In a previous post I dealt with the first criterion of Tom Harpur’s supposed “reasonable approach” to reviewing his book The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light. For this entry I would like to address the next two criteria in his four-part list. I am reviewing the two together because they are related.
Reasonable Approach 2: Harpur believes that any reviewer of his work should have read all of the primary sources that he cites (for lack of a better term). This means that Harpur’s three main sources for Egyptology, namely Alvin Boyd Kuhn, Gerald Massey and Godfrey Higgins must all be read by any reviewer.
Reasonable Approach 3: reviewers are not to complain about his lack of citations or footnotes. Harpur believes that anybody who complains about this is “illogical” because in the introduction to the book, he tells the reader that there are few resources cited. Because this is a “popular” book and not an academic thesis it doesn’t need citations.
Does anybody see a problem here??
If we are to meet these criteria in an attempt to be a “reasonable” reviewer, we are struck with a problem. How am I to consult the sources that Harpur provides when he doesn’t tell me what the sources are? Because of his meagre amount of citations in the endnotes, any reviewer wanting to check Harpur’s sources are left in the dust.
Another problem that Harpur faces involves the big question that he begs. As a critic (a reviewer shall we say?) of “traditional” Christianity, has he read all of the sources dealing with issues surrounding the historical Jesus, or comparative religions, or patristic theology?? He provides no evidence of this, and in fact militates against leaving any notion that he understands the fields of study that he is attacking. He mutilates quotations by the church fathers, he exaggerates the relationship between the gospels and ancient religions, he distorts historical records. It would appear, at least in this reviewer’s eyes, that he hasn’t read any of the sources that he is critiquing. Therefore, Harpur falls by his own criteria.
Gordon Heath, in his review, also has two good observations about Harpur’s second and third criteria:
[N]ot everything in Harpur’s book is based on Kuhn, Massey or Higgins. For instance, Harpur makes claims about the historicity of Jesus and the early church that do not necessarily have anything to do with Kuhn, Massey and Higgins. He also has certain assumptions that impact his interpretation of the New Testament. In other words, one need not read Kuhn and the others to critique certain assumptions that Harpur brings to his research or certain claims that he makes about the historical nature of the New Testament (Heath, p. 128).
He claims to be a scholar, and invites scholars to read his work, yet he seems to want them to just accept as “factual” everything that Harpur says just because he says it. What scholar operates that way? (Heath, 128).
It doesn’t take a great leap of faith to recognise that Harpur’s criteria are not reasonable, in fact they are quite unreasonable. As I mentioned in my previous post about Harpur, his four-point approach makes it appear that he doesn’t want anyone reviewing his book unless the reviewer is naive to the fields of study that Harpur is attempting to interact with.