Monday, January 23, 2017

Thank you, Richard Carrier, but I don't think I'll die in a fire today.

I know two men named Richard Carrier.

Image result for hulk incredible
Richard Carrier responding to
One obtained his PhD in the History of Greco-Roman Science, or some such topic, from one of the leading universities in the world, a beautiful oasis in the heart of Upper Manhattan called Columbia University.  That Richard Carrier is capable of gushing historiographical aphorisms, most of them sensible, for half an hour at a time without coming up for air.  He is well-read, recognizes the value and some of the characteristics of social scholarship, and is capable of producing original arguments (if not always of evaluating them well).

The other seems to be a raving lunatic.

Like The Incredible Hulk, Scholarly Richard is triggered by anger.  Only what moves Scholarly Richard and turns him into Hulk Richard is almost always a challenge to his own . . . well, to be crude but accurate, essentially to his own divinity.

So I am not a bit surprised that Richard has gone into melt-down mode after I challenged some of his arguments in our recent debate on the Unbelievable radio program.  Or perhaps one should say, beef-up mode.  Either way, the sight is not pretty.

Most mature scholars are capable of separating criticism of ideas and of persons.  Richard is not.  I went out of my way to praise some of aspects of Carrier's work, in our debate.  This kept him calm for a while, but then the volcano boiled over, and out sprang -- Hulk Richard.

Image result for melting wizard ozSince personal vitriol seems to be the sine qua non of the Carrier-Avalos axis, some of what follows may again prove regretfully personal.  I shall try to bend the argument back to the light side, however, to substantive discussion of questions about the gospels that have changed the world.

I shall deal with Carrier's preliminary attacks in this post, then his criticism of Jesus is No Myth in a later post.

Since this is going to be a long journey, we might as well count Carrier's blunders, as we counted Christmas lights or VW bugs from the back seat of the car as kids.    

Since Carrier reads every challenge as a "lie" on my part, my response will take the form of listing his own flubs by number -- a total of 23.  If my skin were thin and also subject to turning green when punctured, I might also call those "lies."  But I'll use the word "error," instead.  I'll underline where I think the mistakes lie.

RC: "David Marshall’s Bizarre & Dishonest Defense of the Historicity of Jesus"

Error #1: With the title of his article, in this WORLD WAR II IS OVER! font, Carrier makes his first mistake, already.

Neither Jesus is No Myth, nor my debate with him, was a "defense of the historicity of Jesus."  I make no such defense.  No such defense is needed.  On page 19, I explain: 

"Carrier says 'I only take secular scholarship seriously. (14)'  Likewise, I do not find disproving so marginal a scholarly position as 'mythicism' worth much bother: we shall fry bigger fish in this pan."

I made the same point in our debate.  

RC: Liars disgust me.  And David Marshall flat out lied about my work on public radio

Error #2: As I show here, we both made mistakes: Carrier made more of them, at least through the first 50 minutes.  

But no, I did not "lie."  Everyone who knows me well, knows that is not a habit of mine.  In some cases, I may be mistaken, in others, Carrier certainly is.  In others, the issue may be debatable.   But I told no "lies."  

RC: He should be ashamed. But Christian apologists rarely are.  They lie with impunity.  The ten commandments be damned. Today I’ll briefly discuss that show, then detail what’s wrong with Marshall’s awful book defending the historicity of Jesus.

Error #3: Like all human beings, "apologists" (and historians) lie along a spectrum of honesty (we all do "lie" in that sense).  But any mature scholar ought to recognize that the generalization "apologists lie with impugnity" as an embarrassment.  I would not make it about communist officials, or Buddhists, or even New Atheists.   (See Walker Percy's wonderful Lost in the Cosmos.)  

Did Blaise Pascal "lie with impunity?"  Or G. K. Chesterton? Or C. S. Lewis?  Or Alvin Plantinga?  All men were Christian apologists.  Whether right or wrong, they were also obviously honest.  Generalizing about large groups of people like that is not just wrong morally, it is intellectually cheap and improbable.  

RC: I really like Justin Brierley as a host. I’ve done his Unbelievable show several times now, which airs on Christian radio in London and beyond.  He’s sharp, asks good questions, quickly gets the key points, and focuses the discussion.  This time I was invited to engage David Marshall on his new book Jesus Is No Myth!  The book is absolutely face-palmingly awful.  But I’ll get to that later.  The focus of this show was to be on whether the Gospel Jesus is based on other literary and religious characters, although we didn’t dive as much into that as we could have. What ended up being the main themes are the criteria Marshall thinks render the Gospels historically true accounts and not literary constructs; plus a little on why I think we can doubt the historicity of Jesus. But much of it became about how Christianity was a product of its time and culture, and not particularly unique (any more than every religion is unique).

Marshall’s entire schtick, on the show and in his book, is that in literary analysis similarities can all be dismissed whenever there are differences
Error #4: Not only is that not my "entire schtick," I have never made that argument in my life.  Certainly not in Jesus is No Myth.  I have never even thought it.  (I feel the temptation to use the noun "lie" here myself.) 
RC: So, by his logic, Westside Story cannot possibly be based on Romeo & Juliet because Westside is a vulgar-tongued musical about modern city gangs, and Romeo is an old high-dialect prose drama about medieval royalty. And Jesus can’t be based on Elijah because 1 & 2 Kings is a chronicle and the Gospels are not. And Jesus can’t be based on Moses because Jesus didn’t carry a staff. And pretty much any silly nonsense like that you can imagine. These aren’t things Marshall said; they are just what follows from his methodology. Needless to say, Marshall’s method is not accepted or used by any professional in history or literary studies. And indeed he cites no peer reviewed source as using or recommending the method. He just made it up. (More on that later.)
Error #5  This is the crudest of straw men.  That is not my argument, at all.  Carrier's inability to read and accurately transmit my actual arguments, can only reflect a mind-numbing fury. 
Error #6  I cite many scholarly sources defending many of my arguments in this book, both specific and general.  But I do primarily appeal to ancient sources, it is true -- as one should.  (See previous post, Point 6.)    
RC: One theme that came up is how dishonest Marshall is in his presentation of data.  Like James McGrath, Marshall lies.  Marshall even covertly leaned on McGrath’s lies in the show, by magically multiplying that single Christian apologist into ‘many mainstream scholars’ who ‘panned’ my book.   For the record, no academic review has ever panned my book; McGrath is the only person with a relevant Ph.D. who has ever even reviewed the book, and still never in any academic journal, and in every instance he lied repeatedly about the book’s content—and that’s not just a claim: I have extensively documented the fact.  You should also note that I debated David Marshall before, and his epic loss was so embarrassing that he’s held a grudge against me ever since, starting even back then a campaign of lies and lunacy that is replicated in much of his new book.
Error # 7: I'll have to check to see if I in fact said "many mainstream scholars."  Even if I did (Carrier's quotes are not always reliable, we shall see yet again here), Carrier is wrong in saying only one scholar has panned Carrier's book so far.   There have been at least two, linked in my previous article.  In addition, Ehrman also pans some of Carrier's arguments, even if he has (understandably) ignored the full books, so far.  And I also panned Carrier's book, whether or not he would admit me as "mainstream."  (I think I am more mainstream than he is, anyway.)  
Error #8: Carrier is guessing, and guessing for the most part wrongly, about my motives.  In fact, I had frequently critiqued Carrier's work, here and on Amazon, before our first debate.  (After a young atheist philosopher had asked me about them, and I was astonished at how bad, yet popular, some of them were!)  And he had often called me names, as Hulk Carrier so often does.  I seldom descend to that level.  So who is "holding a grudge?" 
Furthermore, in this debate, I actually praise Carrier's work two or three times, while he is unable to say anything polite to me, or even address me directly.  (Even when he sent me his book, he failed to say so much as "Hi!" in his e-mail.)  And in Jesus is No Myth, my critique of Carrier is dispassionate and fair.  I never say anything crude or nasty about him, as he frequently does about me.   
So again, who is holding the grudge?  I think the tone of this post by Carrier shows more than mere grudge: it looks like a near-complete melt-down, reflecting mind-numbing rage.  
As I said in the debate, I WELCOME Richard's attempts to debunk the gospels.  I ENJOYED reading his attacks on the Christian faith -- critics like Carrier are like the almonds that gives dark chocolate its delicious crunch.  They serve the purposes of the "Christian apologist" (if that's what you want to call me) capitally well.  Carrier's rants and name-calling do not hurt me in the slightest.  And even our previous debate, which I admit did not always go as well as I had hoped rhetorically (it was my first debate on stage), was nevertheless useful to me, because it allowed me to draw Carrier out, so he could make foolish remarks which illustrate the desperation and bewilderment of Christ's critics.  
I thus cite Carrier claiming that Tobit, Romulus, and Apollonius share "all the characteristics of the gospels" from that debate, in this one.  (And in my book.)  I then show that the gospels enjoy dozens of traits which demonstrate their vastly superior historical credentials, which Carrier overlooks.

That is devastating.  And I show that many other skeptical scholars make the same blunders and the same bad analogies.  
Our earlier debate was just a warm-up, which I perceived even at the time as one move within a larger long-term strategy.  Carrier walked into my trap and jumped on the cheese.  I thank him for that with a smile, feeling no "grudge" against him, nor the slightest ill will.

Observe how hard it is even for such well-read skeptics as Richard Carrier to find genuine parallels to the gospels.  Observe how blind many of them are to the truth nature of and historical significance of what one finds there.

"I have come that those who say they see, will show that they are blind."  
Thank you, Richard Carrier, for confirming the words of Jesus, yet again.    
RC: For Marshall’s dishonesty, I gave the example of his book’s section attempting to argue that Christianity wasn’t a “Jewish mystery religion” (Jesus, pp. 20-24). There he lies by claiming I rested my conclusion that it was on just four generic criteria (false) and implying I was just making those criteria up (false). Then when I called him out on these falsehoods during the show, he not only stuck to these lies, he added an even more shameless lie to top them off: that I never used more appropriate criteria like the role of secret doctrines (fantastically false). Anyone who is going to lie like that, effectively to my face, in public, before an audience of thousands, and not even correct or apologize for it, is a disgusting person who can go die in a fire.
Error #9: I don't think I claimed that was necessarily the only basis for Carrier's claim.  I'll have to double-check, though.  Carrier offers no direct quote, here.   (Update: see Error #16, below.  While I still think this was a misreading, I grant that it was an understandable one.)  
Error #10:  I "imply" that Richard made those criteria up?  No, I SHOW that they are meaningless and / or false.  (Jesus is No Myth, 20-24.)  I "imply" nothing about their origin, which does not affect the argument one way or the other.  

And notice how Carrier's rhetorical flourish returns to bite him, here.  Carrier claimed that most of the criteria I introduce for evaluating the gospels in Jesus is No Myth have to do with style.  But they don't.  Did he admit that error?  Not at all.  Did he admit his error about Apollonius, or Tobit, or anything else?  Never once.  I have admitted errors in our conversation occasionally, but I don't think Carrier ever has -- though he has made far more of them.  

Error #11: So does that make Richard Carrier a "disgusting person who can go die in a fire?"

I don't feel that way in the slightest.  I pray Richard Carrier does not die in a fire.  
RC: To illustrate what I mean, Marshall asks in his book “Why does Carrier focus on these four points?” (p. 21), as if there were no answer—despite his knowing full well the reason is that these criteria were developed and published by peer reviewed experts on the mystery religions.  I did not make them up; I draw them from Petra Pakkanen’s peer reviewed book Interpreting Early Hellenistic Religion, which I plainly cite and explicitly say I’m drawing these criteria and my analysis from (OHJ, pp. 103-06).  Marshall doesn’t tell his readers these criteria come from the expert peer reviewed literature; instead he implies I just made them up, and not only that, but that I did so for a nefarious reason, that I was deliberately “ignoring [the] essential traits” of mystery religions “and focusing on accidental ones” to deliberately trick people.  Again, he doesn’t mention that he is thus accusing Petra Pakkanen and the Finnish Institute at Athens of tricking people with frivolous criteria. Marshall. Who, unlike Petra Pakkanen, has never published a single paper under peer review on the mystery religions and has no relevant graduate training in Greco-Roman religion.
Error #12:  It is a "lie" for me to ask "Why does Carrier focus on these four points?" because he got them from a peer-reviewed article?
Is this a joke?  
The world is full of peer-reviewed articles, for a few of which I was the peer who reviewed them.  Carrier's magical faith in so-called "peer-reviewed articles" is touching.  But his citation here is an example of "appropriated discourse," as the philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff calls it: Carrier is borrowing a set of criteria he has found in some journal, perhaps in a different context or form (as he seems to change so much of what he cites), for an argument he wants to make about the gospels.  
My question is not "why did Petra Pakkanen make these claims," though do find them weak, too few, and inapplicable to the gospels, for the reasons I give (20-24).  My question is why Carrier has appropriated them in such a lame way to try to "explain the gospels away," when they obviously are neither sufficient to define anything, nor do they fit the gospels well.

Petra Pakkanen isn't your big sister, Richard, and you can't run to her to rescue your bad arguments.  
Error #13: I don't think I said Carrier did this deliberately.  I just think he is something less than a deep literary scholar.
Error #14: Of course no accusation of dishonesty against Pakkanen or Finland in general is implied anything I have ever written.  I don't find their criteria very useful, if Carrier has cited them accurately (a big if), but again, I happen to think people can be mistaken without being evil liars. 
RC: That lie is bad enough.  And it exemplifies his whole book, wherein throughout he almost never interacts with any peer reviewed literature (other than mine), neither to defend his own invented criteria, nor when critiquing anyone else’s arguments.  Like here, he completely ignores Pakkanen and her academic monograph; he even deceives his readers into believing she and it don’t exist. 

Error #15: Of course I do no such thing.  That's Carrier's gig, tricking people into thinking other people don't exist, and I wouldn't think of robbing him of his occupation. 

And in fact, I do interact with the work of numerous scholars in this book.  The book is primarily a comparison of ancient so-called parallels to the gospels, however, so I concentrate on primary sources, as is appropriate. 

RC: But it’s worse that he then harps extensively on how it’s absurd of me to conclude Christianity is a mystery religion on just these four generic criteria. That is not just a lie. It’s a damned lie. In OHJ my section establishing Christianity was a Jewish mystery religion, labeled “Element 11,” begins on page 96. I survey ten paragraphs full of other criteria spanning seven entire pages establishing that conclusion before I even get to the four Pakkanen critera! Those are just the last four of a long line of other criteria (I discuss the Pakkanen criteria on pp. 103-07, after having surveyed more essential criteria on pp. 96-102). So by telling his readers I only used those four, David Marshall is flat out lying.

Error #16: Why does Richard call me a "liar" three times here, without ever quoting my alleged "lie?" 

Do I in fact ever say that Carrier offers no other arguments to support his claims about supposed Jewish mystery religions?   

I spend four pages debunking that particular argument.  I don't think there is anything left of the argument by the end of those pages.  There is only one sentence in those pages, almost at the end, that may be read to imply that Carrier offers no other arguments.   After debunking the four arguments I am addressing, I conclude: 

"So, in the end, not one of Carrier's points holds up, and he gives no reason to classify early Christianity as a Judeo-Christian 'mystery religion.'"

A man in non-Hulk mental mode would not call that a "lie, a lie, a damned lie!"  In context, it seems pretty clear that I am talking about the particular bad argument I have just debunked.  But for the second edition, I may retrofit this sentence with a few modifiers to make matters more clear:  

"So, in the end, not one of Carrier's points in this passage holds up, and he gives no reason here, at least, to classify early Christianity as a Judeo-Christian 'mystery religion.'"  He offers other bad arguments towards the same end, one of which will appear later in this book, but these suffice for an introductory sampler.  

The purpose of the small part of Jesus is No Myth that deals with Carrier's arguments is not to refute everything he says, of course.  Life is short, and sadly, sometimes one finds more crap in a room than pony.

If that one sentence, which overlooks parallel arguments in other parts of On The Historicity of Jesus, makes me a "liar, liar, damned liar," whom the world should scorn in contempt, then what about how Carrier misrepresents the whole point of my book in the large print of the very title of his hit piece?  Or the fact that his explanation of my argument as a whole, given above, is a badly garbled mess?  Or the fact that in our debate, he falsely claimed that most of my "new" criteria had to do with stylistic and literary qualities?

One might remind Richard of Dante's idea that there are higher and lower circles of hell, and of Jesus' warning about people with beams in their eyes warning of slivers in the eyes of others.  
RC: His dishonesty doesn’t even end there. Because he not only harps on my only using those four criteria (a damned lie), he makes an issue of how generic they are, that they aren’t the “essential” criteria for a mystery religion.  Note that in his book, he still never tells his readers what those “essential” criteria are

Error #17: Actually, on page 21, quoting Euripides' The Bacchae, I offer eight criteria that I say seem more essential than the four Carrier puts forward in this section: 

"In these seven short lines appear nine (sic) elements absent from Carrier's definition that ought to be invoked to describe Greek mystery religions: ritual purity, mountains, ecstasy, revel, the god Dionysius, mystical union of souls, implying something at least vaguely sexual, and course -- mystery . . . 

"By ignoring such essential traits and focusing on accidental ones, we appear again to be picking and choosing criteria in a strongly ad hoc manner . . . "

A better complaint here would be that I miscounted: I say nine, but only give eight!  

RC: "In fact, I extensively summarize and apply every such essential criterion he could possibly mean (including the role of teaching mysteries, and a ritual baptism to secure eternal life, by the agency of a suffering savior, who is always the son or daughter of God, and the sharing of sacred meals to commune with their Lord and Savior: OHJ, pp. 96-102). 

Error #18: Well, obviously not "every such essential criterion he could possibly  mean," since I add several above, drawing from one of the most famous Greek plays related to the mysteries.  Reading mystery literature directly, the fit with the gospels seems much more strained -- which is why I privilege it over Carrier's precious "peer-reviewed articles."  

RC: So on the show I asked him what he thinks I left out.  He said I never discuss in my book the most essential criterion of all, the role of secret knowledge (the core notion of the “mysteries”).  That is a damned fucking lie.   A Christian bearing false witness, pissing right on his own ten commandments, and right in the face of Moses."

Not only do I discuss the role of secrets and “mystery” concepts in early Christianity in my section establishing its status as a mystery religion in OHJ (pp. 96-98), I even devote an entire additional section to the fact that early Christianity employed secret doctrines just like other mystery cults did (“Element 13,” pp. 108-114). So the extent of Marshall’s dishonesty here is so vast it would shock even Donald Trump. It’s well enough to thoroughly discredit him.

Error (DF Lie) #19: That I "said (Carrier) never discusses in (his) book the role of secret knowledge."

I just listened to that section over again, and did not hear myself ever make the claim that Carrier "never discusses this in his book."  

Error #20: Carrier appears to overlook the fact that I also evaluate an important part of Carrier's argument for the "mystery religion" motif in Element 13 on pages 25-27, and find it wanting.  (Indeed, a ludicrously blind misreading of the Pauline philosophy and of one of the greatest passages in all literature, I Corinthians 13.)  

Concession:  Admittedly, I did make two major mistakes during this debate.   One was to fail to respond to Carrier's repeated accusation that my arguments were no good because I failed to appeal to "professional peer review literature."  I answered that complaint in my previous post (Point Six).   (And briefly above.)  

My second major mistake did indeed involve Mystery Religions.  Richard is not entirely wrong about that, and I see why he might get the impression that I misrepresented him.  I didn't "lie" about anything, of course.  But Carrier and I were, to some extent, talking past one another.  In that section of my book, and in my on-air remarks, I focused on one section of Carrier's book, not what he said everywhere on the subject.  I do, contrary to what Carrier says on air, deal with some of Carrier's other relevant arguments elsewhere (Jesus is No Myth, 25-27.)  But I didn't recall those few pages clearly on air, as most of the whole central portion of my book somehow slipped Richard's mind.  And there was not space to deal with them all in Jesus is No Myth, nor did I wish to bore readers: we had much bigger hulks to fry than Richard Carrier.  

Because my book is mainly a positive argument for the gospels, and even the critical section deals not with one but with three skeptics (Reza Aslan, Reza Aslan, and Bart Ehrman [ACE]), it would have been impossible to deal with all even of ACE's major arguments.  I had to pick and choose.  I focused on arguments that were central, that I felt both demonstrated the pervasive vulnerability and weakness of ACE, and that helped prepare readers for the more positive arguments for the gospels in Part II and III.  

For our radio debate, I did not have time to go back and read the entire earlier sections of Carrier's book that deal with mystery religions.  Neither, obviously, did he have time to read and comprehend even the central arguments of my much shorter book.  (A mere 300 pages!)  

I didn't find Carrier's cumulative arguments extolling the gospels as "Jewish mystery religion" even the slightest bit persuasive.  And neither, so far as I know, has any other scholar.  In fact, I believe the central arguments of Jesus is No Myth renders all such proposals completely moot.  The positive evidence for the historicity of the gospels which I describe overwhelms that already rather threadbare analogy.

But the worst part of this debate for me, may indeed have been when Carrier listed those "other" traits of mystery religion, and I seemed to ignore them, and go back to the original four that I had been trashing.  

I did try to clarify that in the debate a little.  But in a perfect world, and if I had a perfect memory, I would have reviewed those other parts of Carrier's arguments that the gospels are "mystery religion" prior to our debate, addressed those other points briefly, and again emphasized what I did say, but Carrier evidently didn't hear: that I was focusing on one particular set of arguments, not claiming to describe and debunk his entire book in a few minutes on air.  And in an even more perfect world, Carrier would have either defended the arguments I attacked more seriously, or (best of all) admitted the obvious fact that they fail.  

All without "lie, lie, damned lie, fucking lie, spit in the face of Moses, would that he die in a fire" style rhetoric.  

And in that perfect world, Carrier would have represented my arguments accurately at all times.  
RC: Marshall’s shameless willingness to lie on public radio is appalling.  But that he lies already so extensively about this in his book is reason enough not to trust anything else in it.   If he is being this dishonest here, where else is he also lying about the things he talks about?  The book is rendered useless by this fact. 

Error #21: That argument is a double-edged sword, and Carrier is holding the sharper edge in his own soft hands.  See errors 1-20, and Carrier's errors described in the previous post.  

RC: You may as well light it on fire and cook hamburgers over it.  (Notably, Marshall has also harassed and lied about Matthew Ferguson, whom he also dishonestly criticizes in this book: see More Lies, Polemics, and Vehement Language from Christian Apologist David Marshall.)

Error #22: I have never "harassed" Matthew Ferguson.  I have debunked many of his arguments here, and in Jesus is No Myth, sometimes in response to queries by readers.  And if he continues to make bad arguments against Christianity, I'll be happy to debunk the new ones, too.

That is the danger of making public arguments.  People can reply to them.  Richard Carrier has made a career of "harassing" people in that sense.  

Error #23: No, of course I never "lied" about Ferguson.  He has said many things about me that were patently false, such as that I had wished his death.  (Which I never even dreamed of doing, as Carrier really has just wished for me.)  Early in our conversation, I made two mistakes about Ferguson - confusing him with another on-line skeptic who also called himself "Celsus," and taking him for a mythicist, like Carrier, whom he often cites.  I apologized profusely and repeatedly for those errors, errors of a sort I don't think I'd made before.    

Since then, I have been far more polite to Ferguson than he has been to me -- as, obviously, with Richard Carrier.

"Vehement language" is an ambiguous expression, by the way: "You're badly mistaken!" is vehement, so are "That's a damned, f-ing lie and a spit in the face of Moses!" and "You can die in a fire."

I have never, in my life, used language as vitriolic towards anyone as Richard Carrier does towards me in his recent Hulk Richard hissy-fit.    So it is more than a little ironic that he cites a post vaguely accusing me of "polemics" and "vehement language," as if he thought raising one's voice in a conversation were a serious faux pas.    

Error #24: It is so lazy to just say "he dishonestly criticizes Ferguson in this book."  One doesn't have to address arguments, if one calls the other person a liar.  

And in fact, I don't think I do "criticize Ferguson" in Jesus is No Myth.  I politely refute his arguments, without once becoming personal.  Unlike Richard Carrier, I and most scholars on the planet are able to work that monkey trick.  
RC: This also illustrates a general reality.  Once again, critics of On the Historicity of Jesus can only denounce it by lying about what it argues.  Again and again, that’s the only way it ever gets treated.   This all but establishes historicity is indefensible.  Because if it could be defended honestly, it wouldn’t have to be defended with lies. When that’s all anyone can think to do to argue against it, even after two years of opportunity to find any actual relevant error in it, it’s time to stand up and take notice.

Error #25: Yeah, everyone who fails to recognize the wonder that is Richard Carrier, can only be an f-ing liar.   And it turns out there are SO many liars out there, so sad.  Especially any scholar who deigns to read Richard Carrier, and politely but firmly reply, "Sorry, but those arguments fail."

I understand that Richard Carrier poured his heart and soul into his two books on the historical Jesus.  It must be frustrating to have that which is so clear in his own mind, prove so unpersuasive to scholars in the bigger, outside world.  But rather than lapse into paranoia, it would be more healthy if Dr. Carrier would humble himself and consider the possibility that, after all, he may still have something important to learn.  

Tonight on TV, Brit Hume said something which I think is worth repeating.  I paraphrase: 

"People are too quick to accuse others of lying.  To show a lie, you have to prove that the speaker had knowledge of his error, and also intent to deceive."  

The irony is that Richard Carrier, who sends out eleven epistemological dragons to battle the Criterion of Embarrassment, eleven high hurdles that any claim to embarrassment needs to meet before we admit it as potentially valid, is so lax and loose with his own suspicions.  His doubts don't need to jump any hurdles at all.  They are given free reign and absolute sovereignty over his enemies the moment they bang on their cages and ask to be let loose.  "Have at 'em!"  

Richard Carrier is a half-hearted skeptic.  The Gospel must jump every possible hurdle and prove itself in a thousand impossible ways.  His own suspicions of others need merely rattle their chains, facing no prior customs checks, taking no blood tests, walking no lines, and they turn, like the Hulk himself, from mild-mannered doubts into raging and liberated attack beasts.  

Carrier also critiques my book.  I'll deal with those criticisms another day.  (Or two, rather -- the errors pile up thick and fast as leaves in a Vermont tornado in October.)  Here's hoping his critiques are longer on substance, and shorter on vitriol than the first part of this rant, so they may challenge my central arguments enough to bring out new aspects of truth.  (Spoiler alert: they weren't.)  

One can hope.  


Walkinjoy said...

David, your metaphor of the incredible hulk is apt as it dramatically emphasizes out of control anger, contempt and defensiveness. RC is most likely more affected by his extreme contempt for those whose views challenge his thinking. Contempt towards another hurts; however because the physiological effects on the person spewing it are harmful and lead to many stress related illnesses. By his argument, his sense of self and self in relation to others appears very fragile. People who are healthy do not engage in the level of hateful attacks on others that RC does. His vitriol is shocking but flows from brokenness. He is taking this as a personal attack and hiding in his ivory tower where there is seldom a genuine exchange of ideas but rather infallible groupthink born out of spiritual blindness and antipathy. The best intellectual arguments in the world are bit enough to open his mind to the validity of differing truth claims or make a paradigm switch. Only the genuine love of God can remove blinders and loosen the chains that bind him. I pray that he would experience God's love for him and that he would be freed from the hate that consumes him.

David B Marshall said...


the mediocrecommission said...

David - finally listened to the program. I have to say that I was thrilled with how you handled yourself. Carrier is a well know thug and troll, and his followers love him for it. So I was impressed that you didn't back down, and you pressed your points. Well done!

David B Marshall said...

Thank you! There were a couple points I wish I'd also pushed back against more strongly -- the "peer review" argument, and his other "mystery religion" arguments, which I do at least partially address in the book -- but unless one is William Lane Craig, one can't think of everything, and I thought it went all right otherwise.

Unknown said...

You did great David; a very good debate. I wouldn't dwell on it too much.

the mediocrecommission said...

Before the show even started, I had lined up my Richard Carrier "Bingo" card. I got a point every time he said "peer review" or called someone a "liar". The show's short format doesn't allow for a lot of debate, so in the time allowed I think you did fantastic!

David B Marshall said...

LOL! Just don't make it a drinking game.

With Hector Avalos and his disciples, the phrase would be, "I have read such and such a text in the original Late Medieval Urdu, and he / she has not, so he / she is a mere Bible School apologist, not a real scholar like me."

Valency said...

This article is so cute. It's like a naive young priest ministering to a kleptomaniac who is shocked to catch the klepto brazenly stealing from him. "What kind of person /does/ that?"

David B Marshall said...

Heh! You got me!