When I was speaking in London earlier this year I played a few sections from The God Who Wasn’t There, the film produced by Brian Flemming. I did so because the work is such an excellent example of leaps of irrationality, confident presentations of falsehoods as facts, and simply bad argumentation—and yet, it is so representative of the kind of “scholarship” we encounter in the mainstream media all the time. Even the lay-audiences chuckle at much of what is said in the film, as any believer who has taken the time to do even a little reading can see through much of its rhetoric.
So today I’m sent a link to an article by centuri0n wherein he discusses Brian Flemming’s requirements for “debate.” When I first read what he posted I figured this was a joke. centuri0n is known for attempting to be humorous. I know, since he was once a regular in my chat channel, until he got famous and someone put his picture on a coffee mug. Now he’s way too famous for us little folks anymore. Well, I follow the links (had to repair them, but hey, he’s famous, not techy) and no…it isn’t a joke.
Brian Flemming ends his film giving us a glorious example of why theology matters: he goes into the chapel where he went to school, and points the camera at three different spots in the chapel where he was “saved,” where he “gave his life to Jesus.” He then turns the camera, inserts himself in the frame, and denies the Holy Spirit. I guess that was meant to have some kind of impact or something.
I recall mentioning to an audience at Auburn University that I sort of doubted Flemming would be available for serious scholarly debates anytime soon since it is so painfully obvious he has simply ransacked the folks out underneath the left field bleachers looking for his “scholars” to help him defend his apostasy and attack the faith he never truly entered. So when I saw his own blog article laying out conditions for “debating” him, I read on. He provides a “statement of belief” that anyone must sign if he is going to take them seriously. Here it is:
I believe it is possible that Jesus did not exist.
I believe there is no evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ that dates to the time of his alleged life.
I believe there are no written eyewitness accounts of the existence of Jesus Christ.
I believe the names of the Gospels were added well after their composition, and there is no good reason to believe that these names correspond to the original writers.
I believe there is no good reason to believe that any of the Gospels were written by disciples of Jesus Christ, or that any eyewitnesses to Jesus were involved in their composition.
I believe the Bible is not infallible.
I believe it is common for religious cults to make things up.
I believe it is common for religions to influence each other, and for young religions to be derived from older religions.
I believe that any claim can be part of Christian tradition and also be false.
I believe that no figures such as “God” or “The Holy Spirit” or “Satan” performed any supernatural actions that had any significant effect upon the formation of early Christianity.
I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the foregoing is true and correct.
Now, the patent absurdity of such a document hardly needs demonstration. At least one line doesn’t even make sense (“I believe that any claim can be part of Christian tradition and also be false.” What?). But obviously, the whole point is that to sign such a document means you already agree with Flemming and hence, why would you want to debate him? It would be like my making Shabir Ally sign a statement agreeing to the Athanasian Creed before I would consider him “worthy” of debate. Absurd, of course.
And so you have to wonder, is this just a big joke? That is surely possible. No rational person could post such a thing with any level of seriousness. However, the blog entry continues:
If you are unable to sign the Statement, we cannot talk any further, for one or both of the following reasons:
1) You are not familiar enough with the facts to be ready for a meaningful discussion at this time.
2) Your capacity to understand the facts is so compromised by your religious ideology that a conversation with you would be pointless.
I suppose this, too, could be part of the joke, but it sure doesn’t sound like it. And if this is actually meant to be taken seriously, we have the equivalent of a King James Only Fundamentalist demanding that I sign the statement of faith of Pete Ruckman’s Church prior to debating me. Utter irrationality, total nonsense, complete melt-down on any level at all. Now, given how horrific Flemming’s film is, we really shouldn’t be overly surprised, but it is still an amazing thing to observe.
I will say this: I would actually suspend my normal parameters and debate Flemming if he was actually willing to stand before an audience in a truly scholarly debate. Though he is not a scholar, he is at least “published” in a sense (i.e., his film), and hence the encounter would be useful to a wider audience. But I won’t hold my breath.