Thom Stark: "I think every Christian should be paying attention to Loftus..."

That's pretty cool for him to say that, I think. He goes on to say: "...even, if not especially, when we don’t like the way he talks and what he has to say." You see, a problem originated when I highly recommended Stark's forthcoming book, The Human Faces of God. I had written:
The only reason evangelicals still exist is because most of them simply do not read. Those who do read don't read works like his. The few who do read works like his don't do so to learn anything. They already have their blinders on from a few years of indoctrination in an evangelical college of their choice. In my opinion when it comes to understanding biblical scholarship the phrase "educated evangelical" is an oxymoron.
Is this rhetoric? Nope. I meant it. It's now the quote of the day!

This was a problem I personally experienced when in a Ph.D. program at Marquette University in "Theology and Ethics." Daniel MaGuire was my professor in a class callled "Theological Ethics." I wrote a paper on "Justice" and received a low grade because Dr. MaGuire could see quite plainly I did not understand the Old Testament as the evangelical that I was who regarded the whole Bible equally as God's word in every respect. As a liberal MaGurie said I must take an Old Testament class before I could graduate. Then as one who was on the committee to dole out the limited stipends to students that year, my funds were cut off along with several other Protestants (several of us wondered why they brought us into the program only to cut the funds after a year and a half, but times were tough for them and I gave them the excuse they needed).

As an evangelical with my evangelical views they should not have granted me a Ph.D. When it came to biblical scholarship of the Old Testament I truly was not educated. Now this may sound like anecdotal evidence but after gaining a better understanding of the Old Testament I think what I said is true. Even Thom Stark admits it's generally true:
Now, having been an Evangelical myself, I am obliged to admit that his [John's] statement is generally true. Many (if not most) Evangelicals don’t read dissenting literature, and when they do, they usually read it to pick it apart, not to learn from it. I know this because I went to a good Evangelical Bible College and that is how we were trained to read dissenting literature, and I have read enough Evangelical apologetics to know that that is how Evangelicals are often taught to read dissenting literature: as a foil, with the presupposition that the dissenting views cannot be correct.
Case in point is an obnoxious know-it-all inerrantist Calvinist Christian blog who lampoons the fact that Biblical scholar John J. Collins, of Yale Divinity School, says of Thom Stark's book:
Thom Stark’s book, The Human Faces of God, is a refreshing exception. It presents many of the obviously problematic aspects of the Bible – polytheism, human sacrifice, genocide, mistaken eschatological expectations. It breaks no new ground in the historical critical understanding of these problems; Stark’s objective is not to advance new hypotheses, but to focus on the significance of that which has already been established.
Well, well. Does this prove Stark's book says nothing new and shouldn't be taken seriously? Not at all. It depends on your perspective. Collins is not an evangelical, folks. He's a liberal. So for him to say Stark is merely sharing standard already established stuff means exactly what it says, that the standard stuff Collins considers established is non-evangelical stuff. Stark's book shares what this standard scholarship shows us. For evangelicals, Stark's book would be completely eyeopening new stuff to them! It would be an education for them to read it. As I said, and I stand by it, "when it comes to understanding biblical scholarship the phrase 'educated evangelical' is an oxymoron."

If there is any evangelical who understands and accepts this standard scholarship then that person can no longer claim to be an evangelical.


Dan Wilkinson said...

Do you think "evangelical" can be defined? And if so, what is your definition? (or can point me to where you already provided it?)

It seems to me that a lot of these quibbles simply have to do with differing definitions of "evangelical," "liberal," "fundamental," "conservative," or even "christian."

Brad Haggard said...

Well, John, I guess you don't think I can "honestly" read Collins and disagree with his assessment.

You're sounding more "reformed" all of the time.*

*rhetorical jab for Thom

Thom Stark said...


See. That was fun.