Many have been asking about any developments in the situation my daughter Summer encountered in having a philosophy professor who accused her parents of “lying” to her regarding the authorship of the gospels (though, of course, he hasn’t a clue what she was taught on the subject to begin with: Carter assumes everyone who believes God can speak with clarity to His own creation goes to Oral Roberts University or the like). Today was her first class since I posted my open letter. I will have more to say later, but in light of the fact that Dr. Carter began his lecture with a discussion of how “open” and “transparent” he is (in contrast, for some odd reason, to the Bush administration), and how he invites folks to read everything he posts on his website, etc., I provide here the only portion of his lecture that I can consider a “reply.”
I get e-mails all the time from religious people all the time who say, “I want to come to your class and talk. I want to come debate you.” I’m not going to have anything to do with those people, because I don’t want to give them any kind of academic legitimacy. Do we understand this? All the time I get those things. And they are always trying to sell their particular brand of truth. Yes? And the whole idea is to keep them out of the academy. If they want to have their churches, fundamentalist or otherwise, I have no problem with that, but as far as coming into the academy, I got a big problem with that, for all the reasons I just enumerated.
Dr. Carter then goes on to claim he loves the “free exchange of ideas,” but, it is painfully obvious, that does not include the ideas of anyone who can demonstrate that he has but a surface level knowledge of the claims he makes regarding Christianity. And since he has refused to even acknowledge my e-mail, evidently, he believes that he is within his rights as a professor in a publicly-funded school to say to Christian students, without the slightest basis, using nothing more than freshman level knowledge of Christian history, theology, or biblical matters, that they have been lied to by their parents, and more so, he cannot be challenged on those claims and actions. The irony is, Carter is as fundamentalist in his hatred of Christianity (and his ignorance of it) as the worst fundamentalist is in his hatred of secularism or “worldly learning.” He is a walking contradiction, claiming first that we should have open debate, but then, when challenged, dismissing those who would challenge him as being unworthy to enter the academy. Of course, the fact that I have been teaching in related fields for fifteen years seems to have missed his notice, or, more likely, since it doesn’t fit his paradigm, he ignores the facts that stand before him.
So we have yet another example of what is happening in Western culture today. While the culture once gave honor to those who lived consistently in light of their profession of faith in the Creator who revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, today those same people are denigrated, their beliefs mocked, not by knowledgeable men with insight and knowledge, but by those who pass off pitifully simplistic arguments as if they are the final conclusions of solid scholarship. And if you challenge them, you are not refuted by argument, fact, or logic, but you are shouted down as unworthy of response. Those who actually love truth do not behave this way, which is why folks like myself take the time to listen to men like Carter, read Pagels (one of Carter’s primary sources), Ehrman, and Dawkins, while those on the other side refuse to even acknowledge that anyone on the other side has anything worth saying.
I will make one quick note: Carter says in this lecture that he believes in the “Gnostic Jesus.” I.e., the Jesus of Gnosticism, found in the Gospel of Thomas, etc., is amenable to his worldview. Now, any fair-minded person can see that an encounter before his class, or in a formal setting, centered on the thesis, “Which Jesus is Historically Tenable: the Jesus of the Canonical Gospels or the Gnostic Jesus?”, would be useful. I am fully confident that I could demonstrate that anyone who thinks that second century Gnostic texts like Thomas provides a more accurate view of the teachings of Jesus than the canonical gospels is engaging in utterly wishful thinking that cannot withstand historical and logical examination. But while the students would be benefited by this, Carter would never allow it, because, of course, to engage in such a debate would be to give credence to a view other than his own. Of course, if he could substantiate his views, and refute mine, wouldn’t that accomplish his goal much more forcefully? Yes, but clearly, he supports the “silence the opposition within the academy” viewpoint. This is the way of the person who knows he or she does not possess the truth.