James McGrath on Skepticism and the Historical Jesus

by VorJack

You may know of Dr. James McGrath, a professor of religion at Butler University. He’s the author of two excellent books on the history of Christianity, The Burial of Jesus and The Only True God. He’s also a blogger at Exploring Our Matrix, where he blogs about religion, biblical history and the show Lost. He’s also an occasional commenter here at UF, so show some love.

McGrath has occasionally fenced with the mythicists on his blog. In a recent post, he noted that discussion of mythicism has cropped up on several atheist forums. (Actually, atheist sites like Internet Infidels have been arguing about this for years now.) McGrath called out to the skeptics and freethinkers to stay true to our first principles:

All I’ll say for now is that I encourage the atheists and freethinkers at these forums to live up to their principles and reputations. You rightly stand against pseudoscience in favor of mainstream science. Don’t be easily duped into discarding mainstream scholarship in history because a few fringe folks have made a plausible sounding case that appeals to what you’d like to be true. You know better than that. Inform yourselves about rigorous mainstream scholarship in history just as you’d want creationists to do with the natural sciences. It’s the right thing to do, and you know it. By all means, make up your own minds. But don’t just listen to fringe views expressed on the internet and in self-published books. You know where that road leads, and have surely criticized others for following that path. I don’t ask for any sort of special hearing for any particular viewpoint. I just ask you to be true to your principles!

When “for now” ended, McGrath stirred the pot by comparing mythicism to creationism, in a series of posts starting here.

For the record, I basically agree with McGrath, though I think a better comparison might be between mythicism and certain kinds of conspiracy theory. Most mythicists are content to poke holes in the existing model of the historical Jesus. At least for the moment, mythicism hasn’t really produced a coherent theory that explains the evidence we have, which is a requirement in history.

Of course, you may disagree. If so, Neil Godfrey over at the blog Vridar is responding to most of McGrath’s arguments.

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