A Few Personal Items

Posted By on March 20, 2011

Just a few personal notes.

1. Sorry I have lagged behind in blogging. I just plowed through almost 30 hours of grading in the last nine days. Both my adjuncting positions had grades due at the same time (never happened before — a perfect storm!)† I have oral surgery Monday morning, so if the meds are working, I’ll be home and coherent in the afternoon. I will try and get to a universalism post Monday.

2. For those who follow the comments, a Mr. Quilter objected to my Bart Ehrman post of a short while back (couple of weeks I think). He somehow connects Bart’s ideas about the corruption of the New Testament to the existence of God (which he doubts or denies). I know, it’s a non-sequitur all its own. He followed that by an assertion that scientists don’t believe in God. That isn’t bad logic; it’s just nonsense. In the process of responding to him I posted a link to this article from the science journal NATURE. It’s a study done in the 1990s about scientists who believe in a personal God. I mis-read a section of it and had the wrong percentage of believing physicists / astronomers in my reply to Mr. Quilter (I took the 70+ percentage in the middle column as believers when it was unbelievers. The actual figure in the article is just over 40%).† I naturally wanted to try to show him that lots of scientists do indeed believe in God. And they do. In the church I went to while in grad school we had the head of the Botany Dept., the head of Environmental Studies, a professor of electrical engineering, two university research physicists, and doctoral students in geology and biology. When it comes to whether real scientists believe in God, I know firsthand that the answer is yes. Mr. Quilter brought my mistake to my attention and, in the process of trying to hurry through the comments, I wound up deleting his response instead of editing it (the buttons are next to each other and I don’t get a chance to “approve” deletions). I just haven’t gotten back to the blog since. But rather than suing me (!), Mr. Quilter dutifully sent me an email accusing me of dishonesty. Understandable, but a bit over the top. Hence this post and the re-post of the NATURE article.† (And now it gets more exposure, rather than being buried in comments). I’d suggest that we could all find Jews, Muslim, Unitarians, New Agers, and an assortment of others who believe in a personal God and don’t consider the NT any sort of authoritative source.† It’s that easy.

I also (just now) deleted comments made by Mr. Quilter that are rendered superfluous by this post. He can feel free to append the contents of those to this post so everything is all in one place for all to reference.

What I now want from Mr. Quilter – and I’m letting you all know – is for him to demonstrate how Bart Ehrman’s take on the NT is essential to (a) people believing in God and (b) the existence of God. I will of course clear comments on this (to this post for those of you who follow). Mr Quilter will get one, and only one, chance to respond coherently. If I get a stream of incoherence (defined here as comments that don’t answer my specific question, stated above) or other accusatory remarks, I won’t hesitate to filter him out, since that will sort of tell me it’s not going anywhere good. But the first response will get through so you can all read it and judge its coherence and willingness to be avoid being overly nasty.

3. In regard to my time constraints, of which the past nine days have made me even more aware, I am thinking about an idea proposed to me long ago by a reader that might produce a PT “grad assistant” for me. Most of you know I do all I do on the side – no secretary, no assistants, no nothing (you can tell I’ve been reading too many undergrad papers with that piece of awkward prose). If I pull the trigger on it, I’ll announce it here (after I finally post something on the universalism subject – promise).

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14 Responses to “A Few Personal Items”

  1. Beau says:

    I apologize for suggesting that you were dishonest in deleting comments from the post. I felt that the deletions misrepresented our discussion.

  2. Beau says:

    You ask me to “demonstrate how Bart Ehrmanís take on the NT is essential to (a) people believing in God and (b) the existence of God.”

    Why do you ask me to demonstrate something that I do not believe, and never suggested on your blog?

    • MSH says:

      You went from one to the other, so I presumed you were moving from one thought to the other. If you aren’t, I accept that.

  3. Beau says:

    Here, you continue to mis-characterize my comments.

    I did suggest that you demonstrated bias against ” scholarship that might refute the supernatural inerrancy of scripture”. A completely different proposition.

    I also asked whether you actually read Bart Ehrman’s “Forged” before writing a post that scathingly criticizes it. You have yet to answer this question, though it is far more relevant.

    • MSH says:

      I don’t need to read Bart’s book on this since I’ve read a pile of material on pseudonymity already. There’s nothing new in the subject. He’s just popularizing the material.

      On inerrancy, you have no idea what I think about it unless you’ve read through all that discussion here. I’m guessing you are presuming I take a certain definition of it that Bart would want to shoot at. My own thoughts on it make believers and unbelievers uncomfortable. And the way I define it has little to do with textual criticism or pseudonymity.

  4. Beau says:

    “He followed that by an assertion that scientists donít believe in God. That isnít bad logic; itís just nonsense.”

    Now, assuming you stop deleting past comments, your readers can see for themselves that I never made such a bland generalized assertion. This is false.

    You were the one who started the ball rolling with this assertion:

    ” I hope you know that Big Bang cosmology *requires* an external cause that is distinct from the thing brought into existence by it (i.e., matter). This is why so many physicists do believe in God.”

    I replied:

    “Your ‘so many physicists’ who believe in God arenít anywhere near a majority of physicists, as several surveys have shown.”

    To which you replied that I was wrong, and that a survey in the journal Nature showed “79.9 percent of astronomers and physicists believe in God.”

    I replied that you got the article wrong. It actually stated that 79.9 percent of astronomers and physicists doubt or disbelieve in God.

    This is the conversation that you are characterizing in this way:

    “He followed that by an assertion that scientists donít believe in God. That isnít bad logic; itís just nonsense.”

    • MSH says:

      Big Bang cosmology *does* require an external causation. Many physicists believe that external causation is God. All attempts (most recently Hawking) to not have an external cause have been undermined by mathematicians like Penrose. Many will not, but won’t resort to the nonsense of saying there was no cause. Frankly, I don’t care what percentage it is, since such arguments aren’t won or lost by counting noses. If the non-God view was so evident, NO physicist, astronomer, or mathematician would reject it.

  5. Beau says:

    Now, I absolutely agree that a discussion of God’s existence is irrelevant to your post about Bart Ehrman’s new book “Forged”. But if you had not deleted so many of our comments, your readers would see that we BOTH took off on this tangent.

    Again, my relevant question for your post:

    Did you actually read Bart Ehrmanís ďForgedĒ before writing a post that scathingly criticizes it?

    • MSH says:

      I answered this below. I don’t need to read a popularization of pseudonymity when I’ve read the scholarly material on it. Would a physicist spend his or her time reading Popular Science when they can read journals in their field?

  6. Robbie says:

    Hi Mike,
    With respect to grading papers, keep in mind JRR Tolkien hastily scrawled the immortal words: “In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit.” whilst marking exams for extra money to support his four kids. Almost 80 years later, we all know how that turned out. Perhaps you too, in marking undergraduate papers, might have a similar burst of inspiration for the Facade sequel. God bless you in your literary endeavours.

  7. Beau says:

    I was looking for your replies this morning, and realized that today is March 22nd, the official release date for Bart Ehrman’s “Forged”.

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