"Follow the Money" Michael Alter and Matthew Ferguson On Apologetics

On this blog and especially in my book How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist, I have defended several claims regarding Christian apologetics, such as: 1) Honest Evangelical Scholarship is a Ruse. There is No Such Thing!; and 2) All apologetics is special pleading (see my book). Then there's the money problem. Other writers here have mentioned the money, like Robert Conner, who wrote a piece called, EVANGELICAL BAD FAITH V: FOLLOW THE MONEY, and former DC team member Harry McCall, who lamented The Disappearing Atheist Who Holds a Degree in Religion due to the outrageous costs, and hence, financially forbidden to earn the degrees necessary to be taken seriously by our counter-parts.

Here are two recent links to an extremely helpful breakdown of the money problem, written by Michael Alter, author of the fantastic book, The Resurrection: A Critical Inquiry. ONE) Follow the Money Trail: Faith-Based Education and Publishing in Apologetics (Part I); and TWO) Follow the Money Trail: Faith-Based Education and Publishing in Apologetics (Part II)

Matthew Ferguson, a doctoral candidate in Classics at the University of California, Irvine, commented on this in a post that is now gone. They both know the problem well. Michael Alter, because he must fund his own research, and Matthew Ferguson, because for an atheist scholar to be gainfully employed in his field (and be able to pay off his educational loans) isn't too promising, compared to others who are believers. This is good, really good. I especially like Ferguson's comment under the essay itself, from which I'll quote below:
I think the purpose of this blog is quite clear. As Alter states:
“[T]he purpose of my blog was to demonstrate with real facts [even from a respected Christian source] … that Detractors/Opponents of Christian apologists face definite financial challenges. And, yes, the odds are stacked against this group, regardless of what side of the theistic aisle they find themselves (whether atheist or non-Christian theist).”
That much as been demonstrated. There is a clear asymmetry in the amount of $$$ and resources that are available to Christian apologists than is available to atheists, secularists, and non-Christian theists. Considering the fact that writing books and articles with counter-arguments to apologetics takes time and resources (they don’t just pop out of thin air), that puts them at a disadvantage....

Personally, I think that if the amount of $$$ and resources available to atheists and secularists were equal, virtually all Christian apologetics in the fields of Biblical Studies and Philosophy of Religion would have been solidly refuted a long time ago. Even still, I think that atheists and secularists have done well with far less resources, and presented stronger positions, because they have the truth on their side. [Emphasis is mine, JWL] But, there is still a lot of work to be done, since they have to catch up with the disproportionate amount of publishing done on the Christian side. That is a large part of the reason why I do the work on this blog.

...if there has been a resurgence in Christian scholarship in Biblical Studies, faith-based universities is absolutely the wrong way to do it. Universities like Biola and Liberty have doctrinal statements that require their faculty to adhere to Christian dogma. That means that they can fire professors who publish research which does not align with predetermined conclusions friendly to Christian dogma. Such an institutional structure is completely antithetical to the critical and open-ended research done at secular institutions. There is no parallel, by the way, for an atheist university existing, which only hires atheist faculty, who are required to sign atheist doctrinal statements that require their research to adhere to atheist dogma. This is a case of special pleading done solely with faith-based research. Personally, I do not think that any such faith-based universities deserve academic accreditation, nor should their students be able to get federal loans to attend them. [Emphasis is mine, JWL. This is a point I made in my book.]

None of this has to do with a genetic fallacy asserting that arguments from such scholars at such institutions must inherently be wrong. Simply because a study done on the health effects of smoking is funded by a tobacco company does not ipso facto mean that it is inaccurate. Arguments have to each be evaluated based on evidence and reason. But what it does mean is that the amount of $$$, resources, and special pleading out there *inflates* the amount of publishing and arguments available for Christian apologetics, and makes them disproportionate to those available for atheism and secularism. All of this makes Christian apologetics as an enterprise far less impressive, and I tend to view it as a multi-billion dollar ad campaign, rather than as a genuine scholarly pursuit.