We all make mistakes. We have all exaggerated the truth in our eagerness to defend our position in a heated debate. But if you repeat the same statement over and over again knowing that it is not true, that is a lie.
I accuse conservative Christian apologists William Lane Craig, Mike Licona, and Josh/Sean McDowell of lying…or at a minimum, of being so ignorant of the current state of New Testament scholarship that they have no business debating skeptics or writing books on this subject.
And what is their lie (or ignorance)? Answer: Repeatedly stating in public forums or in their books that “the majority of scholars” agree with conservative/fundamentalist Protestant positions on the Bible!
Anyone who has listened to any of William Lane Craig’s debates knows that Craig repeatedly claims throughout his debate performances that his (fundamentalist evangelical) positions are supported by the “overwhelming majority of scholars”. Bart Ehrman has called him out on this during his debates with Craig and asked for evidence of this claim; but Craig never responds; never provides the evidence.
I believe that for Craig, at least, these are blatant lies!
And even though I respect the work of NT scholar Mike Licona, a born again evangelical Christian, for his attempts to be even-handed with the evidence related to the Resurrection in his most recent book (Why are There Differences in the Gospels?), he too must stop repeating the false claim that “the majority of critical New Testament scholars believe that eyewitnesses wrote the Gospels”. You can hear him make this statement (and watch Bart Ehrman vigorously call him out for it) in the Youtube video posted at the bottom of my previous post. (here)
And listen to this quote from evangelical Christian apologists, Josh and Sean McDowell in their book, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, p. 168, the book I am currently reading and reviewing, in which they republish another blatantly false claim by Mike Licona, using it as evidence for their overall argument that Christians can trust the historical reliability of the Gospels:
First Clement is a letter written to the church at Corinth in the late first or early second century from the church at Rome. It is widely believed Clement knew the apostles, including Peter and Paul, and may even be the man mentioned in Philippians 4:3 (Michael Licona, RJ, 249-250)
What??? “It is widely believed…???” The majority of scholars do NOT believe that there is sufficient evidence to make the statement that “Clement knew the apostles, including Peter and Paul”. Any New Testament scholar making such a false (or stupid) statement should have his membership in the Academy revoked!
So why do conservative Christian apologists make these blatantly false claims (lies)? I see two reasons (both are deceitful, but one much more than the other). The first involves the definition of terms. Whenever you debate someone, make sure that you agree upon the terminology you both use. In this case, the term in question is: New Testament scholar. To many fundamentalist/conservative Protestant Christians the only New Testament scholars that exist are those scholars who are fundamentalist/conservative Protestant Christians! If you are a liberal Protestant, Roman Catholic, or agnostic/atheist scholar of the New Testament, you are not a real New Testament scholar and therefore your opinion does not count; your opinion is not factored into “the majority scholarly opinion”! So if the only scholarly opinions you count are those that belong to your own far right branch of Protestant Christianity, then of course the “majority of scholars” are going to agree with you!
Are there really Christian apologists who hold this view and make these “majority scholarly opinion” claims and don’t realize that it is dishonest? I’ll give Mike Licona and the McDowell’s the benefit of the doubt.
The second and more deceitful reason is that the apologist in question knows that his (or her) undisclosed restriction of scholarly opinion to only those scholars who are of his own religious and philosophical persuasion is deceitful, but, intentionally conceals this “caveat” to his claim that “the majority of scholars agree with my position” in order to WIN a debate!
WLC: Are you listening???