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Author Topic: Luke Timothy Johnson on the Historical Jesus  (Read 3939 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: February 03, 2011, 05:07:02 AM »

Fantastic article

I find myself these days trailing a band of wandering academic troubadours, scholars who are invited by congregations to give lectures as part of adult education programs. More often than not, I follow the likes of Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, N. T. Wright and Bart Ehrman, and I am frequently invited as someone who can “represent another view”. In other words, I am a sidenote to the preferred menu of historical Jesus offerings. When I do offer an alternative way of thinking about the Jesus of the Gospels, there are invariably some in the congregation who find it puzzling that I should be so at odds with what they take to be the best of biblical scholarship. In short, 25 years after the Jesus Seminar started a new round in the historical Jesus controversy and 14 years after I tried (in The Real Jesus) to show how contemporary historical Jesus scholarship was —with some exceptions— bogus, there is still an eager audience for the tune these troubadours sing.

The reasons are not hard to find. The troubadours are, without exception, extraordinary teachers and public speakers with well-earned reputations for instructing in a lively and even entertaining fashion. Mr. Borg and Bishop Wright, moreover, explicitly embrace Christian identity and convey a positive rather than negative sense of what scholarship can offer. Ehrman is a gifted teacher. And Mr. Crossan is sui generis, a man so full of wit and verbal play that I am personally willing to hear him speak on any subject at all. The personal charisma of the speakers is undoubtedly part of the appeal.

The speakers have also effectively marketed their presentations as genuine scholarship; they claim to make publicly available the critical approach that, they suggest, other academics also follow but keep within the professional guild. Congregations and parishes starving for some intellectual stimulus are eager consumers. Few follow closely what biblical scholars are doing. What basis for comparison is available in books from Barnes & Noble? Audiences have little reason to challenge the troubadours’ claim to represent the best the academy has to offer. In fact, were these congregations aware of the desperately trivial character of much academic scholarship, they would be even more willing to accept as vital and necessary the words of those who are providing insight into the figure of Jesus for the church rather than developing another esoteric methodology for the sake of tenure.

Most of all, I think, congregations are truly eager to learn about the human Jesus and too often find what they hear in sermons and Sunday schools to have little intellectual substance or spiritual nourishment. They desire a grown-up faith, and the itinerant speakers appear to offer a quicker, more interesting path to such maturity than is available through traditional practices of faith. For those schooled to value information over insight, the offer of historical knowledge about Jesus seems just the ticket.

LIMITS OF HISTORY

There is absolutely nothing wrong with studying Jesus as a historical figure, and if we so study him, it is correct to bracket the premises of faith. The sort of project undertaken by Msgr. J. P. Meier in A Marginal Jew, which tests what elements in the Gospel accounts can be historically verified, is perfectly legitimate and yields genuine results. But as Monsignor Meier himself recognizes, the empirically verifiable Jesus is by no means the “real” Jesus. It is more than legitimate, moreover, to learn as much history as possible about the first-century world of Jesus. The point of this knowledge, however, is to become better and more responsible readers of the Gospels themselves. It is not to deconstruct the Gospel narratives in order to reconstruct a “historical Jesus” and claim thereby to have discovered who Jesus really was. Still less is it to propose such a reconstruction as normative for Christians today.

History is a limited way of knowing reality. Dependent on the fragmentary bits of what was observed, recorded, saved and transmitted from the past, recognizing that all human witness is biased and cautious about speculating beyond available evidence, responsible historians know they deal only in probabilities, not certainties. Theirs is a descriptive art rather than a prescriptive science. And in the case of Jesus and the Gospels, the critical problems facing all historical reconstruction are extreme, warning investigators against pushing against the limits. Thus, historians can assert with greater or lesser probability certain facts about Jesus (his death by crucifixion) or certain patterns of his ministry (speaking in parables) or even certain incidents (his baptism by John). But historians cannot on the basis of those probable conclusions offer an alternative narrative or interpretation from those found in the Gospels.

Just such a pushing of the limits of responsible historiography, however, just such an offering of alternatives to the Gospels is what has propelled the entire historical Jesus project, today as in the past. Three aspects of the project are objectionable even when one grants the legitimacy of using history for Jesus. First, history cannot deliver what the historical Jesus project promises, namely a solid version of Jesus other than that of the Gospels. Second, the effort to reconstruct such an alternative Jesus leads to a distortion of the methods that belong to sober historiography. Third, and most sadly, the Jesus offered as an alternative is often a mirror image of the scholar’s own ideals. It is not surprising, then, that virtually every sort of Jesus reconstructed by scholars in this generation is based solidly on the Jesus of the Gospel of Luke, for this is the Jesus we most admire —political, public, prophetic, the one who includes the marginal and challenges the status of the powerful—. In this sense, the multiple versions of the “historical Jesus” often presented by lecture or by book today have precisely the same status as apocryphal gospels in the early church: They can entertain and sometimes even instruct, but they are not a foundation on which to build the church.

AN ALTERNATIVE

So what do I offer the congregations who invite me to share my “alternative view”? I try to affirm their desire for a mature and intellectually alive faith and encourage the study of history as a means for a more responsible reading of the Gospels. I am convinced that the more genuine a sense of historical study such seeking Christians gain, the less they will be prey to the distortions of those who trade on the title of historian while offering only a form of personal apocrypha. But I emphasize that the real point of historical knowledge is not the dismantling of the Gospels but a fuller engagement with the Gospel narrative. One of the perhaps surprising results of the best historical study of first-century Palestine, I point out, is that the incidental information provided by the Gospels concerning Jesus’ political and cultural context and religious environment tends to confirm rather than disprove the information about those matters in the Gospels.

More important, I try to show how encountering Jesus as a literary character in each of the canonical Gospels makes possible a more profound, satisfying and ultimately more “historical” knowledge of the human Jesus than that offered by scholarly reconstructions. Once readers recognize and begin to appreciate the diverse portraits of Jesus found in the Gospels, not as the poor offerings of historical sources but as the rich witness of faith, they begin to sense that the human Jesus is a far richer and elusive reality than either superficial belief or superficial historical scholarship would suggest. Such literary appreciation of the Gospels also leads to the insight that despite their divergent perspectives and themes, they converge impressively precisely on the historical issue that is of the most vital importance concerning the human Jesus, namely his character. What sort of person was Jesus? Each Gospel witnesses to the truth that Jesus as a human being was defined first by his radical obedience to God and second by his utter self-giving to others. This Jesus of the Gospels is the same Jesus found in the letters of Paul and Peter and in the Letter to the Hebrews. It is the historic Christ who shaped the identity of Christian discipleship through the ages and generated prophetic reform in every age of the church.

‘HE LIVES NOW’

Most of all, I try to remind my audience that the entire quest for the historical Jesus is a massive deflection of Christian awareness from its proper focus: learning the living Jesus —the resurrected and exalted Lord present to believers through the power of the Holy Spirit— in the common life and common practices of the church. To concentrate on “the historical Jesus”, as though the ministry of Jesus as reconstructed by scholarship were of ultimate importance for the life of discipleship, is to forget the most important truth about Jesus —namely, that he lives now as Lord in the full presence and power of God and presses upon us at every moment not as a memory of the past but as a presence that defines our present—. If Jesus is simply a dead man of the past, then knowing him through historical reconstruction is necessary and inevitable. But if he lives in the present as powerful and commanding Lord, then he must be learned through the obedience of faith.

Jesus is best learned not as a result of an individual’s scholarly quest that is published in a book, but as a continuing process of personal transformation within a community of disciples. Jesus is learned through the faithful reading of the Scriptures, true, but he is learned as well through the sacraments (above all the Eucharist), the lives of saints (dead and living) and the strangers with whom the exalted Lord especially associates himself. Next to such a difficult and complex form of learning Jesus as he truly is —the lifegiving Spirit who enlivens above all the assembly called the body of Christ— the investigations of historians, even at their best, seem but a drab and impoverished distraction.

Such is the tune I sing as I follow in the train of the troubadours dancing before me through the scattered parishes and congregations of this country. It is an old song, what St. Augustine called the “alleluia song”. But it is also always new and always renewing.

http://solzemli.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/the-jesus-controversy-by-luke-timothy-johnson/
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« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2011, 04:44:34 PM »

Interesting article. Some points I agree with, while others . . . I don't know. It's hard for me to take much of what he says seriously as  has the dubious position of being the only NT Scholar of any credibility on planet earth to argue for Pauline authorship of the pastoral epistles. (and no, William Lane Craig doesn't count as either credible or a scholar Grin) I have a hard time getting past that fact when reading anything the man says. I mean, even in English paraphrase translations one can clearly see the same person who wrote 1st Timothy is not the same man who wrote Galatians. No one person changes or evolved THAT much unless Saint Paul had a split personality disorder. I'm sure he has his reasons, but it just seems the simpler explanation is to say, like many of the Church fathers, someone other than St. Paul wrote this stuff.  So I can never get past that when reading him or hearing him speak in lectures etc.

It's a fault of my own, not his, that I can't get past it, but it's always this constant ringing in my ears.

Quote
It is not surprising, then, that virtually every sort of Jesus reconstructed by scholars in this generation is based solidly on the Jesus of the Gospel of Luke, for this is the Jesus we most admire —political, public, prophetic, the one who includes the marginal and challenges the status of the powerful—.

Guess he's never actually read NT Wright, who actually follows the school of Schweitzer and uses mainly Mark and Matthew's Apocalyptic themes as opposed to Luke's.

Secondly, the claim is utterly false, almost every historian begins from Mark's Gospel, though of course the Jesus Seminar does have a love affair with Luke's Gospel, in part because it contains the most parables of Jesus which most historians happen to think actually go back to Jesus himself. He's getting close to arguing a straw man here IMO.


Quote

The speakers have also effectively marketed their presentations as genuine scholarship; they claim to make publicly available the critical approach that, they suggest, other academics also follow but keep within the professional guild. Congregations and parishes starving for some intellectual stimulus are eager consumers. Few follow closely what biblical scholars are doing. What basis for comparison is available in books from Barnes & Noble? Audiences have little reason to challenge the troubadours’ claim to represent the best the academy has to offer.

So is he arguing for a more open and transparent view of Biblical scholarship where "crazy" ideas aren't shot down just because the idea is "crazy"? I guess that's what he is trying to say, perhaps to support his thesis that St. Paul wrote the pastorals? The pastorals are letters that make reference to things like Marcionism which post dates Paul's life, exactly how did Paul write THAT? Anyways I digress . . .  is he going let the door swing in the other direction and be as open to theories like St. Paul didn't write ANY of the NT Epistles? Or that Luke's Gospel as we now have it is a padded out version of Luke's original? I doubt he'd be open to that, which is actually a shame because I've learned much from all of these ideas and most importantly I have learned, and am learning how to be a better lay scholar and weigh evidence on my own. And it has been on of the things that makes Christ more "real" to me than practically anything else. People like Crossan are what introduced me to the historical method of studying the Scriptures and it has almost been nothing but a positive experience.

Of course the field SHOULD be open to any and all ideas and then be judged on the evidence. It is the basis of evidence that no one agrees with him on the pastorals . . . yes he could be right after all, it just doesn't seem probable and as a Catholic seems pointless to anyone but someone interested in such scholarly debates.

He makes a great point in that Christians are hungering for more knowledge of the Bible and the "historical Jesus" and lots of these guys are filling the void. Most scholars write for other scholars (that's just the nature of the field) and some are talented enough to help popularize Biblical scholarship. He almost makes this sound like a bad thing because it's "those guys" who have popularized the field, and not those on his side of the field.

Quote

Most of all, I think, congregations are truly eager to learn about the human Jesus and too often find what they hear in sermons and Sunday schools to have little intellectual substance or spiritual nourishment. They desire a grown-up faith, and the itinerant speakers appear to offer a quicker, more interesting path to such maturity than is available through traditional practices of faith. For those schooled to value information over insight, the offer of historical knowledge about Jesus seems just the ticket.


In one paragraph he defends people's hunger and thirst for more insight into Jesus Christ, in another he practically ridicules it as he does here. (oh they just want a fast track to Jesus not the hard way of traditional practices) He's seems to be setting up falling into the bifurcation fallacy; it's the historical Jesus, or the Jesus my Church preaches, it can't be both. Seems to me he's probably utterly scandalized to read the work of Fr. Raymond E. Brown who died a faithful Roman Catholic BTW, but if he thinks Crossan and Ehrman are brutal, Holy Moley, you should read Fr. Brown's work . . . yikes, he takes (or took) no prisoners in his work dismantling so much of the NT text; but not for the sake of tearing it down, rather to understand the text, it's origins why it was written, and for deeper insight into how and why Jesus was seen the way he was, and how that helps us go deeper into Jesus who lives among us now.

I just don't get Mr. Johnson, though I have heard his lectures and he seems like a great and faithful man, someone I'd be honored to meet, I just don't "get" his stance on Biblical scholarship, anymore than I "get" Hector Avalos's stance that scholars should start using Mathematical formulai to study the "historical Jesus" . . . huh?



 

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« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2011, 05:51:18 PM »

Interesting article. Some points I agree with, while others . . . I don't know. It's hard for me to take much of what he says seriously as  has the dubious position of being the only NT Scholar of any credibility on planet earth to argue for Pauline authorship of the pastoral epistles.
Has Johnson mentioned 1st Timothy in relation to something like Galations?

Quote
(and no, William Lane Craig doesn't count as either credible or a scholar Grin)
Firstly WLC is a philosopher and secondly his historical Jesus articles are heavily cited from scholars. Of course that in no way makes him a scholar, but I find his articles interesting to read (His best one is probably on the Jesus Seminar). As far as his credibility? Instead of directing it to him, I'd actually see how credible his sources are.
 

Quote
Guess he's never actually read NT Wright, who actually follows the school of Schweitzer and uses mainly Mark and Matthew's Apocalyptic themes as opposed to Luke's.

Secondly, the claim is utterly false, almost every historian begins from Mark's Gospel, though of course the Jesus Seminar does have a love affair with Luke's Gospel, in part because it contains the most parables of Jesus which most historians happen to think actually go back to Jesus himself. He's getting close to arguing a straw man here IMO.
What's interesting I think about Luke is that it's probably the most historical document of the four Gospels. St. Luke should be treated much better than he is, I would wager, and this is my opinion, one of the greatest historians that ever lived.


Quote

The speakers have also effectively marketed their presentations as genuine scholarship; they claim to make publicly available the critical approach that, they suggest, other academics also follow but keep within the professional guild. Congregations and parishes starving for some intellectual stimulus are eager consumers. Few follow closely what biblical scholars are doing. What basis for comparison is available in books from Barnes & Noble? Audiences have little reason to challenge the troubadours’ claim to represent the best the academy has to offer.

Quote
So is he arguing for a more open and transparent view of Biblical scholarship where "crazy" ideas aren't shot down just because the idea is "crazy"?
What he is saying is that people like John Dominic Crossan, Robert Price, Robert Funk, etc. will present their cases as genuine scholarship when it could very well be otherwise so. But those that do lean towards a more conservative approach, that could very well be genuine you will have people critisicze it more heftly than those of the Jesus Seminar. The main problem I have with these so called scholars is they like to have their cake and eat it too. That abacus they had going was busted the day they started.

Quote
I guess that's what he is trying to say, perhaps to support his thesis that St. Paul wrote the pastorals? The pastorals are letters that make reference to things like Marcionism which post dates Paul's life, exactly how did Paul write THAT?
There is no mention, let alone implication, that Johnson is using it to support such a thesis. In fact no where in this article does he even come close to asserting the Pauline thesis.

Quote
I doubt he'd be open to that, which is actually a shame because I've learned much from all of these ideas and most importantly I have learned
The problem with being to open to such ideas is that it will create doubt. That's not to say we should view them critically but we must be very careful in how to treat these documents and in the context they were in. Otherwise we might as well bring up such blasphemy as Celsus accounted for with Mary being raped by a roman guard. Also the problem I have with these so called scholars is what presuppostions do they have with the text? They can't honestly be approaching these documents without a shred of bias, because they do carry some bias with them. If we are going to be critical of the text we must also critical of those that are being critical of the text.


Quote
People like Crossan are what introduced me to the historical method of studying the Scriptures and it has almost been nothing but a positive experience.[/qutoe]
Except if I'm not mistaken, just believes he was a Galiliean man and wasn't the son of God. It's incredible how he strips all sort of divinity away, you just can't do that.

[qupte]Of course the field SHOULD be open to any and all ideas and then be judged on the evidence.
What evidence?
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« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2011, 10:51:08 PM »

Well this is turning out to be an interesting thread... keep it going fellows! Smiley  Previous to this the only exposure I had to Mr. Johnson was through his book of commentary on the Epistle of James (which I liked, though it was more dry/academic than I'm used to).
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« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2011, 11:22:45 PM »

The pastorals are letters that make reference to things like Marcionism which post dates Paul's life, exactly how did Paul write THAT?
There is no indisputable reference to Marcion in the Pastorals, and the vast majority of scholars who hold the Pastorals to be post-Pauline place them in the period of 80-100 (according to Raymond Brown). Marcion (c. 85-160 AD) didn't present his views in Rome until four and a half decades after the end of that period (per Tertullian's date in Against Heresies XV, in 144 or 147 AD, depending on which main date for the crucifixion of Jesus one holds).

Quote from: Northern Pines
is he going let the door swing in the other direction and be as open to theories like St. Paul didn't write ANY of the NT Epistles?
Why would one, since virtually no contemporary scholar thinks that? While the majority of scholars don't believe every NT epistle attributed to Paul in the NT is Pauline, the suggestion that he didn't write any of the NT epistles is on the far lunatic fringe "where the buses don't usually go."

Quote from: Northern Pines
It is not surprising, then, that virtually every sort of Jesus reconstructed by scholars in this generation is based solidly on the Jesus of the Gospel of Luke
Quote from: Northern Pines
the claim is utterly false, almost every historian begins from Mark's Gospel, though of course the Jesus Seminar does have a love affair with Luke's Gospel, in part because it contains the most parables of Jesus which most historians happen to think actually go back to Jesus himself.
What? The quote you cited doesn't deny Marcan priority, that pretty much all begin with Mark, so how *exactly* does that show most reconstructions are not based solidly on Luke "utterly false" in your view?

Quote from: Northern Pines
has the dubious position of being the only NT Scholar of any credibility on planet earth to argue for Pauline authorship of the pastoral epistles.

...Of course the field SHOULD be open to any and all ideas and then be judged on the evidence. It is the basis of evidence that no one agrees with him on the pastorals . . .
Another distortion of the facts. On the one hand, it is true that a majority of contemporary scholars deny the Pastorals are Pauline. But to say no NT scholar "of any credibility on planet earth" argues for Pauline authorship is absolutely ridiculous. I. H. Marshall, who himself argues against Pauline authorship of the Pastorals, wrote in a summary of recent scholarship on the Pastorals that "even scholars who deny Pauline authorship still find it necessary on the whole to justify their point of view, since, even if they themselves regard the issue as closed, have to recognize that the defenders of the traditional view are by no means cranks" (I. Howard Marshall, "Recent Study of the Pastoral Epistles," Themelios Vol 23:1, p. 7). Major scholars who have defended the Pauline authorship of the Pastorals, far from not existing whatsoever on planet earth, include the likes of Ridderbos, Jeremias, G. Holtz, C. Spicq, P. Dornier, G. W. Knight III (New International Greek Testament Commentary, 1992), Bruce Metzger, and A. Schlatter, just to name a few past and present biggies.

A very noteworthy recent defense of Pauline Pastorals is Witherington III's Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians, Volume 1: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John (2006) which presents a detailed argument that "the hand is that of Luke [serving as Paul's amanuensis], who is far more attuned to speaking in a Hellenistic manner” (ibid, p. 107) on the basis of extensive similarities with Lucan tendencies in Acts e.g. a Septuagintal flavor, as has often been noted of Acts (and could suggest Luke consciously supposed himself to be writing a continuation of OT sacred history BTW), and even vocabulary and style, etc.), but that the key ideas are distinctly Pauline. Witherington points out the reasons cited by contemporary scholars for the Pastorals being non-Pauline have not really added so much to the general case put forward by H. Holtzman in 1880 from disparate style and vocabulary. But differences in style and vocabulary are hardly sufficient in and of themselves to incontestably overturn the notion that the Pastorals are of Παῦλος ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ insofar as “real dividing line between a genuine letter and a pseudepigraphon is whether the material comes from the mind of a particular person, not whether it fully reflects that person’s grammar and syntax” (ibid, p.26). Even the possibility that the letters were written after the death of Paul is not a slam dunk against their Pauline character(!!) if they were composed by a close associate of Paul using notes, dictation and the like, and Luke, as without controversy an avid collector of such things, would have been well-positioned -as a companion of Paul and as personally knowing his major contacts during the time they were together- to have such at his disposal. But these brief remarks don't serve to fully do justice to Witherington's fascinating arguments that Luke was “the one who chose to shape these letters like a mandatum principiis” in a manner in which “the voice is that of Paul" (92–93). The arguments may not be enough to convince our friend Northern Pines, but they do, along with Marshall's detailed survey of recent scholarship on the Pastorals, suffice to demonstrate that there are indeed some on this planet who are not so convinced the Pastorals could not conceivably present the φρόνημα of the holy apostle from Tarsus, as those epistles so claim. http://www.amazon.com/Letters-Homilies-Hellenized-Christians-Socio-Rhetorical/dp/0830829318
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« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2011, 11:43:50 PM »

I must ask NP, what sort of Christian are you (besides belonging to an OCA parish)
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« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2011, 12:19:36 AM »

Well this is turning out to be an interesting thread... keep it going fellows! Smiley  

Indeed!  I enjoyed the article, and while I understand some of NP's criticism, I don't think it was meant to be a thorough, academic refutation of the "troubadours'" scholarship.  One thing that the "Historical Jesus" crowd has managed to do quite well, is package their message in highly readable, interesting and understandable terms.  I thought the article responded well and in that same vein.

To Xariskai: Please periodically remind me to never engage in Biblical scholarship arguments with you.   Smiley 
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« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2011, 12:56:49 AM »

To Xariskai: Please periodically remind me to never engage in Biblical scholarship arguments with you.   Smiley 

And this kid's just a catechumen!
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« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2011, 01:05:59 AM »

To Xariskai: Please periodically remind me to never engage in Biblical scholarship arguments with you.   Smiley 

And this kid's just a catechumen!

Gulp. Watch the pride, kid!  Wink
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« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2011, 05:17:20 AM »

I don't want to delve too deep into this discussion as my knowledge on this issue is only so deep as to get me in trouble, but...

To say, "So-and-so is the only scholar who believes x, therefore so-and-so is dubious and hard to pay attention to" is a logical fallacy. Consensus means very little on issues such as this one. There are philosophical presuppositions, as well as cultural biases and understandings that one brings to the table. Often times, most of the "scholarship" is heavily tainted by a bias or an outright refusal to read the text in the understanding of the time.

Secondly, Bill Craig is an expert in this field and depending on your criteria for a scholar he could be considered a scholar, even if you don't like him (which, I don't understand why some Christians are so quick to reject him, other than the fact that he lacks grace in his debates). The guy has a ThD from the University of Munich and studied under Wolfhart Panneberg, having faced the German higher criticism. Again, like it or not, he is an expert. While this doesn't make him right, it does mean that on issues of authorship we should pay attention to him.
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« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2011, 05:19:52 AM »

I don't want to delve too deep into this discussion as my knowledge on this issue is only so deep as to get me in trouble, but...

To say, "So-and-so is the only scholar who believes x, therefore so-and-so is dubious and hard to pay attention to" is a logical fallacy. Consensus means very little on issues such as this one. There are philosophical presuppositions, as well as cultural biases and understandings that one brings to the table. Often times, most of the "scholarship" is heavily tainted by a bias or an outright refusal to read the text in the understanding of the time.

Secondly, Bill Craig is an expert in this field and depending on your criteria for a scholar he could be considered a scholar, even if you don't like him (which, I don't understand why some Christians are so quick to reject him, other than the fact that he lacks grace in his debates). The guy has a ThD from the University of Munich and studied under Wolfhart Panneberg, having faced the German higher criticism. Again, like it or not, he is an expert. While this doesn't make him right, it does mean that on issues of authorship we should pay attention to him.

You picked up Bill Craig's Blackwell Companion book by any chance?

Sidenote about Bill, I think he actually didn't get his doctorate the first time under Wolfhart right? Then went back again and got it. So yes higher criticism indeed.
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« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2011, 12:50:49 PM »


Aposphet, thanks for your well thought out reply. I love this sort of stuff even if we end up not totally agreeing on everything.

Has Johnson mentioned 1st Timothy in relation to something like Galations?

Well I'm not sure he's argued that explicitly, but he does do so implicitly. When he says Paul wrote 1st Timothy he is by default saying Galatians and Timothy have the same author.  I just do not see that at all. He didn't mention it here, but the whole thing seems like sour grapes to me. "People like Crossan but they don't like me cuz I'm too conservative". That's what I get out of much of his work actually. Again, I think he seems like a very likable fellow, and he's got far more knowledge than me of course; this is his field, but he does seem to mix apologetics with scholarship, which is something I'm not a fan of.


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Firstly WLC is a philosopher and secondly his historical Jesus articles are heavily cited from scholars. Of course that in no way makes him a scholar, but I find his articles interesting to read (His best one is probably on the Jesus Seminar). As far as his credibility? Instead of directing it to him, I'd actually see how credible his sources are.

Craig is no doubt brilliant, and you're right he is a philosopher but, ugh...I cannot stand his arguments from a historical perspective. Smiley As Robert Price and others have pointed out, he argues from the assumption that the Gospels are 100% historically factual and he assumes his opponent also accepts them as such. He's arguing against the 18th century Christian rationalists who did accept the Gospels as 100% fact, but that miracles must have a natural explanation. The debate ends before it begins when someone ASSUMES everyone else accepts their premise. I admit though, he is brilliant, and I think it's funny Richard Dawkins refuses to debate him one on one, (Dawkins would get destroyed in such a debate) but I also took great pleasure in Ehrman destroying Craig in their debate on the Resurrection. One of only 2 debates (out of hundreds) that most people felt Craig actually "lost". Cheesy

Anyways I digress . . .

 
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What's interesting I think about Luke is that it's probably the most historical document of the four Gospels.

I essentially agree with you. Which is one of the biggest reasons the Jesus seminar grounds their work in the thing. So I don't understand LTJ's criticism of the Seminar using it.


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St. Luke should be treated much better than he is, I would wager, and this is my opinion, one of the greatest historians that ever lived.

Well, there are some historical problems in Luke's Gospel, but it is a masterpiece of history as well as literature. I see Luke more as a historical/author/novelist as opposed to a pure historian, at least in the modern sense. Nothing wrong with that at all actually. It's quite in line with Biblical tradition. However for the ancient world, yeah St. Luke is pretty darn sound.



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What he is saying is that people like John Dominic Crossan, Robert Price, Robert Funk, etc. will present their cases as genuine scholarship when it could very well be otherwise so. But those that do lean towards a more conservative approach, that could very well be genuine you will have people critisicze it more heftly than those of the Jesus Seminar. The main problem I have with these so called scholars is they like to have their cake and eat it too. That abacus they had going was busted the day they started.

IMO it's  a bit unfair to call these people "so called scholars". Robert M. Price, for all his flaws is all scholarship, to such a degree that he ends up doubting everything. Cheesy There are few men in the field as brilliant as Crossan is. He's like the "Data" after Data gets the emotion chip, of Biblical scholarship or something. The man's mind is limitless, and he is passionate. Biblical scholarship in my mind is about digging through contradictions, piecing together puzzles, sifting the wheat from the chafe, and yes people have different methods for determining what is and is not "historical". It has it's methods and is not faultless . . . however it has done more for understanding many parts of the Bible that "seemed" to be contradictions or outright bizarreness than all the apologetics in the last 1000 years have done. For example, I never understood many parts of the Bible until I began reading people like Crossan, Borg and even Price. I can know read 1st Timothy and not cringe because of some of the views on women, when I understand that those verses are written in response to 2nd century Gnostics and Marcionites. They make no sense in 60AD time frames, but make perfect sense when one realizes the Gnostics of the 2nd century were teaching some strange things, or that there were prophetesses proclaiming they were the holy Spirit etc.



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There is no mention, let alone implication, that Johnson is using it to support such a thesis. In fact no where in this article does he even come close to asserting the Pauline thesis.

You're right, and as I said, this is MY fault. I just have a hard time hearing anything else he says because there is always this buzzing in my ear that says, "this guy think 2nd Timothy was written by Paul"...it's hard to get past that. As I said, it is my fault and I need to try and do better and to hear his arguments and points as opposed to listening to my own bias.


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The problem with being to open to such ideas is that it will create doubt.

See, I think that's where you and I will disagree the most. I think doubt is not necessarily a bad thing. It creates curiosity and inquiry and yes, as someone who as struggled with doubt, I have come to terms with it. I no longer fear my own doubt but embrace it. So the possibility that the Dutch Radicals are right, and that the Pauline epistles are just a jumbled collection of scraps from many different people doesn't frighten me. Even if true, at least as an Orthodox Christian (Catholics too) it's just not a big deal. The Church came before the NT; the NT grew out of the Churches understanding of who and what Christ was and is, and if ideas evolved, or if factional disputes are preserved in the Gospels, or the Epistles so much the better. It helps me personally understand the history of the early Church, the nature of debate all the better.


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Also the problem I have with these so called scholars is what presuppostions do they have with the text? They can't honestly be approaching these documents without a shred of bias, because they do carry some bias with them. If we are going to be critical of the text we must also critical of those that are being critical of the text.

The issue of bias is a good point, but hardly one gone unnoticed until now. Schweitzer pointed this out 50 years ago, as did others before him. The whole story of scholars looking down in the well of scholarship and study of Jesus, only to find the Jesus reflected back at them is their own reflection. The problem is LTJ and NT Wright (who I find is in many ways far more religiously conservative than Johnson is) are doing the same thing they accuse Crossan et el of doing. Of course Johnsonhimself looks down the well and sees a Catholic Jesus; the Jesus of Church history, where the Eucharist is the most important thing. Wright sees the realized Eschatological prophet, Crossan sees the same, but more of a Cynic peasant prophet, etc. Dr. Johnson is not free from this bias either. Neither were the Gospel writers in fact. Each writer gives us a different perspective of Jesus. I realize that all 4 put together gives as the "complete picture", however does that mean the early Churches didn't have a complete picture? It would be hundreds of years before all parishes had all 4 Gospels. What of Matthew's community? Did they not have the "total" Jesus? I'm not so sure about that. I think they had the total Jesus just as much as the same community would have 400 years later when they possessed all four Gospels.

Bias in seeing Jesus a particular way, is not always a bad thing. The problem I have with Dr. Johnson's statements is that he seems to be saying HIS way of understanding Jesus is correct, but another way (let's say Wright's way since he is an ultra conservative Anglo-Catholic) is not. Even our Lectionary uses different Gospels at different times of the year to emphasize different views of Jesus' himself. Nothing wrong with that IMO.

The only ones who are totally free from bias are some of the German scholars like Bultmann, and Tillich (though Tillich was more a philosopher/theologian) and well people like Robert M. Price, and Burton Mack who say there is no way to know anything about Jesus, or that such a person even existed.

I think ALL possibilities should be open to investigation but just because something is possible doesn't make it probable, which is the game of history; what is most probable?

The one thing I really, really agree with Dr. Johnson on is the point he made that though scholarship and study of the "historical Jesus" is often greatly helpful, sometimes takes center stage and pushes aside the Jesus that lives among us today, in the Church and in the Eucharist. That's a great point, one of which I totally agree with. However historical Jesus studies have in part, more than once saved my faith from utter despair, and as a naturally curious person I want to know what this or that meant back then, not today. The good Samaritan parable has far more meaning to me know what it meant 2000 years ago. That's an easy example we all can probably agree on which is why I chose it. Others exist and even the really radical theories are very interesting and I don't think we should fear them. In the end, Jesus DOES live among us today, and whatever a scholar does or doesn't say is of no consequence to that reality; perhaps it affects our perception, but Jesus is unchanging and the NT points to Christ, it is Christ that is the way, not the NT itself.









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« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2011, 12:53:05 PM »

Well this is turning out to be an interesting thread... keep it going fellows! Smiley  Previous to this the only exposure I had to Mr. Johnson was through his book of commentary on the Epistle of James (which I liked, though it was more dry/academic than I'm used to).

You think he is dry, you should try READING Crossan...holy cow. The man is the most charismatic speaker, but his writing is . . . well it's for scholars. It takes him 70 pages to say something he could say in 5 pages, but he is brilliant, just tough to read. His lectures though are just as entertaining as anything, and like LTJ said, I could probably listen to Crossan talk about anything at all. Smiley
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« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2011, 01:40:02 PM »

There is no indisputable reference to Marcion in the Pastorals,


Almost nothing in the entire Bible is “indisputable”. If we’re looking for indisputable evidence then as Christians we have a serious problem on all fronts, don’t we?


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and the vast majority of scholars who hold the Pastorals to be post-Pauline place them in the period of 80-100 (according to Raymond Brown). Marcion (c. 85-160 AD) didn't present his views in Rome until four and a half decades after the end of that period

I’m not sure “the vast majority of scholars” date the Pastorals between 80-100. That seems very early to me. I’m certainly not going to argue against Fr. Brown’s position, I’m not qualified to do that,  however even if he is right, Paul clearly did not write them.

However I think 2 Timothy 3:16 is a dead give away that at least this portion (possibly an interpolation?)  is referencing Marcion’s rejection of the Old Testament.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; -2 Timothy 3:16


ALL Scripture is inspired by God…the emphasis seems to be on the fact that ALL Scripture, not on “is inspired” like our Protestant friends would have us believe. Certainly Timothy, whether raised as a Jew or a Christian would have known Scripture is inspired by God, the question the writer seems to be answering is, "is ALL Scripture inspired?" The point seems to be that ALL Scripture is . . . As we know, Marcion rejected the Old Testament and was the first to do so, it seems most probably that this is what is being refuted here. (it wasn't just something dropped in there for Protestants to quote 1900 years later)

I suppose the other possibility could be a reference to the Rabbis rejecting the LXX and accepting only the shorter Hebrew Canon, however it isn't clear that the Jewish Canon was even decided at the Council of Jamnia;B.) the context of the rest of the epistle seems to be intra-Christian issues and no longer a dispute with Judaism, (hence after Judaism and Christianity formally split, which puts it at least the early 2nd century, if not even later) which all seems to call for a later, rather than earlier date.



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Why would one, since virtually no contemporary scholar thinks that? While the majority of scholars don't believe every NT epistle attributed to Paul in the NT is Pauline, the suggestion that he didn't write any of the NT epistles is on the far lunatic fringe "where the buses don't usually go."

Well, the door SHOULD be open and if the evidence weighs against it, then the theory should be tossed out. I certainly don’t hold to that view, I think it’s ridiculous, but based on the evidence of the texts and what we know of the early Church.  I also can’t see how the pastorals and all their talk about Christian widows, “All Scripture”  and other later issues within the Church could point to Pauline authorship. etc.

Then there is this quote:

O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and Contradictions [Greek: antithesis] of gnosis falsely so called --  I Timothy 6:20

It could be a coincidence that Marcion had a collection of writings called the Antithesis, but I don’t think so. It seems to be an explicit reference to Marcionite teaching. No, the author doesn’t say “don’t trust Marcion” OTH, Paul makes all sorts of cryptic references to the Jewish Christians of his time who demanded circumcision and Torah observance without explicitly dropping names.
It’s not indisputable, but almost nothing in the Bible is. It may not be, it may just be a coincidence of words and phrases and there is no connection at all. That could be. However what makes the most sense out of the text? I guess that's for everyone to decide for themselves.


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Quote from: Northern Pines
It is not surprising, then, that virtually every sort of Jesus reconstructed by scholars in this generation is based solidly on the Jesus of the Gospel of Luke

Quote from: Northern Pines
the claim is utterly false, almost every historian begins from Mark's Gospel, though of course the Jesus Seminar does have a love affair with Luke's Gospel, in part because it contains the most parables of Jesus which most historians happen to think actually go back to Jesus himself.

What? The quote you cited doesn't deny Marcan priority, that pretty much all begin with Mark, so how *exactly* does that show most reconstructions are not based solidly on Luke "utterly false" in your view?


Dr. Johnson seemed to be rejecting historical reconstruction based on Luke’s Gospel because Luke’s Gospel is the most “liberal/egalitarian” and the most in line with the “social gospel”. I don’t think he was talking about Markan priority here; he was talking about the proverbial “seeing the Jesus you want to see”. I could be misreading him though.


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Another distortion of the facts. On the one hand, it is true that a majority of contemporary scholars deny the Pastorals are Pauline. But to say no NT scholar "of any credibility on planet earth" argues for Pauline authorship is absolutely ridiculous.

You’re correct; I fell into the “they are the crazy fringe” argument which I typically try to avoid and try to argue against. However, note you did the same thing in reference to the Dutch Radical school’s rejection of Pauline authorship of all the Epistles. Evidence should be weighed on it’s own merits, not on our own personal feelings. I certainly stand corrected about my fallacious ad hominem. I do not think these people are cooks are nuts, I also don’t think the Dutch Radicals were either. They all have interesting points on both extremes of the argument, however I feel the most compelling evidence lies with the vast majority of scholars you mentioned that these letters are not Pauline, but not because the vast majority holds t it, rather because I think it best explains what is going on within the text.

 I could be wrong, and in either case it makes no difference. I still accept them as Scripture and authoritative parts of the NT Canon. Who wrote them is irrelevant to their Canonical status within Orthodoxy. Joe Bob could have written them, they are still Scripture. I’m not challenging their status as Scripture like some of the Church fathers did! Cheesy

However they make much more sense in the context of a later Christian debate and controversies . . . they do to me. I could wrong, so could you. All I believe is that they are Scripture; anything else is all to dig up the pearl of wisdom within these Scriptures, I am not arguing that these are not Scripture, just to be clear.






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« Reply #14 on: February 04, 2011, 01:42:44 PM »

I must ask NP, what sort of Christian are you (besides belonging to an OCA parish)

What kind of a question is that? Huh Huh Huh

 I'm not sure if I should take offense, or if I should feel honored? (am I not living up to your standards?) or if you're simply curious what . . . wait I'm not even in the OCA, where did you get that idea? I am GOA (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America).

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« Reply #15 on: February 04, 2011, 01:51:03 PM »

I don't want to delve too deep into this discussion as my knowledge on this issue is only so deep as to get me in trouble, but...

To say, "So-and-so is the only scholar who believes x, therefore so-and-so is dubious and hard to pay attention to" is a logical fallacy. Consensus means very little on issues such as this one. There are philosophical presuppositions, as well as cultural biases and understandings that one brings to the table. Often times, most of the "scholarship" is heavily tainted by a bias or an outright refusal to read the text in the understanding of the time.

Isa, you're right. And I've just addressed this in another post above. I'm thankful my bias was pointed out to me and totally agree with you, truth is not based on consensus (which I believe is Ben Wetherington's "proof" that Christianity is true...lots of people have believed it for a long time, yikes) but also, I think we ALL have our biases no matter what. See the question "what kind of Christian are you?" directed at me above.

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Secondly, Bill Craig is an expert in this field and depending on your criteria for a scholar he could be considered a scholar, even if you don't like him (which, I don't understand why some Christians are so quick to reject him, other than the fact that he lacks grace in his debates).

For me, Craig . . . you said it the most refined way, he lacks grace in his debates. He reminds me too much of our version of Christopher Hitchens . . . (boy you should listen to those 2 debate....it's a hoot)

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The guy has a ThD from the University of Munich and studied under Wolfhart Panneberg, having faced the German higher criticism. Again, like it or not, he is an expert. While this doesn't make him right, it does mean that on issues of authorship we should pay attention to him.

He is brilliant, I just find he argues the same points in every debate. (he admits as such) He just rubs many people the wrong way and is too quick to write off all other views other than his. I'll never forget how once he said if God told him to murder his debate opponent he would do it because if God ordered it, that made it right. But I think he is a High Calvinist so I guess he'd have no choice in the matter anyways, would he? Grin
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« Reply #16 on: February 04, 2011, 02:09:28 PM »

I don't want to delve too deep into this discussion as my knowledge on this issue is only so deep as to get me in trouble, but...

To say, "So-and-so is the only scholar who believes x, therefore so-and-so is dubious and hard to pay attention to" is a logical fallacy. Consensus means very little on issues such as this one. There are philosophical presuppositions, as well as cultural biases and understandings that one brings to the table. Often times, most of the "scholarship" is heavily tainted by a bias or an outright refusal to read the text in the understanding of the time.

Isa, you're right. And I've just addressed this in another post above. I'm thankful my bias was pointed out to me and totally agree with you, truth is not based on consensus (which I believe is Ben Wetherington's "proof" that Christianity is true...lots of people have believed it for a long time, yikes) but also, I think we ALL have our biases no matter what. See the question "what kind of Christian are you?" directed at me above.

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Secondly, Bill Craig is an expert in this field and depending on your criteria for a scholar he could be considered a scholar, even if you don't like him (which, I don't understand why some Christians are so quick to reject him, other than the fact that he lacks grace in his debates).

For me, Craig . . . you said it the most refined way, he lacks grace in his debates. He reminds me too much of our version of Christopher Hitchens . . . (boy you should listen to those 2 debate....it's a hoot)

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The guy has a ThD from the University of Munich and studied under Wolfhart Panneberg, having faced the German higher criticism. Again, like it or not, he is an expert. While this doesn't make him right, it does mean that on issues of authorship we should pay attention to him.

He is brilliant, I just find he argues the same points in every debate. (he admits as such) He just rubs many people the wrong way and is too quick to write off all other views other than his. I'll never forget how once he said if God told him to murder his debate opponent he would do it because if God ordered it, that made it right. But I think he is a High Calvinist so I guess he'd have no choice in the matter anyways, would he? Grin

He's not a Calvinist at all! He's a molinist, which would exclude him from being a Calvinist. He's a huge proponent of libertine free will and is often at odds with Calvinists. In fact, some of his beliefs are so opposite of Calvinism that many Calvinists I know consider him a heretic...and we would too probably (he considers God to be completely inside of time, or so I think, I haven't really spent too much time looking at his molinism).

With that out of the way, I admit that he is rough. I've seen a lot of his debates actually and every single time he approaches it in the same way. Admittedly, when he debates the neo-atheists or those of that type, he makes them look like idiots (they don't help their case though). While this does have some advantages in an academic setting and is sometimes (though rarely) necessary, to do it every single time is wrong.

However, none of this excludes him from being an expert. He requires his opponents to believe the New Testament is 100% true because he's a presuppositionalist as well, meaning he thinks we have to work from presuppositions; if we accept the presupposition, does the belief follow? I would say that I, along with many Christian philosophers, also fall into this camp, though possibly not as much as he does. But I do believe that he's a big lazy in his work sometimes, which would also explain why he failed his oral critique the first time he attempted his ThD. Smiley

All of that said, I would argue that most of the criticisms by scholars on the historical accuracy of Scripture is born out of a bias against Scripture. Regardless, that bias doesn't automatically disqualify their opinion or make it wrong; I might have a bias against nuclear weapons, but that doesn't make it okay to use them. What I would argue is that such scholars make the mistake of cultural snobbery; they embrace German higher criticism and assume that because we write and think a certain way, the people of "back then" also did the same thing. Thus we see a change in Paul's writing style and automatically assume someone else wrote it, because in our day and age people just don't differ in writing styles. Yet, it hardly crosses their minds that sometimes ancient authors would change writing styles depending on who they were writing to or what they were writing about, or that those doing the dictations would sometimes take liberties with how they worded certain things. There are other explanations as well that are often ignored because, "There's just no evidence for that!" This, of course, makes such people sound like quasi-positivists, which to me would discredit much of what they teach.

At the end of the day, I do believe it boils down to one's philosophical presuppositions on the matter, but I think as Christians we simply cannot adopt the presuppositions of the world; if a secular scholar says x about Scripture, we must really examine why he is saying that and what his presuppositions are coming into the debate.

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« Reply #17 on: February 04, 2011, 04:02:46 PM »

Aposphet, thanks for your well thought out reply. I love this sort of stuff even if we end up not totally agreeing on everything.
Agreed.

Well I'm not sure he's argued that explicitly, but he does do so implicitly. When he says Paul wrote 1st Timothy he is by default saying Galatians and Timothy have the same author.  I just do not see that at all.
I guess I'll have to wait until you respond to theo's point about this here:
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they embrace German higher criticism and assume that because we write and think a certain way, the people of "back then" also did the same thing. Thus we see a change in Paul's writing style and automatically assume someone else wrote it, because in our day and age people just don't differ in writing styles. Yet, it hardly crosses their minds that sometimes ancient authors would change writing styles depending on who they were writing to or what they were writing about, or that those doing the dictations would sometimes take liberties with how they worded certain things

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He didn't mention it here, but the whole thing seems like sour grapes to me. "People like Crossan but they don't like me cuz I'm too conservative". That's what I get out of much of his work actually. Again, I think he seems like a very likable fellow, and he's got far more knowledge than me of course; this is his field, but he does seem to mix apologetics with scholarship, which is something I'm not a fan of.
I wonder how far one must go into apologetic with history before showing some bias. That is to say if someone like LTJ who believes in the authenticity of certain pieces of Scripture (versus his opposers) perhaps he only has to feel obligated to defend his position on why these things are historically valid. It's like saying for example I grew up with my sister who for a few years had lukemia. Then 20 years later someone starts looking into the history of my sister, and decides during the time she supposedly had lukemia it was cancer! So that's where someone like me would step in and defend the position she had lukemia and not cancer. Maybe I'm getting LTJ wrong, but that's how I see his approach.


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Craig is no doubt brilliant, and you're right he is a philosopher but, ugh...I cannot stand his arguments from a historical perspective.
Well the point I was bringing up about Criag being a philosopher first, is well it's true! Would anyone truly look to Craig for the basis of historical scholarship? He seems to me, like Wright, that compiles references from other scholars to support their conservative thesis on the historical Jesus. So compilation =/= scholar, but like I said that doesn't mean we should instantly toss away both men have to say. There could be quite a bit of good things in their works in regards to history, but as a sole authority? I guess that depends on how you take their approach on it but you would have to put into question the credibility of the sources they use as support for their argument.

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As Robert Price and others have pointed out, he argues from the assumption that the Gospels are 100% historically factual
For Craig to argue from that assumption, he would first have to give a pretty good reason as to why he feels they are 100% factual. There's nothing wrong with assuming this of course but he has to back this assumption up.

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and he assumes his opponent also accepts them as such.
Considering Craig is convinced of the historicity of the Gospels he would have to argue for them and ultimately would conclude his opponent would have to concede they are 100% accurate; that is if his assumption has some solid foundation to accept this. I heard a debate between him and Price over the Resurrection recently, and I can tell how shocked Craig was at the liberalism Price displayed over the Resurrection. Craig always delivers a great presentation on the certain key points on the Resurrection no scholar worth their salt would dispute, but the problem I had with Price is he is too caught up in the mythical element of Christ...actually the legendary aspects. So Price assumes the position that Jesus was a great mythical figure in the realm of Hercules and Dionysus whereas Craig assumes the position that Jesus was who He said he was. Both positions are fine to hold only if you can support them, however could the debate go anywhere with such held biases?

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He's arguing against the 18th century Christian rationalists who did accept the Gospels as 100% fact, but that miracles must have a natural explanation.
That's where Craig and I disagree. Why would Jesus performing miracles have anything to do with naturalism, to me it should be left as a mystery. Craig is pretty big on natural theology so maybe he has a tendency for this sort of thing.

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The debate ends before it begins when someone ASSUMES everyone else accepts their premise.
I see what you are saying, but with Craig it's different because since he claims to the 100% historicity of the Gospels and if he can prove it, so then so should everyone else. So the person arguing against Craig would have to drop their premise and submit to Craig's.

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I admit though, he is brilliant, and I think it's funny Richard Dawkins refuses to debate him one on one, (Dawkins would get destroyed in such a debate)
Dawkins and Craig did debate recently in Mexico City but it was a 3v3 style. The atheist position was obliterated, and the absurdity of Dawkins thinking asking "why?" is a useless question made me laugh hard.

I'll get a youtube clip of what I mean if I can find it tonite.

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but I also took great pleasure in Ehrman destroying Craig in their debate on the Resurrection.
I'm interested in hearing this debate.

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IMO it's  a bit unfair to call these people "so called scholars".
I say that because they are going against the grain of what is widely held by other scholars. That's why I'm so critical of the fellows in the Jesus Seminar, not only can they not agree with one another but they've been following a Jesus they have created over 20 years now.

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Robert M. Price, for all his flaws is all scholarship, to such a degree that he ends up doubting everything.
This is the exact problem I have with him, maybe more than this, but it's the case of having your cake and eating it too. In fact when he was debating with Craig and their was a QA section, an audience member pointed out the same thing. He likes to hide behind "I don't knows" quite a bit or even accepting two competing theories. Granted I don't expect Price to know everything, but I'll sumarize him real quick "Well it could of happened, but maybe it didn't". That's why I can't stand dealing with agnostics regarding God, but that's another debate.

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There are few men in the field as brilliant as Crossan is. He's like the "Data" after Data gets the emotion chip, of Biblical scholarship or something. The man's mind is limitless, and he is passionate.
I could hear Crossan talk about any subject, he is extremely witty. I disagree strongly with his position on certain things, but he is very enjoyable to read and to listen to.

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Biblical scholarship in my mind is about digging through contradictions, piecing together puzzles, sifting the wheat from the chafe, and yes people have different methods for determining what is and is not "historical".
The problem I have with this, is for me as someone coming into Orthodoxy, it ultimately doesn't matter. Sure it would be interesting to know why contradictions exist, but then I would only being appealing to a certain scholar's interpretation on why these contradictions are in them. It may benefit the fundamentalist more than someone like me. I guess with me I just don't care about the contradictions since I don't hold to its innerancy, these problems just don't bother me at all. I look at what the Church has brought together and by it's authority what was selected. This is what the Church deemed to be part of Holy Tradition so it was included, many of the Church Fathers if I'm not mistaken squabbled over alot of it and I have no doubt they saw the same contradictions and problems.

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It has it's methods and is not faultless . . . however it has done more for understanding many parts of the Bible that "seemed" to be contradictions or outright bizarreness than all the apologetics in the last 1000 years have done. For example, I never understood many parts of the Bible until I began reading people like Crossan, Borg and even Price. I can know read 1st Timothy and not cringe because of some of the views on women, when I understand that those verses are written in response to 2nd century Gnostics and Marcionites. They make no sense in 60AD time frames, but make perfect sense when one realizes the Gnostics of the 2nd century were teaching some strange things, or that there were prophetesses proclaiming they were the holy Spirit etc.
I think this is a very valid point.

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See, I think that's where you and I will disagree the most. I think doubt is not necessarily a bad thing. It creates curiosity and inquiry and yes, as someone who as struggled with doubt, I have come to terms with it.
The reason is that we should be careful about how much we take in that may seem a very liberal approach to the Scriptures. I don't want to take something as face value just because one guy said so. Seriously I've seen people lose their whole faith just because the Bible was torn apart by some scholar yet he might even be easily refuted. This is why I don't take lightly when someone who is so out there left-wing who has some sort of claim to being a historian or a scholar in the field, because such a radical approach demands alot more support in my opinion. If someone has been accepted for 1800 years, then it's being put into question by new ideas...those new ideas must have a higher footing than what has always been traditionally accepted.


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I no longer fear my own doubt but embrace it. So the possibility that the Dutch Radicals are right, and that the Pauline epistles are just a jumbled collection of scraps from many different people doesn't frighten me. Even if true, at least as an Orthodox Christian (Catholics too) it's just not a big deal. The Church came before the NT; the NT grew out of the Churches understanding of who and what Christ was and is, and if ideas evolved, or if factional disputes are preserved in the Gospels, or the Epistles so much the better. It helps me personally understand the history of the early Church, the nature of debate all the better.

Right, that's the thing to keep in mind was the Church came before but not only that but oral tradition as well. It helped guide what was to be included canonically. I couldn't imagine if we had the Bible before a Church, because we would be in serious danger and how would we ever know the truth about them? It would be lost to us.


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Neither were the Gospel writers in fact. Each writer gives us a different perspective of Jesus. I realize that all 4 put together gives as the "complete picture", however does that mean the early Churches didn't have a complete picture? It would be hundreds of years before all parishes had all 4 Gospels. What of Matthew's community? Did they not have the "total" Jesus? I'm not so sure about that.
Right, like John as a theologian, Matthew the considered Jewish Gospel etc. The 4 Gospels certainly aren't the complete picture, who's going to deny that? But besides the written down account we must also look at what the oral tradition was, which was ranked higher than writing in antiquity.

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The only ones who are totally free from bias are some of the German scholars like Bultmann, and Tillich (though Tillich was more a philosopher/theologian) and well people like Robert M. Price, and Burton Mack who say there is no way to know anything about Jesus, or that such a person even existed.

The fatal flaw with Price, and I hate to keep chastiszing him is he once remarked "Yeah if we can find up the dead body and bones of Jesus" could we prove he existed. Yet that will never happen because He rose from the dead. You can just see how radical he is about Jesus.

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I think ALL possibilities should be open to investigation but just because something is possible doesn't make it probable, which is the game of history; what is most probable?
There are too many factors I think until one really deduces what is more probable. That's just my take.
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« Reply #18 on: February 04, 2011, 04:04:38 PM »

I must ask NP, what sort of Christian are you (besides belonging to an OCA parish)

What kind of a question is that? Huh Huh Huh

 I'm not sure if I should take offense, or if I should feel honored? (am I not living up to your standards?) or if you're simply curious what . . . wait I'm not even in the OCA, where did you get that idea? I am GOA (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America).



Ah sorry I was going from my obvious false memory, yes GOA. I was just curious where you stand as a Christian because you seem to have liberal tendencies regarding points of Christianity. Just seeing what your perspective is that's all.
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« Reply #19 on: February 04, 2011, 05:28:39 PM »


He's not a Calvinist at all! He's a molinist, which would exclude him from being a Calvinist. He's a huge proponent of libertine free will and is often at odds with Calvinists.

Well, I admit, I'm not that interested in what Craig's beliefs are, only in his arguments and in some cases the statements he makes. I've heard him say some pretty Calvinist sounding things in the past though; though I could just be blending him with someone else. I've listened to so many of these guys over the years it's hard to keep things straight. I don't have the memory of Crossan or Price (whatever you think of Price, the man must have a photographic memory he remembers books he read 25 years ago, I can't remember what I read last week...LOL!



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With that out of the way, I admit that he is rough. I've seen a lot of his debates actually and every single time he approaches it in the same way. Admittedly, when he debates the neo-atheists or those of that type, he makes them look like idiots (they don't help their case though). While this does have some advantages in an academic setting and is sometimes (though rarely) necessary, to do it every single time is wrong.

I have heard him joke about how he has used the "same 5 arguments for 20 years" and he almost always wins. Even most atheists admit he destroys them; again the only one he really struggled with was Ehrman who kept the debate on the Gospels themselves.

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However, none of this excludes him from being an expert.

Oh indeed. I certainly did not mean to say he isn't an expert; the guy talks about stuff in the realms of philosophy that I do not even comprehend. He's brilliant, I just don't like his style at all though. To each his own though.


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He requires his opponents to believe the New Testament is 100% true because he's a presuppositionalist as well, meaning he thinks we have to work from presuppositions; if we accept the presupposition, does the belief follow?

The thing is, he never asks his opponents to assume the Gospels are true then argue from there, he just does it without their consent. Smiley No different than lots of debaters of course, but I think a more fruitful dialogue is to begin with something we all agree on.

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All of that said, I would argue that most of the criticisms by scholars on the historical accuracy of Scripture is born out of a bias against Scripture. Regardless, that bias doesn't automatically disqualify their opinion or make it wrong; I might have a bias against nuclear weapons, but that doesn't make it okay to use them. What I would argue is that such scholars make the mistake of cultural snobbery; they embrace German higher criticism and assume that because we write and think a certain way, the people of "back then" also did the same thing.

Totally agree with you actually, with one caveat, if such and such a scholar studies the Koran critically would you agree they have a "bias against the Koran?" What about Appolonius of Tyana? etc. Some things are matters of faith, otherwise we wouldn't call it faith. The thing with Craig et el is they think we can prove faith; but then it's not faith. If I prove to you the world is round, in what sense is it faith?


As far as Paul's writing style changing, yeah it could be, but I just don't see any person changing that much. Nor do I see any reason to believe that he did, or even wrote the Pastorals.

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At the end of the day, I do believe it boils down to one's philosophical presuppositions on the matter, but I think as Christians we simply cannot adopt the presuppositions of the world; if a secular scholar says x about Scripture, we must really examine why he is saying that and what his presuppositions are coming into the debate.

See I don't think the motives of the scholar are the most important issue; if they are the issue at all. I think the evidence is the issue. In part because we can never know what ones true motives actually are, only God knows that. (unless one admits up front they are doing such and such for such and such a reason)

Does it matter that the motives of St. Paul writing to the Galatians was to express various ideas against the party of James? The truth is not determined by motives, even though in many ways I agree that if someone is just out to attack the Bible, we need to be aware of that. But the same could be said of those who defend the Bible at all costs (or the Church for that matter). That's why scholarship is important; and I think you'll agree that when one takes the time to look at the Bible critically, all the "evils" or "absurd" things in the Bible put forth by the New Atheists aren't really what they would have some people believe.

Not sure if that makes sense, but then it wouldn't be the first time I didn't make sense.

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« Reply #20 on: February 04, 2011, 06:16:21 PM »


I guess I'll have to wait until you respond to theo's point about this here:
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they embrace German higher criticism and assume that because we write and think a certain way, the people of "back then" also did the same thing. Thus we see a change in Paul's writing style and automatically assume someone else wrote it, because in our day and age people just don't differ in writing styles. Yet, it hardly crosses their minds that sometimes ancient authors would change writing styles depending on who they were writing to or what they were writing about, or that those doing the dictations would sometimes take liberties with how they worded certain things

I still think, even assuming St. Paul changed THAT much, I still think the Pastorals are full of anachronisms from the 2nd century Church disputes; at best they have been interpolated, but I don't think the pastorals have the disjointed feeling of some of the interpolations in 1 and 2 Corinthians.


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I wonder how far one must go into apologetic with history before showing some bias. That is to say if someone like LTJ who believes in the authenticity of certain pieces of Scripture (versus his opposers) perhaps he only has to feel obligated to defend his position on why these things are historically valid. It's like saying for example I grew up with my sister who for a few years had lukemia. Then 20 years later someone starts looking into the history of my sister, and decides during the time she supposedly had lukemia it was cancer! So that's where someone like me would step in and defend the position she had lukemia and not cancer. Maybe I'm getting LTJ wrong, but that's how I see his approach.

Maybe, but remember some of the Church fathers not only doubted the Pastorals were written by Paul, but some doubted that they were even Scripture at all. The disputation of the pastorals goes back to the very beginning of modern Biblical scholarship. And I admit, there are some pretty sound arguments for their Pauline authorship, but it seems to be a case of special pleading; the more natural approach to them seems to be of a later date otherwise all sorts of things must be explained away, where is if they were written later nothing has to be explained away and it al "fits".


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Well the point I was bringing up about Criag being a philosopher first, is well it's true! Would anyone truly look to Craig for the basis of historical scholarship? He seems to me, like Wright, that compiles references from other scholars to support their conservative thesis on the historical Jesus. So compilation =/= scholar, but like I said that doesn't mean we should instantly toss away both men have to say. There could be quite a bit of good things in their works in regards to history, but as a sole authority? I guess that depends on how you take their approach on it but you would have to put into question the credibility of the sources they use as support for their argument.

Agreed!


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For Craig to argue from that assumption, he would first have to give a pretty good reason as to why he feels they are 100% factual. There's nothing wrong with assuming this of course but he has to back this assumption up.

Not sure he gives an explanation for this other than "it's in the Bible", but as a Protestant what else can he say?


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I see what you are saying, but with Craig it's different because since he claims to the 100% historicity of the Gospels and if he can prove it, so then so should everyone else. So the person arguing against Craig would have to drop their premise and submit to Craig's.

Well he can't prove it, and luckily Orthodoxy nor Catholicism has ever held such a dogmatic view of the Gospels. I remember Robert Price once talking about some Apologist who argued, on the basis that the Gospels were 100% historically factual, that Peter denied Jesus not 3 times, but I think it was 9 or 12 times...LOL! (based on the different versions of the 4 Gospels, he extrapolated that because they were written differently, they all must have been writing about different denials) I can't remember who it was that did that, but it goes to show just how ridiculous ultra literalism can take us, just as how far ultra skepticism can take us to say that can't know anything at all.


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Dawkins and Craig did debate recently in Mexico City but it was a 3v3 style. The atheist position was obliterated, and the absurdity of Dawkins thinking asking "why?" is a useless question made me laugh hard.

Dawkins actually said asking "why" is a useless question? LOL! Isn't that what science is based on, asking WHY? Sheesh!


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IMO it's  a bit unfair to call these people "so called scholars".
I say that because they are going against the grain of what is widely held by other scholars. That's why I'm so critical of the fellows in the Jesus Seminar, not only can they not agree with one another but they've been following a Jesus they have created over 20 years now.

Okay, I understand where you're coming from. They're still scholars though, and I think they are actually quite a bit closer to other people's work than it first appears from the outside. Crossan for example isn't the radical some Fundamentalists think he is; he says some shocking things sometimes but I think he just does it for shock value! Cheesy


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Robert M. Price, for all his flaws is all scholarship, to such a degree that he ends up doubting everything.
This is the exact problem I have with him, maybe more than this, but it's the case of having your cake and eating it too. In fact when he was debating with Craig and their was a QA section, an audience member pointed out the same thing. He likes to hide behind "I don't knows" quite a bit or even accepting two competing theories. Granted I don't expect Price to know everything, but I'll sumarize him real quick "Well it could of happened, but maybe it didn't". That's why I can't stand dealing with agnostics regarding God, but that's another debate.

Sometimes that's all an historian can say though. And it is the mark of an honest man/woman to say "I don't know"....at least in the sense of knowing intellectually, evidence based, nature based knowledge....not the inner spiritual "knowing" Christians speak of which is something else entirely.


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The problem I have with this, is for me as someone coming into Orthodoxy, it ultimately doesn't matter. Sure it would be interesting to know why contradictions exist, but then I would only being appealing to a certain scholar's interpretation on why these contradictions are in them. It may benefit the fundamentalist more than someone like me. I guess with me I just don't care about the contradictions since I don't hold to its innerancy, these problems just don't bother me at all.

That's exactly right. But you admit there are contradictions and just don't worry about them. I don't worry about them per se (though I once did as a Fundamentalist) however I still find them fascinating. I find some of the hypothesis about certain Biblical ideas and books and letters just so darn interesting and this searching, searching of the Scriptures is one of my spiritual practices. Some people think that's a contradiction, but I don't. I love digging into the Bible, learning not only about it, but about ancient cultures and it all draws me toward God. Some people are threatened by this type of study, and I do not mean to scandalize anyone . . . .

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The reason is that we should be careful about how much we take in that may seem a very liberal approach to the Scriptures. I don't want to take something as face value just because one guy said so. Seriously I've seen people lose their whole faith just because the Bible was torn apart by some scholar yet he might even be easily refuted.


But people's faith shouldn't be threatened by modern scholarship . . . I think this is a fear that some still haven't come to terms with. However people have different frame works and mindsets. Some people like puzzles others don't. I like them so I'm into the puzzles in the Bible. Doesn't mean I'm better, not at all. I hate mathematics and don't get it, other people do. Just different strokes for different folks. It's not for everyone but I do not think anyone should fear them, nor should we fear liberal scholarship, as liberal scholarship has often proven/supported what the Church has always understood in many, many cases. Not always, sometimes they are in conflict, but then so what? It's good to have all sides of a debate as far as I'm concerned; even the views I disagree with it. It hopefully makes me a better person, more open, and more Christian in my dialogue. Jesus often disagreed with the Pharisees, but he COULD talk to them, and even dine in their homes. I wonder how many Christians would dine in the home of Price or Crossan? I would, but I'm sure many wouldn't simply out of fear their faith might be shaken...but as you said, as an Orthodox Christian, our faith is not in the Bible, but in Christ Jesus. The Bible points to him, not Him to the Bible. So if scholarship points people to Christ, as it has done for me, then I think it is a good thing.

I think that is in part what Dr. Johnson was saying in that article, but I'm not sure he was as clear as I would have liked. (as though I were some sole authority on anything....)









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« Reply #21 on: February 04, 2011, 06:23:18 PM »

I must ask NP, what sort of Christian are you (besides belonging to an OCA parish)

What kind of a question is that? Huh Huh Huh

 I'm not sure if I should take offense, or if I should feel honored? (am I not living up to your standards?) or if you're simply curious what . . . wait I'm not even in the OCA, where did you get that idea? I am GOA (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America).



Ah sorry I was going from my obvious false memory, yes GOA. I was just curious where you stand as a Christian because you seem to have liberal tendencies regarding points of Christianity. Just seeing what your perspective is that's all.

I'm an Orthodox Christian. Cheesy Not sure what else to say.

Orthodoxy is not one size fits all, and has room for many different views on many different subjects. The Icon of Peter and Paul embracing represents 2 extreme views of what Christianity is and was, both coming together in Christ. It's big enough for these 2 ancient saints and their understanding of the Church, and the Church is no different today. If that's "liberal", well then so be it I guess. I just call it Christian.

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« Reply #22 on: February 04, 2011, 08:05:27 PM »

Craig is no doubt brilliant, and you're right he is a philosopher but, ugh...I cannot stand his arguments from a historical perspective. Smiley As Robert Price and others have pointed out, he argues from the assumption that the Gospels are 100% historically factual and he assumes his opponent also accepts them as such. He's arguing against the 18th century Christian rationalists who did accept the Gospels as 100% fact, but that miracles must have a natural explanation. The debate ends before it begins when someone ASSUMES everyone else accepts their premise. I admit though, he is brilliant, and I think it's funny Richard Dawkins refuses to debate him one on one, (Dawkins would get destroyed in such a debate) but I also took great pleasure in Ehrman destroying Craig in their debate on the Resurrection.

The statement in bold seems odd to me.  Do you dislike Craig or his style so intensely that you were rooting for atheism's scholarly poster boy, who was almost certainly arguing that the resurrection did not occur?

Wouldn't this potentially have negative consequences for those who watched it and assumed Ehrman's 'victory' represented the truth, and hence Christianity's false/contrived/mythological teachings?

Admittedly, I am not overly familiar with Craig, nor did I see the debate.  In certain situations I can understand your reaction, but not necessarily in this one.  Did I somehow misjudge this? 
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« Reply #23 on: February 05, 2011, 12:05:45 AM »

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Totally agree with you actually, with one caveat, if such and such a scholar studies the Koran critically would you agree they have a "bias against the Koran?" What about Appolonius of Tyana? etc. Some things are matters of faith, otherwise we wouldn't call it faith. The thing with Craig et el is they think we can prove faith; but then it's not faith. If I prove to you the world is round, in what sense is it faith?

For whatever reason we have adopted this idea that "faith" is something that is 100% unprovable, but it's not. "Faith" is equivalent to "trust." When I sit on a chair, I have faith that the chair will hold me up. Now, that faith isn't 100% provable, but it's not 100% unprovable either.

Think of it this way, no man marries a woman without having some justification in believing she won't cheat on him. He can't prove it 100%, but it's not a blind trust with her. Same with Christian faith - there is an element of mystery to it, but that doesn't mean that faith must be without proof.

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As far as Paul's writing style changing, yeah it could be, but I just don't see any person changing that much. Nor do I see any reason to believe that he did, or even wrote the Pastorals.

I've looked at the debate and there's little to no reason to believe that Paul didn't write them. I'm familiar with the critical views. I would say the ones that date the Pauline Pastoral epistles at a later date are problematic from a view of Christianity; the ones that date it at the same period, but say Paul didn't write it aren't as problematic as they still allow for inspiration. Regardless, I find both views simply unconvincing because they miss some key facts about the time and do so because those facts are detrimental to their theories.

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See I don't think the motives of the scholar are the most important issue; if they are the issue at all. I think the evidence is the issue. In part because we can never know what ones true motives actually are, only God knows that. (unless one admits up front they are doing such and such for such and such a reason)

Philosophical presuppositions ALWAYS matter when looking to the evidence because it shapes how we view the evidence. That's exactly why pointing to evidence means little to me; what matters is the interpretation of the evidence.

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Does it matter that the motives of St. Paul writing to the Galatians was to express various ideas against the party of James? The truth is not determined by motives, even though in many ways I agree that if someone is just out to attack the Bible, we need to be aware of that. But the same could be said of those who defend the Bible at all costs (or the Church for that matter). That's why scholarship is important; and I think you'll agree that when one takes the time to look at the Bible critically, all the "evils" or "absurd" things in the Bible put forth by the New Atheists aren't really what they would have some people believe.

Perhaps I should shy away from using the term motives and instead focusing solely on the presuppositions. What I'm arguing is the presuppositions they bring to evidence or a text matter greatly; for instance, if those presuppositions are wrong, the interpretation will always be slanted in the wrong direction. Even if true, in the grand interpretation it simply won't fit.

As for the "biblical evils" I would point you to Paul Copan's book "Is God a Moral Monster" (an online article by him of the same name is also available if you type it into Google). While both are written at a popular level, it does show that there are answers to the New Atheist that don't require us to take a "high critical" view of Scripture, answers that I think are far more consistent with the Biblical narrative.



Also, as an aside, the Ehrman/Craig debate...I've never met anyone who thought Ehrman even came close to 'winning' the debate. I'm friends with many academic atheists and every single one of those who saw the debate thought that Craig wiped the floor with him. Of course it's all opinion, but like I said, I've never met anyone who actually thought Ehrman did a good job. Likewise, I agree with Cognomen's question; a denial of the physical resurrection of Christ in space and time is not only heresy, it rips apart any reason for being a Christian. It's one thing to say there's no evidence for the Resurrection (which is spurious), it's entirely another to say the evidence shows it did not happen, but you simply accept it by some blind act.
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« Reply #24 on: February 05, 2011, 01:37:46 PM »

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Totally agree with you actually, with one caveat, if such and such a scholar studies the Koran critically would you agree they have a "bias against the Koran?" What about Appolonius of Tyana? etc. Some things are matters of faith, otherwise we wouldn't call it faith. The thing with Craig et el is they think we can prove faith; but then it's not faith. If I prove to you the world is round, in what sense is it faith?

For whatever reason we have adopted this idea that "faith" is something that is 100% unprovable, but it's not. "Faith" is equivalent to "trust." When I sit on a chair, I have faith that the chair will hold me up. Now, that faith isn't 100% provable, but it's not 100% unprovable either.

I did not mean it was 100% unprovable. However people like Craig and perhaps LTJ seem to think one can actually PROVE faith, empirically. I just do not see that at all. We cannot "prove" the Resurrection, as WLC argues. It's just ridiculous to say we can, and anyone who rejects it is knowingly rejecting something that is the "most attested event in history". I do NOT believe in blind faith, yet at some point it is ultimately come down to faith, isn't that what Paul taught and wrote about? The writer of Hebrews as well?

It seems to me, too many Christians today, being a product of our modern western world, go out and try and "prove" that their faith is the true path. However I see it more how Tillich puts it in The New Being:

"Paul points to that which gives us such certainty: it is  not [just about] an historical report, but it is the participation in Christ, in whom we are established, as he says, who has given us the guarantee of His Spirit in our hearts." The New Being, pg 53 (brackets added to clarify and put into context the quote)


That doesn't mean I deny the historical reports, but if we get too hung up on the historical reports, the historical Jesus etc. and assume we can "prove" this or that, (in the same sense we can prove the world is round) aren't we really missing the point of the Resurrected Christ in our midst today?

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As far as Paul's writing style changing, yeah it could be, but I just don't see any person changing that much. Nor do I see any reason to believe that he did, or even wrote the Pastorals.

I've looked at the debate and there's little to no reason to believe that Paul didn't write them.

Little to NO reason? Seriously? You don't think Paul mentioning Macion's Antithesis is a reason that Paul probably didn't write it?


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I'm familiar with the critical views. I would say the ones that date the Pauline Pastoral epistles at a later date are problematic from a view of Christianity; the ones that date it at the same period, but say Paul didn't write it aren't as problematic as they still allow for inspiration.

Not for Orthodox/Catholic Christianity it is not a problem. The Church wrote the Bible. There might be good reasons to suggest Paul in fact did write the Pastorals, I do not accept those reasons, because it doesn't seem like the simplest explanation to me. As far as Orthodoxy is concerned I don't have to accept Paul wrote them. I accept them as Scripture and that's enough. Technically speaking Orthodoxy as a whole (I speak of Chalcedonian AND non-Chalcedonian) never "closed" it's Canon . . . not meaning we can add "new Scriptures" but simply meaning there is room for debate as to what is part of the Canon and what is not. The Ethiopians have 1st Enoch in their Canon, the Greeks do not. Either way it's just not a big deal because the text only points to the one whom we follow and Worship, the Resurrected living Son of God Jesus Christ.


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Philosophical presuppositions ALWAYS matter when looking to the evidence because it shapes how we view the evidence. That's exactly why pointing to evidence means little to me; what matters is the interpretation of the evidence.

Well, we just have a difference of opinion, and that's fine. When we're talking about historical events, evidence matters. There is evidence, mountains of evidence for the Holocaust, and when someone says "evidence doesn't matter as much as interpretation" we think they're nuts. Why should it be any different, (from a historical point of view) in regards to textual criticism? I admit, I'm compartmentalizing historical study of the Scripture as a historical text, from the spiritual truth that lies behind the Scripture. Call it the Alexandrian school of thought versus the Antiochene view if you will, but that's just how I see it. Room for both views in Orthodoxy.


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Perhaps I should shy away from using the term motives and instead focusing solely on the presuppositions. What I'm arguing is the presuppositions they bring to evidence or a text matter greatly; for instance, if those presuppositions are wrong, the interpretation will always be slanted in the wrong direction. Even if true, in the grand interpretation it simply won't fit.

Okay, yeah I guess I can see what you're suggesting now. In some sense I would agree with you. Presuppositions matter, if one's presupposition is to "disprove" the Bible etc... However that's not being honest with the evidence anymore than some of the "New Apologists" are being honest with it. I label the "new Apologists" as such because they are the mirror image of the New Atheists...New Atheists say "The Church/Bible is EVIL and has no redeeming values" the New Apologists say, "The Church/Bible is perfect and everything you think the Church did that was wrong, actually that's all a MYTH! There were no Crusades or Witch Hunts, take that Dawkins!"

 I've addressed this on the forum before a few months back. This is why I say evidence is what matters both extremes are just a game of spin doctoring IMO trying to "prove" their point;  So in a way I agree with you, interpretation matters, but the interpreter must try and free themselves from ax grinding and trying to prove something and just look at the evidence and let the evidence, as much as possible, speak for itself. This is not always possible of course, sometimes the evidence doesn't make sense, but as Aposphet has pointed out, we must be careful not to be overly skeptical either otherwise we can't even do history at all. Some assumptions must be used otherwise we can be lead to believe anything, like the idea Jesus lived in the 1200AD and the middles ages NEVER happened. (yes there is a book suggesting that but I can't recall the author)


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As for the "biblical evils" I would point you to Paul Copan's book "Is God a Moral Monster" (an online article by him of the same name is also available if you type it into Google). While both are written at a popular level, it does show that there are answers to the New Atheist that don't require us to take a "high critical" view of Scripture, answers that I think are far more consistent with the Biblical narrative.

I'll take a look at it, but I'm pretty familiar with all of the apologetics.




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Likewise, I agree with Cognomen's question; a denial of the physical resurrection of Christ in space and time is not only heresy, it rips apart any reason for being a Christian. It's one thing to say there's no evidence for the Resurrection (which is spurious),

That's all Erhman was doing, he did NOT deny Jesus was physically Resurrected, he said a historian cannot prove it. Historians deal with what is most probable; historians (rightly or wrongly) remove miracles from the equation. That is all Erhman said in the debate.

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it's entirely another to say the evidence shows it did not happen, but you simply accept it by some blind act.

I don't think that is what Ehrman implied, but I could be wrong.
« Last Edit: February 05, 2011, 02:39:31 PM by NorthernPines » Logged
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« Reply #25 on: February 05, 2011, 02:37:49 PM »

Craig is no doubt brilliant, and you're right he is a philosopher but, ugh...I cannot stand his arguments from a historical perspective. Smiley As Robert Price and others have pointed out, he argues from the assumption that the Gospels are 100% historically factual and he assumes his opponent also accepts them as such. He's arguing against the 18th century Christian rationalists who did accept the Gospels as 100% fact, but that miracles must have a natural explanation. The debate ends before it begins when someone ASSUMES everyone else accepts their premise. I admit though, he is brilliant, and I think it's funny Richard Dawkins refuses to debate him one on one, (Dawkins would get destroyed in such a debate) but I also took great pleasure in Ehrman destroying Craig in their debate on the Resurrection.

The statement in bold seems odd to me.  Do you dislike Craig or his style so intensely that you were rooting for atheism's scholarly poster boy, who was almost certainly arguing that the resurrection did not occur?

Nope, he did not argue that, his whole argument is that a historian cannot speak about miracles because miracles are by definition the least probable event to occur, otherwise it wouldn't be a miracles. The argument was plain and simple. I say WLC lost because Craig didn't seem to know how to address this point because it was outside of his typical 5 arguments that prove the Resurrection.

Have you read anything from Ehrman BTW? He is hardly "atheism's poster boy".


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Wouldn't this potentially have negative consequences for those who watched it and assumed Ehrman's 'victory' represented the truth, and hence Christianity's false/contrived/mythological teachings?


So do you suggest we not have dialogue with anyone because someones faith might be shaken by that dialogue? let us assume Ehrman did "win" the debate . . . why are you asking ME this question? Shouldn't you ask Dr. Craig what might happen to people's faith if he loses a debate?


Secondly, and I'm about to go off on a tangent here, what are these people having faith "in" to begin with? Do they have faith in "historical proof" of this or that event, or do they have faith in the Risen Jesus who comes to us through the Church the Sacraments the Liturgy? I have seen and read all the arguments that tear down Christianity, the Bible etc...yet I am still an Orthodox Christian, who "knows" with a deeper "knowing" than the historical method can "prove" that Christ lives among us. Can I "prove" this historically via the historical method? I don't think anyone can. Whether or not this means I'm up to par with everyone else is for them to decide.


 I don't think, as people are assuming, that we have a "blind faith" (I never said any such thing), however if we could be argued into it via evidence and only on evidence, it wouldn't be faith. I don't have faith the world is round, it just is. I have faith in God, but I cannot "prove" God exists in the same way I can "prove" the world is round. It's not blind faith, but it is not totally verifiable either. I'm not sure what is so shocking about this? Many people seemed to be scandalized that faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things UNSEEN, but I cannot figure out why? Is our western mindset so entrenched that we have forgotten that Orthodox Christianity is experiential more than it is intellectual? I don't know. I'm sorry if this is all scandalous to so many people. I didn't mean to shake anyone's faith, however we should not be afraid of this stuff, particularly as Orthodox Christians. Paul didn't write Hebrews? Who cares...we already knew that since the early Christian apologists debated the issue. Paul didn't write one or more of the pastorals, Peter didn't write 2nd, so what, some of the Church fathers said the same thing, including Canonized saints. Does it scandalize fellow Orthodox to find out many of the Eastern fathers didn't think Revelation was inspired Scripture, let alone that the same man who wrote John's Gospel wrote Revelation. (an ancient debate). If it does scandalize people, is that my fault for raising the point, or is it the fault of Christian educators who don't raise the point?

 I can see as Protestants, all this would be shocking, but why as Orthodox is this so shocking? If people's faith are wrecked by hearing one debate, or reading one book by Dawkins, perhaps we as Christians need to do a better job of equipping ourselves with better knowledge and how we are seen by non-Christians . . . maybe we need to not fear the fact that the Biblical Canon has always had these questions and that even the Church fathers sought to understand the Scriptures through their own means and minds. If someone loses their Christian faith by reading a book by Bart Ehrman, is that Erhman's fault or is it our fault for convincing ourselves that the Bible fell down from the sky, or that the Church had a "golden age" that has since been lost, but oh it WAS perfect at one time? If a college kid is losing their faith because they read a book showing how one cannot "prove" the Resurrection of Jesus, is it the fault of the author, or is it our fault as Christians for telling ourselves things like "the Resurrection is the best attested event in the ancient world!"? (it's not, and such claims by some Apologists are a bit silly). But is there NO evidence for it? Of course not. However in the end, whatever evidence there is, or isn't it will come down to faith, trust and belief and dedication. Faith is not something in the mind; the mind is a part of it, we don't turn off our brains, we shouldn't, but faith is more than just history. Yet for me, critically studying the Bible has strengthened my faith. One person "loses" faith due to, another's faith is strenghtened . . . what if I had lost my faith because someone told me "Paul wrote Hebrews, if you don't believe it you're not a true Christian!" Well then, if that's the case then I have to leave the Church, right? Wrong. Not in Orthodoxy anyways.



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Admittedly, I am not overly familiar with Craig, nor did I see the debate.  In certain situations I can understand your reaction, but not necessarily in this one.  Did I somehow misjudge this? 

Mr. Craig, IMO comes off in his debates as triumphalistic to a degree that simply annoys me that's all. Cheesy A fault of my own, I admit that, because I am a sinner, but hey, that's how I feel. Not a judgment against the man, I'd like to meet him, but he just rubs me the wrong way when he debates, that's all.





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« Reply #26 on: February 05, 2011, 11:43:28 PM »

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I did not mean it was 100% unprovable. However people like Craig and perhaps LTJ seem to think one can actually PROVE faith, empirically. I just do not see that at all. We cannot "prove" the Resurrection, as WLC argues. It's just ridiculous to say we can, and anyone who rejects it is knowingly rejecting something that is the "most attested event in history". I do NOT believe in blind faith, yet at some point it is ultimately come down to faith, isn't that what Paul taught and wrote about? The writer of Hebrews as well?

I take the view that everything within Christianity is completely rational and provable, but I add the caveat that because we are fallen humans, we most often miss this evidence. Certainly Christianity isn't irrational; after all, it's completely rational to God and to Him none of it is a mystery. To us, however, because we have fallen minds, I think we are incapable of embracing every rational aspect.

Per example:

I can explain how the Trinity is non-contradictory and how if we are to believe in a God of love, the Trinity is the only logical explanation. However, while I believe such an argument is 100% rational, I do not believe someone in rebellion to the Holy Spirit could ever begin to see how such an argument is rational. Thus, revelation reveals what we should already know, but don't because we are fallen and sinful.

Faith, then, is what we believe in upon a good basis. Going back to the Trinity, though the Trinity is a mystery to me (I cannot explain the how, nor can anyone else), by faith I accept that the teachings on the Trinity have to be true because other auxiliary doctrines associated with the Trinity are reasonable. I can't empirically prove this, nor can I prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt, but I can make it probable.

And that is what Bill and many others do, though I agree that they take it too far sometimes. You have to remember that even though they're Protestants, they've inherited a Thomistic scholasticism in their study of Christianity, so there's not a lot of room for mystery. However, Bill generally argues for the probability (i.e. the Resurrection is the most probably explanation of what occurred).

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It seems to me, too many Christians today, being a product of our modern western world, go out and try and "prove" that their faith is the true path. However I see it more how Tillich puts it in The New Being:

"Paul points to that which gives us such certainty: it is  not [just about] an historical report, but it is the participation in Christ, in whom we are established, as he says, who has given us the guarantee of His Spirit in our hearts." The New Being, pg 53 (brackets added to clarify and put into context the quote)


That doesn't mean I deny the historical reports, but if we get too hung up on the historical reports, the historical Jesus etc. and assume we can "prove" this or that, (in the same sense we can prove the world is round) aren't we really missing the point of the Resurrected Christ in our midst today?

As you could probably guess, I'm not a big fan of Tillich, but only because he goes in the opposite direction of scholasticism. We have those who want everything to be historically accurate, down to creation taking place in 6 days. But then we have those who mythologize every historical instance, such as the resurrection. With the Resurrection, it's both/and. In fact, Paul states quite emphatically that if the Resurrection did not take place in space and time then our faith is in vain; this would seemingly show us that the historicity of such an event is highly important. While we cannot prove the Resurrection occurred in any empirical sense, we can show that the Resurrection is the most probable explanation. But it takes faith to truly accept this with our entire being.

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Little to NO reason? Seriously? You don't think Paul mentioning Macion's Antithesis is a reason that Paul probably didn't write it?

I don't find it a compelling argument because it ignores the history surrounding Marcion and other proto-Gnostics. Marcion didn't arise in a vacuum, but was dealing with arguments that had been around for a while. Furthermore, there are multiple passages of Scripture that offer preemptions to heresies, but we would hardly date those passages later simply because they hold a preemption.

The only explanation that I do find plausible would be the one that ascribes authorship to Polycarp, but even that tends to be spurious if one includes tradition (as I think one should).

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Not for Orthodox/Catholic Christianity it is not a problem. The Church wrote the Bible. There might be good reasons to suggest Paul in fact did write the Pastorals, I do not accept those reasons, because it doesn't seem like the simplest explanation to me. As far as Orthodoxy is concerned I don't have to accept Paul wrote them. I accept them as Scripture and that's enough. Technically speaking Orthodoxy as a whole (I speak of Chalcedonian AND non-Chalcedonian) never "closed" it's Canon . . . not meaning we can add "new Scriptures" but simply meaning there is room for debate as to what is part of the Canon and what is not. The Ethiopians have 1st Enoch in their Canon, the Greeks do not. Either way it's just not a big deal because the text only points to the one whom we follow and Worship, the Resurrected living Son of God Jesus Christ.

I had not considered that approach and you're right, such an approach does eliminate the problem (to a certain extent). The only problem is that I don't know of a single scholar who takes this view of higher criticism, but still looks upon the Bible as inspired. However, that's not necessarily an argument against their findings or interpretation...

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Well, we just have a difference of opinion, and that's fine. When we're talking about historical events, evidence matters. There is evidence, mountains of evidence for the Holocaust, and when someone says "evidence doesn't matter as much as interpretation" we think they're nuts. Why should it be any different, (from a historical point of view) in regards to textual criticism? I admit, I'm compartmentalizing historical study of the Scripture as a historical text, from the spiritual truth that lies behind the Scripture. Call it the Alexandrian school of thought versus the Antiochene view if you will, but that's just how I see it. Room for both views in Orthodoxy.

I think you may be mixing up "evidence" and "interpretation." Some evidence seems to blatant that we believe there is not an interpretation of the evidence, but there's always an interpretation of the evidence. For instance, take the bountiful evidence of the Holocaust to a Holocaust denier and he will interpret the evidence to show that the Holocaust never occurred. Take all the evidence that 9/11 was caused by Islamic terrorists to a "truther" and they'll interpret the evidence in a completely different manner. Here's an example of what I mean:

A man was in a mental institution because he thought he was dead. One day, a nurse came up with an idea to prove to the man that he wasn't dead, but was in fact alive. She asked the man, "Do dead men bleed?" The man said, "Of course dead men don't bleed." So she quickly pricked his finger and sure enough, he started to bleed. The man looked shocked, and then quietly said, "I guess dead men do bleed."

The above example shows that even though there is evidence, it's the interpretation of the evidence that matters most. The same stands true when looking at the evidence in Scripture; we see that Paul has a different writing style in the pastoral epistles than he does in his other epistles. It is then the interpretation of the evidence that matters - you interpret the difference to mean there were two different authors while I interpret it to mean that he was writing for a different purpose, at a different time, to a different audience. The question then becomes which interpretation is more likely?

That is why the interpretation of the evidence always matters - after all, if it didn't, how could we have a judicial system?

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Okay, yeah I guess I can see what you're suggesting now. In some sense I would agree with you. Presuppositions matter, if one's presupposition is to "disprove" the Bible etc... However that's not being honest with the evidence anymore than some of the "New Apologists" are being honest with it. I label the "new Apologists" as such because they are the mirror image of the New Atheists...New Atheists say "The Church/Bible is EVIL and has no redeeming values" the New Apologists say, "The Church/Bible is perfect and everything you think the Church did that was wrong, actually that's all a MYTH! There were no Crusades or Witch Hunts, take that Dawkins!"

 I've addressed this on the forum before a few months back. This is why I say evidence is what matters both extremes are just a game of spin doctoring IMO trying to "prove" their point;  So in a way I agree with you, interpretation matters, but the interpreter must try and free themselves from ax grinding and trying to prove something and just look at the evidence and let the evidence, as much as possible, speak for itself. This is not always possible of course, sometimes the evidence doesn't make sense, but as Aposphet has pointed out, we must be careful not to be overly skeptical either otherwise we can't even do history at all. Some assumptions must be used otherwise we can be lead to believe anything, like the idea Jesus lived in the 1200AD and the middles ages NEVER happened. (yes there is a book suggesting that but I can't recall the author)

On this we agree. I actually began my degree in history and was going to study Biblical history, but as soon as I realize that presuppositions are what drove people to interpret the evidence, I switched my major (and career path) to philosophy. But I do agree that some people have a "Stop at any cost" when it comes to the evidence.

For me, I have always challenged myself to be open to the fact that I might be wrong; that if someone were to discover the body of Jesus and somehow prove that this was the Jesus in the Bible, I would have to cease being a Christian. I couldn't reinterpret the evidence or the Bible at that point. Such a position is admittedly risky, but I feel it is the more intellectually honest position to take.

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That's all Erhman was doing, he did NOT deny Jesus was physically Resurrected, he said a historian cannot prove it. Historians deal with what is most probable; historians (rightly or wrongly) remove miracles from the equation. That is all Erhman said in the debate.

And Bill was showing him that the Resurrection was probable. Erhman argues that historians cannot take miracles into account, but I ask "why not?" Again, this assumes a naturalistic presupposition, but naturalism is false, so why should I presuppose it?
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« Reply #27 on: February 06, 2011, 03:28:12 AM »

but I also took great pleasure in Ehrman destroying Craig in their debate on the Resurrection.
The statement in bold seems odd to me.  Do you dislike Craig or his style so intensely that you were rooting for atheism's scholarly poster boy, who was almost certainly arguing that the resurrection did not occur?

Nope, he did not argue that, his whole argument is that a historian cannot speak about miracles because miracles are by definition the least probable event to occur, otherwise it wouldn't be a miracles. The argument was plain and simple. I say WLC lost because Craig didn't seem to know how to address this point because it was outside of his typical 5 arguments that prove the Resurrection.

My mistake in assuming his position.  His actual position seems pretty reasonable.  A recent post, perhaps even in this thread (sorry, I can't find it at the moment), recounted a rather harsh, vitriolic lecture given by him.  This probably led to my assumption.

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Have you read anything from Ehrman BTW?
I have, but admittedly never his books in full.  Not to sound too snobby Grin but I usually stay away from books where the hypothesis can be determined from the title.  Jesus, Interrupted, Misquoting Jesus, no thanks, at least for now.  Seems a bit aggressively unsubtle for a so-called scholarly work. 

My somewhat relevant tangent: I've spent my entire life not believing in the divinity of Jesus or the validity of Christianity in its various forms.  I was raised, along with most people I knew, "knowing" that Jesus was probably just a moral teacher and that the Bible was a hodgepodge of ahistorical events and man-made doctrines.  I'm doing my best to make up for that and largely reading from the other perspective now.  Along with gaining a better understanding of the faith, hopefully prayer and Orthodox services will help lead me to a full and meaningful conversion.
 
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He is hardly "atheism's poster boy".
They, along with agnostics (academic and non-academics alike), certainly love to cite him, and they frequently view him as one of the last words in dismissing the validity of any organized forms of Christianity.  Additionally, many love his story.  That such a thorough scholar would transition from Christianity to agnosticism because of his discoveries delights them.  They use it to illustrate how those that are intelligent and well-informed must surely discount organized Christianity, scripture, other religions, etc.
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Wouldn't this potentially have negative consequences for those who watched it and assumed Ehrman's 'victory' represented the truth, and hence Christianity's false/contrived/mythological teachings?
So do you suggest we not have dialogue with anyone because someones faith might be shaken by that dialogue? let us assume Ehrman did "win" the debate . . . why are you asking ME this question? Shouldn't you ask Dr. Craig what might happen to people's faith if he loses a debate?

Of course people should have dialogue.  I asked the question because you were cheering on someone who I perceive to be harming the faith.
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Secondly, and I'm about to go off on a tangent here, what are these people having faith "in" to begin with? Do they have faith in "historical proof" of this or that event, or do they have faith in the Risen Jesus who comes to us through the Church the Sacraments the Liturgy? I have seen and read all the arguments that tear down Christianity, the Bible etc...yet I am still an Orthodox Christian, who "knows" with a deeper "knowing" than the historical method can "prove" that Christ lives among us. Can I "prove" this historically via the historical method? I don't think anyone can. Whether or not this means I'm up to par with everyone else is for them to decide.

 I don't think, as people are assuming, that we have a "blind faith" (I never said any such thing), however if we could be argued into it via evidence and only on evidence, it wouldn't be faith. I don't have faith the world is round, it just is. I have faith in God, but I cannot "prove" God exists in the same way I can "prove" the world is round. It's not blind faith, but it is not totally verifiable either. I'm not sure what is so shocking about this? Many people seemed to be scandalized that faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things UNSEEN, but I cannot figure out why? Is our western mindset so entrenched that we have forgotten that Orthodox Christianity is experiential more than it is intellectual? I don't know. I'm sorry if this is all scandalous to so many people. I didn't mean to shake anyone's faith, however we should not be afraid of this stuff, particularly as Orthodox Christians. Paul didn't write Hebrews? Who cares...we already knew that since the early Christian apologists debated the issue. Paul didn't write one or more of the pastorals, Peter didn't write 2nd, so what, some of the Church fathers said the same thing, including Canonized saints. Does it scandalize fellow Orthodox to find out many of the Eastern fathers didn't think Revelation was inspired Scripture, let alone that the same man who wrote John's Gospel wrote Revelation. (an ancient debate). If it does scandalize people, is that my fault for raising the point, or is it the fault of Christian educators who don't raise the point?

 I can see as Protestants, all this would be shocking, but why as Orthodox is this so shocking? If people's faith are wrecked by hearing one debate, or reading one book by Dawkins, perhaps we as Christians need to do a better job of equipping ourselves with better knowledge and how we are seen by non-Christians . . . maybe we need to not fear the fact that the Biblical Canon has always had these questions and that even the Church fathers sought to understand the Scriptures through their own means and minds. If someone loses their Christian faith by reading a book by Bart Ehrman, is that Erhman's fault or is it our fault for convincing ourselves that the Bible fell down from the sky, or that the Church had a "golden age" that has since been lost, but oh it WAS perfect at one time? If a college kid is losing their faith because they read a book showing how one cannot "prove" the Resurrection of Jesus, is it the fault of the author, or is it our fault as Christians for telling ourselves things like "the Resurrection is the best attested event in the ancient world!"? (it's not, and such claims by some Apologists are a bit silly). But is there NO evidence for it? Of course not. However in the end, whatever evidence there is, or isn't it will come down to faith, trust and belief and dedication. Faith is not something in the mind; the mind is a part of it, we don't turn off our brains, we shouldn't, but faith is more than just history. Yet for me, critically studying the Bible has strengthened my faith. One person "loses" faith due to, another's faith is strenghtened . . . what if I had lost my faith because someone told me "Paul wrote Hebrews, if you don't believe it you're not a true Christian!" Well then, if that's the case then I have to leave the Church, right? Wrong. Not in Orthodoxy anyways.

First, let me write that there are some really wonderful statements, questions, and challenges in that.  It's crucial that faith can overcome critical writings and arguments. That said, I have known many people who have avoided or turned away from religion due to issues such as the ones Bart writes on.  Does this mean that they lacked faith or that their faith was fragile to begin with?  Undoubtedly so, but either way, I think we would agree that this is not good. 

We must have very different ideas of how tenuously Christianity seems to be hanging on in places.  While members of the religion are partially to blame for turning people away or not guiding them into the correct church, it is clear to me that critical scholarship has had a serious and detrimental impact on Christianity.  I'm truly glad that your faith is not challenged by people like Ehrman's writings, but this simply is not the case for many others, ol' Bart included.  Notice that he didn't transition from being a Literalist Protestant to a member of an Apostolic church with a more nuanced view of scripture and an increased role of tradition; he became an agnostic.  His ultimate argument isn't that scripture isn't infallible, but that Jesus was a failed Messianic Prophet, whose teachings are largely unknown and were later bastardized.  Again, if this isn't the argument of his books, then I suggest many of his biggest fans, and the countless Religious Studies departments who use his works, read them again, because that seems to be their impression.  He is more responsible than the Jesus Scholar hacks, but that's why I view him as far more dangerous.

I agree with your points on Biblical authorship and the inability to prove events such as the resurrection, but I also think that his overall message is further creating a barrier between people and Christianity. 
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Admittedly, I am not overly familiar with Craig, nor did I see the debate.  In certain situations I can understand your reaction, but not necessarily in this one.  Did I somehow misjudge this? 
Mr. Craig, IMO comes off in his debates as triumphalistic to a degree that simply annoys me that's all. Cheesy A fault of my own, I admit that, because I am a sinner, but hey, that's how I feel. Not a judgment against the man, I'd like to meet him, but he just rubs me the wrong way when he debates, that's all.
I understand what you mean.  Maybe I would feel better if there had been an Orthodox scholar on hand to allow Craig to take his beating, and then compellingly state the more tenable position of the Church.   Smiley
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« Reply #28 on: February 06, 2011, 08:15:06 AM »



Faith, then, is what we believe in upon a good basis. Going back to the Trinity, though the Trinity is a mystery to me (I cannot explain the how, nor can anyone else), by faith I accept that the teachings on the Trinity have to be true because other auxiliary doctrines associated with the Trinity are reasonable. I can't empirically prove this, nor can I prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt, but I can make it probable.

I see what you are saying. In one sense I agree, I'm not saying our faith in irrational or improbable, however it is a Mystery. The Trinity is a mystery. In my mind, the whole point of evening "defining" it (other than drawing a line so people know what NOT to believe) is to make us realize how small and insignificant we really are. What I mean is if someone claims "I understand the Trinity" they only understand the idol that they have created in their own minds. I believe it was St. Irenaeus who said he claims to understand God, only understands the idol he has fashioned in his own mind. I totally agree with that. When I hear theologians talk about "proving the Trinity" and saying it is "100% rational" it seems to me, to be missing the point altogether. That's why when I hear the New Atheists say "the trinity is ridiculous it makes no sense, who can even understand it" I'm like," Yeah, that's the point . . . you can't understand God if you think you can then it ain't God you're talking about."


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And that is what Bill and many others do, though I agree that they take it too far sometimes. You have to remember that even though they're Protestants, they've inherited a Thomistic scholasticism in their study of Christianity, so there's not a lot of room for mystery.

You're right that is what they're doing, but it just doesn't quite fit into the Eastern concept or Apophatic theology. I actually think St. Thomas Aquinas was much more into mystery than later interpreters and users of his works were, but he certainly did set people down the path of systematic scholasticism etc. I think it is useful of course, otherwise I wouldn't be into Biblical criticism, but I also try to balance it with the "theological shoulder shrug" of the East. (as an EO friend puts it) Sometimes the "mystery" thing is just a way of being lazy, but other times it really is the point to begin with, and was always seen that way.


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However, Bill generally argues for the probability (i.e. the Resurrection is the most probably explanation of what occurred).


No, I know what he trying to do. I guess I think there are other more successful methods and styles than his. I think the biggest nit pick as far details I have with him, is that he simply throws out as many "facts" as he possibly can in 20 minutes, giving his opponents no way to even begin to reply. I think a debate or dialogue or a discussion needs to be narrowed to a few topics, not just a laundry list of facts or ideas...see the giant Hindu thread for example.

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As you could probably guess, I'm not a big fan of Tillich,


Yeah I figured! Cheesy

I love Tillich though. Smiley

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but only because he goes in the opposite direction of scholasticism. We have those who want everything to be historically accurate, down to creation taking place in 6 days. But then we have those who mythologize every historical instance, such as the resurrection. With the Resurrection, it's both/and. In fact, Paul states quite emphatically that if the Resurrection did not take place in space and time then our faith is in vain; this would seemingly show us that the historicity of such an event is highly important. While we cannot prove the Resurrection occurred in any empirical sense, we can show that the Resurrection is the most probable explanation. But it takes faith to truly accept this with our entire being.

No, I pretty much agree actually. That is where I think Biblical criticism is the best tool for understanding parts of the Bible; some portions of the Bible were never intended to be taken literally, but later Christians started to take certain stories as historically factual. Luther's premise was to read the Bible as any other ancient document in history. The problem is the Bible isn't just history. It contains poetry, mythological imagery, history, ritual, morality tales, prophecy, etc. If we take it all at face value I believe the Bible becomes incoherent and ridiculous. The entire book of Joshua is how the Israelites conquered all of Canaan, but at the end of the book Joshua lists all the territories that have yet to be conquered and it's all of Canaan? huh? Something else is going on here. (even the Talmudic Rabbis noticed this)

NT Wright gives a good example of how we say "it's raining cats and dogs", and 3000 yrs from now someone may read that expression about us and think we were insane idiots for believing cats and dogs fall from the sky...uh it's just an expression. I think Biblical criticism has a keen and unmatched method for determining and recognizing this sort of stuff. It's not the spiritual meaning, necessarily (though it sometimes can be) but it helps to show that the Bible isn't just totally foolish either. That's where NT Wright excels in his work, even though I think he sometimes ignores evidence that doesn't fit his hypothesis.


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Little to NO reason? Seriously? You don't think Paul mentioning Macion's Antithesis is a reason that Paul probably didn't write it?

I don't find it a compelling argument because it ignores the history surrounding Marcion and other proto-Gnostics. Marcion didn't arise in a vacuum, but was dealing with arguments that had been around for a while. Furthermore, there are multiple passages of Scripture that offer preemptions to heresies, but we would hardly date those passages later simply because they hold a preemption.

The only explanation that I do find plausible would be the one that ascribes authorship to Polycarp, but even that tends to be spurious if one includes tradition (as I think one should).


Well, I didn't want to bring that up since I've been controversial enough, but since you did...LOL! I actually DO think Polycarp wrote the pastorals. I think it is not only plausible but rather compelling, given the striking similarities between the epistle of Polycarp and the Pastorals, the crypto-references to Marcion and Marcionism. The quote "there is ONE God and one mediator between God and man" quote, seems nonsensical if written by Paul, to a man who was raised Jewish...didn't he know there was only one God?  yes there are other explanations, but the simplest seems to me to be that it is a refutation of Marcion's 2 Gods theory...it also makes sense of the "All scripture" thing and a number of other references.

 It's certainly not definitive, but does it have to be? To me it makes the most sense out of the text as documents in history. This doesn't negate their spiritual truth in any way, nor does it mean these these are not Scripture. Paul almost certainly didn't write Hebrews, but it's Scripture too. The Church, guided by the Holy Spirit determined rightly what is and is not Canonical Scripture, authorship is a moot point in my mind. The Shepherd of Hermas was considered Scripture for a long time, and no one thought an Apostle wrote that, but eventually was put out of the Canon. We don't "really" know who wrote Revelation, but does it matter? Tradition ascribes it to John the Apostle, but is that big T tradition or small t traditions? Considering lots of Church fathers disagreed, and considering it's pointless to whether it is Scripture or not, I think it is small t tradition. Again I'm not saying it's impossible Paul wrote the Pastorals, it could be, but it's just not a "problem" either way in my mind.


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I had not considered that approach and you're right, such an approach does eliminate the problem (to a certain extent). The only problem is that I don't know of a single scholar who takes this view of higher criticism, but still looks upon the Bible as inspired. However, that's not necessarily an argument against their findings or interpretation...

Yes there are actually quite a few in fact. Raymond E Brown for starters. (though he has now passed away) Actually NT Wright doesn't think Paul wrote the pastorals and of course as an Anglo-Catholic he certainly thinks the Scriptures are inspired. If I'm not mistaken Dr. Jeannie Constantinou also takes a higher critical approach and still sees the Bible as inspired. John P Meir is another, definitely higher critical scholar who accepts Biblical inspiration. (notice all those I've mentioned are all members of the Apostolic Churches)

I do believe there have been a number of Evangelical scholars as well who for example rejected Pauline authorship of the Pastorals, but as Evangelicals still saw the Bible as inspired. (though their names I do not recall, I'll try and dig them up if I can) Thought this seems to have been more common a few decades ago in Evangelicalism. Of course no inerrantist is going to accept this, but inspiration and inerrency are not the same thing.


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A man was in a mental institution because he thought he was dead. One day, a nurse came up with an idea to prove to the man that he wasn't dead, but was in fact alive. She asked the man, "Do dead men bleed?" The man said, "Of course dead men don't bleed." So she quickly pricked his finger and sure enough, he started to bleed. The man looked shocked, and then quietly said, "I guess dead men do bleed."

The above example shows that even though there is evidence, it's the interpretation of the evidence that matters most.

Huh? The man isn't dead though. The evidence is against the man's assumption/belief that he is dead. The man's interpretation is just flat out wrong. I don't see how that story defends Christianity or Pauline authorship of a certain letter, or anything at all. An Atheist would (rightly) argue that all the man is doing is putting on blinders to all known evidence for the sake of his pressuppostions. He's making the evidence fit his world view, rather than adjusting his world view to fit the evidence. That's what I see people who insist St. Peter wrote 2nd Peter are doing; ignoring all evidence to contrary simply because they believe they must accept that Peter wrote that letter, or else they are somehow not a "real Christian". (I guess St. Jerome wasn't a real Christian in that case?)


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The same stands true when looking at the evidence in Scripture; we see that Paul has a different writing style in the pastoral epistles than he does in his other epistles. It is then the interpretation of the evidence that matters - you interpret the difference to mean there were two different authors while I interpret it to mean that he was writing for a different purpose, at a different time, to a different audience. The question then becomes which interpretation is more likely?

You're right, that's where we disagree and that's okay, we don't have to agree on this. I just don't like to be told that I must agree or else I'm not "Christian" enough that's all. (not that you did that, however I did feel it was implied by others)



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For me, I have always challenged myself to be open to the fact that I might be wrong; that if someone were to discover the body of Jesus and somehow prove that this was the Jesus in the Bible, I would have to cease being a Christian. I couldn't reinterpret the evidence or the Bible at that point. Such a position is admittedly risky, but I feel it is the more intellectually honest position to take.

That's how I feel as well.

Let me ask you a question, when you accept Pauline authorship of the Pastorals is it because you, as still a Protestant inquiring into Orthodoxy, feel you must accept that Paul wrote them, or because you are genuinely convinced by the evidence that Paul wrote them?

In the end I admit, I do not know who wrote them. And I am okay with not knowing. They are Scripture and it's enough for me. But as an academic and mental exercise I find Biblical criticism enlightening and illuminating, and not an enemy to our faith.  it only increases my understanding of Christ to know that John didn't "invent" Logos theology but borrowed it in large part from Philo of Alexandria (who got it from the Greeks) . . . it makes so much more sense to me than the belief that it all just feel from the sky as God dictated the Scriptures to the writers. Inspiration is not dictation as many of our Protestant brethren believe.



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« Reply #29 on: February 06, 2011, 08:33:18 AM »



My somewhat relevant tangent: I've spent my entire life not believing in the divinity of Jesus or the validity of Christianity in its various forms.  I was raised, along with most people I knew, "knowing" that Jesus was probably just a moral teacher and that the Bible was a hodgepodge of ahistorical events and man-made doctrines.  I'm doing my best to make up for that and largely reading from the other perspective now.  Along with gaining a better understanding of the faith, hopefully prayer and Orthodox services will help lead me to a full and meaningful conversion.


Thank you for sharing your personal perspective here. I understand where it is you're coming from better now, and I respect that view. I would say though, that I don't think you have to "make up" for your earlier views. You're a new creation in Christ, the old has passed away behold all things are become new.


 
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He is hardly "atheism's poster boy".
They, along with agnostics (academic and non-academics alike), certainly love to cite him, and they frequently view him as one of the last words in dismissing the validity of any organized forms of Christianity. 

I think that's because most of these people really don't understand Biblical scholarship at all. They pick and choose what they like from his work, they go quote mining when in reality Ehrman is not personally hostile to Christianity in any way. He has often said that he is agnostic, but not hostile to it, and certainly understands that Apostolic Churches tend not to have as big of a problem with higher criticism as Evangelicals do. Yes, some of the titles of his books are controversial, but that's for marketing purposes. I have read and own a number of his books; his text books are essentially the same thing taught in any credible seminary in the world who actually teach Church history etc. He is typically fair with the evidence and gives the consensus view and will often explain he is not anti-Christian or anti-religion. As you said though, one would never know this as some of the neo-atheists use him to support their arguments, but he is not an anti-religion writer. (he's only written one book that sort of deals with the problem of pain) he is a writer on the bible and textual criticism.

I think he gets a lot of flack for stuff he doesn't actually say.




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First, let me write that there are some really wonderful statements, questions, and challenges in that.  It's crucial that faith can overcome critical writings and arguments. That said, I have known many people who have avoided or turned away from religion due to issues such as the ones Bart writes on.  Does this mean that they lacked faith or that their faith was fragile to begin with?  Undoubtedly so, but either way, I think we would agree that this is not good. 

let me clarify one thing, I'm NOT saying that the people you're concerned with have a "weak" and fragile faith at all. What I mean is that if someone is struggling with their faith and loses it because of one book, then we, as their Christian brethren are at fault. I know of people who say "if evolution was true I'd become an atheist"...and I ask, "why?" I think it is because Christians fear doubt, of any sort. They are told "if you doubt you're not a "real Christian"...I don't buy it at all. Doubt is a part of faith as is shown by Mother Teresa's example. That's just the nature of faith and trust in God. David doubted God, as we read in the Psalms, but David was a man after God's own heart.

When I say people shouldn't lose faith over one book, it's not to challenge THEM, but to challenge us, in the Church to be more supportive and helpful when people do doubt this or that, and not to freak out and go "ew, you doubt you have cooties!" Cheesy




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  Notice that he didn't transition from being a Literalist Protestant to a member of an Apostolic church with a more nuanced view of scripture and an increased role of tradition; he became an agnostic.  His ultimate argument isn't that scripture isn't infallible, but that Jesus was a failed Messianic Prophet, whose teachings are largely unknown and were later bastardized.  Again, if this isn't the argument of his books, then I suggest many of his biggest fans, and the countless Religious Studies departments who use his works, read them again, because that seems to be their impression. 

No, that is not his argument, and they DO need to go re-read his books...LOL! His argument IS that the Scripture isn't infallible . . . that's pretty much it. Anything else people take away from it is because they want to take away something else from it. thats how I see it anyways, but as always, I could be wrong.



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« Reply #30 on: February 06, 2011, 05:33:59 PM »

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I see what you are saying. In one sense I agree, I'm not saying our faith in irrational or improbable, however it is a Mystery. The Trinity is a mystery. In my mind, the whole point of evening "defining" it (other than drawing a line so people know what NOT to believe) is to make us realize how small and insignificant we really are. What I mean is if someone claims "I understand the Trinity" they only understand the idol that they have created in their own minds. I believe it was St. Irenaeus who said he claims to understand God, only understands the idol he has fashioned in his own mind. I totally agree with that. When I hear theologians talk about "proving the Trinity" and saying it is "100% rational" it seems to me, to be missing the point altogether. That's why when I hear the New Atheists say "the trinity is ridiculous it makes no sense, who can even understand it" I'm like," Yeah, that's the point . . . you can't understand God if you think you can then it ain't God you're talking about."

I think their desire for a 100% rational system goes back to scholasticism. Now, on one hand, they are correct; everything within Christianity is 100% rational...to God. But we're not God, thus to us mysteries exist. And I'm big on the incomprehensibility of God, so much so that I adopt St. John Chrystostom's teaching that not only is God incomprehensible, He's unapproachable (meaning we couldn't understand He even existed unless He revealed Himself).

At the same time, I would argue that we can rationally explain what is meant by "Trinity," though such a concept can never be comprehended.

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No, I know what he trying to do. I guess I think there are other more successful methods and styles than his. I think the biggest nit pick as far details I have with him, is that he simply throws out as many "facts" as he possibly can in 20 minutes, giving his opponents no way to even begin to reply. I think a debate or dialogue or a discussion needs to be narrowed to a few topics, not just a laundry list of facts or ideas...see the giant Hindu thread for example

There is something to be said about a guy who's yet to lose an academic debate (when the audience decides). And he does use the same five arguments over and over, yet no one is prepared for them.

At the same time, I'm not a pragmatist. Sometimes to lose the debate will bring about the win, especially if it turns someone towards God. I think Bill has lost sight of this.

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No, I pretty much agree actually. That is where I think Biblical criticism is the best tool for understanding parts of the Bible; some portions of the Bible were never intended to be taken literally, but later Christians started to take certain stories as historically factual. Luther's premise was to read the Bible as any other ancient document in history. The problem is the Bible isn't just history. It contains poetry, mythological imagery, history, ritual, morality tales, prophecy, etc. If we take it all at face value I believe the Bible becomes incoherent and ridiculous. The entire book of Joshua is how the Israelites conquered all of Canaan, but at the end of the book Joshua lists all the territories that have yet to be conquered and it's all of Canaan? huh? Something else is going on here. (even the Talmudic Rabbis noticed this)

NT Wright gives a good example of how we say "it's raining cats and dogs", and 3000 yrs from now someone may read that expression about us and think we were insane idiots for believing cats and dogs fall from the sky...uh it's just an expression. I think Biblical criticism has a keen and unmatched method for determining and recognizing this sort of stuff. It's not the spiritual meaning, necessarily (though it sometimes can be) but it helps to show that the Bible isn't just totally foolish either. That's where NT Wright excels in his work, even though I think he sometimes ignores evidence that doesn't fit his hypothesis.

...technically speaking, what you're speaking about isn't Biblical criticism. That type of interpretation has been around since the beginning.

The Germanic biblical criticism tends to treat most of the Bible - particularly the miracles - as a myth or something that isn't provable. To me, that's hogwash. If the miracles actually happened, then they should be included in the historical explanation and study of the Bible.

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Well, I didn't want to bring that up since I've been controversial enough, but since you did...LOL! I actually DO think Polycarp wrote the pastorals. I think it is not only plausible but rather compelling, given the striking similarities between the epistle of Polycarp and the Pastorals, the crypto-references to Marcion and Marcionism. The quote "there is ONE God and one mediator between God and man" quote, seems nonsensical if written by Paul, to a man who was raised Jewish...didn't he know there was only one God?  yes there are other explanations, but the simplest seems to me to be that it is a refutation of Marcion's 2 Gods theory...it also makes sense of the "All scripture" thing and a number of other references.

Aside from Paul being the author, I believe this to be possible (ahead of all the other theories). At the same time, I'm simply not convinced by the evidence.

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Yes there are actually quite a few in fact. Raymond E Brown for starters. (though he has now passed away) Actually NT Wright doesn't think Paul wrote the pastorals and of course as an Anglo-Catholic he certainly thinks the Scriptures are inspired. If I'm not mistaken Dr. Jeannie Constantinou also takes a higher critical approach and still sees the Bible as inspired. John P Meir is another, definitely higher critical scholar who accepts Biblical inspiration. (notice all those I've mentioned are all members of the Apostolic Churches)

I do believe there have been a number of Evangelical scholars as well who for example rejected Pauline authorship of the Pastorals, but as Evangelicals still saw the Bible as inspired. (though their names I do not recall, I'll try and dig them up if I can) Thought this seems to have been more common a few decades ago in Evangelicalism. Of course no inerrantist is going to accept this, but inspiration and inerrency are not the same thing.

Well I stand corrected. Smiley

As I stated, this is far from my field of expertise and my knowledge in it only extends to most neo-orthodox writers, so I look at Biblical criticism in that context (such as a Jaspers vs Bultmann).

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Huh? The man isn't dead though. The evidence is against the man's assumption/belief that he is dead. The man's interpretation is just flat out wrong. I don't see how that story defends Christianity or Pauline authorship of a certain letter, or anything at all. An Atheist would (rightly) argue that all the man is doing is putting on blinders to all known evidence for the sake of his pressuppostions. He's making the evidence fit his world view, rather than adjusting his world view to fit the evidence. That's what I see people who insist St. Peter wrote 2nd Peter are doing; ignoring all evidence to contrary simply because they believe they must accept that Peter wrote that letter, or else they are somehow not a "real Christian". (I guess St. Jerome wasn't a real Christian in that case?)

The evidence is that the man's heart is beating, he is breathing, blood is pumping through his veins, etc. The interpretation is that the man is alive. But what if the man were on a machine that was making him do this? Would we then interpret the evidence to say he was alive? Again, evidence requires an interpretation - there isn't much I'd agree with Nietzsche or Derrida about, but this is one area where I do partially agree.

You say that he's making the evidence fit his worldview, but it is up to us to show how he is doing that. Likewise, with the issue of Biblical criticism we must do the same thing - we see that Paul's writing style is different in the pastoral epistles. This is hardly indisputable evidence that Paul didn't write them; rather, we interpret the evidence one way or another.

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You're right, that's where we disagree and that's okay, we don't have to agree on this. I just don't like to be told that I must agree or else I'm not "Christian" enough that's all. (not that you did that, however I did feel it was implied by others)

Understandable. For the record, I hardly think that believing Polycarp wrote the pastoral epistles puts your soul in danger of a horrendous eternity or damages your walk with God. It's just an interesting issue, and I do think that there's potential danger if you're adopting certain presuppositions in embracing biblical criticism, but I don't see that with you.

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Let me ask you a question, when you accept Pauline authorship of the Pastorals is it because you, as still a Protestant inquiring into Orthodoxy, feel you must accept that Paul wrote them, or because you are genuinely convinced by the evidence that Paul wrote them?

I have no obligation to say that Paul wrote the epistles, I just think that's the most probable explanation and I remained unconvinced by the other explanations.

« Last Edit: February 06, 2011, 05:34:25 PM by theo philosopher » Logged

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« Reply #31 on: February 07, 2011, 11:34:43 AM »


At the same time, I would argue that we can rationally explain what is meant by "Trinity," though such a concept can never be comprehended.


I guess I can see that. Not sure I'm still not sure I'm totally on board with the whole rationally explaining the Trinity, however I think I see what you're saying. (that's it's not irrational, like square circle?)


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There is something to be said about a guy who's yet to lose an academic debate (when the audience decides). And he does use the same five arguments over and over, yet no one is prepared for them.

At the same time, I'm not a pragmatist. Sometimes to lose the debate will bring about the win, especially if it turns someone towards God. I think Bill has lost sight of this.

Good points on both counts. I guess I'm more in line with the idea that "losing" a debate is sometimes more important because it shows we are firm enough in our faith to admit "we don't know" and to just say, I believe this by faith, not because it is provable beyond any reasonable doubt. I know people who doubt the Resurrection, or God's existence, as I have at times in my life, and I know non-Christians (people of other faiths) who just don't see the "proof" we people like Craig often claim. I've found that the most open dialogue is to admit, "I believe this because it is faith, not blind faith, but in the end it is faith". That's what I don't like about some apologists is that they are so darn certain they are right, that you should be convinced simply based on the fact THEY are convinced. At least how that's how they come off. Where as I think the best we can do is to lay down our reasons and let the Holy Spirit do the rest. Hope that makes sense.


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No, I pretty much agree actually. That is where I think Biblical criticism is the best tool for understanwe say "it's raining cats and dogs", and 3000 yrs from now someone may read that expression about us and think we were insane idiots for believing cats and dogs fall from the sky...uh it's just an expression. I think Biblical criticism has a keen and unmatched method for determining and recognizing this sort of stuff. It's not the spiritual meaning, necessarily (though it sometimes can be) but it helps to show that the Bible isn't just totally foolish either. That's where NT Wright excels in his work, even though I think he sometimes ignores evidence that doesn't fit his hypothesis.

...technically speaking, what you're speaking about isn't Biblical criticism. That type of interpretation has been around since the beginning. [/quote]

But it still falls in the field of the critical historical method. We don't just accept everything at it's "plain sense" meaning because it might have meant something radically different 1000 years ago, or 3000 years ago. You're right, it has been around since the beginning which is why I personally do not feel threatened, or that critical study of the Bible threatens our faith at all. It has been around, but really was forgotten for much of Christian history. (as far as I can tell) What the modern critical study of the Bible has done different though is to take away the miraculous. This is done because if we accept miracles, which ones do we accept? Do we accept the miracle of Julius Caesar being born of a virgin? etc. This is the critical historian's argument anyway.


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The Germanic biblical criticism tends to treat most of the Bible - particularly the miracles - as a myth or something that isn't provable. To me, that's hogwash. If the miracles actually happened, then they should be included in the historical explanation and study of the Bible.

Can you prove a miracle though? I dunno. Even with miracles that happen today, can we "prove" it was a miracle? I mean to those who do not accept miracles? I don't know. I'm skeptical of a lot of "miracles" I read about (weeping/bleeding/blinking icons etc, monks conjuring Greek pastries out of thin air, etc) I DO believe miracles can and do happen, but if we can "prove" it scientifically, would people still see it as a "miracle"? What is a miracle anyways? What's the definition of a miracle?  Part of me wants to say that if we "prove" a miracle we're sort of reducing the thing to the realm of mundane and every day. How would we go about proving Jesus walked on water? I don't know . . . I guess I'm just not interested in proving it because the miracle is a sign that points to something much deeper than just Jesus being a superman who can control nature.

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Well, I didn't want to bring that up since I've been controversial enough, but since you did...LOL! I actually DO think Polycarp wrote the pastorals. I think it is not only plausible but rather compelling, given the striking similarities between the epistle of Polycarp and the Pastorals, the crypto-references to Marcion and Marcionism. The quote "there is ONE God and one mediator between God and man" quote, seems nonsensical if written by Paul, to a man who was raised Jewish...didn't he know there was only one God?  yes there are other explanations, but the simplest seems to me to be that it is a refutation of Marcion's 2 Gods theory...it also makes sense of the "All scripture" thing and a number of other references.

Aside from Paul being the author, I believe this to be possible (ahead of all the other theories). At the same time, I'm simply not convinced by the evidence.

Fair enough. I'm not "convinced" by either one, I think the Polycarp theory is pretty sound, but it's not convincing....I say I just don't know. I lean towards it, but in the end it's Scripture and so it's just not a concern one way or the other. We'll just have to agree to disagree!


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You say that he's making the evidence fit his worldview, but it is up to us to show how he is doing that.

But would we even bother to try and convince a mentally insane individual of this? What I mean is if we could take a flat earther into space, and prove to them the world is round, and they STILL denied it's round but it is in fact flat, is the evidence being misinterpreted or is the guy simply insane? Would we even bother to argue with someone about that at that point? To me, some evidence simply speak for itself, and the evidence proves something is true or false whether anyone believes it or not. Truth isn't determined by opinions, it just is.

Certainly with the Bible and critical scholarship things aren't nearly as clear as the world being round, but nothing in history is . . . again it comes down to what's most probable. The example of the bleeding man just doesn't fit because that is a test that can repeated over and ever, history happens once and that's it.



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Let me ask you a question, when you accept Pauline authorship of the Pastorals is it because you, as still a Protestant inquiring into Orthodoxy, feel you must accept that Paul wrote them, or because you are genuinely convinced by the evidence that Paul wrote them?

I have no obligation to say that Paul wrote the epistles, I just think that's the most probable explanation and I remained unconvinced by the other explanations.



Again, fair enough. As you said, I just find these very interesting and fascinating issues. As an Orthodox Christian I know the Bible is a product of the Church, written by men within the Church all for various reasons and to different communities with different problems and I simply like to piece together why such and such thing was written, to whom, when, and piece together all these different issues. I think the critical method does a pretty good job of shedding light on such issues, and that's why I'm interested in it and have studied this stuff for year. I realize not everyone is interested in it, or even cares . . . that's fine too. Everyone's spiritual journey and spiritual walk is different, this is a part of mine and I'm certainly not trying to force it upon anyone else. Just enjoy the dialogue and learning experience of seeing other folks views. You've given me some interesting things to think on and I'm glad for that. If only all "debates" could go this well . . . .


NP

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« Reply #32 on: February 07, 2011, 01:17:17 PM »

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I guess I can see that. Not sure I'm still not sure I'm totally on board with the whole rationally explaining the Trinity, however I think I see what you're saying. (that's it's not irrational, like square circle?)

That's exactly what I'm saying. One way I've described Christian doctrine is that often times we are left with explaining three things:

1) A belief is not self-contradictory or in contradiction to another belief
2) We explain the "what"
3) We explain the "why"

Very, very, very rarely can we explain the "how," and when it comes to God's interactions or God's nature, we can never explain the how. That is where scholasticism fails is that it often times attempts to explain the how. Look at the Incarnation:

"What" is the Incarnation? It is Jesus Christ having both a Divine nature and human nature. "Why" the Incarnation? For the salvation of humanity. Can I show the Incarnation to be non-contradictory? Yes. "How" did the Incarnation occur? I don't know.

So when we look to the Trinity, essentially the only thing we can do is explain that the Trinity is not contradictory and that should God be absolutely loving, a Trinitarian concept is a necessary belief (Swinburn offers possibly the best explanation on this issue that I've ever seen). Beyond that, however, there's not much we can say - and even in our aforementioned explanations, we're still approaching the issue apophatically.

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Good points on both counts. I guess I'm more in line with the idea that "losing" a debate is sometimes more important because it shows we are firm enough in our faith to admit "we don't know" and to just say, I believe this by faith, not because it is provable beyond any reasonable doubt. I know people who doubt the Resurrection, or God's existence, as I have at times in my life, and I know non-Christians (people of other faiths) who just don't see the "proof" we people like Craig often claim. I've found that the most open dialogue is to admit, "I believe this because it is faith, not blind faith, but in the end it is faith". That's what I don't like about some apologists is that they are so darn certain they are right, that you should be convinced simply based on the fact THEY are convinced. At least how that's how they come off. Where as I think the best we can do is to lay down our reasons and let the Holy Spirit do the rest. Hope that makes sense.

That makes perfect sense and that was actually Francis Schaeffer's approach to apologetics, which is why I wish more Protestant apologists (and Roman Catholic apologists) would follow in his footsteps. Rather than laying down facts (which he did do), he applied it personally to the person's life, showing them through their personal lives how God existed. I believe that to be a far superior way, but certainly not conducive in an academic debate.

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But it still falls in the field of the critical historical method. We don't just accept everything at it's "plain sense" meaning because it might have meant something radically different 1000 years ago, or 3000 years ago. You're right, it has been around since the beginning which is why I personally do not feel threatened, or that critical study of the Bible threatens our faith at all. It has been around, but really was forgotten for much of Christian history. (as far as I can tell) What the modern critical study of the Bible has done different though is to take away the miraculous. This is done because if we accept miracles, which ones do we accept? Do we accept the miracle of Julius Caesar being born of a virgin? etc. This is the critical historian's argument anyway.

Right, and I can see the value in having a strict hermeneutic that would allow us to determine the probability of miracles in the Bible vs miracle claims in other works of history. At the same time, this is also why we have to be careful.

The biggest complaint I have against such a critical method is it ignores tradition, as though the earliest members of the Church were too ignorant to get anything right and we in the 21st century have to make the corrections for them.
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Can you prove a miracle though? I dunno. Even with miracles that happen today, can we "prove" it was a miracle? I mean to those who do not accept miracles? I don't know. I'm skeptical of a lot of "miracles" I read about (weeping/bleeding/blinking icons etc, monks conjuring Greek pastries out of thin air, etc) I DO believe miracles can and do happen, but if we can "prove" it scientifically, would people still see it as a "miracle"? What is a miracle anyways? What's the definition of a miracle?  Part of me wants to say that if we "prove" a miracle we're sort of reducing the thing to the realm of mundane and every day. How would we go about proving Jesus walked on water? I don't know . . . I guess I'm just not interested in proving it because the miracle is a sign that points to something much deeper than just Jesus being a superman who can control nature.

I would say we can prove a miracle, but we don't always have to appeal to science in order to prove something. That borders on a Humean explanation of miracles, which has been outright rejected by even atheists. Not saying you're adopting it, just that it sounds eerily close.

The reason it has been rejected is that it would force us to reject anything in history because it can't be "proved" scientifically. Did Alexander the Great actually exist, or was he a mythical figure invented by Greek invaders to justify their expansionism? Scientifically we can't prove he did exist - what we have are texts. We can't point to the statues, because there are statues of Zeus, Aphrodite, etc. Just as they were conjured up, so too could Alexander the Great be conjured up.

Instead, based on everything we know about the evidence we have, there's an absurdly high probability that Alexander the Great actually existed. Likewise with miracle claims, we can examine everything surrounding the claim and determine if it's probable or not. Thus, the "proof" speaks in terms of probability - in fact, that's what "proof" means in almost every situation. Even in science when we "prove" something we're simply saying, "This is the most likely explanation."

This doesn't take away from the miracle at all, because what we're seeking to prove can't be repeated. We're simply deducing the authenticity of the miracle claim. So while you might be skeptical of some miracle claims (as am I), there are instances where we can say that a miracle is probable.

An example I like to use is that of my cousin's husband and that of a good friend of mine. My cousin's husband has built his entire "ministry" on producing miracles. So when he says that he touched someone's broken leg and the person was healed, I'm skeptical. When I ask, "Can I meet this person" his response is, "Even if you did you wouldn't believe, so no." My friend, on the other hand, has opened four orphanages in Sudan and doesn't go around claiming miracles. But he did admit to me one day that he watched a little boy die and raise back to life as though nothing had happened. He said this served as a sign from the local village that he and the man he was with were speaking of the true God. My friend is educated, doesn't claim miracles, and openly admits that he has no explanation for what he saw, and hasn't laid claim to any other miracles. He has said that if I ever go over to Africa with him, he'll take me to meet the boy and the villagers (and there's a good chance that I'll take him up on that offer).

In those two situations, I am justified in being skeptical in the first instance. In the second instance, though I certainly have a hard time believing the miracle occurred, I have no legitimate reason to doubt it unless I turn to naturalism (which as a Christian I cannot do). I would contend the same standard, or a similar standard, can be applied to Scripture and other texts on miracles. Admittedly this is not easy, because it's hard for those of us in the West to embrace miracles, but I do think it's the correct approach.

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Fair enough. I'm not "convinced" by either one, I think the Polycarp theory is pretty sound, but it's not convincing....I say I just don't know. I lean towards it, but in the end it's Scripture and so it's just not a concern one way or the other. We'll just have to agree to disagree!

I think that's a fair view to have - "no matter what, this is Scripture so the author is irrelevant to me."

But we will probably continue to agree to disagree on the authorship. Smiley
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But would we even bother to try and convince a mentally insane individual of this? What I mean is if we could take a flat earther into space, and prove to them the world is round, and they STILL denied it's round but it is in fact flat, is the evidence being misinterpreted or is the guy simply insane? Would we even bother to argue with someone about that at that point? To me, some evidence simply speak for itself, and the evidence proves something is true or false whether anyone believes it or not. Truth isn't determined by opinions, it just is.

Certainly with the Bible and critical scholarship things aren't nearly as clear as the world being round, but nothing in history is . . . again it comes down to what's most probable. The example of the bleeding man just doesn't fit because that is a test that can repeated over and ever, history happens once and that's it.

We're all a little insane. After all, we have this world around us that stands as perfect evidence for the existence of God, but we deny that either intellectually or by our lives. Are we to say that atheists are insane for denying the existence of God, or to call God a liar for saying that creation stands as a testament to His glory? Neither alternative seems palatable to me. Smiley

I would argue that if we took a flat-earther into space and he still denied the earth was round, I'd ask him why. Why does he believe that? Once his presuppositions were put forth, I'd go after his presuppositions.

In Christian apologetics we should do the same thing (which is why I'm not big on the evidential approach), but in the end there must be a calling and movement of the Holy Spirit and a response by the person. Admittedly there are some things in Christianity that, though rational (or at least not irrational), cannot be believed absent of the revelation of the Spirit. This doesn't mean we can't offer sound arguments for believing in such things, just that those arguments alone won't convince people (unless, of course, the Spirit has been working on the person and the person is responding).

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Again, fair enough. As you said, I just find these very interesting and fascinating issues. As an Orthodox Christian I know the Bible is a product of the Church, written by men within the Church all for various reasons and to different communities with different problems and I simply like to piece together why such and such thing was written, to whom, when, and piece together all these different issues. I think the critical method does a pretty good job of shedding light on such issues, and that's why I'm interested in it and have studied this stuff for year. I realize not everyone is interested in it, or even cares . . . that's fine too. Everyone's spiritual journey and spiritual walk is different, this is a part of mine and I'm certainly not trying to force it upon anyone else. Just enjoy the dialogue and learning experience of seeing other folks views. You've given me some interesting things to think on and I'm glad for that. If only all "debates" could go this well . . . .

I've enjoyed the discussion and have learned a lot from it. If more debates went this way, the world would probably be a better place - though I'm sure there are times where being stubborn and obstinate are appropriate. Smiley
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« Reply #33 on: February 07, 2011, 06:08:43 PM »

I haven't read historical Jesus stuff in a long time and I suppose my personal position might be a lot closer to Johnson's than to Wright's. The characterization of the latter as an Anglo-Catholic, however, is inaccurate.
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« Reply #34 on: February 07, 2011, 08:20:03 PM »

Thank you for sharing your personal perspective here. I understand where it is you're coming from better now, and I respect that view. I would say though, that I don't think you have to "make up" for your earlier views. You're a new creation in Christ, the old has passed away behold all things are become new.

You are most welcome and thank you for your view.  By using "make up," I didn't mean to imply atonement, but rather learning about the religion from its adherents.
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He is hardly "atheism's poster boy".
They, along with agnostics (academic and non-academics alike), certainly love to cite him, and they frequently view him as one of the last words in dismissing the validity of any organized forms of Christianity.

I think that's because most of these people really don't understand Biblical scholarship at all. They pick and choose what they like from his work, they go quote mining when in reality Ehrman is not personally hostile to Christianity in any way. He has often said that he is agnostic, but not hostile to it, and certainly understands that Apostolic Churches tend not to have as big of a problem with higher criticism as Evangelicals do. Yes, some of the titles of his books are controversial, but that's for marketing purposes. I have read and own a number of his books; his text books are essentially the same thing taught in any credible seminary in the world who actually teach Church history etc. He is typically fair with the evidence and gives the consensus view and will often explain he is not anti-Christian or anti-religion. As you said though, one would never know this as some of the neo-atheists use him to support their arguments, but he is not an anti-religion writer. (he's only written one book that sort of deals with the problem of pain) he is a writer on the bible and textual criticism.

To the first statement in bold: Why do you say that? Because he claims not to be anti-religion or anti-Christian?  The influence of his work, much of his intended audience, etc., would indicate otherwise.  
These aren't just issues of authorship and discrepancies; he's challenging whether Jesus was believed to be divine and whether any reliable teachings of his can be found.  I respect that you've read his works in full, but I've seen interviews with him where he's clearly stated this point (see below).  

In my opinion, Literalism is a huge problem within Christianity, but so is the idea of Christ as the great moral, human, teacher, e.g. Gandhi from 2,000 years ago, that C.S. Lewis and others refer to.  I think Ehrman's works feed directly into this by causing further doubt about Jesus as divine.  He argues that John is the only Gospel that claims Jesus is divine.  

He doesn't just believe scripture isn't infallible, he believes it was manipulated, revised, misinterpreted, made up, etc., to the point where it is no longer reliable, if it ever was, hence why he no longer follows it.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3N4ymHO-eA at 28:30. Of course he can't say "I think Christianity is dumb and all scripture is crap" because he's trying to maintain his "scholarly" reputation.  Despite this, he seems to imply this belief.  

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I think he gets a lot of flack for stuff he doesn't actually say.

I can't verify whether he actually wrote or said these, but they are attributed to him:
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“Given the circumstance that (God) didn't preserve the words, the conclusion seemed inescapable to me that he hadn't gone to the trouble of inspiring them.”

He repeats this assertion in this video at about 18:15 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Trt1ZWR5PqQ

“I just began to lose it. It wasn't for lack of trying. But I just couldn't believe there was a God in charge of this mess.”

“The idea in this gospel is that Jesus, like all of us, is a trapped spirit, who is trapped in a material body. And salvation comes when we escape the materiality of our existence, and Judas is the one who makes it possible for him to escape by allowing for his body to be killed.”
Found at: http://thinkexist.com/quotes/bart_ehrman/   &  http://www.quotesdaddy.com/author/Bart+Ehrman

These quotes seem well in-line with things he's said in lectures, interviews, and from the limited reading I've done.

Additionally, a somewhat ellipsis filled quote from Jesus, Interrupted, as reported by... debunkingChristianity.blog.something (http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2009/04/bart-d-ehrman-quote-on-historian-and.html) Yes, probably more hacks cherry picking quotes, but they seem to find plenty of goodies in his works.
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Why was the tomb supposedly empty? I say supposedly because, frankly, I don't know that it was. Our very first reference to Jesus' tomb being empty is in the Gospel of Mark, written forty years later by someone living in a different country who had heard it was empty. How would he know?...Suppose...that Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea...and then a couple of Jesus' followers, not among the twelve, decided that night to move the body somewhere more appropriate...But a couple of Roman legionnaires are passing by, and catch these followers carrying the shrouded corpse through the streets. They suspect foul play and confront the followers, who pull their swords as the disciples did in Gethsemane. The soldiers, expert in swordplay, kill them on the spot. They now have three bodies, and no idea where the first one came from. Not knowing what to do with them, they commandeer a cart and take the corpses out to Gehenna, outside town, and dump them. Within three or four days the bodies have deteriorated beyond recognition. Jesus' original tomb is empty, and no one seems to know why.

Is this scenario likely? Not at all. Am I proposing this is what really happened? Absolutely not. Is it more probable that something like this happened than that a miracle happened and Jesus left the tomb to ascend to heaven? Absolutely! From a purely historical point of view, a highly unlikely event is far more probable than a virtually impossible one..." [See pages 171-179]

I'm not sure how accurate this quote from his book is, but it appears neither scholarly nor responsible.  If this is accurate, it really isn't Biblical scholarship, but rather a cheap narrative designed to make people realize (or confirm) how ridiculously silly giving credence to scripture is.  

I understand that his point in this section is to argue that historical proofs of miracles are not proven by scripture.  At the same time, quotes of authorship including "written forty years later by someone living in a different country who had heard it was empty. How would he know?" isn't exactly subtle.  It shows, again in not particularly "scholarly" terminology, how unreliable any of these accounts are.  Great.

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When I say people shouldn't lose faith over one book, it's not to challenge THEM, but to challenge us, in the Church to be more supportive and helpful when people do doubt this or that, and not to freak out and go "ew, you doubt you have cooties!" Cheesy

I really like this point and agree.
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Notice that he didn't transition from being a Literalist Protestant to a member of an Apostolic church with a more nuanced view of scripture and an increased role of tradition; he became an agnostic.  His ultimate argument isn't that scripture isn't infallible, but that Jesus was a failed Messianic Prophet, whose teachings are largely unknown and were later bastardized.  Again, if this isn't the argument of his books, then I suggest many of his biggest fans, and the countless Religious Studies departments who use his works, read them again, because that seems to be their impression.
No, that is not his argument, and they DO need to go re-read his books...LOL! His argument IS that the Scripture isn't infallible . . . that's pretty much it. Anything else people take away from it is because they want to take away something else from it. thats how I see it anyways, but as always, I could be wrong.

Maybe Bart needs to re-read his books too, because pitches he makes for his books indicate that he must have misunderstood his argument as well.  Check out his Colbert Report appearance, for one.  http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/224128/april-09-2009/bart-ehrman

While I persist, I have to admit that I'm somewhat uncomfortable launching this attack on Bart, because I am not in a good position to do so.  Not having read his works in full places me in a ridiculous position for debate.  I have, however, frequently seen the negative consequences of his work.  I may overstate how harmful he has been, but I think that you may underestimate his influence and the subsequent results.  If he was just another Biblical scholar, he wouldn't have repeatedly made the NYT Bestseller's list.  He has quite transparently placed himself in a lucrative niche that has very little to do with objective scholarship.      
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« Reply #35 on: February 08, 2011, 04:51:00 AM »


Also, as an aside, the Ehrman/Craig debate...I've never met anyone who thought Ehrman even came close to 'winning' the debate. I'm friends with many academic atheists and every single one of those who saw the debate thought that Craig wiped the floor with him. Of course it's all opinion, but like I said, I've never met anyone who actually thought Ehrman did a good job. Likewise, I agree with Cognomen's question; a denial of the physical resurrection of Christ in space and time is not only heresy, it rips apart any reason for being a Christian. It's one thing to say there's no evidence for the Resurrection (which is spurious), it's entirely another to say the evidence shows it did not happen, but you simply accept it by some blind act.

I think the only time Craig lost is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMxTghJQxEc

Not really a debate, but he dodges the questions.
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« Reply #36 on: February 08, 2011, 07:51:07 AM »

Bart Ehrman has gone off the rails, and every serious scholar knows it, and plenty of them will say so in public.
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« Reply #37 on: February 08, 2011, 09:36:04 AM »

I haven't read historical Jesus stuff in a long time and I suppose my personal position might be a lot closer to Johnson's than to Wright's. The characterization of the latter as an Anglo-Catholic, however, is inaccurate.



Really? How would you classify NT Wright then? He was the Bishop of Durham. Isn't that one of the most "high Church" Churches in Anglicanism? I've listened to several dozen of his lectures, he seems more Catholic-Orthodox at times than he does Anglican. Why do you feel that he should not be considered an Anglo-Catholic? Other than his Ecumenical outlook I can't see how he could not be classified as such. Maybe I'm just using the term differently, or perhaps incorrectly. (I'm thinking more Liturgically speaking he's Anglo-Catholic as opposed to theologically if that makes any difference, since I'm not that familiar with Anglo-Catholic theology)

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« Reply #38 on: February 08, 2011, 10:16:03 AM »



He doesn't just believe scripture isn't infallible, he believes it was manipulated, revised, misinterpreted, made up, etc.,

The textual evidence is perfectly clear, the Scriptures have been revised. He doesn't "believe" this, it simply is a fact. Our own lectionary texts do not even match. These are simply facts one cannot ignore. All he does is point these variations out.

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to the point where it is no longer reliable, if it ever was, hence why he no longer follows it.

Maybe that's the problem; he was "following it" (ie the Bible). We do not follow the Bible, we follow Christ. Every Bible on earth could vanish tomorrow, I would still be an Orthodox Christian because the text points to him, not him to the text.


As for his deconversion, actually he has addressed why he no longer believes, on dozens of programs, he remained a Christian for 15+ years even after becoming a critical scholar what pushed him to non belief was "the problem of evil", not the Bible. See his book "God's problem" for him addressing this issue in length. Now you can just say you don't believe him, but that's a  different issue altogether.




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“The idea in this gospel is that Jesus, like all of us, is a trapped spirit, who is trapped in a material body. And salvation comes when we escape the materiality of our existence, and Judas is the one who makes it possible for him to escape by allowing for his body to be killed.”
Found at: http://thinkexist.com/quotes/bart_ehrman/   &  http://www.quotesdaddy.com/author/Bart+Ehrman


That sounds like what every scholar says about the Gnostic Gospels. What's the problem? That IS what the Gnostic Gospels teach. It appears he is addressing the Gospel of Judas, which he believes is a VERY late work. This is a problem for Christianity, how? You certainly don't think the Gospel of Judas is Orthodox, do you? Of course not. It is possible for a person to say "such and such believes/teaches this" and actually not believe it themselves. If I say "the Gospel of Thomas says this" that doesn't mean anything more than I'm saying what it says. It doesn't mean I believe it or am pushing for other to believe it.




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While I persist, I have to admit that I'm somewhat uncomfortable launching this attack on Bart, because I am not in a good position to do so.  Not having read his works in full places me in a ridiculous position for debate.  I have, however, frequently seen the negative consequences of his work.  I may overstate how harmful he has been, but I think that you may underestimate his influence and the subsequent results.

I know what you're saying, yes someone I'm sure has lost their faith due to this stuff.  I don't think he is to blame though, he's just a scholar. Don't shoot the messenger as they say.  Yes a popularizer but what's wrong with that? NT Wright is also a popularizer for conservative, yet still critical scholarship, I just don't see the problem.

I know some Creationists lose their faith when they find out the earth is NOT 6000 years old, does that mean the guy who taught them science is to be blamed for that? I don't think so. I'm sure people lost faith when we rediscovered the earth was round, and not flat...I am SURE this shook people's faith to it's very core, does that mean we should teach the earth is round? Or that the sun goes around us just to protect people's faith? I realize some of Ehrman's work is shocking, but it's not inaccurate. Maybe some of his interpretations could be inaccurate, and I think they are, but I don't think people have issue with his interpretation they have issue with him pointing out that the Gospels don't match, and he puts these differences side by side, and Christians seem ill prepared to deal with this because they've been taught the Bible is infallible, perfect and contains no errors. After all no one is forcing anyone to buy his books, or listen to him on radio shows, or listen to his lectures.

 If someone begins to doubt because of his work, so what? I don't think doubt is this evil enemy that we must constantly fight against else we "fall away". Doubt is a part of faith, not in contradiction to it. It's okay to doubt, it's okay to question, God is not afraid our doubts, even if we are. That's why people lose faith, not because of Ehrman, or Crossan but because they've been taught doubt is our greatest enemy, if you doubt you cannot have faith  and doubt cannot be part of a life of faith. I don't buy that for one second. Yes I could be wrong. That's just how I see it.



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« Reply #39 on: February 08, 2011, 10:39:49 AM »

NorthernPines,

There are tons of conservative to moderate scholars that teach pauline authorship of those books. Just because they are not liberal doesn't mean they aren't scholars. I personally know of a New Testament professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (a Presbyterian USA seminary)  who believes in Pauline authorship(yes she is a scholar and she writes books), and she's not the only one. There are conservative Presbyterians at Westminster Seminary over in Philly and California that advocate Pauline Authorship.

I can go on and on and on. The liberal/modernist think tanks of spiritual death aren't the only think tanks around.
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« Reply #40 on: February 08, 2011, 10:48:52 AM »

I think everyone should check this out:
http://ehrmanproject.com/ (The Ehrman Project)

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« Reply #41 on: February 08, 2011, 11:39:18 AM »

I haven't read historical Jesus stuff in a long time and I suppose my personal position might be a lot closer to Johnson's than to Wright's. The characterization of the latter as an Anglo-Catholic, however, is inaccurate.

Really? How would you classify NT Wright then? He was the Bishop of Durham. Isn't that one of the most "high Church" Churches in Anglicanism? I've listened to several dozen of his lectures, he seems more Catholic-Orthodox at times than he does Anglican. Why do you feel that he should not be considered an Anglo-Catholic? Other than his Ecumenical outlook I can't see how he could not be classified as such. Maybe I'm just using the term differently, or perhaps incorrectly. (I'm thinking more Liturgically speaking he's Anglo-Catholic as opposed to theologically if that makes any difference, since I'm not that familiar with Anglo-Catholic theology)

Wright is generally characterized as an evangelical, but you have to understand that in Anglicanism this means something quite different from American evangelical Protestantism. And perhaps things have changed at Durham, but this schedule of services is decidedly not Anglo-Catholic.
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« Reply #42 on: February 08, 2011, 11:51:01 AM »

NorthernPines,

There are tons of conservative to moderate scholars that teach pauline authorship of those books. Just because they are not liberal doesn't mean they aren't scholars. I personally know of a New Testament professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (a Presbyterian USA seminary)  who believes in Pauline authorship(yes she is a scholar and she writes books), and she's not the only one. There are conservative Presbyterians at Westminster Seminary over in Philly and California that advocate Pauline Authorship.

I can go on and on and on. The liberal/modernist think tanks of spiritual death aren't the only think tanks around.

As I said before, I already stand corrected (see above) on this issue. I see no reason to apologize again for my previous close mindedness.
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« Reply #43 on: February 08, 2011, 12:07:21 PM »


Wright is generally characterized as an evangelical, but you have to understand that in Anglicanism this means something quite different from American evangelical Protestantism. And perhaps things have changed at Durham, but this schedule of services is decidedly not Anglo-Catholic.

Interesting. I guess I just don't know enough about Anglicanism and it's various traditions because those services look pretty "Catholic" to me. I see Matins, Evensong, Book of Common prayer and think "High Church" am I wrong? In America most Churches doing Matins would likely been seen as high Church, from American standards anyways. (I mean there aren't many baptists doing Matins on a daily basis) heck lots of Orthodox Churches don't do Matins even on Sundays. Am I equating high Church and Anglo-Catholics when in fact those are 2 distinctly different things? I don't  think I'm using the term correctly. Maybe I should just say he has High Church tendencies, (like the Sarum rite) and not particularly inclined to Latin style worship.

 I just recall him saying in plenty of lectures that he preferred high Church Liturgy in line with historic Christian Liturgical rites. He was open to having more modern styled services for younger people but as way of opening the richer tradition to them, and he thought they were not really in line with traditional and historic Christian Liturgy, but understood why Anglicanism feels compelled to use them even though he thought the Church should strive for more traditional worship.
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« Reply #44 on: February 08, 2011, 12:19:03 PM »

NorthernPines,

This parish would be an example of Anglo-Catholicism:
http://www.gracepgh.org/ (grace church)

I was a member there from 2002/2003 to about 2006. Their services is different from the other high church Episcopal parishes. Anglo-Catholicism is the highest of the high. Some would like to separate them from the high church category. But there is a difference.

When I was there they sang everything, and they actually had vestments and more Icons on the walls. They also had incense, and they bowed alot.....etc. Also, from the days I was there, we had a visiting rector from Maryland. An African American guy, he could of been there for a year or so. But I remember him saying that the book of common prayer was the bare minimum. They wanted more.

I don't know how things are now with the new rector. I left shortly after he was there.

But thanks to them I was able to shake alot of things from my Baptist years. I was able to get over the Icon issue and many other things as well.

« Last Edit: February 08, 2011, 12:37:01 PM by jnorm888 » Logged

"loving one's enemies does not mean loving wickedness, ungodliness, adultery, or theft. Rather, it means loving the theif, the ungodly, and the adulterer." Clement of Alexandria 195 A.D.

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« Reply #45 on: February 08, 2011, 12:43:28 PM »

NorthernPines,

There are tons of conservative to moderate scholars that teach pauline authorship of those books. Just because they are not liberal doesn't mean they aren't scholars. I personally know of a New Testament professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (a Presbyterian USA seminary)  who believes in Pauline authorship(yes she is a scholar and she writes books), and she's not the only one. There are conservative Presbyterians at Westminster Seminary over in Philly and California that advocate Pauline Authorship.

I can go on and on and on. The liberal/modernist think tanks of spiritual death aren't the only think tanks around.

As I said before, I already stand corrected (see above) on this issue. I see no reason to apologize again for my previous close mindedness.

Sorry, I should of read the other interactions before posting. Please forgive me!
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"loving one's enemies does not mean loving wickedness, ungodliness, adultery, or theft. Rather, it means loving the theif, the ungodly, and the adulterer." Clement of Alexandria 195 A.D.

http://ancientchristiandefender.blogspot.com/
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« Reply #46 on: February 08, 2011, 02:16:21 PM »

I am very, very high, but I am thus also very much a "by the book" man. Typically an Anglo-Catholic will use a non-BCP liturgy such as the Anglican Missal, incorporating elements of the Sarum or Tridentine mass as translated into English. In older days one would also see differences in liturgical praxis, but with what I call "upward drift" this is increasingly difficult to distinguish. Use of a fiddleback chasuble, however, is a near-certain sign of an A-C service (a high churchman would wear a Gothic cut with orphreys, which a broad/central churchman would also wear a Gothic chasuble but without the full set of orphreys, and a low churchman and some evangelicals would wear a surplice and stole).

Anglo-Catholic theology, obviously, takes its theological cues from Rome from the most part, though there are obviously going to be differences over ecclesiology. High and broad churchmen are going to look too the Carolines, with the broad group also heavily influenced by continental modernist theology as well. The evangelical party are much more inclined to argue straight from scripture.
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« Reply #47 on: February 09, 2011, 03:22:13 PM »

NorthernPines,

There are tons of conservative to moderate scholars that teach pauline authorship of those books. Just because they are not liberal doesn't mean they aren't scholars. I personally know of a New Testament professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (a Presbyterian USA seminary)  who believes in Pauline authorship(yes she is a scholar and she writes books), and she's not the only one. There are conservative Presbyterians at Westminster Seminary over in Philly and California that advocate Pauline Authorship.

I can go on and on and on. The liberal/modernist think tanks of spiritual death aren't the only think tanks around.

As I said before, I already stand corrected (see above) on this issue. I see no reason to apologize again for my previous close mindedness.

Sorry, I should of read the other interactions before posting. Please forgive me!

It's totally understandable. It's sometimes hard to read entire threads especially when 2 people go into great amount of pontificating as I and theo philosopher did. Cheesy Fun for us, but sometimes a pain for other posters. (but it was fun and enlightening so I'm still glad we did it I can always learn more about myself, others and other's points of view)


Nothing to forgive given the circumstances.


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« Reply #48 on: February 09, 2011, 03:22:54 PM »

I am very, very high, but I am thus also very much a "by the book" man. Typically an Anglo-Catholic will use a non-BCP liturgy such as the Anglican Missal, incorporating elements of the Sarum or Tridentine mass as translated into English. In older days one would also see differences in liturgical praxis, but with what I call "upward drift" this is increasingly difficult to distinguish. Use of a fiddleback chasuble, however, is a near-certain sign of an A-C service (a high churchman would wear a Gothic cut with orphreys, which a broad/central churchman would also wear a Gothic chasuble but without the full set of orphreys, and a low churchman and some evangelicals would wear a surplice and stole).

Anglo-Catholic theology, obviously, takes its theological cues from Rome from the most part, though there are obviously going to be differences over ecclesiology. High and broad churchmen are going to look too the Carolines, with the broad group also heavily influenced by continental modernist theology as well. The evangelical party are much more inclined to argue straight from scripture.

Thanks Keble for the valuable information! Much appreciated.
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« Reply #49 on: February 09, 2011, 04:26:17 PM »

He doesn't just believe scripture isn't infallible, he believes it was manipulated, revised, misinterpreted, made up, etc.,
The textual evidence is perfectly clear, the Scriptures have been revised. He doesn't "believe" this, it simply is a fact. Our own lectionary texts do not even match. These are simply facts one cannot ignore. All he does is point these variations out.

Again, I disagree and don't think that this is all he does.  I believe he tries to make it seem ridiculous to hold this "mess" as a coherent collection of scripture.  To me (and others), he's intentionally hostile and occasionally misleading. 
Many of the people reading his books aren't reading scripture, so when he writes or says that Christ is not identified as divine in the Synoptics, then people believe that.  If people actually read these books, of course, they know what a ludicrous claim he makes.  This is dangerous, and many people I know are content to read books like his, which say to them that the Bible, along with Christian interpretations, are thoroughly flawed and ultimately silly.

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to the point where it is no longer reliable, if it ever was, hence why he no longer follows it.
Maybe that's the problem; he was "following it" (ie the Bible). We do not follow the Bible, we follow Christ. Every Bible on earth could vanish tomorrow, I would still be an Orthodox Christian because the text points to him, not him to the text.

Understood, but Orthodox do cover the Gospels in fine metals, jewels, etc. and view the teachings contained as the teachings of Christ. Yes, Orthodox follow Christ, but part of that is respecting and trying to adhere to what is in scripture.  I thought it was Scripture and Tradition, not just Tradition.

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As for his deconversion, actually he has addressed why he no longer believes, on dozens of programs, he remained a Christian for 15+ years even after becoming a critical scholar what pushed him to non belief was "the problem of evil", not the Bible. See his book "God's problem" for him addressing this issue in length. Now you can just say you don't believe him, but that's a  different issue altogether.

If you think that his deconversion story is actually sympathetic and helpful to the faith, then I really don't know how to argue with that.

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“The idea in this gospel is that Jesus, like all of us, is a trapped spirit, who is trapped in a material body. And salvation comes when we escape the materiality of our existence, and Judas is the one who makes it possible for him to escape by allowing for his body to be killed.”
Found at: http://thinkexist.com/quotes/bart_ehrman/   &  http://www.quotesdaddy.com/author/Bart+Ehrman
That sounds like what every scholar says about the Gnostic Gospels. What's the problem? That IS what the Gnostic Gospels teach. It appears he is addressing the Gospel of Judas, which he believes is a VERY late work. This is a problem for Christianity, how? You certainly don't think the Gospel of Judas is Orthodox, do you? Of course not. It is possible for a person to say "such and such believes/teaches this" and actually not believe it themselves. If I say "the Gospel of Thomas says this" that doesn't mean anything more than I'm saying what it says. It doesn't mean I believe it or am pushing for other to believe it.
I think you're right and that is what he must've been referring to; my mistake.
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While I persist, I have to admit that I'm somewhat uncomfortable launching this attack on Bart, because I am not in a good position to do so.  Not having read his works in full places me in a ridiculous position for debate.  I have, however, frequently seen the negative consequences of his work.  I may overstate how harmful he has been, but I think that you may underestimate his influence and the subsequent results.
I know what you're saying, yes someone I'm sure has lost their faith due to this stuff.  I don't think he is to blame though, he's just a scholar.
No, he's not.  This isn't just my opinion though.  As Keble pointed out in a previous posting, there are many that believe this, scholars included. This difference of opinion is the basis of my original question to you though.  I think we, in addition to furthering our quest for carpel tunnel, have worked that out, and I've got my answer.  Cheesy
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Don't shoot the messenger as they say.  Yes a popularizer but what's wrong with that? NT Wright is also a popularizer for conservative, yet still critical scholarship, I just don't see the problem.

I know.  That's where we differ in opinion. 
His popularizing the topic has brought his highly readable, perhaps over-the-top, harsh criticism to many who have no intention of researching the topic seriously. 
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I know some Creationists lose their faith when they find out the earth is NOT 6000 years old, does that mean the guy who taught them science is to be blamed for that? I don't think so. I'm sure people lost faith when we rediscovered the earth was round, and not flat...I am SURE this shook people's faith to it's very core, does that mean we should teach the earth is round? Or that the sun goes around us just to protect people's faith? I realize some of Ehrman's work is shocking, but it's not inaccurate. Maybe some of his interpretations could be inaccurate, and I think they are, but I don't think people have issue with his interpretation they have issue with him pointing out that the Gospels don't match, and he puts these differences side by side, and Christians seem ill prepared to deal with this because they've been taught the Bible is infallible, perfect and contains no errors. After all no one is forcing anyone to buy his books, or listen to him on radio shows, or listen to his lectures.

You're right, but people who are openly hostile to Christianity love his stuff. Ask yourself why that is? More importantly, his works turn countless people away from Christianity.  As I mentioned, I was kept away for years due to people similar to him.

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If someone begins to doubt because of his work, so what? I don't think doubt is this evil enemy that we must constantly fight against else we "fall away". Doubt is a part of faith, not in contradiction to it. It's okay to doubt, it's okay to question, God is not afraid our doubts, even if we are. That's why people lose faith, not because of Ehrman, or Crossan but because they've been taught doubt is our greatest enemy, if you doubt you cannot have faith  and doubt cannot be part of a life of faith. I don't buy that for one second. Yes I could be wrong. That's just how I see it.

If you believe Christianity saves the souls of humans and brings them closer to God, then when doubt causes people to lose their faith or avoid the religion entirely, it is a very big deal.  Just because doubt hasn't caused you to lose your faith and way doesn't mean that  is the case for others.

I completely agree that doubt plays a part in our faith, and I sometimes wonder about those who don't have it.  Still, it can be a significant barrier to some and have serious consequences on people whose faith is less developed.  Many people who read and are convinced of Ehrman's works will never get the chance to be guided into Orthodoxy.  This is due to a myriad of factors, but I think it's somewhat naive to assume that Bart's simply the messenger, presenting scholarly analysis of his observations.  I think you might defend the man if he were to come out with a book with an Ehrmanesque title of Christianity is a Crock!, claiming that he only meant that from a certain scholarly perspective of analyzing early manuscripts in relation to church development and doctrinal formulation.   Wink 

I don't think we should ignore issues that he brings up, I just think he brings them up in a way that is particularly destructive.  I guess we will just have to agree to disagree on the latter point.

You're going to force me to read his stuff, dern you!

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« Reply #50 on: February 09, 2011, 11:22:47 PM »

If I may just say one thing to you NP, faith is rational and doubt is irrational.
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