Bart Ehrman Is Not The Enemy

Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman has a new book out, Forged: Writing in the Name of God — Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are.  And religious conservatives are not happy.  I came across this article, “Meet Bart Ehrman: A One-Man God Fraud Squad”, which gives both sides of what Ehrman is all about.  “Bart Ehrman has waged war on Christianity for years. This is just his latest salvo,” says one conservative in the article.  Ehrman gives his opinions in the article, too.

Ehrman, formerly a conservative Christian and now an agnostic, has written a number of books looking at the Bible from a historical perspective.  I first became aware of Ehrman when he spoke at a Methodist church I was attending in 2007.  I found his research into the origins of the New Testament fascinating.  After that lecture I read a couple of his books and watched one of his New Testament video courses.

Ehrman in his books does an excellent job of explaining the culture and motivation of the New Testament writers, and in pointing out inconsistencies in the different biblical accounts.  He does so not with the skepticism of a non-believer, but with the patience of a unbiased historian.

Reading Bart Ehrman did not shake my faith in God.  In fact his works had the opposite effect on me.  I could see that certain stories I clung to in my fundamentalist Christian days may not be as fool proof as the conservatives make them out to be.  I expended much energy in defending the stories, while sometimes missing the larger spiritual message of the text.  Reading Ehrman encouraged me to read liberal Christian scholars such as Bishop John Shelby Spong and Marcus Borg.  Unlike Ehrman, Spong and Borg have a deep faith in God, without being biblical literalists.

My current views are similar to Marcus Borg where he writes “I no longer see the Christian life as being primarily about believing. The experiences of my mid-thirties led me to realize that God is and that the central issue of the Christian life is not believing in God or believing in the Bible or believing in the Christian tradition. Rather, the Christian life is about entering into a relationship with that to which the Christian tradition points, which may be spoken of as God, the risen living Christ, or the Spirit.” [1]

The problem I see with fundamentalist Christianity is that it often emphasizes correct “belief” over the direct experience of the unconditional love of Spirit. “Theories about Christ’s death are not Christianity,” writes conservative Christian scholar C.S. Lewis, “they are explanations about how it works.” [2]  It seems to me fundamentalists are often busy defending their “theories” of how it works, but as C.S. Lewis writes a relationship with Spirit “is infinitely more important than any explanations that theologians have produced.” [2]

Bart Ehrman’s books were valuable to me in getting off the belief bandwagon, and ironically moving me into a deeper experience of Spirit.  I advise any seekers of truth to consider Ehrman’s insights, rather than run from them.

[1] Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus & the Heart of Contemporary Faith by Marcus J. Borg

[2] Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, page 57

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4 Responses to Bart Ehrman Is Not The Enemy

  1. This valuable article, “Bart Ehrman Is Not The Enemy | Tim Larison – Calm Within” reveals the fact that u actually understand
    what precisely u are speaking about! I actually entirely agree.
    Thank you -Lorrie

  2. Tim Larison says:

    Thanks for the comment, Lorrie. It can be a lonely road at times going against traditional doctrine. Good to know there are others on the same path as me. – Tim

  3. Mark says:

    I recently saw John Spong and have listened to his lectures on Youtube. I can understand what his criticism of traditional Christianity, but I just can’t quite figure out what he is espousing as an alternative. It like he is saying “live a good life.” I don’t understand why the Judeo-Christian tradition is even needed if that is the point of Jesus’ life. Can you enlighten me?

    • Tim Larison says:

      Mark – John Spong comes from a progressive Christianity perspective – check out their website at http://progressivechristianity.org/. From my understanding their approach to life is to tune in to the unconditional Love of God and to serve out of that love. Yes “live a good life” is part of it but more important is to experience God’s love. Good works flow out of that love naturally. An excellent author to read to explain this more is Marcus Borg and his book “The Heart of Christianity”. Spong, Borg, and the progressive Christianity bunch have their critics among traditional Christians – it is quite a different approach to Christianity than many were taught.

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