Dear Readers: How often have you heard a conservative Christian apologist say this:
“The majority of scholars doubt the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels because they have a bias against the supernatural.”
“The majority of scholars date the Gospels later in the first century rather than earlier because they have a bias against the supernatural.”
“Most modern Bible scholars are biased against the supernatural.”
Please help me find quotes by conservative Christian apologists and scholars in which they make these false claims about the authorship and dating of the Gospels or simply infer that most Bible scholars are biased against the supernatural. By stating or inferring that most Bible scholars are biased against the supernatural, conservative Christian apologists have “poisoned the well”. Why would any conservative Christian layperson who is seeking to investigate the historical claims of Christianity bother reading books by scholars whom their favorite conservative apologist says is “biased”?
It is a false claim because most New Testament scholars are Christians, who by definition believe in the supernatural! How can someone identify as Christian and not believe in the supernatural? I’m sure it is possible, but I can’t believe it involves a significant number of Bible scholars. How many agnostic and atheist New Testament scholars are there? Bart Ehrman and Gerd Luedmann?? Two people! Even if we add in the guys in the Jesus Seminar, that is only a couple dozen scholars.
Where is this great horde of God-hating, anti-supernaturalist Bible scholars???
But then there is this: How do conservative Christian apologists explain the fact that even most Roman Catholic scholars, who very much believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus and who represent a significant percentage of New Testament scholars, reject the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels and the early dating of the Gospels?? How is it possible that Roman Catholic scholars have a bias against the supernatural???
We skeptics have heard this false argument many, many times. Let’s put conservative Christian apologists and scholars on record, all in one location on the internet! I am particularly looking for quotes from the “big guns” of evangelical/conservative Protestant apologetics, such as Michael Licona, Gary Habermas, William Lane Craig, Lee Strobel, J. Warner Wallace, Richard Bauckham, etc..
Please copy and paste the quote in the comment section below. Please include a link to the source.
Update and Clarification: I do NOT deny that some New Testament scholars have a bias against the supernatural. My issue is with the frequently heard conservative Christian apologist claim that the reason that many or most NT scholars reject the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels and the early dating of the Gospels is due to an anti-supernatural bias. How can this be true when such a large percentage of scholars who believe in miracles and the bodily resurrection of Jesus (most Roman Catholic NT scholars) reject the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels and the early dating of the Gospels? Do these NT scholars have a bias against the supernatural?? Once again I must ask, Dear Conservative Christian apologists and scholars: Please stop claiming that the majority of New Testament scholars reject the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels due to a liberal bias against the supernatural. It is not true!
Albert Mohler, a leader in the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States: A pervasive anti-supernaturalism seeks to deny any claim of God’s existence or our ability to know him. Naturalistic worldviews dominate in the [New Testament scholarship] academy…
Michael J. Kruger, president Reformed Theological Seminary: Ever since the rise of the Enlightenment, academic circles have been inculcated with a naturalistic, anti-supernatural bias that pervades almost every discipline, from sociology to anthropology to psychology. And the discipline of biblical studies is no exception to that rule.
Michael Licona, evangelical NT scholar: There are various reasons people reject Jesus’s resurrection as historical. Those raised as Muslims, Buddhists, or Hindus are likely to reject it because they were raised to have certain beliefs and these do not include Jesus’s resurrection. That is not to say they are not open-minded. But the way we are conditioned to believe — or not believe — has a powerful influence. And even if they’re not pious practitioners of their religion, they’re often busy with their lives and aren’t motivated to pursue an answer to the question of Jesus’s resurrection. That said, I do think a worldview that excludes a supernatural component is probably the main reason in Western culture why scholars don’t believe Jesus rose.
James Bishop, conservative Christian apologist: [I]t would seem that there is a bias within scholarship and on behalf of many scholars. Many scholars come to conclusions which are underpinned by their already existing philosophical convictions rather than letting the historical evidence speak for itself. Sometimes this had led scholars into the realms of confusion, unable to account for the resurrection evidence because it can’t be made sense on philosophical naturalism’s convictions.
Ian Hamilton, conservative Presbyterian minister and apologist: B. B. Warfield was once asked ‘What is Christianity?’ and he said, ‘unembarrassed supernaturalism’. Would to God that we today were as bold. Too often, I fear, we shrink back from so-called intellectual attacks. Let the dead bury their dead; you go and preach the gospel. We should be unintimidated by these attacks from right or left. We are unembarrassed supernaturalists. Why? Because supernaturalism has invaded our being; captured us, changed us. The gospel is the power of God to salvation. We have a supernatural Scripture and a supernatural salvation. Let me say in this context that many good theological seminaries and colleges are in danger (or are already engulfed in the danger) of bowing to the ‘Academy’. It is one thing to engage with the Academy and another to seek its credibility – Princeton always did that and Warfield was held in very high regard by the German theologians – that should never be our interest! We need seminaries and colleges that live coram deo (before the face of God). In one sense, we do not care what the Academy thinks. I am not an anti-intellectual. I encourage people to use their minds, but do not be sucked into merely seeking the approbation of the Academy.
Historian James Tabor, rejecting claims by evangelical Christians that modern scholars are biased against the supernatural:
One of the most frequent responses I get to my work as a historian of religions, particularly in my dealings with Jesus, Paul, and the development of early “Christianities” is the objection that I “exclude the miraculous” as a valid part of the investigation. The idea seems to be that “secular historians” prejudge evidence and are accordingly biased in that they will not allow even the possibility of the miraculous as part of ones historical inquiry. If historians ask the questions: what do we know and how do we know it–how is it that we claim to “know” from the start that miracles do not happen and that supernatural explanations for various developments are to be rejected? As Darrel Bock [an evangelical and Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary] put things, reviewing my book, The Jesus Dynasty for Christianity Today: “James Tabor’s historical assumptions that reject God’s activity on Earth force him into odd arguments to explain the birth of Christianity.”
Bible Study Tools (evangelical website), quoting Malcom Couch, founder of Tyndale Theological Seminary: Whenever evangelical principles are compromised, there will always be serious repercussions. As is often the case where Satan is afoot, the results are typically subtle and take time to come to full fruition—like introducing a small amount of poison into a fresh cool drink which the drinker doesn’t detect until it eventually takes its deadly toll. Nowhere is this implicit denial of evangelical distinctives more evident than in historical-critical discussions of authorship, the dependency of source material, and appeal to extra-biblical literature as the key to understanding the divine message.5 As Couch observes, the problem is not with the historical-critical approach itself, but with the bias of those who practice it. “Historical-critical interpretation in and of itself is not bad, it is an intelligent, research-oriented approach to the determination of Scripture. Many of the scholars who employed this method, however, held an anti-supernatural bias.” [emphasis added]6
Michael G. Strauss, conservative Christian apologist and University of Oklahoma scientist: In reality, many NT scholars are like the Jesus Seminar with the presupposition that there is no supernatural so that anything claimed to be miraculous must be a fable.
J. Warner Wallace, conservative Christian apologist, former crime detective: Scientists aren’t alone; many historians are also committed to a naturalistic presupposition. The majority of historical scholars, for example, accept the historicity of the New Testament Gospels, in so far as they describe the life and teaching of Jesus and the condition of the first century environment in which Jesus lived and ministered. But many of these same historians simultaneously reject the historicity of any of the miracles described in the New Testament, in spite of the fact that these miracles are described alongside the events that scholars accept as historical. Why do they accept some events and reject others? Because they have a presuppositional bias against the supernatural.
William Lane Craig, historian, conservative Christian apologist: Beyond that point, the decision as to how far a scholar is willing to accept the record they offer is likely to be influenced more by his openness to a ‘supernaturalist’ world-view than by strictly historical considerations.
Brent Landau, theologian, Lecturer in Religious Studies, University of Texas at Austin, confirming the existence of frequent conservative Christian allegations of a anti-supernatural bias among scholars: Christian apologists frequently say that the main reason that secular scholars don’t affirm the historicity of the resurrection is because they have an “anti-supernatural bias,”
Craig Keener, Pentecostal Christian apologist, author of “Miracles”:
[These quotes by Keener are from a review of his book, “Miracles”, by Matthew Ferguson, doctoral candidate in Classics]:
Reading the “Introduction” (pp. 1-17) of Keener’s [“Miracles”] volumes, I was amazed by how much he started out with complaints against other biblical scholars, most of whom are unnamed (though he does name Rudolf Bultmann on pg. 8, who died in 1976, at that), for their alleged bias against the historical authenticity of miracles in the Gospels and Acts. Allegedly, these scholars treat the miracles of these accounts completely different from how they treat the other portions of the narrative. The repeated assertion that these scholars are “antisupernatural” is pervasive throughout this book (pp. 10, 85, 108, 123, 200, 429, 656, 667, 686, 702, 711, and on more pages than just these!).
“Because some scholars have treated miracle claims in the Gospels and Acts as purely legendary on the premise that such events do not happen, I intend to challenge their instinctive dismissal of the possibility of such claims by referring to a few works that catalogue modern eyewitness claims of miracles.”
“Moreover, one might ask why openness to the possibility that some events are miraculous is more critical than their a priori dismissal. This question seems particularly pertinent for scholars whose dismissal is dogmatic and lacks self-critical reflection about the origin and formation of their own beliefs.”
For much of this book, he then traces the origin of this so-called “antisupernatural” bias to the Enlightenment and (old) philosophers such as Hume (despite the fact that modern naturalism really has more of a mid-20th century origin).
Conversation on the John Ankerberg Show between John Ankerberg, Dr. Walter Kaiser, Academic Dean and Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and Dr. Gerald Larue, Professor Emeritus of Archaeology and Biblical Studies at the University of Southern California.
- Ankerberg: What about Dr. Larue’s statement that we opened up this program with, that there is no way Moses could have written the Pentateuch. What’s the evidence that he did write the Pentateuch?
- Kaiser: Well, here again, you’ve got about a dozen claims in the book itself. Exodus 17, God had said, “Write this battle down as a memorial.” The Ten Commandments, the Book of the Covenant, the Ritual Code. All of these with clear statements, “God spoke to Moses and said, ‘Write it down.’” Now, you’ve got to begin somewhere, and you begin with the claim of the text. And before you say, “Well, this kind of thing can’t happen! In my categories, I’m going to rule that out.” That’s a belief system. That’s not a scientific system; that’s a belief system. And that will have to stand on its own two feet and we’ll have to demonstrate that.
- Ankerberg: Okay, Dr. Larue?
- Larue: I’m afraid that you are denigrating the approach of the modern scholar. The modern scholar does not say, “This doesn’t fit into my category of thinking.” The modern scholar does exactly what you’re saying. He does examine the evidence. And when you have contradictory statements in a document written by one person… How many animals taken into the ark? “Two clean; two unclean.” Oh, no! “Seven pairs of clean…” Make up your mind, Moses! When you have Moses writing his own funeral. Come on!
- Source: here
The Presbyterian Review, Volume 6, page 755: It is an unquestioned fact that there exist several points of remarkable similarity between the legendary accounts of the acts or sayings of the founder of the Buddhist religion and actually recorded words and acts of our Lord Jesus Christ. This fact has naturally been taken advantage of by many modern scholars, biased against the exclusive claims of supernatural religions.
Robert E. Picirilli, former dean of the Graduate Program, Free Will Baptist Bible College: The problem, however, [with the Two Source Theory for the synoptic Gospels] is to decide whether there are, in fact, convincing reasons for the two main claims shared in all such source theories that Mark was first, and that “Q” was a written source known by Mathew and Luke. The conservative Christian may tend to regard these as assumptions based on too little evidence. Furthermore, these assumptions may reflect a view of the Scriptures that is biased against the supernatural inspiration.
James W. Sire, conservative Christian apologist and author: Many modern scholars have already decided that Jesus could not have actually been such a divine or quasi-divine being. …The issue is complex enough, however, so that a mere charge of a anti-supernatural bias against these modern scholars is not enough to disprove their claim.
Derek Rishmawy, apologist, PhD candidate Trinity Evangelical Divinity School: [M]y point is fairly simple: had Biblical scholars, pastors, and theologians in the modern period paid attention to the creeds and tradition of the Church, the modern rationalism that infects much of our piety and scholarship might not be as severe a problem to overcome. Thankfully some of the best NT scholarship is beginning to recognize the “creeds and traditions” can turn out to be the most useful reading strategies we have for breaking through the unhelpful binaries of modern historical scholarship. But it’s precisely for that reason we should beware that anti-creedal rhetoric of this sort only helps keep scholars, pastors, and especially Evangelicals at large, distanced from the tradition. Indeed, it is an anti-supernaturalism (disparaging the illumination of the Holy Spirit throughout the history of interpretation) that threatens to keep it an “unseen realm” in its own right.
Lee Strobel, conservative Christian apologist:
As you know, there are plenty of credentialed scholars who would agree that the evidence for the resurrection is sufficient to establish its historicity. Moreover, Dr. Gary Habermas has built a persuasive “minimal facts” case for the resurrection that only uses evidence that virtually all scholars would concede. In the end, though, each person must reach his or her own verdict in the case for Christ. Many things influence how someone views the evidence – including, for instance, whether he or she has an anti-supernatural bias.“
David Scott Hill, conservative Christian author and apologist: In light of the current emaciation of Christian thought, is it really surprising that the modern academy views the believing scholar as a freak specimen? How can Christian scholarship be taken seriously when it presents itself as just a lens, without an identifiable paradigm. The Christian perspective is not perceived as an intellectually serious alternative because it lacks an organizing framework, a comprehensive methodology. As a result, it is dismissed as a merely distorting bias.
James McGrath, Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University: If one looks online for sources discussing the date of the Book of Daniel (and a number of other Biblical texts where the same issues arise), one is bound to come across conservative works which inevitably accuse scholars who date those works later than they do of “anti-supernaturalism.” Unless one rejects the possibility of predictive prophecy from the outset, they claim, then one will not exclude the possibility that these works genuinely predict the events they purport to, rather than having been written later in light of them. That apologists of a certain stripe would attempt to cast the matter in this way is unsurprising. But it should not be found persuasive. To understand why, one merely needs to consider the Ethiopic Book of Enoch, or the Sybilline Oracles, or the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, or IV Ezra, or any number of other works outside the Bible which scholars – including conservative Christian ones – seem to universally agree do not contain genuine prophecies but offer pseudoprophecies written after the fact – precisely what mainstream scholars say about Daniel. Why does the alleged openness of conservative Christian scholars to the supernatural not lead them to defend those works from skeptical critical scholarship casting doubts on the authenticity of their prophecies? After all, the Epistle of Jude in the New Testament quotes the Book of Enoch as though it were really by Enoch.
The truth is that the situation is falsely represented when it is depicted as one pitting “antisupernaturalists” against those open to the possibility of the miraculous and the prophetic. The situation is rather one in which mainstream scholars critically evaluate the alleged prophetic character of any and all texts, irrespective of whether anyone happened to include them in their canon of Scripture, while conservatives engage in special pleading for only a subset of those texts which claim to be prophetic. And they do so, not on the basis of evidence or distinctive traits those particular texts have, but merely on the basis of their prior disposition to view them in a certain way.
Bart Ehrman, agnostic NT scholar, responding to conservative Christian allegations that his non-supernaturalist worldview biases his work as a scholar:
The first point to make is that this view [that the Book of Daniel was not written by Daniel in the sixth century BCE, but by an anonymous writer in the second century BCE] can hardly be as ascribed to anti-supernaturalist bias, since it was a view I had when I was a supernaturalist! This is the view taught in every major divinity school and seminary in America – apart from the fundamentalist and conservative evangelical schools that do not engage in critical scholarship. It was the view embraced by my professors at Princeton Theological Seminary, one of the leading seminaries, by any count, in North America, training Presbyterian ministers (none of whom is an anti-supernaturalist!) for their pastoral ministries. It is the view you will find in all the standard critical commentaries on the book (none of them that I can think of written by someone outside an established faith tradition). Taking such a view is not anti-supernaturalist. It is simply taking a historical approach to the task of interpretation, instead of a non-critical one.
- Source: here
End of post.