It is not always reasonable to be skeptical. Sometimes it is very unreasonable. A good example is when a scholarly consensus exists. While it is a truism that scholarly unanimity is rarely if ever attained in any field of enquiry (except on the most trivial matters), there are many instances where a consensus (say, of 80-90% or more of scholars) exists. And when a consensus of this type does emerge, it is, all things considered, typically unreasonable to side with the handful of dissenting scholar(s).
This is certainly the case with a topic like climate change. There are a few scholars out there who have PhDs and have made formidable contributions to their field and yet who insist that insofar as climate change exists it is not due to human factors. But such scholars are in the vast minority and thus it is all things considered not reasonable to side with their dissenting opinion unless you have other good reasons apart from the dissenting opinion itself, to believe the consensus is wrong.
The same is true when it comes to the hypothesis that all life forms share common descent through pathways that broadly conform to what we call neo-Darwinian theory. As I noted in my book Crazy, the best estimates are that less than 1% of scholars in the field dissent from that opinion. As such, it is unreasonable to take the opinion of the handful of dissenting scholars (i.e. non-Darwinian special creationists) unless you have further good reasons to do so apart from their dissenting opinions.
And with that we come to the New Testament. I set out in the last two posts to illumine the inconsistency among many skeptics of the New Testament documents. In one of those threaded discussions I quoted F.F. Bruce as follows:
“Somehow or other, there are people who regard a ‘sacred book’ as ipso facto under suspicion, and demand much more corroborative evidence for such a work than they would for an ordinary secular or pagan writing.”
It seems to me that Bruce’s point has been amply demonstrated in the last couple days. For example, one of my fine and formiable interlocutors has made a number of striking claims that I have never encountered before, including the claim that the author of Mark might be Gentile and that 1 Cor. 15:3-5 might be an interpolation. When I asked for corroborating evidence of some of these radical claims one name was provided: Robert Price.
This brings me to the inconsistency. Let’s say that I am a climate change skeptic. You ask me for corroboration of my claims. So I repeatedly cite Bill Gray from Colorado State University. Gray is a good scholar, no doubt about it. But is it reasonable to dismiss the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s findings in favor of those of Bill Gray? I think not.
Now let’s get closer to home. Let’s say that I’m a critic of common descent. You ask me for corroboration of my claims. So I repeatedly cite Paul Nelson, a fellow from a couple conservative think tanks. Nelson too is a good scholar in his field. But is it reasonable to dismiss the consensus of biologists in favor of Nelson? Again, I think not.
Finally we come to Robert Price. He is the darling of the infidel blogsophere and no doubt he too has made an important contribution to his field. But is he representative of his field of experts? No. People who are familiar with New Testament literature will be familiar with the mainstream opinion on various matters represented by scholars like Tom Wright, Ben Witherington, Craig Evans, Edwin Yamauchi, John Meier, the now deceased Raymond Brown, and so on. Price and his theories are not representative of the mainstream. So why is it reasonable to invoke the lone voice of Robert Price as justification for a sweeping skepticism of any claims drawn from the New Testament which might be warm to Christian orthodoxy when it is not defensible to appeal to Paul Nelson or Bill Gray to ignore other consensus opinions? Alas, the question answers itself.