Reader Comments on My Recent Survey of Conservative Christian Scholars and Apologists.

In my last post I published a survey in which I invited conservative Christian scholars and apologists to reply to three questions regarding the authorship of the Gospels.  I have asked my regular readers not to comment below this survey so as to leave this space for the apologists’ replies.  I do not want the survey to turn into a debate (food fight) between conservative Christians and skeptics.  However, please feel free to leave your comments regarding the survey and the responses of the apologists on that post in the comment section below.

Thanks,

Gary

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Survey: Three Questions on the Authorship of the Gospels for Conservative New Testament Scholars and Apologists

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Dear Conservative New Testament scholar or apologist:  I am conducting a survey on topics related to the authorship of the Gospels.  Would you kindly participate?

1. Do you agree with this statement by conservative NT scholar Richard Bauckham that a significant majority of NT scholars rejects the eyewitness/associate eyewitness authorship of the Gospels:

“The argument of this book [“Jesus and the Eyewitnesses”]–that the texts of our Gospels are close to the eyewitness reports of the words and deeds of Jesus–runs counter to almost all recent scholarship.  As we have indicated from time to time, the prevalent view is that a long period of oral transmission in the churches intervened between whatever the eyewitnesses said and the Jesus traditions as they reached the Evangelists [the authors of the Gospels].  No doubt the eyewitnesses started the process of oral tradition, but it passed through many retellings, reformulations, and expansions before the Evangelists themselves did their own editorial work on it.”  p. 240   

Your answer:  Yes  or  No

2. If you agree with Bauckham’s statement that “almost all recent scholarship” believes that the texts of our Gospels are NOT close to the eyewitness reports of the words and deeds of Jesus, do you believe that this scholarly consensus is due to an objective evaluation of the evidence, or due to a bias against the supernatural, as some conservative Christian apologists allege (see here)?

Your answer:  Evidence  or  Bias

3. If you believe that the scholarly consensus on the authorship of the Gospels is due to a bias against the supernatural, how would you explain the fact that most Roman Catholic scholars, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and many moderate Protestant scholars such as NT Wright, who every much believe in the supernatural and the bodily resurrection of Jesus, also reject or question the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels?  (see here)

Your answer:

 

Thank you very much,

Gary

 

Attention Readers:  This survey has been sent to approximately 40 of the top conservative Christian scholars and apologists in the United States.  I have asked them to either post their responses to the survey in the comments below or email/mail their responses to me.  Since this is a survey of Christian apologists, only their comments will be approved for posting in the comment section below.  If you wish to comment, please do so under the next post, here.

 

 

 

 

End of post.

Why do Conservative Christians Allege that the Majority of Scholars Reject the Eyewitness Authorship and Early Dating of the Gospels Due to a Bias Against the Supernatural?

I assert that:

1.  Most scholars reject, doubt, or question the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels.  The claim that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses and the close associates of eyewitness is held by only a small minority of scholars, almost exclusively consisting of evangelicals and fundamentalist Protestants.  As proof, see here.

2. I also assert that most scholars reject the early dating of the Gospels used by many evangelicals and conservative Protestants.  As proof, read any article on the dating of the Gospels whether written by a liberal, moderate, or conservative.  They will all state that the majority of modern scholars believe that the first Gospel (Mark) was written in circa 70 CE, with Matthew and Luke written approximately a decade latter, and John written in approximately 90 CE.

3. In addition, I assert that a significant number of evangelicals and conservative Protestants allege that the above majority scholarly positions are due to a bias against the supernatural. 

But how is this evangelical/conservative Protestant allegation possible when even most Roman Catholic scholars, who every much believe in the supernatural and the bodily resurrection of Jesus and represent a significant percentage of NT scholarship, also doubt the eyewitness authorship and early dating of the Gospels?  One evangelical apologist reading my blog has questioned the veracity of this third assertion.  So, can I back up this assertion with evidence?  Let me try.  Below are quotes by conservative Christians on this issue.

 

Quotes by Conservative Christians:

William Lane Craig, conservative Christian historian and apologist:  “Although most New Testament critics claim that the gospels were written after A.D. 70, that assertion, states Cambridge University’s John A. T. Robinson, is largely the result of scholarly laziness, the tyranny of unexamined presuppositions, and almost willful blindness on the part of the critics.”

(Gary:  “Presuppositions” meaning…anti-supernaturalism??  “Willful blindness” meaning…bias??  Sounds to me like Craig is endorsing Robinson’s belief that scholars who hold to a later dating of the Gospels do so due to a bias against the supernatural.)

Source:  here

 

Tom Lambrecht, conservative Christian apologistBy “modern Bible scholars,” I assume you mean those following a critical interpretation of Scripture. This stems from a liberal bias against miracles, predictive prophecy, and other characteristics of the Bible. One example is the Jesus Seminar, in which scholars voted which of the Gospel sayings of Jesus were actually authentically spoken by him. I reject this approach to Scripture. There are many evangelical biblical scholars who support the authenticity of the Gospels. Even some non-evangelical scholars also support this. The textual and historical evidence for the Gospels’ authenticity is much stronger than for any other comparable historical document. It is only liberal bias that causes scholars to doubt the Bible’s authenticity. Paul in I Corinthians claims there were over 500 eyewitnesses to the resurrection. And nearly all Bible scholars believe I Corinthians is authentically written by Paul. So the views of those who discount the Gospels do not concern me.

Source:  here

 

Stephan J. Bedard, conservative Christian apologist:  Since critical scholars have trouble believing in real prophecy, they assume Mark wrote this after, as it was happening or just before the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.  Often they grudgingly give Mark a date of around 68, so that the destruction might not have quite happened but yet is close enough that the writing was on the wall. 

(Gary:  All critical scholars have a bias against prophecy and the supernatural?  I don’t think so!  Most Roman Catholic scholars accept the standard dating of Mark to circa 70 CE.  Are we to believe that most Roman Catholic scholars are biased against the supernatural and prophecies??)

Source:  here

 

Erik Manning, conservative Christian apologist: The consensus of critics tells us that the first gospel was written around 70 AD. The other three followed within the next 5 to 20 years. But where does this consensus come from?  I’ll be straight up here. This dating comes from historians who rule out the supernatural. 

Source:  here

 

JP Moreland, conservative Christian theologian:  Until recent years, a fairly standard dating of the Gospels was this: Mark at 70, Matthew and Luke at 75 to 85, and John at 95. This dating was based on the belief that Mark was the earliest Gospel. It was also assumed that the Gospels were a result of a fairly long period when the Jesus tradition was circulated in various forms which would have taken time to develop and stabilize. But as we have seen in our discussion of Jewish oral tradition, there is no reason to doubt that many of the structural forms of the tradition came from Jesus himself or the early disciples. Further, there is no way of knowing how long it would have taken for a tradition to be put into forms, since there is no comparable first-century tradition which can clearly be dated at various stages of its development.  Moreover, the Gospels are given these dates because of Jesus predictions of the fall of Jerusalem (70) in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. But again, this simply reflects an anti-supernatural bias. 

Source:  here

 

Jonathon McLatchie, conservative Christian apologist, author at “Cross-Examined.Org blog”While virtually all scholars maintain that all of the gospels were written in the first century, within liberal scholarship it is conventionally thought that all four gospels were written post-70 AD. It is my own view, however, that this proposition is largely arbitrary, and based largely on a false presumption that a prediction, on the part of Jesus regarding the destruction of the temple in AD 70, must have been composed after-the-fact.

(Gary:  Most Roman Catholic scholars hold to the later dates, with Mark being composed circa 70 CE, shortly before or shortly after the destruction of the Temple.  Are most Roman Catholic scholars “liberals” biased against supernatural prophecies??)

Source:  here

 

Ken Samples, conservative Christian theologian: The definition of “modern Bible scholars” can cover a lot of ground. Many of them accept anti-supernatural presuppositions. The traditional authorship of the Gospels was affirmed by some of the early church fathers. The fact that two of the Gospels carry names that were not part of the original twelve disciples favors an authenticity (if there was an intent to pad authority they would never have included Mark and Luke). I accept that Mark reflects Peter and Luke was associated closely with Paul. So I think the traditional position of eyewitness/ associate of eyewitness still makes good sense. Sometimes traditional trumps modern.

Source:  here

 

Ryan Leasure, conservative Christian pastor and apologist:  With respect to your comments on the majority of New Testament scholars rejecting that the Gospels are eye-witness accounts, that’s simply not true. People who make those claims only count scholars from liberal institutions and leave out the thousands of scholars from conservative institutions who believe they’re eye-witness accounts as if their views don’t count.

(Gary:  Yes, all scholars who aren’t conservative are liberals—with a bias.  Most Roman Catholic scholars, who very much believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, do not believe in the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels.  How do you explain that, Pastor Leasure??)

Source:  here

 

Simon Peter Sutherland, conservative Christian apologist:  One common notion people are presented with today is the claim that scholars now know the four Gospels of the New Testament were not written by eye-witnesses or people who actually knew Jesus of Nazareth.  This type of claim is quite a common place today. We read it in books, hear it on the BBC radio, see and hear it on television and in countless documentaries. Likewise within the world of scholarship I continuously run into a head on collision with this argument by people who, when it is all said and done, know more about this argument than the narratives themselves.

(Gary:  Implication:  Scholars who disagree with evangelicals and fundamentalists regarding the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels are poorly informed; not because they have an informed, objective, difference of opinion.)

Source:  here

 

Rev. Dan Waldschmidt, Wisconsin Lutheran SeminaryMany unbelieving scholars believe that the original stories about Jesus underwent changes and picked up fictional additions before they were finally written down in our canonical Gospels. Young people from our congregations who go to college may hear this paradigm of how the Gospels came to be. Richard Bauckham challenges this paradigm.

(Gary:  Why no mention that a sizable percentage of NT scholars who are believers in Jesus, his miracles, and his bodily resurrection (most Roman Catholic scholars) who also doubt the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels and agree with “unbelieving scholars” that the stories of Jesus underwent changes and picked up embellishments before they were finally written down in our canonical Gospels??)

Source:  here

 

J. Warner Wallace, conservative Christian apologist, author of “Cold Case Christianity”When visiting with Dan Wallace, Greg Koukl and I asked him about the skepticism on the part of people like Bart Ehrman related to early dating. We asked Wallace if there was some specific manuscript evidence that inclined people to deny the early dating of the Gospel accounts. Wallace said there was no such evidence. We then asked why people continued to deny the early dating if, in fact, we were continuing to find early fragments and there was no contrary manuscript evidence. It turns out that the late dating of the gospels is due primarily to a denial of supernaturalism.

Source:  here

 

Conservative Christian on the blog of conservative Christian blogger, Graham LovellYou’re making a couple of unwarranted assumptions yourself. One is that modern scholars are accurate or can be trusted. In fact, ever since the advent of “Higher Criticism” (a misnomer if ever there was one) most modern scholars have been liberals and have therefore been eager to discredit the Bible by any means necessary. 

(Gary:  Lovell does not correct this false statement.)

Source:  here

 

Conservative Christian on Joel Edmundson’s blog:  [O]pinions are like noses: everyone has one. My or anyone else’s opinion is worthless unless I or they have some pretty good reasons for holding it. That said, I could probably name just as many scholars who accept the Thomas story as historical as you could who don’t. But again, it’s irrelevant whether four out of five academics surveyed disbelieve it. What matters is *why* they disbelieve it, and are their reasons *credible*? I don’t believe they are. Most of those academics don’t believe the resurrection narratives as a whole are in any sense historical, so obviously they don’t accept particular details like the Thomas story as any kind of factual history. Why don’t they believe the resurrection narratives are genuine? Because many of them are strict materialists. Nothing which does not fit into their materialist worldview is allowed. Thus miracles like resurrection are ruled out of bounds before they even begin.

Source:  here

 

Conservative Christian blogger Edward Bromfield:  Scholars are often wrong. You [Gary] make that point yourself in your comment [that the majority of NT scholars reject or doubt the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels]. You’ve adopted the position that liberal scholars are correct and conservative scholars are wrong.   

(Gary:  Since when are Roman Catholic scholars, who believe in miracles and the bodily resurrection of Jesus, “liberals”???)

Source:  here

 

Rev. John Rasmussen, conservative Christian bloggerI’m not convinced that liberal scholarship is the best scholarship. Popularity does not necessarily correlate to credibility. If anything, the status of mainstream [scholarship] reflects that Western, post-Enlightenment [anti-supernaturalist?] opinions are mainstream.

(Gary:  Notice that mainstream scholarship and liberal scholarship are assumed to be one and the same.)

Source:  here

 

Dr. Glenn Peoples, author of Right Reason blogHow do those who make up the overwhelming majority [of scholars] respond to Bauckham’s case? If your reply is that they don’t, or you don’t know, then that pretty much shows why the comment about what the majority think is kinda useless. I’ve been in the world of academic theology and biblical study long enough to know that the majority [of Bible scholars] can be just wrong because they don’t properly evaluate arguments.

Source:  here

(Gary:  Why is Dr. Peoples alleging that the majority of Bible scholars do not properly evaluate arguments???  An anti-supernatural bias??  Peoples doesn’t say, but if we were to ask him, I would bet good money that this would be his reason.)

 

David Ould, conservative Anglican minister, in response to the claim made by a commenter on his blog that most scholars doubt the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels.

No, just most of the scholars that you read [reject the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels.]  Robust academics like Baukham have shown us that the eyewitness testimony of the gospels is entirely reliable.

Source:  here

(Gary:  So scholars who agree with Bauckham (a very conservative Protestant scholar) are “robust academics”.  And what about the rest of the Academy??  Are they lazy, sloppy academics??  This is a perfect example of “poisoning the well”.  Instead of just stating that scholars have an honest, objective, difference of opinion on this issue, Rev. Ould feels it necessary to denigrate those scholars who disagree with his minority (fringe) position on the authorship of the Gospels.)

Can New Testament Scholars Use Methodological Naturalism and Not Be Biased Against the Supernatural?

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Methodological Naturalism:  a procedural commitment to describe, represent, and explain phenomenon in our universe in exclusively natural terms

Philosophical Naturalisma belief or philosophy that only natural laws and forces operate in the universe.  Supernatural forces and events are excluded from consideration and considered impossible.

 

Some conservative Christian apologists consider methodological naturalism to be a bias against the supernatural.  But is it?  I don’t think so. Why?  Conservative Christians use methodological naturalism in their every day lives all the time!  Let me give a brief example:

John, a conservative Christian father, comes home one evening to find his son’s bed unmade and his room trashed.  He confronts his son and asks him if he made his bed this morning and cleaned up his room.  The son replies, “Yes, Dad.  I did.”  John then asks, “Then why is your bed and room a mess?”  His son replies, “Demons did it!  I made my bed and cleaned my room this morning, but after I went to school, demons entered my room and destroyed it!”

How much credibility will John give to his son’s supernatural explanation for his messy room?  I predict:  ZERO!

Does that mean that John is biased against the supernatural?  Does that mean that John doesn’t believe in supernatural forces, such as angels and demons??  No.  It only means that John has learned that employing methodological naturalism is the best and most efficient method of arriving at the truth for most events in his life. This highly reliable method has taught John through many similar experiences in the past, that the most probable explanation for his son’s messy room is natural, not supernatural.  Although it is certainly possible, in John’s conservative Christian worldview, that demons trashed his son’s room, the likelihood of this being the true explanation for his son’s dirty room is very low.

This is exactly why Bible scholars and other historians, Christian and non-Christian, use methodological naturalism:  Results!  Methodological naturalism, often using the scientific method, has proven to be the most efficient, the most reliable, method of evaluating truth claims in our world.  Methodological naturalism, using the scientific method, has created the technologically advanced society that we all enjoy today.

If scholars, historians, scientists, police detectives, etc. use methodological naturalism to investigate our universe does this constitute a bias against Christianity and the supernatural?  No!  Only if the expert involved also holds to philosophical naturalism can that expert be accused of a bias against the supernatural.

Scholars who use methodological naturalism to investigate historical truth claims are NOT biased against the supernatural unless it can be demonstrated that they also hold to philosophical naturalism.  This is a very important distinction that conservative Christians should not confuse or conflate.

 

 

End of post.

 

Dear Readers: Help me Collect Statements by Conservative Christian Apologists Alleging a Liberal Bias Among the Majority of NT Scholars

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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.”

or

“The majority of scholars date the Gospels later in the first century rather than earlier because they have a bias against the supernatural.”

or

“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.

Thanks!

Gary

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…

Source:  here

 

Michael J. Kruger, president Reformed Theological SeminaryEver 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. 

Source: here

 

Michael Licona, evangelical NT scholarThere 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.

Source: here

 

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.

Source:  here

 

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.

Source:  here

 

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 SeminaryWhenever 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

Source:  here

 

Michael G. Strauss, conservative Christian apologist and University of Oklahoma scientistIn 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.

Source:  here

 

J. Warner Wallace, conservative Christian apologist, former crime detectiveScientists 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.

Sourcehere

 

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.

Source:  here

 

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,”

Source:  here

 

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).

Sourcehere

 

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.

Source:  here

 

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.

Source here

 

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.

Sourcehere

 

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.

Source:  here

 

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.

Source:  here

 

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.

Source:  here

 

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.

Source here

 

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.  

Sourcehere

 

 

 

End of post.

Dear Conservative Scholars and Apologists: Please Stop Claiming that the Majority of Scholars Reject the Eyewitness Authorship of the Gospels due to a Liberal Bias against the Supernatural

Image result for image of gary habermas, michael licona, and other new testament scholars

I have been sending emails to conservative Protestant Christian scholars and apologists asking them to stop spreading the false statement that the reason that most New Testament scholars doubt the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels is due to a liberal bias against the supernatural.  I have had at least one positive response so far.  I usually send an initial email with the above brief statement asking them to stop repeating this false claim.  They (or their assistant) then write back and say, “Thank you, but Dr. X has just as much right to his opinion regarding the strength of the evidence as do you.  Have a nice day.”  I then send a second email:

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Dear ________,

Thank you very much for responding to my comment.  I completely understand that Dr. X is a very busy man.

To be clear, I am not asking Dr. X to deny that HE believes that the evidence is strong for the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels. We are all entitled to our opinions, especially someone with Dr. X’s education and experience.  I am only asking that he be honest and upfront with his readers regarding the position of New Testament scholars on this issue.

Many conservative Protestant Christian scholars and apologists will admit on their websites, in their books, and in their public lectures that most NT scholars reject the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels, but they then typically add this caveat: “The reason that most NT scholars reject the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels is because they are biased.  Most NT scholars are liberal Christians, agnostics, or atheists. These liberal scholars are biased against the supernatural. If they did not have this bias, they would agree that the Gospels are eyewitness accounts.  Therefore, conservative Christians can ignore the majority scholarly opinion on the authorship of the Gospels due to this bias.”

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This is a false, dishonest, and misleading statement. With this statement, conservative apologists have “poisoned the well”. Truth-seeking lay Christians will ignore investigating the opposing view on this critical issue because they have been convinced by their favorite Christian scholar or apologist that a biased opinion is not worth investigating.

If it were only liberal, agnostic, and atheist New Testament scholars who reject the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels, the accusation of a liberal bias might be well founded. But the problem for this claim is that even a large percentage of NT scholars who very much believe in the supernatural, miracles, AND the bodily resurrection of Jesus reject the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels! Who are these scholars? Answer: Roman Catholic scholars. Most Roman Catholic scholars reject the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels. Even the bishops of the Catholic Church reject the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels. I have written a post including statements from the Catholic bishops and Catholic scholars regarding the Roman Catholic position on the authorship of the Gospels here:

https://lutherwasnotbornagaincom.wordpress.com/2019/09/02/does-the-catholic-church-believe-that-the-gospels-were-written-by-eyewitnesses/

Why would the Catholic Church reject the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels if the evidence for this claim was even mediocre?? If this were the case, they would have every incentive to promote the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels.  Catholics use mediocre evidence to promote other supernatural claims, so why not this one?

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I know that many evangelical Protestants question whether or not Roman Catholics are true Christians, but even if they are not, these sincere, devout people believe in the supernatural; they believe in miracles; they believe in the literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus! So what possible bias could they have against the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels??

All I ask is that Dr. X be honest with his readers, students, and audiences and tell them the truth: “The eyewitness authorship of the Gospels is CONTESTED, and not due to a liberal bias.   It is contested due to a genuine difference of opinion on the evidence. What’s more, even most Roman Catholic scholars, who believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, reject the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels. Since the evidence is so contested, I encourage my readers to read the evidence from both sides on this issue.  One such source from the other side of this issue comes from the highly respected Roman Catholic scholar Raymond Brown.  He gives an excellent, very detailed analysis of the authorship of the Gospels in his two volume work, “The Death of the Messiah”.  

The truth matters. Both Christian apologists and skeptic counter-apologists should be honest and forthright about the evidence and the positions of scholars.  With everyone having access to a wealth of information on the internet, I believe that the side which is most honest and forthright regarding the evidence for the historical claims of Christianity will eventually prevail.

Sincerely,
Gary

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End of post.

 

 

 

Refuting Liam’s Arguments for the Resurrection, Part 2

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Liam, a reader of this blog believes that there is strong evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.  Let’s continue looking at Liam’s evidence (see Part 1 here):

Liam:  At no point in time in any of my comments have I asserted that it is a “feeling” of a “presence” that keeps me believing that Jesus rose from the dead. So I find it interesting that this supposed “feeling” is what is being used to dismiss my assertions that history isn’t being done when you start spouting off “contradictions” in the Gospels as reasons not to trust them as historically reliable. Is this how you lost your faith Gary? Did you put all your “stock” in your feelings and when they went away you were left with no choice but to find “reasons” for not believing? If anything that might explain your inability to rationally assess the evidence, or to engage with any of the points made.

Gary: I left evangelical Christianity in my 20’s due to the emotional roller coaster that the born-again version of Christianity imposes on its adherents.  I left conservative Lutheran Christianity and Christianity as a whole in 2014 due to an examination of the evidence.  My feelings had nothing to do with it as I was very happy as a Lutheran Christian.

Liam:  And hey, feel free to use pejorative language and phrasing to distort what it is I believe. I receive no pressure whatsoever from any leader to remain committed to the faith. I am however committed to rational assessment of the evidence, and remain convinced of the historicity of the resurrection based on facts – facts that you seem only able to dismiss, and not engage with. So as for your “proof” that the accounts in the Gospels are fabrications, this is just emotive hokum from somebody with little to no grasp of how to do ancient history.

Gary:  I have never claimed that anyone has proven that the accounts in the Gospels are fabrications.  I have only claimed that the majority of scholars, including a large percentage of scholars who believe in miracles and the bodily resurrection of Jesus (Roman Catholic scholars), reject the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels.  For that reason, I assert that we cannot consider the accounts in the Gospels historically reliable.  They may be true.  The may not be true.

Liam:  Let’s see what historians tell us about the sources of other ancient persons and events. “The sources [for Genghis Khan] contain contradictory statements, their individual biases springing from the subjective attitude of the authors towards the world conqueror, the aim of the work and the dependent relationship of each author on those for whom the work was written.” Preface, pg xiii “The history of Genghis Khan’s life thus contains many unresolved questions.” pg xvi From ‘Genghis Khan His Life and Legacy’ by Paul Ratchnevsky. Ratchnevsky was Emeritus Professor of Sinology at Humboldt University, Berlin. “Principle sources for Genghis Khan are the ‘Secret History of the Mongols’, a court history by an unknown author, the ‘History of the World Conqueror’ by the Persian historian Ata-Malik Juvaini (written in the 1250’s), and two other key Persian works: Rashid al-din’s Compendium of Chronicles (completed in 1307) and the Tabaqat-i Nasiri by Minhaj al-Din Jazjoni (completed 1260).” pg xxv-xxvi From ‘Genghis Khan – His Conquests, His Empire, his Legacy by Frank McLynn. British author, biographer, historian, journalist. He was Alistair Horne Research Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford (1987–88) and was visiting professor in the Department of Literature at the University of Strathclyde (1996–2001) and professorial fellow at Goldsmiths College London (2000–2002) before becoming a full-time writer. He points out that Rashid Al-din is often preferred. Notice that the works are all comparative to the dating of Paul’s letters and the Gospels. In fact the preferred source is the one completed 80 years after Genghis Khan’s death (he died 18 August 1227). So there’s no issue if the author of a source never met the person about whom they are writing. They also don’t dismiss the Secret History of the Mongols just because they don’t know who wrote it. The sources aren’t dismissed because of the biases of the authors either. And of course notice Ratchnevsky’s assessment of the source’s contradictions and biases. None of these are reasons to now assert that they are fabrications. ” Caesar in particular wrote to celebrate his deeds and win support for his continuing career. Neither he nor the other [historians/sources] were dispassionate observers keen only to report unvarnished fact.” “[A] good deal of our evidence for Caesar was not written until the early second century AD, over one hundred and fifty years after the dictator’s murder.” “There are notable gaps in our evidence.” “Each author had his own biases, interests or viewpoint, and made use of sources that were in turn prejudiced and often open propaganda.” “[A]ncient historians often had to make the best of limited and possibly unreliable sources, as well as balancing apparently contradictory accounts.” From Caesar: Life of a Colossus by Adrian Goldsworthy, pages 5 -7. Goldsworthy studied ancient and modern history at St John’s College, Oxford,and completed a D.Phil in ancient military history from Oxford University. Andrew M Riggsby gives an example of a “prima facie contradiction” in Caesar’s own writing and immediately points out that it might be “hyperbole for political or literary reasons.” page 9 of his Caesar in Gaul and Rome: War in Words. He also deals with interpolations in the surviving sources on page 11. Riggsby is a Ph.D., UC Berkeley He is Lucy Shoe Meritt Professor and Graduate Adviser in Classics and Professor of Art History. You should notice that many reasons given for why we the New Testament, and especially the Gospels, cannot be trusted as historical are also found in the sources for other historical events and persons. So it’s special pleading to think that the Gospels and New Testament aren’t reliable history on the basis of these “reasons”. If anything we have 9 authors confirming the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection, but for some reason that doesn’t count because they were collected into what we call the New Testament today.

Gary:  You don’t seem to understand my position, Liam.  I am not a mythicist.  I believe that Jesus was a real historical person; that he had a reputation as a healer and miracle worker; that he was crucified by the Romans; that he was buried in a tomb; that shortly after his death some of his followers believed that he appeared to them in some fashion.  I accept the numerous sources that refer to Jesus as evidence for his existence.  But you seem to confuse evidence for the existence of an historical figure with evidence for the supernatural claims about that historical figure.  If we had multiple texts by known associates of Genghis Khan which state that a crowd of people witnessed Genghis Khan and his horse walk on water, would you accept that claim as an historical fact?  If we had multiple texts written by known associates of Caesar Augustus who state that a crowd of people saw Caesar turn water into wine and then elevate off the floor, would you believe this claim to be an historical fact?  I don’t think you would.  Do you see my point?  Just because eyewitnesses claim something to be true doesn’t mean that we have to accept it as fact.  The more fantastical the claim, the more evidence most educated people will demand.  The problem with the Gospels is that we don’t even know for sure who wrote these four books.  Most scholars, including a large percentage of scholars who believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus (Roman Catholic scholars), doubt the eyewitness or even the associate of eyewitness authorship of these books.  So, yes, the many sources which refer to Jesus are evidence of his existence as a real person.  But that doesn’t mean that we are required to believe every fantastical claim that those sources make about Jesus, especially given the genre of literature in which the Gospels were written:  Greco-Roman biographies.  In this genre of literature, embellishments to the historical facts were an accepted and expected feature.  Did Jesus live?  Yes!  Did he walk on water in front of twelve eyewitnesses?  No way to know for sure!  But alleged eyewitness testimony is not sufficient for me to believe this claim, just as alleged eyewitness testimony would probably not be enough for you to believe that Genghis Khan and his horse walked on water!

Liam:  Surely you can see how silly that line of reasoning is?

Gary: No,  but I can see how silly it is for you to confuse evidence from 9 sources for the historicity of Jesus with evidence from nine sources about his alleged supernatural act of coming back from the dead (resurrection).  The fact is, we only have four sources that provide the details about the alleged resurrection of Jesus and at least half of all scholars believe that three of the four sources, the authors of Matthew, Luke, and John, used the first Gospel, Mark, as a template for their stories.  If that is true, then we have only one independent source for the details of this supernatural claim.  Again, would you believe one source which states that a crowd of people watched Genghis Khan and his horse walk on water??  I doubt it.

Liam:  Hang, the more skeptical you are about the authorship of the NT documents, the more authors you have affirming the events. So no Gary, you haven’t by even a long-shot provided any evidence that that the Gospels are fabrications, unless you will be consistent and declare our primary sources for Julius Caesar and Genghis Khan to be fabrications too. If you’re not going to be consistent, then you’re special pleading.

Gary:  I never claimed that the stories in the Gospels are fabrications, Liam.  I simply stated that the Gospels are not historically reliable sources since we don’t know the identities of the authors; because most scholars doubt they are eyewitness sources; and because two, and maybe even three of the four authors, used the first author’s story as a template for his story.  That is hardly good evidence for the facts about an auto accident let alone good evidence for the facts about an alleged resurrection of a dead corpse.

Liam:  The other fact that gets dismissed by Carrier, Erhman et al is the genre of the Gospels. The fact is they fall in the spectrum of ancient biographies and historical writings, not novels, myths or legends. Give the first 3 or 4 lectures a spin to hear about that: https://www.biblicaltraining.org/new-testament-introduction/ben-witherington They’re all free! I think that you can make a good case for traditional authorship – you wrote a critical response to my article giving just that. I might have to write a follow up which says that the traditions associated with the Gospels are what we can be pretty certain of, which is what Bauckham actually says and affirms when he tells us that the authors are anonymous. I think the main point of traditional identification stands, though.

Gary:  You are a smart guy but you not a scholar, Liam.  Your opinion on the authorship of the Gospels is just as authoritative as my opinion on climate change.  The fact is, most scholars doubt the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels.  Period.  I am not going to debate you on this evidence for the same reason that I would not debate a climate change denier regarding the evidence for climate change.  I accept expert consensus opinion on all issues on which I am not an expert!  That is what most modern, educated people do, Liam.  You need to explain why so many Bible scholars who believe in the supernatural and in the miracles of Jesus (Roman Catholic scholars) doubt the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels. What possible bias could they have??  Isn’t it more likely that it is YOU and conservative Protestant scholars and apologists who have the bias?

Liam:  But as we have seen in the sources for Genghis Khan, anonymity is no reason to distrust an historical source. I looked at other comparisons to ancient historians in this article – you might give it a read: http://www.joydigitalmag.com/have-your-say-post/trustworthy-new-testament-compared-ancient-historians/ So tell me again how I am “dismissing convincing evidence” against my faith? How I am positing a “feeling” as the bedrock for my beliefs?

Gary:  Because you cannot prove that you have more than one independent source for most of the detailed stories about Jesus.  Yes, you have nine sources that refer to Jesus, but you only have one (Mark) or possibly two (Mark and John) sources for the detailed stories about Jesus.  And since John wrote many decades after Mark, it is entirely possible that John had heard the stories told in Mark and was simply repeating them, adding his own embellishments.

Liam:  Mainly I try to do good history.

Gary:   Do you have a PhD in history, Liam?  A master’s degree in history?  A bachelor’s degree in history?  What credentials do you have for us to accept your opinion as an authority on Ancient Middle Eastern history, Liam?  I will bet that you are simply an amateur who is certain that he is right and that the consensus of experts is wrong.  Is that intelligent thinking??

Liam:  If you follow the evidence for Jesus as you would the evidence for other figures of ancient history, I think it’s very clear that He did in fact raise bodily from the dead. Hence my belief. I mean “Genghis Khan conquered more than twice as much as any other man in history” (Jack Weatherford, 2004 pg xviii) and Julius Caesar was a colossal figure in ancient history. Never mind other famous ancient persons such as Hannibal of Carthage who have far less evidence for their deeds or existence, but none of them are doubted as verifiable historical persons who did the works ascribed to them.

Gary:  There are supernatural tales told about many real historical figures.  These supernatural tales do not cancel out the historicity of the person described in those stories, but the fact that the people in the stories really did exist in no way proves that the fantastical tales told about these real people are true!  I don’t understand why you can’t comprehend that, Liam.  Please provide a history book in which even ONE of these supernatural tales are believed by historians to be a real historical event!

The rest of Liam’s comment is simply a copy and paste of previous discussions on this topic between myself, Liam, and other readers of this blog.  You can read Liam’s collection of these statements here.

 

 

End of post.