This discussion by Stephen Robinson applies with equal validity to 
questions about the historical accuracy of the Bible...

Naturalistic explanations are often useful in evaluating empirical data, 
but when the question asked involves non-empirical categories, such as 
"Is the Book of Mormon what it purports to be?", it begs the question to 
adopt a method whose first assumption is that the Book cannot be what it 
claims to be. This points out a crucial logical difficulty in using this 
method in either attacking or defending the Church. When those with a 
naturalistic bias apply their "scholarship" to LDS literature and 
history, we usually assume that it is to test the prophetic claims of 
the Church. In fact there is never a test at all. There cannot be, for 
the naturalistically based assumptions of the method have determined 
before we even begin that divine claims cannot be accepted, and the 
critical scholar will already be looking for naturalistic explanations 
for his data. Or in the words of W. Wink:

In this case the carrying over of methods from the natural sciences has 
led to a situation where we no longer ask what we would like to know . . 
. Rather, we attempt to deal only with those complexes of facts which 
are amenable to historical method. We ask only those questions which the 
method can answer (9).

It seems to me that few LDS scholars really understand this. While they 
think they are engaged in "pure" scholarship, many are really 
methodological half-breeds, using the naturalistic method when it suits 
them and drawing upon their theology when it suits them, without ever 
stating where and how they draw the line. Opponents and proponents alike 
can use the fruits of empirical research in a selective way to defend 
the faith, but the authority of the historical-critical method is lost 
in so doing, and the final product lacks any real force, being merely 
opinion (mingled with scripture). Pure critical scholarship on the other 
hand is agnostic by definition, and its rules are by design stacked 
against theistic conclusions. It would be incredibly naive to believe 
that biblical criticism brings us closer to the Christ of faith. After 
200 years of refining its methods, biblical scholarship has despaired of 
knowing the real Jesus, except for a few crumbs, and has declared the 
Christ pictured in scripture to be a creation of the early Church (see 
the excellent summary in Perrin 207-48).

The Expanded Book of Mormon, Stephen Robinson essay; in Monte S. Nyman 
and Charles D. Tate, Jr., eds., Second Nephi: The Doctrinal Structure 
[Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1989], 395.)

Mij Ebaboc

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