After Christina Petterson had reviewed his book, On the Historicity of Jesus (2014), Richard Carrier concluded that Petterson’s review was “highly evangelical” and that Petterson herself was “fawningly Christian”.
As I was book review editor at the time that Petterson submitted her review, I asked Carrier how he had concluded that Christina Petterson was “highly evangelical”, and what evidence he had for calling her (elsewhere) “fawningly Christian”.
Given that Carrier is an historian who places a high value on the logical use of historical evidence, I wanted to see how he had treated this recent piece of historical evidence: a 2015 review of his book. How did he reach his conclusions about Petterson?
So I sent him a question on his website, and he has now kindly answered it.
Carrier’s basis for calling Petterson “highly evangelical” and “fawningly Christian” was: her negative criticism of the Jesus Seminar, her positive appraisal of a piece written by James McGrath, combined with her negative review of Carrier. Based on this evidence, Carrier concludes that Petterson had behaved as “only a believing Christian would think to do”. Carrier further alleges that Petterson is “defending orthodoxy”, and that “her agenda is defending Christianity, not scholarship”. Furthermore, from Petterson’s “other writings”, he concludes that “her Christian belief is likewise evident”. Yet, he does now acknowledge that Petterson isn’t actually evangelizing in her review: “she doesn’t evangelize a kerygma”.
There is a good reason why Petterson wasn’t “evangelizing a kerygma” in her review of Carrier. She is not a Christian, and not religious, and never has been. She is an atheist.
This provides a good test, however, of Carrier’s inability to interpret his sources, and his ability to draw inferences from them that are simply not there. Carrier consistently assumes that anyone who disagrees with him must have an evangelical “agenda”. Sadly, this is conspiracy-theory thinking, not scholarly thinking.
Carrier has completely failed to interpret his source, taking inferences from it that simply were not there, and which were quite incorrect.