Historians are Biased: so Trust Conspiracy Theorists

conspiracy-theoriesContinuing on with Chris Hallquist’s “William Lane Craig Exposed”, I waded through several pages of insults and accusations of dishonesty before reaching actual content. In this case, it was a discussion of the argument for the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

This discussion, predictably enough, opens with more accusations of dishonesty.

I’ll not comment on that, except to say in passing that it misses the point of whether or not the argument is a good one. Craig asserts that most Biblical scholars accept the following facts to be true:

1. Jesus was crucified and buried in a tomb, which was later found empty

2. Jesus’ followers claimed to have seen him alive after his death

3. Jesus’ followers came to sincerely believe that he’d been resurrected

Hallquist points out that there are some scholars who deny one or more of these facts. This is both true and entirely consistent with Craig’s claim. After all, he claimed only that the majority agreed with him on these points. In any field of study, there is always a fringe of disagreement about nearly any topic. Even Bart Ehrman, though he emphatically denies the truth of the resurrection, agrees with Craig on these points.

Hallquist, then, simply sides with the minority view. This is his right, of course, but it hardly establishes atheism as the only, or even the most, reasonable position. Much less does it establish that Craig’s position is nearly so unreasonable or dishonest as Hallquist (repeatedly) claims.

Really, one would think a chapter called “William Lane Craig Exposed” would have juicier gossip in it than “Craig claimed that the majority agrees with him, and that’s true, but some people disagree”.

As to Craig’s actual argument, it is simply that the Christian interpretation is the most reasonable explanation of these facts. This is understandable, as there is no competing theory among experts; the positions are “Resurrection” and “We have no idea what happened”. But, while one may or may not agree with Craig, it is no good to take the approach that Hallquist does.

That is, he references several different scenarios, each of which are known by historians to be implausible, in an attempt to use them together against Criag’s position.

For instance, Hallquist suggests that the disciples were simply hallucinating, and completely ignores that this theory has been discredited. He does nothing at all to address the reasons why the overwhelming majority of experts reject this view, but simply throws out other discredited theories. After five or six, we’re apparently supposed to throw up our hands and agree that the resurrection must not have happened.

No good scholar tries to counter a theory in this way. Certainly, it is hard to imagine Hallquist rejecting the cosmological model he defended earlier simply because I can name quite a few discredited speculations which contradict it.

But Hallquist has a reason why his interpretation is dismissed by the experts: they are nearly all Christians, and don’t want to say anything too embarrassing for their religion. Of course, this completely overlooks the fact that it is not merely the Christian scholars who disagree with him (again I reference Ehrman). It also overlooks the fact that making bold claims is how one makes one’s name as an historian. This is how conspiracy theories about the Bible were begun, after all.

As when discussing Craig, the only argument Hallquist seems to have against those who disagree with him is to throw out the accusation of dishonesty. He never seems to realize that, to defend his atheism, he actually has to give us a reason to think that the experts are wrong. Simply implying that one can’t trust a Christian, any Christian, when many of the people disagreeing with him aren’t Christian is a conspiracy theory of his own, not a defense of rational thought.

At this point in the chapter, Hallquist takes a break from attacking the honesty of historians to spend a few more pages attacking the honesty of William Lane Craig. But I don’t think this warrants a response. Really, if conspiracy theories and personal attacks are the best Hallquist has to offer for his position, I don’t think he has any right to accuse others of biased thinking. One would think that, if he had a reason why Craig’s argument was wrong, he’d simply give it, and skip all the pointless and unsupported accusations flung at his enemies.

And this seems a common trait among Hallquist and his fellow New Atheists: loud emotive attacks in the guise of “reason” and “science”. Actual reason and science is fairly slim in this book.

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