uno itinere non potest perveniri ad tam grande secretum -- Q. Aurelius Symmachus, 384 C.E.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Al Mohler Does It Again

If Jesus taught that what comes out of a man defiles him, surely the blatant inaccuracies and lies peddled by many of his most ardent followers must concern him at least a little, especially when they are done in connection with the Bible.

But such was the case yet again recently when Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's flagship seminary, was asked at the SBC's recent convention to give his "succinct" and "Biblical" view of homosexuality. As per usual when Mohler opens his mouth, what he claims to be the case is almost precisely opposite what any mainstream scholar on the topic would tell you.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Exposing the FRC's Dishonesty

A facebook bully whom I had confronted in another forum yesterday challenged me to find an instance of the Family Research Council lying. Rather than write out a detailed comment on that thread, I figured I might as well do so here; after all, such an exercise is hardly difficult, and hardly sporting, but might prove entertaining and amusing to readers nonetheless. And it never stops being important to call out these organizations on their deceptions.

So I simply figured the best place to start would likely be the recently discredited Regnerus "study" of same-sex parents, which conservatives were calling "groundbreaking" before it had barely even scratched the surface of the literature, at which point any scholarly publication comes under major scrutiny. Despite being a very new publication, enough peer scholars had raised serious doubts about the study's obviously flawed methodology that the editor of it called for an audit, and the auditor famously declared that it was "bullshit."

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Of Gay Marriage

In light of the Minnesota Senate's passage of marriage equality Monday, I reprint my column in the Northwest Arkansas Times from 10 years ago -- August 2003-- on the matter. I am so proud of my state for taking this step. The headline was the same as the title of this post, hence my post title, even though we should of course hitherto refer to all same-sex marriages as just "marriages." Here it is, uncut and unedited (so be kind):

Monday, May 13, 2013

C'mon Minnesota!

I've never been prouder of a state I live in: Minnesota is poised to become the 12th state to legalize same-sex marriage, and the first in the Midwest to do so legislatively.

The Senate is expected to take up debate today. DFL leaders say they have the votes to pass it, and Gov. Mark Dayton has said he will sign it.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Historical Irony of the Christian Persecution Complex

Religious freedom is under attack in America -- or so says the right-wing echo chamber, where such a sentiment is not only repeated daily but taken for granted as reality. Christians and Christianity are being "frozen out" of America and good followers of Jesus are being "persecuted" roundly in America today for their religious beliefs just like they were in ancient Rome.

Of course, this is all fantasy -- both the modern assertion of persecution and the invocation of the ancient world. Christians are not being "persecuted" today for their beliefs, and the Romans actually didn't systematically persecute Christians very much -- least of all for their beliefs.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Bible and Its Forgeries, Part II: A Quibble With Ehrman Over Ancient Fiction

On Monday I published a commentary that included a quasi-review of Bart Ehrman's latest monograph, Forgery and Counteryforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics. I enjoyed Ehrman's monograph quite a bit, and agreed with his overall premise that many of the canonical epistles (and other works of early Christian literature) written by others in the apostles' names should be considered "forgeries" that were intended to deceive their readers.

I also mentioned that I read Ehrman's monograph in part because it intersects with my own work on the ancient novels: in brief, I'm studying the intersection of deception and narrative story-telling within the Greek and Roman novels of later antiquity, and it is here that I found a minor quibble in Ehrman's concluding chapter.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Anti-Gay Scholar Shows His True (Non-Scholarly) Colors

Casual onlookers were no doubt shocked last week to see a professor at an accredited American seminary claim that homosexuality is "even more severely unnatural" than either incest or bestiality. But if you follow the debates about homosexuality and the Bible at all, you have probably encountered at some point a citation to Prof. Robert Gagnon of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and his book, The Bible and Homosexual Practice.

If you then decided, through genuine curiosity that you might later label unfortunate folly, to look into who this scholar is, you no doubt discovered his website, where he not only criticizes any published account that differs from the view presented in his book, but also responds to virtually every published review of it. Most scholars do not do this; if they have a beef with a given review or article, they submit a rebuttal to the publication in question, which will then publish it if warranted. Sometimes there are even rejoinders to said rebuttals, and so on. But in fact, it appears Gagnon has not been involved in any scholarly publication in a number of years, unless his online CV is in need of serious updating.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Bible and Its Forgeries

Nary a day on the internet goes by (and each day on the internet is really thousands of days) that I don't see someone quoting 2 Tim. 3:16 to browbeat someone else into accepting the Bible as the "final authority" on (fill in the blank): "All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." Of course, the problems with this strategy are manifold, but have typically not occurred to the person regurgitating it for the umpteenth time, chiefly: what was considered "scripture" when this verse was written? Was the author including himself and his own words? Since there was no "canon" when the words were written, it's hard to tell.

But an even bigger problem is lurking behind such a maneuver: the fact that 2 Timothy is most likely a literary forgery in the name of Paul, making a citation of the verse to defend The Truth laden with thick irony.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Keep Talking, William Lane Craig

By definition, an apologist presumably cares about changing minds. And the crown prince of Christian apologetics, William Lane Craig, clearly does as well. But even he knows that conservative Christians are fighting a "losing battle" against gay rights, and hearing the sophistry to which he and others will sink to defend their stance on what they call "biblical sexuality," it's no mystery why they are losing. That it also lays bare why apologetics in general is such an intellectually bankrupt endeavor is just an added bonus.

In a recent interview, Craig acknowledged that the "cultural attitudes towards homosexual activity have undergone a sea change in recent years," but he appears completely oblivious as to why. First off, note the shift: it's telling that conservative Christian rhetoric in recent years has all but abandoned the argument that "homosexuality is a choice" in favor of one that focuses on "homosexual behavior" or "homosexual activity," but it only makes their positions on the matter more asinine.