Daily Archives: 2016-05-24 23:08:10 GMT+0000

ISIS on the downhill roll, but…

ISIS just delivered its ‘weakest message’ ever by Pamela Engel (Business Insider Australia, h/t IntelWire)

Indeed, we do not wage jihad to defend a land, nor to liberate it, or to control it. . . . 

We do not fight for authority or transient, shabby positions, nor for the rubble of a lowly, vanishing world. … If we were able to avert a single fighter from fighting us, we would do so, saving ourselves the trouble. However, our Quran requires us to fight the entire world, without exception. . . . 

Do you, oh America, consider defeat to be the loss of a city or the loss of land? Were we defeated when we lost the cities in Iraq and were in the desert without any city or land? And would we be defeated and you be victorious if you were to take Mosul or Sirte or Raqqah or even take all the cities and we were to return to our initial condition? Certainly not!

ISIS is on the ropes. They once propagated a message and aura of invincibility and recruits came to them from around the world. That’s all in reverse now.

Unfortunately other news has pointed to Al Qaeda and its “partner” Al-Nusra re-emerging in Syria (Al Qaeda About to Establish Emirate in Northern Syria and Al Qaeda Blessing for Syrian Branch to Form Own Islamic State). I have almost completed Vanguard of the Imam: Religion, Politics, and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards by Afshon Ostovar. Ostovar has answered a question I had about the exact nature of Iran’s involvement in Syria. Just as an Islamist militia has been built throughout Iran to violently cower dissidents and to be prepared to wage asymmetric warfare against a future invasion, so Iranian trainders have been training Syrians by the thousands to replicate the same type of organized gangs in Syria. Syria is the most depressing news.


Fear and desperation from a theologian?

Christianity may teach us to be honest but as long as dishonesty serves the interests of faith I’m sure God forgives.

A certain Butler University Professor (his blog makes it clear he writes in his capacity as a Butler academic) who is well known for his strident dogmatism on the question of the historicity of Jesus has been at it again.

He writes in response to a “meme” that he realizes is false or flat wrong in every way except one: it scorns mythicism!

First falsehood:

the attempt to argue that because someone is only mentioned in the New Testament, therefore they are not historical, simply does not work.

Of course he cites no instance of anyone arguing this way. No publication putting in a word for the mythicist case that I know of has ever suggested that “because someone is only mentioned in the New Testament, therefore they are not historical”.

But he does say something that is obviously true. I think we can all agree with the following:

Mythicist dogmatists and Christian fundamentalists are not at polar opposite ends of the spectrum, except on the trite matter of what they insist they know. Their approach is an all-or-nothing one that are mirror images of one another, two sides of the same coin.

There certainly are “mythicist dogmatists” who are as, well, dogmatic, as any Christian fundamentalist.

Then he writes something most professional:

Historians, on the other hand, are supposed to deal in a nuanced manner with evidence, and to recognize that each piece of evidence must be assessed separately and on its own terms.

But then he slips off the rails. Two true statements bracketed by two false ones. A nice chiastic structure.

And so the heart of the matter is this: mythicism – the complete dismissal of the historicity not just of accounts but of the individual portrayed in them – is as illogical and indefensible as claims of Biblical inerrancy – the complete acceptance of the historicity of everything in the Bible because the existence of individuals mentioned in it has been confirmed.

Notice where he slipped? At first he made the obvious statement that a “mythicist dogmatist” is as bad as a “Christian fundamentalist”, but here he speaks of “mythicism” generically. Mythicism itself is as bad as Christian fundamentalism. I would have thought “mythicism” would stand in this context as a counter to “Christianity”: just as Christianity has its fundamentalists so does mythicism have its dogmatists. Both stand outside the realm of serious discussion.

And then he underscores the point:

Neither mythicism nor Christian fundamentalism is engaged in the practice of history.

Not, “neither mythist dogmatism nor Christian fundamentalism”, nor, of course, “Neither mythicism nor Christianity….”

Then we meet the professional indignation:

And when historians and scholars object to this misuse of their work, mythicists and inerrantists typically respond in the same way: by insisting that the academy is in fact conspiring to cover up the truth or infested with an ideology that blinds us to the truth.

Interesting that he speaks of “historians and scholars”. Is he trying to impress readers once again that theologians like himself really are true historians and scholars? Certainly a good number of theologians do call themselves historians and in one sense they are, but even in their own ranks we find criticisms that their approach to history is quite different from the way other historians work. (Raphael Lataster demonstrated that most emphatically in his book. Recall a paper of his discussing historical Jesus methodology that was rejected by a scholarly Biblical publisher was accepted by a Historical conference.) And of course our Butler Professor cannot be ignorant of the fact that it is theologians themselves, his own peers, who regularly complain about the ideology that blinds them as a whole to seriously radical ideas.

Recall again his point:

Historians, on the other hand, are supposed to deal in a nuanced manner with evidence, and to recognize that each piece of evidence must be assessed separately and on its own terms.

Do I need to quote again here the many instances of nuance and tentativeness and scholarly humility in the way scholarly mythicists (scholarly referring to any mythicist who argues in a scholarly manner — leaving aside the dogmatists) very often present their arguments and set them beside a list the many abusive and dogmatic denunciations of theologian “historians and scholars” like the Butler Professor himself when arguing for the historicity of Jesus?