I see that in my two year hiatus Jerry Coyne hasn't gotten any smarter regarding anything outside his discipline. In this post he criticizes CNN for printing a silly article on whether Judas is in heaven or hell. Well, to be fair, it is a downright awful piece. But that's beside the point. Look how 'ole Jerry levels his criticism. The writer of the piece, a pastor by the name of Craig Gross, does not actually take a stand on Judas' eternal fate. And at one point Gross writes:
Let me tell you a little bit about what the Bible says about Judas:
He was personally chosen to be an apostle by Jesus.
He spent 3 1/2 years traveling with Jesus.
He saw all the miracles of Christ in person.
He watched as Christ healed the sick, raised the dead and cast out demons.
In terms of experience with Jesus, whatever you can say about Peter, James and John, you can say about Judas.
On top of all this, he handled the money, which is most of the time the most trusted one in the bunch. No one suspected that Judas would betray Jesus, which tells me he was a believer.
His life was changed.
He knew Jesus personally.
In a dark moment of his life, he made a mistake. A big one. He sold Jesus out for 30 silver coins or so. The moment he knew what he had done, he felt remorse, and he killed himself.
I am not here to debate theology. The facts are the facts.
(Boldface added.) Now any reader with normal reading comprehension and normal levels of charity regarding imprecision of writing would understand and grant that Gross is arguing that it is indisputable that these points are found in scripture. And that Gross calls them "facts" for purposes of the in-family (or at least among those who for the sake of argument accept the premise, i.e. that it is a legitimate question within biblical Christianity) debate regarding Judas' fate.
But not hair-trigger Jerry. Missing, uncomprehending, or just ignoring that Gross's lead-in was "Let me tell you a little bit about what the Bible says about Judas" Coyne takes the most uncharitable possible interpretation, that Gross was itemizing data regarding Judas that he expects unbelievers like Jerry to accept as cosmic facts simply because they are in the bible. A normal person would grant that Gross understands that a) if you do not accept the bible as a holy book then b) you would also not accept relative bible minutia as scientific fact.
An indignant Jerry, completely missing the boat, responds
Seriously? Those are facts? Who says so? Clearly, for Gross “facts” consist of “whatever the Gospels say.”
Let's do baby steps Jerry. Gross is not asking you, Jerry Coyne, to accept as fact that Judas saw all of Jesus' miracles. That would be silly, don't you think, given that he knows you don't affirm the miracles in the first place. This is the hard part: He is making a "here's all that we know for sure" baseline for those who accept, perhaps only in a "for the sake of argument" way, biblical Christianity, and want to debate the fate of Judas.
As I remember he often did, Jerry then doubles down on his stupidity, offering us his theology:
But if I were a Christian, the answer would seem clear to me. Without Judas’s betrayal, Jesus might not have been crucified, and his whole mission—to expiate the sins of humanity—would have been a dismal failure. Judas thus played a necessary role in saving all of us, and so he should find his reward in heaven.We could ask, say, a Christian sixth-grader why what is clear to Jerry is in fact not clear at all. I am confident that her or she would answer something along the lines that it is possible that Judas meant the betrayal for evil (and is accountable) while God used it for good. But what would be unfair, because that would be resorting to our conveniently and intentionally impenetrable "sophisticated theology" that we unleash anytime someone like Jerry shows how we are obviously wrong.
Finally Jerry, angry and bewildered, writes:
But the question of whether Judas is in hell is far less important than this question: Why did CNN publish such a ridiculous piece?
Yeah, why CNN published the piece is a really important fate-of-the-free-world question.
Perhaps CNN did a calculation regarding the choice:
a) Let's write what Jerry Coyne finds acceptable, or
b) Given that we often publish opinion and op-ed and human interest and fluff, and given that Easter is upon us, and given that, say, half our readers self-identify as Christians, let's publish an opinion piece that they might find interesting.
And they chose b, those bastards.