The Proportion of Biblical Scholars Believing in the Truth of Biblical Claims Is Meaningless

The Proportion of Biblical Scholars Believing in the Truth of Biblical Claims Is Meaningless December 11, 2017

This is something that I hear so often, in the area of the biblical studies. that I thought I should post a little something about it. Here is a quote that appeared on a thread the other day:

NTS isn’t an actual fallacy. You people really like to choose and pick your historical data; site questionable “experts”; use theories that are laughable and unproven; and draw conclusions that align with your beliefs. The historical evidence is so abundant that 99 percent of scholars and historians wouldn’t embarrass their professional career on making such nonsensical claims he didn’t exist. I’m done with the clown college on this site. Merry Christmas because Jesus is the reason for the season.

Any time that you hear a percentage or a proportion of a given number of academics in an area to do with theology or religious studies used to further a point about truth, there is one argument that can be used to shut down discussion straight away. And that is the argument from Islam.

Even William Lane Craig and Gary Habermas have used this sort of argument very often. There is the famous “75% of New Testament scholars believing in the truth of the empty tomb” trope that gets trotted out in debates.

The thing is, if we look at the religion of Islam, then we can see that almost 100% of Islamic scholars believe in the truth of the Quran. And yet almost no Christian scholars, or indeed Christians in general, believe in the truth of the Quran. Therefore, the fact that almost 100% of Islamic scholars believe in the truth of the holy text of their religion bears no relevance or effect as to whether that holy text is indeed true.

The issue is the sort of people who enter into theology studies and degree, and courses of religious studies.  I once sent emails to all the universities in the UK who offered biblical studies and theology degrees asking them the proportion of undergraduates who came into the studies already believing in Christianity. Although I only received a small number of replies, all the replies indicated that either the whole of the student body, or a very large proportion thereof, were Christian.

Indeed, my partner’s daughter did a religious studies degree at university and commented on how almost all of the students in her classes were of a religious background.

Now, this is anecdotal for sure, but I cannot see, certainly historically, that you would have a majority of people taking studies into a Christian holy text being secular or non-Christian!  In the current day and age, I think there is more acceptance of a critical analysis of these texts, possibly as a result of us being in the Internet age.

There is, as there surely is with Islamic studies, A self-selection bias whereby the vast majority of people who are interested in studying the Bible are those who believe in the Bible’s truth already. Many of these people wish to become pastors or Christian theologians, and so studying the Bible in a rigorous academic context is very important to them. However, there is also a problem that there are so very many Christian universities and university courses that offer search degrees, and I hardly believe those courses to be rigorous in their analysis of the Bible…

We must be very wary of such claims that consider the proportion of biblical historians, theologians and exegetes who believe in the truth of what they are studying as important.

Merry Christmas.


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