Letter to Tim Challies III

by Luke Muehlhauser on January 9, 2010 in Letters

Following my letter exchanges with Vox Day, Mark van Steenwyk, and Tom Gilson, here is my third letter to Christian writer Tim Challies, author of The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. See our past letters here.

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Tim,

This is my final letter to you. I have enjoyed our dialogue!

I understand that you reject my “facts” about the Bible:

Many of the New Testament letters are known to be forgeries even by the most conservative scholars. The books of the Bible are written by very different authors with very different theologies. The gospels contradict each other all over the place. And if there’s any consensus at all about who the Historical Jesus was, it’s that he was a Jewish apocalyptic prophet; a failed one at that, since the end of the world did not come in his generation. And the religion of Jesus was quite different than the later religion about Jesus, apparently launched by Paul.

We don’t have time to argue over these here. On my blog I suppose I’ll eventually have time to explain why all that is New Testament Studies 101 stuff and give the reasons why most scholars – even the Christian ones – have been persuaded by such views. I also plan to write on why so many Christian scholars have accepted these facts and not abandoned Christianity (as you say you would if you accepted them). Instead, they think this knowledge leads to a more authentic Christian faith, relieved of unnecessary superstition and magic.

Also, let me briefly compare my statements above to your summary of conservative Christian faith. I can give extended, careful, scientific-historical arguments in favor of my positions given above (as many Christian scholars have already). In contrast, you proclaim many things for which it’s hard to imagine an argument could be produced:

God is the Creator of all that is. [How? Did God create himself? How could God create the property of omnipotence if he did not already possess it?] He is utterly holy, having no sin or evil whatsoever. [How would you know such a thing?] … God exists in three persons. [Is this even coherent?] As the crowning act of his creation, God created human beings. But these human beings chose to go their own way, committing an act of cosmic treason against their ruler… Therefore sinners must be put away from him in a place of punishment—a place we know as hell… [So God] sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to be punished on behalf of sinful men… Anyone can now receive the benefit of what Christ did, exchanging their sinfulness for Christ’s holiness. Their sin will be counted against Christ and his holiness will be counted to them so that when God looks at sinful men he sees only the holiness of his Son… At some point in the future Christ will return, bringing an end to this world and ushering in a new era where those who follow Christ will inhabit a recreated, perfected earth while those who have rejected him will receive the necessary and eternal punishment for their rebellion against him.

Perhaps you disagree, but it seems to me that the only “evidence” you can offer in support of such astonishing claims is an “inner experience” claim (which of course you must reject in people of all other religions who have inner experiences of Allah and Vishnu and so on), or else the “evidence” of a library of ancient myths filled with absurdities and contradictions. (But this is not a slam on the Bible. This is true of all other libraries of ancient literature, too. It only becomes a slam when you make the extreme claim that your library of ancient writings is very special because it was written by an all-knowing (!!), all-good (!!), spaceless (!!), eternal (!!), non-physical (!!) being.)

Evangelism

Tim, you asked me a question:

While Christians are known for their work and perhaps with their obsession in spreading their faith, in recent years atheists are making strides in this area. As it becomes increasingly socially acceptable to be an atheist, we find atheists interested in spreading what they believe (or do not believe). How do you feel about proselytizing? Should we both be free to proselytize or should we both just keep private what we believe (or again, what we do not believe)?

Seeing as I write a blog of evangelical atheism, it would be odd if I denounced proselytizing!

Here’s the thing. Beliefs matter. It matters whether you think disease is caused by demons or by microorganisms. It matters that many Christian leaders say that AIDS is bad but condoms are worse. These and many other beliefs are matters of life and death for millions of people. I think it’s very important that people know that disease is not caused by demons but by microorganisms, and that condoms are very helpful for preventing the spread of AIDS when abstinence fails.

It also matters whether or not there is a God to which one should devote so much time, money, and energy rather than to scientific and humanitarian work.

And of course, if it really is true that an all-powerful being will torture us forever if we don’t devote our lives to his arbitrary (if you’re a divine command theorist) moral demands, then that would be pretty important for everyone to know. And if it really is true that we will all perish if we do not submit to the will of Allah, then that would be important for everyone to know.

So it’s not proselytizing that is bad. It’s proselytizing for falsehoods that is bad. I claim that you’re proseltyizing for falsehoods, and you claim that I am proselytizing for falsehoods. There’s no way around that, except to keep working towards a more certain knowledge of what really is true about the universe we find ourselves in. And in addition to atheistic evangelism, that search for truth is also a major topic of my blog. Much of my work here is not evangelism but investigation, as disinterested in the outcome as possible. (For example, my work on the KCA.)

A Better Place

I’m sorry to hear that you’re pessimistic about the idea of getting Christians and atheists to work together on common goals like the reduction of suffering. I think it would be a great opportunity to come to understand and respect each other, even if we remain in disagreement.

I recall, for example, my recent work cooking food and serving it to the homeless people of Los Angeles via the organization Food not Bombs. Most of the volunteers were atheists, but several were believers of one type or another, and we each shared some thoughts that helped us come to understand each other better.

There’s a sense of camaraderie that develops when people are working together toward a common goal. I think that kind of thing can be better for everyone than the usual worldview-exclusive charity work that may only reinforce our prejudices against one another.

Tim, it’s been fun. I look forward to your final response.

Cheers,

Luke

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

ayer January 9, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Luke: “In contrast, you proclaim many things for which it’s hard to imagine an argument could be produced:God is the Creator of all that is. [How? Did God create himself? How could God create the property of omnipotence if he did not already possess it?] He is utterly holy, having no sin or evil whatsoever. [How would you know such a thing?] … God exists in three persons. [Is this even coherent?] ”

This statement seems disingenuous, since you know quite well that Christian philosophers HAVE produced arguments for all of those statements (arguments which you consider unpersuasive, but which you have acknowledged are not fallacious). For example, in your post of December 23:

Luke: “The cosmological argument, if successful, establishes the existence of a First Cause of the universe. That fits the God of classical theism but not Zeus.

The teleological argument, if successful, establishes the existence of an intelligent designer of the universe. That fits the God of classical theism but not Zeus.

The ontological argument, if successful, establishes the existence of a greatest conceivable being. That fits the God of classical theism but not Zeus.”

As to the trinity, in Craig’s debate with Muslim apologist Shabir Ally he presented a philosophical argument in defense of the trinity against the Islamic conception of a non-trinitarian God (I believe the argument was developed by Swinburne).

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lukeprog January 9, 2010 at 4:26 pm

ayer,

Actually, I am not (yet) familiar with how Christian philosophers get around the problem of absolute creation, if they can at all. Also, I doubt Challies thinks that God is all-good because of the ontological argument. As for the Trinity, I haven’t studied it much.

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ayer January 9, 2010 at 5:55 pm

lukeprog: ayer,Actually, I am not (yet) familiar with how Christian philosophers get around the problem of absolute creation, if they can at all. Also, I doubt Challies thinks that God is all-good because of the ontological argument. As for the Trinity, I haven’t studied it much.  

The issue isn’t what Challies thinks or whether you have studied the Trinity; the point is that these are not “things for which it’s hard to imagine an argument could be produced.” Of course, Challies may not be able to cite them, since he is not a philosopher. But in that case, it would probably be a more productive conversation if it did not delve into philosophical issues.

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kennethos January 9, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Luke:

You originally wrote:

“Many of the New Testament letters are known to be forgeries even by the most conservative scholars….
We don’t have time to argue over these here. On my blog I suppose I’ll eventually have time to explain why all that is New Testament Studies 101 stuff and give the reasons why most scholars – even the Christian ones – have been persuaded by such views. I also plan to write on why so many Christian scholars have accepted these facts and not abandoned Christianity (as you say you would if you accepted them). Instead, they think this knowledge leads to a more authentic Christian faith, relieved of unnecessary superstition and magic.”
Actually, considering all you’ve written and blogged about in the last few weeks, I figure it’ll be the next few weeks when you tackle this stuff. It should be easy for you! :)
But in all seriousness, I’ll ask one question of you: you claim that even the most conservative scholars view many of the NT books as forgeries. Could you, please, list these scholars, presumably in the commentaries they make these claims in? I would very much like to know which orthodox, Bible-believing conservative scholars (which is the definition I would ascribe to conservative scholars such as you’ve described) have claimed a significant number of NT books to be in-authentic. I’m well aware that a number of liberal or higher-critical scholars regard a number of books (including some of St. Paul’s works) to be forgeries but I wouldn’t count such folks among conservative scholars. So please, who are these scholars and where do they make these claims?
Thank you.

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Joel Duggins January 9, 2010 at 9:39 pm

Let me begin my third comment of the night with two quotes:
“I also plan to write on why so many Christian scholars have accepted these facts and not abandoned Christianity (as you say you would if you accepted them). Instead, they think this knowledge leads to a more authentic Christian faith, relieved of unnecessary superstition and magic.”
“It only becomes a slam when you make the extreme claim that your library of ancient writings is very special because it was written by an all-knowing (!!), all-good (!!), spaceless (!!), eternal (!!), non-physical (!!) being.)”

This extreme claim (and, admittedly, it is an extreme claim, one which needs both trust and evidence) is one of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. I’m not being narrow minded. In exactly the same way that you cannot be an Atheist if you believe in the existence of a deity, you simply cannot be a Christian without believing in the basic doctrines of Christianity, including, but not limited to, the historical accuracy of the Bible.

None of this is an argument against Atheism. I only say this for the sake of honesty and clarity -If this comment is abrasively written, please forgive me. This is a question of intellectual honesty, one that I am very passionate about. Overlook whatever shortcomings I have, please, so that we can better communicate.

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Jonathan Boyd January 10, 2010 at 7:17 am

Luke, I’ve found this exchange of letters an interesting project and enjoyed following the responses both of you have made, however I have some questions, particularly in the light of your final letter.

You’ve demonstrated a great desire for rigour when it comes to for example examining the KCA or evaluating Dawkins’ work. I’m therefore surprised and a little disappointed at what amounts to a rather lazy comment about demon possession and disease. In Matthew 10:8, Jesus gives four commands:
i. heal the sick
ii. raise the dead
iii. cleanse lepers
iv. cast out demons
You give this as your evidence that Jesus believed that disease is caused by demon possession. This presumably is because you are equating i. and iii. with iv. However if this was the case and the list is really just saying one thing four different ways, where does ii. fit in? Healing the sick isn’t the same as raising the dead, neither is cleansing lepers. But if ii. is not the same as i. or iii., why should iv. be assumed to be talking about the same thing? It seems to me that that is a fairly major failure of logic.

Not that that changes your overall point about beliefs mattering.

The point I would question, however, is your New Testament 101 claim. Having sat through quite a few New Testament lectures, I don’t see how you can possibly justify your claims about the views of ‘even … the most conservative scholars’. By definition, the most conservative scholars would have views that are precisely the opposite of what you claim.

Where there may be some confusion is that different authors have different nuances to their theologies and focus on different events. That isn’t to say that their theologies are contradictory or they believe in different Gods, but that their emphases are in different places. For instance Mark focusses on Jesus as a servant while John answers the question ‘who is the Christ?’ Mark does not deny that Jesus is the Christ, nor does John deny that Jesus is a servant, in fact each of them has both of those aspects present, but chooses to highlight different ones.

Regarding authorship, there is some disagreement about who wrote some books, particularly Hebrews, but the disagreement on the conservative end is over identity, not over authority. The reason for a book being in the canon is that it was regarded by the church as having the authority of God behind, frequently by virtue of having been written by an apostle. Providing that such an authority is present in a book, the actual identity of the author is unimportant and in that sense, a book would not be regarded as a forgery.

Having read about Paul and Jesus, I also fail to see how conservative scholars would agree with you. It may well be that a majority of scholars would take similar views to you, possibly even a majority of scholars who profess to be Christians, but to claim even the most conservative scholars hold to these views is woefully mistaken. The difference between conservative and liberal scholars on these issues should be clear from even a New Testament 101 class. Read something by DA Carson, Peter O’Brien, Leon Morris, Joel Green, Howard Marshall, Darrell Bock, Andreas Köstenberger, Grant Osbourne or many others who would be commonly quoted within the evangelical world and you’ll see that.

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lukeprog January 10, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Jonathan,

You’re right, that verse doesn’t clearly say that Jesus believed disease was caused by demons. I’d be curious to know – do you deny that the Jesus of the gospels thought disease was caused by demons?

My impression of scholarship is different than yours. It would be interesting to see a survey of NT scholars similar to the recent survey of philosophers.

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kennethos January 10, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Luke:

I was a bit disappointed to find you trotting out that passage as evidence of Jesus thinking that demons were responsible for diseases. It didn’t fit, and wasn’t good research.
One place where a demon and sickness (epilepsy, translated in the ESV) is tied together, though, is Matt. 17. However, this may be the only place in the NT where a spirit and a disease are explicitly mentioned together; other places in the Gospels and NT diseases and possession are areas for the disciples/apostles to minister, but not necessarily interconnected. It doesn’t imply that demons always cause disease, just that here there is a connected, and a possibly demon-caused illness. Beyond that, who knows (unless you have a healthy amount of experience with exorcisms). So if you’re wanting to demonstrate or prove that Jesus thought disease was caused by demonic possession, Luke, the one verse I cited above won’t be enough. That’s referred to as eisegesis in scholarly research.
If you have other places in the NT where this claim is made, I’d love to see it. And thanks again for good conversation.

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Joel Duggins January 10, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Luke, a quick question for the sake of clarification. Are you saying that the demons and microorganisms are mutually exclusive? As far as I can see, it makes perfect sense for (nearly) every demoniac’s symptoms to line up with certain diseases. What prevents a demon from manipulating germs -or other things- to accomplish its own purposes? Microorganisms can be a weapon, even in the hands of a demon.
Your thoughts?

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lukeprog January 10, 2010 at 7:43 pm

kennethos,

I agree, that wasn’t fair. I’ve removed that phrase and notified Challies.

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lukeprog January 10, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Joel,

By the same logic, it might as well be Zeus that ultimately causes the electrical phenomena that cause lightning. The problem is that the electrical phenomena themselves completely explain lightning, so there is no reason to also posit the additional and rather absurd explanation of “Zeus did it.” Likewise, with respect to disease, there is no good reason to suspect that “Demons did it.”

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kennethos January 10, 2010 at 8:52 pm

Luke:

This does present a bit of a challenge for naturalism, to put it mildly. Naturalism can accurately state something happened (there was a bolt of lightning!), and even postulate as to the cause (atmospheric pressure changes, build-up of ionic charges, differentials caused by a variety of things, etc.), but it really can’t tell us the “why” of it all (this happened precisely because of *that*!), especially if naturalism is limited from investigating outside the natural realm. It seems that we truly can’t rule out Zeus doing it (or likely YHWH). Likewise, we simply have no real idea with respect to some diseases, why things are happening. We are ignorant if we attempt to rule out outside influences, as in spiritual or demonic causes, and seem to be relying solely on philosophic blinders for our “moral support.”

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Joel Duggins January 10, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Luke,
Yes, by the same logic, it might well be Zeus that ultimately causes the electrical phenomena that, in some cases, causes lightening. All I was saying was that a “everyday” germ theory of disease does not exclude the possibility (I am not even, at this point, even saying that it is probable) that demonic forces can -sometimes- use even things like bacteria and neural impulses as tools. You seem to think that science (an observation of how things generally work), particularly a scientific theory of disease, is incompatible with demons. I am not suggesting that demons usually (or even often) cause diseases, I am merely saying that the possibility is not in conflict with science’s observations of sickness.

What Kennethos is talking about seems to be Aristotle’s final cause. What I am talking about is on a much more direct level: Microogranisms, for the sake of this discussion, are the material cause of disease. Demonic forces, in the Biblical accounts, may be the efficient cause of some disease.

I merely present this as one possible way in which science is compatible with the Bible. Kennothos’s idea that demonic influence is an affliction completely separate from disease is another, very probable, reality.

Your comments, Luke?

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Joel Duggins January 10, 2010 at 9:29 pm

I should have phrased that first sentence differently. I should have said it like this:
Yes, by the same logic, in some cases it might well be Zeus that ultimately causes the electrical phenomena which causes lightening.

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lukeprog January 10, 2010 at 10:19 pm

kennethos,

We can’t rule out the actions of Zeus or Yahweh, but they are unnecessary. See Occam’s razor.

What do you mean naturalism can’t explain lightning?

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lukeprog January 10, 2010 at 10:23 pm

Joel,

If you think it’s plausible that feckin’ Zeus causes the electrical phenomena which causes lightning, it’s no wonder you think Yahweh is also plausible.

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kennethos January 10, 2010 at 11:29 pm

It would mean a great deal to me, Luke, if in the future, you might read what I wrote before asking me a question I already answered. (It has the potential to become a fallacy.) Above, you’ll see that I said that naturalism has the ability to describe the occurrence and some of the mechanics of natural phenomenon (in this case, lightning). It’s the primary causation (the big WHY) that is not always understood in naturalism, because it’s parameters are so… limited. Naturalism can’t always figure out why things happen (why’d someone get cancer, why’d someone smoke like a chimney for 50 years and never get lung cancer, but Dana Reeves never smokes a day and dies of it, etc.). This is what I’m trying to say.
And like Joel, I can see it being plausible for “feckin’” Zeus (or YHWH, in my book) to be sovereignly responsible, because it’s very logical and reasonable to allow for it. I may “limit” myself by biblical “blinders”, but I think that they allow more in than naturalism does, IMHO.
Have a good night!

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Jonathan Boyd January 11, 2010 at 3:46 am

Luke, thanks for the continued conversation. I’ll address your second question first since the answer is shorter and much of what I say about the first has been said already by others.

Regarding scholarship, my concern wasn’t scholarship in general (which your philosophy survey seemed to address), but rather your claims about conservative scholarship. Your point to Tim seemed to be along the lines of ‘These are the facts of Christianity. I regard them as facts because even conservative scholars would assent to them.’ If conservatives disagree with your facts, then the point fails. The people I listed would generally be seen as being on the conservative end of the spectrum, though not so far as to be regarded as fundamentalist. Is there any reason to disqualify them from a discussion about conservative viewpoints? If their conservatism is not in question, is it their academic credentials?

Regarding disease in this passage, I don’t think Jesus had in mind the causes of any maladies. Rather he seems to be grouping together things which require a common action and demonstrate a common point: they are all things which require healing which demonstrates divine power. Any discussion of causes misses the point and abuses the text.

Taking a wider view, I’d say that there is reasonable evidence to say that Jesus attributed some malady with some disease-like symptoms to the work of demons. At no point, however, did he attribute any diseases themselves to demons – there is nothing to say that demons could could manifest their work in a way that produces disease-like symptoms.

Even if there was an instance where Jesus attributed a disease to a demon, this would raise the question of in what way the demon could be said to cause the disease. If I claimed that tobacco companies cause cancer I doubt that anyone would accuse me of denying medical science. Demons could be a cause in the sense of a responsible agent, rather than a mechanism. Of course if healing a disease came about through removal of a demon, you’d have to say that more of a mechanical link was being claimed than would be the case with tobacco companies, but you still couldn’t claim that Jesus was saying that demons directly cause disease rather than causing the conditions that give rise to a disease. Similarly, it’s not a stretch to say that if demons could be driven out, then the same power could heal any disease they were responsible for.

One important thing to remember is that there was no knowledge of microbes or much resembling modern medical science at the time, so why would we expect to find any evidence for claims the like of which you discuss? Jesus simply wouldn’t have spoken with the nuances and specifics that would be required to make the distinctions that would allow you to say that he thinks cancer is caused directly by demons rather than by demons influencing cells.

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lukeprog January 11, 2010 at 7:40 am

Why did someone get cancer? Because certain cells mutated and had uncontrolled growth. Why did one person get lung cancer and not another? Random chance and differences in genetic makeup. I don’t see how naturalism has a problem explaining these things. Moreover, just because we don’t understand something scientifically yet doesn’t mean that “God did it” is a good explanation.

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lukeprog January 11, 2010 at 7:43 am

Jonathan,

I think we’re using different meanings for ‘conservative.’ What I mean by ‘conservative’ are those who still think Jesus supernaturally rose from the dead, but still would essentially affirm the things I said in my first letter about the Bible.

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Joel Duggins January 11, 2010 at 1:37 pm

“If you think it’s plausible that feckin’ Zeus causes the electrical phenomena which causes lightning, it’s no wonder you think Yahweh is also plausible.”
I did not intend to imply that I actually believed it was plausible, merely that the idea of eletrical buildup in the clouds causing (in one sense) lightning is not incompatible with the idea of Zeus causing (in a different sense) lightening.

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kennethos January 11, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Luke, re: Conservative scholars:
This is much the suspicion I had when you originally published your first letter to Challies, that our definitions of “conservative” would be different. Your definition of “conservative” might include people who believe in the resurrection of Jesus, but do not hold to a high view of Scripture. This might include Barth, Tillich, and many others, who would not appear on a list of conservative/evangelical scholars those of who hold a high view of Scripture would consider. This also might explain why you have not given forth to us an actual list of conservative scholars who consider most of the NT letters to be forgeries. Why? Because Christians who believe the Bible would not accept their scholarship as being conservative.
Now, if you DO have scholars we would accept as conservative, who consider many of the NT letters to be forgeries, I’d still be interested in knowing who they are.

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Jonathan Boyd January 11, 2010 at 4:44 pm

That ‘s helpful to know. I was going with what I assumed Tim would have understood by conservative, which would be somewhat narrower. Belief in a supernatural resurrection is in my view a basic tenet of Christian. If you don’t believe that, you can’t really lay claim to be being a Christian. I can think of plenty of people I’d regard as liberal who would affirm a supernatural rising from the dead.

Either way, my point still stands about your facts being disputed by plenty of conservative scholars, particularly those whose theology would be broadly in line with Tim’s on the major points.

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lukeprog January 11, 2010 at 4:58 pm

kennethos,

It would be quicker to list those who do NOT, for example, accept that Hebrews wasn’t written by Paul and 2 Peter wasn’t written by Peter. Who today thinks those letters are legit?

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kennethos January 11, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Luke:
My point was that one of your core arguments toward Mr. Challies in your original letter was a contention that conservative biblical scholars espoused a position re: the legitimacy of the NT letters more in line with critical scholarship. A few of us probably thought that this was a dubious contention, at best. Your answer is essentially confirming this, i.e. you used a different definition of conservative than the rest of us do, so you’re able to say conservative scholars disbelieve legit NT authorship, where we would dispute this argument.
I have no doubt there are a number of critical scholars who dispute NT authorship of many of the books. That’s irrelevant to this argument, however, since critical attitudes were never in contention.
As for the authorship of Hebrews or 2 Peter, there are scholars on both sides of the Pauline/non-Pauline issue, with equal pro’s and con’s. Those critical of Petrine authorship of 2 Peter have likewise perpetually been around. This is not new or original.
If you’re espousing standard critical scholarship attitudes to support your argument against biblical authority, it’s not helping your case against theism. Who today outside of critical scholarship still accepts their reasoning as legitimate?

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jesusfreak574 January 11, 2010 at 8:33 pm

I couldn’t help but chuckle: abstinence doesn’t fail; people fail at abstinence.

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Joel Duggins January 11, 2010 at 9:27 pm

Luke,
“It would be quicker to list those who do NOT, for example, accept that Hebrews wasn’t written by Paul and 2 Peter wasn’t written by Peter. Who today thinks those letters are legit?”
First, many, many scholars believe that Hebrews was not written by Paul, and yet also believe that 2 Peter was written by Peter. Putting those two things in the same category is either the result of a sadly lacking knowledge, or of something very near to dishonesty.

Second, I would say that, if by “legit” you mean part of the Biblical canon, that belief is a Christian belief – it is not even an issue of disagreement between conservative and liberal opinions, it is a disagreement between Christian and non-Christian opinions.

Also, Luke, I would greatly appreciate a response to my comments that compare a very real group of “Christians” (who deny fundamental Christian doctrines) to a hypothetical group of “atheists” who believe in a deity.

I appreciate your patience and your obvious desire for calm, rational discussion.

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lukeprog January 11, 2010 at 9:33 pm

Joel,

Unfortunately, “Christian” does not have as clear a definition of “atheism.” Atheism is etymologically and otherwise a denial of theism, whereas Christianity is… what? A million different things, depending on who you ask.

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Greg January 12, 2010 at 5:57 am

kennethos,

re: Conservative scholars:

If Luke provides some names of conservative (as you define it) scholars or commentaries that he was thinking of, would you please let me know.

You can email me at gregw@cambridgecofc.ca

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Jonathan Boyd January 12, 2010 at 10:14 am

Here’s a few conservative scholars who think 2 Peter is at least legitimate and in most cases, not a pseudepigraph. As for Hebrews, it doesn’t claim any particular author, so it can’t be said to be a forgery in that sense. I’m not aware of a single conservative scholar who doesn’t think it should be in the canon.

DA Carson and Douglas J Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament (Zondervan)
‘We are therefore left with the choice of accepting the letter’s prima facie claim to have been written by the apostle Peter or viewing it as a forgery hardly deserving of canonical status. Since the usual arguments against Petrine authorship are not finally conclusive, we prefer the former option.’

Michael Kruger, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 42:4
‘Although one may not agree with every argument that seems to support the authorial claims of 2 Peter, one certainly must conclude that the case for 2 Peter’s pseudonymity is somewhat tendentious and incomplete.’

Richard Bauckham, Dictionary of the Later New Testament (IVP)
‘If 2 Peter was written not by Peter but after Peter’s death, why did the real author present the work as Peter’s testament? Probably because his intention was to defend the apostolic message in the period after the death of the apostles (2 Pet 3:4) against teachers who held that in important respects the teaching of the apostles was discredited. Whereas they were claiming to correct the apostles’ teaching, the author of 2 Peter regards it as normative for the postapostolic church. By writing in Peter’s name he claims no authority of his own except as a faithful mediator of the apostolic message, which he defends against attacks. The form of the letter as an apostolic testament is therefore closely connected with its apologetic purpose as a vindication of the normative authority of the apostolic teaching. That the author chose to write Peter’s testament is probably best explained if he was a leader in the Roman church (see Rome), which had counted Peter as the most prestigious of its leaders in the previous generation.’

Michael Green, New Bible Dictionary (IVP)
‘The evidence does not suffice to justify a dogmatic answer one way or the other to the question of authorship. There is nothing that forbids us to entertain the possibility of Petrine authorship, though many regard it as unlikely in view of the cumulative effect of the difficulties outlined above. However, no alternative solution is free from difficulty. The doctrine of the letter and the character of the false teaching do not readily fit into the 2nd-century scene. 2 Peter as a pseudepigraph has no satisfactory raison d’être; it adds nothing to our knowledge of Peter, has no unorthodox tendency, is no romance, makes no reference to burning 2nd-century problems, such as chiliasm, gnosticism or church leadership; in fact, it bears no resemblances to the undoubted pseudepigrapha of the Petrine circle. At all events, it is certain that the early church which deposed the author of the Acts of Paul for forgery (Tertullian, de Baptismo 17) and forbade the use of the Gospel of Peter because it was Petrine neither in authorship nor doctrine (Eus., EH 6. 12) thoroughly investigated 2 Peter’s claims to authenticity. It passed the test before that same Council of Carthage which excluded from the Canon Barnabas and Clement of Rome, which had long been read in the churches. It cannot be shown that they were right; but it has still to be shown that they were wrong.’

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kennethos January 12, 2010 at 10:27 am

Greg:

re: Conservative scholars:
If Luke provides some names of conservative (as you define it) scholars or commentaries that he was thinking of, would you please let me know.

Greg:
I’m waiting for Luke to confirm/deny whether his definition of conservative aligns with ours. This will demonstrate whether or not there truly are conservative scholars who deny Scripture (doubtful) or if Luke is describing, say, neo-orthodox scholars as such. (Slight difference there!)
Besides, Jonathan Boyd has said it better than I can.

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lukeprog January 12, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Thanks for the quotes, Jonathan.

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lukeprog January 12, 2010 at 12:36 pm

kennethos,

By ‘conservative’ I meant something like ‘fundamentalist’ as the word originated in the 1920s: somebody defending the Old Time Religion in the face of the new success of science and reason. So, somebody who defends magical interpretations of the ancient texts was called a ‘fundamentalist’ because they defended the fundamentals of the faith and rejected religious liberalization from theologians like Harnack.

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kennethos January 12, 2010 at 2:27 pm

How surprising. Most conservative scholars since the 1960s really aren’t fundamentalists as we define them, though perhaps you would. I’m not sure if our interpretations and hermeneutics would be called “magical”, though perhaps “sane” and “reasonable.”
It’s looking more and more like you said one thing and meant another, Luke. I’m guessing there’s still no scholars we’d define as conservative who would classify most of the NT letters as forgeries.
Well, thanks for clarifying, Luke.

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Joel Duggins January 12, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Luke,
Admittedly the word “Christian” is used for a much broader category of people (and misused for an even broader category) but there are still, at least, some basic dividing lines between Christian and non-Christian beliefs. They may be more complex than those of atheism, (because athiesm/naturalism is certainly quite simple) but that does not mean they are not really there. Perhaps we would have difficulty agreeing on the line between Christianity and non-Christianity, but we should at least start by acknowledging that there is a dividing line, and that saying the words “I am a Christian” does not necessarily put one on the Christian side of the line.

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Rizmonster January 12, 2010 at 7:52 pm

blah blah blah, i’m smarter than you, i know bigger words than you, and i can write way more convoluted sentences than you…man, i hope tim just takes the high road and doesn’t respond to your obsencely arrogant gobbledygook!

that’s my big word for the day…see, i’m smart too and i didn’t use a word with “ism” at the end!

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Joel Duggins January 12, 2010 at 9:11 pm

Rizmonster, no one here disagrees with Luke’s worldview more emphatically than I, but I still want to be the first to say that the sort of behavior you show is truly inexcusable. Whatever your motives are, I suggest you think your words through much more thoroughly and (assuming you profess Christianity) show some charity!

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kennethos January 13, 2010 at 7:00 am

Arrogance flows both ways, as I’ve said before. Both Christians and atheists equally demonstrate it. If I’ve said/written something to trigger this, my apologies. The key is demonstrating enough humility to actually have a reasonable conversation about important things.

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Kim January 18, 2010 at 8:04 am

I have come to the conclusion that I no longer believe in atheists. You doth protest too much, methinks.

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MarkHans January 18, 2010 at 9:20 am

Luke… just an interesting side note… in your referenced survey only 177 of the 3226 claim to practice philosophy in religion. And I doubt that a survey of just that group would hold to be the same, especially those of a conservative persuasion.

lukeprog It would be interesting to see a survey of NT scholars similar to the recent survey of philosophers.  

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MarkHans January 18, 2010 at 9:21 am

Luke… just an interesting side note… in your referenced survey only 177 of the 3226 claim to practice philosophy in religion. And I doubt that a survey of just that group would hold to be the same, especially those of a conservative persuasion. One should be careful about defining scholarship outside of the field in question and bringing that definition into it.

lukeprog It would be interesting to see a survey of NT scholars similar to the recent survey of philosophers.  

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Paul January 18, 2010 at 10:15 am

Luke, Just wanted to again say thanks for taking time to share this exchange with Tim. It has confirmed some things I wasn’t sure of, and has overall been enlightening. Thanks for taking the time to do this.

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Kris January 18, 2010 at 11:49 am

It would make sense that if the question is posed to the christian: “Where did God come from?” or “Who made God?”, then it should be asked to the atheist “Where did anything come from?” and “Who/What made anything, before something existed?”.

Wouldn’t something or someone have to be there in order to make something else?

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