christ,
Derek

Thanks for researching this Layman. I'm listening in but not yet persuaded. I personally like Bishop Spong. He has reached a number of people with his books and for that I'm very thankful. You ought to engage his views and see for yourself. He is a great communicator and a scholar in his own right. But if you don't think so then you must admit he more than adequately dispenses the results of good scholarship.

Here's an except from one of his books. It's well reasoned and reflects good scholarship. I defy you to say otherwise, even if you will no doubt disagree. I defend his arguments in the comments of that post.

My contention is that at best so far, all I have seen are mischaracterizations of my book, personal attacks on me, nitpicking at small details, and sloppy reasoning in trying to refute it. Case in point is this book which dedicates half of it's pages toward critiquing my book. Others are coming. Will they be any better? I hope so.

My argument stands on it's own merits and you have said nothing about it. Nothing. Yup, that's right. Nothing was said against the arguments I laid out in that chapter. That's nada, zip, zilch. All Layman thinks is that a few of the people I mentioned do think the tomb was empty. Big deal if they do. If all that's required is to nitpick a book for errors in a list of names then have at it.

[I'm not claiming Layman thinks this, only that others who have read this have come to that conclusion. Brad haggard, for instance on my Blog concluded from reading this that I have "no credible sources" and therefore my "whole argument is undercut." And so it must be that "the list was blatant mischaracterization."]

Not so at all!

Well, the list was "blatant mischaracterization" by someone, whether it was by you or by Spong. When at least 6 out of 7 of the named scholars on your list advance arguments in favor of the empty tomb, claim it is part of the earliest NT tradition, and/or are generally regarded as being very sceptical scholars (not mainline moderates), then it isn't very accurate to say that "several mainline Christian scholars argue against the empty tomb" and provide that list.

Which seemed a "big deal" back when you wanted readers to think so. Less of a big deal when appeal to their authority might count against your position, I guess.


That being said: no, it would be stretching things to say that your whole argument was undercut by this mischaracterization. Your argument stands or falls on its own merits regardless--it's still entirely possible for you to have good arguments, either piecemeal or all together, afterward.

(One might hope that this part would be revised in a 3rd edition, though. So as not to give wrong impressions to your readers. Notice that Spong hardly did you any factual favors with his own rhetorical maneuverings there.)

JRP

Derek,

Ah! Understanding has been occurred! {gg!} Good, my head was kinda pingy about that. (I figured I had missed something somewhere, but I couldn't figure out where.)

JRP

John,
You may be "listening in," but it doesn't seem that you're following the post or discussion. The post isn't about the merits of Bishop Spong as an author or scholar. The post isn't about whether or not your entire argument against the empty tomb stands. The post is about your use of sources, and what appears to be a wildly inaccurate statement.

As such, please respond to the issue at hand and clarify your position. You say, "Several mainline Christian scholars, both Catholic and Protestant, argue against the empty tomb," and go on to list the scholars mentioned above. That's what's being challenged, not the various other topics from your comment.

The post is about the origin of your sources and the usage of this list in the context of your book. Please answer the following to clarify your position:

1. Is your source the list from Spong?
1A. If your source is Spong, how can you justify taking a listing used by Spong to show scholars who are skeptical of the literal interpretation of every New Testament passage (the original context) and suggest that they are scholars who "argue against the empty tomb?"
1B. Even if you can justify quoting from Spong in this regard, for the sake of an honest argument, wouldn't it be best to have researched the scholars before simply citing them as saying something?

2. Do you still consider these scholars "mainline?"
2A. If so, could you clarify what you mean by the term "mainline?"

3. You say, you're "listening in but not yet persuaded." Where are you not persuaded? Are you not persuaded by the argument that these scholars are not mainline or not persuaded by the argument that many held and argued for an empty tomb?

Thanks for your answers.

{{The post isn't about the merits of Bishop Spong as an author or scholar.}}

Well, my first comment had more than a little criticism of JSSpong's sloppy (or overly convenient) rhetorical approach, in the larger context of his own use of that list (even in its expanded form)--an approach that seems to have done at least one reader no favors, for accurately reporting stances held by those listed scholars.

But, true, the original post wasn't about the merits of Spong as an author or scholar.

And I'd be interested in seeing clear answers from John on those questions, too, Rang. (Even if the answers may have no bearing on the worth of John's own arguments afterward. Sometimes presentation is important, for the impression it can leave on readers who are trusting the author to know what he is talking about when he makes a stated claim.)

JRP

Jason, and others, as I said this is nitpicking plain and simple which was posted at Tweb and here giving the false impression (rightly or wrongly) that it undercuts my arguments.

My book covers the topics of God, man and the universe, using the disciplines of science, theology, apologetics, philosophy, history, Biblical studies, and so forth. No mere mortal can have a good grasp of it all, as I told Layman in an email. I even admitted that I know I'm wrong about some things, so I'm willing to learn. Whether Layman is correct or not I'm not sure, and that's my final word on it.

Here's what John Beversluis wrote about my book: "No review can begin to do justice to an ambitious book of this scope or to the sustained theological, philosophical, scientific, textual, and historical critique of Christianity that it contains. Suffice it to say at the outset that I have never read a book that presents such a massive and systematic refutation of the claims of Christianity, and I have seldom read a book that marshals evidence (from such a wide variety of disciplines) and documents its claims in such painstaking detail."

So along comes Layman nitpicking about a detail. Others will do likewise. I am a mere mortal. I did the best I could with what I was doing. I do not have to defend the minutia. Deal with my case.

Cheers.

{{I do not have to defend the minutia. Deal with my case.}}

So, just to be clear: your case has nothing to do with several mainline Christian scholars, both Catholic and Protestant, arguing against the empty tomb.

Or, at least, it has nothing substantially to do with the arguments against the empty tomb provided by the scholars in the list you gave. (The few in that list who were actually providing such arguments, I mean; and who, when they do, happen not to be mainline scholars. Despite being described that way.)

And yet, you started your chapter on the Res this way anyway.


Let's put it another way: does the fact that a large proportion of mainline scholars (and even some very sceptical ones) actually are willing to accept an empty tomb and/or accept that detail as being primitive to the development of Christianity (as even Spong allows, in his own way, i.e. the detail goes back to within the first year of Christianity after Jesus' death), make any difference to your argument?

If it doesn't, then there is no reason not to say, "whoops, I trusted Spong on that but he was dead wrong, and in fact he was only rhetorically lumping all those people together because they aren't hyperfundamentalists insisting on a level of literality that even fundamentalistic scholars don't insist upon, in order to make it seem like he's really just in the same boat they are when he rejects tons of details wholesale in order to 'save' his Christianity; which I could have easily figured out myself from my own research but somehow... uh... didn't... or anyway I just wanted to leave the same impression in readers, too, except even moreso, because the ends consequentialistically justify the means, etc."


...okay, maybe there is a 'good' reason (in a relativistic amoral way) not to say that. {g}


But here's the thing. Readers who aren't in a position to check claims for themselves (which is usually) rely on authors to have done the factchecking. You made a claim that is ridiculously false and could have been easily caught by anyone who has in fact researched the issues thoroughly.

Not incidentally: "Whether Layman is correct or not I'm not sure, and that's my final word on it." It was a detail important enough for your readers to believe, until it looks wrong, and then it isn't important enough to even try to defend. At all. So, what does this say about how a reader can expect you to behave toward other challenges later?


True, it's only one detail. But it's a detail that counts as a character witness to how you're treating your own readers. And how you choose to respond to that, is also a character witness on how you're willing to treat your own readers. Now a reader will have to watch you especially carefully: not in order to learn from you, but because you've already shown a too-conveniently-loose attitude toward the data.

(Much like Spong, as it happens, when he wrote that originally; although his conveniently-too-loose attitude toward the data was more subtle. And has gotten you into trouble now for swallowing it uncritically, without noticing Spong’s own huge inconsistencies in applying it, and then reprinting it in a punchier form for your readers to swallow if they happen not to know any better either.)


I do reiterate and agree, though, that tagging you here with this does not necessarily undermine your arguments per se later (except to the extent, if any, that they depend on the factuality of your claim here, of course. Which I doubt.)

JRP


(PS: also, it's "started" to attack, not "stated". {nitpicky g})

Btw, does anyone else think it's funny when being "painstaking" about details is a plus, until it happens against you and then it's "nitpicking"? {g}

JRP

John, please. Let me give you some advice.

Stop just saying "YOU GUYS YOU GUYS I HAVE A GREAT REVIEW FOR MY BOOK THAT PROVES MY POINT!"

Nobody here gives a damn about what your atheist buddies say about your book. We can read and judge it for ourselves.

Can you actually ARGUE SOMETHING?

To be fair, John was complaining that his actual arguments haven't been addressed yet by Chris. That's understandable.


What's wacky about John bringing up the Bev quote, is that Chris (Layman) started reading through a particular chapter on a topic on which he himself has done a lot of research; ran into a claim near the beginning which (from his own research) sounded flagrantly bogus; took the time to do some painstaking research on it himself, just to be sure; reported his research in painstaking (and fairly qualified) detail, with links for further factchecking (as did I, in my own way); John calls this "nitpicking" ("painstaking research" sux when it turns up evidence that he wasn't remotely painstaking in researching a point himself); refuses to do any more research on it himself than he did before, not even to check if Chris is wrong himself...

...and then posts the Beversluis blurb about the painstaking research that went into his book.


Some actual detailed research is given to show that on one point John rather totally lacked research (thus the title of Chris' original post); suddenly painstaking research is nitpicking and so the results should be ignored (in order to focus elsewhere); and, oh, by the way, Beversluis says he does painstaking research, so there.


The complaint about not focusing on arguments has some weight; but John has already shown what's going to happen if actual painstaking research voids a point he was hoping to make in the book. If it's on a point he considers to be more crucial to his argument than this, then what can we expect?

The fact that he failed to be painstaking in his research here doesn't necessarily lead to a 'why bother' result in regard to the rest of his chapter (or book). But his attitude on what he considers to be a trivial point doesn't bode well for moving to points he considers to be important to his argument.

(Which is aside from observing that his claim was initially marshaled in support of trying to show that it wasn't ideologically committed sceptics who talked him out of Christianity but "mainline scholars" instead. Like this list who argue against the empty tomb.)

JRP

Jason,

How is that understandable? You act as if Loftus has not made one of his arguments the research into Christian scholars. He clearly has, though it is just as clear that he has not done the research himself or done it so poorly that he cannot be trusted in his contentions on that issue.

John,
Please stop evading the questions and discussion at hand.

I've read your book (and just about everything else in your "challenge"), seen most of the positive reviews for it and read many of the critiques as well. Most of the people in this discussion have likewise read your book, including the author of the post...but we're not talking about that, are we? We're talking about your use of sources to make the argument from authority quoted in this post.

I'll repeat my questions, which are in line with the topic of the post, and hope that you will have the integrity to answer:

1. Is your source the list from Spong?
1A. If your source is Spong, how can you justify taking a listing used by Spong to show scholars who are skeptical of the literal interpretation of every New Testament passage (the original context) and suggest that they are scholars who "argue against the empty tomb?"
1B. Even if you can justify quoting from Spong in this regard, for the sake of an honest argument, wouldn't it be best to have researched the scholars before simply citing them as saying something?

2. Do you still consider these scholars "mainline?"
2A. If so, could you clarify what you mean by the term "mainline?"

3. You say, you're "listening in but not yet persuaded." Where are you not persuaded? Are you not persuaded by the argument that these scholars are not mainline or not persuaded by the argument that many held and argued for an empty tomb?

Chris,

Ah. So he was making an argument with this claim. I hadn't seen that reported. Your presentation made it look as though he was dropping an implicative assertion about facts which he expected to leave a sort of impression by innuendo (much as Spong did, in his own hilariously inept fashion.)

I've read back over your report again, and I still can't see what actual argument is being provided by John there. I didn't think you had left that detail out, so I figured (apparently wrongly?) that there was in fact no argument here from John. (Even John seems to want us to think that he was making no argument here.)


Insofar as an argument is potentially better than a mere assertion for innuendo's sake, arguments can be considered more worth challenging. In that regard, I can understand John wanting you to move along to his 'arguments'.

Insofar as a mere assertion for innuendo's sake is worth challenging on its factuality, I can very much understand you wanting to tag this early example of it. (Which means I can also understand in another way, John wanting you to move along to what he hopes will be a stronger position for him elsewhere. {g})


If he wants this point to be divorced from his arguments, then he instantly comes under criticism for trying to make it in the first place--where I did in fact point out, multiple times in various ways, the disparity between his distaff 'argument' of 'look at how great my painstaking research is, I'm not just blowing off Christianity, so there!' and what these first results are of someone (namely you) actually taking some pains to do research on the topic at hand: the data turns out to be bogus; ditto the "assertion" (as you call it--not an argument anywhere); suddenly actually painstaking research into the topic is supposed to be "nitpicking"; and he throws this data (which he originally wanted readers to be impressed by) under the bus while denying any interest himself in even ascertaining whether it is right or wrong.

And then wants us to accept Bev's blurb about him doing "painstaking research".


My accommodation is limited to one point: that a failure here (even an epic failure here) doesn't necessarily scotch any actual argument he makes later, except to the extent that any argument he makes later relies on this piece of asserted data being true in its details as reported. Aside from that one point of accommodation, which I think I'm required to fairly acknowledge (unless we're the ones now making the argument-from-suggestive-innuendo), I've been highly derogatory of what he attempted there; and highly defensive of your efforts and results.

JRP

Incidentally, the first part of my analysis of Bishop Spong's argument concerning the fabrication of Judas Iscariot is now posted here on the Cadre Journal.


(In fairness, this analysis should not be confused with a criticism of John Loftus' book per se. Unless of course he makes use of this speculative theory in his book, which I don't know that he does; and I can't imagine it being any significant part of his own rationale, even if so.)

JRP

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