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Design Detectives

March 4, 2010

James put these videos up a few days ago. I was struck by the similarity of the argument of the ID’er compared to the odd ‘philosophical’ argument some Christian thinkers, e.g. Alvin Plantinga, make concerning how the average Christian in the pew doesn’t need to concern themselves with historical biblical criticism because “there is no compelling or even reasonably decent argument for supposing the procedures and assumptions of historical biblical criticism are to be preferred to those of traditional biblical commentary.”

This reminds me of the Marx classic: philosophy is to reality as masturbation is to actual sex.

This mere philosophical swerve may sound good on paper–and hey, let’s face it, lot’s of things sound good and plausible on paper–but when it must pass any sort of reality check it will fail. The “Holy Spirit” showed me in scripture has more dissenting voices than historical biblical criticism, and unfortunately no peer review process. The ultimate problem for dodges such as Plantinga’s, or others who assert that scholars have assumptions and faith-commitments so their faith “beliefs” are just as valid as academic conclusions, is that even if there is “no compelling argument” when the results of both procedures are put side by each one can account for more data and explain the conclusions of the other more easily.

You can verbally masturbate all day about arguments, but when the rubber has to hit the road, historical biblical criticism’s “procedures and assumptions” account for a lot of data. At the same time, these “procedures and asumptions” are rigorously probed and tested– a process that is usually not given much due by such critics. It’s not as if scholars have a reverse creed of “The Bible says it, I believe it, so it’s true;” “The Bible says it, I don’t believe it, so it’s not true!” In fact, while those who wish to paint biblical historical criticism with a large brush and negative connotations as anti-spiritual or anti-faith, I have in fact found this to be a concern to very few scholars. Personally, I know of no one that engages in scholarship to “destroy faith.”

Yes, historical biblical scholarship has assumptions and procedures, BUT, those assumptions are–or should be–rigorously probed, tried, criticized, and tested. A lot different scenario than hiding under a tendentious philosophical shield of “no good argument” which basically means, “I’m going to stick my head in the sand and don’t you confuse me with any of that there book learnin’ or facts.”

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Not too far from Chilliwack permalink
    March 4, 2010 3:15 pm

    ‘the average Christian in the pew doesn’t need to concern themselves with historical biblical criticism because “there is no compelling or even reasonably decent argument for supposing the procedures and assumptions of historical biblical criticism are to be preferred to those of traditional biblical commentary.” ‘

    Where has Plantinga said this?

    As for ‘verbal masturbation’, this is precisely the ad hominem criticism used by the new Atheists for theology . . .

    • March 4, 2010 5:46 pm

      You may want to look up what ad hominem means…

  2. Jonathan permalink
    March 4, 2010 4:00 pm

    The quote from Plantinga is from “Warranted Belief”, Chapter 12.

    “We are now prepared to return to Harvey’s original question: why is it that the person in the pew pays little attention to contemporary HBC and, despite those decades of research, retains rather a traditional picture of the life and ministry of Jesus? As to why in actual historical fact this is the case, this is a job for an intellectual historian. What we have seen so far, however, is that there is no compelling or even reasonably decent argument for supposing that the procedures and assumptions of HBC are to be preferred to those of traditional biblical commentary. A little epistemological reflection enables us to see something further: the traditional Christian (whether in the pew or not) has good reason to reject the skeptical claims of HBC and continue to hold traditional Christian belief despite the allegedly corrosive acids of HBC.”

    I have to think, however, that your attributing an anti-intellectual (and apparently redneck) label to Alvin Plantinga is not going to stick.

  3. March 4, 2010 5:53 pm

    No I doubt it will stick as well. I mean I’m just a small, small corner in the blogosphere! However, I think one can make a reasoned, elegant argument and that argument still be “anti-intellectual.”

    Plantinga’s dismissive conclusion reminds me of some creationists claims that there is absolutely no evidence for evolution whatsoever. Ultimately that allows them to look at none of the evidence, maintain their ideology, and remain “anti-intellectual.” Sitting around, holding hands, and chanting “there is no good argument for their procedures” might enable you to avoid HBC, but that is by its nature anti-intellectual. Intellectual would be to engage the discipline to counter its claims or modify and rehabilitate them, not dismiss it by a tendentious theory.

    The redneck thing? Well, this is a blog post, so a little hyperbolic flair is allowed. That’s why I have a blog so I can write things like that which I could never include in an actual review, but would have to word much differently.

    Yeehaw!

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