One of my professors tells an anecdote about a prominent evangelical Old Testament scholar's visit to our (secular) biblical studies program many years ago.
According to the tale, nearly the first words out of the scholar's mouth were "I'm trained as a lawyer and I'm here to defend the Bible." My professor recounts being taken aback and thinking, "But no one's attacking it here."
This story illustrates perfectly the unilateral war waged by some conservative scholars against the evil empire of "secular" and "liberal" critical Bible scholars. In other words, the conservative side defends and "refutes" the results of the "liberal" side which in turn mostly ignores the attack completely.
Ironically, there was a time when I wanted to be that guy from the story. I was interested in "proving" the Bible was history, and his articles and books were the pinnacle of biblical scholarship in my view. I once asked one of my Bible professors if I should pursue Apologetics as scholarly career, and he gently dissuaded me. At least I realized that what I was doing in arguing against the results of historical-critical Bible scholarship was Apologetics, not critical scholarship.
I've had a lot of time to reflect on some of the issues and arguments that I was passionate about back then, and I've detected a pattern in the kind of argument that conservatives typically marshal against theories like the Documentary Hypothesis, three-part authorship of Isaiah, or the date of the Exodus. The reason their "counter-attacks" are ignored by mainstream Bible scholars is that their logic starts with theology, not textual evidence. The argument goes something like this.
Starting Point: Theological commitment to the literal accuracy of the text.
Step 1: Harmonize all evidence that doesn't quite jive with the literal reading of the text.
Step 2: People who reject the literal meaning of the text are heretics, liberals, and non-believers with an agenda to prove the Bible is false. Demonize them.
Step 3: Reject and refute their critical arguments about the text. If those arguments are wrong, then the literal reading must be right.
Result: Vindication of the theological commitment to the literal accuracy of the text.
The problems with this chain of reasoning should be immediately apparent. First of all, it's circular. Classic "begging-the-question." If you already know the answer that must be reached, how can you objectively handle the evidence?
Second, the "if they're wrong, then we must be right" argument does not prove anything. It's just playing the fallacy of the false dilemma. There are only two options so disproving one, proves the other. Sorry....it doesn't.
Along with that, the uncertainty or flexibility inherent in critical arguments cannot serve as proof that their conclusions are invalid. The argument that if the source hypothesis for the Pentateuch was correct than all scholars would divide the sources exactly the same way is flawed in this way. The fact that so many scholars notice something about the text that leads them to make those divisions speaks to the fact that there's an issue there to explore. Differing on the details doesn't disqualify the question. Retreating to a literal or traditional answer is often simplistic, ignoring the depth and complexity of the biblical tradition.
Since apologetic logic starts with a theological commitment, the apologists assume that their opponents (critical Bible scholars) are similarly starting from a philosophical commitment and are motivated chiefly by a desire to prove the Bible is false. The argument is about belief first, evidence second. This is, in my view, an unfortunate caricature. I'm not saying that all Bible scholars are objective and uninfluenced by their world views. Indeed, a few seem like they are chiefly motivated by a desire to disprove the Bible. (I can think of one in particular.) But by and large, critical Bible scholars have reached their "heretical" conclusions after honestly wrestling with the evidence of the text. The conclusion is dictated by the evidence; it is the end result, not the beginning premise.
This was the startling revelation that I experienced when I read Wellhausen for myself. I came to learn that his Documentary Hypothesis was borne out of an earnest struggle to understand the text of the Bible on its own terms, driven by his love for the Bible, not a hateful desire to disprove it.
I don't want to disparage the contribution to Bible scholarship of those scholars who have taken this more defensive posture in their work. However, it is important to realize that their arguments will not be admitted in a secular biblical studies forum where theological axioms are not valid starting points for debate.
On the other hand, I wonder if they know that their war is one-sided, that the critical scholars pan their arguments if they even bother to pay attention at all. It's just occurred to me that the purpose of apologetics in this context is not to prove to the other side that they're wrong. It's to circle the wagons and keep those young impressionable minds from wandering to the dark side.
By poisoning the well against the arguments of critical Bible scholarship, they preserve the status quo for the next generation. It's too bad really. Why not just teach them to think for themselves? Contrary to popular belief, critical Bible scholarship and faith are not necessarily mutually exclusive.