The Apostate Has No Case

Or, Down Wayne's Drain

For some odd reason, these past few weeks have been Apostate Season here at Tekton. And yes, we have another, though a much more mild-mannered type this round: One Wayne Adkins. He describes himself as one who "was once a Pastoral Theology major at Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri." The sad news is that two years in that field, at such a minor school, won't get you the qualifications to be a certified debunker of Christianity, not by a tenth. But Wayne thinks he has become enough of an expert anyway to write a thing destroying Christianity titled "The Emperor Has No Clothes" and we've been asked to make some comments.

Anything new here? Obviously not. Adkins is no different than tens of other apostates who confidently believe that they're Better Than You, assured that he knows what you do not, because he has done his homework and you have not, for otherwise you would be where he is. He says, it "is with careful study of the text and comparative analysis that the errors are discovered." Well, we say in reply that it is with far more careful study and comparative analysis -- particulary with serious, credentialed scholarship -- that the alleged "errors" are debunked and Adkins' shallow scholarship is exposed. Adkins says he will "show you where and how to focus" to see errors. Well, each and every one that he lists (there are not many, but they are presumably the best he could find) are "been there, done that." So now it is Adkins' turn to (to use his own words) read the responses and watch his own red flags go up; for us to say (to use his own words) that he can bury his head in the sand and refuse to acknowledge anything that satisfactorily resolves his pet problems.

Adkins begins his survey with what can only be charitably called a remarkably inept analysis of textual criticism:

The most common explanation for errors like these is to blame any discrepancy on copyist error. The Bible was hand copied for centuries and it is reasonable to assume that at some point errors could have been made. How widespread would copyist errors be? Consider this: If four copies were made from an original manuscript, five copies would exist. If each of those were copied four times, then twenty five copies would exist. As this continued, soon there would be many copies in circulation. If an error was made in one copy there would still be twenty four other branches of copies that did not contain that error. For an error to exist in all of the copies, or branches, it must have been made during the transmission from the original to a single copy from which all other copies were made. If there are multiple copyist errors, then they should only affect branches of copies produced after the error was introduced. So, if there are just five copyist errors in the Bible, they must have all been made in the same branch of copies, which must be the only surviving branch of copies. If they existed in five different books, then the men who assembled those books had to have selected all five books from erroneous branches. Obviously, for several copyist errors to exist in all of the surviving copies of the Bible, an incredible mount of coincidence had to have been involved.

These comments, if taken to heart, would result as well in some absurd conclusions; to see the result, just take out "Bible" and replace it with "Annals of Tacitus" or any other secular work of antiquity and the absurdity becomes quite apparent: Obviously, we have texts with scribal errors in them in these works. No classical scholar would say otherwise. Adkins' problem is that he is thoroughly unaware of indeed how rare it was, because of limited literacy and the expense of writing materials, for there to even be "branches" of the sort he describes in antiquity -- certainly little in the way of this existed in the OT period, and in the NT period, it was not until very late that we see such a thing, and in that case, we ARE able to discern "branches" easily (indeed, this can even be done to some extent for secular works; see the classic Texts and Transmissions). The bottom line is that Adkins is oblivious to the point that scribal errors of this sort require no plea of "coincidence" -- they are part of the transmission history of EVERY ancient document that was ever substantially reproduced, and textual critics are not pressing Adkins' panic button. Adkins is left with the "hand me the remote" plea, "You would think that if the Biblical God was involved in the transmission of text and the assembly of the canon of scripture, that things would work the opposite way; only copies from an inerrant branch should have been selected," but that sort of logic is simply fractured. (It seems though that apostates I have encountered tend to have this sort of "why didn't God do my thinking for me" mentality that they once had as Christians, and merely carry over: In other words, as is often the case, they remain fundamentalists even as atheists.) The bottom line is this: Adkins' commentary on textual criticism and its processes is absurd. No textual critic would follow his dictum that proved textual errors make the rest of the text untrustworthy or suspect.

So what of specific errors alleged? Just get ready to see the old grind run:

That's the last of Adkins' favorite contradictions, and as can be seen, he was not trying very hard. We have a few more notes for a section he has on alleged moral shortcomings in the Bible.

So we have practically nothing new from Adkins, and it's also clear that he's hasn't put his hands on any Biblical scholarship lately, for he also offers a section on "various methods used by some in an attempt to explain away errors in the Bible," and most of them are methods we have never heard of, though maybe they were popular at Bible College when he went there (such as, they are "unexplained problems that will be answered in heaven" and "you don't have the Spirit"). Well, if he or his few readers would like to try their hand at anything more substantive, here it is. In summary, Adkins gets a D for effort and an F- for study, and has shown himself to be one of the least prepared to defend his apostasy of those we have encountered.

Update, 7/7/05: The Adkins Diet: We of course welcome it when the likes of Adkins deign to expose themselves to criticism further by responding to us, and predictably, that is what happened. You can "spot the loony" as Monty Python put it when Adkins pulls out the old, "hey that guy uses a pseudonym and asks for money" card. I'm going to give these guys quite an editing chore when I make a legal change to my name in the next few months. Sorry -- never heard of that other guy you're talking about, who is it? So much for your best argument.

And so let's get to responses from the former pastoral theology, not Biblical scholarship, candidate:

Textual Criticism: Adkins shoots and misses not just the target but the entire barn with the pointless remark that "no classical scholar would claim inerrancy for those secular texts," which is a non-answer to the point that no classical scholar would accept his misplaced analysis of the inexcusability of scribal error as a way of making a text "erroneous". Obviously Adkins knows absolutely nothing about textual criticism, and so decided that saying nothing at all about the true point was his best option. I need do no more than call it absurd -- I have studied the works of Biblical and secular textual critics (see here) and none use the Adkins method of, "there's no reason why what we think is a scribal error is not in the original" or "we're just wishing it isn't true and offering no reason whatsoever." Real textual critics look at things like the similarity of characters (as in, an O looking like a Q) as a cause for scribal error; or at places where a scribe clearly shifted his eyes from one line to another because the same word appeared in two lines to decide where a scribal error has taken place. Real textual criticism is full of concepts Adkins has apparently never seen before in his prior education (like "homoioteleuton"), so do pardon us for not respecting his efforts.

Genealogies: Adkins once again apparently does not know what to do with such concepts as "rhetorical/pedagogical structures" and "genealogies may function in more than one of the three spheres" and so thinks that I am offering some sort of "overlapping theory" which is not in the least like what he described in his book. Adkins does not even address the specifics of purpose (oral memory, pedagogical structures, fixed numbers of names in other lists) and just rambles on aimlessly:

That works as long as the names each writer used are actually part of the REAL genealogy. That means the lists must be combined if all of these people were actually in the REAL lineage. When that is done, the average time-span per generation drops to 14 years at most. Given the unlikelihood that all the named persons in the entire lineage were firstborn, some of these guys would have had to have children by the age of ten or 11. Holding never addressed this absurdity in his proposed answer.

WHAT absurdity? The genealogy of Matthew covers 1700 years (Luke is longer); the average lifespan of the day was 25-30 years, so if we assume each and every person had a baby on the day of their death, we get a total of 510 people in 1700 years. And actually, people were married as early as 14 in this time; but we don't even need that extreme. What in the world is Adkins thinking "absurd" here? Does he even understand our answers? No, and that is why he goes off on this wild tangent, and with the red herring of, "yeah, but secular geneaologies aren't claimed inspired or inerrant." No, "inspired" is irrelevant here, and the point is that secular ones used methods the same as the Bible's -- and so neither would be considered in error based on the decontextualized criteria Adkins uses, whether they were "inspired" or not.

Paul times three. Apparently having no idea how to answer such issues as the use of Greco-Roman rhetorical features, Adkins settles for the "the Bible doesnít say what it means and doesnít mean what it says" answer. The reply speaks for itself as an admission of defeat which Adkins is simply unaware of. His reckoning of narrative technique as "a lie" betrays once again his remaining a fundamentalist in thought process.

Matthew Misquote. After rehearsing his minsinformed canard about copyist errors, Adkins offers no reply to the other two ideas other than, "Wow! He must think his readers are really gullible to try to slide that piece of crap by." Put another way, Adkins is saying, "I am not educated enough to understand ancient literary practice."

Jehoachin Age. Adkins says I "resort again to copyist error" but doesn't explain why my answer is wrong, much less use sound principles of textual criticism to refute me.

See God? Adkins first provides a definition of "paradox" (for whatever reason) and then this is his whole answer to my article:

He also suggests that there is some difference between seeing God and seeing God in His glory. He quotes verses that are irrelevant to the verses in which God is seen to try to support this.

And that's it. Wasn't that terribly convincing, especially the way he also exegeted every verse as I did?

Abe's Terah-ble. Adkins puts his math skills to work and claims that:

It makes no difference whether Abraham was youngest or oldest. The Bible is specific about the time-frame of each event and they cannot be reconciled by shifting Abrahamís birth date.

And in reply, does no more than reaffirm his conviction that "Abraham was born when Terah was seventy years old" (however he arrives at that conclusion -- perhaps he thinks they were triplets, based on what?) and restate his problem, which we have already answered, again.

No Staff. Miller's article is "addressed" by first quoting Ryrie's answer to the issue (what for?) and then finally gets to his whole "answer" to Miller:

Again, Holding asserts the Bible doesnít mean what it says or say what it means;
Yeah I guess I could see that considering the fact that words like contradiction, error, and scholarly integrity donít mean the same thing for Holding and I.

Aren't you just impressed as all get out by Adkins' wondrous mastery of linguistics and thorough rebuttal to Miller's complex argument? I sure am.

Goliath. His whole answer -- I kid you not:

Those dam*ed copyist are at it again.

And that's it!

David's Census. Adkins' answer to Miller's detailed study:

Yes it is specious. Yes it is credulous. The first rule of Biblical hermeneutics is evaluate what the Bible says, not what you think it means. Does the Bible say any of what Holding proposes? No, it is just his fanciful notion that these two passages do not contradict each other.

In other words, you have to read the Bible like Adkins does, not as a text written in specific contexts of meaning.

3 Days/Nights. Adkins makes some ppeal to "how apologists want to insist on a 24 hour day for the days of creation" though he doesn't seem to have, as we do, a rabbinic contextual proof showing that such methods of timekeeping and measurement were actually done. In any event, what's he want? Even if we apply the rabbinic measure to Genesis, we would still get 7 literal days. Adkins closes with his still-fundy mantra: "Again, he is trying to say the Bible doesnít really mean what it says." That is, "He is trying to say that I can't read and understand the Bible in isolation of its defining contexts, in English."

Chronology of John. Adkins just quotes my conclusion and goes, "Huh":

What data? He beats around the bush about Jewish writers and their concept of chronology, the idea of ritual cleanliness etc. He never reconciles the timeline and instead implies that even though the chronological markers are distinctly different in John his account is in full accord from a Jewish perspective. He never explains why the disciples would think Judas was buying things for the feast if they had just eaten it.

I'm sorry, but I'm not out to anticipate every question that comes into line; but I guess in Adkins' house they never have to go out and buy more groceries during the week. Oherwise Adkins offers his "narrative method means a lie" canard again and asks further why John and the others did not anticipate his lack of knowledge of the informing contexts and "say" that there were multiple cleansings.

Fill Danny's Basket. Obviously Adkins didn't read anything I wrote, for he answers first, "Again, nobody claims that Abe Lincolnís bios are inspired or inerrant" -- a red herring I scaled at the end of the series when I said: "And these are not "errors." They are the inevitable product of comparative biography and point-of-view reporting." Then he says:

He actually suggest that God provided divine inspiration for these texts, but not paper and ink.

Next Adkins will ask why God does not change the channel on his TV for him. And then:

He goes on to suggest that even though they were divinely inspired to write the gospels, they may have been ďindifferentĒ about the accuracy of the accounts. He doesnít understand that the oral nature of the accounts prior to the writing of the gospels is irrelevant if they are inspired.

How does this work out? It doesn't -- because Adkins has assumed a definition of "inspired" that means, "precision-accurate in modern, Western terms that I would approve of." It is also claimed that I "exclude parts of Mark and 1Corinthians that he canít reconcile" which is false: Mark 16:9-20 is excluded on sound textual-critical grounds Adkins has no recourse to deal with, and 1 Cor. 15 is excluded because it is not a narrative but a creed with an artificial format. Adkins sums up my enormous multi-part series on harmonization with a bare two sentences:

The link he gives to his explanation for leaving it out leads to no explanation. He proceeded to harmonize what he could and omitted the bulk of the contradictions.

The answer could have been shorter, and just as effective in terms of representing Adkins' capabilities, if he had just put, "What?"

Ark Basts. No, just a copy and paste of his favorite words: "Again he says that the Bible means something other than what it says." I.e., "I read it in English."

Egypt Time. Adkins just claims I "didnít read all of what I wrote and made the assumption that he already knew what I was going to say and had the answer, or he didnít understand the problem" but I did, and he's out of an argument.

Crowing Cock. Once again, it is said that I don't "understand the problem" with no actual answer to what I wrote.

Dead Judas. My enormous analysis is blown off with the same old "the Bible didnít mean what it said and didnít say what it meant" canard.

Genesis x2. Adkins merely picks out a single paragraph from my huge article on this subject and repeats his canard that use of narrative art is a "lie."

Tree of Life: For the 675th time, my "response falls back on his mantra that Jews didnít write what they mean or mean what they write." Yes: 1) the Jews were not Western narrative writers; 2) cultures do vary in their literary modes of expression; 3) this is found in credentialed scholarship; 4) I did not "fail to address how the Tree of Life could have given eternal life, apart from God or not, if the wages of sin are death," because there is nothing to answer. The properties of the tree are not affected one bit.

Faith vs. Works. Adkins obviously would never have learned about "Semitic Totality" while at Bible College, and says, amazingly, nothing at all -- not even "he's saying that the Bible does not say what it clearly says". Instead he launches into the issue of angels having intercourse with women:

Below, Holding seems to be implying that angels really did have sex with women and produce giants as offspring, but says nothing to address the fact that this violates the principle set forth in Genesis for reproduction within ones own kind.

Oh, and what principles is that? Unfortunately Adkins does not quote this "principle". It is nowhere. Adkins also wants to stump for evolution, so perhaps he can tell me what no one has yet told me: 1) Pick one macro-transition (say between scale and feather). 2) List all the transitions between it. 3) With each, explain what natural selection advantage each one had.

Racism. Adkins asks, "So if Darwin was a racist itís OK for the Bible to be racist? Or is he implying that I hold Darwin up to the same standard that he holds God to?" Closer to the latter; the point is that it is possible to "jimmy" racism of whatever sort you want out of either, if you choose to ignore certain defining contexts -- and it is easier to do so from Darwin. Adkins just "jimmies" Gen. 11 into "racism" when it says zero about race. On the Canaanites Adkins merely says: He also implies that genocide is OK if the Canaanites were fighting back. What a warped sense of morality. What a poor reading. No, the point is that the Canaanites were not just innocents and Adkins needs to explain why what was done to them was wrong, and he needs to do so by answering the link.

Slavery. It is said, Holding suggests that slavery is a relative term and sometimes slavery was voluntary. He dances around the fact that the Bible never condemns one person owning another. Why should it? I provided links to a whole series by Miller showing that 1) ancient OT "slavery" did not involve such ownership, so there was nothing to condemn; 2) the NT actually undermined the idea of ownership of persons. Adkins obviously is unable to provide a detailed answer.

Abe and Isaac and Jepthah and Cain. My link on Isaac was off by one character and is now fixed. Not that Adkins could have handled Miller's treatise anyway, for this is all we get on Jepthah:

He claims that Jephthah did not sacrifice his daughter even though the Bible says he did. He did not address the issue of it not being rejected by God.

Since I did show that the Bible says no such thing, the issue is addressed, and Adkins simply has no answer. Adkins claims I did not address issues (even as he ignores 99% of my material refuting him) of: a) "why God would demand a human sacrifice from Abraham" (it's in the fixed link), "why he would reject Cainís offering of vegetables" (you don't see this in Hebrews?) "or why if Jesus became guilty of our sins on the cross he did not go to hell forever like any other human would" (try here and here for why that is a non-issue).

Handicaps. Adkins has no idea how ritual purity relates to this issue, so all we can say to him is, "Sorry, you're not seeing the answer."

In summary, Adkins has only amplified our point that he is decidedly unprepared and inadequste when it comes to awareness of credentialed Biblical scholarship, and we have indeed answered all of these contradictions. Any reader who takes the time to read what Adkins wrote (and does not fall dead of ennui) and then read my responses can see that Adkins has never left his prior fundamentalism.

Go Home!