Hoo boy, I have a headache

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by Neil Godfrey

(Thinks) No, I don’t have a headache, but I feel like I should have one.

I wake up this morning as usual first check my iphone to see how the various media are spinning the Thailand events, check to see if there is any other news worth knowing about, then see if anyone has had a peek at my blog posts overnight. And what is waiting for me there but a very severe public chastising from a woman on the other side of the world — and a fellow Aussie, no less, a potential drinking partner!

I skimmed it and decided I needed a long walk. Haven’t had nearly enough exercise lately and I need time to myself to think through some major work projects too, and to appreciate the goodness of sunshine and smiling early morning faces.

Now I’m back reinvigorated and ready to go.

Well, where to start?


Okay — Why do I sometimes pick on certain scholarly works to criticize or share?

Answer: The ones I like to share are those that offer insights from a different perspective that I think is worth sharing. The ones I criticize are those that I have come to understand are looked up to as major contributions to the faith of believers, or are held up as benchmark works that establish and even extend the foundations of the core findings of historical Jesus and early Christianity scholarship.

An example of one widely esteemed as a major “wow” book for believers was Richard Bauckham’s “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses”. Now I know what it’s like to be excited by new findings in research. And I especially can appreciate the thrill of new sensational ideas charging in honour and celebration of one’s own personal beliefs. But I also know that false beliefs, shoddy reasoning, has a lot to answer for. And that public intellectuals have a greater responsibility in this area.

So in the case of Bauckham’s book I felt some obligation to make available to anyone interested what I saw as the flaws in his arguments and methods. It’s good for choices to be made available.

In the case of Crossley, I did not think it worth saying much in any detail until a number of people began to give me the impression that his work was also taken much more seriously than I had expected after reading it for myself some time ago. I thought it was mostly smoke-and-mirror type scholarship with nothing substantial to say at all. Yet I was regularly seeing references to the strength of his case. But I never saw any detailed defence of his arguments.

It was as if people were so impressed by the complexity and depth of his arguments that they could not summarize them themselves, but they could always refer to his books and challenge anyone to deny their import.

One associate professor challenged me in a similar way to take on the way E. P. Sanders had so soundly proven the historicity of Jesus. I began to show in detail how Sanders did no such thing and he went quiet and changed the subject.

So I have shown what I see as the fallacies and shallowness of Crossley’s arguments, and I would expect that if they were really so sound I would have fact after fact fired back at me to show how and where I had misrepresented them, or failed to honestly rebut them.

But no, all I get is how it is impossible to point out where I am wrong in anything less than a full size book, and therefore I have to be content with accepting personal abuse instead. I find this surprising. I have catalogued over the years probably thousands of scholarly works, and I think just about every one of them, certainly most of them, has somewhere what is called an abstract — a summary of the arguments contained in a scholarly thesis, book, article or paper. The only bad and incompetent abstracts I have read are by those who are undergraduates. But everyone has to learn.

Yet no, not even an abstract (of what a book pointing out the wrongs of my critiques would contain) can be mustered against my arguments. Only demands that I explain what my religious background is that has made me supposedly so embittered and hateful of Christianity that I would dare argue against the basic model accepted by mainstream scholars.

Well, it sounds to me as if I have no need to spell out the details of my religious background since I am already being accused of such malicious motives stemming from some warped soul-bending past experiences.

So what is the point of bothering to remind such accusers that my complete religious history has been linked from my blog ever since I started it a few years ago. One only has to click the About Vridar button to access it. But it seems that this is not enough, and I am to be condemned for attempting to hide my past experiences in some nefarious attempt to conceal the root of my evil motives.

Oh, I almost forgot. I have also posted some of my experiences with fundamentalism here — including quite a few positive experiences. But I hide these in a secret place that can only be accessed by scrolling through Categories headings on the right margin on my blog.

I used to think that scholars were paragons of reason and enlightenment. That if I asked them a question they would enlighten me. That if I made an error they would instruct me. That if I disagreed with their conclusions they would point out my mistakes.

Instead, I find myself being painted as someone with an irrational vendetta against Christianity? Woops! Where on earth did that come from? Maybe someone can explain to me that it is impossible to pinpoint any specific evidence on my blog that demonstrates this vendetta, but if pushed they could write a book to explain it, but don’t ask for an abstract summary of that book.

Interesting how scholars who cannot defend their arguments resort to ad hominem. I discussed Craig Evan’s tendency to do this in his book Fabricating Jesus, too. It is truly an amazing way to respond to critiques and exposures of the shoddy reasoning underlying so much that passes for biblical scholarship. I feel these painful responses are really testimony to the truth of the critiques. There is nothing to defend that is based on sound reasoning and evidence.

Sometimes these scholars go on the attack and issue critiques of their own — usually of Earl Doherty’s books. But I do wish those scholars who do this actually demonstrate that they have read either some, or more than a few lines on a website, of what he actually argues.

But now I’m starting to go into a rant of my own. Okay, I’ve been ranting too long.

Will finish this, have breakfast, and maybe when I feel more comfortable see if it is worth responding in the comments section to my chastisement.

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Neil Godfrey

Neil is the author of this post. To read more about Neil, see our About page.

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