Dan Barker Continues to Object

Dear Mr. Barker:

Thank you for your lengthy note. Your response to the events in Newberg strike me as tremendously non-reflective. You do not seem willing, or capable, of giving serious consideration to your own positions, and your own actions. You do not seem to see the obvious, and evidently, this is due to what might be called the apostasy syndrome. It came out when you made a passing comment to me in Illinois: when I noted to you that I had rehearsed your arguments to a campus group earlier that day, you replied that this made no difference, since they are “good arguments.” Then you made the telling comment. Why are they good arguments? “They are the arguments that made me an atheist.”

It seems that due to the fact that you have invested your entire life, your entire personhood, to your apostasy and your new religion (and surely you must realize it functions that way for you: you speak of doing atheistic “outreach,” you have “tracts” promoting atheism, even your outrageous behavior in the debate, praying for the microphone, etc., all speak of the fact that you have simply changed religions, you have not ceased to be a fundamentalist in your thinking), that you cannot even begin to reflect upon those arguments that are your primary bulwark against the inherent reality of God’s existence. If you were to seriously examine your arguments for coherence and consistency, you seem to know the result would be disastrous for your position. And so on the one hand you speak of rationality and care in thought, while on the other you engage in the most egregious violations thereof

I will take a few moments here to address, one last time, your allegations.

1) In making my opening presentation I made the egregious mistake of accurately representing the arguments of my opponent, arguments he had been making, in published works, and in public presentations across the United States (and possibly beyond: I have not invested the time in checking your past travel schedules!). I followed the rules of debate that do not require the second person to engage in mind-reading. You have been arguing that my opening statement should be limited to the arguments you presented in your opening, arguments other than those you were still promoting in your book, for sale in the foyer of the church where the debate was taking place. How I could possibly know what arguments you were going to present outside of taking the time to purchase, read, and study your own books, I cannot begin to figure out. But, the very idea that my opening is limited to rebuttal is without merit. You have produced nothing but your own predilections as a basis for this assertion. You have cited nothing from published works on debate that would indicate that a person’s opening statement should not be focused upon his opponents published and established position on the very issue of the debate! And no matter how much dust is thrown in the air here, Mr. Barker, all reasonable, rational people can see that not only did I accurately represent your work, but I did, in fact, focus upon the issue of the debate itself.

2) I believe you are embarrassed by the exposure of the level of argumentation you have been presenting for seventeen years in your published works. There is good reason for this. Your arguments were shallow and showed no familiarity at all with published refutations of them. In other words, they demonstrated tremendous bias on your part, and this goes to your credibility as a writer, thinker, and lecturer. Unlike your raising issues about my own educational background (which includes teaching in these areas since 1991), I have consistently let the facts illustrate the problems with your argumentation. The one time I mentioned your undergraduate work, I did so by quoting…you! So the issue here seems to be that you were well aware of the problems in your argumentation and use of sources, but, you refused to raise these issues prior to the debate, choosing instead to raise this smokescreen of a controversy to allow you to save face as well as continue to sell your books without appropriate emendation and admission of fundamental error.

3) You likewise seem to think that I am somehow attacking you, personally, as an individual. I do not believe this vitally important issue is about individuals. Who I am, or who you are, is irrelevant. I have never made myself a component of my argumentation. When I have challenged you on your studies I have done so not by saying, “Oh, look, I went to Fuller Seminary” or the like, I have challenged you on the much more fundamental basis: when you say “the Greek says” you have no basis for substantiating your claims and, in fact, have made documentable errors in the field. So when you admit you had only in the past ten years come to know about the Comma Johanneum, I think that is quite relevant to a person’s appraisal of your over-arching claims regarding biblical accuracy and reliability. I would gladly allow anyone to compare Godless with my works, such as Scripture Alone, The King James Only Controversy, etc., and come to their own conclusions. So, Mr. Barker, this isn’t a personal matter on my side.

However, as anyone who has taken the time to listen carefully to your story knows (and that is one of the issues here: I took that time, I listened to your story, multiple times, to your university lectures, to your debates, before we first debated: you were not even sure who I was in Illinois, and had not, it seemed, even taken the time to google my name, which put you at a self-imposed disadvantage from the start), you, sir, are the one who has made Dan Barker an issue. You market yourself as a former preacher. You speak of your knowledge of the Bible. I can provide many, many examples of this, of course. Just listen to yourself in your debate recently with Kyle Butts. You claimed a high level of literacy of the Bible, and even of Greek, in that debate. So when anyone refutes your arguments, since you have made your own apostasy from Christianity the main selling point you are promoting, they cannot help but cast doubt upon your claims. It is impossible to do otherwise. So when you then complain that you are being “attacked,” I suggest, sir, that you have made it impossible to completely separate the issues from the man. But that is a self-inflicted wound, Mr. Barker.

4) You object to my saying you abandoned the argumentation in your book. It is self-evident that you did. In fact, in just this point we see how truly irrational your stance in this matter has become. Anyone can listen to your initial objection. It was not rational. You said that you had not come to debate your book, as if my citation of your book changed the topic of the debate from your allegation that Jesus is a myth to your book. Your book contains an entire chapter on the topic of the debate. As I pointed out, you did not pursue the main line of argumentation in your book. You had eight possible naturalistic explanations for the “Jesus myth” in your book. How many of them did you present and defend in the debate, Mr. Barker? If you did not present them, how can any rational person object to the statement that you abandoned the arguments in your book, unless, of course, you wish to ignore the context of that statement (the context being the debate itself, and the specific arguments on Jesus as a myth contained in a specific chapter), and I fear you might well do that, in light of the fact that you continue to defend your misuse of Justin, though, I note, you cannot provide any contextual evidence for your abuse of his words.

I note as well that you have come up with a truly ingenious way of getting around the fact that you did not use the argumentation in your book in the debate: that you found “exciting and fresh” material to use instead. This ignores a major problem of fact and logic: you admitted in the debate that Richard Carrier warned you about the Walker material. Was it “exciting and fresh” news when Carrier informed you that the longest section of citation in your book on this topic was filled with holes, Mr. Barker? You admitted in the debate that during your preparation you had encountered this information. Is this not a clear admission that the reason you made the presentation you did was because you do not feel the material in Godless is actually defensible? And may I again point out what all of this means? You have now added a whole string of new (and, I would say, no more meaningful) “naturalistic explanations” to your presentation. That means you now present at least a dozen, probably more, possibilities all of which contradict the others! You have dropped the probability of any one of them being correct down to less than 10%, and yet do not even blink to promote more than one as being “compelling”! You may not see how this reveals an incredibly cavalier attitude toward history, but I truly believe the objective reviewer does.

5) I believe you are playing fast and loose with language in accusing me of putting words in your mouth. You refused to defend Walker’s outrageous material, reproduced by you for seventeen years in print. Yet, if I call that “jettisoning” her arguments, you say I am putting words in your mouth. I will allow any rational person to examine the video and see for themselves what you did. Saying you are going to put her scholarship on a “lower level” is a nice, meaningless phrase. Either what she said is ridiculously anachronistic and false, or it isn’t. Which is it, Mr. Barker? And just how clear and compelling was your comment, offered more than once, “Well, I might have changed my mind!” Classic avoidance answer. Those in the audience that day, and those who have watched the debate, well know that you rivaled Barney Frank trying to answer questions about Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac in your soft-shoe attempt to avoid admitting error. You seem to want to be able to avoid defending your own use of her material while at the same time accusing me of putting words in your mouth. It is the classic cake/no cake situation again.

6) You likewise keep saying I have been wrong in saying you did not want me to quote you in the debate. Again, the video recording is unambiguous. As soon as I began quoting you, you objected! You did not want me quoting Godless on the very topic of the debate, all based upon your insistence that I only get to rebut, not make a presentation based upon my opponent’s published works. You did not want me quoting Godless and you made that very plain. I leave it to any honest person to watch the debate and decide for themselves.

And so I invite you to post your article. Make your arguments. For those who are not interested in clear, consistent thought, nothing I have to say is going to change their minds. But I truly believe, Mr. Barker, that you have no basis for objection whatsoever to anything I said in the debate, or anything I have posted since then. Please feel free to defend your use of Justin: I believe anyone who compares my presentation with your own will see the truth of the matter. Please go ahead and give us another explanation of what you were really objecting too: the cameras were on, the recordings taking place.

It has always been my contention, Mr. Barker, that atheists are creatures denying their Creator. This involves a fundamental twisting of reality, and the more you attempt to re-make very recent, video-recorded history, the more you are demonstrating the correctness of my observation.

Finally, as to any future debates: as I have said, I will not pursue such, but if a third party wished to arrange a debate on your list of alleged contradictions in the Bible, I would have to say: would I get to quote you then? I think this is an excellent example of just how irrational your objection originally was. Let’s say we debate again and the topic is your famous list of alleged contradictions, such as you presented in Illinois (chapter 13, p. 222 of Godless), and let’s say we throw in your attempted response to me on Acts 9/22. You go first, making your case against the Bible. But if we follow your line of thinking, I would not be allowed to create a presentation based upon your published list of contradictions found in your books, since, as you say, “I might have changed my mind”! Or, let’s say you realize that you cannot really defend your attack on Acts 9/22 against someone who has actually taught the original languages of the Bible. By your own position I would not be allowed to even include a discussion of your published response to me unless you first raise it in your own positive presentation! Do you not see how your position destroys any meaningful debate over any important issue? And let me add one other item while I am at it, Mr. Barker. I read an e-mail from you that you wrote after your debate with Doug Wilson (a debate you think you won—a debate I do not believe was even close, mainly because you have yet to allow yourself to actually “hear” what Doug, or I, am saying) in which you rather smugly spoke of having been fully aware of Wilson’s serving on a capital crime jury in Idaho, and how you tried to use this information to your advantage (though, again, I think Doug handled that very poor attempt at the creation of an alleged “contradiction” very well). In fact, here is the letter, and I think it is useful to quote your own words:

The debate was great! All of the freethinkers in the audience agreed that I
nailed Wilson on many points.

I think he was surprised that I was ready for him.

I actually was able to use his jury experience against him, and he fell
right into it. He doesn’t know that I knew the story because I framed it
hypothetically and he volunteered that he was foreman of that jury, so I
just asked “innocent” questions. He eagerly stated that he would have
recommended the death penalty for the convicted murderer.

So let’s compare these two incidents, Dan: in our debate, I accurately represented the published arguments of my opponent in my opening statement. These are arguments you made in a public setting. And I continue to assert that anyone who would make an opening statement on a topic of debate while ignoring their opponent’s published positions is engaging in simple disrespect. Now, compare my actions in that debate with yours in your debate with Doug Wilson. You took private information, provided to you by an atheist in Idaho, and rather than openly using that information, pretended to present an “innocent” question so as to set up what? An alleged biblical contradiction during cross-examination so as to “nail” him. And that in a debate on the existence of God. And you say I have done something unscrupulous? I leave it to the unbiased reviewer to decide.

James White