If fundamentalist criticism of a biblical scholar is the truest sign of credible scholarship, then Dr. Bart Ehrman of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has quickly found himself at the top.
A collective of concerned Christians have launched the Ehrman Project, a website that provides dissenting, “Christian” responses to the biblical scholarship that Dr. Bart Ehrman has presented in his recent books, including Misquoting Jesus, God’s Problem, and Jesus, Interrupted.
It’s kind of like Josh McDowell’s books on Christian apologetics, except… well… actually it’s exactly like Josh McDowell’s apologetics, only online.
The website states it was launched by a campus minister and an undergraduate religion major to provide counter-arguments to the research of Bart Ehrman. But, since most of Ehrman’s textual arguments are essentially the well-established and long-accepted consensus views of just about every worthwhile critical biblical scholar not teaching at a Christian university, seminary, or school with the word “Evangelical” in the title (Ehrman admits as much beginning at the 7:50 mark in the video here), the site is essentially little more than an online video version of Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ, where conservative scholars attempt to refute the biblical scholarship that is taught in every major university save the aforementioned conservative Christian schools.
The video rebuttals offer little more than setting up and knocking down straw men, red herring explanations, the reframing and redefinition of certain critical questions in a strained effort to avoid answering them, and the recitation of facts leading to non sequitur conclusions that only non-critical scholars would accept as satisfactory answers.
The video rebuttals posted on the EhrmanProject.com website include interviews from other, “equally qualified scholars who deal with the same issues and come to very different conclusions than Dr. Ehrman.” This diverse range of notable scholars includes:
- Dr. Darrell Bock, Dallas Theological Seminary
- Dr. D. A. Carson, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
- Dr. Ed Gravely, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
- Dr. Michael J. Kruger, Reformed Theological Seminary
- Dr. Alvin Plantinga, University of Notre Dame
- Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, Dallas Theological Seminary
- Dr. Ben Witherington, Asbury Theological Seminary
Notice anything in common?
Let me be clear: please don’t mistake my questioning of the EhrmanProject website as a questioning of all Christian scholarship or Christian universities and seminaries. There are plenty of excellent schools and seminaries that hire credible scholars who adhere to solid, critical methods of biblical scholarship, and who would never appear on a website calling into question the scholarly methods employed by most biblical scholars in the country. I simply wish to point out that the criticism of Dr. Ehrman (and the larger academy by proxy) is largely being done by a small number of vocal scholars at very conservative seminaries at the behest of a campus minister and a religion major who didn’t like their faith challenged by critical scholarship.
I encourage you to view the videos and judge for yourself whether or not those interviewed answered the questions and dealt critically with the evidence, or skirted the issues. Then, if you have any stomach left, you can visit other diverse and “equally qualified” scholarly apologetic sites like Josh McDowell’s site and Lee Strobel’s site and Kirk Cameron’s The Way of the Master site.
Fundamentalists certainly have their problems with Erhman. But to be fair, scholars have some issues of their own with Ehrman. The criticisms of Bart Ehrman from the scholarly community are essentially twofold: 1) must a scholar renounce his/her faith just because the Bible is not inerrant or infallible? and 2) Ehrman is only repeating the critical scholarship of other scholars in a popular format.
While I agree with the first criticism of Ehrman (one need not necessarily renounce one’s faith in order to be a critical scholar of the Bible, especially if one does not accept fundamentalist notions of inerrancy, soteriology, and/or systematic theology) – I actually applaud what Ehrman has done with regard to bringing critical biblical scholarship to a public audience. This is the truest form of education, and one must ask why earlier scholars haven’t made more deliberate attempts to bring what all good critical scholars know (that the Bible is not inerrant and not completely reliable as history) to the public. (It may have something to do with critical scholars not wanting to lose their jobs at Christian universities, or scholars at public universities not wanting to incur the wrath of (and lose book sales to) Christian audiences, but I digress…)
We should applaud Ehrman as a representative figure of what good critical scholarship does – use verifiable facts and sound logic to seek truth, and disseminate that truth to the public even if the public (often acquiescing to the
threats pressure authority of organized religious groups) does not want to hear it.
Therefore, I stand with Bart Ehrman as a biblical scholar who feels we should pursue the truth no matter where it may lead. It can only make scholarship (and the faith for that matter) stronger. For if one’s Christian faith can’t stand up to a few simple questions, then it is not a faith worth following. And if apologists must duck questions, offer red herrings, and flat out lie to others in order to convince them of the brand of Christianity they are selling, then the product is not worth buying.
Christian scholars may not like that Erhman renounced his faith, and may not like his often confrontational delivery, but we must stand behind scholarship’s critical method, facts, and conclusions, and we must not pander to the fundamentalist Christian organizations who seek to defend faith by less than scholarly means. The EhrmanProject website claims it is “not meant to be an attack on Dr. Ehrman,” and I would agree; it is not only an attack on Ehrman, it’s an attack on critical scholarship in general by conservative apologists behind the veil of a campus minister’s website.
Filed under: bible, christianity, religion, robert cargill, scholarship Tagged: | alvin plantinga, apologetics, bart ehrman, ben witherington, chapel hill, d.a. carson, daniel wallace, darrell bock, ed gravely, ehrman project, god's problem, jesus interrupted, josh mcdowell, kirk cameron, lee strobel, michael kruger, misquoting jesus, north carolina, UNC, way of the master