Proving McGrath Wrong (again) By His Own Standards and Challenges

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by Neil Godfrey

Apols in advance for another tedious post, but I am here posting a defence of mine since it has not appeared on the blog where accusations were made against me.

After McGrath happened to swallow something that appeared on the internet and that he thought supported his arguments against mine, he wrote:

I said in the post that I’d much rather discuss the books cited and summarized in the article, rather than the article itself. But I didn’t think I could assume that any proponents of mythicism would actually have read even one of them. I’d be happy to be proven wrong about this. (Source is here)

Well, as anyone reading recent posts of mine will know, I did prove him wrong by the standard he set in this statement. He has not apologized or acknowledged this, however. Nor has he expressed the happiness he said he would enjoy if I could prove him wrong.

It turns out that I had read the books in question some years ago. And I demonstrated that he himself had not read them but had uncritically swallowed them  from the internet on the naive assumption that what appeared in an internet article like wikipedia supported his views, when in fact they did not. And this is the doctor who accuses mythicits of naively swallowing things on the internet!

I quoted from one of them to point out that he was endorsing methods and authors who say that God writes books and there is indisputable evidence Peter is buried in Rome and it is scientific to believe in both biblical miracles and the miracles of saints in the Church.

Instead of acknowledging that he swallows uncritically what he reads on the internet and that I do have a more thorough background in (nonbiblical) historical studies than he has, he has written the following:

In your latest comment, you complain that the article I linked to uses sources that are half a century old. And yet a moment before that you were citing Schweitzer and von Ranke! Do you just not know when he lived, or are you unaware that your arguments don’t meet the standards you try to impose on others? This is really getting ridiculous!

Of course, this is sheer pedantry. Anyone in any longlasting reputable field knows that there certain luminaries who have set the tone and direction of methods and philosophical underpinnings of a discipline, and that while the details of their works are now obsolete, they are still cited as luminaries for the foundations of method or approach that they laid for the discipline. This is true in physical and social sciences. Meanwhile, there are of course many who publish stuff that is narrow in outlook and is never widely accepted or soon forgotten.

As for my quotation from Schweitzer, I use it to point out that even reputable biblical historians have at least acknowledged the theoretical validity of certain basic truisms that apply in any field, historical or scientific, yet are said to be “bloody weird” by at least one HJ scholar when I apply that standard logic to his own publications. This could only happen in biblical studies. If other historians get caught out like this they acknowledge their methodological error. (It is easy to get carried away by the romanticism of one’s favourite topic of investigation.) Biblical historians merely respond with “that’s bloody weird”. (I have posted the case studies backing this statement up this many times now on this blog.)

I published that reply to James on his blog, but though he says he has turned off moderation, it has not yet appeared on his blog.

I also repeated a few basic questions to him, such as asking him specifically to cite what he has read by Doherty and whether his “understanding” of Doherty’s view of the sublunar realm derives from GakuseiDon, whether he knows what Scot McKnight says about historians like him in Death of Jesus, and whether he has ever heard of E.H. Carr and G.R. Elton — milestone contributors to the history of modern historiography. He has failed to reply on my blog to any of these questions, and my repeat of the questions on his own blog has not appeared for some reason. Perhaps there is just a technical hitch.

The last time McGrath issued me a challenge was to prove E.P. Sanders had not proven the historicity of Jesus. I did so, and he went quiet and disappeared till I finally caught up with him. His only comment was that he “disagreed”.

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Neil Godfrey

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2 thoughts on “Proving McGrath Wrong (again) By His Own Standards and Challenges”

  1. Well McGrath says he has turned off comment moderation but for some reason my comments do not go routinely through to his blog.

    So to keep a record for my own benefit at least, here is his response to my above post/comment:

    Neil, you’ve already illustrated clearly that the issue is not “Biblical history” vs. “nonbiblical history” but between apologists who refuse to play by the rules of historical study and mainstream historians who at least seek to do so, even though we’re all capable of failing on occasion to see how influences and assumptions mislead us.

    But you seem not to even understand the relationship between Doherty’s “sublunar realm” blunders and the Ptolemaic worldview which, even though not yet called that, was the taken-for-granted cosmological understanding in the Greco-Roman world.

    By respectful I mean what I think most people mean – and I assume most people would agree that it doesn’t have to mean letting you get away with pretending you know what you’re talking about or that you’ve made a persuasive argument when you’re not.

    How choice: He accuses mythicists of uncritically swallowing information from the internet, but when HE is caught out doing exactly that, he brings in the excuse, “we’re all capable of failing on occasion to see how influences and assumptions mislead us”.

    Here is the reply that I am still waiting to see if McGrath allows to be posted. (By posting here I at least hope to pressure him into letting my posts go through to his blog anyway.)

    Well you said you would be happy to be proved wrong about your assumption that no mythicist probably ever read the books you recommended. Now I have proved you wrong. Are you happy? You said you would be happy if anyone demonstrated what I did. Be happy!! Tell me you are happy as you said you would be!

    Meanwhile you refuse point blank to answer what you have read of Doherty — I challenge you to quote from Doherty (not GaukuseiDon’s contextualized selections) — to show he is wrong. I have quoted exactly what Doherty says. Is he wrong in any of those quotations? Answer me directly without the bullshit.

    You also refuse to answer my questions about Scot McKnight and Carr and Elton. So I can only assume you are ignorant of mainstream historiography and how it works. You certainly proved that with your embarrassing demonstration that you misunderstood probably one of the most well-known von Ranke quotes among (nonbiblical) historians. Why can’t you admit error?
    Why do you consistently refuse to answer the logic and references to mainstream historiograhy that I have posted at Historical Facts?

    You know very well I have challenged YOUR methods as YOU have explained them and you have given no answer to simple fact that historians like you are trying to apply criteria and other tools to FIND facts about Jesus, when if you had the first inkling of how those tools are used outside your narrow field you would know they are not designed for that, but for INTERPRETING facts. Do you know what is the difference between facts and evidence and sources and primary and secondary and tertiary sources as normatively used in nonbiblical historical studies? Just a simple yes or no answer will do.

    You have never answered a single question of mine, or addressed a single point, in a direct substantive manner. You have always found some pedantic excuse to avoid the substance and attack me personally.

    Why can you not bring yourself to admit YOU were the uncritical one who swallowed nonsense from the internet, and that I had indeed read the books? — That is, YOU are the one guilty of what you accuse mythicists of doing.

    Why can’t you bring yourself to answer my simple questions about what you have read by Doherty and whether you know the first thing about von Ranke, Carr, Elton, Collingwood or any of the postmodernists? And why can you not bring yourself to address my post in which I discuss Scot McKnight’s discussion about the ignorance of biblical historians in relation to history outside their fields?

    And why can’t you respond to my post with a bit more than a very belated “I disagree” when I demonstrated that Sanders has NOT proven the existence of the historical Jesus, but simply assumed his existence? One of many examples: Temple Action?

    And while you’re at it, why don’t you defend yourself against my exposure of the vacuousness and erroneous content of you review of Price in the 5 Views? Dishonesy of a scholarly review

    When will you admit that my replies do demonstrate a much greater knowledge of, and engagement with, the mainstream biblical historical literature than you have been assuming from the beginning?

    And you keep saying you have addressed my points. But I have been asking questions like these from the beginning and you have never once addressed them. Cite me one post or comment where you have directly answered a single point of mine.

    So I see from your definition of “respectful” that you are allowed to make personal judgments on the inner thoughts, motives and attitude of one you are talking with. Thankyou for your clarification. I will understand you better now when you next protest how you have tried so hard to be “respectful”.

  2. Lets face it, you two aren’t here for the hunting!

    Obviously the readership is so thick we desire an update daily. House cleaning or pet walking may just possibly help in this instance.

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