People Who Shouldn't Be Trusted As Experts in Religious Matters. Reviewing Mittelberg's Book "Confident Faith" Part 13

Earlier I had offered up Five Things That Disqualify People From Being Experts. Now it's time to mention several indicators showing who shouldn't be trusted as experts in religious matters. These are indicators, some of which are strong indicators, but on their own they don't necessarily disqualify people from being experts in religious matters, although they can. I've categorized them in four groups of indicators: Ignorance, Faulty Reasoning, Faulty Research, and Dishonest or Ulterior Motives. (I'm not going to provide examples in several cases so suggest them as you can.)

Indicators of People who shouldn't be trusted as experts in religious matters:

Ignorance Indicators:

Someone who is ignorant about things he or she should know but doesn't. For instance, an expert should know of current important research in their chosen field of study.

Someone who claims more than the evidence shows. Usually ignorant people do this and usually they're easy to spot. For instance, people who conclude their sectarian god exists because there's no explanation for why order exists in the universe, are claiming way way way way too much. This is the case even if what they assert about order in the universe is correct.

Faulty Reasoning Indicators

Someone who cannot reason very well about mundane matters. If people cannot reason well in these areas we cannot expect them to reason too well in any expertise they might claim to have either.

Someone who fails to honestly deal with the best objections.

Someone who fails to deal with the best possible interpretation of an opponent's objections.

Someone who depends on fallacious reasoning, like non-sequiturs, special pleadings, You Too, red herrings, and so on. For instance, Mark Mittelberg makes a great deal out of conversion stories as a way to argue his case: "If person so-and-so became a Christian due to the evidence then you should strongly consider doing so too. Such an argument actually backfires, revealing the fallacious appeal to authority, since their expertise wasn't established prior to their conversion. I'm discussing what makes a person competent as an expert here. But by using people who converted as evidence of Christianity he should first tell us why they're to be regarded as authorities in religious matters, something he didn't do, nor did he even think of doing.

Faulty Research Indicators:

Someone who fails to honestly deal with the best books and essays against their view.

Someone with a degree from an apologetics program. These programs are not legitimate academic programs. Young students go there to learn how to defend their faith, rather than coming to college to learn how to know the truth. So they come to defend what they were raised to believe in most cases. That's called college indoctrination. How do they know they were raised to believe the truth? I warned students against studying in these programs in my book, "How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist".

Dishonest Ulterior Motives indicators:

Someone who tells people not to read what others are saying who disagree. Like William Lane Craig.

Someone who makes everything less than clear, i.e., an obfuscationist. Here is where the smart people live. They substitute rhetoric for argument to obscure and hide the fact they are believing in that which has little or no objective evidence for them. Philosophers love to define words. It's a good thing too, since Aristotle said something to the effect that "Many a dispute could be solved in a few sentences if the disputants merely defined their terms." Sometimes though, in the hands of Christian philosophers the goal is obfuscation. They try to define away a problem for their faith. I call this Definitional Apologetics, and they are quite good at it. They will feign ignorance about what an extraordinary event is in the face of a concrete example, like a virgin birth or a resurrection from the dead. They will also feign ignorance about what the scientific method is to the point of claiming there is no such thing, even though science continues to progress, purportedly without one. And using Orwellian doublespeak they claim to have a "full-blown skepticism" where they are skeptical of skepticism, thinking this allows for their faith but blind to the fact it also allows for anyone's faith. This is all pure sophistry.

The whole reason sophisticated Christian argumentation exists in the first place is because it takes sophistication to make the Christian faith palatable. The more the sophistication then the more the obfuscation, since their faith can only be defended by confusing people who don't share that sophistication. Defenses of Christianity are nothing but special pleading hiding underneath several layers of obfuscation with a sophistication to make it appear otherwise. It's nothing less than special pleading all the way down, and it doesn't take sophistication to see this or to call it out. Even a child can recognize what it is.

Someone who claims higher academic credentials than what was earned, like those documented and debunked about Ravi Zacharias. BTW: Ravi Zacharias preached at my 1985 graduation from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where I had earned my Th.M. in the Philosophy of Religion under William Lane Craig. I had taken 50% of my classes under Craig and graduated just before Paul Copan began school there.

Someone who borrows without citation and plagiarizes from others.

Someone who gives a one-sided presentation without dealing charitably with the original sources.

Someone whose living depends on defending a viewpoint. On this point most Bible students start out as conservatives. But the deeper they study the Bible the less conservative they wind up. However, we don't see biblical scholars who have gone from being liberals to card-carrying inerrantist evangelicals. Against all they had expected or hoped for they find themselves refuting the very thing they wanted to get a deeper level of understanding about. I asked one of them about this and was told, "I see the elevator as typically only heading in one direction: from Biblicism to Liberalism to Humanism to Atheism..." This includes biblical scholars like Bart Ehrman, Hector Avalos, David Madison, Robert Price, James Crossley, Richard C. Miller, Burton Mack, and Matthew Ferguson, to name a few. This change of views is against what they expected in most cases and against their very livelihood. Burton Mack, for instances, was fired after revealing he was an atheist. You would think if their living depended on believing differently, only honesty would call on them to admit they were atheists. Otherwise this is an indicator that those who remain teaching may not be honest about what they have come to know.

Someone who teaches for an institution requiring a signed confession of faith. Here is the evidence that makes evangelical scholarship a ruse.

Someone who acts like a know-it-all. As I'm about to explain it's a clear sign of an inauthentic person, a fake, a liar for Jesus.

No humble people they! Ask them. They'll answer all your questions. They know-it-all about quantum mechanics, able to reject scientists who have theories opposed to their god concept (with a single bound), while siding with those who support it (because they know). Doing this must mean they know as much as the scientists in these fields do! Unlike the wise Socrates who admitted he was not wise, they claim they're wise, thereby making themselves out as fools. Not the fools Paul the Apostle spoke of, who rejected the wisdom of the world, but the kind of fools Peter Boghossian wrote of, who pretend to know that which they don't know. They reject evolution, and/or the clear implications of evolution, which means they know as much as evolutionary scientists do, and/or theologians! They know as much as biblical scholars do, since they're able to take sides in their disputes (and tell us who wins but not why, except to mindlessly quote--mine from them). They can even read the ancient biblical languages and know which translations are best (Wow!)They know as much as philosophers who debate god-concepts. They know as much as archaeologists, astronomers, historians, ethicists, cultural anthropologists, geologists, cosmologists, and so on, and so on, because they can tell which scholars are right in every discipline that touches on their faith. And guess what? Surprise! They always judge which of these scholars are correct based on their previously adopted faith with its sectarian interpretation of an ancient pre-scientific book, written mainly by anonymous people! This is either truly amazing or utterly ignorant! Defending the Christian faith requires special pleading. We already knew that. It's also an exercise lacking the virtue of authenticity, the antonyms of which are found online, with words like, counterfeit, fake, concocted, deceptive, delusory, disingenuous, inauthentic and misleading. "Liars for Jesus" seems to be a phrase that fits.