(ABC Aus.) Michael Bird—How God became Jesus: Bart Ehrman gets it wrong, again

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Easter is now [almost] upon us, and we await the predictable onslaught of naysayers who declaim with an almost evangelical fervour that the Jesus story is one big lie. Such tirades by the evangelists of scepticism seem almost to constitute a pastoral responsibility on their part annually to reinforce the ideological conceits of their tribe of followers, thus providing atheists, agnostics and "nones" with reassurance that they needn't take Jesus too seriously.

The opening salvo this year comes courtesy of the indefatigable Bart Ehrman. For those who don't know, Ehrman is something of a celebrity sceptic in the United States. A professor of religion at the University of North Carolina, he was formerly a fundamentalist Christian who de-converted to agnosticism, and now writes books exposing the apparently fallacious claims of traditional Christianity. He has several New York Times best-sellers to his name, including Misquoting Jesus: The Story of Who Changed the Bible and Why, Jesus Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible and Forged: Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are. Ehrman is a regular on the talk-show circuit, frequenting programs like The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, Dateline, CNN, and National Public Radio.

A genuinely erudite scholar of ancient texts and a fierce debater, Ehrman is the bane of traditionalists and the champion of sceptics. A pity, then, that he is almost always wrong.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksHistory* TheologyChristologySeminary / Theological EducationTheology: Scripture

Posted April 16, 2014 at 8:26 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Ross Gill wrote:

Looks like an excellent read.  Here’s hoping that the people who really need to read it actually do.

April 16, 2:11 pm | [comment link]
2. Br. Michael wrote:

I listened to Ehrman on NPR as part of their annual “Easter is a fraud” bash.  When pressed on the resurrection he said that history deals with what really happened and the supernatural is outside history.  In other words history only deals with naturalistic material worldviews.

A supernatural event, even if it actually happened, is outside history he says.  I say BS.  A supernatural event is as much a part of history as was my taking a shower this morning.  There may be a problem of proof, but ruling it out by definition is dishonest.

As for the resurrection we have testimoney of the observers.  How do you know that I took a shower this morning?  You only have my testimony.  Why is one testimony valid and not the other?  And Jesus’ resurrection is better testified to than my shower.

April 16, 7:46 pm | [comment link]
3. driver8 wrote:

There’s a bit of a slight of hand there. Methodological naturalism - which is common, though not universal, in social and hard sciences, by definition, shines a light only on events with naturalistic causes and can, by stipulation, say nothing about non-naturalistic events. There may be non-naturalistic events in the human past - but, by stipulation, “history” (like, say, geology or economics) simply doesn’t study them.

Of course most English users don’t use the word “history” with any such methodological stipulation, so in ordinary language, if there are non-naturalistic events within the human past they are surely historical. It’s in this sense that Christians rightly argue the resurrection is historical.

One might argue - and I bet Prof. Ehrman does - for metaphysical naturalism - but that’s not a historical argument, nor is it demanded by methodological naturalism. (Many scientists adopt methodological naturalism for the purposes of their disciple whilst denying the truth of metaphysical naturalism). Instead it’s a highly contestable philosophical claim, one that there are many good reasons to think is untrue.

April 17, 3:43 am | [comment link]
4. Br. Michael wrote:

Right.  In a natural materilistic worldview the supernatural is ruled out as a matter of fundamental presupposition.  Thus in that worldview if a supernatural event actually happened, it didn’t because the worldview says that it can’t happen.

If you recognize that the supernatural event did in fact take place then that requires you to revisit your entire worldview.

April 17, 7:51 am | [comment link]
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