James Crossley's blog Contact: jgcrossley10 - AT - yahoo - DOT - co - DOT - uk

Friday, November 30, 2007

The welcome return of Danny Z

A run in with Danny Z. Always fun. Here goes.

But I must agree with James in part on this — the belief in the miraculous takes us out of the realm of historical inquiry. I am in partial ignorance on this subject as I did not hear the ensuing discussion, but have read Bauckham’s book and Crossley’s paper. I appreciate Crossley’s ‘though experiment’ as it were, and think it has validity to it. But in my mind, he is specifically asking us to move from history to theology.

Actually I was not quite doing that in the paper. I wasn't asking anyone to move anywhere. I was asking for an answer as to how history should now be seen if Bauckham was right.

And so...
When you force Christian scholars to make that move, don’t be mad if they answer they believe miracles can occur — you have asked them to move from a historical judgment to a philosophical/theological judgment! I nowhere got the impression in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses that he is claiming miracles are real — only that we need to trust that this is what the eyewitnesses believe they saw happen.

Indeed. I'm not remotely mad if Christian scholars believe miracles (I don't remotely care either - for the philosophical issues, that is) can occur. And, of course, no such claims about the miraculous were made in the book. But it is still a big claim to imply eyewitnesses to miracles. If true (and hence what if) then what did they see? Did they all really believe they saw water turn into wine, a man walking on water and calming the elements and so on? Or was something else going on? But I also added - and this is important - this question: could eyewitnesses have made stories up about e.g. the miraculous. After all, this kind of creative storytelling seemed to be common enough in the ancient world.


More...
Having admitted that discussion of miracles is out of the realm of history proper, it is likewise just as disastrous, in my opinion, to let the secular world-view dismiss them. These are still solid and well attested historical happenings in the Jesus tradition.
Oh no you don't! I would word this differently: they are well attested and therefore early. That does not equal historical happenings.


Want even more?
And stop comparing these miracle stories to other ancient ones. Yes we have some examples, but do we have such a high concentration of miracle stories in various forms surrounding one individual? Not that I am aware of.

I'm not sure if this works at all. We stop comparing similiar issues in the ancient world because they are not 100% like-for-like? And does it mean that the higher the concentration of miracles stories are, the more likely they are to be...what?...genuine miracles? What about the figure with the second highest concentration of miracles in the ancient world?


Again...
Can we all get over the fact that someone gave a whooping call after Bauckham said his bit on miracles? It happened, so be it. That person doesn’t represent all of us Christians, nor did it represent Bauckham. The person vocally agreed with Bauckham, big deal. Everyone who knows that person already knew their faith bias, now a whole room knows.
Firstly, I don't know of anyone who said this person represented Bauckham or all (!) Christians. It certainly does not represent the evangelicals I know from conferences. A certain kind of Christian, maybe. But it was more than this. Several people in the audience noted the strange (to people like me) audience and the support. The hardcore evangelical mentioned on a previous post noted it too. It wasn't just one. The worry for me is that there were people present (see previous post) who have no concern for critical approaches and that excludes not only me but people like Danny too. Now, hopefully (I'll admit that much) these people are only a minority but if not then that is a worry in terms of the impact on the discipline.


And so...
I am mortified by some of the things I hear from Hector Avalos, but I don’t assume James Crossley or Jacques Berlinerblau thinks the same thing and therefore dismiss them because of it!

I'm not quite sure what this parallels. Given the above, I certainly don't think that one over enthusiastic evangelical represents Christians or evangelicals!

...
I went to the secular section that James Crossley read at for the previous SBL. I heard quite a bit of laughter and ‘vocal’ smirks at some of the jabs the presenters took at evangelical scholars in general and particular (*cough cough* N. T. Wright *cough cough*). Was this professional just because all of the presenters took the “high ground” of the secular world-view and therefore were justified in the unprofessionalism? Of course not.

I still think there needs to be some answer to the idea of dead saints rising and living etc and it is hardly surprising that a secular group found this very bizarre. But that's not the point. I keep firing at people such as those who think critical scholars (in this case those who opposed Bauckham) are vultures (for merely disagreeing - though I didn't even go that far). Now the chances of openly non-believing scholars influencing scholarship are slim at the moment I think it is fair to say. The chances of evagelical influence are much higher. True this needs proof (I'd endorse Jacques Berlinerblau's call for a census to see if we can find out). If there were utter secular dominance on the horizon then that would have a serious impact on the discipline. But it just isn't.

And the Bauckham session wasn't an evengelical or Christian session (that would be the better analogy to the secular session). It was a critical review of a work of critical scholarship. Now if it were in a church setting or an apologetics session then I could hardly complain. But it wasn't and some of us are just worried that sections of the strange audience were not a one off.


Getting near the end...
Let’s get a dose of reality — we are all human beings with opinions and presuppositions that always will taint our work to some degree and even activate our vocal chords in (gasp!) professional settings on occassion.

Doesn't everyone agree on that old question of presuppositions these days? It's not really about vocal chords it is about what Danny says elsewhere: the ways in which presuppositions are tainting or influencing a professional context. I also suspect that there was a bit of shock on behalf of those like me who are not used to what sounds suspiciously happy, clappy churchy (well, you know what I mean, add the technical term yourselves)...


As for the epic Meier quotation, I'll be brief:
no matter what the evidence may be, a particular action of Jesus could not possibly have been a miracle is a philosophical judgment, not a historical one. And the agnostic has no more right to impose his or her philosophical worldview on the whole conclave than does a believing Catholic or Protestant.

Well, fair enough but just for the record I have never once advocated the imposition of a secular, agnostic, atheist or whatever worldview. That's why my arguments in the past have not been about banning, censoring or anything like that but about getting different perspectives in to add questions and challenge assumptions.

Just to be cheeky:
And stop comparing these miracle stories to other ancient ones.

Who is imposing here?!!

As ever, over to you Danny

14 Comments:

Blogger Deane said...

Danny:
... I nowhere got the impression in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses that he is claiming miracles are real — only that we need to trust that this is what the eyewitnesses believe they saw happen.

James:
... And, of course, no such claims about the miraculous were made in the book. But it is still a big claim to imply eyewitnesses to miracles.


Incidentally, Bauckham went the additional step at the SBL, claiming that certain miracles were not only 'witnessed', but were historically probable:

“When I find, for example, that some of the nature miracles of Jesus seem as well evidenced as other events in the Gospels that are widely regarded as historical, I regard them as reasonably probable events.”
- Richard Bauckham, Panel Review of Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony, SBL Meeting, 17 November 2007

November 30, 2007

 
Blogger Reformed Baptist said...

I guess one of the great problems in scholarship concerning miracles is the fact that many people are not sure what a miracle is in the first place.

Aquinas distinguished between two types of "miracles":

The first was a miracle that appeared to us to be miraculous, but unbeknownst to us there is an explanation but it is out of the realm of our knowledge.

The second type, is the miracle that is a true miracle. But what, pray tell, consitutes miracles? If God is a being outside of the natural order, then how would we expect to test his actions? I am not saying that because we cannot explain an event it did not happen, as some are willing to do. I am only suggesting that a miracle may be outside of our methodological constraints. I, for one, would not expect a miracle to be verifeid by a method that is meant to examine natural occurences, would you?

You could also have a third distinction. Since James had a great thought experiment at SBL, I will try my hand at one. If you will excuse my blasphemy for a moment let us say that I am "a being greater than which cannot be conceieved":). I decide to ordain history in such a way that even x will happen at time y when people p are in time and place F, which would save them from threat t.

Example: If the Assyrian Army WAS killed, as the book of Kings indicates at the exact time, when YHWH told Isaiah and Hezekiah that he would save Jerusalem, but it was done by a plague, would this classify as a Miracle?

We have a case where everything could be accounted for form a Natrualistic standpoint, yet it was still ordained for that specific time when Judah needed intervention the most. It seems that the human mind can only theorize about certain things, and beyond that we cannot go.

Bill Valicella has some very good discussions on Miracles, whether they are logically possible, explainable and other topics of intrests.

Blake Reas

November 30, 2007

 
Blogger Reformed Baptist said...

http://maverickphilosopher.powerblogs.com/posts/chain_1180311317.shtml

I forgot to put the link from Maverick Philosopher.

November 30, 2007

 
Blogger Jim Deardorff said...

I've studied up on a couple of modern "miraculous" phenomena that have been so well documented by now that we can consider them just part of reality rather than miracles. Consider near-death experiences, in which the experiencer can recall "sseing" and "hearing" what went on while "he" hovered near the ceiling of the hospital room above his clinically dead body. Doctors and nurses are then flabbergasted, if they haven't come across the phenomenon before, when the revived patient describes what they did and said.

And then there are those children who could remember pieces of their most recent past life, before they were age 6 or so e.g., Tucker. In some 1500 such cases the child's utterances were so extensive that the past life could be identified beyond any doubt ( bibliography).

From such studies it is but a small step to find that one's spirit/consciousness evolves over countless lifetimes, and that perhaps Jesus' spirit was exceptionally highly evolved, with the consequence that, with proper training, he could perform "miracles." I should think that the well rounded NT scholar would find it essential to expand their horizons into these phenomena which by now have some 40 years of scientific data to back up their reality.

November 30, 2007

 
Blogger Deane said...

Jim:
perhaps Jesus' spirit was exceptionally highly evolved, with the consequence that, with proper training, he could perform "miracles."


Perhaps. I wonder, then, about the scene where children are being brought to Jesus for him to "touch" them (Mark 10.13-15). Could this be the first example of the children's party magician?

Just imagine if this were to happen today. Jesus would probably be arrested for his kiddy-touching, and the children given counselling by social services.

December 01, 2007

 
Blogger Jim Deardorff said...

Deane,
According to the source I most trust, he was doing a laying-on of hands while teaching those around him that the children were his most attentive listeners and were active in learning knowledge and wisdom. Mt 18:2-3 deviates a bit less than than Mark from telling it right.

If it were to happen today, I don't think that Jesus would be recognized for who he was, or his teachings acceptable to Christians and atheists.

December 01, 2007

 
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

James, I don´t fathom were you get the patience to argue with people like Bauckham. If Bauckham actually said the thing at the seminar about the nature miracles being "reasonably probable events" then its another blatant example of what Steven Carr called the "incredible low standards of biblical scholarship".

December 01, 2007

 
Blogger Reformed Baptist said...

James, I don´t fathom were you get the patience to argue with people like Bauckham. If Bauckham actually said the thing at the seminar about the nature miracles being "reasonably probable events" then its another blatant example of what Steven Carr called the "incredible low standards of biblical scholarship".

Either that or it is your incapability of being open to the possibility of other viewpoints, which is just about as bad as any theistic dogmatists.

Sincerly,

Blake

December 02, 2007

 
Blogger Deane said...

Antonio Jerez said:
If Bauckham actually said the thing at the seminar about the nature miracles being "reasonably probable events" then its another blatant example of what Steven Carr called the "incredible low standards of biblical scholarship".

You can hear a recording of Bauckham saying it here.



Blake said:
... your incapability of being open to the possibility of other viewpoints, which is just about as bad as any theistic dogmatists

And we must also bear in mind what Northrop Frye said about being "open":

"One should doubtless keep an open mind...though open at both ends, like the food pipe, and have a capacity for excretion as well as intake."

December 02, 2007

 
Anonymous Antonio Jerez said...

Blake wrote:
Either that or it is your incapability of being open to the possibility of other viewpoints, which is just about as bad as any theistic dogmatists.

I don´t think the thing hinges on my "incapability of being open to the possibility of other viewpoints". It´s just that as long as Bauckham and other apologets masquerading as historians can only point to happenings in books 2000 years old as "evidence" for the probability of the most incredible events, then I don´t see much reason to take him seriously. Besides, when even gospel writers like "Mark" or "John" seem to have been aware themselves that they were composing haggadic midrash (and not actual historical happenings) on a symbolical level in miracles like the feeding of the 5000 or the Cana miracle, I see even less reason to follow Bauckham in these being "reasonably probable events". The clues are all over the text.

December 03, 2007

 
Blogger Reformed Baptist said...

Is there a difference between Midrash and Haggadah? I am just curious.

Blake

December 04, 2007

 
Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Well yes Jim, Mat.18.1-6, just about says it all about the prophet. He wasn't interested in the kingdom of God but the Spirit of God. He was comparing the spontaneity of children with how one should obey the Spirit of God. It wasn’t a question of being ‘in the kingdom’ but of being in the Spirit. And ‘unless you become like little children, you will never’ receive the Spirit of God. Blasphemy against the Spirit could not be forgiven. Hence 'if anyone causes one of these little ones who are in' the Spirit to disobey, it would be better etc. ‘And whoever welcomes a child like this in the’ Spirit welcomes God. That’s how I see things. The children were no doubt raised to be prophets, as the Essenes raised children.

December 04, 2007

 
Anonymous something like an evangelical said...

James, not that you need a pat on the back, but here's one "evangelical" that appreciates your work and perspective!

We need open dialogue, and hopefully said dialogue can occur in a format where participants are free to express their views without immediate condemnation. I do not hide my Christian beliefs. That being said, I am afraid we as Christians can/will retreat into an enclave in which our academic work refuses to follow the evidence wherever it may lead.

You do good work. Honestly, I think we could better deal with a lot of these issues if more of my kind would drink dark beer...

December 13, 2007

 
Blogger James Crossley said...

Something Like an Evangelical... Now your knowledge of dark beer has got me wondering who you are... Ah, but if you've got good taste, does it really matter?

January 03, 2008

 

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