Sunday, May 27, 2018

On credentials, Philosophy, and NT studies

I dislike credentialism intensely. On the very rare occasions when I point out that a particular credential of mine is relevant to a certain argument, I do it at most to induce the other person to listen closely to the argument and to take seriously the possibility that I might be right, even if it goes against some idea the other person might have. I attempt never to substitute a reference to my credentials for argument.

In my current work in NT studies, I ask people, even beg people, to consider the arguments and the information, first and foremost. There is my book, Hidden in Plain View, which argues from undesigned coincidences for the conclusion that the Gospels (and Acts) are normal reportage, close up to the facts. There is my 2017 series on the work of Michael Licona (see wrap-up post as a portal, here). There is my recent debate with Craig Evans on the Gospel of John. There are my webinars for Apologetics Academy (here and here). And there are many other posts on a variety of topics in New Testament studies. There is the recent lecture by my husband, Tim McGrew, criticizing the literary device views. That is where I want to direct people's attention.

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees that the arguments are what we should be looking at.

A recent meme (as one might call it) is that neither I nor Tim is qualified to address these issues of literary devices in the Gospels at all because we lack relevant credentials. For a while I have mostly ignored this meme in public, hoping to induce people to pay attention to the arguments by placing those arguments front and center and asking people to take them into account. I have also argued explicitly that the field of NT studies in particular is inbred, subject to perpetuating epistemic pathologies, and needs an outsider perspective. Moreover, the meme has been going about in venues that are difficult to address--rumors about what is being said behind closed doors, statements on Facebook, and so forth. Most of the explicit claims that we are unqualified or that I am unqualified are being made in public by the followers of prominent scholars rather than by the scholars themselves.

Michael Licona did once indicate clearly and in public that (in his opinion) I am unqualified, in an older version of what now appears as this post. At first he publicly invited me to see and presumably share the initial version, but he replaced it after a few days. In the deleted version (which I have) he made much of my mere PhD in English literature and its alleged entire irrelevance to New Testament studies. He characterized English as my field and talked a good deal about how my knowledge of that field would not transfer to New Testament studies. He stated that I had "no training in the relevant field" and expressed surprise at my daring to "walk confidently" into the field of New Testament studies. His surprise is surprising, since I had published a critically acclaimed book in that very field in that same year! A fact that, of course, he did not mention. Though I have that earlier version, the only public traces in the current version are the almost eerie absence of any reference to my lengthy and fairly prestigious publication record in philosophy (also absent from the first version) and the insertion of a reference to my PhD in English in parentheses.

In the old version of his response, he implied (by a reference to Norm Geisler) that I should opt to discuss these matters in an "academic setting" where we would engage in "gracious and respectful dialogue" and implicitly (by comparing my approach to that of Norman Geisler) characterized my work as "attack[ing] [him] on the Internet." My careful, detailed, scholarly blog series on his book was at that time in its early stages. When it was finished, his subsequent refusal to engage with my arguments even when we were offered space for dialogue in just such a venue--the philosophy of religion journal Philosophia Christi--and his manner of refusing, made it scarcely a huge leap to the conclusion that he considered that I was unqualified and undeserving of engagement, causing one reader to point out the contrary. But given the deletion of the earlier version of his post in September, until recently there was no publicly available statement from Licona to this effect.

It is only more recently that Licona has publicly made this insinuation once again, in a series of podcasts with Tim Stratton of Freethinking Ministries. At minute 2:29ff and 4:30ff (episode 14) and about 2:50ff (episode 15) he states, and even repeats several times within short periods of time, that his only critic(s) are not in the field of NT studies. Referring (obviously) to me he says (2:53, episode 15), "The most vocal is not a gospels expert or even a New Testament scholar." Credentialism is a notable emphasis in these podcasts, repeated whenever the subject of his current critics arises. It becomes almost amusing at one point, because (about minute 2:13, episode 15) the host asks Licona if he could briefly summarize the point of contention between himself and his critics. Licona literally does not answer the question. Instead he spends about half a minute merely saying again that there are not a lot of critics and reiterating the support of New Testament scholars for his work and the alleged lack of relevant credentials of any of his critics. When he stops and clearly doesn't intend to say anything more, Tim Stratton is forced to try to construct something to characterize the nature of the debate. ("What about the fear that you're saying that we can't take the Word of God literally?") He has to do something like that--make up some characterization of the disagreement--because Licona literally sidestepped the request for him to do so! Instead, Licona took that answer time to tout again his endorsements and to push credentialism to dismiss any critics, and me in particular.

Throughout the podcasts Licona and the hosts never name either Tim or me, but it would be the merest carping to try to say that we are not (or that I am not) the referent(s) at various points. At minute 2:50 (episode 15), he says, "There have been a few negative criticisms on the Internet." My lengthy, careful series, with arguments, hardly qualifies as merely a "few negative criticisms," and the use of "on the Internet" is purely dismissive, as though posting serious, substantive content on the Internet automatically renders it non-serious and unworthy of a response.

At minute 24  (episode 15) Licona says, "We should be willing to engage with our critics. Of course that doesn't mean that one is required to respond to every blogger on the Internet," with the none-too-subtle implication that I am unqualified because I am merely some "blogger on the Internet." Trying further to qualify the requirement to be willing to engage one's critics (since he has already said expressly in another venue that he will not engage my arguments), Licona hastens to say (24:16) that one should be willing to "engage scholars in the relevant fields" (both "in" and "relevant fields" being defined by himself) and then qualifies further "especially if they offer criticism in respected, peer-reviewed journals in the relevant fields." This seems to put a lot of hedges up and to provide a lot of excuses for not responding to any critic deemed not to be "in" a relevant field and whose criticisms have not been made in precisely the right type of journal (as adjudged by Licona) rather than "on the Internet." At minute 25:29 (episode 15) he stated that he took criticism by, e.g., Craig Blomberg or Darrell Bock seriously "because they are serious scholars in the field of New Testament studies." At minute 26 he says he feels obligated to respond if a "serious New Testament scholar or classicist, one who's respected in that field" offers criticism. There can be little doubt in the mind of anyone honestly following all of this that Licona's intent in all of these qualifiers is to explain by way of negation why he refuses to engage with my arguments.

So now the credentialist cat is out of the bag and can be publicly addressed.

Somewhat similarly, in my recent debate with Craig Evans (transcript here), Evans says,
Maybe she [Lydia] doesn't understand the views of most of us hold to: Markan priority, the existence of a collection of Jesus' sayings which Matthew and Luke independently of each other used and supplemented their Markan narrative in creating their own Gospels of Matthew and Luke. 
This out-of-the-blue suggestion that I have no knowledge of the theory of Markan priority and the two-source hypothesis concerning the synoptic Gospels is particularly gratuitous, since it serves no clear argumentative function in the debate. (The debate was about John.) It was quite unclear how this alleged lack of understanding on my part was supposed to explain or lie behind my differences of opinion with Evans, and Evans gave no good explanation. The statement seemed to be a rhetorical attempt to dismiss me on the grounds of surmised ignorance due to outsider status. I was glad, of course, of the opportunity to show Evans how wrong he was in suggesting my ignorance.

Given these recent, public credentialist implications by two prominent scholars with whom I am disagreeing, I've decided to address the issue head-on.

First, both Tim and I are analytic philosophers. Tim (who has recently publicly criticized literary device views) holds both a degree in that field and a teaching position and chairmanship in that field.  My PhD is in English, as Dr. Licona has been at pains to note. I do not in fact acknowledge the irrelevance of a degree in literature to the current disagreements, since much of what is being done by NT scholars (and apparently some classics scholars as well) is merely poor literary criticism. It reminds me of the way that humanities scholars are often captivated by a theory and cease to understand the burden of proof that they bear, which I saw a good deal of during my English PhD studies.

It also may be somewhat relevant to point out that my undergraduate degree is in Bible (from Baptist Bible College, now Summit University, in PA) and that I was something akin to a child prodigy in a Baptist household and was memorizing long Scripture passages from the time that I was less than two years old until I went to Bible college at the age of sixteen. A sheer knowledge of the contents of Scripture is often relevant in these matters, as it was for several of the blunders I caught Craig Evans making in our recent debate.

For this post, though, I'll be writing most about philosophy.

My credentials as an analytic philosopher, which I'll come back to in more detail below, are found in my extensive publication record, spanning two decades and including many articles and a technical book in epistemology. My CV is here. (To maintain the integrity of the reviewing process, it does not include my work that is currently under blind peer review at journals. No under-review articles are listed below, either.) Nor are anywhere near all of these publications co-written with Tim. As Tim will attest, I have been an extremely full philosophical partner in co-written publications, including (or especially) those that are highly technical. In recent years I have branched out and published alone in the sub-disciplines of analytic epistemology and probability.

Analytic philosophy in general and epistemology (theory of knowledge) in particular are well-suited to prepare one to investigate and even, upon investigation, correct problems in a more concrete field. Analytic philosophy trains one in logical and epistemic rigor, disambiguation of terms, the ability to evaluate arguments, the ability to keep a variety of lines of evidence in mind at once, and a focus on arguments rather than persons. Perhaps this is why, when William Lane Craig suggests that aspiring apologists get a credential, a degree in philosophy is one of his main suggestions.

Now for a bit of old history: Having already established ourselves in classical epistemology, Tim and I first came fully to the attention of the apologetics community after a friend asked us, about fourteen years ago, to respond to an argument in Warranted Christian Belief in which Alvin Plantinga took on Richard Swinburne and tried to claim that the historical evidentialist argument for Jesus' resurrection was subject to a devastating technical rebuttal. At a conference in 2004 where Tim presented the first version of the response (that version written by him, with input from me), Richard Swinburne was personally present and warmly, publicly endorsed the work. Eventually Philosophia Christi hosted an exchange between Tim and me (co-writing) and Plantinga in which we refuted his "argument from dwindling probabilities." Already very concerned with the empirical details, we argued that he had not done nearly enough work to support the lackluster, off-the-cuff probability estimates he made concerning the strength of the case for the resurrection. Beyond that, we showed (and repeated the point in our later article on the resurrection) that Plantinga had committed an elementary probabilistic blunder, mistaking the prior probability of theism and the resurrection for their posterior probability.

It was likely as a result of that symposium, published in 2006, that William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland asked us to contribute the argument on the resurrection to the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, generously making a huge amount of space available in the volume for the article. (Draft version available here.) In no way did Craig or Moreland think that Tim and I were unqualified to write that piece because our work and previous publications were in philosophy rather than in biblical studies.

Let me emphasize here that the Blackwell article on the resurrection defies narrow disciplinary categories. We were expressly told at the time of writing that we were not simply supposed to analyze the form of the argument for the resurrection; we were supposed to make the argument for the resurrection. We certainly use probability theory and philosophy, but we use them in the service of modeling and making a particular, concrete, historical case for the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. In the course of doing so, we make statements concerning the historicity of the New Testament and the content of the disciples' testimony. As I noted here after a quotation from that piece was recently brought to my attention, at that time we overestimated the extent of scholarly consensus with the facts we used, but a benefit of that one-sentence error was a stronger argument than we would have had if we had restricted ourselves to the consensus permitted by scholarly hyper-skepticism; we have since then done extensive work defending the facts we used in that article. In no way was the Blackwell article solely a philosophy article; if you considered us qualified to write that piece and have admired our work in apologetics since then, you are in no position now to say that you have merely admired our work "in our own field" (meaning philosophy as sharply distinct from New Testament). Indeed, it is of the very nature of apologetics and philosophy of religion that they are interdisciplinary, and the Blackwell article showed this quite well.

After the Blackwell article was published, Tim went on to develop a speaking ministry in apologetics, speaking in venues all over the country and making available extensive information on the authorship of the gospels, answers to alleged contradictions, the reliability of Acts, and more. (His two-part 2015 debate with Bart Ehrman on the Unbelievable show is here and here. My followup, directly concerning New Testament studies, is available here and here and gives additional information that didn't come out in the debate.) In 2014, Tim received a Templeton Grant for three years to study Special Divine Action. His extensive knowledge spans several centuries of arguments for Christianity, with a special emphasis on the New Testament and arguments for the resurrection, and the grant both recognized the learning he already possessed and gave him the opportunity to extend that learning. See the Library of Historical Apologetics, with many downloadable old books.

As a result of Tim's work and passionate desire to bring back from past generations what we have lost in the defense of the faith, I became aware of and fell in love with the argument for the reliability of the Gospels and Acts from undesigned coincidences. In 2017 I published Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts, with a foreword by Craig Keener and 5 1/2 pages full of endorsements. Several of the New Testament scholars who endorsed the book were the same scholars whom Licona considers to be endorsers of his own work--these include Keener, Craig Blomberg, Darrell Bock, and even Craig A. Evans. I do not list these scholars to say at all that they agree with everything I wrote, much less everything I would say about the New Testament. The point is that they did not consider my book beneath notice or beneath endorsing because it is in the field of New Testament and my formal credentials are not.

At no time in this entire time period of over a decade did anyone evaluating our work, inviting Tim to speak, inviting us to conferences, asking us to write articles, or following our work in apologetics and the defense of Jesus' resurrection state that we were not qualified to do that work because we were merely philosophers rather than having degrees or publications in New Testament studies.

It is only now, when we have ventured to criticize New Testament scholars, though we have continued on the same trajectory that we have followed all along in our positive arguments, that those we have criticized and/or their followers suddenly insinuate that a philosopher is unqualified to speak on these matters and/or undeserving of an answer to concrete arguments. In my case, this insinuation is partly assisted by the fact that I do not have an academic teaching position, making it easier for Dr. Licona to "disappear" my hefty publication record--a record that many a tenured philosopher would be happy to have--and to imply quite falsely and insultingly that I am merely some "blogger on the Internet." Anyone who does not find my CV and who finds out that I am in fact a blogger and also a home schooling, stay-at-home mother, might be confused by his dismissiveness and his rhetoric. But since he has taken a stand on the need for a credential in one of a highly specific set of fields (emphatically not philosophy), his criticisms apply to Tim as well and indeed to anyone who ventures to take a stand, especially a controversial stand, on the subject of NT studies with "merely" credentials in analytic philosophy.

Having established the fact that philosophy has been and should continue to be considered a legitimate disciplinary background for this sort of work, I would like to list just some of my professional philosophy publications that are particularly relevant. This is not even close to a list of all of my philosophy publications; in particular, I'm not including here several publications related to the intersection of probability theory with Intelligent Design and/or the fine-tuning argument nor many of my publications in theory of knowledge generally, such as our book in metaepistemology. See my CV for the whole list of accepted publications to date. In addition to my own publications, listed on the CV, I have also reviewed professional articles for a variety of fairly prestigious journals, including Erkenntnis, Philosophy of Science, and Synthese.

Let me add that most journal publications in analytic philosophy, especially those in highly-ranked journals, have to run the gauntlet of an extremely rigorous and very slow process of double-blind peer review before they are accepted. Reviewers are often highly critical and even sometimes hostile, encouraged by journals to reject articles because of their overload of submissions. Very often two reviewers have to concur in acceptance, and an article can be rejected in the case of a tie, though some editors will send the article to a tie-breaking reviewer. It requires hard, patient, demanding, rigorous work, not to mention a thick skin, to publish in this field.


With Timothy McGrew:

“On the Historical Argument: A Rejoinder to Plantinga,” With Timothy McGrew, Philosophia Christi 8 (2006):23-38.

Discussed above.

“Foundationalism, Probability, and Mutual Support,” With Timothy McGrew, Erkenntnis 68 (2008):55-77.

This highly technical, complex article, published in a prestigious journal after the full process of blind peer review, takes some of the insights we gained through our response to Plantinga and applies them in epistemology more generally, showing how mutual support is properly modeled within a foundationalist schema. I can remember beginning work on the approach that would eventually develop into this article on an airplane on the way home from Biola in 2004, where Tim presented the initial version of the response to Plantinga. This approach to mutual support is relevant in many places, including the philosophy of religion, where many independent lines of evidence for the existence of God can be thought of as mutually supporting one another, though without violating the requirement for foundational bases.

“The Argument from Miracles: A Cumulative Case for the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.” In The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, edited by W. L. Craig and J. P. Moreland (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), pp. 593-662. Preprint version (posted with publisher's permission) here.

Discussed above.

"The Reliability of Witnesses and Testimony to the Miraculous." With Timothy McGrew. In Probability in the Philosophy of Religion, ed. Jake Chandler and Victoria Harrison (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 46-63.

This article was the result of an invitation to both Tim and me to co-present at a conference on formal epistemology in the philosophy of religion in Leuven, Belgium, in 2009. In this article we map out a more nuanced way of understanding witness reliability than had been heretofore available in the literature. We use Bayes factors, arguing that these need to take into account the relationship of a witness to his surrounding circumstances as well as the nature of the subject matter. This further expounds upon and also uses the work we had done on witness testimony in our Blackwell article.

By Lydia McGrew, published alone:

"Historical Inquiry," In The Routledge Companion to Theism, ed. Victoria Harrison, Stewart Goetz, and Charles Taliaferro. (New York: Routledge, 2013), pp. 281-293.

This invited article addresses the relationship of historical inquiry to belief in the miraculous. In it I argue (contra New Testament scholar John Meier) that the conclusion that a miracle has occurred does not lie in some special realm outside of the purview of empirical disciplines like history and science, nor does it require (contra philosopher of science Elliott Sober) special knowledge of God's innermost thoughts.

"Tall Tales and Testimony to The Miraculous," European Journal of Analytic Philosophy. 8.2 (2012):39-55.

In this heavily peer-reviewed technical article (it had to go to a tie-breaking reviewer before acceptance), I argue against philosopher Robert Fogelin's attempt to revive a Humean objection to miracles based upon the analogy of a friend who tells tall tales. I used the concepts I was developing at this time concerning increasing dependence to show that Fogelin made a blunder when he tried to compare a friend who tells repeated tall tales to a single event (such as a miracle) that has a low prior probability.

"Probabilistic Issues Concerning Jesus of Nazareth and Messianic Death Prophecies," Philosophia Christi 15:3 (2013), pp. 311-28.

This article was written for a special issue of Phil. Christi on what the editors called "ramified natural theology," which includes not only traditional philosophical arguments of natural theology but also hands-on arguments involving more empirical matters. I argued for a high Bayes factor for the fulfillment of several messianic death prophecies in the passion and death of Jesus.

"On Not Counting the Cost: Ad Hocness and Disconfirmation," Acta Analytica 29 (2014):491-505.

This blind peer-reviewed article gives and argues for a unique definition of ad hocness, the subject of a very large philosophical literature. Ad hocness is particularly relevant in historical inquiry, biblical studies, and the arguments for miracles. My research in ad hocness has been quite helpful to me in my later work in New Testament studies.

“Evidential Diversity and the Negation of H: A Probabilistic Account of the Value of Varied Evidence,” Ergo 3:10 (2016), Open access. Available here.

This blind peer-reviewed article argues for a previously unknown theory on the well-trodden subject of the special value of diverse evidence. Philosophers of science have written a great deal on this subject. My work in this area has been especially important to me in my New Testament studies work, as I have found that NT scholars frequently make mistakes specifically about the subject of what makes for independent multiple attestation. That is precisely the subject of this professional research. 

“Accounting for Dependence: Relative Consilience as a Correction Factor in Cumulative Case Arguments,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy. 95:3 (2017), 560-572.

This blind peer-reviewed article, written around the same time as the previously listed piece but accepted and published later, develops a measure of coherence and its component parts that are used to evaluate the relevant kind of independence for increasing confirmation. The issue is particularly relevant for evaluating testimony and historical documents. The measure that I develop here can be used to model the force of undesigned coincidences.

“Bayes’ Theorem,” entry in Dictionary of Christianity and Science. Edited by Paul Copan and Trevor Longman III. Zondervan, 2017.

This invited short dictionary article shows a variety of way in which Bayesian inference is relevant in arguments for Christianity.

“Of Generic Gods and Generic Men: The Limits of Armchair Philosophy of Religion.” Accepted as of December 2017 in The Journal of Analytic Theism.

This blind peer-reviewed article, currently accepted and forthcoming, argues against Thomas Crisp, who attempted to revive something akin to Plantinga's Principle of Dwindling Probabilities against the historical argument for the resurrection.

I'll jump back in time to mention one other article, in this case "published on the Internet," whose status is therefore a little difficult to describe. "What Grandma Can't Know" was written for and presented at the previously mentioned 2004 conference at Biola. It criticizes Alvin Plantinga's entire approach to religious epistemology. I was told by Plantinga himself via e-mail in 2009 that he, so far from dismissing and ignoring a critique "published on the Internet" by someone without a formal credential in the field, actually had a group read and discuss the article from my web site. He said "last year we read and discussed," by which I assume he meant a class of his, but he might have meant a reading group. (Our 2006 book, published by Routledge, also focused on Plantinga's Reformed epistemology.) Once I realized that this article was probably getting more attention by being on the Internet and hence readily and freely available for Plantinga and others to use than by being published in a book or journal, I left it there and did not attempt to publish it in another venue.

None of this public work, nor the rest of it on the CV, shows the extensive correspondence on issues in apologetics, philosophy, probability theory, and New Testament studies, and the intersection of all of these, that I have been carrying on for years. Nor does it represent the younger philosophers, some of them Tim's students, whom I have mentored and helped with their technical work.

If anyone is well qualified to learn a second field by self-study and to demonstrate that new learning by way of high-quality content, wherever it happens to be published, it is an established, highly credentialed analytic philosopher who already learned that difficult field by personal hard work without formal training, who has proven herself in that field by many professional publications, and who has published extensively in closely related and interdisciplinary areas relevant to the second field. Having a husband who is one of the foremost scholars in the world on the history of ideas concerning miracles and the Bible and who loves to share his knowledge is also helpful, to say the least. My "pure" New Testament work speaks for itself, and the arguments I make deserve  to be considered on their merits, not on the basis of what degrees I have and do not have nor even on the basis of where they have been housed or published.

I have pointed out repeatedly the kinds of mistakes that New Testament scholars make that an analytic philosopher with a specialty in dependence and witness testimony is particularly well qualified to spot. My study of New Testament has allowed me to see these problems, many of which I have written about or spoken about in webinars. I can document instances of all of these. These include the following:

--Anti-inductive confusion in the use of the criteriological approach
--Outright mistakes concerning independence in alleging "multiple attestation."
--The fallacy of equivocation on multiple terms and a related refusal to make and maintain crucial distinctions; confusing term redefinition.
--Blatant violations of considerations of simplicity by leaping over simpler explanations common in our known experience to Byzantine explanations. (As Tim says in his lecture, when you see hoof prints, think horses, not zebras.)
--Acceptance of complex literary theories on the basis of no evidence besides the fact that a scholar thought of them. (Failure even to begin to satisfy burden of proof.)
--Probabilistic non sequitur: inability to see that a fact does not support a conclusion at all and/or supports it only extremely weakly
--Carelessness about basic relevant facts, asserted as evidence. (This was especially evident in my recent debate with Craig Evans.)

Indeed, the extreme problem that NT scholarship seems to have with credentialism itself (which is in my experience less of a problem in analytic philosophy) shows that some disciplines are more resistant than others to such anti-intellectual arguments from authority, more willing to stick to arguments and evidence. Popular fallacies do not cease to be fallacious when well-known scholars, from any discipline, engage in them.

At this point, it is appropriate for those who care about the truth of these matters to investigate them on the ground, including reading my work, rather than dismissing my work on the basis of credentialism. Please see the links at the beginning of this article for some places to start.

Thanks for your patience to anyone who reads this post and who is not pressing credentialism. I hope that readers of good will find the information here useful to counter those who are doing so.

12 comments:

Johnny-Dee said...

The Difference Between the Fallacies of Appeal to Illegitimate Authority and Ad Hominem Circumstantial

The way credentialism has become a fetish for some people I believe is due in large part to their inability to think critically. For some it is a byproduct of our internet culture -- google it and find the answer. We have lazy intellects; thinking for ourselves is too much work. So, we defer to the first credentialed person who has endorsed views we want to believe. It doesn't matter why the credentialed expert believes it is this way. All that matters is that the person is "highly respected in the field" and that this person is serious scholar. Disagreement with the expert, in this way of thinking, can only come from another expert with distinctions of approximately similar honors. Any other attempts for a non-credentialed person to argue with the established expert are dismissed as an appeal to an illegitimate authority. This is so wrongheaded that it actually commits a logical fallacy in an attempt to call one out. Namely it commits the fallacy of ad hominem circumstantial.

The ad hominem circumstantial fallacy occurs when someone dismisses a person's argument due to circumstances of the person (e.g., gender, height, place of origin, familial relations, vocation, hair color, etc.). If a person has given an argument with supporting reasons, then an appropriate logical response requires showing that either (1) the reasons that have been given are false or (2) the reasons that have been given do not imply the conclusion that they are supposed to support. Pointing out that a person lacks a credential or some certified expertise does not show that the critic's argument either relies on false claims or unsound reasoning.

So, when does expertise matter? It matters when the argument rests in whole or part on the person's authority alone (X is true because I say so, and my authority justifies you in believing that it's so). This is why it is wrong to dismiss Tim & Lydia's arguments related to NT scholarship on the grounds that they lack credentials. Their arguments do not rely on trusting their expertise. If they argued, for instance, that based on their study of the Greek texts, Hebrews could not have been written by Paul because, after all, they have a feel for the Greek writing style and they are experts in Greek manuscripts, so their opinion must be given its due -- then an assessment of their credentials becomes relevant to accepting or rejecting their opinion. In the case at hand, no argument given by Tim or Lydia makes this kind of appeal to expertise where one must simply trust their expert judgment. Once again, to dismiss their arguments because they lack the appropriate credential just commits the ad hominem circumstantial fallacy. If Tim or Lydia have made claims that lack support or that are ignorant of recent work in NT studies, the appropriate response to to refute them with the relevant knowledge.

So what is it that Tim & Lydia don't know that NT scholarship knows? What premise do they assert that is false or how do their claims not imply the conclusions that they draw? The Licona (or his defenders) should address these questions.

By the way, I have a Ph.D. in philosophy, and I have taught logic & critical thinking for years. So, you should take my word that Licona's rejection of Lydia's arguments because she's not a NT scholar are logically fallacious.

Brad Cooper said...

Pointing to a supposed lack of credentials is so blatantly ad hominem. In my experience, when someone no has no logical response to their opponent's argument but ceasethey do not want to concede that fact, they almost always attack their opponent with some kind of ad hominem comment. Sadly this is the case with Licona and Evans. But I guess we all fail sometimes--no matter how great a scholar one may be.

Brad Cooper said...

I think it is also quite ironic that Licona is questioning your credentials when he does not have a single degree in Roman history or as a classicist, yet the work he is being criticized about is related to a rather questionable conclusion that he has reached based simply on his study of Plutarch and that he wants to apply to all First Century historical works.

Blake said...

I find it bizarre that you have to point out that people should pay attention to the argument and not rest everything on credentials. Credentials got us the embarrassing claims about "First Century Mark", maybe a little probability theory and evidence weighing would have been good for certain NT scholars. But I guess that would be outside their field.

Unknown said...

I already have your "Coincidences" book, and will read it soon. You have convinced me to read more of your work. Richard M. Evans. Southwest Dallas/Duncanville Chapter of Reasonable Faith.

Lydia McGrew said...

My deepest apologies for the moderation delay. Blogger had inexplicably turned off e-mail notifications on comments awaiting moderation. I wondered why everything was so quiet! I have now turned *off* moderation. Hopefully all comments on this post have now gone through.

Lydia McGrew said...

Thanks to all for your supportive comments. Brad, it's interesting what you say about Licona and classics. His answer would be that Christopher Pelling likes his view, Christopher Pelling is an eminent classicist, he's been following those who *are* experts in classics, so he's being consistent. I happen to know that he has even gone so far as to say that the "entire field" of classics supports this view.

The oddity about that is that in the recent podcasts he emphasized that Pelling was the only person who had done much with the literary devices, and even Pelling only in a more sporadic way. And in the post last fall he said it was a "handful of classicists" who had guided him to this view.

One can't really have it both ways: This book is a bold, important, new treatment of literary devices not previously widely understood in classics. Only a handful of classicists understood it before. *And* say that "the entire field" of classics endorses this view.

So even as far as *living* classicists, I would be willing to bet there are those who are dubious and think, e.g., Plutarch just sometimes made minor mistakes or forgot, many of these aren't discrepancies anyway, etc.

But once we enlarge our view so as not arbitrarily to restrict ourselves to those who happen to be living at the same time as ourselves, it becomes nearly certain that there have been *many* classicists who would have rejected such a view.

At that point merely to dub the Pelling/Licona view a "new discovery" which those older classicists "didn't understand" is the purest chronological snobbery, if in fact they would, with all their expertise, have *rejected* it as poorly supported.

Hence in the end, Licona himself has to think *for* himself in fields in which he lacks a credential in order to pick his favored experts to prefer.

Personal judgement of evidence: You just can't get away from it.

Brad Cooper said...

Spot on, Lydia.

mbabbitt said...

Lydia, I greatly appreciate your transparency, lucidity, honesty, and intellectual tenacity. Thanks.

Jon M said...

If your credentials as a Philosopher are accepted, have you ever thought about calling what you are doing "Philosophy of Biblical Studies?" Now certainly a philosopher of religion should know about religion, and a philosopher of science should know about science, but often philosophers of science are accepted as such without having a degree in the sciences. Now there are some scientists who think philosophers are crazy for thinking they know about science when they don't have a degree in it, but many who study science on their own are seen as legitimate philosophers of science. It's just a thought.

Also, I think it is important to have an outside perspective. When you know about a subject, but have not been integrated into the paradigm, it helps to see some of the flaws that may be accepted as truth within the field.

Lydia McGrew said...

Jon, interesting thought. I probably wouldn't because it would sound made-up. That is to say, it isn't standard terminology. And people get touchy about made-up specialties. "You're just trying to make yourself sound more important," etc. However, it would be completely legitimate to label an area of competence as "intersection of philosophy and biblical studies," without any appearance that one is trying to imply a previously established sub-discipline.

Callum said...

This is being saved on my browser. Nice gold mine of articles to track down later too!