Thursday, January 12, 2006

A question from Cade Tremain about J P Holding

Cade: On your blog, you refer to JP Holding as being too much of an idealogue for your liking. He is one of my favorite apologists, and I especially love The Impossible Faith. Do you not think he argues his positions well and holds erroneous views, or are you just saying you don't like how vicious he can be to others? If you think his arguments are flawed, how come you think so? I was wondering why you said that, because I've always thought him to be very informed and always presented his case wonderfully. Thanks for your time, and I look forward to your reply.

VR: I mainly have trouble with Holding's style, which strikes me as very strident and polemical. On the other hand I'll have to admit to finding Holding very entertaining (such as with the "fundy atheist" list). Contrast this with I Pet 3: 15:

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

I think atheists, however, turn a lot of people off with their polemical rhetoric. There are many atheists and skeptics of other stripes about as strident as Holding. If your case is really so strong that no who isn't stupid can disagree with you, then you don't need to say it over and over again. I wish that someone in the atheist camp had written something like:

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the atheism that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.


Steven Carr said...

Do you think Holding is correct in his belief in a Earth that is less than 10,000 years old?

Steven Carr said...

Here is , to take a random sample, what Holding wrote today about the respected scholar , Bart Ehrman. Holding accuses him of 'hiding things', but fails to give any evidence for this slander

'Ehrman is one person, not "some," and his work is badly done. He doesn't consider issues like defining contexts (eg, his whole blatter on texts about the Trinity is simply and easily resolved by the context of Wisdom theology). He hides crucial information about how texts can be ascertained. He makes mountains out of molehills and thinks that just because he feels insecure, everyone else should too. He ignores that his views if applied to secular textual criticism would be laughed out of court.'

Victor Reppert said...

I'm not an expert on Holding so I don't know where he says that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. But if he does say that, then of course I disagree with him in spades. You should know that by now, Steven.

And I already indicated that I have serious problems with the tone he adopts.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Holding has come out of a conservative Christian background of some sort, and continues to try and defend the Bible as being as close to inerrant as possible, as understood in the Protestant inerrantist tradition. He admits that he used to believe that hell involved physical torture, but now interprets hell as being something less than physical torture and more like shunning. He also admits he used to believe that the O.T. "prophecies about Jesus" as cited in the N.T. could be used to convert skeptics. Now he's not so sure, and warns others against relying on O.T. verses as "proofs" that could convince skeptics of the truth of the Bible and Jesus. He admits that the N.T. authors interpreted many such O.T. verses in an imaginative manner common for their day and age (pesher), but not in a manner suitable as "proof" of anything today.

Likewise with Holding's attempt over the years to defend Young-Earth Creationism, based primarily on the Bible's literal words. I suspect that he may have started out his Christian journey as a young-earth creationist, for he has stated his affinity for young-earth creationism many times in the past. Though he also admits that he doesn't study the young-earthers scientific arguments and begs ignorance when it comes to arguing his young-earth beliefs on the basis of science. He has also hinted to me in a past email that the Preteristic side of his eschatological Biblical interpretations might be more compatible with a "local Flood" theory rather than a world-wide flood such as he was used to believing. But you would have to contact him personally to see how his beliefs keep evolving on that topic.

I suspect that Holding does not wish to alienate his inerrantist fans many of whom are also young-earthers, including those who read several of Holding's articles that have been published at the Answers in Genesis website (a young-earth website)--articles written by Holding that try to explain away all possible verses that suggest the Biblical authors, like others of that time, wrote from the perspective that the earth was flat with heaven lying relatively near the earth below.

Neither does Holding admit he should more seriously consider the published scholarly articles and Biblical commentaries of fellow Evangelical Christians, like Paul Seely and Dr. John Walton of Wheaton College (see Walton's NIV APPLICATION COMMENTARY ON GENESIS, that I have invited Holding to read and comment upon), both of whom agree that the most likely explanation for the Bible's cosmological descriptions was that the ancients indeed believed in a flat earth cosmos. (See also my updated article on that topic,

So Holding continues to create self-serving interpretations out of thin air instead of acknowledging the veracity of questions related to the beliefs people held when the Bible itself was being written.

One discussinon I had with him, in which he employed the most eggregious reasoning and analogies concerned my questioning his attempt to interpret the "curse of the serpent" via modern scientific knowledge of how snakes smell. Holding tried to connect the serpent's curse in Genesis with a bit of modern science, arguing that since modern day scientists have discovered that snakes "smell" by sticking their tongues in the air to gather in molecules (that they then smear on their smelling/tasting organ on the roofs of their mouths), that bit of modern trivia agrees fully with the Biblical words, "cursed to eat dust." So Holding "finds agreements with science" in Scripture wherever he can imagine them, instead of wondering whether or not his modern day interpretations might really be, or not be, the way the ancients viewed matters.

In other words he skips over the fact that gathering in MOLECULES in the air on one's tongue is not exactly "eating dust." It's primarily a process of gathering in molecules suspended in the air, which is no more nor less than humans do when we breath in the air and its molecules stick to the sensory mucous membrane inside our own noses. In the case of snakes the molecules stick to the mucosa on their tongues and then the tongues touch those molecules to the mucosa of their smelling/tasting organ.

A sense of smell is necessary in order to obtain cues to one's environment, location and that of one's prey or mates, the knowledge of which are not "curses" at all, but blessings, biologically speaking.

So snakes stick their tongues out primarily to take in molecules in the air. They are not primarily licking the ground, nor seeking to take in "dust/dirt/pollen" in the air anymore than any other creature does when it breathes. They just want the molecules in the air as we all do, in order to smell them. And molecules are far smaller than dust/dirt/pollen. And the whole process of smelling is far from being a "curse," biologically speaking, it's a blessing.

Why the ancient Hebrews had such a revulsion at the thought of being "cursed" to "eat dust/dirt" is more of a sociological question, and makes less sense to the modern scientific mind.

Even some reptilian near-cousins of the snake family like the Komodo dragon which has four legs and does not crawl on its belly, uses the tongue-gathering method of gathering in molecules from the air. Hardly a curse.

Holding in his response to me at his website, equated "dust" (and even the air-borne pollen that irritates his "turbinates" every allergy season)with the "curse of the serpent," forging an imaginated connection between his genuine "curse" of having to suffer sinus allergies with the serpent's relative blessing of being able to smell. It would of course be far more of a curse, biologically speaking, if the snake could not smell the air at all. Or if all snakes had to suffer Holding's allergies.

But enough about Holding and his self-imagined genius at having refuted all the questions of anyone who understands the Bible differently than himself (and given himself trophies in the process). I suspect he'll go on defending the Bible as being as close to inerrant as possible, and only give up ground slowly, years at a time for each concession.

There is another apologist besides Holding whom you have mentioned in your blog recently, namely Dave Armstrong and his "Trilemma Debate/Defense." He is another version of Holding, Armstrong being a former conservative Protestant before converting to the one true church, the Catholic church. However, I have either missed at Armstrong's website, or Armstrong has not yet agreed or stated plainly as Holding has, that one must not try to cite O.T. prophetic verses as "proof" that "Jesus fulfilled them." Armstrong apparently simply cites such verses in a list at his website and expects readers to agree that they constitute proof of his Christian beliefs. So Holding seems more aware than Armstrong of questions regarding that area of apologetics. On the other hand, Armstrong, unlike Holding, accepts and defends forthrightly the evidence for common evolutionary descent.

Daniel said...

Babinski knocked it out of the ballpark. I would only try to follow up with a simple reference to the Till/Holding exchanges on infidels to give the interested reader a sample of Holding's abilities to debate one-on-one with a serious scholar, and come to their own conclusions.

Steven Carr said...

While sceptics sometimes have to correct errors,Holding often has to take down entire articles fromhis site.

Once ,he included obviously forged quotations in one of his articles supposedly from no less a person than Bruce Metzger. Holding never spotted where his sources were clearly lying,although it was obvious that Metzger would never say such things.

The webmaster that he was writing for at the time had to apologise for the article.

Edward T. Babinski said...

J.P. Holding on evolution:

Does the URL fit? I'll break it in half here:

Holding on Evolution:

Or Google "Mr. Holding and Evolution"

shunyadragon said...

I have attempted to dialogue with JPH on Theologyweb and found it impossible because of denigrating and insulting manner. I do not consider his apologetic argument impressive. In particular his 'Impossible Faith' argument does not work when you take away his egocentric view of Christianity, and consider a more universal view of the different beliefs of the world. I am up front willing to debate or dialogue this subject with anyone anytime.

shunyadragon said...

Richard Carrier's Book 'Not the Impossible Faith' isa good critique of JPH's argument for 'Impossible Faith'