Reply To: Lecture 22 – The New Testament Era – The Historicity of the life of Jesus


Personally, I am a little uncomfortable and disappointed with the air of Christian bias so far in my listening (I’m only on lecture 7). I was not expecting to get such a heavy dose of that perspective when I signed up for courses tied so heavily with liberty, reason, and logic. It’s not so much that religious topics are covered that’s bothered me, but that it feels Dr. J is overstating or legitimating its role in Western History and in our life.

1) I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the influence. In point of fact, most of what is taught in the mainstream vastly understates (one might ask oneself why, but that’s not our purpose here).
2) In no small part because of #1, to delegitimate it’s role is to deligitimate Western History and Civilization (btw, this might answer my parenthetical in #1), which within living memory was still referred to as “Christendom” unironically (when doing research on a political theory paper I was writing, I came across a scholarly paper, written in the mid-60s, and not overtly religious at all, which used that word once, unironically, as a descriptor of the West as a whole. As far as I know, that was the last time it was used unironically).

3) For the most part as Professor Jewell’s lecture series goes on, when he describes various Christological/Theological controversies – well apparently a lot of people have a problem with the inclusion/”focus” of discussion on these matters. However, – and this is an analogy* – matters of theological doctrine were as important to them as ideological-political matters are to people today. Now, you might think people are foolish to adopt this or that view. Or you might think they are foolish to place so much emphasis upon it. Or get so strongly stirred up over these things. But if you want to understand them, then you need to know about these things. Dismissal with a sneer before knowing – that is, that things should not even be brought to your attention – is not really a search for historical understanding, or informed rational knowledge (though I guess it would fall within the realm of “rational ignorance theory“).

Finally – you’re probably attracted to this site because you’re attracted to Austro-Libertarianism. Murray Rothbard, who was apparently agnostic-atheist, is basically the founder of Austro-Libertarianism. He didn’t think it was beneith him to know about the religious beliefs and practices of people. Indeed, I’m fairly sure that, given how much attention he himself gave these matters in his studies & writings on American history, he wouldn’t think it was possible to have a good understanding of either American or Western History without knowing these things, and treating the issues at least with some respect (now, as for people who tried to use the power of the state to enforce them, he held the same attitude towards that as he did towards anyone – secular as well as religious – who did that sort of thing). And, evidently (I’m far, far from an expert on Rothbard) one of his breaks with Rand is that he did not think all people or ideas with religious basis/origin should be dismissed out of hand as irrational nutters. (Bob Murphy, earlier this year, made a good converse point: many of the people who read his blog regularly and respect his reasoning and logic on all sorts of matters. . .then suddenly dismiss him as being “irrational” when he talks about Christianity. He made the point that – he’s the same person. Likewise, Ed Feser – a former Atheist, like Murphy – makes the point that he became a Christian on a rational basis. Now, you may disagree with the reasoning of both men, and find flaws in it – but the way to do so would be the same way one does with anyone’s reasoning. Not simply a contemptuous sneer. That, I would suggest, is the irrational mindset).

*which sincere Christians would probably see as crude, because for a truly devout person, matters of faith are more important than matters of temporal politics. You may disagree with that, but this is not in and of itself a necessarily rational disagreement on your part.