Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Blood on the Moon

For this round I just want to provide a link on a subject I've had a couple of requests about -- is there some sort of "end times" significance to the number of lunar eclipses ("blood moons") ahead? The answer is no. Please see this article from Answers in Genesis for an examination.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Zeitgeist Lunacy on Mithra, Part 3

It’s time to close out our commentary on the Zeitgeist Companion and Mithra.

Epithets and Titles. ZC pulls up a number of alleged parallel titles between Mithra and Jesus, but we can dispense with some of them as unsupported from the start, as they all come from sources that are not credible Mithraic scholars (Berry, Pabarz). We can also dispense with many as irrelevant, such as Mithra being the lord of contracts – Jesus never had such a title. The remainder, as I note in STCM, are commonplaces that would be claimed by any deity as deserving titles of honor (such as “lord of heaven and earth”). Apparently ZC cannot conceive of the idea that no deity (real or false) would refuse to claim such a title simply because some other deity already claimed it.

Sunday worship.
While this one may be a real parallel, there is no evidence of a connection of Mithra to Sunday until after the advent of Christianity. ZC claims it is “possibly” true that such Sunday worship goes back some 3000 years with Mithra, but “possibly” is not evidence or argument. ZC provides no such evidence or arguments; they provide only claims from sources that are badly outdated and erroneous (the Schaff-Herzog encyclopedia, which contains, for example, an incorrect claim that Mithra was part of a trinity) or by non-experts (like Berry). Their one piece of “evidence” comes from a source, Gonda, who says that “..the deity is invoked every Sunday under the name of Mitra in a small pitcher placed on a small earthen platform..” The original sources of this claim, however, indicate that this is a very late festival observance, one described as present-day in a book written in the 1950s.

Thus ends our look at ZC on Mithraism. If this is the best quality that can be had from the Jesus myth/copycat crowd, we’re in for an easy time of it.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Desert Delusions 2: Wile E. Strikes Back

AA is at it again, and the fact that he is falling for the “Turkel trap” (oblivious to the fact that that has been an obsolete reference since July 2007, and making him more than 6 years out of date) tells us well enough how poorly what follows from him turns out to be.

He starts by denying that the material in other chapters of HC was over his head, using the excuse that he was tackling my “main arguments, which I felt were best represented in the chapters [he] responded to.” I am well aware he said this. I also maintain it is nevertheless the case that it is all over his head. 
My “main arguments” are in all of the chapters, not just those he carefully selected in order to do a substandard evaluation that would please the gullible and easily satisfied who have already made up their minds. 

I noted that by his logic, Christianity is actually Judaism, and Judaism deserves blame for the Holocaust. His response is that this “is about as logical as blaming the Model-T Ford for modern day car accidents.” Precisely my point. What I offered is a reduction ad absurdum of his own logic, in which he tries to blame Christianity for the evils of the Holocaust. As first century Judaism has no bearing on the Holocaust, neither does Christianity as founded in the first century have any bearing on Positive Christianity. First century Christianity, as HC showed in great detail, was not the same as the ideology “that was most prevalent and cited by those committing the atrocities” in Nazi Germany. So either way, he again undermines his own contention, though he is too insensate to realize this.

AA dismisses my review of Ehrman’s LC because he “didn’t see anything of value,” but as usual, this is a flaw in his own scholarship (rather, lack thereof), not a reflection of the quality of the review. Like Ehrman, he simply throws up his hands claiming we cannot know what orthodoxy is, and whines that I did not cite a source for the claim that “pre-NT Jewish Wisdom theology” [...] backs up the Niceans.” Like I said, AA…you just need to do your homework, especially on matters I have written on in depth.You’re behind as usual.

I did not at all miss AA’s point regarding alleged “many contradictory passages supposedly spoken by Jesus.” Rather, I pointed out that I have already done the necessary work refuting such contentions. Significantly, AA commits the same slapdash effort in analyzing my material on Lataster, saying “[m] any of Holding’s claims are answered in the book itself, “ but failing to give a single example – no doubt knowing that if he tries to do so, he will again prove himself lacking in the intellectual arguments department.

I asked for an evaluation of how much of the canon must be rejected before AA decides someone is not a Christian. Not surprisingly, I don’t get an actual answer, just a babbling complaint that his point was that “even other sects of Christianity removed most portions of the bible…” Yes, we got that. Now I want to know, again: How much of the Bible must a sect remove before AA decides they are not Christian after all? I’ll ask it again and again until he decides to answer it with something quantitative. If he does not, I will assume he has no answer, and has no answer because he knows that if he does answer, he will have to admit that the Positive Christians must be excluded from Christianity proper.

On works and salvation, AA ignores my link to material on Semitic Totality, which is not surprising, since that too is over his head. He complains that I do not deal with the verses he quoted like 2 Peter 1:5-11 and James 2:26. If he had read and understood the material on Semitic Totality, he would have known how to interpret those verses properly, in terms of those works as the natural product of faith (pistis, or loyalty), and thereby realized that it is foolish to speak of them in terms of saying, “works are just as important as right belief when it comes to salvation.” As Semitic Totality makes clear, works and belief simply were not separable in that fashion. It is like saying an effect is just as important as the cause when it comes to a total experience. At the same time, AA falls for the idea that “salvation” in the Bible means the modern sense of a moment of decision; whereas, as scholars rightly detect, the word has a broader meaning in terms of the entire Christian life of covenant entrance and rewards. Again, though, I expect such complex ideas are simply over AA’s head, as his “scholarship” on this side comes from sources like Josh McDowell and televangelists, not from serious Biblical scholars.

I noted that AA missed what I said about the difference between matters of action and matters of doctrine, and that the Sermon on the Mount has no doctrine, so of course Goebbels could readily accept it as a Positive Christian. AA wisely ignores my point about Gandhi as a believer in the SoM, and claims not to have missed the main point about the SoM  because he responded. He obviously now misses that a perfunctory response, that misses the point, isn’t a response. Clearly AA is either in over his head again, or else pretending to be. In any event he still misses the point: Whether the SoM “does contain many central teachings of Jesus” doesn’t erase the fact that not one of those teachings has anything to do with doctrine. Therefore Goebbels as a Positive Christian could accept it and still be considered part of a pseudo-Christian cult.

My extended point on the burden of proof regarding the beliefs of everyday Germans is ignored. AA does not even try to fulfill his burden and merely once again resorts to the easy and lazy way out of bleating, “No True Scotsman!” Yet in order for him to show this fallacy to be in action in my work, he needs to fulfill the very burden I describe and show that the deviations of the church in Nazi Germany did not break it off from authentic Christianity. In other words, just claiming there is a fallacy at work doesn’t work unless the data is shown to be in accord with that claim. He says  he “see[s] no point in speculation” – which amounts to an admission that he is unable to make as thorough an argument as I did, no doubt because such would require more than the slapdash effort of  a Google search which is what he is accustomed to doing as a form of depth research.

He denies that we ought to be agnostic about the Nazi leaders’ beliefs because the “Nazis left historians more than enough information to assess their religious beliefs.” As a matter of fact, so did the everyday Germans as a whole. That’s my point. And now it is AA’s unfulfilled burden to show that that is not the case.

On race and the Bible, I first referred to prejudice based on race not being found in the Bible and referred to classical scholar Frank Snowden’s book Before Color Prejudice. AA professes to be “dumbfounded” that I thought he was referring simply to race, which is indeed pretty dumb to be found, since that is not what I said in the least. Snowden’s idea is indeed that there was no prejudice based on race. The fact that AA sees a need to now clarify his words and say that he was referring to “prejudice-based racism” shows that he bungled the job beforehand.

In any event, apparently in an effort to displace Snowden, AA claims to find such racism in the Bible, but as usual, he is traipsing through another culture in bigoted ignorance. The refusal of Abraham to allow Isaac to marry a Canaanite, and the refusals associated with Nehemiah, had specifically to do with their observance of religious beliefs contrary to Judaism, not their race or national origin. It might be added that in the social world of the Bible, it was taken for granted that if you were a member of X ethnic group, you were also a devotee of the gods of that group. In the same way, missionaries in Japan have encountered the difficulty of witnessing to Japanese who say that because they are Japanese, they are also Shinto. This has nothing to do with prejudice-based racism.

AA also employs Niditch’s observations concerning David’s killing of two out of every three Moabites, such that he was allegedly “employing genetic selection to weaken Moabite stock.” One fails to see how this qualifies as racism Perhaps AA does not know the difference between racism and eugenics. In any event, AA should have been more careful and not simply trusted Avalos’ quotation of Niditch. Niditch actually says, “Some have explained this passage by suggesting that David kills the tallest and ablest men, allowing the runts to live as if David were employing genetic selection to weaken Moabite stock. In fact, David is pictured to be coldly more arbitrary, claiming for himself the godly power of life and death.” So Niditch actually denies the “eugenics” explanation – and would, of course, since David would have no idea how eugenics worked.

AA also rather naively suggests that I read Isaac’s The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity though we can be quite sure he never read it himself, other than scattered quotes from Google searches. I would recommend that AA take notice of a scholarly review of that work found here, which shows that Isaac isn’t as helpful to his case as he thinks:

The provocative title itself whets the appetite for something iconoclastic, since most of us in Classics have been raised in the belief that racism, as we usually conceive it, was absent from the Greco-Roman world. So it is almost disappointing to see, even before one has finished the text of the front-cover dust-jacket, that the eye-catching word "racism" has been softened to "proto-racism," in essence, racism without its modern pseudo-scientific component, and the identification of elements of proto-racism becomes the principal goal of the work from that point forward. Even so, the author's vast documentation of the less edifying aspects of Greek and Roman attitudes and behavior toward other peoples near and far has a powerful and sobering cumulative effect…
If one is looking for "racism" or "proto-racism" in antiquity, one has to define the terms with some care. Isaac has an extended statement on "racism": "An attitude towards individuals and groups of peoples which posits a direct and linear connection between physical and mental qualities. It therefore attributes to those individuals and groups of peoples collective traits, physical, mental, and moral, which are constant and unalterable by human will, because they are caused by hereditary factors or external influences, such as climate or geography. The essence of racism is that it regards individuals as superior or inferior because they are believed to share imagined physical, mental, and moral attributes with the group to which they are deemed to belong, and it is assumed that they cannot change these traits individually" (23). The fall-back expression "proto-racism" is subsequently defined more simply: "The term proto-racism, then, may be used when Greek and Latin sources attribute to groups of people common characteristics considered to be unalterable because they are determined by external factors or heredity" (38).

In both these definitions, one misses what might have been thought an essential element in "racism," namely, the irrational and usually violent hostility directed at individuals or groups, who typically become victims of the dominant group in ways that go well beyond the realm of "attitude." The only hint of this aspect of "racism" comes in the phrase "regards individuals as superior or inferior," a curiously anodyne expression which hardly seems adequate to sum up what racists have said and done in the last century, to mention no others. 
This soft-focus approach has consequences that emerge in the quoted definition of "proto-racism," where even the element of superiority vs. inferiority has been removed, leaving the word's meaning shorn of the one powerful quality that would justify the linkage (and baggage) which the word "racism" itself automatically carries. Thus defined, "proto-racism" might without contradiction encompass positive feelings about a group to which common (admirable) characteristics might be attributed and considered unalterable by reason of hereditary or other determinism. That would surely be an unexpected and undesirable result.

So, nice try, AA, but next time, you’d better do a little more research. What you quote from Hippocrates isn’t “racism.” It’s stereotyping, which was done by ancient peoples based on things like national origin and religion – and it was also done to one’s own group. (“All Cretans are liars.” – a Cretan) None of this was based on race, which means it isn’t racism – which is precisely why Isaac was forced to qualify. Maybe you’d better do some legwork in the social sciences before spouting off again.

I asked about whether AA thought the readings of von Liebenfels were valid exegeses of the Biblical text. He deftly ignores the question as though it were merely a vase of “disparaging” von Liebenfels. It is no answer to say he “had a lot of knowledge about the bible…” I asked, and I’ll ask again: Are his interpretations of those Bible passages valid, or not? Quoting back a passage from the Quran (!) doesn’t answer this question. Nor does it do to say there are “parallels” (a rather vague retort; there are also “parallels” between a Yugo and a Ferrari, but I am sure AA would not want to cruise NASCAR in the former on that basis). I am asking if AA is actually so ignorant as to think that von Liebenfels’ exegesis of the texts is accurate. If it is, then I expect AA to demonstrate this by showing that reputable Biblical scholarship provides the same or similar interpretations; e.g., that they agree that describing Esau as “hairy” is somehow making him animalistic. Likewise, just because Hitler alluded to Lev. 17:11-14 does not mean he came up with a correct contextual interpretation. Surely AA can show us that some scholarly source agrees with Hitler’s interpretation. Well, no, actually, he can’t; he is so insensate to his burden f proof that he thinks that the mere recitation of such an interpretation makes it valid.

AA denies his epic failure regarding the rivalry of geography, and “Judeans” vs Galileeans and Samaritans, not Romans and Greeks. He quotes a passage from HC supposedly to opposite effect, but notably, it says the very thing I said – that the issue is geography, and  versus Galilee and Samaria, not Greece and Rome:

”The Jews”. Another broad case of perceived anti-Semitism is found particularly in the Gospel of John and his designation of opponents of Jesus as “the Jews” (John 5:16, 7:1, 10:31). Critics assume that it is justified to append these references with a contemptuous sneer, as might have been done by an agent of the Gestapo. Literally, however, the word used by John, and throughout the New Testament, is not “Jews” but rather, Judeans – meaning, someone who is native to the land of Judaea, the Roman province at the time of Jesus. In John especially, this word should be understood in contrast to references to persons from Galilee and Samaria (cf. 4:39, 4:45), who, from a religious perspective, also considered themselves to be religiously Jewish. When John refers to Jesus confronting “the Judeeans,” this reflects a rivalry of geography, not religion.

This quite obviously does not suit AA’s purposes, so he evades the issue by claiming it is my burden (!) to show that religious dislike was not intended! This first of all evades his error of confusing Greece and Rome with Galilee and Samaria, in my arguments. Second, it can obviously not be a religious issue because they were no religions called “Galileeanism” or “Samaritanism.” There were, however, provinces named Galilee and Samaria. All of those there were considered Jews. So perhaps AA can explain how Jews were “anti-Semitic.” AA is clearly the one lacking attention – to say nothing of serious scholarship.

Regarding the synagogue of Satan reference, AA claims that what I said “bares no relationship” to what is in HC. Um, yes, it does. I said in HC that it referred to a local group. In the reply to AA I said that it was an “issue that ONLY the people of Smyrna and Philadelphia are aware of.” That means “local”.  I also didn’t say AA distorted my argument, I indicated that he failed to refute it. Beyond that, he can’t seem to grasp (again) that internecene language between two people of the same race or ethnic group cannot be “anti-“ that group. Just as African-Americans can use the “n word” amongst themselves, and not have it be taken as racist, so likewise Jews among themselves can be insulting and not be anti-Semitic. John was a Jew. Is this really so hard for AA to grasp? (He also rather embarrassingly admits that the great John scholar Raymond Brown agrees that the references were local, but professes not to understand how this makes it less “anti-Jewish.” Clue: How is an African American using the “n word” less racist than a Caucasian using it?)

AA denies the inadequacy of his treatment of 1 Thes. 2:14-16, and continues to fail to address critical details, notably, that Paul himself was Jewish, and that the language he uses mirrors Old Testament condemnation language. So is the OT anti-Semitic? He also cannot seem to engage my point re original sin, as it is over his head; as usual, he thinks it sufficient to throw his hands in the air and whine that we can’t know who is correct. Well, yes….I imagine it is beyond him to decide who is correct on any difference of view, even what we ought to have for lunch. I gave my arguments in the article linked. His only reply is that he thinks it makes no sense. That’s a fine statement of his intellectual inadequacies, but it isn’t an answer. It’s also not much of a summary of my article to boil it down to, “Holding objects to the doctrine of original sin because it is ‘unfair’.”  Somehow that’s all AA’s limited mental horsepower can distill from critical scholarship.

Re Matt, 27:23, AA claims I excluded part of his response, but the part of his response excluded was more than covered by what I said. AA was denying that both uses of the “blood” remark could mean innocence because they were different situations. I classified that retort as a non sequitur. His response is to merely re-affirm that the “blood” statement in Matthew in an admission of guilt – in other words, the very claim my original argument refutes. It might be nice if AA actually tried to advance the argument a step rather than going backwards five.

It is claimed I ignored other anti-Semitic passages, but really, what needs to be ignored is AA’s highly imaginative attempts to find anti-Semitism where none exists. Acts 3:12-19 is a forensic description of what happened in the Gospels. What is “anti-Semitic” about that? So likewise the other passages in Acts --- and again, all of these things are said by Jews, to Jews. So how can there be any anti-Semitism? N word analogy, anyone?

For the final round, I demanded that AA provide some objective criteria to justify the inclusion of Positive Christians under Christianity. Needless to say, no such answer comes forward. I gave my arguments in the text of HC. AA provided nothing of substance in negation, as we have seen. He will never lay out objective criteria, such as how much of the canon one must reject for AA to disqualify them as a Christian, because if he does so, he will be forced to provide an evaluation that can be critiqued and analyzed – and that’s the last thing he wants.

As noted, AA thinks that Josh McDowell (!!) is the best to be found on the issue of the canon. You would never know that many serious scholars like Metzger, MacDonald, and others have treated these issues in much greater depth. That’s because AA is a hack, content to “research” using whatever he finds by way of a Google search, plus the limited number of books in his personal library, all by persons who say what he wants to hear. 

I’ll ask again: How much of the canon must a person reject before AA no longer considers them a Christian?

Watch him dance.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Desert Delusions

A particularly ignorant character styled “Arizona Atheist” (AA) has issued a critique of Hitler’s Christianity (HC), particularly chapters 1, 11, and 12. Since the material in HC is overwhelmingly above his head, this is not surprising. It is also no surprise that he decides to use a shortcut of deeming the whole of the work “one large fallacy” of “No True Scotsman” – though I addressed this very foolish charge in Chapter 12. He does deign to touch on that chapter, which we will get to.

His first issue is in how I define “cult” and he remarks that:

Given this definition I think it is safe to say that any and all religions would fall under this category since every single religion is a branch of an earlier one. Given the work of Bart Ehrman and the vast numbers of “Christianities” that flourished within the first hundred years of Christianity, I could say the say the same thing about the so-called “orthodox” position.

Well, guess what…he’s right. That’s the point. As one of his oblivious commenters notes, Christianity started as a cult of Judaism, which is why it was rejected, ultimately, as not being Judaism, by Jews. The Jews did consider Christianity false, and in their view, it would have fit our definition of cult. So by his own retort, Jews of the era, as well as eventually the Romans, were committing a “No True Scotsman” fallacy by designating Christianity to not be Judaism. The end result as well is that AA has just given us the result that Christianity is indeed still Judaism, and so Judaism is responsible for the horrors of the Holocaust. Isn’t poorly applied logic wonderful? (By the way, I thrashed Ehrman on this issue years ago.)

AA also tries to confuse the issue by making very silly claims about how hard it allegedly is to decide what Jesus actually taught, but these are all issues I cover in other places, like Trusting the New Testament and varied articles I have written over the years, so to put the matter mildly, he is wasting the time of all but the most misinformed reader. The bottom line: No, it is not “impossible” or even hard to “pin down an accurate accounting of Jesus’ teachings” – not unless one is remarkably ignorant of available scholarship on the matter, and arbitrarily raises the bar of evidence beyond what is acceptable, such that we can’t be sure of anything written in any history whatsoever. As it is, AA seems to think a reference to Raphael “The Scholarly Disaster” Lataster is sufficient support for such a wide-ranging blanket assertion; whereas I have consulted a wide variety of scholars and sources over the years in support of the opposite view, having dealt with sources ranging from the Jesus Seminar on one end of the ideological spectrum to a host of Third Quest scholars on the other. These are works that AA has no greater mental acumen than to sit on them at the dinner table.

He also notes:

Yes, removing the entire Old Testament is certainly unusual for a sect of Christianity, but its not as if there isn’t a precedent for this. Prior to the rise of Nazism there existed a form of Protestantism that was very anti-Semitic and rejected the Old Testament. 

Yes, precisely. I noted this very point in the book. It was the movement that was the precursor of Positive Christianity. It, too, by that very account, failed to qualify as a Christian movement. Other than this, AA flummoxes about with vague blather about disagreements over the canon, but this too is material I have covered before in other places (like TNT), and beyond this, none of the examples given are as radical as the case of Positive Christianity, which rejected as much as 80-90% of the total Bible. So we are left to ask: How much of the Bible must a group reject in order for AA to admit they are not Christian? Judaism only rejects about 40% of the total number of books in the Bible,  and 15-20% of the Bible by total content. That’s less than the Positive Christians. So are Jews actually Christians? But how can that be since by AA”s logic, Christians are still actually Jews? This is the sort of loop you get stuck in when you don’t use objective criteria because you are too intent on proving a predetermined point.

On the matter of works and salvation, AA claims I am “butting heads with many Christians with his interpretations of scripture here” but he doesn’t say which ones or why their arguments are better. But these are again matters I have addressed in detail elsewhere (such as in my work on Semitic Totality) so the real problem as usual is AA’s lack of awareness, not the quality of my argument.

A rather na├»ve comment follows in which AA supposes that Goebbels’ praise for the Sermon on the Mount somehow means he had “right belief” concerning it. AA is missing what I said about the difference between matters of action and matters of doctrine. The SoM has no doctrine. So of course Goebbels could readily accept it as a Positive Christian. But for all of that, that no more makes him Christian than someone like Gandhi who also admired the SoM.

AA’s babbling rejoinder that we cannot know whether German persons’ theological beliefs were corrupted to the point that they were no longer Christians ignores the fact that I made this point quite clear in my text. As I said, it is not possible to compose spiritual profiles for millions of individual Germans at this date. So in the end, both sides of this debate cannot fulfill any burden of absolute proof. The most we can do is as I did, which is explain factors that might have affected individual Germans. AA’s job is now to explain either 1) why those factors are of no relevance in determining the potential spiritual state of individual Germans; or 2) come up with factors of his own that negate the factors I presented. As such is clearly over his head to do, his simple-minded resort is to simply bleat, “No True Scotsman” fallacy again. But again, this is merely a cheap shortcut. We would like to know just how far, then, in AA’s view, someone would have to go in order to NOT be a Christian. I dealt in specifics. AA does no more than mindlessly bleat, “How do we know? How do we know?” Well, if it’s so hard to know, then our agnosticism should also extend to Hitler and all the Nazi leaders, shouldn’t it?

We now turn to my chapter on the alleged anti-Semitism of the NT. AA does correctly note that one of my points is that “ Hitler’s anti-Semitic views couldn’t have come from the bible since the bible doesn’t contain the ‘racial’ version of anti-Semitism.” He alleges “two problems” which only demonstrate further his inability to think clearly.

The “racial version” of anti-Semitism is not a “later development.” The concept of race is one that not new. In fact, the concept of race can be found in the bible.

This is a remarkably asinine comment. Of course the concept of “race” is in the Bible. That is not the point. The point is that prejudice based on race is not found in the Bible. Nor is it even found in the ancient world at all, as demonstrated ably by classical scholar Frank Snowden is his book Before Color Prejudice. AA rather idiotically supposes that because the modern Nazi ideologue “Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels wrote an entire book using the bible to justify his racism,” that this somehow makes the case that the Bible does support racism. Really? Somehow it never occurs to AA that von Liebenfels had no idea what he was talking about. He should have gotten a clue by his own recognition that von Liebenfels argued that “intercourse between the first humans and animals were responsible for the Fall.” Really? Somehow I missed that in Genesis, but I suppose AA thinks that this is a respectable exegesis since he uses it as his prime example of von Liebenfels’ expertise. 

I suppose he also thinks it a good argument by von Liebenfels that he “noted that people who were hated by the Hebrews were described in animalistic terms in the Bible. For example, Esau is described as being hairy in Genesis 27:11…” Wow. I’m impressed by von Liebenfels’ scholarsahip, aren’t you? I suppose the great scholars of our day need to just shut up. The bottom line is that one can only read “racism” into the Bible by way of ridiculous readings like the ones von Liebenfels performed. For AA to think that these constitute reasonable examples in favor of his case only demonstrates either his desperation or his monumental ignorance. Or perhaps both.

The same may likewise be said regarding Hitler’s possible manipulation of Lev. 17:11-14. I challenge AA to find a single Old Testament scholar who thinks that what he offers would be a valid exegesis of that passage. Race is not mentioned at all in it. So likewise Hans Schemm’s beliefs can only be created out of whole cloth in terms of being justified by the Bible. Does AA think there are no contextual or exegetical controls to speak of? Does he really think the author of e.g., Genesis and Leviticus would have accepted the attributed beliefs of Schemm, Hitler, and von Liebenfels as faithful renderings of their texts? Is he really that ignorant?

AA fails to grasp my point when I refer to John’s use of “Jews” in terms of a “rivalry of geography.” First of all, I related this in terms of “Judeans” vs Galileeans and Samaritans, not Romans and Greeks, as AA poses the question. Second, I gave the necessary evidence in the references appended in my note; specifically, in Defending the Resurrection, where also I answered the responses on Carrier on this matter. AA needs to keep up with the times if he wants to be a credible public commentator.

In terms of the other passages cited, AA does not even try to respond, merely either describing my views (rather inadequately at that) or denying my argument without providing any contrary arguments or evidence. The closest he comes is this comment on Revelation’s “synagogue of Satan” reference:

Clearly, when taken in context, it appears that the author is referring to Jews as a whole, since it was believed that their synagogue was blasphemous. What? Did he only intend for the local synagogue to be the work of the devil? 

Um, yes. AA’s analogy to the Mormon church and its “teachings” doesn’t work, because what John condemns here isn’t the “teachings” of the group in question. What he condemns if their false self-identification as Jews (“the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan”).  Moreover, it is clear that this is an issue that ONLY the people of Smyrna and Philadelphia are aware of. There were also Jews in the other cities John addressed, so there is zero warrant to expand this reading to “Jews as whole.”

AA expresses confusion over my reading of Acts 2:36 because he thinks it contradicts what he thinks is a “central doctrine of Christianity is that Adam’s sin lives on through generation after generation, and this is why Jesus’ sacrifice was needed to ‘save’ humanity.” Well, isn’t that too bad that he’s so ill-informed. It’s not a central doctrine. In fact I am in line with one of the largest Christian group on this subject, the Orthodox Church. If AA wants to know more he’ll just have to read (and refute) my material on original sin. AA will just have to learn that what he was fed during his narrow fundamentalist upbringing wasn’t the universal reality.

In terms of Matt. 27:25, AA disclaims my connection to the Talmud since they “do not depict the same situation.” He fails to note that this connection was made by a reputable scholar, Sloyan. Not that it matters. The “situation” is utterly irrelevant. The point is that the phrase is used to indicate innocence. We may use the phrase, “I plead guilty” in a courtroom, or we may use it when someone accuses us of taking the last cantaloupe at the market. In both cases we mean we did indeed perform the accused wrong. By AA’s logic, that can’t be right because we’re in different situations.

Now to the final chapter, which is where I dealt with the premise behind the No True Scotsman fallacy (even though I did not use the term). AA at first babblingly repeats his prior foolish arguments about the alleged difficulty of finding objective criteria, a problem that rests in his ignorance, not my arguments. Likewise his appeals to diversity within Christianity are fruitless; it is his job to show that the diverse views have respectable backing. As it is, his foolishness in accepting the exegetical blatherskeit of von Leibenfels, without asking any questions about whether it deserves any credence, speaks more to AA’s desire to blow smoke than to his ability to show that there is no way to find objective criteria.

The one thing he gets right here is that my criteria are “so narrow that even modern day Christians disagree with several of his beliefs (such as the role of belief vs. works).” That is precisely the point. Far too many groups, like Mormons and JWs, claim the title “Christian” that do not deserve it. And this has less to do with objective criteria and more to do with rejecting such criteria so that people’s feelings won’t be hurt. If AA thinks it bothers me to exclude such people, he’s wrong. And if he thinks I’m raising the bar too high, he needs to prove it – not dash off into the refuge of ignorance and uncertainty. I have composed hundreds of texts defining my objective criteria. If he wants to play this game, he will need to addresses and refute all of them. I have done more than enough to respond to critics; so likewise have many scholars, countercult apologists, and many others. AA simply needs to go out and get some exercise – more than just picking up Ehrman’s silly little treatise (which, as noted, I have also addressed) and thinking that that does the whole job.

As it is, that he thinks Josh McDowell (!) is the apex of what is offered from this side speaks far more to his incompetence than anything else.