Anti-Supernatural Bias (Or Not)
Lambchop, on the post "Ed Stetzer Wants Evangelicals to Just Calm Down Here" --
'the culture has become secular, hostile to organized religion and rejects the possibility of the supernatural'
Ah, yes - the "anti-supernatural bias"! I've actually seen that phrase in the wild - come and see!!
The State of Scholarship regarding the Gospels
Now, if all of what I have said is true then why do many scholars, teachers and other educated people believe the Gospels are not reliable and that they are just full of legends, myths and contradictions? There are two major reasons: First, many scholars and lay people simply are not familiar with the current state of scholarship. They just parrot what they were taught by their teachers who probably parroted what they learned from their teachers and so on. Remember this was the case with Sir William Ramsey whose professor taught him to not trust the Gospel of Luke to be historically accurate. But when he did his own research he concluded that Luke was one of the greatest historians of the ancient world and could be trusted.
The second reason is an across-the-board bias against the supernatural. This anti-supernatural bias has reigned in all academic fields, including biblical and theological studies, for the past 200 years. They assume before they even look at the facts that there is no transcendent personal God who acts in human history. If there is no personal God that is over and above everything else then a man who claims to be God in the flesh is a liar, a lunatic or a legend. Therefore, any document or set of documents that claims there was a man who claimed to be God and did supernatural miracles can't be right. It can't be trusted. But we have to ask these people, "What makes you so sure there is no God and no such thing as a miracle?" Do you know everything about the universe? Were you present in every moment of everyone's history to verify that nothing ever happened outside of normal natural laws? If you were, then you are God yourself and we should be worshipping you!
Duh herrr duh herrr duh herrr Go ahead and worship me! I AM LAMBCHOP!!
The only reason anyone ever challenges the idea that Jesus predicted his passion, death, and resurrection is out of an anti-supernatural bias. Jesus could not have predicted these things because, the reasoning goes, that would mean he knew the future, which is impossible. The idea that Jesus never predicted his own death and resurrection became popular over a century ago with liberal Protestant Bible scholars, and they infected many Catholic Bible scholars in turn. Source
How DARE people be rational! Just WHERE do they get off??
And now the *other* side:
Not a matter of anti-supernatural bias
I am singling out here one short section in the paper in which he addresses the claim often heard among the faithful that scientists (and by extension we could also say historians) approach their studies with a bias against the supernatural.
The idea that deities don’t affect the universe, then, is not an unjustified a priori assumption, as theologians often claim, but a conclusion born of experience: the experience that only a naturalistic attitude — -that is, a scientific one — has helped us understand nature and make verified predictions about it. As our confidence that science helps us understand the universe grows, so wanes our notion that immaterial and supernatural forces exist.
So what leads to this conclusion?
Beyond this incompatibility of methodology and outcomes is a philosophical incompatibility: the scientific view that supernatural beings aren’t just unnecessary to explain the universe (“methodological naturalism”), but can be taken as nonexistent (“philosophical naturalism”). Forrest (2000, p. 21) explains the link between these two forms of naturalism:
Taken together, the (1) proven success of methodological naturalism combined with (2) the massive body of knowledge gained by it, (3) the lack of a comparable method or epistemology for knowing the supernatural, and (4) the subsequent lack of any conclusive evidence for the existence of the supernatural, yield philosophical naturalism as the most methodologically and epistemologically defensible world view.
This is where philosophical naturalism wins — it is a substantive worldview built on the cumulative results of methodological naturalism, and there is nothing comparable to the latter in terms of providing epistemic support for a worldview. If knowledge is only as good as the method by which it is obtained, and a world view is only as good as its epistemological underpinning, then from both a methodological and an epistemological standpoint, philosophical naturalism is more justifiable than any other world view that one might conjoin with methodological naturalism.
Tim Widowfield posted his own take on this in Leap of Faith Or Failure of Reason.
But none of these examples of diversity renounce methodological naturalism, and so they are not at all analogous to theological approaches per se.
In addition, these religionists miss the fact that the humanities do exclude precisely what secularists wish to exclude in biblical studies. No other area of the humanities that I know includes supernaturalism as part of its explanatory panoply. Despite diversity in approaches, methodological naturalism remains the basic paradigm.
Thus, insisting on methodological naturalism in biblical studies and in the Society of Biblical Literature is perfectly consistent with what is the norm in all other areas of the humanities and social sciences. We should exclude supernatural and theological approaches with the same enthusiasm and for the same reasons we do so in the social sciences and in the humanities.
Empirically, those who defend the authority of the Bible in the modern world mostly are believers or members of a religious group. So why is it not as justified to posit that self-interest in preserving their own religion is what motivates defenses of the authority of the Bible in the modern world?
I believe that the late James Barr somewhere (must be The Bible in the Modern World, London, SCM 1973) remarked that the Bible has authority for those who believe that it has. For other people, it has no authority, or an importance not different from other classics.
The evangelical/fundamentalist idea of God directing history makes sense for those belonging to this direction within the church, and to nobody else. Provan's and Long's history book makes sense within this intellectual environment, and to nobody else. Even classical historical-critical scholarship made sense to those belonging to this school. On the other hand a fundamentalist history book is nonsense for the critical scholar, and viceversa.
One need not be an atheist to employ a secular approach or method of study. Indeed, any method that includes the supernatural is a failed method from the start and relies on superstition rather than rational, scientific approaches. Source
And if your entire foundation relies on superstition, that's really saying something, isn't it? That entire article there ^ , BTW, is chock-full of great arguments against fundagelicals' whiny self-importance. Including the comments.
Hendel's article is partially intended to critique certain conflicts taking place currently within the Society for Biblical Literature(SBL). But the main thrust of his article aims directly and antagonistically at Christian scholars who hold to any form of orthodoxy that challenges the unstated, humanistic, a priori assumptions held by the vast majority of biblical scholars and archaeologists today. His article, sadly, betrays nothing less than an anti-Christian bias, humanistic fideism, and the continued irrational acceptance of the general tenets and anti-supernatural assumptions of the JEDP hypothesis.
"Rule #1: No goblins." "You bigot! You're an anti-goblinist! How DARE you!!"
Note how he never defines what critical inquiry means to a humanist like himself. Looking at the Bible "critically," as Hendel uses the term, is not a neutral proposition. A Christian would not define "critically" the same way Hendel defines it. "Critically" means accepting the unspoken secular and anti-supernatural philosophy that undergirds that criticism. This is to already presuppose against the Bible's authorship claims right from the start. Critical scholarship as defined by Hendel impugns immediately, because it once again places the would-be autonomous man on the throne as the final judge as to the veracity of the Bible's truth claims and its historicity. For Hendel, critical inquiry into the Bible is equal to autonomous human reason as final judge. Critical investigation equals man as god on the throne, plain and simple.
Clutching-pearls routine: ENGAGED
It would be relatively easy to cite a plethora of resources that show the utter vacuous nature of Darwinian macro-evolution. It is a fairy tale for humanists, and they desperately cling to its tenets with an unsurpassed wild-eyed dogmatism in order to justify their humanistic autonomy. To believe that the universe made itself and the entire complexity of life forms contained therein may be the most irrational, illogical, blind deception ever foisted upon the mind of man. Hendel has apparently bought into its dogmas: lock, stock and barrel. This extensive quote helps to summarize the enormous problems associated with evolution, and its anti-supernatural, atheistic underpinnings: You can read it here at the site
Strategy: Insult the enemy and call them stupid poopy-heads. This will work. https://media.treehugger.co...
The simple fact is, spiritual things require spiritual enlightenment which only the Spirit of God can provide. The Scriptures are “spiritual” texts and were written intentionally to be exactly that. I’m certain that even the most dishonest atheist will admit that. Given that simple fact, if we follow Paul’s logic, it takes a person endowed with the Spirit of God to understand, to interpret, them. Hence, spiritless exegesis is no exegesis at all. Atheist exegesis is, by definition, spiritless and therefore – according to the very texts which they attempt to interpret – empty, void, vapid, pointless, meaningless. Taking the word of an atheist concerning the meaning of Scripture seriously is like taking a man born blind’s word concerning the meaning of blue. It is absurdity. Source
"And those atheists are ALL dishonest."
Why not, on the other hand, begin with the premise that the Bible is divine, and therefore completely true, and see what the evidence shows? Source
uh...we have O_O
The Gospels are full of miraculous tales that, in any other context, would be taken to completely destroy the author’s credibility. What would we think of an alleged witness who swears that he saw Ms. Smith commit the murder and then abscond quickly on her broomstick? Why not regard reports of walking on water or raising the dead in the same light? Religious people often employ a curious doublethink here that permits them to treat reverently stories that, encountered anywhere else, would get very short shrift.” Source
Gosh, where to put this brilliant retort? Anti-Apologetics? Or History? Wish I could put it in both places! -- Cas