Jenkins 14: On Faith

Jenkins 14: On Faith June 29, 2015

From Prof. Jenkins (My comments added in blue)


Following a moment of insight amounting to a conversion experience, I have decided that Dr. Hamblin’s argument is (mainly) correct, and that I am near total agreement with it. What I doubt, though, is whether believers in the Book of Mormon wish to hear that.

Let me explain.

When our exchanges began, I expected that he would be producing supposed historical or archaeological proofs of the objective reality of the Book of Mormon, specifically its claims in the New World, and I would have fun demolishing them. As time has gone on, he has done no such thing. Rather, he has suggested repeatedly that this or that kind of evidence is irrelevant and does not apply, that the same is true of essentially all attempts at objective proof. No, there won’t be inscriptions, no there is no pottery evidence. Any such attempt at testing or verification is “naïve” (a word he loves). On occasion, he has referred me to Sorenson’s book MORMON’S CODEX, which similarly offers no concrete objective proofs, but instead offers a lengthy series of supposed (and utterly unconvincing) “parallels.” There is not a word there that is vaguely plausible to anyone who was not already thoroughly convinced of the case.

But let’s pursue this to its logical conclusion. What Dr. Hamblin is arguing is simply that no forms of objective proof or evidence should be demanded for the Book of Mormon’s view of the New World, because none exist. There is nothing open to examination discussion by historians or scholars, and almost certainly, that situation will never change. This is just not a matter for any kind of scholarly examination or discussion.

So why should you believe a word of it? And I stress that question. Without such solid objective evidence, why should I, or anyone, believe a view that is utterly at odds with the views of pretty much the entire academic profession dealing with New World history and archaeology, American history, Biblical studies, genetics, linguistics, and so on, not to mention all measures of plausibility? Why should anyone go so very far out on a limb? The answer is simple. Faith. He believes it on religious grounds of faith, from which all follows.

As I say, I come close to sharing his view entirely. I agree that no objective evidence exists for the Book of Mormon, not a word, and it never will. While he has not yet said it explicitly, his answer to my persistent requests for one single form of credible proof for any aspect of the Book of Mormon is that no, he will not and never will supply it, because none exists. I can hammer as hard as I like on that point, but he will not produce. While his refusal to answer my questions might seem like waffling and prevarication, he really believes that what he is arguing is outside the realm of provable objective fact. It is all a matter of individual faith, which is immune to proof or testing. And I wholeheartedly agree.

Nor, for a second, do I disparage faith. We all live by various forms of faith. But here is the problem – for him at least, not for me. For me, the total absence of objective evidence for the Book of Mormon’s New World poses no difficulty, because the whole thing is fictitious. He, however, believes in that whole scenario, but can offer no objective evidence whatever for its existence, no reason other than faith why anyone should believe it. He cannot prove or substantiate a word, or even offer a plausible case to any non-believer.

What that means is very simple. Nothing Dr. Hamblin says on these matters touches at any point on the worlds of scholarship, history or science. It is all a matter of radical subjective faith. That is a very curious form of apologetics, but this is as I say his problem not mine.

If I am wrong on this, then he might choose to offer forms of proof or confirmation that we can discuss and verify. But he won’t.

I was in error when I complained about his insistence on defining our epistemological approaches. What he was not saying overtly was that his argument is wholly based on faith, and has no pretenses whatever to objective scholarship of any kind, historical, archaeological or any other. Had we known that at the outset, we would have had no argument whatever.

So Dr. Hamblin, you are correct. This is a matter for faith, not scholarship. But please – don’t pretend for a second that this is a scholarly debate. When you examine the ancient Near East, you are a fine and reputable scholar. When you discuss the Book of Mormon, you are an evangelist. How you reconcile those two roles is a mystery I cannot fathom.

 I think it might be more fruitful for you to actually ask me what my opinions are, rather than speculate.  At any rate, I have faith in Jesus Christ, not faith in the Book of Mormon.  The Book of Mormon is there to help us come unto Christ, not for us to have faith in a book, in an Evangelical sort of bibliolatry.   The fact that you can’t understand how I can be a “a fine and reputable scholar” of the Middle East, but a pseudo-scholarly crank on the BOM reflects more about you than me.  

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