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."

Steve wrote:
Rules of Engagement

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,

[Reply: An example from Steve would be helpful. Is he referring to my correspondence with Temy? I addressed Temy's points in the order he presented them. That was long before Steve contacted me and before I laid out rules. I met Temy’s challenges but, as I wrote in conclusion of that debate:
In summary, my faith rests on the Resurrection. We have covered many points, many of which I find irrelevant. Because you [Temy], raised them, I answered them. If Jesus Christ is real, as evidenced by the Resurrection, other points are side issues. Now that I have addressed each of your points, I must limit my debating to the Resurrection.
Yes, Steve and I discussed other matters before I responded to Resurrection Part One. Where, in my response to Resurrection Part One (http://www.theism.net/authors/zjordan/locks.htm), did I not "stick to" my stipulations?
I constructed my Rules of Engagement to keep skeptics from circumventing the issue (e.g., keeping the Steves of skepticism "on track"). He approached me about the Resurrection. Well, the old cliché warns, "Be careful what you ask for; you might get it."]

but more importantly, I feel my research is hindered without a truly free rein.

[Reply: Then I turn the Resurrection reins to Steve while advising him to hold on tightly; he has a rough ride ahead.]

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.

[Reply: Steve overlooks that Birth and Death of an Atheist and my Point-by-Point Response to Temy dealt with Christianity in general, not just the Resurrection. He later contacted me about the Resurrection. When I referred to documents written prior to his contacting me about the Resurrection, I omitted unrelated matter.
Steve is attempting to slither out of the Resurrection by convincing himself that he has a license to go in other directions. He approached me about the Resurrection. Therefore, he should deal with it. It starts at its earliest element: New Testament scholarship.]
Steve further wrote:
Regarding our readers

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.]

"What is unclear?"

Jordan queries my extra probing into what convinced him about the resurrection, saying:
"Steve read my article Birth and Death of an Atheist. What is unclear about the following points I presented regarding my reasoning?"

What I was referring to was Jordan's remark:
"Because I wanted to avoid overshadowing it by frivolous diversions, I refrained from covering the Resurrection in detail."
[Reply: Again, that quotation of mine above had nothing whatever to do with Birth and Death of an Atheist, and it pertained to a different debate long before Steve approached me. I do not know what other research procedures Steve incorporated into his study, but I have personally experienced his quoting me out of context. Is Steve that desperate to avoid dealing with the issue at hand? Apparently, he is. However, I insist we stay on track. He had much to offer regarding New Testament scholarship. Let us examine that. I am adamant that we go one step at a time (a plan Steve avoids). I ended my last response with, "I ask that Steve challenge or concede its [New Testament scholars] authority." I am willing and eager to deal with the rest of Steve’s points (e.g., female witnesses, hoaxers, hallucinations, etc.) in due course. However, I refuse to be sidetracked in his diversions. I am only dealing with the next step, New Testament scholars. Pasted below is Steve’s response to my challenge regarding New Testament scholarship. I will repeat myself each time he swayed (which was often) from the challenge.]
Steve’s response to my New -Testament-scholarship challenge follows:
"The consensus of scholars"

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:

a. Jesus Christ existed.

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.]

Secondly, in his misleading denigration of "atheist scholars"

[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.

[Reply: I do not think they are avoiding my challenge; I have not even challenged them. I clearly see, though, that Steve is. They are a non-issue to me. If I am an issue to them, so be it. They are Steve's almighty--not mine. Again, I am not at odds with them on the basics that Steve cannot seem to accept. So, Steve can now enlighten us as to which of his referenced "scholars" have works used in academia rather than merely in pop readership and skepti-mania’s la-la-Webland. Further, is Steve claiming that these individuals are fully and formally studied in linguistics, archaeology, literature, anthropology, and so on, pertaining to New Testament times, as real New Testament scholars are? Either way, no where in his response (and I just reread his snippet) has he discredited my claim that, nearly all New Testament scholars agree Christ existed, faced crucifixion, there is no body, and His followers saw something. Such circumlocution around that base merely supports my claim by presenting skeptics who concede that Christ existed, faced crucifixion, there is no body, and His followers saw something. I thank Steve; I will use his work in further debates to strengthen my case. Or is he claiming that the Jesus of history never existed? If so, will he explain why to our readers? If not, he concedes Christ's earthly existence, crucifixion, absent body, and followers’ visions. Then we can examine what happened after the Cross.]
If most Islamic scholars thought that the angel Gabriel dictated the Koran to Mohammed, should this be thought of as evidence for Islam?
[Reply: Steve is comparing apples to oranges. All any "Islamic scholars" know is that Mohammed claimed he entered a cave then exited with paper and ink from a God via an angel. This is not in any way what happened with Jesus; other people and documents are involved.]
However, if many hundreds of their most able scholars deconverted during their studies, arguing that the Koran was a mere cultural production, should that make us think?
[Reply: Think what? My point is made. Steve seems to be hung up on the mistaken idea that scholarship equals sharing a faith. Islamic scholarship would consist of non-Islamic scholars also. Further, using his line of reasoning (as my Rules of Engagement employ—applying the same rule of measure to both sides), I present that thousands of Jews did, in fact, convert to Christ (after centuries upon centuries of non-conversion to competing religions) as a result of the Resurrection, be it myth or fact. These converts, throughout their numerous centuries of rejecting other religions, abandoned their faith and embraced Christ. Now, if he thinks that an example of hundreds converting should make us "think," then what about a conversion of thousands? There are many non-theistic factors that could account for a conversion or non-conversion. We will deal with that as we "think" together.]
Maybe we should wonder if the evidence in favour of Islam is not as good as we may have previously thought.
[Reply: "Ifs" and "maybes" do not make strong arguments. Steve can do better than that, I hope. He will lose by continuing to equate Islam with Christianity when attempting to discredit Christianity.]
Jordan says that what really matters is the quality of the arguments. Before making his mind up about the Jesus Seminar being wrong
[Reply: Where did I claim they are wrong? I exposed their minority status.]
because they are believed to be a minority opinion by fundamentalists,
[Reply: It is not that they are "believed" a minority opinion by fundamentalists; it is that they are a minority opinion, even compared to moderates—period. Face it.]
I repeat my quote of what happened to a previous Christian apologist,
[Reply: No, an aspiring apologist]
of much greater learning than Jordan, when he decided to eventually actually read carefully what the Jesus Seminar had to say:
"I was planning to be a professional apologist and was taking three courses in my fall quarter relating to biblical studies.
[Reply: I remind you that we are discussing scholarship, not "planning" for such. Also, Steve's statement implies he embraces the Jesus Seminar’s position. Is he prepared to defend it?]
I thought the best way to defeat the Jesus Seminar and the source critics of the Pentateuch was to know their arguments as well as they did. Ironically, I was won over to the historical-critical method. Given my background in comparative religions and my training as an apologist who liked to ask difficult questions, my view of the Bible and the religious communities that produced it quickly changed. More and more, I saw the Bible as a mere cultural production...
[Reply: Hmm, not unlike the religion of Secular Humanism.]
I wanted my apologetic to have a firm historical angle.
[Reply: Unlike the Resurrection? Hmm, how interesting. No history to be found there, right? We shall see.]
In effect, everything for which I had been working for the past decade came to a drastic halt when the historical-critical method poked holes too large for me to ever repair in my conservative brand of Christianity."
[Reply: Steve and I are going to deal with those pesky, hole-poking, historical-critical-method buggers as soon as he concedes or effectively challenges established scholarship, particularly his own scholars.]

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.

[Reply: Just what makes them "fine scholars" and by whose standards? Do they claim (and I repeat myself, yet again) that Jesus did not exist, face crucifixion, leave no body, and His followers did not see something they believed to be a risen Jesus?]

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.

[Reply: C. S. Lewis (who was far more learned than Steve and I) became an ex-agnostic. He had been a front-runner in atheist apologetics. He, too, knew all the arguments. He debated theists before converting to Christ. Nonetheless, what is so obvious to me is as obvious to Steve's skeptic "scholars:" Christ existed, faced crucifixion, there is no body, and His followers saw something they believed to be a risen Him. Make no mistake; I will continue repeating myself until Steve gets the picture. I start where skeptics agree. What is in question here is what happened after the Cross. Steve is the one who seems to find difficulty in starting at the "obvious" that is so clear to his authorities and me.]

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."

[Reply: An empty tomb is not needed to make the case for Christ (though a case can be made for it). Let us not stray from my points. Does their "general agreement" (and I just reread Geering) imply that Jesus did not exist, face crucifixion, and leave followers seeing something they believed to be a risen Christ? Sorry for Steve, but we are not going to sway from my points before we move on. If his position is that Christ never existed, he can state it and we will examine that together.
By the way, Steve also overlooked http://www.tektonics.org/JPH_BDB.html regarding Bultmann. Oh, and he overlooked http://www.tektonics.org/JPH_CSFS.html regarding Strauss.]

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:

[Reply: Therefore, according to this study, 87% believe otherwise.]
[Reply: Therefore, according to this study, 70% believe otherwise.]
[Reply: Therefore, according to this study, 67% believe otherwise.]
[Reply: Therefore, according to this study, 65% believe otherwise.]
[Reply: Therefore, according to this study, 49% believe otherwise.
Note the double standard here. In Steve’s world, a minority status invalidates the opinion only when it comes from conservative Christians. In the above example, Steve favors the minority opinion that suits his belief system. Again, my Rules of Engagement require that the same rules of measure be applied to both sides. Also note that there is no argument about His existence, crucifixion, or followers’ visions.]
There is a massive gap between the beliefs of the clergy and laity in mainline and liberal churches. A recent survey of randomly selected Christians revealed that 96% believe the resurrection to have been an historical event." It would be interesting to see the results of a similar poll in the UK.
[Reply: Calculate the percentages; I rest my case regarding Steve’s polling authorities (his authorities--not mine). They do, however, serve my case well. With skeptics like Steve’s, who needs fellow Christian apologists?]

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.

[Reply: When I rejected being educated in veterinary assistance because I refused to work on animal shelter strays, did that invalidate veterinary medicine? Students’ dislikes for hard realities dictate their rejected education’s worth? Not unlike police academy students who drop out because of corruption? Buuuuut, does that mean (here we go yet again) Christ did not exist, face crucifixion, there is no body, His followers saw. . . ?"]
Even so, I know of theological colleges where there is a steady stream of people who leave their Christian faith due to their studies.
[Reply: Boy, just when I thought Christianity was on to something, I learn that all I had to do was check with a stream of college drop-outs. What specifically in their studies inspired their withdrawals from college? I beg Steve for specifics. Generalizations obfuscate the issue. Does this drop-out phenomenon mean (here we go yet again) Christ did not exist, face crucifixion, there is no body, His followers saw. . . ?"]

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.

[Reply: Okay, God exists but not in Christianity? Her reasoning is what? Does she argue His existence, crucifixion, and followers’ visions? Well, it is back to that scholarship thing. Perhaps Steve should provide the operational definition of New Testament scholars (i.e., people with opinions supporting Steve’s desired belief).]

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.

[Reply: Again, even if these "scholars" are in fact scholars (which Bishop status is not equal to, nor are most of the credentials Steve presents), they do not argue my claim of His existence, crucifixion, disappearance, and followers’ visions. Steve made no case against me; he only furthered mine.]

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.

[Reply: Okay, have we reached the scholars who deny His existence, crucifixion, and followers’ visions? If he insists, I will read those links, but if they do not deny the aforementioned, I will have to invoice him for my time.
We are starting at the earliest element, New Testament scholarship. Now, Steve can drop his assumption that seminar students and bishops are scholars, and quit assuming that New Testament scholarship means Christian scholarship. Even if all of his pseudo-New-Testament scholars are in fact scholars of something, none have disputed my claim that nearly all New Testament scholars agree Christ existed, faced crucifixion, left no body, and His followers saw something they believed to be Him. Steve's skeptics have not argued those points.
Steve owes it to us to quit referencing his supposed sages and speak for himself. Now, just maybe, in his own words, he will write what happened in the Jesus "myth."
We can spare readers from further verbiage from both of us by Steve's simply stating whether he accepts that Jesus Christ existed as a man and faced crucifixion. He is not at liberty to attempt exiting "stage left" with a "I don’t know, I’m agnostic" back out. If he knows enough to reject a position and challenge a believer’s acceptance, he knows enough to defend his position, or at least acquire one. Currently, he has not provided me any reason to reject my claim. Even his treasured Jesus Seminar does not argue it. Therefore, my claim holds true: nearly all New Testament scholars (including the Jesus Seminar and Sea of Faith) concede that Christ existed, faced crucifixion, and there is no body.
I am eager and excited to move on to what happened after the crucifixion, but we are not going anywhere until this scholarship issue is resolved. If Steve denies those points, then I ask him to shift to a Christ-myth (i.e., Christ never existed) defense instead. The writers he presented have not refuted my position, though some have alluded that Christ is a myth (i.e., Christ never existed). If readers want links, J. P. Holding dealt with Bultmann, Strauss, and others (http://www.tektonics.org/rogcem.html). Understand, however, that, unlike Steve, I do not need my links to speak for me. I made the point that even skeptic scholars agree on some basics. On those basics I begin my case.
Steve owes it to the reader to directly quote the claims of his "scholars" rather than offer bibliographies. One of our readers claims familiarity with Steve’s sources and e-mailed me the following comments he thinks are of interest to us.
John wrote:

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