Note: I am not using colors to highlight comments. Many people do not have Web access and HTML luxuries; therefore, I wish to write this in a manner that enables readers to copy and paste into e-mail, such as Juno’s basic service, or to print in black and white for others.
Steve Locks’s Scholarly Authorities Concede Christ’s Earthly Existence, Crucifixion, Absence of a Body, and Disciples’ Visions
(Or: Now the Games Begin!)
I extend a formal, heartfelt apology to Steve regarding what I wrote about my non-homophobia. He took offense at it as a character attack, and I understand why. Steve has been a complete gentleman and is extremely respectful and polite. I meant to defend my non-homophobia. I did not perceive Steve’s comment as a personal attack. If my Christianizing converted me to fearing homosexuals, Christianity ought to be an issue for producing negative sentiment toward fellow humans. The fact is that Christianity did not convert me to homophobia, as you can tell from my earlier response. I e-mailed Steve a private apology. I also apologize to our readers for my poor wording.
In Steve’s initial post, he wrote, "I am not seeking a debate and will not harangue you with arguments (put me in your killfile if I do!), rather I have to ask people on both sides of the question if I am to do honest research."
Steve, in his most recent post, proposed diverting from his initial "research" (The Resurrection) regarding my conversion. Nonetheless I am keeping him on track with "arguments" he introduced about scholarship. I welcome them, and am grateful that he walked himself right into a bona-fide "debate."
Jordan insists that non-theists who write to him follow certain guidelines. It is a good idea to keep people on track and unabusive and I try hard to keep decorum, although occasionally emotions rise in some email discussions. I am not entirely happy with Jordan's stipulations however, feeling that not only does Jordan not stick to them himself,
but more importantly, I feel my research is hindered without a truly free rein.
1. Stick with the Resurrection. It is pivotal.I think it is important to be allowed to discuss anything that one wishes to and in the way one believes is most appropriate.
[Reply: In other words, let contenders babble when lacking answers.]
For most of Jordan's writings, both in his debate with Temy Beal and his response to me he discusses issues that are important to him and not about the resurrection.
[Reply: Again, I ask, where in my response to Resurrection Part One (http://www.theism.net/authors/zjordan/locks.htm) did I discuss issues "not about the resurrection?"]
Indeed, his resurrection material is actually quite slight,
[Reply: Indeed, he can show us. Why is he attempting to avoid dealing with something slight?]
especially in his debate with Temy Beal. In his "eight points" Jordan has to start at point 7 admitting that "omitted items addressed different issues." I will do the same, especially as there are issues raised that criticise what I have written. As for the resurrection being pivotal, incase you have jumped here, read this.
Jordan says: I consider it crucial for our readers that we provide references and links as they arise in this exchange. Bear in mind, however, most persons do not have time to read the exhaustive material. It is important we make our points on our pages. Therefore, I include direct quotations of pertinent statements along with corresponding site links. I respond to this in a similar way to the "rules of engagement." I wish to do serious research
[Reply: Then why does Steve not get around to doing exactly that? In fact, he can try including http://www.tektonics.org/.]
and I try to provide quality reading material that gets to the heart of the matter.
[Reply: Is he claiming that http://www.tektonics.org/ does not get to the heart of the matter? If Steve is "serious" about his Resurrection inquiry, he should stick with it.]
Jordan queries my extra probing into what convinced him about the
"Steve read my article Birth and Death of an Atheist. What is unclear about the following points I presented regarding my reasoning?"
Jordan very directly asks me: "To start at the earliest element, we must examine New Testament scholarship. I have yet to witness any of Craig’s opponents correct him when he referred to this scholarship. I ask that Steve challenge or concede its authority." I find this rather an odd challenge for two reasons. Firstly it is exactly what I have done on my previous resurrection page.
[Reply: No, it is not; he wrote, ". . . my discussion of the resurrection with links to many further resources laying out some reasons for the resurrection not being a physical event." (I just reread Part One in its entirety and it is not clear if Steve rejects Christ’s human existence). I specifically claimed that, "Nearly all New Testament scholars [and provided an academic operational definition of such], regardless of their theological leanings, agree:
b. He faced crucifixion.
c. By Godly hook, earthly crook, or whatever, there is no body.
d. Jesus' followers saw SOMETHING they believed to be a risen Jesus."
All Steve has presented in Part Two is skeptic "scholars" who deny Christ’s divinity but do not deny any of the above points. Steve is very hesitant to assume and defend a position. Is Steve a Christ-myther (i.e., one who believes Jesus did not exist even in human form)? Or does he concede his accepted scholars’ authority? I still do not know Steve’s position—does he? I can only guess that he presented a section titled "The Consensus of Scholars" because he disagrees with my points. However, no where in the section did he present any refutation whatever.]
[Reply: Where and how did I misleadingly denigrate atheist scholars?]
Jordan ridicules the Sea of Faith as "fallen clergypersons,"
[Reply: Where did I ridicule? Is "fallen" not the proper term for "leaving the fold?" If not, I apologize for my ignorance. One could claim that they are not "fallen," because some remain in the church. However, they have fallen from Christ’s divinity claim, which is paramount to Christianity. Retaining a desire to continue wearing pretty robes does not acquire them non-fallen status. If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck. Again, an atheist by any other name is still an atheist.]
and says: "Personally, my evaluation of the facts lies outside whether one Catholic priest, the Pope, or one thousand Protestant ministers have fallen away. I invite any of them to address the points presented above." Either the numbers of skeptical scholars are important or not. It appears Jordan wants both.
[Reply: "Appears" to Steve, perhaps, but I am not a complicated individual by sticking with my points. I want Steve, in particular, rather than his spokespersons, to argue the points I made above. Is Steve claiming that they claim Jesus did not exist, did not face crucifixion, left no body, and His followers did not see what they perceived to be a risen Jesus? It is crucial to know his position, assuming he has one.]
If he truly invites the Sea of Faith to address his points then he should ask them and read their books
[Reply: Steve approached me, asking what about the Resurrection I found convincing. I explained exactly that. The Sea of Faith site denied Christ's divinity but not His existence. How about Steve presenting his thoughts in his words? Perhaps I missed something; if so, may Steve enlighten us. I do not mean to be rude, but I do not give a diddly about the Sea of Faith. They are welcome to address my points if they have nothing better to do, which I expect they do. However, just because Steve finds them to be some almighty fountain of theological knowledge does not mean they are worthy of any more of my time. So far, they have not refuted my claim that Christ existed, faced crucifixion, there is no body, and His followers saw something. Currently, I have no argument with them other than the direction we may take from there. I am not in the practice of arguing with people with whom I agree. Once Steve concedes scholarship, we will discuss their explanations about what happened after the Cross.]
(many of these "fallen clergy persons" are able scholars!) Contact details are available at their website and the most relevant book is possibly (I haven't read all their books) "Resurrection - Myth or Reality?" - John Shelby Spong, ISBN 0060674296 (reviewed and summarised here).
[Reply: Steve (I am sure it was just an oversight) neglected to inform you that you may also read a review and summary here and here and here and here.]
They should not be thought of as avoiding his challenge if Jordan does not let them know about it or if he does not read what they have already written in answer to his exact questions. A snippet is here.
I hope Jordan's research is commensurate with his pronouncements on the validity of different scholars.
[Reply: Then Steve may enlighten us as to where I am wrong regarding New Testament scholarship. So far, his "scholars" have failed to present that even they disagree with me on the facts New Testament scholars have established (e.g., His existence, crucifixion, disappearance, and followers’ visions.]
It should be bourn in mind that many ex-Christians are well studied, and include fine scholars in their ranks, such as Don Cuppit and Michael Goulder.
Since many have subsequently left Christianity and others still in the fold do not hold with the idea of a physical resurrection,
[Reply: By the way, just what is "many?" The minority percentages presented later in this post? "Some" would have been a more appropriate word. As that sentence stands, it implies a majority left Christianity. Also, just what is "still in the fold?" Still donning pretty robes and collecting paychecks over something they do not believe? Further, do they claim He never existed, and on and on?]
Jordan really must ask himself why what is so obvious to him is not obvious to them too.
Also remember the asymmetry of conversion.
Here, from part 1, is a repetition of the lack of conservative consensus: (to skip, click here).
...the quest for the historical Jesus from such famous figures
[Reply: Adolf Hitler (Darwinism’s survival of the fittest—might makes right), and Josef Stalin (outlaw churches and religion) are "famous figures." Let us see what we can learn from them and the fruits of their labor—their victims.]
as David Friedrich Strauss, Albert Schweitzer, Rudolf Bultmann, etc. to Geza Vermes, E. P. Sanders, and the Jesus Seminar. This has produced many ex-Christians like Gerd Lüdermann and Michael Goulder and radical "non-realist" Christians such as those at the Sea of Faith. The theologians who take a very different approach to the one Jordan sees as the consensus are indeed legion....Lloyd Geering at How Did Jesus Become God - and Why writes: "There is general agreement, among all but conservative scholars, that the Easter faith began with visions in Galilee and not with the discovery of an empty tomb in Jerusalem."
To quote the radical bishop John Shelby Spong "The defensiveness of the hierarchy [of the Church of England to the revelation that many bishops do not believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus] revealed a startling unwillingness to share common-place biblical scholarship with a questioning public. Most biblical scholars regard the emptiness of the tomb to be an early Christian legend but they don't actually believe there ever was an identifiable tomb in which Jesus was buried in the first place." Also, as Anthony Freeman says "How is it, for example, that not a single professor of divinity in Cambridge is currently an ordained member of the Church of England? And how is it that the English clergy have so effectively insulated their congregations from the fruits of critical scholarship over the past hundred years? Is the reason perhaps that 'no priest dare admit officially to things which every first year theological undergraduate needs to know'?" The Internet Infidels have a similar article here.
[Reply: Readers, please note that there is no argument above against Christ’s existence, crucifixion, and followers’ visions. Steve is hard-pressed to make a case against those points.]
More evidence that current scholarship rarely filters through to the Christian laity is the following from religious tolerence.org. "The beliefs of mainline Christian clergy and academics tend to be between those of the liberals and conservatives. A survey of mostly mainline Protestant clergy shows that many doubt Jesus' physical resurrection. Percentage of doubters are:
It should be of no surprise though that many biblical scholars hold conservative views, since most are funded (especially in the USA) by conservative, and even fundamentalist, Christian denominations.
[Reply: However, when theists make such claims while complaining that the religion of Secular Humanism is growing so rapidly because governments use billions of taxpayer-dollars to fund the universities teaching it, they are labeled Right-Wing-Christian-fundamentalist-fanatic extremists. Again, there is no room here for double standards. More important, however, is whether that means (here we go again) Christ did not exist, face crucifixion, there is no body, His followers saw. . . "]
Usually people who wish to study theology do so because they are believing Christians.
Not only have I read about this, and seen such people discussed on TV documentaries,
[Reply: Okay, okay, I am through laughing now (well, almost). You just about had me sold, but then I realized that I have read about and seen other persons discussed on TV. Now I feel like Gilligan on the island. "Golly, Skipper, that’s a good point; oops, golly-gee, that’s a good point, too, Ginger." I bet you guessed it: Does that mean Christ did not exist, did not face crucifixion, there is no body, His followers saw. . . ?"]
but I have also discussed this with the principal of one of these colleges, and I got to know the vice-principal who left because she came to the conclusion that Christianity was not of God.
Following the bishop of Durham Dr. David Jenkins' doubts aired on national TV, a poll was taken of the UK's 31 diocesan bishops. Two-thirds of them were of the opinion that it was not necessary to accept the divinity of Christ to be a Christian and one third denied a belief in the physical resurrection. Scholarship often breeds radical Christians (like the Sea of Faith movement) or atheists. Also bare in mind that one third of the Sea of Faith are replenished each year as people move on - how many scholars does that include? For every Jesus Seminar scholar there is a often an academic department of like minded colleagues not on the Seminar.
I have sections on the brilliant English scholar, professor of biblical studies and subsequent ex-Christian Michael Donald Goulder and the ex-Christian theologian Gerd Lüdemann. There are other deconversion stories from scholars here and book resources here.
I find it ironic that Locks mentions Albert Sweitzer and "The Quest For the
Historical Jesus." If he will read the sections on Strauss and Renan, he will
find out that they turn Jesus into a carbon copy of themselves (Strauss,
influenced by Hegel and Renan by his French descriptive background). What Locks
forgets is the last chapter of that book where Sweitzer admits in "Results" that
the liberal/rationalists simply have transformed a Jesus into their own image.
How would he deal with that? I think he should read the pertinent chapters of
Sweitzer's book before citing him as a source. . . . Finally, I am most familiar
with John Shelby Spong. Is he a Biblical scholar in the sense of Wright or
Hoffmeier or Kitchen? The answer is "no." Although he is a Fellow of the Jesus
Seminar, that does not make him a scholar in the sense that you are talking
about. Spong has jettisoned all of Christianity and replaced it with his mentor
Paul Tillich's "Ground of Being" which is basically neo-pantheism. His latest
book "Why Christianity Must Change or Die" simply rehashes his ideas from such
books as "Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism." One example does suffice. He
mentions on p. 12 of the book that the virgin birth is a legend. He does not
even bother to address the Jewish rabbinical writings questioning Jesus' birth
nor the Celsus commentary that Jesus was born through Mary and a Roman soldier.
Basically, he does not go back to first-century sources to even see how the Jews
interpreted Isaiah 7:14 and what the rabbis expected. Spong's approach may
appeal to skeptics to reject Christianity yet it does not address the historical
and cultural issues surrounding that issue (among others). Yes, I am sure that
there have been dissatisfied clergy who saw corruption. However, that does not
address the central issue of how reliable are their sources or what they believe
now in the place of Christianity. Is Spong’s (Tillich's) "Ground of Being" more
rational than the Christianity he abandoned? I have yet to see skeptics address
this issue at all.
Spong dismisses the resurrection by quoting Acts 13:29 to say that Jesus' body was dumped (p. 231). Spong ignores the tomb reference in the same verse. This ignores the point that the body could have been produced to disprove the resurrection. It wasn't produced by either the Jewish or Roman authorities. Spong ignores the 1st century methodology in dealing with criminals and their punishment.. . .You can also tell Steve that he should read the books that he recommends. This particularly includes Spong's books. He does need to address the "Ground of Being" issue and show why it is more rational (provable) than Christianity.
Regarding Steve’s approach to research, I remind readers of his fellow agnostic, Jeff Lowder's (http://www.infidels.org/) summary regarding skeptics' approach to dealing with the Resurrection:
I was beginning to understand why Christian apologists complain that most skeptics fail to deal with the resurrection. [Emphasis mine]
Once Steve throws in the towel in his feckless attempt at discounting even his own authorities’ scholarship (assuming he is not so egotistical as to shift to a Christ-Never-Existed defense, which would leave him challenging his own authorities), we will move on to other questions. Where is the body? Is it in some common grave somewhere? Eaten by dogs and/or birds? Did it swoon off the Cross? Did His disciples steal and hide it?
I say His body sits at the Father’s right hand. Steve?
I thank our readers for their patience.
G. Zeinelde Jordan