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Sunday, October 17, 2004

RB15772-Rob #14: Where we go from here 

(15772) Robert Bowman [Sun Oct 17, 2004 4:59 am]( Rob #14: Where we go from here (cont.))


Jason,

This is in response to your last two posts (by my count, #13 and #14).

You complained in your post #13 that it is not legitimate for me to post "a new set of arguments" that you will not have the opportunity to rebut. The fact is that we had no timetable for completing this discussion and I am accommodating you by hurrying my response to your criticisms of my book. When I have finished posting that response, we will have completed a round of discussion on John 8:58. You will have posted your criticisms of my book; I will have posted my criticisms of your chapter; you will have responded to my criticisms of your chapter; and I will have responded to your criticisms of my book. I am sorry if you find this "utterly unacceptable," but I honestly see no reason not to complete my response to your initial criticisms. If you wish to return to the list and resume our discussion at a later date, of course that would be fine.

In your post #13, you repeatedly stated that I had accused you of "ad hominem" argument against me:


In fact by claiming that I was engaged in "ad hominem" argument, which I was not.... The recrimination to which I referred is precisely your attempt to dismiss my valid and objective detection of misuse of evidence as "ad hominem." I have demonstrated a consistent pattern of abuse of the sources that leads to the conclusion that you are, for whatever reason, not abiding by recognizable standards of accurate representation. Perhaps I need a bigger thesaurus to find additional ways to convey this point about your conduct in this debate. But I doubt that any way of expressing it would avoid your misconstrual of it as "ad hominem." I have ommented not on who you are, but what you have done, and criticized it, as indeed it is, as outrageous. I also find absurd your claim that by identifying you as an apologist I am engaging in "ad hominem."



This complaint puzzled me, as I had not recalled actually referring to anything you had written as _ad hominem_. So I did a search of our entire discussion and found this from my post #13:


"Your book has a clear agenda, and that is to show that the English translations that most English-speaking Christians use are theologically biased, particularly in texts relating to the doctrine of the Trinity.... So it is not credible for you to tell us that the issue in John 8:58 for you is the trivial-sounding issue of 'the accurate rendering of five Greek words.' Of course, you are entitled to make your case, and any critique of your case should engage your argumentsrather than resorting to _ad hominem_. But don't expect those of us who have actually read your book to believe that you do not to have a larger point you are trying to defend."


Please note that I did not refer to YOUR comments about my argumentation as _ad hominem_, nor did I imply any such thing. I was stating that although I think you do have an "agenda" or "larger point" that you were seeking to advance in your book, I also think your book needs to be answered by addressing your arguments rather than simply pointing out your agenda. In other words, I did not want MY comments about your book to be misread as _ad hominem_ circumstantial (i.e., as if I were saying that your book is wrong because it has this agenda). My use of the term _ad hominem_ had nothing whatsoever to do with my complaint about your remarks about me as an apologist.

Speaking of my status as an apologist, you wrote:

Your assertion that an apologist shares the same values in scholarship as an academic historian is quite simply nonsense. An apologist, by definition, is a defender of truths he considers already established and irrefutable. All of an apologist's "scholarship" is shaped by the goal of finding new and better ways to defend what he already takes to be true. An apologist can abandon a line of argument as unsuccessful, but only to be replaced by a stronger argument for the same position.


I don't use the term _apologist_ in this sense. However, for the sake of clear communication, let me simply say that in your stated sense of the term, I do not consider myself an "apologist." I consider truth-seeking an essential value of what I do, and this means not merely abandoning unsuccessful lines of argument but also abandoning untenable positions. If you had a broader perspective on my work, you would know that this is not mere lip service. I give considerable attention in my work to encouraging my fellow evangelicals to rethink cherished positions that the evidence shows are untenable. I myself have had to abandon views that earlier in my Christian years I argued were true. I have some college papers in my files that I wrote advocating positions relating to matters in the science-Bible controversies that I now consider wrong-headed, not just in their line of argument but also in the conclusions that they reached.

You wrote:

I very politely suggested that the enterprise of an apologist may provide the explanatory context in which to see your conduct as suited to its purpose, which is simply different from mine, and so creates a gap in our assumptions of how to carry out such a discussion.... I proferred the tentative suggestion that the purpose and methods of apologetic might have cultivated a certain overzealousness in you as regards counting things in your favor when they are factually not. You chose to make that a matter of personal insult, when it was actually offered in the spirit of excusing you for what by my standards is quite serious misconduct.



If I understand you correctly here, you are saying that your 'polite suggestion' was a value-free observation to the effect that we just happen to have different purposes befitting our respective roles as "apologist" and "scholar." Forgive me, but I still have difficulty taking it that way. Whether you meant it to be "insulting" (as I said) or not, I do not agree with your suggestion that as an apologist my "single purpose is to win arguments by any means, to defend [my] faith at any cost." I do not accept any characterization of our differences that would bar me from saying with you, as I do say, "I am an academic, whose single purpose is to get to the truth a matter, however much I like or dislike that truth, however much or little it serves me personally." If I thought this purpose was incompatible with what I do as a so-called "apologist," I would quit being an "apologist" tonight. You say, "I can respect what you do as part of the phenomenon of religion, but I can't as part of the field on which I play (to keep using this metaphor), where people hold each other to a level of integrity in the use of evidence." Well, if I really was doing what you claim, then I would not respect what I do. I consider deliberate misuse of evidence, as well as reckless disregard for truth out of zeal, "serious misconduct," and I would never excuse it because the person was an apologist. (I have a paper trail that shows I am in earnest when I say this, because I have published a number of articles taking such "apologists" to task.) If you wish to claim that I'm not doing a very good job, you are entitled to your opinion. If I have to choose between you judging me incompetent or judging me zealous to defend my chosen religious system regardless of the facts, please, call me incompetent.

You wrote:

You attempt to further cast aspersions on me by claiming that my book has "an agenda."

Perhaps both of us are having difficulty (as you claim that I have) separating criticism of our work from criticism of our persons. My comment that your book has "an agenda" was simply explaining that the issue in chapter 10 of your book was not merely "the accurate rendering of five Greek words." Rather, that chapter is part of your attempt to make the case for viewing most English versions of the Bible as theologically biased. I was not casting aspersions on you. I was disagreeing with your claim that the issue has no significance to you beyond a purely historical interest in how to translate those five Greek words.

You wrote:

Now I have supposedly committed a misdeed by quoting from your post 11, rather than from your post 12 "to which [I was] supposedly responding." Get off it, Rob. Since when are we limited to only the most recent post, and when did I say I was only responding to your latest post? These kind of tactics on your part are low, indeed.



I don't know what to make of this, Jason. I clearly was not criticizing you for commenting on an earlier post. I very clearly explained that the problem was that the statement you quoted had nothing to do with what you said it meant. The fact that it wasn't even from the same post was mentioned to reinforce the out-of-context nature of your quotation, not to say that you had committed a foul by quoting an earlier post.

I had written:

"What is noticeable in these comments, and throughout your most recent post, is that you offered no response to my substantive reply to your contention that I misused the evidence in my last post on the issues (my post #11). he substantive material in my post #12, about which you said nothing except for one off-base remark (see below), was roughly five-sixths of the post."


You replied:

You offered no substantive (lengthy, for sure, but not substantial in merit) reply, and I quite properly chose not to engage further in a debate for which there is no evident ground rules of accurate representation of sources on which you are drawing for your (to this point utterly refuted) arguments.

I can only say that my reply seemed, and seems, substantive to me. If you don't respond to it, none of us will learn what you think were the shortcomings "in merit" of my reply. If it is your sincere impression that I do not accept as "ground rules" the importance of representing sources accurately, then I can only reiterate that I consider it very important to do so and welcome any corrections to my use of sources. When one is reviewing over a dozen sources on a variety of issues and seeking to make fine-grained distinctions, perfection is the goal but not usually the result. We have both made mistakes, Jason. I genuinely *want* to have mine pointed out so that I can avoid them in the future.

You wrote:

You had said you were going to find a grammatically valid way to defend the traditional translation, now that the ficitonal "eternal present" had been ruled out.

No, I said that I would agree to make my case using previously established categories and descriptions in the grammars as long as we could both agree to a "level playing field" in which you would do the same (meaning, for example, that your "existential/identity function" of the PPA also had to go).

I had written:

"I responded in my post #8 to your claim that I 'repeatedly misrepresent[ed]' the grammars in my post #6."
You replied:

To which I replied in great detail and at length in my posts 9 and 10, now more than a month ago, to neither of which you have in any way responded. This is what led me to conclude that you regarded them as "interruptions" of an argument you were determined to make no matter how much I had shown your methods to be faulty.

My post #11, posted 12 days ago (October 4), was the beginning of my response to those two posts (my records show they were posts #8 and #9, but I'm pretty sure we're talking about the same ones). In my post #11, I sought to step back a bit from the back-and-forth exchange to suggest a more fruitful way of approaching the subject. This doesn't mean I did not intend to interact further with your criticisms in your posts. One of the posts I have composed and plan to post tonight or tomorrow offers a fairly thorough response to your post #9. I'm taking your criticisms much more seriously than you realize. The fault may be mine in posting piecemeal instead of holding my responses until they are comprehensive. Given the sudden announcement that we have to finish more or less immediately, I'll do the best I can, but I recognize that some stones will go unturned.

You wrote:

I somehow have missed your acknowledgement of legitimate criticisms. Perhaps I will find one or two as I review our exchange for the many criticisms that have gone unanswered and unacknowledged.
Here are three examples:



Regarding your criticism of the scores I assigned to Goodwin and Brooks/Winbery in the first of five factors pertaining to the definition of the PPA, let's assume for the sake of argument that you are completely correct. Let's say Goodwin should have received a 2 instead of a 5 and Brooks/Winbery a 5 instead of a 6 for that first factor. I could debate these questions _ad infinitum_ with you, but it is unnecessary (and we don't have time, since you need to bow out soon). Even if we could agree on these scores, the relevant results of the complete survey would be the same:



Again, let me state emphatically that I take no offense at questions or challenges to the specific details of my argumentation, and indeed I welcome them. However, I do not believe you have refuted any of the above conclusions.

Turning to your post #14, you wrote:

I find your repeated attention to the surface form of my criticisms, while ignoring their substance, to be just a bit too convenient to your predicament in this debate. You would go a long way in ridding me of these suspicions if you had chosen to respond to the substance of my criticisms at the same time that you faulted how I expressed them.

Again, I think I did respond to the substance of your criticisms. In your post #13, you acknowledged that I did reply, and even said that my reply was "long," but asserted that my reply was lacking in merit. In this post, I have attempted to explain why I disagree. That's the best I can do, especially with the short amount of time left.

You wrote:

I believe there is an inconsistent standard being applied to me by the person who, in his very first remark about me on this site (Message 12330, March 10th) characterized something I had said in print as "condescending and arrogant."
I apologize for that remark. It is entirely possible that I misunderstood the spirit in which you asserted in your book that "when translations are checked against the original Greek, as they should be," that one can determine that most of the translations are wrong in their rendering of John 8:58 (_Truth in Translation_, 111). I took that to mean that anyone who accepts the conventional translation could not have "checked...the original Greek," and in thinking that to be your meaning I may have been mistaken. So please accept my apology for that remark.

We can proceed in either of two ways. We can agree that regardless of any past remarks of a derogatory nature we may have made about each other or anyone else, we will both make every effort to refrain from them during our discussion (what little may remain in it). Alternatively, we can agree that both of us may say whatever we think appropriate. Then the issue will not be whether a remark was permissible according to the rules but whether the facts support it. I can go either way. In either case, I would like to focus on the issues as much as possible in the little time remaining.

In Christ's service,

Robert M. Bowman, Jr.
Center for Biblical Apologetics
Online: http://www.biblicalapologetics.net


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