Saturday, June 29, 2013

One Less Place on the Internet to Waste My Time

I have been banned from Tough Questions Answered by Bill Pratt.  Apparently the terms "hack apologist" and "apologetic propaganda" are beyond the pale.

The post which led to my banning concerned the work of J. Warner Wallace, a police detective turned minister.  Pratt quoted Warner's description of the way in which he managed to resolve the discrepancies between two eyewitness accounts of a robbery in grocery. In a comment, Pratt wrote "if Wallace can figure out what really happened given the diverging details provided by the two witnesses, then we can also figure out what really happened to Jesus." I suggested that perhaps there was a wee bit of difference between determining what happened based on extensively interviewing eyewitnesses shortly after the events and trying to harmonize anonymous accounts based on unknown sources removed an indeterminate number of times in decades of oral transmission from anyone with any first hand knowledge.

As he is wont to do, Bill went first for a straw man:
So Vinny, you are arguing that we can only believe eyewitness accounts where we are able to interview the witnesses immediately after the event occurred? Really? If we followed your methodology for determining the the truth of eyewitness testimony, we would literally have to throw out all written history except for what happened a few weeks ago. Any written testimony that was written by dead people would be right out.
After that didn't lead anywhere, Bill went with questioning my motives:
Vinny, what apologists like me say about the historical reliability of the NT documents is not the point. All I do is cite expert testimony from professional scholars who study these topics for a living. Picking on the likes of me is pointless.

Real historians support the facts I cite about the historical reliability of the NT. Your problem is that you do not like what real historians say about the NT, so you attack people like me because I'm an easy target, in your mind.

That's OK. I asked for the abuse when I started this blog and you have been happy to heap it on me.

But you might want to ask yourself why you keep coming back to this blog to rehash the same arguments over and over and over and over. I'm afraid I don't understand what you're trying to accomplish.

You clearly have it in for Christian theism and you come around every few weeks or so to remind me. I get it. You hate what I write. You think I'm wrong about everything. Anything I'm missing?
To which I replied:
In what sense is Wallace a real historian or a professional scholar? In what sense is he anything more than a hack apologist? What real historian would endorse any of his arguments?

I keep coming back to this blog because you keep misrepresenting the arguments and positions of those who do not share your faith. I keep coming back because you keep portraying apologetic propaganda as legitimate scholarship.

And with that, my comments were banned. Oh well.


  1. If you're like me, you've probably tangled with apologists of all different dispositions and shortcomings. They're not all dishonest, but a lot of them are. They're not all idiots, but a lot of them are. Way too many of them are both. Over the years, you develop a sixth sense for sizing up what mixture you're dealing with, but sometimes it gets powerful hard to tell which one is in the driver's seat. This is not one of those tough cases.

    Don't you get the impression that Bill is just... not that bright? The character of his responses to comments, the way he can utterly and infallibly miss the point of even the simplest questions and criticisms just doesn't sound like clever dodges or sophistical evasions. A dishonest person ex hypothesi requires a bare minimum amount of intelligence to tell the difference between truth and falsity; no one could make the kind of replies he makes and actually think anyone would find them convincing.

    Just look at the logical structure of his posts. Something like 90% of them are "Few brief sentences. Blockquote from apologist. A few brief sentences to the effect of saying 'indeed'. Even longer blockquote from the same apologist. A sentence or two at the end high-fiving the apologist." I've never seen him display any evidence of any capacity for independent thought or the ability to develop an argument on his own, much less actually engage legitimate criticisms.

    I was ban-threatened a while back and ended up withdrawing in disgust. These days I only ever reply to internet apologists of his stripe when I'm down to the bottom third of my bottle of whine and one of them gets my goat with an Are You Fucking Kidding Me Did You Just Say That argument. It's a bad habit. He did you a favor.

    1. whine-->wine

      Heh. Oops. Jeez.

    2. Bill has always puzzled me, because the apologists he cites are usually of a more sophisticated variety that Wallace i.e., Keller and Licona rather than Strobel and Comfort. I assumed that he recognizes the difference in quality, but maybe he doesn't.

      One thing that makes me lean towards the not-so-bright hypothesis is the way he would ignore some comments. I think I have a pretty good feel for which objections an apologist might think he can get away with ignoring and which ones he knows he needs to answer. Sometimes I would try to anticipate where Bill was going with one of his multi-part series and raise an objection to something I was sure was coming. He never seemed to recognize that I was doing this and he never adjusted his later posts to deal with the point.

  2. Wow, Vinny. You seemed to make a federal case out of a simple illustration. Your argument seems to turn on the fact that it isn't a perfect representation of the point being made. I'd feel compelled to ask you to leave as well. Indeed, your exchange didn't seem to highlight "brightness" on your part.

    I will allow for this: your comments here might refer to your history with the guy. But the exchange to which you refer does not indicate a problem with Bill.

  3. No. My argument turns on the point that the illustration is by any stretch of the imagination not even vaguely comparable to the point being made.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  4. The point being made was very simple: differing versions of an incident do not mitigate the overall truth. Wallace likens the different versions of a crime to the different Gospels. The truth of the crime having been committed by those convicted, as the truth of Christ's death and resurrection, are not denied simply because minor details of each are different or missing from one testimony and not another. Bringing up examples of crimes later overturned by DNA evidence not available at the time does not detract from the point at all.

  5. Differing versions of an incident do not change the truth, but often they can make it impossible to recover. It is often the case that a historian can do little more than lay out some possibilities because there isn't enough evidence to reach any firm conclusions.

    Pratt wrote: Again, to make this abundantly clear, if Wallace can figure out what really happened given the diverging details provided by the two witnesses, then we can also figure out what really happened to Jesus. Why? Because the Gospel accounts agree with each other on all the major points, and only diverge on minor points.

    I continue to think that this is absurd. What we might hope to determine with certainty by interviewing eyewitnesses shortly after an incident tells us next to nothing about what we can hope to determine from the New Testament sources.