Proper Argumentation

I’m currently reviewing a book on New Testament theology, and at this point I’m beyond frustrated with the author (I’ll keep that info to myself to uphold the integrity of the review process). The book argues for a particular way forward in the discipline, noting the impasse in which many of its practitioners find themselves when dealing with a first century collection of writings that is supposed to be relevant for modern men and women. In making his case, the author necessarily has to deal with the opposing viewpoints, and this is where I am becoming increasingly exasperated with his argumentation. Instead of handling his opponents’ positions fairly and citing their best scholarship, the author instead misrepresents them consistently and hardly ever notes top works in the area. For instance, the author’s proposed method for NT theology relies on a philosophy of language rooted heavily in Heidegger, Fish, and Derrida, but in critiquing the opposing view he dismisses it as unsophisticated, never cites NT scholars who have engaged linguistic philosophy (like Anthony Thiselton), and relegates Kevin Vanhoozer’s monumental works in this area to a dismissive footnote. Another example comes from his discussion of diversity in the NT. The author questions whether it is right to assume that every book of the NT sees Jesus as YHWH, and, while doing so, doesn’t even hint at acknowledging Richard Bauckham’s or N. T. Wright’s work in this area.

I don’t think it’s wrong in certain instances to simply assume a set of methodological, philosophical, and theological foundations in a book and then make a case for a certain application or new understanding of those presuppositions. But this is not what this particular author is doing. He is pitting two options against each other in order to argue for only one of them, and in doing so has misrepresented the opposing viewpoint and passed over the best representation of it. That’s not proper argumentation.

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