The Bible and Culture

The Bible and Culture

Clergy who Lose Their Faith— James Howell’s Reflections



     While I can feel sympathy for clergy who have lost
their faith, I do have a few questions for them, more for their
professors in seminary, a handful for Daniel Dennett, and a couple of
very basic ones for Solange de Santis.  It was the
journalist, de Santis, who has just now covered the publication of
“Preachers Who Are Not Believers” in the journal Evolutionary
, co-authored by Dennett.  Five
clergy are studied, and a high percentage of them silently carry an
awful secret that would destroy their careers or families. 
Privately they nurse a shocking disbelief that causes them
immense agony and loneliness.  To one, God is a
poetic human invention.  For another, seminary
“blew apart” his faith, when he realized there were diverse viewpoints
about God.  One discovered that what he learned
about the historical origins of the Bible doesn’t fit what was taught in
Sunday School.  Another read a little, and
stumbled upon the fact that there are variations in the ancient copies
of the Bible, and he wonders if they picked the right one.

     I know the loneliness and pain of the clergy, and
hard questions that riddle the life of the soul.  But
I am totally puzzled by this report of de Santis, and these five
clergy.  Who trained these clergy in seminary? and
have they done any reading since seminary?  The
questions they raise are old, and wisely reflected upon, and profoundly
handled by our best (and even our middling) theologians. 
The Church has always known, for 2000 years, that there has
always been diversity within Christianity – which is its beauty:  God’s work isn’t a straitjacket, but God is flexible,
and doesn’t mind being apprehended a bit differently by me and my
neighbor, much less a Terra del Fuegian or a Russian Orthodox priest. 

     Sunday School has never done a brilliant job of
probing historical origins; but Christianity has always known its
historical origins, and its mixed heritage of beauty and embarrassment.  We have always known there are variations in the
earliest manuscripts we possess.  But this is true
of everything in history:  we have divergent
versions of the Gettysburg address, and Shakespeare’s plays; encounters
between Julius Caesar and Cleopatra are notoriously difficult to specify
with historical accuracy – but they certainly were tight. 
I have personally looked over hundreds of textual differences
among early manuscripts, and can’t find a single one that raises the
slightest question about the heart of what we believe Jesus said or did.

     Bart Ehrman, who has sold more books in this zone
than anybody else, acts as if historical questions and textual
uncertainties have just been discovered, or that the Church has locked
these truths away in secret vaults in order to prop up a bogus
institution.  But every great theologian in every
century has known about, grappled with, and understood what these five
clergy somehow missed in their education and reading.  I
feel for their ache, but I could have recommended a couple of books
that could have resolved their intellectual dilemmas.

     I’m a bit startled by the superficiality of de
Santis’s review of Dennett.  De Santis works for The Religion News Service, and their web site claims they
are “devoted to unbiased coverage” of things religious.  Were
I reporter on any other subject, I would ask a question like “Who is
this Daniel Dennett who has conducted this research?” or “Is five a
decent sampling of clergy?”  Five is admittedly a
small number of people to interview, but you see immediately that the
low number implies masses:  we asked five, and
Whoa! look what we found!  What if we’d
interviewed hundreds?

     Dennett is indeed a social scientist, but if you
simply Google him, you will discover he’s a social scientist with a
pointed, hostile agenda when it comes to faith.  He
has written often, blasting faith, and hardly in the “just the facts,
ma’am” vein.  I never buy conspiracy theories.  But Dennett is one of quite a few authors who have
jumped on a runaway bandwagon, and now they feed off one another’s
popularity.  I stumbled upon de Santis’s article
in my local paper’s “Faith” page; clearly the “faith” story we gobble up
nowadays is the loss of faith.  In a country
where candidates for office pander to the religious sensitivities of
voters, the bestselling books in America are Sam Harris’s The
End of Faith
, Dennett’s own Breaking
the Spell
, Christopher
Hitchens’s God is not Great, and above all else, Dan
Brown’s The DaVinci Code, in which the eminently learned
Leigh Teabing unveils long hidden truths about the manufacture of the
Bible, political maneuvering on the divinity of Christ, and a hush
campaign about the sexuality of Jesus.  The
problem is The DaVinci Code is fiction, and much of what
Teabing claims in the novel and movie is simply, historically, and
verifiably (even to atheist historians) false.  And
what is true in what these authors write is, as we have noted, old,
utterly familiar to undergraduate religion students, regurgitated
knowledge but cast in a sensationalist spin.

     To me, de Santis might
have done a bit of interviewing to understand Dennett’s sampling of
five – not to find five others who
would declare “I really do
believe!” or “Profound theology is identical with Sunday School!” or
“Doubting is evil,” but to inquire into Dennett’s agenda, and methods.  Did the five clergy at some point miss something, and
so instead of the implied deduction, that if even our clergy are hiding
disbelief, why would those who rely upon them as guides believe? so how
could there be a God?  De Santis might have
noticed the way texts and history and science are regarded as great
friends of the vast majority of us in Christianity, not perilous foes to
be feared and silenced.

     Dennett, Harris, Hitchens and Ehrman are wrestling
with a straw man, a simplistic, twisted version of Christianity only
fools would believe.  David Bentley Hart (whose Atheist Delusions humorously dismantles the absurdities of
Dennett, Harris, Hitchens and Ehrman) wishes
Christianity’s detractors “had the good manners to despise Christianity
for what it actually is” instead of a silly, trivialized, watered down
version no one has ever espoused – and so do I.  We
do not mind hard questions, or sharp critique, or even disbelief – but
at least make your assault on whom we really are, and refuse to believe
in the Christianity that has withstood the test of centuries, for we
want to know more, to have any and all illusions dispelled.

Being disillusioned about God or what we may have been mistaught
in Sunday School is always a good thing, for to be dis-illusioned is to
shed illusions.  Most critics of Christianity
point to the problem of suffering, and conclude “If God is good, how can
there be suffering?”  But we have always known
about suffering, and the Church has not only caused our share of it, but
we have also shared with those who suffer:  we
see them up close, in hospitals and in shelters we operate, on the
mission field and in orphanages, and we would not have anyone labor
under the illusion that God fashions some sort of protective bubble
around us, or is a rapidly functioning magical salve when something
hurts.  Our story is about a God who actually
suffered, and suffers, and we miss the true God then if we never figure
out how to pair up God and suffering, for they are very close, and that
is our comfort and redemption.

     Or the critics
point to the great harm Christianity has done in history. 
Indeed, we are ready to confess every sin; but have atheists
ushered in peace?  Hitler loathed Christianity,
and Stalin wasn’t exactly a pious man.  Are the
mockers of a made up Christianity getting organized around this world to
alleviate human suffering?

     I just
returned from a mission trip to Brazil, where I spent time with someone
Dennett didn’t interview, and would never understand.  Marion
Way grew up in South Carolina, and his childhood heroes were Methodist
missionaries.  He learned Portuguese and offered
to try to help hurting people in Angola.  A civil
war erupted, and he was thrown in jail and beaten within an inch of his
life.  When they finally let him go, instead of
scurrying to safety back in the United States, he asked “Where else do
they speak Portuguese?”  So he and his wife Anita
went to Rio de Janeiro, to live in the poorest favella in the city – in
1962.  They are still there, 48 years later,
humble, working, feeding children, providing medical care and job
training, and all because they believe in God.  But
they would not even say much about their faith.  This
is the real issue:  the five Dennett listened to
spoke of “my faith.”  Have I lost my faith? Does
my faith work?  Marion Way would be a bit
mystified by this thought.  He is a person of deep
faith, but for him the real reality is God.  It
is God who saves, God who is always there, God who motivates and loves,
God who survives faith or unfaith or doubt or piety or viciousness or
any other turn in the history of the world.

     Marion Way
would know what to do with these five clergy, and even with Dennett,
Harris, Ehrman, Brown, and de Santis:  he would do
what he does with the Brazillian children.  He
would smile, and hug them, and offer them a bite to eat, and say a
prayer for them. 

Comments read comments(17)
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Randall Smith

posted August 5, 2010 at 5:43 pm

An excellent post! I enjoy thoughtfulness and grace, and you, once again, demonstrated both. I don’t comment often, but I read much! Thanks!

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posted August 5, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Good post James!
I’ve seen unbelievers call this a peer-reviewed, scientific study. Can you imagine if Christians merely interviewed five people and called it a “scientific study?”
I think this also says something about the actual numbers of skeptical ministers. One newspaper titled the article, “Skeptical Clergy? A Silent Majority?” If anything, this study shows us that the opposite is true. Dennett has said that he was studying this topic for years and most times when he speaks he asks for any skeptical clergy to contact him. He’s issued this call before thousands upon thousands of the most skeptical at his atheist conferences, and ultimately none of the people interviewed came from this calling. The five came from a list of 34 individuals that has been compiled by the Center for Progressive Christianity and Dan Barker (America’s best known former minister who heads the Freedom from Religion Foundation). Every year, literally tens of thousands of seminarians graduate in America with a masters degree. There are hundreds of thousands of seminary trained ministers in the United States alone. Out of these, they only found 34 who were potential candidates, and only five ended up actually participating. No Roman Catholics or Orthodox could be found.
It also seems strange that in the end, they chose:
1. Wes – He says he is in ministry, but never specifies what type of ministry (Methodist)
2. Rick – a retired campus minister (UCC)
3. Daryl – A pastor who makes it clear that he was an agnostic when he went into ministry saying, “Whether there was a God or not, I would choose to live as if there was a God” (Presby)
4. Adam – A recently deconverted worship leader (CoC)
5. Jack – A worship leader who has been serving in this position for fifteen years, yet only ten years ago decided to read the Bible carefully
Only one of these clearly states he is a pastor, and he was an agnostic before entering the ministry. Unfortunately, at many evangelical seminaries, biblical studies, philosophy and theology are simply not required for worship leaders, counselors and the like. As terrible as this sounds, at some seminaries, a worship leader may graduate from seminary with only an “Intro to the Bible” course and nothing more…no Greek, no Hebrew, no Systematic Theology, etc.
As you can see at this point, the “scientific study” of a “silent majority,” is hardly scientific and most definitely only of a very small minority. Let’s change topics to illustrate the problem.
There are hundreds of thousands of scientists in America, and well more than 34 who both have Ph.D.’s and doubt the truth of evolution. I can’t imagine Dennett and friends giving credence to a “scientific study” that amounted to five interviews with some of these individuals. After all, Dennett and friends constantly refer to these scientists as kooks who deny the “overwhelming” evidence for evolution. If these interviews were conducted, Dennett would not refer to them as “brave individuals” as he refers to the people in his study, but instead he would use phrases he has used about them elsewhere, calling them “forces of darkness.”

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Nichael Cramer

posted August 6, 2010 at 8:31 am

There’s much to say here, but let me correct one point:
Bart Ehrman, who has sold more books in this zone than anybody else, acts as if historical questions and textual uncertainties have just been discovered, or that the Church has locked these truths away in secret vaults in order to prop up a bogus institution.
That this is nonsense is clear to anyone who has read anything Ehrman has written. Ehrman –in his published articles, books, and, especially, in his popular works– repeatedly emphasizes that the issues he describes have long been a major thrust of mainstream biblical scholarship.
Now, it is true that Ehrman makes the point that while many of these issues may be common knowledge among scholars, this has been much less true outside of academia. And –again, as he repeatedly emphasizes– the primary claim that he makes for his works is that they are offering this commonly held view to a broader audience. A good analogy here are the works of writers like Brian Greene, who, as a trained scholar, is very good at explaining topics in his field (in Greene’s case, theoretical physics) to a broader audience to whom most of this information is new.)
And as to the suggestion that Ehrman is suggesting that […] the Church has locked these truths away in secret vaults in order to prop up a bogus institution. it would appear that Mr Howell has confused Bart Ehrman with Dan Brown, whose “Da Vinci Code” Ehrman does an excellent job of skewering in his book the subject.
In short, to summarize, nowhere does Ehrman claim that any of this stuff is “new”.

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ben witherington

posted August 6, 2010 at 6:22 pm

Bart Ehrman most certainly does think he is enlightening the masses including the churched about various subjects. In fact, however: 1) the church in general including its educated laity and clergy have known about such views for a long time, and rejected them because 2) they are not well grounded in critical research and sound historical scholarship and 3) they represent what can only be called a minority of scholars who hold to more radical opinions about the historical character of the info in the NT.

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Nichael Cramer

posted August 6, 2010 at 10:52 pm

[…] because 2) they are not well grounded in critical research and sound historical scholarship and 3) they represent what can only be called a minority of scholars who hold to more radical opinions about the historical character of the info in the NT.
I’m sorry, but doing my best remain polite here, both of these points are such utter nonsense that it’s difficult to know where to begin.
That these views are “…not well grounded in critical research and sound historical scholarship” is just –well it’s difficult to think of any word other than silly. One is certainly free, of course, to disagree with these positions –or, perhaps more accurately to simply dismiss them out of hand– but to pretend that they are founded on anything other than significant, well-reasoned scholarship is to ignore the simple facts.
As to the claim that these positions are a “minority” position held by “radicals” this is simple wishful thinking. And again, betrays, at best an ignorance of –and at worst a willful misrepresentation of– of the factual reality of the field.

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ben witherington

posted August 7, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Sorry Nichael but clearly you don’t know what you are talking about. If you were to attend a SBL or SNTS meeting you would discover that not only are you wrong but you are badly wrong. Over half of the members of the Society of Biblical Literature and the Society for the Study of the NT are either moderate to conservative scholars, well right of Bart Ehrman. I won’t even add in the number of scholars in the more conservative societies like the ETS or IBR. Equally importantly the more radical scholars like Ehrman are not involved in the actual work of archaeology or epigraphy or ancient historiography or exegesis. They are trading on the work of other earlier scholars. For example, neither Dom Crossan nor Bart Ehrman nor Marcus Borg has ever written a commentary, technical or otherwise, on any book of the whole Bible. So I am afraid you have been duped.

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posted August 8, 2010 at 1:36 pm

It is potentially a small point, but Howell states that Erhman, ‘acts as if historical questions and textual uncertainties have just been discovered’. By using the phrase ‘acts as if’, Howell isn’t actually denying that Erhman may, as Nicahel points out, be someone who ‘repeatedly emphasizes that the issues he describes have long been a major thrust of mainstream biblical scholarship’. Thus both Howell and Nichael may be technically correct about somewhat differernt aspects of this issue.
I will admit that I haven’t read Ehrman’s books yet. I have listened to the 24 or so audio lectures of his Lost Christianities series and have heard him present his views and debate them online. It strikes me Dr. Ehrman’s own story as someone who seems to have econutered these debates, at least in their stronger forms, only when he went to graduate school explains some of the tone that Howell is commenting on and which I have sensed as well when Erhman is addressing the issue in interviews.
I agree with Ben that the Church and the educated laity are familiar with these issues. Of course there are so many different church and denominational settings where such matters are not addressed well. This seems to be particularly true of those denominations or groups where the primiary ministerial training is Bible School rather than seminary. But it is hard to generalize. In my own experieince, I received a BA in Bible without having encountered these issues in a serious way. When I did encounter them, I found plenty of helpful recources including Ben’s writings.
For the most part I find that many beleivers are simply disinterested in these issues at least until they send a child off to college. In that setting they are likely to be told about the history of the canon and if they take a NT survey course they will be given a Gospel Parallel and told to reconcile apparent discrepancies. Some will not be phased one way or the other while others will be shaken. How do we prepare our youth (or the rest of us) appropriately? It seem to me that Howell’s point that ‘Sunday School has never done a brilliant job of probing historical origins’ is true but it also raises so many pragmatic questions in terms of how to do this well in a Church setting. When I began to look at some of these question independently while still in Bible School (granted over 30 years ago), I was basically told not to. It varies from context to context but I’m not sure, especially if we just put it in the setting of the local church, whether my experieince is still the exception or the rule.

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Mark D Letteney

posted August 8, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Dr. Witherington-
Having just attended the SBL’s international meeting in Tartu last week and being a student in Professor Ehrman’s department, I feel at least qualified to say that Professor Ehrman’s views are, in almost all cases, painfully mainstream vis-a-vis the rest of professional biblical scholarship as expressed at SBL or SNTS. Granted, he has a few less popular ideas within his particular field of study (that is, on particular texts within the text criticism/manuscript transmission subset), but if you were to read his Introduction to the New Testament in light of the wide range of modern historical-critical scholarship, you will quickly come to realize that Bart not only tows the party line on the big issues, he tows the party line on almost EVERY issue outside of his very small subset of the text critical field. Pauline authorship, the Synoptic Problem and the existence of Q, canonical dating issues – take your pick, poll the SBL, and Ehrman’s reader and other popular books will almost always report what is the group concensus. Sure, he has never written a commentary on an entire book of the bible, but commentaries are not generally part of his field, they are part of YOUR field.
Professor Witherington: I have read some of your books, and find them enlightening and insightful – your Romans commentary was fantastic. But why must everyone do what it is that you do in order for them to be legitimate scholars? Why must someone agree with you on finer points for them to not be labeled “radical”? Look through Professor Ehrman’s NT introduction, I am sure that you will find some things that you agree with and some that you disagree with. What I am also sure of is that the text absolutely cannot be called “radical” whatsoever within the tradition of modern historical critical scholarship into the biblical texts – a field with which you seem to be quite enamored, based on your CV.
Next, you criticize Ehrman for “not involved in the actual work of archaeology or epigraphy or ancient historiography or exegesis.” and “trading on the work of other earlier scholars.” Now, I may be misguided, but I haven’t seen your monograph on early Christian epigrahpy either. I have, however, seen the bibliographies that form the significant final portion of your scholarly works, and can conclude that you too are “trading on the work of other earlier schoars.” That is what scholars DO! I am not criticising you for using another’s work, I am criticizing you for presuming that someone could be held in contempt for using someone else’s work within scholarship! If everyone had to look at every piece of data on the ancient near east before putting pen on paper, there would be no new PhD’s, no new books, no further meetings. Scholarship would stop – the beauty of scholarship is in that you HAVE to work on someone else’s understanding. I doubt that you, a learned and accomplished man, would say that you have started from scratch – absolutely not! You come from a particular tradition that values particular scholars for its foundation – Ehrman does the same. So do not say that he is wrong for using other scholars’work in forming his opinions simply because you do not like the scholars he has chosen to utilize.
Furthermore, one of the most formative scholars in the Ehrmanian understanding of text criticism is someone who falls more in line with your understanding of things, Bart’s doctoral advisor and colleague Bruce Metzger. Bart relies HEAVILY on the understanding and work of Metzger in his studies, are you going to fault him for that, you who do the very same?
Finally, when you talk of “conservative” scholars in the SBL, I do wonder what you mean. I also wonder what a “liberal” scholar is. Its like putting a qualifier before exegesis – “universalist exegesis”. Seems like anything other than just plain exegesis, is not exegesis whatsoever – it is eisegesis. Likewise I know so called “conservative” scholars who hold rather “liberal” viewpoints on a variety of issues, and vice versa. In fact, I do wonder if you frequent SBL or ASOR meetings at all, because the people one finds there are RARELY just “conservative” or “liberal”, but learned people who – not always, granted, but often – weigh the available evidence for each issue and come to their own conclusion, in spite, often, of their tradition or the label that some others would put on them. I am not a liberal scholar or a conservative scholar, I try my best to be just a scholar, no qualifier necessary. I would hope that you would do the same.
Mark D Letteney

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Nichael Cramer

posted August 9, 2010 at 8:50 am

Sorry Nichael but clearly you don’t know what you are talking
about. If you were to attend a SBL or SNTS meeting you would discover
that not only are you wrong but you are badly wrong. Over half of the
members of the Society of Biblical Literature and the Society for the
Study of the NT are either moderate to conservative scholars, well
right of Bart Ehrman.

1] I can’t speak as to the SSNT, but I am actually familiar with what goes on in the SBL (although I freely admit I haven’t spent my times at meeting polling other members as to their positions on various topics ;-) )
But let’s not change topics. The issue is not whether 50.1% of a given organization hold a given opinion, but rather it is the attempt to paint the positions above as those of a tiny, negligible faction, well outside the range of acceptable opinion.
While it is true that I may have read too much into descriptions like
“minority”, it is difficult to misunderstand the intent of terms like “radical”. As Mark Letteney emphasizes above, the view of Ehrman and of like-minded scholars is smack in the middle of mainstream modern scholarship, a fact apparent to all who are familiar with the field
[…] the more radical scholars like Ehrman are not involved in the actual work of archaeology or epigraphy or ancient historiography or exegesis. They are trading on the work of other earlier scholars. For example, neither Dom Crossan nor Bart Ehrman nor Marcus Borg has ever written a commentary, technical or otherwise, on any book of the whole Bible.
2] We can quibble over the factual accuracy of some of these claims
(c.f. Borg’s book on Mark, or Ehrman’s justly famous “Introduction”,
to pick two handy examples), but, again, let’s not change topics. The issue being raised here is not one of “exegesis”. Rather the article above explicitly refers to (and I quote) “historical questions and textual uncertainties”.
And to claim that these scholars –and most especially Bart Ehrman–
have not done significant scholarship in these field is …well, interesting.
3] And in one last appeal to remain on topic, let’s return to the
original article above. The article, quite rightly, addresses the
problems of the use of strawman arguments, the least of which problems is that they are counterproductive when attempting to understand and discuss topics such as these.
In short, I am simply asking that we all attempt to avoid such strawmen.
One is certainly free to disagree with views put forward by Bart Ehrman and others. And more importantly to dispute them. But it is
reasonable to ask that those who do so actually –and seriously–
address the issues they raise. To simply dismiss, –or mischaracterize- their positions is, as I say, not very productive.

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John King

posted August 10, 2010 at 3:56 pm

“We have always known there are variations in the earliest manuscripts we possess.”
When I read this sentence from Mr. Howell’s article, I could hardly believe my eyes. Who is the “We” that he is talking about? It seems he is referring to the “church”. Well, yes, in parts of the church this has been known, but there are many churches in the USA where the topic of “variations” and “earliest manuscripts” are not taught or discussed. Many still teach “inerrancy” and will leave the impression with their congregants that the Bible that they have in their hands is perfect and without error. If you push the topic, one may be told that “inerrancy” has many meanings and do not worry about it because the original manuscripts were “inerrant” even if the Bible we have has a few spelling mistakes.
Christian orgins? Amazing I was taught in church that the Baptists were the original Christians all the way back to John the Baptist and that the Baptists can be traced all the way back to him through a “trail of blood”. Is there any scholar that believes that? I doubt it.
As a Christian that can say that my faith is stronger and more mature for all that I have learned from scholarship OUTSIDE of the church, many churches teach falsehoods and set up their members for a fall if they happen to read something on a scholarly level.

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Nichael Cramer

posted August 10, 2010 at 5:32 pm

If I could a further personal recollection to John King’s note above.
When I was in high school I happened to chance upon an article that contained a reasonably detailed –if nonetheless “popular”– discussion of the Q source.
Intrigued, I went to our minister and asked what he thought of all this. In short, it soon became apparent that he was completely unfamiliar with the notion.
To be clear I don’t mean that he disagreed with, or dismissed, the hypothesis. He, quite simply, had never heard of it.
(And while I make no claims that our church was pastored only by fresh-faced doctorates from Princeton, neither was it some tiny backwater out in the sticks. These were graduates of reputable seminaries from the around the midwest.)
Now, is true of all situations? Certainly not. But neither, as experience has shown me over the years, is it all that out of the ordinary.

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Brett Rader

posted August 11, 2010 at 7:56 pm

This is your best blog entry that I have read. Very well done.

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ben witherington

posted August 13, 2010 at 7:54 am

Hi Mark:
Thanks for your thoughtful post. The key to your rebuttal is the word ‘mainstream’. That word is usually used pejoratively to mean ‘anyone but most conservative or Evangelical scholars’. It would rule out virtually all Orthodox scholars, many Catholic scholars, and many Evangelical scholars, not because they don’t engage in critical thinking or reasoning but simply because they don’t agree with many mainstream scholars.
You are of course quite right that Bart does mention a variety of views in his NT Intro, but of course he has his own take on those views. My point is that so-called mainstream scholarship no longer represents the majority of Biblical scholarship if we are simply doing a head count. But even if we are talking about the majority of widely respected scholars in the field of Biblical studies regardless of ideological orientation, what Bart represents as the majority opinion isn’t.
Let’s take an example, the authorship of Ephesians. The majority of Pauline scholars who have actually done specialty work in that book, writing either a monograph or a commentary on it think Paul wrote the letter. This became very clear to me when I wrote my commentary on the book. Even a good number of liberal or radical scholars concede this. In other words, the so-called consensus of mainstream scholars isn’t a consensus of good critical Biblical scholarship in various cases.
As for epigraphy, I guess you have not seen my work on the James ossuary and related matters.
You are of course absolutely correct that all scholars trade on the work of earlier scholars. But there is a difference between someone who does that and also does original work in Biblical scholarship (history, exegesis, theology, ethics etc.) and those who do not.
Ben W.

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Nichael Cramer

posted August 13, 2010 at 8:29 am

But again, let’s not drift off-topic.
Is there disagreement about many (most?, all?) issues? Clearly that is true, I don’t think anyone would deny that. (And here, as you say the authorship of Ephesians is a good example. I’m confused by your use of the word “consensus” here, one way or the other. Individual scholars, of course, have various opinions on this topic, but virtually every overview/survey discussions of the issue of which I am aware put –including, notably Ehrman’s Introduction to the NT– put Ephesians, together with Colossians and 2Thes in a middle category “about whose authorship there is disagreement”. I think that is something about which we all can agree.)
Rather, the topic at hand is the above mischaracterizations of the views (“that the Church has locked these truths away in secret vaults in order to prop up a bogus institution”) and scholarship (“radical”, not doing original work, etc) of Bart Ehrman and others.

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ben witherington

posted August 14, 2010 at 6:41 am

Hi Mark:
I can understand why you are confused. My response would be forget the NT Introductions written by G.P.ers, look at the commentaries and monographs. They tell a different story. The majority of commentaries written on Ephesians by legitimate NT scholars favor the Pauline authorship of Ephesians. In addition there are bunch of other ones that say maybe or probably. In addition there are a bunch of monographs which assume such a view. The same can be said for Colossians and even 2 Thessalonians, again if we are talking about those folks who have as their expertise or speciality work in Colossians or 2 Thessalonians and have written commentaries or monographs on those works. This is a trend over the last 20 years. Most NT Intros are frankly not that up to date with the latest in scholarship on such matters because they are written by general practitioners in the field, or are written in that way.
Ben W.

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Nichael Cramer

posted August 15, 2010 at 11:16 am

1] OK, so we’re in agreement that these issue are topics of dispute, which was simply my point.
2] Again here, as above, you’ve shown continued reluctance to answer the questions actually being raised. Fair enough. I’ve made my points, none of which have been disputed. I guess we should leave it at that.

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posted September 5, 2010 at 11:43 pm

Alright you ignorant atheists… if there is no god, then HOW DOES THE SUN KEEP ORBITING THE EARTH? BAM!
Of course atheism is a religion, because it requires just as much FAITH to BELIEVE in it! They are FUNDAMENTALISTS!
If we came from Monkeys, then why are there still monkeys? My grandpa doesn’t look like a monkey!
Evolution isn’t a fact, it’s only a theory! Why should I believe that theory instead of the one I was taught at church?!
And on that note…
Dunt dun duuh DAAAAHHHH!
!!!!!!!!!MY ATHEIST STORE!!!!!!!!!
Aristotle’s Muse
This is my store. If you’re as irritated by this kind of mindless banter as I am, speak your mind. Maybe wearing an atheist T-shirt won’t change the world, but enough of them just might help.

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Previous Posts

The John Wesley Fellows Meeting at Candler---- The Senior Fellows
The John Wesley Fellowship began in 1977, with Steve Harper and yours truly being two of the first John Wesley Fellows chosen.  I have told the story of Ed Robb and AFTE  this past Fall on the blog so I will not repeat it.   Here are some of the senior fellows attending the meeting.

posted 5:46:30am Jan. 11, 2011 | read full post »

Guns and Religion--- Enough is Quite Enough
I was sitting at the traffic light when a pickup pulled up next to me.  On the back of the cab window was a bumper sticker saying 'Guns and religion. Now more than ever.'   Then I found the picture you see above, and then this one below......   My response to this nonsense above

posted 7:05:08pm Jan. 10, 2011 | read full post »

Revival 2011--- At My Home Church in Charlotte

posted 9:58:02am Jan. 10, 2011 | read full post »

The John Wesley Fellows Meeting at Candler---- The Art of Theology
The John Wesley Fellows meeting this January was held in Atlanta at Candler School of Theology, and its Dean,  Dean Love is a collector of art for the seminary, with some 50 or so paintings now gracing the walls of their beautiful new seminary building.  The art of choice comes from a West

posted 5:30:50am Jan. 10, 2011 | read full post »

Ancient Readers and Manuscripts--- William A. Johnson's Take
  In the American world of bigger is better (and more erudite) it is refreshing to find a smallish book  (207 pages of text, including some pictures)  that makes its points in detail with full primary source documentation and then resists the tendency to be verbose or erudite for all

posted 9:30:59am Jan. 07, 2011 | read full post »


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