Friday, November 29, 2013

Raphael Lataster the Scholarship Disaster, Part 2

It’s time now to rotate back to the work of Raphael “the Disaster” Lataster, since it seems the Zeitgeist Companion had nothing new to say on Horus. I had planned for Part 2 to be about what Lataster said about the Gospels as biographies, but that turned out to be nothing new, and as I kept looking further, kept finding more and more than was not new, and much that was incompletely argued using embarrassingly minimal material. (E.g., it takes a lot of nerve to discuss such things as the criterion of embarrassment in just a few paragraphs.)

This left me in sort of a muddle as what to do next with his book. The further I looked into it, the more apparent it became that Lataster was an even more disastrous thinker than I first realized. When someone is so insensate as to think that use of scholars amount to a fallacious “appeal to authority” – a very common misapprehension of that fallacy by fundamentalist atheists – and so frequently raises the specter of bias as a reason to dismiss evidence, it becomes very hard to take them seriously.

Oh, well. Since I mentioned the criterion of embarrassment, let’s go ahead and discuss that. 

Generally, I think the criterion of embarrassment is sound, although it requires certain caveats. Many scholars are not aware of the social science background of the New Testament, which means that some things they think of as “embarrassing” in modern terms may not be embarrassing in the ancient world. The opposite would also be true. I will not here discuss specific examples, since that it to be the subject of future research on my part. For now let me simply analyze what Lataster has to say on the subject.

First, Latatser supposes the worth of this criterion is lessened because it may be that “the author purposely provides an embarrassing example to make a point (perhaps on humility, or separation from the ego), or to provide a feeling of authenticity and credibility, avoiding suspicion over constant positive assertions.” Unfortunately, Lataster’s single example of this in application merely shows how lacking his scholarship is. In a note he suggests, regarding the point that it would have been embarrassing for women to find Jesus’ tomb empty, that:

This overlooks the possibility that the Gospel writer intentionally places such importance on women, to demonstrate just how different this new religion is, including its treatment of women, and other ‘downtrodden’ groups. Actually, isn’t that kind of the point of Christianity? The same Bible has Jesus basically saying that the ‘low shall be made high’ and the ‘high shall be made low’. 

The problem with this analysis is that demonstrating “just how different” Christianity was, would have been switching one highly embarrassing aspect of Christianity for another. The social world of the New Testament was also suspicious of anything new or deviant. Lataster has unwittingly given himself a different problem without solving his first problem.

Lataster’s second objection is vague to the point of criminality: He says that “given the diversity of Jewish religions, and the diversity even of early Christianity, it cannot be assumed (with the canonical Gospels at least, with their anonymous authors) that the author would find the event or teaching in question to be embarrassing.” Well, yes, it can. We know the workings of an agonistic society. We also know a great deal about the values of that society. It just isn’t that hard to know that certain things would be considered an embarrassment. Such diversity as existed simply didn’t affect it that much. 

Lataster shows once again his ability to anachronize by making a comparison
to the embarrassing claims of L. Ron Hubbard, but there is a huge, huge difference between the reaction to a deviant in a collectivist, agonistic society, and an individualist society like the one that produced Hubbard. (I am also therefore saying that yes, Stanley Porter – whom Lataster quotes to the effect that it is “difficult” to know what the church thought on these matters – is wrong; while well versed in rhetoric and other matters, Porter is less engaged on matters of social science.)

Will we rotate back to the disaster that is Lataster again? I expect we will. Once I’m feeling masochistic enough again.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thesis on the Resurrection of Jesus

For today, I'll feature another paper by Ben Stevens, a new talent, on the Resurrection of Jesus. See it here in Word format.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Interview on Hitler's Christianity

I'll use today's post to let readers know that I'll be on the Deeper Waters podcast, hosted by my ministry partner Nick Peters, to discuss my e-book Hitler's Christianity. Here's a link to Nick's posting announcement with the details.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Economic Trinity

From the November 2010 E-Block.

In the final 2009 issue of the Christian Research Journal, a re-evaluation was offered of the teachings of the “Local Church” (LC) in which it was determined that CRI had been in error in previously denouncing this group as a cult. One particular issue on which corrections were offered was an evaluation of the LC’s doctrine of the Trinity. The LC had been accused of the heresy of modalism in the past, but CRI determined that rather than being expressions of modalism, various statements by the LC were rather expressions of a completely orthodox notion termed the “economic Trinity” – having to do with the unity of the members of the Trinity in function, as opposed to identity.

One example of these statements is:

The Son is the Father, and the Son is also the Spirit…

The reader will find more such statements in the story, in the issue found here.

It will not be the purpose of this article to address CRI’s evaluation of the LC, which I see no reason to dispute – so that neither CRI nor LC will be referenced again in this article. Rather, we will ask the question, not of whether this concept of an “economic Trinity” is orthodox (for it certainly is), but whether it offers the best explanation for certain NT passages from which the concept is derived. Based on my prior studies in pre-Christian Jewish Wisdom theology, and the anthropology of the social world of the NT, I do not perceive the “economic Trinity” to be a particularly useful way to explain certain NT passages under consideration. (Of course, some of the same passages have also been used by modalists, so our evaluation serves to correct that idea as well.)
Let us now look at some of those passages and how they might otherwise be interpreted.

Isaiah 9:6

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

It isn’t hard to see what the argument here would be: Since this is seen as a prophecy of Jesus, it is assumed that there is some equation of identity with the “everlasting Father.”

But there are several problems with this reading, whether it is used in an orthodox sense for an “economic Trinity” or in the heretical modalist sense. The main problem is that “father” was not a title for Yahweh in Isaiah’s time. Since there is no biological component involved, readers of Isaiah’s day would have understood this terminology in terms of group identity, as in this verse: Gen. 4:21 And his brother's name [was] Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.

We are not justified in reading NT-era usage of the word “father” into Isaiah’s text. The notion of group identity is, however, quite pertinent, in terms of Jesus Christ as the “father” of the Body of Christ and would suit the passage much better.

John 14:8-9

Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou [then], Shew us the Father?

Under the rubric of Wisdom theology, this passage is provided a much less contrived explanation than the concept of the economic Trinity. Wisdom (Jesus) is referred to in Hebrews 1:3 as the brightness of the Father’s glory – analogically, the “light” to the Father’s “bulb”. This context fully establishes how, in Jesus, the Father is “seen”, without resorting to the expedient of saying (in whatever sense) that Father and Son are identical.

2 Corinthians 3:17

Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord [is], there [is] liberty.

Simply put, it is said that the “Spirit” here must be the Holy Spirit; this in spite of the fact that the word “Holy” is not used. Similar logic is used of 1 Cor. 15:45.

However, as I have said in Defending the Resurrection regarding that latter verse:

Put another way, "spirit" should be read here in terms of a "spirit of fear" or a "spirit of peace" -- referring to a functional influence, not a ghost. Jesus’ description as a life-giving spirit “relates directly to the raising of the bodies of deceased Christians.” One can see in this a contrast between Adam, who needed God’s breath (pneuma) to be made alive, and Jesus the last Adam, who is also to give life as an influence (pneuma).

2 Cor. 3:17 should be read in the same way. There is no need to resort to the “economic Trinity” to explain it.

And that is all I can find for now. I must conclude that there is thus far no reason to resort to the “economic Trinity” as an explanation for these passages. The view may be orthodox, but it is not in any way warranted by exegesis.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Critical Review: Peter Boghossian's "A Manual for Creating Atheists," Part 1

There’s a new craze in fundy atheist town, a book titled A Manual for Creating Atheists (hererafter MCA) by Peter Boghossian. The main theme of it is no big deal: Boghossian just suggests that maybe atheists can win more converts by being polite rather than obnoxious, and by being Socratic rather than dictatorial. I feel sorry for any atheist who needed to spend $14.95 to get that as news, though it is contrary to the opinions of other atheists like Sam “ridicule is a potent weapon” Harris.

More to the point, though: I really don’t care if atheists are naughty or nice, or whether they wear elevator shoes or clown noses. Either way, MCA boils down to the usual tragic farce when it comes to presented arguments, and over several entries we’ll see some examples. As is often the case with such books, not all is within our purview, and we will be addressing only those points that are. (I’ll be rotating between material on Boghossian, the Zeitgeist Companion, Raphael Lataster, and the  E-Block archives for the next few weeks – which one I do will depend on how masochistic I’m feeling, and how much time I have.)

The arguments begin in Chapter 2 on “Faith.” Sit down for the big shocker: MCA misdefines “faith” because Boghossian is too ignorant to consult real scholarship and find out what pistis meant in a Greco-Roman patronage context. He complains about “faith” being a “slippery pig” when it comes to being defined, and to be fair, that’s because many Christians are as out of touch with the proper contexts as he is. But as usual, critics don’t make up for that lack by making the same mistake and worse.

MCA prefers to define faith as “belief without evidence” and “pretending to know things you don’t know.” Neither of those, of course, has any bearing on pistis, as we explain the link below. But Boghossian wouldn’t know this; his “Dig Deeper” bibliography at the end includes Sam Harris, John Loftus, Victor Stenger, Thuderf00t, and other fundy atheist luminaries, but not one Biblical scholar, much less anyone who has any idea how to contextualize pistis to a patronage context.

The rather delicious irony in this is that in one of his notes for the chapter, #2, Boghossian analyzes the Greek word elenchus (evidence), which is used in Hebrews 11:1 (“faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”),  and realizes that it was used in a court of law to refer to things like “convincing proofs.”  But rather than take this as a clue that he doesn’t have any idea what pistis actually meant, he takes this as a sign that in the apostolic age, elenchus “expands in an important new context” and was used in a “new way.”  Which leaves us to wonder just how clueless Boghossian will get in the pages to follow. 

Chapter 3 is mostly outside our purview, but it is worth note that Boghossian misuses the Tertullian quote, “I believe because it is absurd.”  See link 2 for the real story on that quote, which Boghossian apparently lifted uncritically from somewhere without checking it out.

One other amusing point is where Boghossian offers sample conversations he calls “interventions” which amount to “stump the chump” routines. They come off as partly believable; though only to the extent that persons named may not have had certain expertise offhand. He notes, for example, a conversation with a professor at an evangelical university, though he does not say who this professor is, nor what he is a professor of. He figures to pin the guy by getting him to acknowledge (rightly – 1 Cor. 15) that the bones of Jesus, if found, would disprove Christianity. He asks the man how he would know any bones found were the bones of Christ, and records that the man replied with a “Long pause” and by “Looking at me as if he didn’t understand” and by “silence.”

As if this proved, what? That no such answer was possible? Just because this particular man may not have had knowledge of Jewish burial procedures? We have the ossuary of Caiaphas the Jewish high priest. If bones are inside, that seems sufficient to say, “Must be Joe’s bones.” This is simply another example of how fundy atheists wield their own ignorance to victimize those who are also ignorant.

In that light as well, it is sadly ironic that one of Boghossian’s lead bits of advice is Chapter 4, where he discusses strategies, is to “avoid facts,” under the premise that Christians don’t believe based on evidence. While that may be true for many, regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof, it speaks much more than he realizes to the inability and unwillingness of Boghossian to come to grips with the facts himself. I won’t say much more about Chapter 4 in terms of the strategies suggested, save that Boghossian makes the standard tired appeal to “confirmation bias” (link below) that has no place in any serious discussion.

Chapter 4 also features more intervention dialogues; we’ll comment on some of that relevant to our concerns, which isn’t much. The second dialogue, for example, has the standard goofy “thought experiment” in which we are asked what we’d do if the voice of God told us to kill all left-handed people. 

Boghossian no doubt wishes to set this up as some sort of exercise in critical thinking in which Christians end up looking both uncritical and unconscionably cruel, but he gives away the store when he doesn’t give any objective method to decide if God is speaking; the only criteria he gives is that the person “feels in their heart” that God has spoken to them, and has other subjective perceptions. So let’s ask Boghossian a better question: What if you had objective and indisputable proof that God was indeed telling you to kill left-handed people? 

Let’s get ridiculous here, since Boghossian is being ridiculous: What if God showed you, or you had indisputable supporting evidence, that the genetic information which makes people left-handed was about to mutate so that all left-handed people became flesh-eating zombies, and would end up devouring the rest of mankind if you didn’t kill them all? That pretty much takes care of Boghossian’s winsome, “does it bother you that you’d do that” routine. All he’s established is that many Christians have an inadequate epistemology when it comes to knowing when God is communicating. Now we can ask Boghossian: Wouldn’t it disturb you at all that you let your sentimentality keep you from saving mankind from a horrible fate? Two can play at that game, of absurdity is the name of it.

The third dialogue in the chapter engages a rather silly matter of whether or not two girls ought to visit a second church. Boghossian tries to query whether the girls know their church has everything they need; but of course, it’s not like Boghossian has any ears on correct doctrine. Indeed, he thinks the reason people go to church is that they “want to be saved.” Heaven forbid Boghossian should have any insight into the origins of churchgoing as an expression of community solidarity and a basis for communal  action.

That’s enough of Boghossian’s foolishness for this round.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Guest Review of Aslan's "Zealot"

I always like to give exposure to up and coming apologists, and this time, we have a review of Aslan's Zealot written by Ben Stevens. It's in Word format, on the Tekton site. 


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Desert Delusion IV: Wile E. Devours TNT

The “real” Wile E. Coyote was well known as a hapless failure who persisted in defeat even after his own incompetence was demonstrated repeatedly. It was not for no reason (aside from his tagged state of residence) that I designated “Arizona Atheist” (AA) with this moniker. Like Wile E., he is insensate to his own incapacities, and continues to blow himself up with TNT time and time again.

From here on, however, a change is made. Answering AA’s foolish arguments is of no moment, but it takes time for me to craft surrounding narrative, and I do not feel he is worth the time of a carefully crafted narrative retort. Thus from here on, I shall answer any material of his in bullet format.

AA continues to evade what he calls “side issues” which are in fact essentials which define Christianity Whether he likes it or not, such things as the hypostatic relationship of Jesus (Wisdom) and the Father are essential to the identity of Jesus, and thus the Christian faith. That he is too ignorant to know this is not an answer.

AA whines that I provide no “scholarly definition” of Christianity. That’s too bad. It’s not my job to do his homework for him, or make his arguments for him. Furthermore, it is what he calls “side issues” and ignores that I use to create a scholarly definition. So I have provided all he needs, and he has no excuse for staying with defining “Christianity” for his own convenience, which has essentially been, “Anything, as long as it includes Hitler.”

He claims to have found Avalos reliable. He isn’t. I have several articles on Avalos demonstrating his incompetence. I did not “ignore” what AA said about eugenics. Rather, I pointed out that he needs to prove that David had awareness of eugenics, which is an impossible hurdle, since no one until Galton and Mendel even did any work to prove or develop the idea. AA would have us believe that 2000 years ago, David was practicing eugenics, and was aware that killing tall Moabites would prevent more tall Moabites from being born; and then, no one knew anything about eugenics until Galton in the 1860s. Such a ridiculous idea deserves much more support than AA can or will provide.

Let us remember that the essential of eugenics is to affect future offspring. The most that could be realistically said is that David was killing taller warriors because of their potential present threat: Tall warriors had certain advantages in combat of the day (e.g., reach with a spear).  But if David knew eugenics, he would have also killed tall Moabite women, not just the male warriors, and also killed the children of the tall warriors. AA deserves ridicule for such bumbling foolishness.

Adding the foolishness, he now quotes Sevasti Trubeta (despite hinting that such is a fallacious argument from authority) as saying that, “advocates of Jewish eugenics saw the Bible and the Talmud as containing eugenic legislation.” It’s nice that AA knows how to use Google Books so well, but he needs critical thinking to go with it. Who are these “advocates” any why should we think they are right?  Trubeta cites as his source a study by Uzarczyk, which is an essay in a book titled “Blood and Homeland.” The advocates, as it turns out, are 20th century people. So AA is simply citing here people who make the same foolish mistake he does.

The harsh reality is, there is no “eugenics” in the Bible or the Talmud, because the science was unknown until the middle of the 19th century. And even AA’s own source, Trubeta, makes this clear. AA dishonestly quotes as follows:
 Trubeta continues to argue how “historian A.G. Roper […] has shown that infanticide was practiced (mostly for religious reasons) in several historic cultures worldwide.” (Physical Anthropology, Race and Eugenics in Greece (1880s–1970s), by Sevasti Trubeta, Brill, 2013; 207)

But here’s what the full quote is:

In other words, Trubeta essentially agrees with what I have to say, immediately after the quote used by AA. This is also important because Roper was not a scientist – he was a historian – and he also clearly did not have any idea what “eugenics” actually was, or else, how it should have been applied. Infanticide by itself is not “eugenics.” Ancient people had no idea that they were changing the gene pool by abandoning infants. Their only concern was, as with David, the present effect of disposing of a child that they thought would affect their present survival. AA should keep in mind that serious research involves more than just a Google search of “Jewish eugenics” and grabbing the first thing that seems to support what you want to be true.

The fact that Gandhi did not believe in an interventionist god is beside the  point. For one thing, Gandhi did believe in some gods that intervened; as a Hindu, indeed, he would have believed in millions of such gods. Islam believes in an interventionist God –  is Islam Christianity? Is Allah a Christian God? Muslims also hold Jesus “in high esteem” – are they Christians? As usual, AA’s only goal is to adopt any definition of “Christian” that includes Hitler – not actually define it.

The further quote of Isaac only proves my point that the “environmental theory” of racism is not strictly racism at all because it does not make race itself the root cause of an alleged inferiority. Issac’s quote cites climate as the primary cause of human characteristics. Racism cites race as the primary cause. So that’s not racism. AA’s inability to grasp this, or to use sources beyond Google Books, Amazon preview, or other such tools, doesn’t change the fact that he lacks a full orbed understanding of these issues.

We will make any further replies as addendums to this entry.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Desert Delusions III

Wile E. Coyote is at it blowing himself up again. The insensate critics of Hitler’s Christianity (HC), Arizona Atheist (AA), has found new ways to achieve national embarrassment with further commentary.

He begins with his greatest embarrassment, professing not to understand the “Turkel trap” he fell into. It’s quite simple, and he links to the very website (the one by Farrell Till) that causes most people to fall into the trap. 

One of Till’s most engaged hobbies was wasting time distracting from his inadequate answers to my material by raging about how “Holding’s real name is Turkel.” One of the hilarities of this tactic – aside from its utter irrelevance, and how ably it demonstrated Till’s inability to engage arguments intelligently – is that my real name at birth was James Patrick Holding. The “Turkel” name was a legal change made when I was an infant. In July 2007 I reclaimed “James Patrick Holding” as my legal name in court. Since then, dozens of Skeptics (at least) have fallen into the “Turkel trap” – they have found Till’s pages where he calls me “Turkel”, and assumed them to be accurate, even though it is incorrect. Till was so stubborn about this issue that he even refused to acknowledge the change for a while. He finally did so, but even after his death last year, many gullible Skeptics (like AA) continue to use “Turkel”.

There is no doubt AA now knows he fell into this trap, since he links his readers to one of the sole places where Till admits to the name change. Hilariously, AA plays his usual game of “dumbth” and professes that his only point was to say I didn’t link to him. True, it’s my policy never to link to trash. Nevertheless, he knows exactly what the trap is – and that he fell into it. And it speaks volumes for his inability to think critically or do sufficient research.

The trend in poor research continues with further comments on HC. AA insists he did a “careful reading” but no, he didn’t. He did a hack reading, one that would receive a failing grade from any professional book reviewing source like The Library Journal. He also showed a complete inability to engage the most critical questions, particularly on how he would draw the line where authentic Christianity begins and ends with issues like the canon. That he thinks the question is difficult to answer isn’t going to cover for that – it simply shows that he is, as I have said, an incompetent reviewer.

On the point that his logic makes Judaism responsible for the Holocaust – since Christianity was originally a cult of Judaism, just as Positive Christianity was a cult of mainstream Christianity – AA mindlessly reiterates his original claims and my replies in an effort to fill space and make it seem as if he is responding substantially and carefully. He then tries to convince his reader that I confused and evaded his argument, which was that “Holding’s own definition of cult would also apply to his own religious beliefs.” But contrary to AA, I didn’t “ignore” this – I totally agreed with it. Yes, by technical definition, I have clearly said, Christianity started as a cult of Judaism. And this is precisely the point that twists AA into a pretzel in which he is forced to either admit that this means that Judaism caused the Holocaust (since it was a “cult” of Judaism that caused it, by his reasoning), or else must divorce Christianity from Judaism – which in turn means he has no way to avoid divorcing Positive Christianity from mainstream Christianity.

AA tries to avoid my point on this by telling his gullible readers I engaged in a “rant” and presenting a single counterpoint, which is that, “if Christianity is still Judaism as he claims, then he is practicing Judaism, and therefore, he is still a practitioner of a religion that murdered millions.” That is precisely where AA’s “ridiculous” logic leads, yes. And it leads him to the absolutely insane conclusion that the Holocaust was a mass suicide rather than mass homicide. There’s nothing quite like oblivious atheist logic to start the day. And yet he still thinks he made the “opposite” point from what I did. No – in reality, I exposed the idiocy of his original point, which fails precisely because AA refuses to engage in any objective defining criteria for a religious system and who counts as a believer in what.  He claims: “Positive Christianity is simply one branch on the tree of religions that are called Christianity. Judaism makes up another branch, and evolved separately, and while they are related, are not the same religion. However, Positive Christianity clearly sits just off of one of the sub-branches of Protestantism, which has its roots in First Century Christianity.” But by his logic, Christianity IS a branch on the tree of a religion called Judaism. (And in fact, religious scholars would agree with this.) So that makes Judaism responsible for the Holocaust. If a “branch” like Positive Christianity isn’t enough of a branch to be declassified from the rest of the tree, then the same applies to Judaism vis a vis Christianity. He can’t escape this.

Amazingly, AA thinks it proper to define “Christianity” by way of a source better suited for kindergartners, the Merriam-Webster dictionary! It is telling that he avoids definitions by credentialed scholars of religion, and the sort of precision that such scholars would bring to the table. Even so, the dictionary definitions are notable precisely because of how general they are. It is because AA wants to avoid specificity that he turns to such sources.

But even more amusing is that even Webster undermines AA’s contention. The Webster definition he uses defines Christianity as, “religion derived from Jesus Christ, based on the Bible as sacred scripture, and professed by Eastern, Roman Catholic, and Protestant bodies.” But Positive Christianity was full of beliefs that were NOT professed “by Eastern, Roman Catholic, and Protestant bodies.” Indeed, as I showed in HC, members of Protestant and Catholic groups in Germany, on the one hand, designated Positive Christianity a cult; and on the other hand, the Nazis persecuted those two bodies (the Orthodox were a non-factor in Germany at the time), and said that they had resurrected the true teachings of Christianity that those two bodies lacked. So clearly, Positive Christianity was not a “religion professed by Eastern, Roman Catholic, and Protestant bodies.” And we haven’t even got to the problem that something like “religion derived from Jesus Christ” would include any group that e.g., claims the Jesus Christ is an alien from another planet, and would claim to have “secret teachings” by him. That is precisely why a simple dictionary definition is not up for a complex task – one it is increasingly clear AA cannot handle.

This is also shown in his reaction to my material on the Trinity, which he merely dismisses as a “side issue.” That is a wise move on his part, for otherwise he would be compelled to actually perform an evaluation of an aspect of the very issue he is trying to avoid, which is which of Ehrman’s alleged “Christianites” has a claim to authenticity. In turn, it would also compel AA to evaluate ALL “side issues” to make a determination of the whole. That is the real reason he doesn’t want to become “bogged down” – it would result in him being “bogged” to the extent that he would be wearing mud as a skullcap.

Although I noted that I have many articles and books on how we “determine Jesus’ true statements or teachings” – and also on how we do indeed have some “first hand accounts” – AA waves this off as me simply saying I have material on it, but it must be wrong, because he studied the issue and he says so. As usual, AA is well aware, rather, that he is in over his head if he tries to go past popular treatments like Lataster’s, which is again why he must cower under the premise that these matters are just “side issues.” It takes a great deal of mental ossification to refuse to deal with “side issues” when one relies on such “side issues” to support main points, as AA does.

Now we get to where I asked again, How much of the Bible must a sect remove before AA decides they are not Christian after all?  As predicted, AA dances and ducks and dodges, and claims there is no “cut off limit” “for how much of the bible a Christian must accept to be a ‘Christian.’” In that AA is to be congratulated, for he has now admitted that his definition of “Christian” is so meaningless as to be useless. If there is no “cut off limit,” then he must designate as a Christian even the so-called “Christian atheists” who only accept the moral teachings of Jesus. Or, he must accept as “Christian” someone who believes nothing in the New Testament is correct except Romans 6:3 and Galatians 5:7, while thinking everything else is false. The absurdity of this speaks for itself; but it is the inevitable result of the ridiculous claim that there is “no cut off limit” when it comes to the canon. Now AA has trapped himself in that absurdity, and will pay the price.

He says, “I could just as well argue that Holding doesn’t accept the Gnostic Gospels, and therefore he isn’t a ‘true’ Christian.” Yes. That is precisely how absurd his argument does get, and that is my point. AA claims I have “not outlined an objective criteria for determining what counts as authentic Christianity” but it is the very articles he refuses to read, and dismisses as “side issues,” where I do that. So likewise he dismisses the material on Semitic Totality, where I provide the very “objective criteria” he demands.

He further misconstrues my point about Goebbels and the Sermon on the Mount as saying “Jesus’ teachings don’t matter.” Apparently AA does not have the intellectual ability to grasp the difference between the teaching of morals and the teaching of doctrine, and why Goebbels could accept the latter and still not be a Christian. So likewise, “Christian atheists” can accept the Sermon on the Mount – and now, AA has admitted that this is sufficient for them to be termed “Christian.” I did not move the goal post – AA is kicking the ball into the wrong goal.

That is shown further in his issue with Gandhi. He says Gandhi was not a Christian because “he did not accept the inspiration of scripture, did not believe in the Christian god, nor did he believe that Jesus’ teachings were unique, nor superior to his own religion’s teachings.” Well, AA just nearly described Positive Christianity: They did not accept the inspiration of 90% of scripture; and they did not believe in the Christian god, as believed in by the mainstream denominations (remember, that was part of the Webster definition). They did regard Jesus’ teachings as unique, but so do Christian atheists. So once again, AA’s criteria are so useless that they prove nothing.

On the matter of everyday Germans, I relate that AA’s refusal to engage the issue shows he is lost. He mistakenly says that I say data about such people doesn’t exist, but that’s not what I said. I said rather that what data exists leads to specific conclusions which it is the burden of any doubter to refute.  Once again, AA can’t engage the real argument, so he ignores it. (One reason he also fails is because he does not comprehend what I mean by “spiritual profiles.” This was the term I used to describe the extended accounts of the religious beliefs of leading Nazis. Had AA read those chapters rather than ignored them, he would have understood that when I said we cannot compose “spiritual profiles” of everyday Germans, I simply meant that we can’t write whole chapters on them, the way I did for the leaders. That does not mean data “does not exist”!)

Regarding race, I noted AA’s error in appealing to Isaac, as established by a scholarly review of Isaac’s book and his need to clarify what he meant by “racism.” He claim I provide no evidence for what I say about ethnic group interaction; well, that’s again in the articles he refuses to read, as well as in book like those authored by the Context Group. AA is the one who needs to do his homework; no one is obliged to inform his ignorance except himself.

Regarding the misuse and incomplete quote of Niditch, while AA admits (indirectly!) that the quote of Niditch is incomplete, he nevertheless still claims that the explanation Niditch rejects is true! He claims that David’s very act shows that he understood a principle behind eugenics, but this is simply nonsense: David would not even have the remotest idea that e.g., he could get rid of tall Moabites forever by killing tall Moabites. There is nothing in the text, nor anything in any ancient text, that shows that any person at the time had even the slightest idea that such a process could work. AA is simply reading it into the text, on the “face of it” as he admits. There is no sign that “David is taking stock of the physical characteristics of the Moabites” for a eugenic purpose. Rather, as Niditch says, it is simply a random act where people were chosen for execution based on a simple criteria. The most that could be said is that David thought to eliminate the tallest people as a present threat, since taller people would make better warriors using the weapons of the time. But there is nothing to show that he or anyone else would have been aware that this eliminated "tall genes" from the Moabite gene pool. And furthermore, let's keep in mind that eugenics isn't the same as racism.

On the matter of Isaac being misused, AA merely dismisses the reply information as a “book review,” never mind that it is by a credentialed scholar writing for a respected academic journal. The review shows why Isaac’s presentation is flawed, and is very critical of a central definition in the book which AA relied on. For that reason, it is of no moment, as AA says, that the review is also “not critical of the book’s thesis” (which I never said it was) and that others praised it. That is beside the point, which is that AA misunderstood and misused a very critical point from the book. All of AA’s remarks in reply are a distraction from this critical error, which he continues to ignore: That of confusing “racism” with “proto-racism.”

AA’s point that “[r]acism is a form of stereotyping” also evades the issue. While racism is a form of stereotyping, stereotyping is not always racism. That is why it is a false move to note ancient stereotyping and claim it is evidence for racism.

AA did not read Isaac, and still has not, save what he can glean from Google Books. That is why he also fails when appealing to the “environmental theory” of racism. This is not strictly racism at all --  because it does not make race itself the root cause of an alleged inferiority. Rather, it makes environment the root cause.

On whether the Biblical interpretations of von Liebenfels and Hitler were valid or not, AA first errs by failing to understand the difference between Hitler alluding to Leviticus (as I said) and citing it. He defers to the parallel being seen by Avalos, and whines about alleged distortions of what he said about Lanz, but still doesn’t say whether he thinks they are correct or valid as interpretations. He said they were “weird”  but that does not answer the question, which AA, as predicted, continues to evade. It does not matter that other ancient people assigned animal-like traits to other people. I am asking AA to explain why Lanz and Hitler gave valid readings of Leviticus. If they are not valid readings, then AA cannot accuse Lanz and Hitler of representing authentic Christian teachings in these interpretations. That is precisely why he must continue to avoid my question.

As far as ”Jews” being a geographic designation, AA likewise ignores my critical central point that “Jews” (Judeans) is used in John in contrast to Galileeaans and Samaritans, which are nation-groups, not religious groups. He now claims to be pointing out that “Romans who hailed from Judea were not disliked.”That is because such people were not considered Judeans. They were considered Romans. That is where their ancestry was from. Is this so hard to grasp?

For the “synagogue of Satan” reference I noted both the localized nature of the references (in Smyrna and Philadelphia) and the use of internecine language (such as “n words” among African Americans).  While he concedes is error on this one, he nevertheless insists the passage is anti-Semitic “since Christians are converted Jews…” But wait! By AA’s logic, again, Positive Christians are Christians who have “converted” to Positive Christianity, the same way Christians were Jews who converted. Please note that Paul, for example, still called himself a “Jew” even as a leading Christian missionary. So clearly, first century Jewish Christians like John thought they were still Jews. In the same way, Romans treated Christianity as a subset of Judaism. They would not agree that this changed because their beliefs did. So AA is once again caught in the trap that his useless criteria of self-definition as a lead criteria creates.

Regarding 1 Thess. 2:14-16, AA again refuses to engage the details of the arguments I made, save he repeats the idea (and will do so again later) that once Jews converted to Christianity, they were no longer Jews. As noted, Paul and others at the time disagreed. By AA’s logic, Paul’s self-profession to still be a Jew counts as much as Hitler’s self-profession to still be a Christian.

The matter of original sin is dismissed, predictably, as a “side issue” and no doubt for the same reasons we have noted. Matthew 27:23 is likewise dismissed without engaging any of the responding material, save by claiming AA’s arguments were ignored. No, they were not. Rather, I noted that AA did not even respond to my original argument, he merely repeated the argument I refuted.

But this is the story of one in over his head, as AA is: To claim his arguments were “ignored,” to refuse to engage the issues by calling them “side issues,” is really his best option -- because those very issues are what will expose his arguments as paper tigers.