The Christian and Biblical Scholarship

Many Christians who comment at DC seem all too willing to offer platitudes to defend their faith. So let me try to rectify this problem by challenging them to become more informed.

Christian, what skeptical and/or liberal books have you read? Have you read my book? [It will be available again after a reprinting around October 8th]. Have you read any of the ones in the Debunking Christianity Challenge? Have you read any of the ones linked to in the sidebar from evangelicals? Have you considered what one Mormon wrote?

I'm curious because only someone who has not done so could make your case so blithely without a clear understanding of the issues.

Alvin Plantinga himself admits that the results of biblical criticism could show him wrong. The problem is that he does not show an awareness of knowing anything much about biblical criticism. He's a philosopher defending as best as he can what he was raised to believe based upon conservative biblical scholarship. Well, the conservatives have finally caught up in some ways to critical scholarship.

Critical scholarship is what we should all try to attain. Critical scholars “are prepared to interpret the text against their own preferences and traditions, in the interest of intellectual honesty.”

Do you disagree with this? Are you prepared to look into these issues in a greater detail with that attitude? This is what my Outsider Test for Faith calls upon you to do.

Save this comment for future reference. Let it provoke you to do your own investigation of the issues. Read all of the links. Tell me about the books you've read and then proceed to read those books I recommend. Start with Kenton Sparks evangelical book, then read Peter Enns book.

Investigate, don't simply regurgitate these pat answers.



edson said...

Let me be honest with myself. I have read many christian books, probably 20 or so (I cannot be exact with numbers), but neither of them are critical to Christian faith.

I deliberately chose to buy these sort of books as I had no idea in my mind that I will involve myself with apologetics in the future, so this partly explains why I haven't read any critical books. I'll certainly have to read one in the near future, and will read only yours, John.

But I dont think that I'm less informed with skeptical positions because I've not read their specific arguments, scholarly or any. I've personaly sometimes tried to fit myself as skeptic and tried to think about Christianity from that perspective.

I have read many ideas about Evolution, scholarly articles about ancient Jewish and Biblical History and some copycat similarities with other ancient mythical stories. I have read several scholarly papers about the development of Christology and the Bible. Although I still consider myself a layman when comparing myself to formally educated Biblical Scholars, but I believe I'm not that far from understanding what Christianity means from the intellectual perspective.

However, my part in defending Christianity here is not primarily based on the intellectual side. I'm merely concerned with what Christianity is intended to be and really is. To understand the Bible and the History of Christianity from the intellectual perspective is one thing, but to be a real Christian is another thing. Contrary to other secular studies, say Physics, a person who really understands Physics inside out is a by every means a Physicist, but that does not work out when that is reciprocated into Christianity.

So, in my part, the efforts of counter-debunking Christianity from an intellectual angle, although a noble goal in itself, yet I believe the most effective process is doing it through what Christianity is - and that is repeating Christ crucified and resurrected, over and over again.

IdahoEv said...

In another question: what Christian books should all read? What will actually challenge me as an atheist?

Trancerole said...

>> Christian, what skeptical and/or liberal books have you read? Have you read my book?

I've read your book, Dan Barker's Godless, Ken Daniels' Why I Believed, Dawkins' The God Delusion, several books on evolution, innumerable articles on the Internet, and more.

I've also read Christian book for the last 40 years, including the famous ones by C.S. Lewis, Josh MacDowell and others, and lately including the heavyweights N.T. Wright, William Lane Craig, Timothy Keller, Michael Behe and Douglas Wilson.

Not to omit the middle ground, I've read books by liberal Christians including Marcus Borg and Brian McLaren.

All in all, I think I've given each side enough opportunity to speak. (I know this because it's now at the point where when I read something new or speak to someone, I've heard it all before.)

The end result? After four decades as a Christian I must admit that there is no convincing evidence for the faith, and I have deconverted. :)

ElGordo said...

Edson, you will please forgive us for not being very impressed. What Christianity really is has been the subject of debate for hundreds of years. What John is asking for is an intellectual discussion on the reality of it. "Christ crucified" is fine as a mantra, but where does this fit in with reality?

edson said...

"Christ crucified" is fine as a mantra, but where does this fit in with reality?

So many scholarly works, apart from the Bible, have been produced and they all confirm "Christ crucified". And so many people are being added today into this world and they so have to know this. So at this point in time my job is to add nothing more and nothing less other than to repeat this mantra. That is what I meant to say.

Probably a good question is, it is true, Christ was crucified, but still it does not make sense and what is the significance of it?

The answer is it makes sense to some, that Christ was crucified because of our sins and if we ignore Him and His crucifixion and continue to sin, it is kind of prevailing crucifying many holy persons of Jesus calibre. It instills in our minds a sense of danger and lethality of sinning.

The significance is, Christ crucifixion produced Christians. It's just like a cause and effect thing and that's all.

feeno said...

Try the book of James. Short easy read?

It took you 40 years to figure out your not a Christian?

I would lend you my copy of John's book but I think he'd appreciate it more if you go and buy one. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on his book tho. I value your opinion.

Peace be with you all, feeno

edson said...

feeno, thanks for everything.

Don't mind I'will order the book and it is going to take time to get me here. At the moment I'm not in the US.

I appreciate everything but I have started the process of ordering the book.

IdahoEv said...

@feeno: I'm in the process of working my way through the entire bible (alternating the testaments a bit), but I jumped ahead and read James on your suggestion, so thank you.

It was interesting and I can see why it would be moving to a believer. It didn't, however, contain much to challenge a nonbeliever approaching it from an outside perspective, IMHO.

Of particular concern to me was James 1:6. Truths aren't disrupted if you doubt or question them. They are strengthened, rather, because when scrutinized they emerge unscathed. This is why investigation, skepticism, and critical thinking are so key to any intellectual endeavor.

If a philosophy has as a core tenet "do not doubt or question me", and brands skeptics ("Doubters", in James) as wishy-washy or ungrounded, to me that doesn't speak very well for that philosophy. In general, that's a warning sign that something is based on indoctrination rather than intellectually defensible substance.

feeno said...

'Sup Ev

I feel many skeptics bring up valid arguments against Christianity. One reason is because how Christians act. The reason I suggested James is because he pretty much somes up what Jesus taught and how we should be, not that we always represent that.

So I see your point about the intellectual merit to this book. I was hoping it might "woo" you

Thanks for the report, peace, feeno