I am afraid I must pillory The Atheist Missionary for awhile longer folks. The reason is simple: we are getting close to the really important issue, the dogmatic philosophical presuppositions that wear the trousers in his otherwise free thinking mind. And it is of especial importance because these are not merely TAM’s philosophical presuppositions, but those of many, many of his free thinking friends.
For several days now my focus has been on a single question: what is his justification for dismissing an entire field of scholars (e.g. New Testament scholars) but not others?
TAM has provided multiple attempted justifications. For instance, he initially delegitimized any form of enquiry which might identify unrepeatable, unique events in the past. When he recognized that that criterion would sweep away much of natural science and history, he recalibrated his criterion. Eventually he settled on the claim that the fields of scholars he ignores or marginalizes are beholden to a particular orthodoxy and they have the pressure of their institutions to hold certain views. I pointed out that to the degree that this orthodoxy and pressure exists among New Testament scholars it is no different from other fields like evolutionary biology, meteorology and history. Yet again an attempted justification fails.
So what is the real reason for marginalizing entire fields of scholars?
Finally it came out that the objection is actually to “supernaturalism” which is some thing that apparently many of these New Testament scholars adhere to and against which TAM has a bias. (This is obvious because TAM quotes with approval those NT scholars who reject ‘supernaturalism’.)
Let me try to illustrate just how problematic this response is.
Imagine for the moment that a friend of yours named Ken, an untrained layperson, rejects the entire field of evolutionary biology. You challenge him on this. “Ken, how can you dismiss the consensus or majority opinion of a community of highly trained scholars?”
Ken offers a number of attempted justifications all of which fall by the wayside because they would marginalize many other fields of discourse as well if they were consistently applied.
So you keep pressuring Ken. Finally at the end of a long monologue on transitional forms he blurts out “And I have a bias against heathenism!”
Whoa! Okay, forget about quibbling over common descent and transitional forms. “Ken,” you say firmly, “What is ‘heathenism’ Ken?”
Ken shakes his head like he doesn’t hear you. “Where are the transitional forms?” he snaps back. “They should be all around us!”
You’ll not be deterred: “Ken, I need to know what you mean by ‘heathenism’. How do you define that term? What do you mean?”
Ken puts his hands over his ears, curls up into the fetal position, and begins to moan: “Transitional forms!” he cries. “Where are the transitional forms?”
You get the picture. When people reveal that they reject entire academic communities based on a bogeyman like “supernaturalism” or “heathenism”, it doesn’t make any sense to proceed until you deal with the prejudice.