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The deleted question:

What are examples of secular historians agreeing with the four historical facts about Jesus of Nazareth that William Lane Craig bases his argument on?


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Moderator's feedback:

Don't cross post. Especially when it's off topic here like this.

I can understand the concern about cross-posting (see related questions on other stacks here and here), but the reason for closing according to the message displayed at the top is that the question was regarded as "philosophical or sociological without clearly asking for a doctrinal answer".

Can someone please help me out to:

  • understand what is meant by "philosophical or sociological without clearly asking for a doctrinal answer",
  • understand how this category applies to my question, and
  • figure out a way to reword the question so that it becomes on-topic?
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    Collecting lists is not what this site is about, especially not lists of secular historians.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 23:53
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    @curiousdannii - it follows then that this question is off-topic as well, correct?
    – user50422
    Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 23:55
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    FWIW, I would argue that it is ("off-topic as well"). Possibly more so than your question, to be honest. 🙂
    – Matthew
    Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 6:09

1 Answer 1

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I try to answer your question and explain why this question (the one you pointed out) is on topic. Being a relative newcomer, I defer to others and moderators, esp. those who also moderate other SE sites.

How does the close category philosophical or sociological without clearly asking for a doctrinal answer apply to my question and what is meant by this close category?

  1. First, let's review the first-level choices and the second-level choices under "a community-specific reason". I believe the list was designed to be short (5) and each reason is to be as general as possible although this leaves the name of the second level category "philosophical or sociological" rather ambiguous for specific cases. Why should this question be closed?

    A community-specific reason

  2. C.SE needs to ask for a Christian answer, on topics of Christian theology, church history, and Christian practice. Because your question is asking for secular historian it's off topic, although I can see that

    • it is valuable for Christian apologists who need to understand their debate partners as much as possible (like Aquinas did).
    • Christians need to use as much "religiously-neutral" disciplines like philosophy, psychology, history, sociology, literature, etc. as possible to build common ground with the skeptics

    So while your question is certainly "on topic" for a Christian apologist, it's not necessarily so for C.SE.

  3. What is a "Christian answer" I meant above? For the purpose of this site, it's an answer that have one or more of these properties:

    • references at least one Christian-specific sources of revelation: Bible, tradition, doctrines, creeds, etc.
    • takes a Christian viewpoint in forming the argument
    • assumes a Christian worldview in that the scholarship allows for God acting in history / nature

    Whether the author is Christian or not doesn't matter. But a historian pre-committed to only a materialistic account (enshrined in the historiography he/she uses, which we then label "secular historian") will necessarily distort a Christian history, and thus is not eligible for a "Christian answer" per criteria above. Especially in this post-modern age, the pre-commitment of a historian cannot be left out from the scholarship.

    Again, the set of "Christian answer" for a Christian person is larger than the set for this site, so the larger set includes the "secular historians" giving support for the "four facts" that you asked.

  4. We need to be aware that C.SE is just one of the dozens in the SE network. Each site has "carved its own domain". Cross posting is thus counter to the spirit of the whole network, where a question needs to be posted to a site that the Q best fits its "on-topic" definition. Cross posting is a big no-no in the SE network [insert reference here, from meta.stackexchange.com].

  5. First, I thought your Q belongs to History.SE (which covers secular historians), but when I read the close reason for your question there, it's obvious that they don't just answer all history-related questions, just like C.SE don't answer just all Christianity-related questions. It seems for now your question best belongs to Skeptics.SE. If they close it, then we need to find the right home for your question.

  6. Don't be confused by the category wording "philosophical or sociological" because the choice in practice has become a catch-all for anything that doesn't fit the other 3 choices. I think we should either update the name of this choice, or to expand the 4th option to enable a regular user to suggest one of the dozens of other SE sites. Currently a regular user cannot even suggest Hermeneutics.SE which makes this option rather useless.

  7. Why is this question on-topic? It's because:

    • the reference being asked doesn't necessitate a secular answer, leaving room for a Christian viewpoint & worldview defined in #3 above
    • canon formation is a specifically Christian topic that is critical for Christian theology, thus Christian viewpoint is automatically built-in. But what you're asking is in essence a "secular allowance" for those 4 Christian "facts" to be realistic according to secular historiographical standard, making it not valuable in their own right for Christian theology, the main topic of this site.

Suggestion for making the question on-topic

If it ends up being closed in Skeptics.SE (thus, cross-posting becomes a non-issue), try:

  • removing the "secular" criteria, allowing for an answer by a Christian historian (which does not necessarily mean a partisan answer with sloppy scholarship).

  • instead of asking for who the historians are, ask for the argument that a historian use to regard those 4 "Facts" as historically plausible

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  • Insightful answer. Do you think this question is off-topic?
    – user50422
    Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 14:36
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator Personally, I would like to see that question allowed in C.SE. But Ken Graham appealed to this meta question and used another close reason. I also see that that question is too opinion-based, since different people have different favorites. It's another example of good questions for a Christian, but doesn't quite fit the site. Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 14:47
  • Regarding 7. Why is this question on topic despite asking for a list of references? It's because the resources being asked is for a Christian answer, what do you mean by a "Christian answer"? The OP never said that they wanted Christian authors only. The OP is simply asking for scholarly references in general, which may include secular ones.
    – user50422
    Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 16:59
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator Edited my answer. Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 19:57
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator At any rate, WL Craig's article has footnotes (#1 to #4), referencing a professional historian supporting each "fact". Why wouldn't they be sufficient for the answer you're looking for? In addition, the article itself already spells out the historical argument. Do you need more examples? Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 20:30
  • Do they represent the majority of secular historians? (By the way, if you know the answer, feel free to post an answer on the Skeptics.SE question.)
    – user50422
    Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 21:09
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator Maybe next year :-). For now, at least I'm conscious that the way I read gospels as history was very much influenced by Sunday School as a kid, so I'm more forgiving of post 20th century historians (both secular and Christians !), who are 10x more aware of how modern history is so very much different than ancient history. They are right that the gospels are more of a document of faith than history book. Even the non-materialistic ones may not automatically grant those 4 facts as historical happenings without other corroborating narratives. Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 19:11

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