Oh, no, not again! I’d never heard of Bart Ehrman until I saw his book “Jesus Interrupted, Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know About Them)” on display at the library.
A little research revealed the former pastor of Princeton Baptist Church, a leading authority on the New Testament and current professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, has renounced his faith in the Bible as the inerrant infallible Word of God. He now describes himself as a “happy agnostic.” (Isn’t that an oxymoron? Agnostic, from the Greek “a gnosis,” means “no knowledge of God.” One would imagine he would’ve accumulated some knowledge of God after all those years studying the New Testament. Why didn’t he choose to label himself an atheist, from the Greek “atheos,” meaning “no God”?)
Ehrman’s experience isn’t unique. Who of us doesn’t know someone who just wants nothing to do with God? Or those who were forced as children to go to church and Sunday school and have pushed God aside in favor of time for themselves, their pursuits of happiness, obsessions with their career … whatever, as long as God isn’t a part of it?
But why would any believer who’s offered confident assurance of salvation and eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ trade it all for a mess of pottage? And, more importantly, why would he want to sabotage another believer’s faith, or worse, discourage a wandering soul from seeking and finding the joy and happiness that can only come from a personal relationship with the Son of God?
Bloggers are singing Ehrman’s praises as one of the greatest debunkers of Christianity today — a one-man demolition machine. One went so far as to say, “studying the Bible is the single best route to atheism.”
Why are there so many people so anxious to validate their unbelief? God saw this coming and provided the answer in 2nd Timothy 4:3-4: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.”
In response to Ehrman’s statement, “… there are no Pearly Gates. I think you just cease to exist, like the mosquito you swatted yesterday,” one voice in the blog brought up an interesting point: “What I find … curious about guys like him … is their eagerness to draw others along with them … Especially when your own alternative is so bleak. We live, we die, we rot. Wow, now there’s a worldview that should catch on quickly.”
I couldn’t agree more. Rather than being a lone mosquito, Ehrman’s intent on bringing others along with him. Matthew 18:7 gives us fair warning: “Woe to the world because of occasions of stumbling! For it must be that the occasions come, but woe to that person through whom the occasion comes!” (World English Bible)
On the other hand, there are many personal accounts and testimonies at www.rationalchristianity.net of former atheists, intellectuals, and agnostics (Hugh Ross, Josh McDowell, for example) who have ended up as followers of Christ by searching the Scriptures, going by fact rather than a personal agenda or malicious mischief. And Darrell Bock, a research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, says his faith was strengthened by the very same process that destroyed Ehrman’s.
Ehrman’s and all the others’ experiences remind me of the bumper sticker — “If God seems far away, guess who moved!” The greatest irony in all of this is: they may have turned their backs on God, but God will never turn His back on them, or on any who believe.
Romans 8:35-38 validates this: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Webster’s New Explorer Dictionary defines fundamentalism as: “a Protestant religious movement emphasizing the literal infallibility of the Bible.” Why do people who don’t believe the Bible have such an irrational, emotional gut reaction to something they view as a myth?
Those who are out to debunk the Bible and Christianity aren’t going to change the truth. They’ll only get swallowed up in their own lie while they deceive those who want to be reassured that there’s no such thing as eternity or accountability.
Matthew 24:35 (TNCT) says, “The heavens and the earth will pass away, but my words shall never pass away.” Just because you don’t believe IT, doesn’t mean IT’s not the TRUTH. It’s time to put the “fun” back into fundamental and get with God’s word.
Brenda J. Norris is assistant Sunday school leader and choir director at the West Lubec Methodist Church. She may be reached via email@example.com. Voices is a weekly commentary by Maine people who explore issues affecting spirituality and religious life.