04 March 2013

Open Letter to Dr. Steve McSwain

by Frank Turk

UPDATED: Dr. McSwain has e-miled me and has expressed interest in having a discussion about his essay and my response to it.  If we can work out the details, you can find the link to the discussion in this space.

SECOND UPDATE: Dr. McSwain has opted out of accepting the invitation, at least as he has communicated to me via e-mail.  Perhaps our friends at HuffPo Live will have a better outcome.

Dear Dr. McSwain --

First, let me say this about your recent article at HuffPo: it's more than a little disingenuous to tweet this after publishing that essay:

My friend Sarah called you out on this point already, but here's the thing: there's no edit to your piece afterward, or a footnote to point out that you have used tactics you now would abhor from those who would respond to you.  But of course, to make sure the gate is closed on the other side of the conversation, you make this apology and note that replying in kind would be "mean-spirited".

The worse problem here, really, is that you should know better than this.  You market yourself as "a trusted guide, transformational leader, and a spiritual teacher," but without any doubt your only action in this essay is to poison the well against Christians with whom you disagree.  Well, that's the tactic of everyone who has tried to speak out agains the Christian church since the days of Paul and of Jesus, so at least you're in an trade which has a long and storied past.

At any rate, if you're going to write something as short and shoddy as that piece and ignore current academic works which refute your statements (Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Bauckham comes to mind; The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism by Beale is another; Jesus Outside the New Testament by Van Voorst is lesser-known but compelling; the classic King James Only Controversy by James White ought to be on your reading list this year since you have obviously never encountered  decent history of the text we receive for the modern English Bible; Did the Resurrection Happen by Flew and Habermas would be the last one for you simply because it shows that non-Christians don't have to be impenetrably ignorant of what conservative [or even historically-traditional] Christians believe), me spending my time refuting it on a blog isn't going to change your mind.  It's probably not even going to get you to revise your flippant complaints into something a little more circumspect.

But I do have a great idea.

It turns out I am also a contributor to HuffPo -- over at HuffPoLive.  I'm one of the conservative evangelicals they call on from time to time to represent when the question of what the man-in-the-street conservative evangelical believes and would say to their adversaries in other camps.  My contact over there is Shelley Thomas, and I think that you and I discussing this with a HuffPo moderator keeping the conversation between the ditches would be educational for your readers, to say the least.

Here's all I ask: that our exchange have the smallest appearance of balance.  That is: you ask a question; I'll answer it; then I can ask a question; you have to answer it.  Questions need to be brief (~150 words, about 1 minute) and answers need to be cogent without filibustering or grandstanding (~500 words, about 4 minutes).  We could do 5 exchanges, or 10 if HuffPoLive could stand a segment that long.  The point for me would not be to convince you of anything -- my goal would be to compare your caricatures of conservative Christian faith with the actual Christian faith held literally by hundreds of millions of people for almost 2000 years.

What I expect is that you'll ignore this request because you have nothing to gain from it.  However, you might be a better man than my assessment of you, and you might find this opportunity to demonstrate what you were talking about this weekend a great way to make your point to your targets in conservative Christianity.  If you are, I look forward to hearing from either you or Shelley at your convenience.

Comments are closed.  You can find me at frank@iturk.com, or on twitter @frank_turk.