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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review: The History of the Higher Criticism

by Canon Dyson Hague, M.A.
Chapter 1 of The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth, Vol. 1 (the series of booklets from which fundamentalism took its name)

The Good
  • Explains difference between Higher Criticism and Lower Criticism
  • Explains why Higher Criticism isn't always antithetical to orthodox Christianity, and why many assume that it is
  • Fairly good summary of the history of rationalist Higher Criticism.
  • Shows why the compromise position is untenable.  If the Bible has been tampered with to the degree that the liberal Higher Critics claim, then it is no longer reliable.
The Bad
  • Presupposes that the Bible is special, such as the "Subjective Conclusions" section (while I agree with him that it is, he is likely to fail to convince any skeptics by doing so).
  • Resorts to ad hominem in the "German Fancies" section.  This section would have been greatly improved if he had instead given some examples of what he thought was "hypothesis-weaving and speculation" on their part and why.
  • On a similar note, he gives no examples of how the Germans Higher Critics were more "speculative... and conjectural" than the French-Dutch or British-American counterparts.
The MiXeD
  • While he does well to point out the anti-supernatural bias of many of the rationalist Higher Critics, he never really explains how this alone discredits their arguments (again, I'm not disagreeing with what he says, but instead think he could have strengthened his case by arguing against their conclusions, rather than against their beliefs because he is unlikely to convince any skeptics that way)..
  • Names scholars of equal academic credentials who disagree with the liberal Higher Critics, but doesn't provide any of their arguments.

Obviously, an article as short as his can't provide in-depth analysis of all the issues.  However, room for even a superficial treatment of a few of them could have been made by removing the unsupported assertions and replacing it with solid argumentation.  Instead of simply preaching to the choir, more effort should have gone into trying to convince the skeptic (or even the undecided).

RATING: 3/10 (while a good introduction to the topic, it needs less fluff, more meat)

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