Okay, I’d first like to thank Brian at Apologetics315 for having an audio link up so quick for the September 26th debate between James White and Dan Barker. For those of you that have not heard about it yet, you likely don’t worry much about apologetic debate and don’t follow that scene. For those of you that did, it’s quickly becoming one of the more astounding statements made in public apologetic debate, to date.
Dan Barker delievered his opening address on the various parallels that Christianity has with other preceding mythological tales from various other religious sources. He started with a ficticious story about 3 little donkeys and a nasty elephant, and commented on how his story was obviously borrowing from the three little pigs story, based on what is essentially known as ‘common sense’ in our culture, regarding childrens stories and literature. After that, he listed a bunch of parallels from various ancient mythological tales and religious lore. I won’t repeat it all, but it’s essentially along the lines of how other religious lore that preceded the story of Christ contained all the various elements of the story of Christ (virgin birth, 12 disciples, death and resurrection, etc.). Barker argued that the story of Christ was, simply put, a patchwork quilt of various pieces that were ripped off from the blankets of other religions and sewn together. A majority of his argument was similar in form and content to his published works that contained commentary on these subjects, namely Losing Faith in Faith (from 1992) and Godless (from 2008, though I’ve heard it was released in 2007)
Then, 30 seconds or so into his opening presentation, James White was interupted by Dan Barker when White stated that he’d present his case built against Dan’s arguments presented in his book and would respond to Dan’s opening statement in his cross examination period. Dan wanted to make a point of order, and the point was that they were not debating his book. I remember when I first heard that statement, I was floored, thinking that Dan Barker was objecting to White’s quotation of his work. Surely Barer wasn’t suggesting that he had abandoned the arguments in his latest book?
After listening to the audio of the debate, I think Barker was suggesting something slightly different.
It seems that Dan objected to how White had an opening statement that addressed the arguments put forth in his two books as opposed to Barker’s opening statement, thinking that somehow White should be immediately responding to the opening address that Barker had just delivered.
It seems that Barker thought that White was “avoiding the issues” when White was not rebutting Barker’s opening statement with White’s own opening statement.
The reasoning that Barker seemed to give was that he “may have changed his mind” on something(s) that was in his books. Barker seemed to think that White should have responded to what he had just said. Later in the debate, it seems that Barker had abandoned some of the arguments about Mithras that he had gathered from The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, written by Barbara G. Walker. It seemed that Barker had studied her other books A Treasury of Knitting Patterns, A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns, Charted Knitting Designs: A Third Treasury of Knitting Patterns, Knitting from the Top, Mosaic Knitting, The Book of Sacred Stones, Feminist Fairy Tales, The Secrets of the Tarot, The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects, etc. and started to have some suspicions about her scholarship. She’s obviously not an atheist (more likely a wiccan), and spilts her writing between books on mystic feminism and knitting. I cannot understand why Barker would have ever taken her seriusly as a scholar and I understand why he would distance himself from her.
Either way, it appeared that Barker didn’t want White bringing her up and didn’t want White attacking some of his arguments on the basis of the comically bad sources that he used. I applaud Barker in recognizing that at least one of his sources is a non-scholarly source; unworthy of quotation or reference in a serious address on the subject of the origins of the story of Christ.
I think in the fury and the nerves of the debate, Barker wanted White to interact with what he said that day, not what he had written years ago (because he may have changed his mind).
It was still completely bizarre, but I think many people heard it as Barker saying that he didn’t want White quoting his book, as if that were somehow unacceptable in debate or somehow reprehensible.
I cannot understand how Barker would think such a complaint would be legitimate unless he had communicated his change of argument to White before the debate, so White could modify his opening statement to remove the elements that Barker had removed from his repertoire. Entering a debate with a position modified from something you previously held is understandable. Not communicating that to your opponent (or apparently anyone else in any sort of public way) is clearly not being forthright, and complaining about it is being downright absurd. Obviously, White and Barker aren’t neighbors and don’t frequent the same locales. How else would White learn about Barker’s espoused positions, except for his publically available printed work? The complaint is silly, especially seeing that Barker is seasoned debater, with +60 debates under his belt. He definitely knew better and I’m guessing that he was searching for an angle to slam White, right off the start.
Barker’s no stranger to mockery, and no stranger to special pleading argumentation. The whole “I didn’t quote your books” complaint worked against Barker; it rightly shows that he has no concern for interacting with the specific case offered by his opponent but instead is only interested in gaining a public forum to make fun of Christianity.
– A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions – Proverbs 18:2.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “The Armchair Theologian” Unger