Dr James McGrath’s technique for slaying mythicism is to mount a snorting charger, grab a sword by the blade and don his full face helmet backwards so he cannot see, and then charge like hell in any direction his angry steed takes him.
He simply chooses not to read what mythicists say. He sees a windmill in the distance that he thinks looks like a silly monster and, without further ado, proceeds to blather some ignorant sophistry that completely ignores reality. But he has a cheering audience among that section of academia (theology) that scholars (e.g. Jerry Coyne and co) in real disciplines think is a bit of a joke.
I hasten to add that I don’t think that all biblical studies scholars are a joke by any means. I would not bother discussing and addressing so many of them and so many of their insightful ideas on this blog if I did. But when it comes to defending the historicity of Jesus — something Bart Ehrman suddenly realized none of his peers had ever thought to do before — well, they have a remarkable propensity for regurgitating circular arguments, question begging, and even outright falsehoods about what either they seem to think mythicists say or even what their own peers have published or both, usually both.
I put it that Dr McGrath never read the reasons Earl Doherty accepts Q. Why would he bother? He never takes up any of Doherty’s actual arguments anyway. I know he has never read the reasons he does not accept the historicity of Jesus and why he argues that Paul’s concept of Jesus was a heavenly-spiritual entity start to finish. I know that because by his own admission he reviewed Doherty’s book on mythicism before he even read more than a few pages of it. I have also read what he called “reviews” of a few of Doherty’s chapters and demonstrated, point by point, that he completely failed to address Doherty’s actual arguments, even in places saying the very opposite of what Doherty actually wrote or did not write.
That sounds bizarre, but I can understand it if I imagine him with book open, mind totally disengaged from what is before him as his eyes glaze over the pages.
Dr McGrath even said in response to one of my criticisms that I made Doherty’s argument sound plausible. But that was not a virtue. It was a cardinal sin in his eyes.
So our good doctor does not read Doherty’s arguments. He doesn’t need to in order to write an Amazon review of them. Had he read Doherty’s book with any attention as he claimed he had he would have known full well before now the reason Doherty accepts the Q hypothesis. He would have known the arguments, the logic, the evidence.
He would also have known the same logical rigour undermines the circular and question-begging arguments he and others have ever submitted in defence of historicity and supports the case for the creation of Jesus in the Bible entirely without reference to any historical person.
Here is muddling:
But they [he means Earl Doherty] will then go on to try to argue that the sayings in this source, which are now only to be found embedded in Christian sources which agree in attributing those sayings to Jesus, have no connection with the figure to whom both Matthew and Luke attribute them.
Ya gotta love this guy! He will never engage seriously in an argument with Earl Doherty. It is enough for him to dismiss Earl’s arguments with a sweeping “he tries to argue that”! McGrath has made it clear in earlier exchanges that he refuses on principle to repeat any mythicist argument, even in a review or criticism, because he fears it will lend it respectability if he does so! A bit hard to then turn around and try to say he has publicly actually engaged with the arguments!
They thus try to use something about which there is (despite it remaining the consensus position) a fair amount of dispute and discussion, in order to argue against something about which there is, because of the strong evidence, unanimity among historians.
This is McGrath’s style. He has no ability to use a pointy end of any argument against mythicism. He must always avoid that and do what he’s best at: drawing vague abstractions out of something mythicists have said and then huff and puff against these cloudy generalizations.
McGrath also says it is important not to ignore mythicists. What he demonstrates to all but his fellow divines is that he has nothing but bluster and generalization and suppression of the details and insult to throw at mythicists. Not quite the way evolutionists are known to respond to creationists. No wonder theology departments are a joke among evolutionists.
The only antidote to them is true critical thinking – which forces you to not merely be skeptical of what those you are already inclined to disagree with have to say, but to ask whether you would find the arguments you currently use persuasive if you did not already adhere to the worldview that you do.
Ah, and this is from the professor who was completely flummoxed when he was asked to set forth his argument according to logical premises. I have attempted in the past so many times to pin McGrath down on the logic of his arguments — or rather the circularity of them — and his response has been the same trumpet retreat every time.
I wonder what McGrath says about those mythicists who have changed their minds and no longer espouse mythicism and about those historicists who subsequently favoured mythicism. Don’t they undermine McGrath’s claim that mythicism is a sign of a closed mind? But details, facts, . . . Reality is often just a windmill after all.
(Supporting links to several of the claims I made in this post are to follow.)
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