Archive for the ‘apologetics’ Category

Yesterday—December 18, 2008—the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released a new study confirming what they had reported last year: most Americans, including about half of American evangelical Christians, believe that many religions can lead people to eternal life. Read the rest of this entry »

In response to Tony Burke’s criticism that conservative scholars’ characterization of Gospel of Thomas 114 ignored mainstream scholarship on Thomas, I had quoted from Elaine Pagels, Antti Marjanen, Stephen Patterson, and Marvin Meyer, all of whom generally agreed with the characterization that Burke disputed. In his reply, Burke asserted that “Pagels, Patterson, and Meyer…may not be the best scholars to appeal to in this debate, however, as they write often for popular audiences and their comments on the texts may suffer from the same lack of depth as the apologists I criticize.” I expressed some amazement at this statement and asked which scholars Burke thought should be consulted on the subject. In his most recent reply, Burke chose not to name one, and defended his comment by saying:

My point, however, was not that they were not accomplished scholars, but that the works that Bowman was appealing to (some of them, that is, particularly Pagels’ The Gnostic Gospels) do not present a range of opinions on the topic. And my objection to the apologists’ comments on Gos. Thom. 114 is that they state only that it is misogynist, as if there are no other ways to interpret the saying. So, by “lack of depth” I simply meant that some of these other works (by Pagels, etc.) also only present one interpretation of the saying. Bowman is right, however, to object to my generalization of all four of the scholars as writing for popular audiences; Marjanen’s contribution is certainly not in the same vein.

Although I’m glad Burke acknowledges that his generalization did not apply to Marjanen, it really doesn’t apply to the other scholars either. To be fair to Pagels (imagine that, coming from this conservative!), when she wrote The Gnostic Gospels very little had yet been written about the saying. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m continuing my observations about ETS and SBL, though not in chronological order.

Yesterday, November 24, SBL had a special screening of The Bible’s Buried Secrets, the NOVA documentary first aired on PBS on Tuesday, November 18. After the screening of the two-hour documentary and a short break, the panel members took turns offering five-minute comments about various aspects of the film and then all took questions from the audience.

Introducing the film was Joan Branham, the wife of the film’s producer, Gary Glassman, who is the head of Providence Pictures. Branham is an art historian at Providence College. Both, of course, are based in Providence, Rhode Island, where ironically ETS (but not SBL) happened to meet last week. Branham made sure to include in her introduction a disparaging remark about the “right-wing fundamentalists” (as opposed to the left-wing fundies, I suppose) who criticized PBS for funding the documentary before they (the crazed critics) had seen it. This got some laughs from the audience, but the fact is that Providence Pictures had shown a trailer to select media and released information as to the conclusions defended in the film. Read the rest of this entry »

Once a year, the Evangelical Theological Society and the Society of Biblical Literature hold their annual conventions back to back, usually in the same city. This year ETS met in Providence, Rhode Island, November 19-21, and SBL is meeting in Boston, November 21-24. The Evangelical Philosophical Society, in addition to having sessions at ETS and SBL, also co-sponsors an annual apologetics conference to coincide with ETS; this year it is meeting in Smithfield, Rhode Island, November 20-22.

Attending as much of these meetings as possible has been on the must-do list for me for a few years now. Read the rest of this entry »

Tony Burke has posted on his blog a response to my recent post on women in Gospel of Thomas 114. Burke begins his response as follows:

Just to recap the discussion, I stated previously that assessments of the logion as “misogynist” were anachronistic and showed a lack of awareness of scholarship on the text. In response, Bowman excerpted a number of non-conservative scholars (including Pagels, Patterson, and Meyer) who agree that the saying is indeed misogynist. These may not be the best scholars to appeal to in this debate, however, as they write often for popular audiences and their comments on the texts may suffer from the same lack of depth as the apologists I criticize.

I expect to be at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in a couple of weeks, and I would love to get Burke in a room together with Pagels, Patterson, and Meyer to hear him defend this statement. Read the rest of this entry »

Finding someone’s argument too tough to handle? Over your head in a matter of biblical exegesis, scientific evidence, or logical validity? Don’t despair. Now you can always respond to those smart-alecks and put them in their place. These are field-tested methods for diverting attention from the lack of substance in your argument. Never be stuck again for a snappy comeback!

1. The Amateur-Status Violation: If your opponent is not a professional scholar in the relevant field, dismiss everything he says on the subject as the opinion of an amateur. (Your opinion as an amateur, of course, is exempt from this criticism.) On the other hand, if he is a professional scholar in the field, dismiss what he says on the grounds that he is in the field for the money, or that he is the product of a corrupt academic establishment, or both. Note that this strategy is viable in all situations. Read the rest of this entry »

The October 2008 issue of Sunstone—a liberal Mormon magazine—includes a lengthy article by John-Charles Duffy entitled “Mapping Book of Mormon Historicity Debates—Part I: A Guide for the Overwhelmed” (36-62). The article is available online as well as in the print magazine; the online version has the advantage of easy access to links to numerous online resources. Duffy, a doctoral student in religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has written a must-read article on the state of Book of Mormon studies. Read the rest of this entry »

According to Tony Burke, conservative scholars writing about the “Christian Apocrypha” (CA) unfairly focus on their allegedly “absurd” and “bizarre” elements and in doing so misrepresent them:

Of course, only those sections of the CA texts that are particularly odd are provided and commented upon. The favorite targets appear to be the resurrection account from the Gospel of Peter, the “absurd tales” of the various infancy gospels, and certain logia from the Gospel of Thomas (Witherington, for example, considers 31 “pantheistic,” 114 “misogynist,” and 18 “is just being obscure for obscurity’s sake!”). Such focus on the “bizarre” elements of the texts misrepresents their contents…. Large parts of the CA are quite “orthodox” but these sections are not discussed…. The refutation by exposure is assisted, as with the ancient heresiologists, by explicit ridicule of the texts’ contents.

Let us stipulate that the conservative scholars whose works Burke is criticizing do have a specific agenda or polemical purpose that involves, at least in part, discrediting the noncanonical gospels in some way. Read the rest of this entry »

I mentioned in my previous post Tony Burke’s reference to “anti-Semitism” in the Gospel of John as one of the “objectionable” elements in the canonical Gospels. (In context, he was arguing that we should not characterize the Christian Apocrypha on the basis of such objectionable elements any more than we should characterize the canonical writings on such a selective basis.) A thorough treatment of this question in a blog entry is out of the question, so I will offer some brief comments and then recommend some further reading on the subject. Read the rest of this entry »

This is the second installment of my response to Tony Burke’s article, Heresy Hunting in the New Millennium.”[1] Regarding the citation by conservative scholars of “bizarre” elements of the apocryphal writings, Burke offers the following objection:

“Such focus on the ‘bizarre’ elements of the texts misrepresents their contents. There is plenty of material in the canonical texts that is bizarre or objectionable but it would be unfair to characterize Acts simply on the basis of the cursing stories, or Luke on Jesus’ disappearing act (4:30) or the sweating of blood (22:43-44), or John on its anti-Semitism.” Read the rest of this entry »