Who or What is a Biblioblogger? By Dr. Hector Avalos, Iowa State University

It started just like many religious sectarian wars do. One blogger who regards himself as a “true” biblioblogger accused another blogger of being a “false” bliblioblogger. In this case the true biblioblogger is supposed to be Jim West, who first issued the accusation, and the false biblioblogger is supposed to be John Loftus. John Loftus responds that West is just afraid that a secularist is fast gaining ground in the biblioblogosphere. Who is right?

Definition of a Biblioblogger

The conflict, of course, hinges on the proper definition of a biblioblogger. In one of the salvos launched by Jim West we don't really find much of an explanation of why Loftus is not a biblioblogger. There is no explicit definition given by West so that we can measure Loftus against it. What we find instead is Jim West simply stating that Loftus is someone “wishing to be a biblioblogger.”

If one looks inductively at the blogs that are on the list of biblioblogs, we also find some confusion. For example, is a biblioblog one that is ONLY devoted to biblical themes? Or is it a blog that PREDOMINANTLY includes biblical themes? If the latter case, then are there required percentages or a threshold amount of biblical themes?

If a biblioblog designates a blog that ONLY addresses biblical themes, then Jim West’s blog certainly would not qualify. In fact, West’s own description of his subject matter is: “On the Bible, Theology, and ANYTHING [ELSE] that I find interesting” [emphasis mine]. So does this mean that you can call yourself a biblioblog even when only one of the three named topics is about the Bible?

And if we perform a very superficial statistical analysis of the content, I don’t find much difference. Taking any random day—-for example, December 29—these are the types of posts we would find on Jim West’s blog:
-Luther, on the Stupidity of Atheists
-James Crossley Isn’t Dead After All…
-And Not a Moment Too Soon!
-If Scholars Are Advising TV Producers, Why Do Programs Still Mess --Up Biblical History So Badly?
-Ok Now I’m Officially Annoyed
-Qumran Matters(?)
-The Taco Bell Diet? Really?
As one can see, Jim West’s posts include one on Luther’s view of Atheists and another one on Taco Bell. Neither of these two sound particular “only biblical” to me.

If we select any other day--let’s say December 22, 2009—for Debunking Christianity, we find these posts:
-Robert G. Ingersoll on "What I Want For Christmas"
-Conflicting Bible Teaching of the Week
-Science is Essential to Morality
-God Blew it Again on National TV! Maybe He's on Strike, Right?
-Toby Keith's Remedy For the War on Christmas...Bah, Humbug to Him!
-Dr. Marlene Winell - Recovering from Toxic Religion (Parts 1 & 2)
-Recently Posted: Richard Dawkins Interviewed
-Richard Carrier on the Existence of Nazareth and the Movie Zeitgeist
-Richard Carrier on the Health Care Bill
Here, I don’t see any posts on DC that would not also fit under Jim West’s categories of “The Bible, Theology, and anything [else] I find interesting.” I see at least two posts directly related to the Bible (“Nazareth” and “Conflicting Bible Teaching...”). I see theology and I do see “anything [else]” Loftus finds interesting (e.g. health care).

So are Jim West’s blog and DC really different in terms of content? Only a wider and more precise statistical analysis will tell, but remember that West includes “and anything [else],” so how would that count statistically?

In terms of quality and depth, there are a few posts about the Bible on DC that are up to 10,000 words long and that are supplied with a scholarly apparatus, including one of my own on ancient Near Eastern and biblical law, and another one on the use of Egyptian vocabulary to assess the historicity of the Moses traditions right here.


Jim West questioned John Loftus’ credentials merely by questioning whether Loftus is a biblioblogger. I am not sure what sorts of credentials are required in biblioblogging, but I would say that Loftus’ credentials are as good or better than those of Jim West. Note these comparisons:

John Loftus:
B.R.E. from Great Lakes Christian College in Lansing, Michigan, 1977
M.A. from Lincoln Christian Seminary, Lincoln, Illinois, 1982
M.Div. from Lincoln Christian Seminary, Lincoln, Illinois, 1982
Th.M. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 1985
Ph.D. Studies for 1 1/2 years at Marquette University, but no doctorate
Jim West See Link.
B.A., Carson-Newman College, 1985
M.Div, Southeastern Theological Seminary, 1988
Th.M, Southeastern Theological Seminary, 1991
“Doctorate of Theology,” Andersonville Baptist Seminary, 1994
These are quite comparable once you see that Andersonville Baptist Seminary does not really have a campus. It describes itself as a distance learning institution, but without on-line courses (see brief FAQ further below). It is not accredited by any government agency. It recognizes the King James Bible as the only inspired word of God.

Thus, many of us in a public university would not regard this as a real institution, nor would we hire anyone with such a doctorate in a public university. Once you remove that doctorate from Andersonville, you are left with master's degrees that are quite comparable to those of Loftus. Therefore, Jim West is no more a biblical scholar by academic training than is John Loftus.

If we look at publications, Loftus would have an edge. Loftus has books that are published by presses (e.g., Prometheus) that rely on independent evaluations by biblical scholars. At least some of his edited books have contributions by well-credentialed biblical scholars.

Jim West has books that are self-published. There are no listed refereed articles for Jim West in any highly respected or major peer-reviewed journal (e.g., West does list essays in something called the “Journal of Biblical Studies”) of which I am aware. That itself is not a crime, of course, but one cannot deny Loftus a status as a biblioblogger and then grant it to West when neither has publications in major refereed biblical studies journals.


Much has been made of DC being focused on debunking Christianity. However, it would be unfair if blogs focusing on supporting the Bible and its authority qualify as “biblioblogs,” but those that do not support the Bible’s historicity or authority are disqualified. That charge against DC seems to reflect an anti-secularist bias on the part of at least some of West’s supporters.

We see the anti-secularism focus repeatedly on West’s blogs. For example, he has posts about how Luther thought Atheists were stupid. Yet, it is unclear why citing Luther’s opinion about atheism is any more philosophically valid than Loftus quoting Dawkins about how foolish theism is.

In any case, citing Luther on what counts as foolish is itself a foolish undertaking. Luther was a notorious anti-Judaist, and some of his stated policies would violate some basic human rights conventions today. So, why cite Luther on the virtues of theism or the foolishness of atheism?

Indeed, some of West’s heroes were regarded as atheists by their opponents. Thomas Jefferson says: “I can never join Calvin in addressing his god. He was indeed an atheist which I can never be” (Jefferson to John Adams, April 11, 1823; Thomas Jefferson: Writings (New York: The Library of America, 1984), p. 1466.

In other words, I don’t see that West shows any more sophistication or historical knowledge about atheism or even Christianity than what West might say Loftus shows about Christianity.


In terms of content, I don’t see that Jim West and DC differ that much in my admittedly unscientific survey. In terms of credentials, Loftus has the advantage of graduating from institutions whose existence is not in question.

In terms of publications, Loftus relies on known publishers and not self-publishing. In terms of knowledgeability, I don’t see that West is that much better. In any case, if there is a definition of a biblioblog, then it should be consistent and not dependent on whether the blog is for or against the Bible’s historicity and authority.

Ultimately, the “guild” of self-described bibliobloggers will have to decide on the definition and qualifications of bibliobloggers. What I argue here is that the discussion so far seems based on applying unclear or inconsistent criteria for who counts as a “true” biblioblogger. It seems very much like a sectarian war or a war between heresy (secularism) and Christian/biblical “orthodoxy.”


See link: Andersonville Theological Seminary/FAQ

Q. Does ATS have a campus?
A. We do not have a campus where students come to take classes—we have an office complex including our chapel. However, students are more than welcome to come by the school at anytime to see our institution and look around.

Q. Are the courses at ATS online?
A. The courses at ATS are distance learning, but they are not online. We have book courses and courses that are on MP3 CD’s.

Q. Which Bible does ATS use?
A. We use the King James Version because we believe that this version is the inspired Word of God.

Q. Is ATS accredited?
A. We are privately accredited through Transworld Accrediting Commission out of Riverside,CA.

Q. Do you plan to seek regional (governmental) accreditation?
A. We have considered this many times, but we have always opted to remain privately accredited because of the governmental red tape and rules involved in governmental accreditation.


Anonymous said...

I just want to say thanks to Dr. Avalos for taking the time to write this post. For people interested in my talents, goals and target audience please check this post out.


steph said...

This is sort of hilarious. Is this Hector Avalos? If so I'm disappointed. Do you realise that the so called 'accusation' you link to was in a tongue and cheek post, included in a series that day, poking fun at friends in the blogosphere? I've had a 'photo' or two apparently of 'me' posted on occasion too with inferences to my supposed shadowy occupations. It's a laugh.

As to the posts, who really cares? So what if Jim stretches beyond the Bible? And the titles are deceptive. James Crossley's post was linked to - a response to Lief Vaage's review and a response to Deane Galbraith's discussion on 'postmodernism'. So for me personally as an independent biblical historian, it was more interesting and uesful than debates between radical atheists and Christian apologists.

And credentials - who gives a hoot? Most bibliobloggers can't even spell, let alone own a degree. And as for institutions, US Christian seminaries have equal credibility outside the US, 'government accredited' or not. Independent universities outside the US have an entirely different system of answerability. And as for putting Jim's theology doctorate in inverted commas and John's studies not also in inverted commas, that's extraordinary.

On two other things, but I can't remember if they were in this post or not, nobody 'shut down' the bib500 thing and nobody cares who 'beats' who. It's a joke. I don't care - the apparent 'rankings' just suggest to me that lots of people read alot of stuff I can't be bothered with. And there are no religious wars - alot of us are 'secular'. Jim has even joked that Jim Linville is the next number one. (He should be too!! :-) ). So there's Jim Linville, James Crossley, Deane Galbraithe and Roland Boer, all secular, consistently on Jim's ever changing but miniscule blogroll.

So I really hope, that although this post doesn't seem very light and funny to me, that you were sincerely attempting to have a crack at humour.

Anonymous said...

steph before I comment further tell me, did I meet you in New Orleans in November?

Anonymous said...

When you respond steph would you tell us all why J. L. Watts claims in all seriousness that I am not a biblioblogger? Was this a joke too?

Why do you defend J.L. Watts and Jim West rather than Hector and me?

steph said...

yes of course, at the meeting, and a pleasure it was too. It was that that inspired me to read your book - after reading Zindler's.

Anonymous said...

And steph, for the record, what really irked me was Jim West's complete and utter ignorance, which I wrote about right here. Care to defend that idiocy?

Anonymous said...

Yes, I was glad to meet you too, I was just wondering. The pleasure was mine.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Hello, Steph,
I have dealt with Jim West long enough to know
his tactics. I really do not like people pretending
to be something they are not, and claiming to
have a "doctorate" from a place that is not much more than an office complex and a chapel is an insult to those who work hard to get a real one.

steph said...

Yes, I have already commented to that effect - Joel's title was tongue and cheek.

I don't defend personal and vicious attacks and I don't take kindly to either 'side' calling each other 'deluded'. Jim has done alot over the years to support and publicise secular and Christian scholarship and we are all aware of his biases but we also take his tongue and cheek. And give it back - in good taste. I also 'defend' James Crossley, Deane Galbraith, Roland Boer (though often one against the other when they're debating with each other) and any other secular scholars who make useful points. I also of course defend good and decent critical Christian scholarship when it makes useful points.

Anonymous said...

Tongue in cheek, eh? Well then just insert your name in place of mine everytime he mentions it and see what you'd think of it then.

Cheers. Gotta go for now.

steph said...

Of course I also defend Maurice Casey, when I think he's right.

Hector, I have known Jim a while too. I'm sick of all this bantering about credibility. The proof is in the pudding. Outside the US the actual thesis counts for more than the institution of origin. And what's the point in the comparison? John didn't complete his studies which were in a theological seminary (sorry post not visible so can't specify)

And finally, I wonder if this is purely an american phenomenon - the need to prove oneself all the time. It's not necessary to drop names and credentials to demonstrate one's contribution to scholarship.

Anonymous said...

One last comment before I go, steph. In my case when Watts dismisses me that's the only way I know how to respond to such drivel. Perhaps you could suggest a better way? Should I really let him get away with that and say nothing in return? Why?

steph said...

John, I really wouldn't care - he says pretty perculiar things about me (as well as his Christian friends) and I just laugh it off. I don't take it seriously. Perhaps you shouldn't either. He pokes atheists all the time, but he's stirring the pot, and it's 'naughty' humour.

steph said...

If I were you John, I would just leave it, for peace of mind. Joel is a thoughtful and decent person. He listens to atheists and has alot of atheist readers who appreciate the conversation. But he defended Jim when he thought you crossed the limit.

steph said...

John, his atheist posts are stirring the pot. He's directed a few at Jim Linville, the 'friendly' atheist. Don't take them (or indeed yourself) so seriously. I don't - the posts, or myself. And Jim West does know several atheists personally, as personal friends no less. They come from Nottingham, Sheffield, Copenhagen, all over the world. There is a difference between 'naughty' and 'nasty'.

Qohelet said...


Did Chris Heard, who published the original post about West's creds, cross the line? I don't see JL Watts ripping him a new one.

BTW, outside the US there are also standards. Non-US academic institutions are accredited by their governments, or have been given a "royal charter" to grant degrees. As a third-world resident, it's insulting to have our educational system be thought of as having lower standards than the "enlightened" Americans. At least no major school in our country would accept an Andersonville "degree".

J. L. Watts said...

I don't dismiss you, John, just your demeanor and over reaction, your attacks and your rather insistent vileness to those who disagree with you.

You responding the way you did proved my point.

My claim that you are not a biblioblogger is based on your personal agenda to destroy that which you have lost by others maintain. It is a rather political agenda, which I have very little use for. To be honest, its almost like you got your feelings hurt and are pouting over the entire thing.

I have no doubt as to your credentials and your capability in scholarship - although I would disagree with your outcomes. What concerns me most, however, is your method of engagement.

This is really not the first time I've posted on something you said, by the way.

And honestly, why would Steph insert her name - she didn't any of the things I mentioned. That's a little silly. It was never an atheist thing, as if it was, my dear friend in Louisiana would have been all over me. I believe, in the end, we will all end up believing the same thing anyway - one way or another. But for now, I intend to learn from those who I can, atheist or not.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

As I commented on an earlier post here, when a family friend committed suicide, Jim made a rather nasty post about him. I attempted to post a comment on Jim's post giving the facts but Jim censored my comment.

When a friend lies down in front of the train and dies, I have absolutely no capacity for understanding Jim's post as funny or anything of the kind.

I will once again ask Jim if he might consider removing this post from his blog. If that were my son, I would not want to google this post.

That young man was falsely accused and the newspaper admitted as much after he died.

I can't think of anything lower than this kind of thing.

steph said...

Q: As much as I like Chris, I did think what he did at that time was petty. I told him so. Chris and Jim get on fine. We all had dinner together at New Orleans. Actually way back whenever it was, Chris and Jim had dinner with two prominent atheist scholars one of whom joked when the atheist asked who they worked for, 'they for God and we for the devil'. I don't even know if Joel was blogging back then. But even so, Chris didn't create such a vicious and nasty crusade. And yes, of course we have regular testing standards, but a seminary is a seminary is a seminary - it's comparing apples with apples. (and why do Americans put phds on their CVs when before they're completed?)

Keen Reader said...

Jim West, the sham scholar with a mail-order "doctorate," is a nasty piece of work and Steph is his permanent blog-roaming apologist.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

PS If I could find Jim's email I would not take up this discussion in public.

steph said...

Suzanne, it's on his 'about' page.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thanks, Steph. I emailed him. I have worked with teens for a long time and know the pain of those who come out as homosexual. As a parent I experience the death of a young person with the thought in mind that it could be my child.

Here is a poem I wrote on the topic some time ago, so you know that I am not just posturing. I also had some very close calls with my own children very soon after writing that poem. It was prescient.

Whether we are Christians or atheists, we should be hard on ideas and tender with people. I don't see that in the bibliosphere anymore.

steph said...

He definitely crossed the line there.

steph said...

and in light of it - that's a very moving and tragic poem.

Edwardtbabinski said...

Note to J.W. Watts (since his blog is not open to the public at this time), I did not know you were a universalist/agnostic Christian, for you wrote above that "I believe, in the end, we will all end up believing the same thing anyway - one way or another." Sounds kinda universalist Christian and agnostic.

Secondly, I think Hector did a fine job marshaling his points in a most convincing fashion.

Thirdly, I suspect that Hector has summed up everything such that there's little left to add.

I do hope that any perceived "personal" offenses can be forgiven and forgotten over time, though scratch anyone's convictions, and they tend to react personally. Even universalist/agnostic Christians react like J.W. Watts.

Just thank heavens that bibliobloggers have not turned into the most obnoxious attack dogs on the web like a few folks at places like Theology Web. (Oops, I fear that last comment might have scratched a few folks likely to take offense. And thus the madness continues.)

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thanks, Steph. I do not think that the bibliosphere benefits overall from "tongue and cheek" "stir the pot" posts.

Getting back to the main point from which I digressed -

I feel especially sad since I appreciate both Joel's blog, and John's blog. Dr. Avalos correctly points out that John's blog meets all the stated requirements.

There needs to be a place in the bibliosphere for ex-fundamentalists, ex-inerrantists, ex-patriarchalists, ex-Christians and so on. Its a hard journey.
I hope more gets written on this topic.

steph said...

I don't either, anymore than it benefits from nasty vicious personal attacks, religious bigotry and anti religious bigotry. Blogs that I do find useful for ideas and constructive discussion, tend to be less purely blogs on bible anyway. Such as Stalin's Moustache, Dunedin School, Earliest Christianity, Joseph Hoffmann, etc but I still always prefer published print material

DM said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

Could I order a diploma from ATS online?

How much does one of those puppies cost?

Unknown said...


have you for but a moment considered that you have adopted a position against 98% of the human race, both past and present?

do you think you are RIGHT and they are all WRONG?


A long time ago 98% of people thought the earth was flat....

I don't get how people can be so ignorant of basic logical fallacies.

Gandolf said...

steph said "and I don't take kindly to either 'side' calling each other 'deluded'"

Indeed its not always such a enjoyable situation.But still when delusion exists! sometimes it needs to be mentioned and pointed out.Otherwise folks would often just not even get to realize there is actually any delusion been happening,and why would they?.

How would we expect slave owners to ever start considering themselves, if maybe their slave owning might be a little ignorant,if some humans dont first move out of their PC comfort zone, and simply say hey we think slave ownership is bl**dy ignorant.

Unfortunately along with many gains we humans look to try to make in our lives,quite often there is also first need for us to suffer a little over some aspects that maybe not everyone might always find to be quite so enjoyable.

But the fact that some things are unpleasant,doesnt always prove them wrong.

Nobody is suggesting need for everyone to be suggesting some folks might be deluded,but the ones that do might not always be so wrong and might even have a good point.

J. L. Watts said...

@Edward - My blog is always open to the public. Maybe you are not using the write link?

I am not a universalist/agnostic. What I mean, simply, is that when we are all dead, we are all right - we will all know the answers then. I would ask you to make some sort of amends for being wrong, but....

J. L. Watts said...

@Samuel - 98% might have believed that the earth was flat (doubtful) but the earth was still round. 98% might believe that God is not real, but they would be wrong as well. Of course, the vice verse is what the atheists will say.

Renshia said...

Seems to me like your taking this a little to seriously.
Kind of reminds me of a quote.

"For you the world is weird because if your not bored with it your at odds with it. For me the world is weird because it is stupendous, awesome, mysterious, unfathomable."

Seems like an over active bout of self importance to me.

you ask;
"Perhaps you could suggest a better way? Should I really let him get away with that and say nothing in return? Why?"

Why waste any energy on what some delusional bible thumper says?
Be a better man and don't let petty people waste your energy.
I am sure you have better things to do than validate his posts by justifying your self.

The proof would be in your actions not in crying offense.

Anonymous said...

J.L. Watts, no that's not true. If I'm correct that when we die we will not wake up in a resurrection, then none of us will ever know who was right. I'm kinda sad about that fact too, because you along with all of the Crusaders religious suicide bombers will never know they were wrong.

Anonymous said...

And let me state for the record I know I'm not all that. I am what I am and nothing more. I sometimes like to stir the pot which gets people talking and thinking. And I may not have much to do with the Biblioblogger list shutting down. That was all written with tongue in cheek. As far as I know the guy who did it every month just got tired of Jim West's boasting. ;-)

J. L. Watts said...

Oh, I dunno, John, if you are right, we may not know that you are right, but you will still be right. I mean, you and all the secular humanists who seek to destroy any moral authority for humanity and when finally doing so causes the outbreak of continuous war for decades which finally destroys us all and rushes into the final moment when we know who is right. Right?

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

J. L. Watts refers to secular efforts to destroy moral authority? This presumes, of course, that Christianity possesses some moral authority worthy of being preserved. It does not for most secularists.

God does not add anything to a moral system except further levels of chaos and complications. In the end, all theistic morality is circular insofar as it can be reduced to this: "I believe God is right about X, because I believe God is right about X."

Even so, a human being is still the ultimate judge that whatever God calls right. Otherwise, how was it determined that what God calls right is right, except by appealing to yet another circularity (try it, and see).

God-based authority has been useless precisely because no one can verify what God wants. So even among Christians, you will find some who think that homosexuality is a sin and some who don't. You will find Christians who think abortion is murder and Christians who don't.

Thus, it could be argued that it is theism, not atheism, that has helped to destroy any sense
of a uniform code of morality by virtue of positing that morality depends on a being whose will
is unverifiable.

Atheistic morality, on the other hand, is based
on the principle of verifiable causes and verifiable consequences. It is based on known biological
and psychological processes that can also allow
for humanitarian impulses and cooperative actions to further the preservation of our species.

In any case, what I see is a book, like Revelation, that is obsessed with the destruction and torture of all those who are not followers of the Christ-emperor. I see not just genocide, but BIOCIDE, endorsed in Genesis 6 for those who somehow don't please the author's view of the deity. And yet I find folks who think this book should be
a moral authority today.

So,whence comes the idea that is the atheists who are prone to destroy the world?

James Pate said...

Prometheus? You've got to be kidding me!!! Avalos was making a good case until he brought THAT into the discussion!

Gandolf said...

That theist moral you discribe sounds kinda "classic" Dr. Hector Avalos

I guess its only right that classic theism has classic morality to match

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Mr. Pate,
You need to make a better case than just some generalized innuendo. Perhaps you can answer these questions:

1. Do you think Richard Freund, Gerd L├╝demann, Susan Haack and Reuven Firestone produce unworthy scholarship somehow? They are all
Prometheus authors.

2. Which Prometheus books are not up to the publishing standards you deem appropriate, and
please be specific with any examples (page numbers that might help verify your complaints).

J. L. Watts said...

Hector, that was a retort to what I assume is John's jab at mockingly suggesting that all religious believers are extremists. In other words, chill out a wee bit.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Dear J.L.,
If you knew how much snow there is on the ground in Iowa, you would know that I am doing nothing
but "chillin." :-)

James Pate said...

To be honest, I'm not surprised that Luedemann is a Prometheus author (though, to his credit, he's published through less ideologically-driven publishing houses as well).

Anonymous said...

Listen Pate, most Christians publish through ideologically driven publishing houses like IVP, Baker, Zondervan, Crossway, Moody Press, Harvest House, etc.

So what are you talking about? What's your problem?

Anonymous said...

Sorry if I appeared harsh there. it's just that I hear this ill-informed complaint all of the time. Prometheus Books is the premier atheist publisher of our generation, if not the premier atheist publisher ever.

If you want to claim that we shouldn't have regard for ideologically driven publishing houses then let's do that with Christian publishers too, all of them.

steph said...

You've just ethnocentically listed a whole lot of american publishers who publish apologetic and very conservative bordering on apologetic 'scholarship'. Most critical Christian scholars publish with T&T Clark, CUP, OUP, Mohr Siebeck, WJK, Equinox, Yale UP, Harvard UP, SCM, SPCK, Leuven UP, Brill and many others.

I hope you've read Jim Linville's very sensible approach. I like him alot, I feel safe calling myself an atheist when I think of him. He's not aggressive, just a good critical atheist scholar of the bible and religions with a wicked sense of humour.

James Pate said...

When I look at a book from Zondervan, or Baker, or IVP, there's a chance that it's not pushing a missionary agenda or grinding an ax against people with other points-of-view. Granted, they've published several books that do precisely that, but many of them have other aims, such as, say, advancing knowledge about the Bible, for the sake of knowledge.

When I see a book is from Prometheus, I don't have that same assurance. I'll confess that I've not read every Promotheus book out there, but the ones I have seen have an ax to grind. They may have legitimate points to make, but, please, don't act like I (a reader) should swoon at Loftus because he's published through it!

steph said...


Anonymous said...

steph, I'll admit I'm a bit, well, goeocentic so thanks for the tip.

Does anything you say diminish the scholarship of Prometheus Books? Hector has published in both venues. And so have other authors.

I publish there, well, just because they like my work and it's easier to go through them because of they do.

Anonymous said...

No, better, Americancentic. We're a diverse ethnic country you know.

Anonymous said...

And steph, glad you like Jim Linville. I do too. It takes all kinds, right? Even Richard Dawkins.

steph said...

America, like New Zealand, Australia and the UK (where I have lived) considers itself a nation. Therefore the term is still ethnocentric. That's beside the point though, we know what I mean. You're limiting your list to American apologetic scholarship.

I like Jim Linville as a person and I appreciate his scholarship. Who could possibly not like Jim, John. He doesn't broad brush abuse people and call them names and he doesn't isolate people - even Christians. I don't mind debunking creationism.

I don't know what Dawkins is like as a person. He comes across as learned in his own field but not in biblical studies, an area in which he appears arrogant. He isolates many atheists so that alot deny that label.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

RE: Steph's comments
Actually, the the main thesis of my book, The End of Biblical Studies, is precisely that many of the presses that Steph mentioned are no less religionist
than IVP, etc. It is just a DIFFERENT type of religionism.

I cite many examples from books published by WJK, OUP, Harvard Press, etc. Note also that SPCK = Society for PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE. What would be the reaction if we had a publishing arm for the SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING ATHEIST KNOWLEDGE?

Being a Mexican immigrant, I actually think that there is little difference between European and American publishers insofar as they are mostly bibliolatrous to a large degree. The ethnocentrism
lies precisely in thinking there is a difference for
us who were colonized by Euro-Americans.

Besides, many Europeans ARE or were in American universities, and so I am not sure that you can distinguish them so easily (James Barr, E. Sch├╝ssler Fiorenza, Krister Stendahl, Helmut Koester, etc.) insofar as bibliolatry is concerned (in other ways you might).

I think Steph's view of "aggressiveness" is also partially cultural. Steph may come from an area where secularists are not in direct conflict with biblical fundamentalists very much.

Some of us ARE in direct conflict with fundamentalists all the time, whether it is in local governments, school boards, or the national level.

We have fundamentalists in our local school boards trying to push literal interpretations of Genesis on our children, and diluting our science educational curricula.

We just finished a nightmarish Bush administration,
which pumped our legal bureaucracy with graduates from right wing Christian universities and seminaries.

That is why credentials do matter. We have seen
those Bush appointees, with sham and flimsy degrees, given power over science and legal areas of our government. They have made a mess.

Thus, to be non-aggressive in our scholarship (I prefer "activist" scholarship) is itself a political act, which favors the oppressors if you are in the midst of a conflict with fundamentalist oppressors.

As I have argued before, much of modern biblical scholarship, is an elite leisure pursuit that differs not much from curling up with a book in a room, while watching humanity suffer because we don't go out and try to change the world through the findings of our scholarship.

The British abolitionist movement was successful,
in large part, because there were activist scholars
such as a Thomas Clarkson who did real research on the slave conditions of his time. He took that knowledge and used it in his activism against slavery. The same with Eric Williams, a brilliant student at Oxford, who led his nation of Trinidad to independence.

Thus, I count "aggressiveness" as a virtue, not
as a something of which to be ashamed. By
"aggressiveness" I don't mean using abusive or violent language-- I do mean trying to challenge more directly those institutions that we think are harmful.

So if you mean something else by "aggressiveness," then do let me know, and provides specific
examples that you see as "aggressive."

If you do not deem fundamentalists as harmful, that is fine. But we have a right to be activist if we do deem religious fundamentalisms of any type as harmful.

steph said...

Dear Hector,

Sorry for the delay, I have been looking for your book but it seems to have been mislaid in our recent house move. We have several thousand books and quite a few have gone missing. (We do still have your outstanding work on illness and health care in the ancient near east though!)

It is of course entirely true that all these presses publish books by religious people but they do publish other books as well. Maurice Casey's books have all been published by SPCK, CUP, T&T Clark, WJK, James Clarke and Routledge. I'm also completely aware that I haven't experienced the extreme divisions in the USA in either New Zealand, Australia or the United Kingdom. However we are aware of American division which is reflected in scholarship and unfortunately American biblical scholarship is often judged as falling within either extreme. I think this is extremely detrimental to the advancement of knowledge. I don't think that division justifies aggression in scholarship though I can see that oppressive fundamentalists in the situation you mention do require vigourous opposition.

steph said...

an afterthought: all fundamentalism - both religious and non religious/atheist fundamentalism - needs to be vigorously opposed, and it's important to remember that good Christians do vigorously oppose Christian fundamentalism.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I don't think that division justifies aggression in scholarship though I can see that oppressive fundamentalists in the situation you mention do require vigourous opposition.

I see that it is somehow acceptable scholarship to be against creationism, but there are other issues in fundamentalist Christianity that some think deserve aggressive responses.

I would mention the anti-homosexual movement, very powerful, the anti-no fault divorce initiative, the anti-equal rights for women, etc. etc. And faith-healing! Especially the doctrine that your child has cancer because you don't have enough faith, or are being punished for some sin in your life.

I have seen encroaching power from groups committed to some of these goals, and it shocks me.

A cursory glance at Dinesh D'Souza's book Enemy at Home made me aware that most of his basic assumptions about family life need an aggressive response.

Not ALL children are against divorce, not ALL Moslem school girls want to wear a headscarf, not ALL Saudi housewives prefer to be driven around by their personal "drivers" rather than get their own driver's license. Who gave D'Souza the right to speak for all the women of the world?

I want to see someone challenge his "my momma was fine with patriarchy, so patriarchy is good for women" rhetoric. I feel personally threatened by his views.


In my mind, not enough vocal Christians will publicly take on fundamentalism. I would far rather side with Loftus against D'Souza but many Christians will not, and that gives me the sense that they regard defending Christianity as more important than equal rights for women.

steph said...

Just because many Christians won't take on fundamentalism, isn't an excuse to bash all of Christianity. I don't know any Christians who would 'side' with Loftus although they vigorously oppose someone like D'whatsit (whose voice is not heard outside the US). Why should they have to 'side' with either? Or is that just the american way - one extreme or the other, you can't be independent and disagree with both? Why can't you let go of your social sub groups and be free and independent thinkers? Maybe these 'Christians' you speak of are actually apologists anyway.

I'm vigorously opposed to prejudice against homosexuals, fundamentalism of all stripes, your so called 'pro lifers', racism, classism, the sacrifice of good and free state education and health, and war. I'm not convinced by your argument for aggression.

And by the way I'm so appalled at that post you brought to our attention I don't think I can speak to that person again. I still stand by my earlier critique of this pathetic biblio war thing though including my comments about him but now he too has gone too far. And while he's crossed the line before due to being religiously blinkered, this is truly not religiously motivated. It's malicious.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Perhaps, I should not have used the language of 'siding' with someone against someone else.

My perspective is that its okay to have vigourous differences, first with the contents of published books and the explicitily labeled ideology presented therein. Its fine to be ruthless with that kind of thing.

Its also okay to cite, cut and paste, etc. things that other bloggers say and expect them to turn up and defend themselves if they like.

However, I do not think it is okay to go around calling people names, like 'sinner' 'bitter feminist' "fat slob' and so on.

Obviously if you are commenting on someone's tastes about a pet, it is funny.

But if you are talking about a suicide victim or a rape victim, then somehow it is not funny.

J. L. Watts said...

I for one do my best to take on the fundamentalists as well as atheists :)

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thank you, Joel. That's why you are a friend. But I also rather like Loftus' blog. Let's have some interaction between you guys that is good clean fun.

James Pate said...

It's slightly hard to have fun in an academic, biblioblogging, or political setting, where people are so touchy...and yet so ruthless!

steph said...

"But if you are talking about a suicide victim or a rape victim, then somehow it is not funny" It is wicked and unforgiveable. That sort of behaviour actually drives people, homosexuals and so forth who are Christian and live with guilt of their apparent 'sin', to suicide.

Steven Carr said...

Why should Christians 'take on' fundamentalists?

Their imaginary god doesn't.

Their imaginary god is perfectly happy if people believe rubbish and say it is his Word.

You can say and do whatever you like in the name of this god. As he doesn't exist, he isn't going to stop you

Unknown said...

Wouldn't it have been preferable to ask Jim West to apologise for his offensive post, rather than to delete it? By deleting it, he is simply covering up any traces of wrongdoing.

Suzanne McCarthy said...


I was thinking of the family's interest. They would not normally be affected by Jim's post, but if they googled it, it would be offensive. I simply asked in a comment to add in the pertinent accurate information. But he would not post my comment.

After that, I asked him to to remove the post. Bloggers do this all the time. If they find they have posted something that is inappropriate they can silently delete it without any fanfare and without drawing attention to it.

Jim could have done this. He could have deleted it without any further comment being made by anyone.