There are few authors in any genre of literature whose words are truly considered as completely authoritative. Consequently, the vast majority of authors, in particular those in literary areas that involve research, find it necessary to reference, or even quote verbatim, other sources that are presumed legitimate and support their argument. However, a valid concern for the reader of the finished manuscript is the validity of the references therein. Unless the reader is himself either very familiar with, or an expert in, the topic area of the manuscript, the credibility of the manuscript and references therein must be treated with some degree of ambiguity. Regarding the layman, the manuscript at first glance is typically either accepted, rejected, or treated with skepticism and possibly ignored. In either situation, the layman frequently bases his decision on a subjective predisposition or preconceived notion, rather than an exhaustive investigation of objective fact. As a result, misinformation and erroneous belief can propagate.
Misinformation: In a prior issue of The Skeptical Review, a secondary reference was provided to Mr. Till concerning a possible date of translation of the book of Daniel into Greek. Specifically, it was stated that "I have not verified his (Chuck Missler's) reference and therefore cannot state with certainty that it is correct.... Therefore, this reference might be of interest for you to investigate" ("Biblical Discrepancies Explained," TSR, September/October 1999, p. 8). Mr. Till subsequently looked into the secondary reference that was provided, a web site by Chuck Missler, and uncovered that Mr. Missler had misrepresented the information contained in his primary reference, The Encyclopedia Brittanica. In retrospect, there were two main concerns about this secondary reference. First, it was found on the internet, and second, it was provided by Chuck Missler.
Although the internet is a rapidly growing source of information on most conceivable topics, the information contained therein is not always correct. Simply, virtually anyone can post onto a web site information that has neither been verified for authenticity nor scrutinized by experts for accuracy. For example, according to Chemical and Engineering News, "the information superhighway... appears to be studded with potholes in terms of medical information" ("Today's Chemist at Work," Volume 8, Number 2, 1999, p.12, qtd. in Chemical and Engineering News, 8 March 1999, p. 88). A search for data on arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, and multiple sclerosis yielded "more than 1,200 sites that contained misleading or potentially false information." Although I recognize the potential perils in using the internet as a virtual reference library, I nevertheless have attempted to use it judiciously when other sources were not readily available. Regardless, in reference to the site by Chuck Missler, it appears that my reluctance simply to assert as fact, without further investigation, what he had posted was prudent.
As mentioned previously, Mr. Till demonstrated how Chuck Missler misrepresented information contained within a scholarly reference. In this regard, I can share in his belief that "sources may not really say what the fundamentalists are claiming." Interestingly, my receipt of Mr. Till's article coincided with that of an article by Hank Hanegraaff, President of the Christian Research Institute, on the Y2K issue, in which he asserts that Chuck Missler is "notorious for peddling factually flawed information" (H. Hanegraaff, "The Millennium Bug Debugged," Christian Research Journal, Volume 22, Number 1, 199, p. 16). Although "to err is human," repeated presentation of false information as fact is simply tragic.
Regarding misrepresentation of information, it could also be postulated that Mr. Till is not without error. For example, although I stated that "I have not verified his (Chuck Missler's) reference and therefore cannot state with certainty that it is correct," Mr. Till wrote that "Mr. Bradford's acceptance of Missler's distortion explains why so many biblicists twist information ..." However, my emphasis on conditional words, such as "if," clearly indicated my stated uncertainty in Missler's claim. Therefore, Mr. Till misrepresented my statement. Or did he?
Interpretation: If I were to interpret Mr. Till's use of the word "acceptance" in the aforementioned sentence in question as "belief as an irrefutable fact" then my simple argument that Mr. Till clearly misrepresented my words would be correct. However, if Mr. Till merely implied that my comments appeared to reveal a sense of "viable adequacy" about Mr. Missler's source, then my argument about Mr. Till's misrepresentation might be wrong. This small example thus illustrates the importance of proper interpretation of a text.
Biblical exegesis, that is, critical interpretation, explanation and analysis of the Bible, likewise can suffer from any subjective predisposition of the exegete. For example, before I came to faith in Jesus Christ, I happily pointed out to others what appeared (to me at least) to be clear contradictions in the Bible. Not long after I received Him, however, I began to "search the Scriptures... (for) these are they which testify of (Him)-- John 5:39 (NKJV)." Since then, I have been happily pointing out to others what now appear (to me at least) to be clear resolutions of those same apparent contradictions.
The paradigm shift that I experienced resulted in spiritual discernment. That is, "the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14, NKJV).
Conclusion: As written on the cover of each issue of The Skeptical Review, "It is wrong, always, everywhere, and for everyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence" (W.K.Clifford). Likewise, those involved in apologetics must "sanctify the Lord God in (their) hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks (them) a reason for the hope that is in (them)"-- 1 Peter 3:15 (NKJV). And while you debate, remember to check out those sources.
(Michael Bradford, 75 Beaver Street, Waltham, MA 02453; e-mail, email@example.com)
Editor's Note: Mr. Bradford seems to have admitted that
Chuck Missler's web site was not a very reliable source of information
to quote in support of his view on the authorship of Daniel, so I see
no need for a longer reply than just a few brief comments. First, I
will emphasize a point that Bradford made about source material taken
from the internet. Anybody with even marginal computer skills
can set up a web site, so the fact that information is obtained from a
web site is no guarantee that the information is accurate. I have found
that many Christian web sites are comparable to small-press books. They
are shallow and flagrantly slanted to defend biblical inerrancy. As for
Mr. Bradford's belief that he has experienced "spiritual discernment"
that enables him to point out "clear resolutions" to "apparent
contradictions" in the Bible, I'll just refer readers to my comments on
Brian Rainey's letter (TSR, January/ February 2000, p. 14) in
which I pointed out the catch-22 in this familiar claim that biblical
inerrantists make to explain why they can see unity in the Bible when
skeptics can't. Perhaps Mr. Bradford would like to give us a
demonstration of his gift of "spiritual discernment" by pointing out to
us some "clear resolutions" to "apparent contradictions" that have been
identified in TSR. So far, I haven't seen anything in his
articles that even resembles "clear resolutions."