Thursday, March 14, 2013

Why Scholars Need to Pick Fights with Scholars and not Pastors or Laymen

The title pretty much introduces what I want to say here. I'm getting pretty tired of what I see as scholars on the internet always picking laymen or pastors or parachurch leaders as their opponents in an argument, all the while, the scholars who represent those same positions more accurately and with better arguments are ignored.

It reminds me of Shelley's poem, "Ozymandias," where an inscription from his broken statue lies in the desert wasteland as a monument of the claims he made concerning his greatness as a victor over all other opponents. Long dead from his defeat, all that remains is this inscription and the shattered visage of his statue, because he overestimated his abilities to conquer greater enemies.

Attempting to build your ego by winning arguments against lesser foes is much like trying to win a fight with an entire family by picking on the littlest child of that family while the others are not around. It's bullying, not a desire to enter a fair fight. The bully is strangely silent when the big brother comes around.

In the same way, these scholars like to pick on laymen and pastors, frankly, because they're not as educated in the area as a real scholar would be. They can say all sorts of stupid things about archaeology or what the majority of scholarship says without much opposition, simply because the layman or pastor doesn't know any better. Try pulling that nonsense at SBL. Try it in a debate with a real scholar. It's not going to work. You're going to have to make real grown up arguments if you want to see how your ideas really fare.

That's why one needs to look to address the best arguments in a debate, not the worst. He needs to look for the best proponents of an argument, not the mediocre or even the worst simply because he or she is famous or the one who gets your goat that particular day.

Laymen almost never present the arguments that well. They almost always are more assertive and certain in what they say. Have some patience and let it go. I realize if someone comes knocking on your front door looking for a fight, you need to address it accordingly ("answer the fool . . ."), but if that's all you ever do, you are only building a fortress of ego that is built out of straw, and strawmen guard it.

Look to fight Goliath and the smaller Philistines will flee if you beat him, but perhaps many don't face him, precisely, because they would be the ones who lay bloodied and beaten on the battlefield instead. Their shattered visage all that remains of their great claim concerning the domination of their enemies.

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