23 May 2006

Stupidity hurts. A lot.


by Dan Phillips

To the media, there is only one kind of noble, admirable Christian fundamentalist: an ex-Christian-fundamentalist.

And so the Washington Post does a heroic profile of Bart Ehrman, perpetrator of Misquoting Jesus. In it, the Christian faith is (we are clearly meant to believe) reduced to ruinous shards by these devastating, faith-shattering revelations. I should really put them all in horrified, breathless, blinking italics -- but it would become wearying. So here they are -- hope you're ready to LOSE YOUR FAITH!!!
  1. You don't have to deal with the "Lord / Liar / Lunatic" conundrum if you pretend Jesus never existed! (Cue crowd-sound: "Oooooh!")
  2. John 8:1-11 is textually suspect and may not be original! (Crowd: "Ahhhhhhhh!")
  3. There are variations of detail between the four Gospels! (Crowd: "Eeeeeeeee!")
  4. John is different from the Synoptics! (Crowd: "Aiieeeee!")
  5. You should have reasons for what you believe! (Crowd: "Whooooaaaa!")
  6. You shouldn't believe something just because your parents did! (Crowd: "Ohhhhhhh!")
  7. Greek was written without capitalization or punctuation! (Crowd: "Arrrrrrrrrgh!")
  8. Emotional "conversions" born in ignorance may end up in apostasy. (Crowd: "Oooo-eeee-oooo-eeee-oooo!")
  9. There are professors at Princeton who do not affirm the inerrancy of the Bible -- and they may write that on your papers! (Crowd: "Ack-ack-ack-ack-ack!")
  10. There are differences between the ~5700 Greek manuscripts we possess! (Crowd: "Wooooooooooo!")
  11. We don't have the original manuscripts of the Gospels! (Crowd: "Wacka-wacka-wacka!")
  12. You can't prove the Trinity from 1 John 5:7! (Crowd: "D'oh!")
  13. There's suffering in the world! (Crowd: "Zzzzzzzz!")
  14. It can be fun to have lots of stuff, and fame! (Crowd: "Ungh?")
So I trust that your faith is now utterly decimated, lying in smoldering ruins at your feet, laid waste by these never-before-heard, astonishing, brand-new discoveries. Right? You're ready to go right over the wall, and embrace the first relativistic, nihilistic faith-position that validates the choices you want to make.

Why have these deep marvels been kept secret? How have all these epochal truths been deliberately shrouded in obscurity, all this time? Why, oh why, did no one ever tell us these things?

Except they did. And a long time ago. And over and over and over. Ever hear of B. B. Warfield? J. Gresham Machen? Francis Schaeffer? Edward J. Young?

Josh McDowell? Norman Geisler? Robert Thomas? Stanley Gundry? Alfred Edersheim? William Hendriksen? F. F. Bruce? D. A. Carson? Ned Stonehouse? Gleason Archer? (I could go on, and on, and on....)

These men didn't all treat the same questions, nor did they plumb the same depths nor come up with the same answers. But none of them was forced to abandon all confidence in Scripture. Indeed, most on that list maintained the inerrancy of Scripture.

My point is this: these issues have been known and discussed for years... no, decades... no, centuries.

And yeah, that's really it. That's the whole withering case, at least as this article presents it.

So what we are evidently are meant to learn is:

  1. We should stop lying about the Bible, telling people that it dropped straight from Heaven into their hands, black, leather-bound, and in the original words of the original writers.
  2. We should stop lying about variant readings.
  3. We should stop telling people to believe simply because we tell them to believe.
  4. We should stop telling people not to study the Bible intelligently.
  5. We should stop telling people that everyone in the academic world is a fundamentalist, Calvinist Christian. Or, in other words...
  6. We should stop pretending that a bunch of apostate professors don't exist.
  7. We should stop telling people that the four Gospels read as if written by one person from one perspective in one sitting.
It really is just that deep. Which is to say, not.

I can easily imagine scores of pastors reading these words, ready to tear out their hair and bellow at their computers, "I've been pleading with my people to study intelligently forever! I've been trying to get them to study and read broadly, to buy some books, to bone up on the facts! I do classes on the history of the Bible, and seven people turn up, with an average age of 5000! I write articles nobody reads! 'Stop lying'?! I'll retire to Bedlam!"

I know, I know, I know. The stupidity of articles like this is thick, palpable, almost sliceable and spreadable. It hurts in so many ways. Reporters who have probably never in their lives spent an hour in a Bible-teaching church, who probably literally could not name a single practicing Biblical Christian whom they count as friend, lecturing the Christian church on what a terrible job we're all doing. It hurts.

This all keeps bringing to my mind the saying: ignorance is curable, but stupid is forever. I keep looking at these reviews of Ehrman, wondering whether I'll finally see why it is that we're supposed to care about anything he says.

But no, I guess the "breaking news" here is that the world, which has never listened to us nor understood us, still doesn't listen to us nor understand us.

And of course the more serious and tragic note is that there are folks who will look at these articles and arguments, and be caught off-guard. In some cases, blame could be laid on the miserable state of some pulpits today; in others, on folks' refusal to avail themselves of healthy, God-honoring, Bible-teaching ministries.

And sadly, those whose most desperate aim in life is to reassure themselves that their rebellion against God is defensible will find false comfort in it all.

The world is stupid. It has to be. It's a matter of survival of the world qua world.

But not as stupid as Christians who take their cues from it.

[Two BTW's: First, some years ago I did a little send-up of the last, supposedly annihilating assault against Christianity -- the cutting-edge nineteenth-century radical "scholarship" of the Jesus Seminar -- in How to Make Your Very Own Jesus. Second, I intend a brief follow-up to this article.]

Dan Phillips's signature

38 comments:

4given said...

WOW!!! That was good. Especially, "But not as stupid as Christians who take their cues from it."

You wrote: "I can easily imagine scores of pastors reading these words, ready to tear out their hair and bellow at their computers..."

I'm a woman... therefore I am not a pastor. But this still evoked the same response you illustrated above. Why? Because as a woman my frustration lies with most women and their preference to remain in stupidity regarding the God they claim to live for and serve... unwilling to know really what they believe and why for the purpose of being able to articulate truth and defend it for His glory.
Okay, so I am not 5000 years old (though my bodies feels like it), but you really could count my husband and I in among the 7 people in the Bible history class. THere are a few of us out there that actually LIKE Bible history and meaty teaching... but sadly, few.

Gordon Cloud said...

Great article, Dan. As a pastor, I find the number of people who take the MSM, Discovery Channel, History Channel, PBS, etc. at face value when they talk about the Bible totally frustrating.

In the words of an old friend of mine from the mountains, "They would rather climb a tree to hear a lie than stand on the ground and hear the truth."

DJP said...

4given -- ...I am not 5000 years old ...but you really could count my husband and I in among the 7 people in the Bible history class

Yes; you two bring the average down to 5000.

(c;

Terry Rayburn said...

Ehrman implies repeatedly that one can't be a thinker and a believer. This is the worst level of his "thinking", as you so rightly pointed out regarding those thinking apologists who have gone before us.

I remember in the late 1970's reading Josh McDowell's Evidence That Demands A Verdict, which dealt mostly with the resurrection. Then I read about a factual "error" in the Old Testament regarding the diameter of the laver (pool) in the tabernacle.

Sure enough, there were two separate measurements in two different OT books! I of course didn't lose my faith, but I was mortified. I'm sure I wanted to grab McDowell, and say, "O.K. buddy, explain THAT!"

(Can you, dear reader, explain that? Trust me, it's there.)

Well, Harold Lindsell, in his terrific book Battle For the Bible, took the Judo of truth and flipped the "discrepancy" over his shoulder like a pro, leaving it gasping on the ground.

The simple answer? One book was recording it's diameter *inside* the lip, one was recording it's diameter *outside* the lip, a 4" difference, as I remember.

"Wow!," I said. The Word actually testified to it's own intricate accuracy, and I went on through the years enjoying my own biblical Judo. (Judo is the art of taking your opponent's own force, and using that force to defeat him.)

The simplest, and one of the most powerful, Judo moves in the case of a man like Bart Ehrman, is given in 1 John 2:19:

They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.

Evidential apologistic arguments are satisfying fun to me, as Judo is probably a fun sport. But the most humble man with the revelational experience of the New Birth is never at the mercy of the most erudite scholar who was never born again.

Sadly, this appears to be the case with Bart, upon whose rocky ground the seed couldn't root.

Steve said...

4given: If it's any encouragement, there ARE women out there serious about the word. Author Martha Peace is taking her women's Bible class verse by verse through the book of Isaiah. Author/speaker Elyse Fitzpatrick (graduated from Westminster) loves reading the Puritans and has written a number of practical books for women who want to be more serious about the Christian life. Dorothy Patterson, wife of Paige Patterson at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, is serious about theology and is committed to influencing the women students in her classes. Brian and Donna Morley (Brian is a prof at The Master's College) are a great couple, and Donna (also a writer) has a most fervent passion for God's truth and getting women to discern truth from error. She's one of the few women I know who enjoy thick theological tomes the way seminary students should. Then there are some of the homeschool moms who visit this site who, from what I've been able to gather, are pretty serious about the faith. So...they are out there. You just gotta find them.

Dan: Love those crowd sound effects. Very nice.

Fred Butler said...

I am cuious if any BHT people will chime in telling us all how you misunderstand Ehrman and you can't get what he is saying by reading just one, popular level book.

We'll see.

Fred

Michael Terry, Jr. said...

Steve said:"Then there are some of the homeschool moms who visit this site who, from what I've been able to gather, are pretty serious about the faith. So...they are out there. You just gotta find them."

But what of the homeschool dads? We are in a progressive culture you know!

(Totally Kidding)

4given (lisa) is truly one of these women. I have the honor of serving in the same churh as her and find myself put to shame by her knowledge and ferver a lot.

Before she gets on here I'll say what she would say in response to this...

"ALL glory to GOD!"


Mike

Phil Johnson said...

Interesting trivia: Bart Ehrman was a student at Moody Bible Institute during my era there.

Sadly, he's not the only classmate of mine who apostatized.

Chip said...

My initial reaction to that staggering list was...

"That's it? That's all they've got?"

Unfortunately, as you point out, far too many Christians allow themselves to remain in ignorance to the point that such a list WILL be staggering to them. But I think this can be used to our advantage.

Our church recently implimented a comprehensive training program where classes on systematic theology, biblical backgrounds, church history, etc. are taught. We take articles like the one you mention and share it so that our members will be staggered. They immediately have questions and we invite them to class X, which, we tell them, answers these very questions.

It works. This whole Da Vinci Code "thing" is a great example. Members who had taken our class on church history said, "I read the book and immediately saw the mistakes in there about Constantine." Those members became our biggest advocates to those who had not yet attended.

SolaMeanie said...

Bravo, Dan!!!

Best rant I've read in a long time and so spot on.

Mike Y said...

Dan,

I like what Ron White (the comedian) says. "You can't fix stupid."

Great article and I'll continue in the faith, despite what the critics have uncovered. It'll be tough, so pray for me. ;-) Afterall, the evidence is so overwhelming.

-Mike

Rick Potter said...

"....in others, on folks' refusal to avail themselves of healthy, God-honoring, Bible-teaching ministries."

...and this is why I contimue to come here...every single day.

Rick

4given said...

I got this quote from I guy who's professor in seminary said this on the first day of class: "Education is the process about learning more and more about less and less until you know almost everything about nothing".

It makes me think about how much I have to learn about my Lord, and by the time I'm dead, I'll not have even touched the surface of how much there is to know of Him...
But yet, that does not discourage me, it actually makes the process of learning more exciting... for I am still an eager student of the Word of God enjoying getting to know, as much as this feeble mind can, this God I so love... for my life is not about me, but all about Him.

Steve, I am familiar with most of these women I can count on one hand. Especially Martha Peace. Gobs of respect for that woman. I have a shelf in my library of books I give away like candy... Her "excellent Wife" book is one of them. I am also familiar with and blessed often by the women that blog and are also eager students and loud proclaimers of the Word of Truth... of which so far, I can still count on one hand... I am sure there are more and I am encouraged that I am not alone. However, I come across FAR too many that are comfortable in their ignorance. I'm not saying you have to be a theologian to "know" God. If that were the case... I wouldn't know Him. My husband's grandfather was a simple quiet farmer without a formal education that also worked as a janitor at the public school system... the kind of man you want to sit for HOURS and listen to because wisdom and love for God just poured out of his skin.

(Mike... a.k.a. Roadkill, We'll see you tonight at Bible Fellowship... yep, to God be ALL the glory!!!))

Kaffinator said...

Maybe the problem is the overly rigid view of "inerrancy" that the term itself suggests. It applies only to the autographs which we do not have. It does not properly account for poetry, hyperbole, or other literary devices found throughout the Bible. It suggests a level of mechanical precision which the gospels do not exhibit.

Of course, someone with a properly nuanced understanding of the dogma of inerrancy is not troubled by these problems, but the neophyte may be. I honestly mean no disrespect to Mr Rayburn above, but may I suggest that the kind of faith that is threatened by a 4" discrepancy between bowl diameters in a text written three millenia ago is the kind of faith Dr Ehrman might have had?

Puddleglum said...

This is a very fine piece, Dan. It is amazing how so much that is common knowledge to any Christian with a modicum of knowledge about the Bible and the Faith can be spun to sound like an evil christain conspiracy. John 8 (the Pericope Adulterae)is textually/canonically suspect - This is presented as a cover-up (ie. something the Church won't tell you about). FACT: Every commentary on John will tell you this and every responsible preacher will tell you this if he chooses to preach from this text. I could go on, of course, with endless examples of this sort of thing. Thanks, Dan, for stating what should be obvious.

One more thing: I originally just wanted to comment on what a fine piece this was (it is!) but then I saw Fred's comment and now I want to say: Fred, dude, what's your problem? Your I'll will towards these good sisters and brothers is palpable. What's the deal?

LeeC said...

I think you might be misinterpreting Freds comment there.

Gummby said...

Great job, Booyah!

I'll have to include this in an update to my post on the same; it brought Simon the Atheist, last seen on Centuri0n's blog, to my comment section (perhaps because I gave him the Hat Tip on the Ehrman article).

The whole thing just makes me sad.

Gummby said...

Oh, and while it may look like I'm merely being an unabashed link troll, I'm really just saving everyone from having to scroll through all the pictures of my new baby.

You should look at those pictures, though, if you want to see the depths to which one Centuri0n will go to market himself. Truly deplorable, if you ask me!

Susan said...

My husband and I gave up TV long ago (we get two channels, when they can be viewed if the wind blows our antenna in the proper direction), so my mother keeps taping shows from the Discovery (and other) channel(s) for me related to Biblical issues. I never asked her to do so, but she keeps giving me this stuff.
I watch some of it, and most of it is false, but they put just a smidgeon of truth in there so if you don't know Truth from fiction, you could swallow it all whole.
(Isn't that what makes up a 'good' 'believable' lie anyway; it contains an element of truth?)
The most recent tape she sent me was "Banned From The Bible," a History Channel "documentary." The very name suggests the Dan Brown-like thinking.
But it was interesting for me to see what the Apocryphal books contain. It was equally disheartening to see all of the "experts" (mostly university professors, but some Catholic clergy and a rabbi as well) exclaiming how these books were "kept out" of the Bible for reasons other than being false gospels.

Mike Ratliff said...

"I keep looking at these reviews of Ehrman, wondering whether I'll finally see why it is that we're supposed to care about anything he says."

If we did then we'd be as stupid as he is. Oh, he's a well educated college guy? Well, then he is a well educated, willfully ignorant unregenerate block head. D'oh!

Ain't it great that God is sovereign and can and will regenerate whosoever He calls despite what theological morons like Bart Ehrman (and all those who drool all over themselves at his every word) say and write?

Please forgive the invective.

In Christ

Mike Ratliff

Phil Walker said...

Heh, how true. The intellectual arrogance of someone who assumes that "you'd see it my way, if you just thought about it" always baffles me. That goes, by the way, for conservatives as much as liberals; it's just that you always think of liberals as being so, well, tolerant.

But more than being baffled, I was saddened by the end of the article. Here's a man who is clearly without hope; who, despite describing himself as a "happy agnostic", is pursuing something he doesn't believe exists. The "mysteries of the Gospels" must be ring hollow indeed for someone who no longer believes in "the mystery of godliness".

lee n. field said...

I look at you list in red and I think "Well duh. I've know this stuff, like, forever."

"Our church recently implimented a comprehensive training program where classes on systematic theology, biblical backgrounds, church history, etc. are taught." --chip.

I'd be interested in reading about this, how it's set up, it's curriculum, and how well it's working

centuri0n said...

I have the bestest sidekicks in the whole world. That 50K shirt, matt, is literally one-of-a-kind. Treasure it.

Denise said...

4given: Amen! I feel the same way sometimes. I'm just thankful the Lord has brought me to Seminary (Westminster Theological Seminary-Philadelphia) so I can spend time studying through a lot of these issues.

As far as Erhman...I have friends here at WTS who sat under some of his teaching at UNC. I'm glad he raises the questions he does and proposes the "faith shattering" claims he writes on. If Christians cannot be Biblically intelligent enough to handle these claims then we are being horrible stewards of the place God has us. We live in a "free" country where we can read and study Scripture free of persecution (for the most part). Only God knows how long that will last...

Going along with handling the text in an intelligent way I highly recommend "Inspiration and Incarnation" by Dr. Peter Enns. Despite a lot of the hype and critical reivews it has recieved it is an incredible work. He is my prayer group leader at WTS and I've talked with him about the book. His heart and intention for writing it is solid. Give it a look....

Denise said...

oops...Ehrman, not Erhman...sorry about that!

Impacted Wisdom Truth said...

"Ehrman implies repeatedly that one can't be a thinker and a believer. This is the worst level of his "thinking", as you so rightly pointed out regarding those thinking apologists who have gone before us."

Very true, Terry; your words also reminded me of something I read earlier today from Charnock. I thought it would be appropriate to quote him here:

"No instance can be given of any one people in the world that disclaimed it [the existence of God]. It hath been owned by the wise and ignorant, by the learned and stupid, by those who had not other guide but the dimmest light of nature, as well as by those whose candles were snuffed by a more polite education; and that without any solemn debate and contention." --Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God

Of course, Charnock existed before officially atheistic political entities such as the Soviet Union; but the fact remains that even the Soviet state could not stamp out the fires of belief among the Russian people. That thought really sunk into me, that there has not ever been a nation on this planet whose people did not naturally believe in some form of God.

Charnock is the juice.

Impacted Wisdom Truth said...

Forgot to add that the boldface is my emphasis, not Charnock's.

CraigS said...

Well satirised Dan - very funny!

donsands said...

"We should stop telling people to believe simply because we tell them to believe."

Amen.

Another fine informative and encouraging post. And enjoyed reading the comments as well.

Shabbir said...

I have noticed that there are so many stupid arguments people quarel in here.

Christianity has so many denominations and so many beliefs. One calling another heretic and the other calling another names, why?

In Islam there is unity! If everyone becomes a Muslim the world would be a better place. There will be not stupid quarel over charismatic issues or new perspective.

isaiah543 said...

Well, at least Ron White allusions are still OK amongst the godly ones who use no potty talk. I praise God for all the grace I can get! :-)

Kent Brandenburg said...

Bart Ehrman is a Judas apostate who was never saved. His life is the gospel according to Judas. He is no longer with us because he was not of us. He was never born again any more than Jimmy Carter. He was rolled out of Satan's custom deception factory into the middle of the Bible belt to belt the Bible like a pinata. Just think, if you pay taxes in the state of NC, you helped buy his BMW. He'll get his come-uppance.

Terry Rayburn said...

shabbir,

Please don't let your opinion of the followers of Jesus Christ distract you from Jesus Christ Himself.

He, as God, became also a man, and died on the cross as the Lamb of God, shedding His blood, to pay for the sins of His people, so that those who believe in Him would be given eternal life and have their sins forgiven. Then He was authenticated by rising from the dead.

He made His sacrifice as an undeserved free gift to us, because since we have all sinned, and were born with a sinful heart, we have no ability to earn God's favor.

This is why we love Him, because He first loved us, and brought Peace to our hearts.

True followers of Jesus Christ will rightly love Muslims, enough to point them to Jesus Christ, who said, "I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father, except by Me."

As a Christian, I love other Christians, even when they do foolish things, but I repeat, don't let our foolishness distract you from Jesus Christ Himself.

By the way, your view of Islam is very limited if you think that there is unity in it. Just among the Suni and Shia alone are strong walls of difference, and the interpretation of the Koran as a book of peace vs. a book of violence is a major issue.

But most important, there cannot be true peace in the heart apart from Jesus Christ. He promises that whoever will come to Him as Lord, in faith, He will in no way reject. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved."

Warm regards,
Terry

Terry McGovern said...

WOW, I just read that article by Bart.

Bart reminds me of the great missionary Adoniram Judson's friend in college. This man turned Judson’s faith away from God. I believe his name was Johnson.

I wonder how Bart will be on his death bed? If I head to guess, he will be just like Johnson was. An agonizing death knowing he was an apostate.

Bart is one reason why the Lord gave us the book of Jude.

Jude 1:4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

One day Bart will beleive just like I do. He will beleive in the preservation of the scripture. He will believe in the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. He will believe in a resurrected Lord. He will believe in the trinity. He will bow his proud head and pronounce with his own mouth, "Jesus is Lord."

One day his mouth will be stopped.


May we "earnestly contend for the faith!"

Even So... said...

Kent,

That was Luther-esque.

Kim said...

Shucks, I knew I missed good stuff yesterday while the power was out!

Lisa, you said: Because as a woman my frustration lies with most women and their preference to remain in stupidity regarding the God they claim to live for and serve... unwilling to know really what they believe and why for the purpose of being able to articulate truth and defend it for His glory.

Ditto.

4given said...

Yes Kim... and you, girlfriend, are one of the bloggers that I mentioned that I can count on one hand that actually seeks to know this God we love with fervency.

Mathew Sims said...

Dan,
Good thoughts and obersvations. Sadly most churches I grew up never addressed these issues. From my perspective, the unwritten law is "ignorance is bliss." A lot of people do not care to know about these issues and ignore those who bring them up until it causes some to "lose their faith."

We should attack these issues head on and show the utter absurdity of what some one like him are claiming.

Mathew Sims~Soli Deo Gloria
WWW.UnderSovereignGrace.BlogSpot.com