James McGrath links to a very straightforward article in The National Post that challenges head-on the inability of some people to even acknowledge the legitimacy of any serious case for the nonhistoricity of Jesus. It is Should Jesus Be Exempt From Historical Scrutiny?
The author, Jackson Doughart, indicates he is not a mythicist, since he writes that he believes there is not enough evidence to definitely determine if Jesus was a real person, and that the nature of the evidence that does exist at least suggests his existence is debatable.
He also points out why comparing the denial of the historicity of Jesus to denying the existence of Hannibal is “an illegitimate and absurd comparison”.
Doughart makes an interesting comparison of the evidence for Jesus with the evidence for Socrates. He notes, as I have also done, that the question of Socrates’ existence is immaterial to the bigger question of the rise of Greek philosophy, while the existence of Jesus is of paramount significance for believers.
A few excerpts
Intellectual cowardice and dishonesty
. . . discussing the existence or non-existence of all historical figures in empirical terms is an important exercise, with Jesus being no exception. His existence obviously has crucial theological implications for those who consider him to be their saviour, making the issue a sensitive one, but avoiding the issue on this premise amounts to intellectual cowardice and dishonesty.
The slander of the “conspiracy theorist” label
Shea claims that those who question the existence of Jesus are conspiracy theorists. Saying this devalues a term that has become almost entirely meaningless through overuse and also slanders those who attempt to frame a legitimate subject of historical debate into realistic terms. In addition to being petty and reactionary, Mr. Shea’s attitude is dangerous because it discourages historical debate by labeling those who participate as bigots. This is truly unacceptable.
Additionally, Mr. Shea’s mockery reveals not only credulity but also insecurity about the validity of truths that he alleges to be self-evident. Everyone should be able to see through such sophistry. Free inquiry is not zealotry; it is hostile to it. In this case, the existence of Jesus of Nazareth is a worthy subject of discussion and should not be curtailed by attempts from some religious commentators to represent it as prejudicial. Rather, the existential claims of all historical figures should be rigorously examined, with Jesus as no exception.
Happily my suspicions that McGrath had deleted comments of mine from his blog proved to be wrong. I would hope that others who have reported to me the same concerns re posts to McGrath’s blog can also be proved wrong or have their complaints publicly addressed. Joel Watts, I am sure, has certainly banned a comment or two of mine from his blog, but that’s only fair I suppose, since I have made it publicly known that I have relegated his comments to my blog as spam, along with making clear my reasons for doing this.
Is McGrath now banning my comments on his blog? Added since orginally posting: See the comments below where McGrath’s denies that he has deleted my comments I had asked James McGrath to avoid sweepingly asserting that “mythicists” argue for certain positions that I simply failed to recognize among any mythicist arguments I have read. I asked him to instead name the person whose argument he was addressing, and to quote or reference or link in some way the actual argument of that person. I explained that the arguments McGrath claimed to be addressing sounded more like lampoons or straw men to me rather than genuine positions held by any mythicists I knew. James McGrath apologized for his failure to present his points in the manner I suggested, explaining that it was difficult to look up citations while blogging on an iPad. I prematurely posted a response that attempted to explain that even on a blog I have found it not very difficult to quote an argument I wish to address, and to name who is responsible for it, and avoid using it to label an entire group. I posted that before adding what I should have, so I posted again to explain that I have found it advisable to limit what I actually blog according to the tools I use in order to do justice to a discussion. I suggested, furthermore, that the simple copy and paste mechanism in most devices nonetheless allows for doing justice to an argument one is addressing. As an afterthought I sent another comment advising that I have found using the Notes App in an iPad is also a handy tool for carrying quotations from one page to another page or tab. I did conclude by expressing some amazement that I found myself in a position of giving such basic lessons to an associate professor. Perhaps that was his reason for apparently not allowing either of those comments to appear on his blog at http://exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com/2011/03/two-unconvincing-mythicist-criteria-of.html#comments (Working with academics I have found most of them to be absolutely wonderful people but a few can at the same time be a little ego-touchy.) Hopefully I am wrong and there is simply some technical hitch. If so, I apologize in advance for even suggesting McGrath would ban comments from me. (I did notice one of those comments on his blog for a couple of seconds before it disappeared but maybe that was just my imagination.)
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