Something that has become problematically apparent is that we dispute the authority of one another's sources almost completely. Some of his sources, like Josh McDowell, are avowed literalists who are well outside the mainstream of scholarship. Others, like Gregory Boyd, who I have some respect for due to his public rejection of dominionist claims, either make pretty familiar arguments or argue subjects that do not necessarily address the point at hand (Boyd is tremendously interested in arguing for the legendary view rather than historical view of Jesus.) I prefer sources like Ehrman, Metzger, and Friedman - all of whom he seems to lump into a class of "liberal theologians" whose arguments he believes to have been "brutalized" by "conservative theologians".
Another situation has cropped up regarding the Johannine Comma, a bit of text in 1 John 5:7 that represents the only explicit delineation of the Trinity in the Bible. It is extremely poorly attested to in Greek sources before the time of Erasmus (Eight references, four of the obvious write-ins, none of them dating earlier than 10th cent. CE.) but it appears in a number of later Latin translations. It currently exists in the modern KJV that the Baptists around here trot around. There is some evidence that it was being referenced by theologians in a time period before we have direct manuscript evidence of it. In the process of glossing over the issue for someone else, I (foolishly) simplified the issue by saying that it did not appear in the Greek before Erasmus. Garret called me on the carpet over it and referred me to this link.
Now, the link is from Logos Resources, a typical apologetics site, and it lays out an argument for why the Johannine Comma is awesome and folks should "regard it as authentic and employ it as the clearest proof-text in the Scripture for the doctrine of the Holy Trinity." I don't think that it was unreasonable of me to take this as a defense of the Johannine Comma on his part, so I typed up a long, kind of grumpy, refutation. But wait, amazingly I was somewhat indignantly informed that the Johannine Comma is a textual aberration (something on which we both agree) and he wouldn't be caught dead with it in his NIV and NASB Bibles - but he was using a source defending it tooth and nail to correct me on the dating. A strange misunderstanding ensued, with me claiming that he used a lame source and Garret asking "where is there a problem" and then proceeding to make the weirdest argument about biblical inerrancy I've ever encountered.
I'm going to post it in his own words because I like the guy and I don't want to be accused of putting words in his mouth:
They [the books of the Bible] are inerrant in their ORIGINAL manuscripts, which no longer exist, but textual critics pull out the original with estimated 99.5% accuracy
I'm not sure where he's pulling the 99.5% accuracy thing from. I've heard it put in Bart Ehrman's mouth, but I've never seen it in his texts. I've seen him use the term "with reasonable accuracy", something with which I would probably tend to agree, but 99.5% is laughable. Maybe that's an assertion of the "conservative" scholarship that I'm just not familiar with. I've asked him to clarify and I imagine he will when he gets the chance. What bothers me more is the perfect out he's crafted for himself with this "inerrant originals but errant copies" thing.
When he says "inerrant", he means (quoting again) "conservative evangelical, bible thumping, hell fire and brimstone preaching, potluck picknicking, homeschoolin' definition of inerrancy" - I think it's fair to say that he subscribes to the "inspired word of God" school of thought. BUT if you can always appeal to an inerrant, perfectly correct original, doesn't that mean you ALWAYS have an out if there's a problem in the modern versions? Sure the Bible says bats are a kind of bird and that there are four-footed flying things (Keizer Ghidorah?) - but the ORIGINAL manuscript had it right. Sure the Bible says pi = 3 and that there were tribal Hebrew armies larger than than the modern U.S. army - but the ORIGINAL manuscript had it right. That's problematic to me, and it should be problematic for him too, for myriad reasons. It's the very definition of special pleading.
I've actually found the whole exchange disheartening because he's obviously a smart guy, but he puts his faith blinders on when it comes to issues of (among other things) comparative religion and the refutations of some apologetics - "I have heard them all, and no objections bug me." I've asked him about egregious archaeological issues, notably the Flood, but he has yet to respond. (Can't be helped- Comments on Ray's blog aren't real time so he can edit them if someone says a no-no.)
I'll grant him that I shouldn't dismiss his arguments out of hand, and I have to admit that I came across that way a couple of times in our recent discussions, but there's also an extent to which I'm rankled by the "no objections bug me" thing - it seems to me like he's reserving the right to reject all interpretations that aren't in line with -his- out of hand. After all, when you can, with a straight face, claim that you have 99.5% inerrant knowledge from the creator of the universe, how can you lose?