Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The Ehrman Project

In the past ten years, no scholar has done more to undermine the Bible within our popular culture than Bart Ehrman. As the James a Gray Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ehrman has created his own cottage industry of books, lectures and media appearances calling into question the reliability of the New Testament, the biblical canon, and the development of the early church. He is the author of multiple books that have made the New York Times bestseller lists and made frequent appearances on TV including the Colbert Report on Comedy Central.

While Ehrman is in fact a respected scholar within academic circles, his notoriety stems from his ability to take disputed issues within the academy and translate them into something that people outside of the academy care about. The problem is that Ehrman's presentation of the evidence and scholarship is often misleading and skewed. Of course, since the broader public has no way of knowing this, much of what he claims to be true has been accepted by those who are all too ready to question the New Testament, the canon of Scripture, and the development of the early church.

While there have been a number of books written to respond to Ehrman, I am most excited about this new website entitled The Ehrman Project. So far the webstie contains a number of short video clips on key subjects such as Evil and a Loving God (Alvin Plantinga), the Canon of Scripture (Ben Witherington III), Inerrancy (D.A. Carson), First-century Doctrine (Darrell Bock), Conspiracy (Ed Gravely), and Morality and Evil (Michael Kruger). This website has now become the go-to place for short, helpful and scholarly responses to the claims made by Ehrman.

On a related note, I am currently working my way through a book that responds to several claims made by Ehrman on a more academic level. Entitled The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture's Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity, it is written by Andreas Kostenberger and Michael Kruger. In my estimation it is now the go-to academic level book that responds to the half-truths and misinformation that Bart Ehrman regularly presents. But even though the book is at an academic level, it is written in such a way that both pastors and lay people can benefit from as well.

If you are a pastor and are not familiar with these issues, you owe it to yourself and those to whom you minister to get up to speed on these matters. Use the website as a starting point, and then move on from there to this helpful read.

3 comments:

Liam Moran said...

What makes Ehrman even more credible to a society that is ever increasing in its belligerency towards evangelicals is the fact that Ehrman used to be an evangelical. He is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute no less. It is truly a travesty. I am glad to see this project in motion and I pray the Lord will use this for His glory.

randy said...

Matt: I have taken a number of courses in the Teaching Company from Bart and am amazed at how flawed his logical presentation is, compared to the glowing reviews he gets from course participants. I have concluded that if I was ever hard up for cash, all I would have to do is put together a poorly written piece of dribble about how the Bible isn't true, and people would shell out real bucks to buy it. R

de Grene said...

After reading several of Ehrman's books and listening to his lectures and debates, i went to the Ehrman Project website and watched the video rebuttals. What I found there did more to convince me that Ehrman is not only correct but that those who are trying so hard to rebut him are, in fact, merely floundering in their own inability to confront his -- and other scholars' finding.

In every case on the Ehrman Project site, the scholars -- who obviously and admittedly have their own predetermined agenda -- use the same hackneyed circular logic that -- like Ehrman -- drove me from the Christian religion. That "logic" begins with the requirement that we accept the Bible as the indisputable word of YHWH.

The problem in this is that if we begin with that premise, 1) there is no need for further investigation and 2) any investigation we do must inevitably produce an expected and predictable result that the Bible is the indisputable word of YHWH.

To put it another way, the arguments used by these professors at the Ehrman Project say that Ehrman's conclusions about the Bible are wrong because the Bible says they are wrong. This is tantamount to saying that Galileo was wrong when he said the earth revolved around the sun because the Bible said the Earth was the center of the Universe (at least as the Vatican interpreted it at the time).

It has to be remembered that Ehrman -- if you actually read God's Problem -- began his scholarship as an evangelical fundamentalist Christian looking to affirm his faith. But he approached the issue from the perspective of learning facts and letting evidence lead him to his conclusions. By contrast, the professors at the Ehrman Project begin their research from the perspective of already accepting the idea that their conclusions are correct, so whatever evidence occurs must either be wrong or inconsequential.

Until I can find a supportive argument for the accuracy and authenticity of the Bible that can be supported by factual evidence, I cannot accept rebuttals such as the Ehrman Project as being truly serious scholarship.