Dear Dr. Carter:
On September 21 I posted an Open Letter to you and informed you of its appearance by e-mail. On September 25thyou made reference to people who e-mail you and challenge you to debate in your class, and hence I assume you received the previous e-mails. You have chosen to not so much as acknowledge my letters, let alone reply to any of the substantive issues raised therein. I understand now why: by definition, you preclude believing Christians not only from the academy, but evidently preclude them from deserving your respect as well. This speaks volumes, especially in light of the fact that on the very issue you challenged Summer on last Thursday (the authorship of the gospels) you have been silent in the face of a logical, meaningful response.
Evidently, sir, you feel a call to be a “gatekeeper” for the “academy,” and feel that it is your calling to “keep out” of the academy a particular view of the world. To quote you directly from 9/25/07:
So what I want to keep out of the academy, because it has no scientific evidence to support it, reason doesn’t support it, and common sense doesn’t support it: the view that the Bible is inerrant.
This was followed by your assertion that the Bible contains thousands of errors, perhaps tens of thousands. I must admit, you sound very much like one Dennis McKinsey, founder of the atheist publication Biblical Errancy, a man I have encountered many times. The difference is that McKinsey is at least familiar with the responses Christians offer to his criticisms, while you clearly do not feel any need to bother yourself with studying such material, lest you grant “legitimacy” tothe position you detest so strongly.
You listed two positions that you feel disqualify anyone from participation in the academy: a belief in intelligent design, and a belief in an inerrant Scripture. You asserted that these views 1) have no scientific evidence, 2) are unreasonable, and 3) lack common sense. I would like to demonstrate, to those who are not dogmatic anti-Christians, that your assertion is untrue. The fact that you will say on the one hand that you welcome open dialogue and debate, while on the other saying you will have nothing to do with anyone who holds these viewpoints, demonstrates the incoherence of your position and your worldview as a whole.
Let’s examine the assertion that a belief in an inerrant Bible (or any inerrant Scripture) disqualifies one from participation in the academy and, evidently–given your refusal to even acknowledge e-mails, and given your willingness to tell Christian students that their parents have “lied” to them about the Bible, even if you haven’t a clue what those parents have actually said–from simple common courtesy and respect. You assert that inerrancy lacks scientific evidence. Given the nature of the claim, that is hardly a weighty observation. The claim of inerrancy is not a scientific claim, hence, it hardly needs scientific evidence in support of it. To say otherwise demonstrates an epistemological confusion of massive proportions. But let us go beyond the simple observation that not all truth claims are answered in the same fashion. Let’s address the assertion that science debunks the inerrancy claim. This would require an examination of relevant texts, which would likewise require some knowledge of the original languages of the Bible (for the claim of inerrancy speaks to the Bible as written, not to the activities of, say, a scribe in Macedonia in the 1200s and his understanding of the world), history, and other basic principles of historical examination of ancient documents. I have reviewed the materials you have posted on your website, including lists of alleged “problems” in the Bible, and all I can conclude from these lists is that you have a very simplistic view not only of the Bible, but of historical examination of such materials as well. For example, you write,
There are 2 different creation stories and the timelines concerning when man was created relative to the other creatures contradict one another.
Do you truly think that Christian scholars are not aware of the issues raised by Genesis 1 and 2? What amazes me, Dr. Carter, is that you do not show the first bit of awareness of what Christian scholars have written on the subject for literally hundreds of years. You show no awareness of any believing Christian literature beyond what you mockingly refer to as coming from Oral Roberts University, or the like. This purposeful ignorance on your part, combined with a wide-eyed gullibility in accepting anything the likes of Pagels or Ehrman produces, is very telling to those of us who actually do read both sides. You use the term “contradiction” in a simplistic fashion, without taking into consideration the purposes of the accounts, their inherent differences, etc., seemingly assuming that the author, or, as you would undoubtedly prefer, later redactors, possessed significantly less common sense and literary ability than anyone living today. In any case, he who alleges must do more than merely assert, and without any assertion, there is little that can be said in response outside of, “No, Genesis 1 and 2 address different aspects of the creation, and hence are not contradictory to one another when seen to be addressing the subjects they address.” Or another example of the lack of depth of your materials is found here:
In Misquoting Jesus, Professor Bart Ehrman, the former believer in the inerrancy of the Bible tells how he requires his students to see what each of the Gospels says concerning the birth and death of Jesus. In fact, they contradict each other in their differing accounts.
I have not only read Ehrman, I’ve read his more scholarly work that preceded this one—have you? And I have listened to Ehrman make this very allegation in the context of debate against William Lane Craig. Have you? And I can provide sound, contextual, fair answers to every accusation he makes on that level. But, amazingly, you preclude even the possibilityof such replies, and that on the basis of your own ipse dixit! It is an example of rationality or “common sense” to dismiss an entire spectrum of replies by definition like this? I think not.
Moving to the next criterion, that of reason, allow me to lay this out:
- Given God exists and is personal and the Creator of all things;
- Mankind, as the creature of God, possesses the ability to communicate;
- God must possess the power of communication to be the source thereof in His creatures;
- If God can communicate, He has the power to do so perfectly, in oral or written form.
Is there an error so far, Dr. Carter? Unless you presuppositionally remove the existence of God as a personal being, you cannot say itis unreasonable to believe a personal God who creates creatures with the capacity to communicate can Himself communicate in a fashion understandable to His creatures. Upon what principle of reason, then, would you say it is impossible for the God who created men in His image to use them then as a means by which to communicate Himself, using their language, even their historical setting and context, in such a fashion that the resultant revelation accurately and inerrantly communicates His will to them? The belief in an inerrant revelation does not require the suspension of reason at all; it is not internally incoherent or contradictory. You may reject, presuppositionally, any number of the foundational elements of the argument, but your rejection does not make the argument irrational. We would have to first address the presuppositions of our worldviews before addressing the issue of whether God can communicate with His creatures in a written form, and perfectly. But once again we see that your assertion that to believe in an inerrant revelation is unreasonable is itself unreasonable.
As to common sense, I find the separation of this category out from reason or rationality rather artificial. But since it is a vague category, I can simply say that it is common sense that if God has, in fact, revealed Himself, He could surely do so in such a fashion as to provide clarity to His revelation. Simplistic “common sense” arguments are easy to construct: ” It is common sense that all written books contain errors” is easy enough; “It is common sense that God can reveal Himself without error” is just as easy.
You likewise seem to harbor, Dr. Carter, an all-too-common prejudice regarding the holy grail of secularism, the heart and the soul of the Western free thinker, the matter of the religious dogma of Darwinism. Once again the criteria you offer only argue against your conclusions. The scientific evidence is overwhelming in reference to the existence of purposeful design in nature, and no amount of circular reasoning has yet provided the Darwinist with a meaningful way of explaining how random chemical reactions can create even the most basic elements of life, let alone the fantastically complex and purposeful mechanisms we see at the biochemical level. And I speak as one who completed a major in biology with academic honors and was Department Fellow in Anatomy and Physiology as well—in a context where none of my professors were creationists, I note. The order and complexity of life that has been discovered at the biochemical level is beyond argument, and for you, or Richard Dawkins, to dismiss as unworthy of entrance into the “academy” all those who have written on this subject is to do nothing more than demonstrate your inability to engage the topic and fulfill your own words, that truth becomes clear through conflict.
In the same way, it is anything but reasonable or rational to look at the complexity of the DNA/RNA transcription and replication complex that exists in the cellsof the human body and to insist that this complex arose randomly. I would go so far as to say that it is the Neo-Darwinian micro-mutational evolutionist who must defend himself on the “rational” and “common sense” level when it comes to dogmatically giving non-teleological, random forces the credit for the creation of DNA, the blood clotting mechanism, the allosteric enzyme system, glycolysis, the Krebs cycle, electron chain transport (cellular respiration), and the biochemical mechanism in the eye that allows for the recognition of light and hence for sight (the complex including rhodopsin, one of the most amazing molecules in nature). No one with common sense can look at this complex mechanism and say, “Oh, yes, well, of course, random actions over millions of years created this mechanism.” The reality of irreducible complexity eviscerates the micro-mutational model at this point, a fact I recognized when I first read Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmakershortly after it came out (note how my reading consistently includes the works of those with whom I have fundamental disagreements). This was before the terminology of “intelligent design” became popular.
In few areas has your own attitude of “win the argument by defining your opponents out of existence” come into play with more force than in the field of intelligent design. I regularly read of the leaders in this field encountering the most closed-minded, dogmatic attitudes on the part of their opponents, very similar to the attitudes displayed toward Galileo long ago by a different set of power-hungry priests. I, for one, am looking forward to the upcoming film documenting the modern incarnation of the Inquisition, this time manned by secularists and Gnostics, titled Expelled.
One thing is for certain: when one side has to try to silence the other side, just as you, Dr. Carter, seek to silence the expression of the other side in your own classes, there can only be one reason: you know you cannot refute those positions logically and factually in the presence of a knowledgeable advocate.
And so we see that even using your own criteria, your reasons for “barring the door” so as to pretend that you are protecting “the academy” from the intellectual terrorists known as those who believe creation has a Creator and that He does not stutter, fail. And while you may well succeed in keeping a small classroom of students from hearing the other side, at what cost? And to what end, I wonder? I stand ready not only to engage the topics you raised initially, but those raised in this letter, along with those related to your promotion of a “Gnostic Jesus” vs. the Jesus of the historical, canonical gospels.
In closing, sir, there is indeed one thing upon which we agree: you said recently in one of your lectures, “Truth comes out in the conflict of ideas.” We agree. Your ideas have been challenged. What will you do?
—in the defense and confirmation of the gospel