February 2008
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Elgin’s Books


  • Christianity and Secularism

  • Evidence for the Bible


  • A review of Evidence for the Bible

    Christopher Smith,a Master’s student in Christan History at Wheaton College, has written a review of my book,  here is my response to his first installment:

    Let me first thank you for both your review, and for the kind introductory remarks. As for your more critical comments, I think they somewhat miss the mark, for a couple of reasons.

    First, writing any book involves a whole series of choices and tradeoff. One of the decisions I made was to make this a more popular book rather than a more scholarly one, aimed at the educated non-Christian, rather than the biblical scholar. Because of this I drew on more popular books and addressed arguments my target audience would likely have encountered, such as in an introductory class in religion at a secular college, or in a popular best seller, or magazine, etc.

    I knew at the time this would not satisfy the scholarly minded, but then that was not my audience, and space is limited. Granted, I may not have mentioned the particular scholars you wanted to see (part of which may be that these are expanded and updated versions of an early work). On the other hand, at least I do cite a number of critics, many scholars, and much of the book is dealing with their arguments, which is far better than most of the critics, who for the most part completely ignore all conservative opposition, or if they do mention it, do so only as an off handed dismissal.

    One particularly annoying comment in its pettiness, and one which I found to be at best somewhat misleading was when you commented “Hushbeck’s ignorance, of German, moreover, is painfully evident. In one place he refers to “the German scholar Frank” (meaning, apparently, Franz Hermann Frank) and spells two German words in the title of “Frank’s” book incorrectly. The omission of the author’s first name, the publisher information, and a page number makes it altogether evident that he’s relying on Josh McDowell’s partial citation of this work.”

    First let me plead guilty as charged to having no real working knowledge of German. In fact, there are a whole range of languages that I have no working knowledge off, and in some cases no knowledge at all. But then I never claimed otherwise. Considering that these two misspelled words appeared only in an endnote, they hardly are a substantial incitement against the book itself. As for relying on McDowell for this quote, again I plead guilty, though I am somewhat puzzled while you needed all of those clues you cited to make this “evident,” when the citation you mentioned included “quoted in Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict Vol. II (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Pub., 1975) p. 7”

    As for me not bothering to check these, you speak from ignorance. While, there was no way you could have know, the research for this book took me several years, and I went to great lengths to check out the quotes in the book. Now at the time, I was working for JPL and traveled across the country, to Europe and Australia and thus was able to visit libraries such as at Harvard, and the National Library in Australia. During this time was able to find almost all of the works cited. I believe that the quote you cited is the only quote in both books I was not able to verify, which is why I cited it the way I did. Hardly an unknown practice, even among scholars and certainly not worthy of criticism.

    Frankly of far more interest to me than the irrelevances of whether or not searching all these libraries constitutes “bothering” is whether or not the quote is accurate. If the quote is accurate it really does not matter how it came into the book. If it is not, then I would really like to know so that I can remove it. So is it accurate?

    As far as the sources tending to be from a conservative perspective, that is simply false. The general pattern for the book is to cite the critics and then deal with what they are saying. As result, I cite both critical and supportive works, and do cite scholarly critics.

    Much the same can be said for the two chapters on science, though you ignored most of both chapters to focus on the last section that dealt with evolution. But even here you seem to have missed the point. The focus here was not so much to argue that evolution is wrong, but rather to address the question why is it that so many Christians question evolution. Perhaps a few words on theistic evolution should have been included, though I would point out that my personal experience with my target audience is that while they are well aware of theistic evolution as an option, and I do say there is a diversity of opinion in this area, most have never seen a serious treatment of the arguments against evolution, for these arguments have been pretty successfully suppressed outside Christian circles.

    As for simply “parroting” Christian apologists, sure I cite some, where it is appropriate, just like I cite critics such as Carl Sagan, Robert Jastorw, and semi-critical scientists such as Steven Hawkings. I would point out that Dallas Willard, hardly someone uninformed in on these matters, told me that he had never encountered some of these arguments when I wrote them in a paper for him, which was why he encouraged me to publish. As such this charge is hard to see as anything other than slanting.

    In summary, I would say that your review so far has been long on accusation, and short on substance. Perhaps in later posts you will get into more detail, but so far you have demonstrated the academic’s over preoccupation with citations, rather than actual argument, at times drifting very close to ad hominem attack when you at least imply that certain sources are to be rejected While you praise me for dealing with so much in so few pages, (and length was a key consideration when writing the book, and much was left out or cut), you turn around and are very critical for not going into greater detail. Again I think the audience I was targeting address most of these criticism. More to the point, nothing you have said so far actually challenges the any of arguments I make in the book.

    BTW, while I thank you for the promotion, I only have two masters degrees, not a phd.

    One comment on “A review of Evidence for the Bible

    1. Hey Mr. Hushbeck,

      The full review is now online, in four parts. I will eventually get around to reading your second volume, and may review it as well, but probably not at such length. Thanks for putting up with my sometimes trenchant criticism.

      Best,

      -Chris

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