It started just like many religious sectarian wars do. One blogger who regards himself as a “true” biblioblogger accused another blogger of being a “false” bliblioblogger. In this case the true biblioblogger is supposed to be Jim West, who first issued the accusation, and the false biblioblogger is supposed to be John Loftus. John Loftus responds that West is just afraid that a secularist is fast gaining ground in the biblioblogosphere. Who is right?
Definition of a Biblioblogger
The conflict, of course, hinges on the proper definition of a biblioblogger. In one of the salvos launched by Jim West we don't really find much of an explanation of why Loftus is not a biblioblogger. There is no explicit definition given by West so that we can measure Loftus against it. What we find instead is Jim West simply stating that Loftus is someone “wishing to be a biblioblogger.”
If one looks inductively at the blogs that are on the list of biblioblogs, we also find some confusion. For example, is a biblioblog one that is ONLY devoted to biblical themes? Or is it a blog that PREDOMINANTLY includes biblical themes? If the latter case, then are there required percentages or a threshold amount of biblical themes?
If a biblioblog designates a blog that ONLY addresses biblical themes, then Jim West’s blog certainly would not qualify. In fact, West’s own description of his subject matter is: “On the Bible, Theology, and ANYTHING [ELSE] that I find interesting” [emphasis mine]. So does this mean that you can call yourself a biblioblog even when only one of the three named topics is about the Bible?
And if we perform a very superficial statistical analysis of the content, I don’t find much difference. Taking any random day—-for example, December 29—these are the types of posts we would find on Jim West’s blog:-SublimeAs one can see, Jim West’s posts include one on Luther’s view of Atheists and another one on Taco Bell. Neither of these two sound particular “only biblical” to me.
-Luther, on the Stupidity of Atheists
-James Crossley Isn’t Dead After All…
-And Not a Moment Too Soon!
-If Scholars Are Advising TV Producers, Why Do Programs Still Mess --Up Biblical History So Badly?
-Ok Now I’m Officially Annoyed
-The Taco Bell Diet? Really?
If we select any other day--let’s say December 22, 2009—for Debunking Christianity, we find these posts:-Robert G. Ingersoll on "What I Want For Christmas"Here, I don’t see any posts on DC that would not also fit under Jim West’s categories of “The Bible, Theology, and anything [else] I find interesting.” I see at least two posts directly related to the Bible (“Nazareth” and “Conflicting Bible Teaching...”). I see theology and I do see “anything [else]” Loftus finds interesting (e.g. health care).
-Conflicting Bible Teaching of the Week
-Science is Essential to Morality
-God Blew it Again on National TV! Maybe He's on Strike, Right?
-Toby Keith's Remedy For the War on Christmas...Bah, Humbug to Him!
-Dr. Marlene Winell - Recovering from Toxic Religion (Parts 1 & 2)
-Recently Posted: Richard Dawkins Interviewed
-Richard Carrier on the Existence of Nazareth and the Movie Zeitgeist
-Richard Carrier on the Health Care Bill
So are Jim West’s blog and DC really different in terms of content? Only a wider and more precise statistical analysis will tell, but remember that West includes “and anything [else],” so how would that count statistically?
In terms of quality and depth, there are a few posts about the Bible on DC that are up to 10,000 words long and that are supplied with a scholarly apparatus, including one of my own on ancient Near Eastern and biblical law, and another one on the use of Egyptian vocabulary to assess the historicity of the Moses traditions right here.
Jim West questioned John Loftus’ credentials merely by questioning whether Loftus is a biblioblogger. I am not sure what sorts of credentials are required in biblioblogging, but I would say that Loftus’ credentials are as good or better than those of Jim West. Note these comparisons:
John Loftus:B.R.E. from Great Lakes Christian College in Lansing, Michigan, 1977Jim West See Link.
M.A. from Lincoln Christian Seminary, Lincoln, Illinois, 1982
M.Div. from Lincoln Christian Seminary, Lincoln, Illinois, 1982
Th.M. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 1985
Ph.D. Studies for 1 1/2 years at Marquette University, but no doctorateB.A., Carson-Newman College, 1985These are quite comparable once you see that Andersonville Baptist Seminary does not really have a campus. It describes itself as a distance learning institution, but without on-line courses (see brief FAQ further below). It is not accredited by any government agency. It recognizes the King James Bible as the only inspired word of God.
M.Div, Southeastern Theological Seminary, 1988
Th.M, Southeastern Theological Seminary, 1991
“Doctorate of Theology,” Andersonville Baptist Seminary, 1994
Thus, many of us in a public university would not regard this as a real institution, nor would we hire anyone with such a doctorate in a public university. Once you remove that doctorate from Andersonville, you are left with master's degrees that are quite comparable to those of Loftus. Therefore, Jim West is no more a biblical scholar by academic training than is John Loftus.
If we look at publications, Loftus would have an edge. Loftus has books that are published by presses (e.g., Prometheus) that rely on independent evaluations by biblical scholars. At least some of his edited books have contributions by well-credentialed biblical scholars.
Jim West has books that are self-published. There are no listed refereed articles for Jim West in any highly respected or major peer-reviewed journal (e.g., West does list essays in something called the “Journal of Biblical Studies”) of which I am aware. That itself is not a crime, of course, but one cannot deny Loftus a status as a biblioblogger and then grant it to West when neither has publications in major refereed biblical studies journals.
Much has been made of DC being focused on debunking Christianity. However, it would be unfair if blogs focusing on supporting the Bible and its authority qualify as “biblioblogs,” but those that do not support the Bible’s historicity or authority are disqualified. That charge against DC seems to reflect an anti-secularist bias on the part of at least some of West’s supporters.
We see the anti-secularism focus repeatedly on West’s blogs. For example, he has posts about how Luther thought Atheists were stupid. Yet, it is unclear why citing Luther’s opinion about atheism is any more philosophically valid than Loftus quoting Dawkins about how foolish theism is.
In any case, citing Luther on what counts as foolish is itself a foolish undertaking. Luther was a notorious anti-Judaist, and some of his stated policies would violate some basic human rights conventions today. So, why cite Luther on the virtues of theism or the foolishness of atheism?
Indeed, some of West’s heroes were regarded as atheists by their opponents. Thomas Jefferson says: “I can never join Calvin in addressing his god. He was indeed an atheist which I can never be” (Jefferson to John Adams, April 11, 1823; Thomas Jefferson: Writings (New York: The Library of America, 1984), p. 1466.
In other words, I don’t see that West shows any more sophistication or historical knowledge about atheism or even Christianity than what West might say Loftus shows about Christianity.
In terms of content, I don’t see that Jim West and DC differ that much in my admittedly unscientific survey. In terms of credentials, Loftus has the advantage of graduating from institutions whose existence is not in question.
In terms of publications, Loftus relies on known publishers and not self-publishing. In terms of knowledgeability, I don’t see that West is that much better. In any case, if there is a definition of a biblioblog, then it should be consistent and not dependent on whether the blog is for or against the Bible’s historicity and authority.
Ultimately, the “guild” of self-described bibliobloggers will have to decide on the definition and qualifications of bibliobloggers. What I argue here is that the discussion so far seems based on applying unclear or inconsistent criteria for who counts as a “true” biblioblogger. It seems very much like a sectarian war or a war between heresy (secularism) and Christian/biblical “orthodoxy.”
See link: Andersonville Theological Seminary/FAQ
Q. Does ATS have a campus?
A. We do not have a campus where students come to take classes—we have an office complex including our chapel. However, students are more than welcome to come by the school at anytime to see our institution and look around.
Q. Are the courses at ATS online?
A. The courses at ATS are distance learning, but they are not online. We have book courses and courses that are on MP3 CD’s.
Q. Which Bible does ATS use?
A. We use the King James Version because we believe that this version is the inspired Word of God.
Q. Is ATS accredited?
A. We are privately accredited through Transworld Accrediting Commission out of Riverside,CA.
Q. Do you plan to seek regional (governmental) accreditation?
A. We have considered this many times, but we have always opted to remain privately accredited because of the governmental red tape and rules involved in governmental accreditation.