Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Atheism of John Dominic Crossan. The misleading duplicity of some liberal theologians and New Testament scholars regarding their actual theological commitments

New atheists, people like Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens, are straighrforward in their atheism. They openly say and defend their atheistic views. At least for that extension, they're intellectually honest (even if their atheistic arguments are sophomoric and fallacious, or even if they tend to chiken away from debating world's leading theists). These new atheists are openly hostile to any religion whatsoever (including spiritualism, New Age spirituality and so forth), they clearly make the point that all forms of religion are false and have to be eliminated from the public life.

But atheists in New Testament studies are different. Contrary to the new atheism, many of atheists working in the New Teatament are religious pluralists (which is a form of destroying exclusivistic religion) and, more astonishingly, some of them claim to be themselves "Christians".

John Dominic Crossan is an example of such atheist who masked himself as a Christian. It became evident in his published debate about the historical Jesus with William Lane Craig in the book "Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?" (p.50-51) 


Let's quote the relevant passage in which Craig pressed Crossan to be explicit about his views on God.

Craig: But if the existence of God is a statement of faith, not a statement of fact, that means that God’s existence is simply an interpretive construct that a particular human mind—a believer—puts into the universe.

Crossan: …I would say what you’re trying to do is imagine the world without us. Now unfortunately, I can’t do that. If you were to ask me (which is just what you did) to abstract from faith how God would be if no human beings existed, that’s like asking me, “Would I be annoyed if I hadn’t been conceived?” I really don’t know how to answer that question.

Craig: Sure you do!

Crossan: Wait a minute! We know God only as God has revealed God to us; that’s all we could ever know in any religion.

Craig: During the Jurassic age, when there were no human beings, did God exist?

Crossan: Meaningless question.

Craig: But surely that’s not a meaningless question. It’s a factual question. Was there a being who was the Creator and Sustainer of the universe during the period of time when no human beings existed? It seems to me that in your view you’d have to say no. 

Crossan: Well, I would probably prefer to say no because what you’re doing is trying to put yourself in the position of God and ask, “How is God apart from revelation? How is God apart from faith?” I don’t know if you can do that. You can do it, I suppose, but I don’t know if it really has any point.

Crossan's actual position is that God exists only in the mind of believers (a kind mental projection which believers put upon the reality), but not objectively (as a mind-independent spiritual entity out there). This is why, when pressed by Craig to specify if God existed in the Jurassic age, Crossan was forced to concede "I would probably prefer to say NO" (= atheism!).

Atheists don't deny that God exists "subjectively", that is, as an idea or belief in people's minds. What atheists deny is that God exists objectively, as an actual or real spiritual entity which exists independently of people's minds and beliefs. And this is precisely and straightforwardly Crossan's position.

Craig summarizes Crossan's theological position (after their debate) in this short video:


As far I've studied the technical scholarly literature of the New Testament, I've became impressed by the numbers of liberal scholars who are atheists and/or religious pluralists, and I think I've discoveried a reason why, in contrast with new atheists, some New Testament liberal (atheistic) scholars masked themselves as theists and even as a Christians.

My hypothesis is this: Unlike Dawkins or Hitchens, who don't write about New Testament studies (and have not particular interest in religious people like Jesus, but in destroying the supernatural on behalf of naturalism), liberal scholars have found a way to make themselves more credible, masking themselves as Christians. 

The astute liberal strategy is this:
In the mind of the public, that a "Chirstian" scholar denies the resurrection or Jesus' exclusivism is interpreted by anti-Christian readers as the foremost example of objectivity and unbiased mindset, because in principle the Christian scholar is biased by his beliefs to believe that Jesus is like the Gospel portrays him. However, the findings of "contemporary scholarship" are so at variance with the Christ of faith, that even Christians (the honest ones = liberal ones) are forced by the evidence to conclude that Jesus was a mere man, a mere teller of stories or cynic philosopher, who didn't claimed any exclusivistic view regarding salvation and who was not risen from the death.

This is the impression that these liberal scholars astutely convey to the public and that anti-Christian readers are eager to believe. Readers sympathetic to liberal scholars will be fooled by this misleading impression. They honestly believe that liberal scholars are more objective or unbiased than conservative ones when it comes to Jesus' life and teachings. (In a similar way than materialistic scientists, atheists and "skeptics" tend to believe that Ray Hyman or Richard Wiseman are more unbiased and objective towards parapsychology than people like Dean Radin, who are believers in psi and make a living trying to prove it).

Masking themselves as "insiders" of a religion, they can claim that despite his own theological commitments and prejudices, their scholarly objectivity forces them to concede that the claims of their own religion are largely false, at least when interpreted literally. (Note that this claim subtly implies that only conservative scholars, like Craig and others, who apparently have not interest in discovering the truth at all, would take seriously such silly and unsupported claims like the resurrection or Jesus' exclusivistic view. But liberal, scientific-minded, objective scholars know better: They know that the Church fabricated a lot of Jesus' teachings, including the resurrection, the view that he was the Son of God and so forth. This is the misleading impression that liberal scholars produce in many people and that atheists, agnostics and anti-Christians of any kind are eager to believe).

Again a parallelism exists in parapsychology: If a "insider" of parapsychology, let's say someone like Susan Blackmore, after a self-confessed intense experimental research of psi during several years, didn't found any evidence for it, it is a lot of more credible than the biased debunking claims of a magician like Randi. Why? Because Blackmore was a professional parapsychologist, and hence biased in favor of the existence of psi (which is the essence of this field). But the evidence for psi is so weak, so bad, that she was forced to conclude, despite their prejudices and predispositions in favor of psi, that the whole field is a waste of time. This is the misleading impression that Blackmore conveys to some people (e.g. to "skeptics", atheists and other people hostile against parapsychology).

I'm convinced that this is the main reason why some liberal scholars present themselves as "Christians", when they're really and literally atheists

If Crossan introduces himself openly as an atheist, many people would say "Well, he's biased against Christianity, let's take his claims with a grain of salt". But if he presents himself as a Christian, he's conveying the impression that he's an insider, and hence this objection is not available anymore; and the impression have been conveyed that even a Christian would "concede", forced by the scholarly evidence and intellectual honesty, that Jesus was a mere man (like many others), and that claims like the resurrection, Jesus' exclusivistic self-perception or Jesus' teachings claiming or implying High Christology are not part of the  evidence for the historical Jesus.

Can you see why it is not coincidence that some atheists in the New Testament mask themselves as Christians? This is part of an clever atheistic strategy, an astute and deceptive one which has to be exposed as the fraud which it is.