That sensational title was supposed to grab your attention. However, my remark was “not intended to be a factual statement.” Frankly, most of the things I believe in (or, rather, theories I subscribe to) are fairly ordinary. I thought it was P.J. O’Rourke who once said that thinking outside the box was overrated — “There’s plenty of good stuff still inside the box” — but I can’t seem to find a reference. Maybe I imagined it.
Defending the status quo
You may recall a few months back when I defended the venerable Documentary Hypothesis against a scholar who did not understand it at all. I own books by OT minimalists, and I have great respect for Thompson, Lemche, et al. However, I still find myself more persuaded that the creation, transmission, and redaction of the Hebrew Bible followed a process similar in most respects to the one described by Wellhausen and Friedman.
Similarly, while I may entertain doubts about Q, I’m still a proponent of the Two-Source Hypothesis. I own a copy of The Case Against Q, and I’ve read a couple of the chapters more than once. Goodacre asks a lot of probing questions that do not yet have fully satisfying answers, and his contribution to Synoptic Problem scholarship is undeniable. However, I am still firmly in the 2DH camp.
Why am I an old fuddy-duddy when it comes to Wellhausen and Streeter? Because these standard models in particular have a great deal of explanatory power and compelling coherent logic. So while it’s true that many people “stay inside the box” because of inertia and lack of imagination, oftentimes it’s just as likely that there’s nothing outside the box that explains things better than the boring old standard model.
But that’s not to say that we should ignore new ideas. The dominant hypotheses in source criticism (the DH in the OT and the 2SH in the NT) aren’t set in stone. I’ll be the first to admit that Markan Priority without Q (aka “The Farrer-Goulder-Goodacre Hypothesis”) might be correct; however, like Agrippa I am almost but not quite persuaded.
Keeping an open mind
We should keep our minds open even to far-out ideas like Scripture Ninjas and the Galatian Bastard Theory. But the proponents of such theories should not be surprised by the ribbing they get here. You know what they say about extraordinary claims.
In short, I’m pretty much a bore. So what does our dear friend Steph mean by this?
They’re all pitiable, Tim. Widowfield “escaped fundamentalism” (Nazarene Church), when he was 15, Bob Price did, etc etc. and on it goes. As you said ‘once a fundie, always a fundie’. As also said a friend of mine N.T. Wrong. They just swop one set of convictions for another, similarly without coherent argument or evidence (or learning), just an illusion they’re now ‘self critical’.
(Note: The “Tim” in the first sentence above refers to Tim O’Neill, an old Vridar visitor who got his feelings hurt.)
Gosh, I would hate to think of anyone wasting their time pitying me. For one thing, it’s sweet corn season here in Iowa right now, and I could not be happier. I fear the cheese-purveyors at New Oxonian have conjured up the straw-men versions of Neil and me so often that they’ve forgotten it’s fiction.
I’ve already explained that “once a fundie, always a fundie” is a myth, but beyond that, such an attitude betrays a lack of trust in human nature, an assumption that people can’t change. If I went through life thinking people couldn’t change, I guess I’d be miserable too. Such humanists who lack faith in humanity are to be pitied. You should picture me now as I stop typing, look up wistfully at the ceiling, shake my head, and sigh.
“Poor Hoffy. Poor Steph.”
But seriously, what new set of convictions could Steph be talking about? I’d ask her, but I’m afraid she’d accuse me of mischaracterizing her previous statements. Trust me — you don’t want to risk stepping into that minefield.
A new set of convictions
Let me think. Well, I used to have the conviction that truth emanated from God and that the Bible was inerrant. What are my current convictions? I suppose I’d start with the conviction that truth is something we look for and strive for, not something we receive from a higher power. And further, that we’re imperfect beings, but that we can keep trying harder. I believe that most people want to do the right thing, and that they will if they have the opportunity. I would like to be thought of as someone who has the courage of his convictions, but who’s also willing to change his mind based on evidence and reason.
But you can never change your mind if you don’t learn about all the options. And therein lies the problem. I suppose we’ll never shake the reputation of being a fringe blog, because we take seriously some options that are now supposed to be off the table and previously debunked, especially Jesus mythicism. As I’ve said many times, I am not a mythicist, but I’m all for giving everyone a fair hearing. And a fair hearing is not what Earl Doherty has gotten over the past decade or so.
The other reason Vridar gets under some people’s skin is that we don’t pay proper reverence to the mediocre scholars who pass themselves off as experts these days. But there’s no easy or safe way to bring this problem to the fore. I sometimes choose to do it with humor, which offends some people, but I think it helps the message “stick.” NT scholarship is sliding into mediocrity, and as far as I can tell, nobody inside the ivory tower seems to care.
To the humanists who dislike humans
The straw-men versions of Neil and me hate the Bible and would love to see NT studies crumble and burn. If that were true of the real Vridarians we’d just sit on our hands and watch the fun. What the misanthropic humanists who haunt New Oxonian’s cloistered courtyard fail to understand is that we want NT studies to get better, just as we want them as people to live long and prosper.
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