You’ve probably seen the little phrase ‘…but I’m open to the possibility that…’. This phrase is an attempt to portray oneself to be a neutral observer. I’m all for neutrality – especially when it comes to things we have no evidence for and claims for which there are equally good arguments on both sides.
What I object to, however, is the cult presently worshiping the notion that we should be open to every possibility. Sorry, but no we shouldn’t. Know why? Because some ideas are just stupid. And they’re held by stupid people. And we are under no obligation to pretend that we think the claims of those stupid people are true.
When, for instance, someone says ‘I think Jesus really existed, but I’m open to the possibility that he didn’t’ it’s impossible for me to take anything that person says seriously. The idea that Jesus didn’t exist is stupid. It’s just plain stupid. It doesn’t deserve refutation any more than the idea that the earth is flat or the moon is made of cheese does. And besides, even if you wanted to convince the Mythicist that Jesus existed there’s not one thing you could say to achieve your end. His ignorance is invincible. And yes, there is such a thing as invincible ignorance.
Likewise, the suggestion made in recent times that ‘the tomb of Jesus has been found, or at least I’m open to the possibility’ is equally nonsensical. There simply is no way to prove that the tomb and the bone boxes in it are that of Jesus and his family. Nor is there proof that the ossuary of James, whoever that was, held the bones of Jesus’s brother. How could there be without dna?
What has happened in scholarship of late is that reason and argumentation have been replaced by the cult of ‘the possible’. Well, it’s possible, so I must hold off on making a determination because it’s possible that…
It’s absurd. And a bit sad. Especially since it’s scholars themselves burning strange fire on the altar of this cult. They should know better and they should have the wherewithal to say, without fear, ‘that’s a stupid suggestion.’
I think this cult has arisen, though, because scholars actually believe they are supposed to be like lab scientists- i.e., neutral observers. We aren’t observers, we are investigators. Our task isn’t the task of the detached scientist but the engaged detective sifting the evidence and dispensing with the false and unreliable and holding on to what helps solve our case.
In other words, too many Biblical scholars are operating with the wrong model. Consequently, their findings are wrong. And that, at the end of the day, why they must pretend scientific objectivity. Because they can be sure, and sadly are sure, of absolutely nothing. Small wonder so many are disenchanted with their chosen field.
The sooner the cult perishes the better.