John Loftus has now written an entire article, “Lesson One for Randal Rauser on How to Properly Exegete the Bible or Any Other Book,” chiding me for failing in the most basic of hermeneutical principles: that is, interpreting a text in light of the audience and purpose for which it was written.
Loftus notes that I criticize Boghossian’s two definitions of atheism. But rather than address my critique of those two definitions, Loftus falsely claims:
“Rauser responds (per the above link) with a mere assertion that he’s right. A mere assertion, even though there are different ways to define a word like atheism (i.e., in Boghossian’s case using an explicative definition)! But Rauser assumes the worst and proceeds to rant against it, violating the principle of charity.”
There are two points here. First, Loftus assumes immediately that I don’t know the most basic of hermeneutical principles, despite the fact that I have a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature as well as a Master’s degree and a PhD. This sure doesn’t seem to be a charitable interpretation of my critique.
Even worse, Loftus ignores altogether that I did provide a critique. Given that my critique was clearly laid out, I face the uncomfortable possibility that Loftus has chosen to lie — a rather bald lie at that — presumably in the hopes that his readers won’t bother to look up my original critique of Boghossian’s inept attempts to define atheist, or my follow-up critique of Loftus where I point out why Boghossian’s inept definitions cannot be defended as definitions:
“definitions are formal statements of the meaning and/or significance of a word or phrase. As for the author’s intention in providing a definition, there’s no mystery here. If an author presents you with a definition (rather than, say, a hyperbolic or humorous or ironic statement under the guise of a definition) then the author is intending to present an accurate formal statement of the meaning and or significance of the word and or phrase. A good definition is one that accurately conveys the meaning and/or significance of the word or phrase in question while a bad definition is one that fails to convey accurately this meaning and/or significance.”
Thus far, the most charitable interpretation of Boghossian I can muster is that he isn’t attempting to provide real definitions of terms. Rather, he is presenting what Loftus has called “persuasive rhetoric” under the guise of a definition.
As for the principle of charity itself, my most charitable interpretation is that Loftus defines this principle like this:
Loftus’ Principle of Charity: Christians should interpret the writings of atheists so as to vindicate those writings.
It’s either that or Loftus is an inexcusably bald hypocrite.