Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Wednesday, February 20, 2008

    Bart Ehrman, Questioning Religion on Why We Suffer (Initial Evalutaion)


    Having just listened to NPR's Interview with Bart Ehrman on his New Book "Questioning Religion on Why We Suffer", I present the following observations/comments:

    1. I question Ehrman's sincerity and truthfulness when he states he does not want to convert people to be agnostic as he is. (Perhaps it might be stated he desires people to question the God of the Bible, or the Bible, or Christianity, but otherwise...) Why write the book?

    2. Despite Ehrman being a professor of religion (even a recognized one), I question his understanding of the very Scripture passages he bases his argument on. For example, his explanation of the book of Ecclesiastes misses the point when he suggests the writer of the book concludes that since everything is going to pass away the ultimate point is simply to eat, drink and be merry (as if perhaps from a secular humanist standpoint)... But note the author's own concludion (Song of Solomon 12:13) who writes "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man." (To understand this view, let me recommend Walter Kaiser's book on Ecclesiastes.) Similarly, with the book of Job, Ehrman seeks to divide the text without seeing the natural relationships and unfolding of Job's story to reach the conclusion through the struggles he had due to suffering. When one divides, takes from, or distorts the text, it should not be surprising to find them arrive at distorted conclusions!

    3. Errors are found in each of the arguments Ehrman sets forth as to why the Biblical view of suffering does not add up. For example, in failing to recognize and understand that suffering has come as a consequence of man's sin, Ehrman dismisses man's free will simply because it does not cover all situations like natural disaster. There is nothing in Scripture that states that the cause of suffering will be limited to one entity or source. In regard to the "mystery" or our not knowing "all things" about suffering, Ehrman dismisses the truth and tries to equate our "not understanding everything" as the same as there "is no answer." In regard to suffering and a loving and powerful God, Ehrman confuses "all loving" with the necessary to always show all mercy and grace and do all that one can immediately and in fullness and totality so as to alway completely alleviate all suffering and to the full, immediate and complete satisfaction of the one enduring suffering ... or else he's not all loving. This is to misunderstand or fail to take into account the nature of mercy and grace, the various aspects of love (in which in some cases patience and allowing it to work out is best, etc.). In regard to the God is "punishing" argument, Ehrman fails to distinguish between suffering as a natural "consequence" of "man's" sin and as he puts it "God creates suffering". Confusing the two results in the errant conclusions he makes. In regard to the "Suffering can be redemptive" argument, while Ehrman admits it can be true, and perhaps is alot of the time, he then goes on to argue against suffering being "always redemptive" (i.e., he not only switches the argument, but also suggests it is not while asserting his own personal groundless temporal assessments without considering the issues in light of the greater context of God's purposes and accomplishments in redemption. In regard to the suffering being a "test" argument, Ehrman fails to recognize the various uses of suffering and also suggests because the Bible refers to it in one way in one passage for Job, that must deny other aspects, applications, or usages. In regard to the "apocalyptic" view of evil and suffering, Ehrman's argument came down to two reasons. First he suggests that the Bible contradicts itself by suggesting it is caused by man but then attributing it to the "devil, demons, diseases, death" etc. but fails to recognize that "as" the consequence of man's sin, man is subjected to these other things. Second, he suggests that since generations of believers have thought of the end as immanent ... but in his view "has not happened" then it must be false. This is to fail to take into account that each indidual of past generations has "soon" (in respect) come into the passing of this life where the "now" meets the "not yet" as well as the fact that with God a thousand years is like a day and especially given a view such as the amillenial view, not only there the present rule of Christ even now, but also that a return in the "near" future would certainly satisfy Biblical prophesy especially when one takes into account the various ages and the eternity and perspective of God (and spiritual man). What's sad is he fails to take into account the very warning Scripture gives concerning the very argument he makes that there will be those who because they have not seen will question its very truth. In effect, Ehrman's multiple errors in exegesis and logic lead to his faulty conclusions. (Too bad there's probably going to be alot of hype about this book which has so many holes in it!)

    4. Revisiting Ehrman's motives, one must wonder when he presents his being "born again" and his "evangelical" studies and participation, is he presenting this simply as "credentials" or is he using this as others do to try say "I was a REAL Christian" but now I'm admitting I was wrong" so as to try to discredit both Christianity and those who are true believers. What's interesting is that Ehrman's own testimony is not congruous with those who are "born again" (for those who are... not only receive the testifying seal of the H.S., but also do not deny Christ as the Son of God).

    5. The saddest part of this book is that for the unspiritual, uneducated and undiscerning, many will be persuaded both by his story and his arguments. However, the great news is that even this book fits within the greater context of God's redemptive plan in bringing all the elect to himself so that not one will be lost.

    6. While I do not deny that it's an absolute qualification for one to be religious to teach in a religious department, UNC's decision in having him in this position on one level could be likened to having a creationist teach evolution classes or an evolutionist teach classes in creationism. While there's certainly nothing that forbids it, one must question whether it is best and how much stock one should put in what they have to say.

    12 comments:

    Puritan Lad said...

    Bart's fundamental error here is the assumption that God owes man a trouble-free life. He also ignores man's sinful nature, and the resulting wrath that God owes to man.

    Jesus dealt with a few examples of suffering in his day, specifically "the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices" (Luke 13:1) and "those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them" (Luke 13:4). His response was adamant.

    "No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:5)

    See also The Futility of Atheistic Challenges. Such questions have nothing do to with the existence of God, but are merely humanistic objections to the way God runs things.

    swordbearer said...

    I concur!

    While Ehrman laughs now and asserts that if there is a God and we're confronted by him in an afterlife, it will not be the God the Scripture presents; unless he changes course he will not be laughing later when he discovers the God HE's talking about is NOT the God the Scripture actually presents.

    Steven said...

    I think what Ehrman is trying to show in his book is that no one bible author has a solution to what he calls "the problem of suffering". While many authors explain the bad that happens to us, there are differing opinions. Eventually, we must choose which opinion we believe- we cannot simply say that there is some consensus among authors when there are clearly different answers given by authors!

    Here, we run into a problem because we are forced to pick and choose which authors' perspectives we agree with or think are correct. But what makes one biblical author's word credible and the other's word false?

    In other words, it cannot be that God is punishing people for their wrongdoings, and this is why we suffer [terrible things happen to people who do very little wrong, while thieves and murderers get away]. Rationally, this cannot be the answer because it doesn't make sense!

    Some would argue that there are multiple answers- that God punishes because we do wrong, that we suffer because we are given free will, and that we should not even ask why we suffer. Each author deals with this problem differently; just as the differing views of Jesus in early Christianity [docetic, fully-divine, etc.] cannot all be true at the same time, so too is it impossible for there to be multiple answers to why we suffer.

    The authors of the books of the bible did not KNOW that another author was going to write a later book that would add to the understanding of suffering- these were PEOPLE who wrote what they believed. The author of Ecclesiastes had different beliefs and perspectives on why we suffer as compared to the author of the book of Luke- he/she didn't think he had one little piece of the solution that would fit into the bigger answer that would come later. In the same way, we must see each author of any book about suffering as a DIFFERENT author with a DIFFERENT perspective.

    swordbearer said...

    Stephen,

    1. Have you considered that the authors of Scripture were all writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? (or, for you, is it simply the work(s) / "differing opinions" of man?

    2. To quote "... Eventually, we must choose which opinion we believe- we cannot simply say that there is some consensus among authors when there are clearly different answers given by authors!"

    "Here, we run into a problem because we are forced to pick and choose which authors' perspectives we agree with or think are correct."

    Response: Says who? ... and upon what Authority? Do you yourself not suggest the different authors write from "different perspectives"? Is is not possible (/reasonable) they they all speak on some level or some perspective though they may differ in their approach, specifics, etc. on the issue of man's suffering (yet all within the SAME biblical worldview that suffering is within the control and providence of God, all stemming ultimately from man's sin, and all fitting perfectly within God's rule and redemptive plan?

    3. To quote: "But what makes one biblical author's word credible and the other's word false?"

    Response: Who says ANY are false? See response to #2 and you'll see it's not the biblical authors who are at fault, but your analysis.

    4. To quote: "In other words, it cannot be that God is punishing people for their wrongdoings, and this is why we suffer [terrible things happen to people who do very little wrong, while thieves and murderers get away]."


    Response: Does not the Bible both speak to the fact that the origin of suffering is related to man's sin... AND that there will be difficulties in the world related to the fact that at times from a surface level it may appear that the bad prosper while the righteous suffer?

    Also, can you prove that just because the above situation exists, that that proves God does not punish people for their wrongdoings?

    5. To quote: "Some would argue that there are multiple answers- that God punishes because we do wrong, that we suffer because we are given free will, and that we should not even ask why we suffer. Each author deals with this problem differently; just as the differing views of Jesus in early Christianity [docetic, fully-divine, etc.] cannot all be true at the same time, so too is it impossible for there to be multiple answers to why we suffer."

    Response: Again, have YOU not written that the various writers wrote from various perspectives? If they are writing from various "perspective", can't the various "perspectives" all be true... as they address different aspects, different cases, etc., and yet all in keeping with God's plan of responding to man's sin and providing redemption for his people?

    6. To quote: "The authors of the books of the bible did not KNOW that another author was going to write a later book that would add to the understanding of suffering- these were PEOPLE who wrote what they believed."

    Response: It was not necessary that they know for two reasons:
    1. The Holy Spirit knew.
    2. As long as they truthfully and faithfully addressed the issue from the perspective they were writing from, they dealt truthfully with the matter.

    7. To quote: "The author of Ecclesiastes had different beliefs and perspectives on why we suffer as compared to the author of the book of Luke- he/she didn't think he had one little piece of the solution that would fit into the bigger answer that would come later. In the same way, we must see each author of any book about suffering as a DIFFERENT author with a DIFFERENT perspective.

    Response: Again, you confuse various perspectives (of the SAME biblical and worldview) with different worldviews.

    Steven said...

    swordbearer, I guess I forgot that there were people like yourself out there who forget what Ehrman is- he is a historian, not a theologian. Therefore, any analysis he makes are under the assumptions of a HISTORIAN. Historians attempt to reconstruct what PROBABLY happened in the past with the evidence they are given. Personally, historians may have a certain faith or christological belief, but when it comes to their work, they cannot approach it under the assumptions of what is not proven. Therefore, Ehrman's book is written from the viewpoint of a historian who does not assume that a God exists, unlike you who interprets everything in the bible under the assumption that there is a God and a holy spirit and so forth.

    Therefore, to a historian, the Bible is nothing more than a collection of Christian writings written over the span of many years. Since different authors wrote the different books, [and since Ehrman and all credible historians must take a rational viewpoint in their work and not assume their is a God without concrete evidence] it is very possible that the author's each had different perspectives of a similar but not exactly the same viewpoint.

    The problem with somebody like you criticizing somebody like Ehrman's work is that you have differing underlying assumptions which eventually lead to different interpretations of the bible. Since he takes the approach that there is no God [or rather, that if there is one, it is not the one we read about in the bible], he sees what he reads as literary material written by men, and with differing, contrasting viewpoints. He doesn't believe that all the authors were under the inspiration of some holy spirit, because he doesn't subscribe to the fact that there IS a holy spirit!

    You, on the other hand, first believe that there is a God, a holy spirit, etc. etc., and thus you read the scripture as a collection of different authors whose different perspectives all contribute to the same viewpoint [am I getting this right? I don't want to misinterpret your beliefs].

    In other words, you think that there is a cumulative effect of the perspectives of the authors, meaning that we suffer because either we do wrong, because it is ultimately in God's plan, etc.

    Ehrman thinks that each author of the bible has a different view, and that the different views singularly fail in fully explaining why we suffer. Ehrman argues it is not true that the ONLY answer to suffering is because we do wrong and God punishes us. It is not ONLY because we have free will. Why would there be tsunamis that kill hundreds of thousands of people- those people are no more or less at fault for their wrongdoings than we are! Why aren't we killed by tsunamis? It was not by somebody's "free will" that the tsunami was caused! Nobody jumped in the ocean or created a bomb that caused the tsunami! Do you understand what I am saying?

    Also, you said that there is "God's plan of responding to man's sin and providing redemption for his people". How does God respond to man's sin when men get away with murder, steal, and do horrible things and get away with them? Did people killed by landslides deserve to die? NO! The landslide occurred because the ground was not stable, the soil was too moist, whatever the reason, it was because of a geological or environmental circumstance, not because those people sinned!

    What about the fact that a child dies every 8 seconds? Are all of those children non-Christians and sinners so that God decides to kill them? No! it's because they don't have FOOD to eat, or they have a disease. God doesn't punish them by taking their life, their bodies simply cannot exist without nutrition and with diseases! Kids in the US do not survive while children in Africa die because kids here are better Christians or because kids here sin less- we have a higher standard of living so we can actually feed our children!

    It is almost worthless to argue over the interpretation of these passages because you and Ehrman come from different theological viewpoints. Ultimately, this leads to a huge difference in how you interpret the text of the bible.

    swordbearer said...

    Stephen,

    I do not object to your description of the differences between my position (/perspective) and that of Ehrman. Nor do I argue that theological presuppositions (/perspectives) affect the outcome (/conclusions) people draw. What I do differ with is the following:
    1. Whether Ehrman's historical views are consistent with the text. (i.e., see my argument of his treatment of Ecclesiasties).
    2. Whether Ehrman's historical perspective alone which denies the various other exegetical and hermeneutical perspectives and context is the correct one. (i.e., is it wise to form one's conclusions based on only one exegetical aspect separated from all the many others??)
    3. Whether Ehrman (or YOU???) take the concept and consequences of original sin into account.
    4. Whether the fact that men "murder, steal, and [seem to] get away with horrible things" means God does not respond to men's sin. (i.e., whether either Ehrman or you understand passages such as Ps 73, 37,etc.)
    5. Whether it's "worthless to argue over the interpretation of these passages" (i.e., for depending on where you stand in regard to the Lord, your very salvation and edification could come about and/or be enhanced through it.)

    (It may be Monday morning before I can get back, but would love to discuss these matters with you more)

    Steven said...

    swordbearer, before I respond I need some clarification on original sin.

    "original sin" - is this the view that adam and eve committed sin, thus passing it on to us? [also, are we really ancestors of adam and eve? if so, which view of creation in Genesis do you accept, Genesis 1 or Genesis 2?]

    Now for my responses.

    1. I won't say that Ehrman is completely correct about the interpretation of every text. Just as you and I have perspectives that influence our interpretation of the text, so does he. I would say that nobody except the author of Ecclesiastes truly knows the meaning of what is written in the book of Ecclesiastes. That being said, I do think that he has a lot of it correct, at least from the historical perspective [he is, after all, a historian and has been studying NT all his life]. Obviously, you will disagree because his theological perspective differs from yours.

    2. This question will be answered 2 different ways, again based on ones underlying theological perspective. Those who do not believe the the bible is divinely inspired would argue that Ehrman's historical and literary approach to the bible is sufficient [to them, what else is there to study about the books? they are a piece of history and literary works!] On the other hand, those who believe the bible is divinely inspired will think that Ehrman's historical and literary approach is not enough and does not take into account the fact that God created the world, has dominion over it, etc. The problem is whether or not believers can accept the bible as being a historically accurate portrayal of past events with all of the contradictions and inconsistencies in it. Ehrman has not problem passing off the bible as written words by men; it is a perfectly feasible theory [if you dont believe in a biblical God]. However, believers have to account for all of the problems in the bible, the internal and external inconsistencies and try to rectify them in order for the bible to be deemed historically accurate.

    3. If I am assuming you hold the current idea of original sin, then are you saying that we are punished for sinning? Why is there not just punishment [many people sin more than others do, and often the more-frequent sinners are punished not as harshly as the less-frequent sinners]. I think I don't fully understand the idea of original sin, so I'll have to get back to you on this point.

    4. You referenced psalm 37. Verse 9: "for the wicked shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land." Doesn't this contradict what we see happening in the world today? The wicked are not always "cut off", but rather, they often get away with things. Does this mean that the author of psalm 37 sees God's response to sin as a punishment that occurs after death? If so, this stands at odds with the traditional Old Testament view that God punishes people in their lifetime for their transgressions. Furthermore, psalm 73 verse 19 says, "how they [the wicked] are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!" Is being destroyed in a moment characteristic of God punishing during one's life, or after one dies? In other words, when do these passages say that the wicked are punished? If during life, then they are certainly wrong as the wicked get away with things. If after life, then these passages stand at odds with earlier old testament writings.

    5. I may've been a bit harsh by saying it was worthless- certainly some people find meaning in doing so [and, according to you, some people's salvation may be brought about by it]. Again, this relies on one's theological perspective. Some people who find no value in arguing over the interpretation, while others think it may be the most important thing there is.

    swordbearer said...

    To Quote: ""original sin" - is this the view that adam and eve committed sin, thus passing it on to us?"

    Response: Original sin designates the sinful state and condition in which men (descending from Adam)are born. Of particular interest in this discussion is the imputation of guilt which has come to and belongs to all mankind through the sin of Adam who stood in federal relationship with and represented all mankind in his first sin.

    To Quote: "I won't say that Ehrman is completely correct about the interpretation of every text...I would say that nobody except the author of Ecclesiastes truly knows the meaning of what is written in the book of Ecclesiastes. That being said, I do think that he has a lot of it correct, at least from the historical perspective [he is, after all, a historian and has been studying NT all his life]..."

    Response: Regardless of historical or theological perspective, Ehrman's suggestion that the writer's conclusion is simply "to eat, drink, and be merry" [partic. in a humanist perspective] when the writer himself states "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment..." is clearly in error. Ehrman's statements here not only bring into question his understanding of Ecclesiastes (along with the principles and conclusions he draws), but bring into question his inclination, leanings AND scholarship, and perhaps his motives, along with questions of reliability in other places.

    To Quote: "Oviously, you will disagree because his theological perspective differs from yours.

    Response: I disagree because the writer of Ecclesiastes' own words differ with his.

    To Quote: "...Ehrman has not problem passing off the bible as written words by men; it is a perfectly feasible theory [if you dont believe in a biblical God]. However, believers have to account for all of the problems in the bible, the internal and external inconsistencies and try to rectify them in order for the bible to be deemed historically accurate."

    Response: No one is surprised when an unbeliever seeks to pass off the writings of Scripture as simply the writings of men, though they differ from the record and position of the text. At the same time, as shown above, what many refer to as internal consistencies are the result not of the biblical writers, but of their own exegeis.

    To Quote: "If I am assuming you hold the current idea of original sin, then are you saying that we are punished for sinning? Why is there not just punishment [many people sin more than others do, and often the more-frequent sinners are punished not as harshly as the less-frequent sinners]..."

    Response: Does it occur to you that one reason we do not see God fully and immediately exacting the completeness and full extent of his justice at the present time is in order both that there may be time for repentance and redemption for those who are the recipients of his mercy and at the same time that the sins of others may increase storing up wrath for the day of judgment? Has this not been written even that you might consider it? Have you read Romans 9 "What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?"

    To Quote: "You referenced psalm 37. Verse 9: "for the wicked shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land." Doesn't this contradict what we see happening in the world today? The wicked are not always "cut off", but rather, they often get away with things. Does this mean that the author of psalm 37 sees God's response to sin as a punishment that occurs after death? If so, this stands at odds with the traditional Old Testament view that God punishes people in their lifetime for their transgressions."

    Response: There's a difference in suggesting that the text suggests the wicked will "always be immediately" cut off... that the wicked will be cut off in the sense that "whether at times in this life but for sure by and when it comes to eternity." There are examples where unbelievers have been cut off in this life. At the same time, some seem to get away with it for a time, but God is both faithful and just and will not ultimately let the guilty go unpunished. At the same time, the inheritance of the land must be seen in light of the symbol or "type" of the land (Canaan) eventually obtained by God's people in the Old Testament which points to the greater spiritual realities (experiencing God, spiritual life, heaven, etc.) which were to come.

    To Quote: Furthermore, psalm 73 verse 19 says, "how they [the wicked] are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!" Is being destroyed in a moment characteristic of God punishing during one's life, or after one dies? In other words, when do these passages say that the wicked are punished? If during life, then they are certainly wrong as the wicked get away with things. If after life, then these passages stand at odds with earlier old testament writings."

    Response: Have you considered whether instead of your options the passage may refer to the "ability" of God to do this and to remove the wicked and exact his power and punishment at a moment's notice, and that examples in history prove this - though it does not always occur that way, but that does not mean either the wicked should be misled or that believers should give up and fret?

    To Quote: "I may've been a bit harsh by saying it was worthless- certainly some people find meaning in doing so [and, according to you, some people's salvation may be brought about by it]. Again, this relies on one's theological perspective. Some people who find no value in arguing over the interpretation, while others think it may be the most important thing there is."

    Response: Regardless of perspectives, there is that "knowledge that leads to salvation", and one must be careful not to miss or dismiss the truth because of various viewpoints.

    Steven said...

    Quote: "Original sin designates the sinful state and condition in which men (descending from Adam)are born"

    Response: What external evidence is there that we are descendants of Adam? We hear about an [anonymous] author's account of creation in Genesis, and we find that same account nowhere else externally [although we do find similar stories in Gilgamesh, a story dated earlier than Genesis, thus hinting at a possible borrowing of the flood narrative]. Are we just throwing out all possibilities of evolution, a theory developed by HIGHLY EDUCATED scientists, in order to accept an account of creation [which, by the way, is different depending on if you read Genesis 1 or Genesis 2] made by an ANONYMOUS individual? Which account of creation do you believe, Genesis 1 or Genesis 2?

    To Quote: "Regardless of historical or theological perspective, Ehrman's suggestion that the writer's conclusion is simply "to eat, drink, and be merry" [partic. in a humanist perspective] when the writer himself states "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment..." is clearly in error."

    Response: I must say I do partially agree- I feel like Ehrman's summation of Ecclesiastes is more of his personal perspective being read into the words than the words themselves being interpreted. While there are a few passages that support his idea, I agree that he seems to have taken them and applied their meaning to all of Ecclesiastes.

    Quote: "What many refer to as internal consistencies are the result not of the biblical writers, but of their own exegeis."

    Response: Are you saying that bible is inerrant? Look at how Jesus is put into the line of David and Abraham in Matthew 1. Then compare the genealogy to what is seen in 1 Chronicles 3.
    Matthew 1:8 "...and JORAM the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of JOTHAM..."
    1 Chronicles 3:10-12 "The descendants of Solomon: Rehoboam, Abijah his son, Asa his son, Jehoshaphat his son, JORAM his son, Ahaziah his son, Joash his son, Amaziah his son, Azariah his son, JOTHAM his son..."
    Note that Matthew separates Joram and Jotham by 3 generations, whereas 1 Chronicles separates Joram and Jotham by 5 generations. This is merely one example of an internal inconsistency found in the bible- there are plenty more.
    You said that the internal inconsistencies are the result "not of the biblical writers, but of their own exegeis." It appears that the internal inconsistency here IS a result of the biblical writers.

    Quote: "...that the sins of others may increase storing up wrath for the day of judgment?"

    Response: So when is this day of judgment going to occur? Many biblical writers had their own answers to this- even Jesus did. These people were Apocalypticists, who thought that the coming kingdom would be an event in which God would bring everything to the light, punishing those who are wrong and rewarding those who are good. To illustrate:
    Mark 1:15 "Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.'"
    Mark 9:1 "And he said to them, 'Truly, I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.'"
    Both of these passages [although there is much more evidence, also] show that Jesus believed the Kingdom was coming in HIS time; he told his disciples some would not die before God's kingdom came. Therefore, [while, historically, we can't be fully 100% certain of anything], the writers of the bible who were trying to proclaim Jesus' message were speaking of an imminent coming kingdom, "right around the corner" so to speak, not in many years to come.

    Quote: "but God is both faithful and just and will not ultimately let the guilty go unpunished."

    Response: How will God not let the guilty go unpunished? If you say it is when his Kingdom comes, I've already established that Jesus spoke of a coming kingdom IN HIS TIME, which never came. He was an apocalypticist, not somebody with prophetic powers who could see to the year 2000 and predict events then. I assume, then, that you are saying God will punish these people when his kingdom comes, or in the afterlife or something. Either way, remember that Ehrman doesn't necessarily believe in an afterlife or that God's kingdom is coming- so you can't knock him for giving his perspective and writing UNDER THE ASSUMPTION that there is not a God of the bible.

    Quote: "Have you considered whether instead of your options the passage may refer to the "ability" of God to do this and to remove the wicked and exact his power and punishment at a moment's notice...?"

    Response: If the passage referred to the "ability" of God to do that,
    it would have read:
    "how they [the wicked] MAY BE destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!"
    Instead, the passage reads:
    "how they [the wicked] ARE destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!"
    You seem to continually read a meaning other than what is EXPLICITLY written in the text into the words. If the text says it, the author meant it. The author did not write anything about God's ability to, and we can't consult the author to see if that is what he meant; we have the author's words, and we read them, and that is what they say.

    Quote: "ability" of God to do this and to remove the wicked and exact his power and punishment at a moment's notice, and that examples in history prove this"

    Response: What historically-reliable events have occurred in the past that were caused because God was exacting punishment and power? The Holocaust? Were Jews at fault? Was God exacting punishment there? If you even mention events in the bible, remember that we are now operating under the terms of historically-reliable events. And historians do not operate under the assumption of a divine force [or else anything would be possible]. Their criteria are based on very rational means and concrete evidence.

    Quote: "Regardless of perspectives, there is that "knowledge that leads to salvation", and one must be careful not to miss or dismiss the truth because of various viewpoints."

    Response: How can you say that one should not dismiss the "knowledge" you speak of? Not everyone believes the same things you do, and certainly for good reason. Whether or not we dismiss the idea that there is some knowledge we must acquire is WHOLLY dependent upon whether or not WE BELIEVE that the knowledge is necessary!

    swordbearer said...

    To Quote: " I must say I do partially agree- I feel like Ehrman's summation of Ecclesiastes is more of his personal perspective being read into the words than the words themselves being interpreted. While there are a few passages that support his idea, I agree that he seems to have taken them and applied their meaning to all of Ecclesiastes."

    Response: Thank you. You have affirmed my position...and even made it clearer in referring to Ehrman's eisogesis rather than exegesis ("personal perspective being read into the words than the words themselves being interpreted"). This not only raises questions when it comes to acceptance of his position, but perhaps his motive and presupposition as well.

    Likewise, while I'm prepared to answer your remaining questions, one must wonder _why_ you have such opposition to the Scripture being right. Note other than finally admitting that Ehrman is wrong (when the evidence is clearly against him), rather than seeking to find if the issues raised can in any way be reconciled, you have on every issue been ready to argue against them. Suppose, like Ehrman, this could not only be an issue of scholarship, but even more importantly an issue of the heart? In Acts 9, Jesus not only lays Saul's sin before him ...that (though he thought himself smart, righteous, etc., that) he was persecuting Christ (denying his entity as the Son of God as well as his authority and kingdom), but Jesus asks the question "Saul, WHY do you persecute me? This, even beyond the issues is the ultimate question that must be addressed. Steven, why is it (as you demonstrate) that you oppose Jesus?

    Steven said...

    It isn't that I oppose Jesus, swordbearer. I just think that its more reasonable for a Christian to have a more fairly-weighted opinion when it comes to the bible. I realize that people disagree about whether or not the bible is inspired by God, but if a Christian is to say that the text is without error [that its just the readers who create the "supposed" errors in the text], then that person needs to actually read the text a lot more.

    I have friends and teachers who have recognized that the bible has errors, that there are internal and external inconsistencies, and yet, have still maintained their faith- and there is nothing wrong with that. Obviously, their views have changed on issues like creation, because with the new evidence for evolution and the such, it is evident that we are not merely 6,00 years old. But you cannot deny fact, and the fact is that discrepancies among authors do exist in the bible. These errors may not change how you or anyone else sees Jesus, but that doesn't mean the errors don't exist.

    I think its perfectly logical to believe that God inspired the writers of the scripture, but if that is true, you have to question why there are inconsistencies. Would a perfect God allow his words to be miswritten or misrepresented in scripture? Maybe, or maybe not. My whole idea is that we simply don't know- if there is a God, we cannot even begin to fathom what he [or she or that entity or it or whatever it is] is! We cannot even begin to subscribe a title, a gender, even a description to that God. These bible writers have, and if you believe that they were inspired by God to write the bible, then I guess you believe in what they say about God. But I don't think that God manifests itself by telling people what to write down, or what to believe.

    Please recognize that the writers differ in opinion, in purpose, and in language. The bible is not a book written by one person, but a book written by many different people. If you say that all these people were inspired by God, well then what about other early Christian writings like the Infancy Gospel of Thomas? Was this author not inspired by God? The way that it was decided [what would and wouldn't be included in the canon of the new testament and the old testament] was a process conceived and carried out by men. Men are not without error; men have reasons and purposes behind every action. The men who chose the books that became canonized into the new and old testaments had their own agendas, and it is possible that they included some books that were not inspired by God and left out some books that were inspired by God [if you subscribe to the idea that God can inspire writers].

    You mentioned that I have such opposition to the scripture being right- I never said that the authors were lying intentionally, that their words are false. I simply said that there are different authors who have differing opinions. Wouldn't you expect something when you have so many different authors!!! I don't think that every author was wrong, but I certainly don't believe either view of creation, simply because the people who are writing about it weren't there to witness creation!!! It's more likely that the people who were writing about Jesus were correct in what they wrote because they actually lived within a few hundred years of Jesus.

    What I am a big proponent for is a less radical, less inerrant view of scripture. I think that we have to recognize that the text is not perfect- heck, it was transmitted from person to person many many many times over a long period of time. We can't expect that there wouldn't be mistakes [were the scribes who copied and recopied scripture inspired by God also?] I cannot take a person seriously who does not recognize that there are errors in the bible. What I can respect is a person who recognizes that there are differences and still holds their faith. A person who bases their entire belief system merely on the text [as it appears Ehrman did- he began to lose his faith when he realized that the bible has errors in it] is a person whose faith in on shaky ground- the text has errors because men wrote it, copied it, and then translated it into english.

    With all of that said, I would love to hear you answer the questions I posed in my response before this one and some of the new ones I've posed in this one. They are listed and numbered below:

    1. What external evidence is there that we are descendants of Adam?

    2. In accepting Genesis' view of creation, are we just throwing out all possibilities of evolution, a theory developed by HIGHLY EDUCATED scientists, in order to accept an account of creation made by an ANONYMOUS individual?

    3. Which account of creation do you believe, Genesis 1 or Genesis 2?

    4. How do you reconcile the clear difference between Matthew 1:8 and 1 Chronicles 3? [reiterated below]
    Matthew 1:8 "...and JORAM the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of JOTHAM..."
    1 Chronicles 3:10-12 "The descendants of Solomon: Rehoboam, Abijah his son, Asa his son, Jehoshaphat his son, JORAM his son, Ahaziah his son, Joash his son, Amaziah his son, Azariah his son, JOTHAM his son..."

    5. Did Jesus believe that the "day of judgment" was going to occur during his time? If not, what evidence is there that he believed judgment would come later?

    6. Your response to what I wrote:
    If the passage [psalm 73 verse 19 says, "how they (the wicked) are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!"] referred to the "ability" of God to do that,
    it would have read:
    "how they [the wicked] MAY BE destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!"
    Instead, the passage reads:
    "how they [the wicked] ARE destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!"
    You seem to continually read a meaning other than what is EXPLICITLY written in the text into the words. If the text says it, the author meant it. The author did not write anything about God's ability to, and we can't consult the author to see if that is what he meant; we have the author's words, and we read them, and that is what they say.

    7. What historically-reliable events have occurred in the past that were caused because God was exacting punishment and power? The Holocaust? Were Jews at fault? Was God exacting punishment there?

    8. If you say that all these people [the authors of the books of the bible] were inspired by God, then consider other early Christian writings like the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. Was this author not inspired by God? What criteria do you use to establish if an author was inspired by God?

    9. Would the God of the bible allow his words to be miswritten or misrepresented in scripture?

    10. Were the scribes who copied and recopied scripture as it was passed on from one generation to the next also inspired by God?

    swordbearer said...

    Stephen,
    I thank you for your answers, and because you have addressed my statements I will address yours.

    However, I must point out even from the beginning that while I will respond to the questions you have asked, my desire here (in consistency with my purpose on this site) is not to enter into a lengthy discussion of a diverging set of questions (especially of the nature and type that are constantly debated, and have numerous others places to be handled). Note, while some of your questions could be seen in keeping with the intent of the Ehrman discussion, your list tended to begin to look more like a punch list of questions typically posed to Christians by unbelievers.


    To Quote “It isn't that I oppose Jesus, swordbearer. I just think that its more reasonable for a Christian to have a more fairly-weighted opinion when it comes to the bible. I realize that people disagree about whether or not the bible is inspired by God, but if a Christian is to say that the text is without error [that its just the readers who create the "supposed" errors in the text], then that person needs to actually read the text a lot more.

    ……..(4) How do you reconcile the clear difference between Matthew 1:8 and 1 Chronicles 3? [reiterated below]
    Matthew 1:8 "...and JORAM the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of JOTHAM..."
    1 Chronicles 3:10-12 "The descendants of Solomon: Rehoboam, Abijah his son, Asa his son, Jehoshaphat his son, JORAM his son, Ahaziah his son, Joash his son, Amaziah his son, Azariah his son, JOTHAM his son..."”

    Response: Several answers have been suggested which offer plausible reasons. Some suggest the omissions could be on account of their descent from the idolatrous Jezebel (which is certainly plausible in a passage of Jesus’ Davidic and Abrahamic descent) , others suggest the omissions are perhaps an arbitrary shortening of the list to give three groups of fourteen, perhaps as an aid to the memory (and in this case what better set to leave out than they who were the immediate progeny of cursed Athaliah, who introduced the idolatry of Ahab into the house of David; note all three had their heads brought to the grave with blood.); while still others suggest that verses 7-11 name kings (or the royal lineage from David through Solomon down to Jacob and Joseph while Luke presents Joseph’s natural ancestry back to David through Heli and Nathan).” Henry puts it this way: “In the pedigree of the kings of Judh, between Joram and Ozis, there are three left out, namely, Ahaziah, Joash,, and Amazih; and therefore when it is said, Joram begat Ozis, it is mean, according to the Hebrew tongue, that Ozis was lineally descended from him, as it is said to Hezekiah that the sons which he should beget should be crried to Babylon, wereas they were removed several generations from him. It was not through mistake or forgetfulness that these three were omitted, but, probably, they were omitted in the genealogical tables that the evangelist consulted, which yet were admitted as authentic.

    To Quote: …My whole idea is that we simply don't know- if there is a God, we cannot even begin to fathom what he [or she or that entity or it or whatever it is] is! We cannot even begin to subscribe a title, a gender, even a description to that God. These bible writers have, and if you believe that they were inspired by God to write the bible, then I guess you believe in what they say about God. But I don't think that God manifests itself by telling people what to write down, or what to believe.

    Response:
    1. To claim that God is unknowable (at all) is to deny not only the power, wisdom and workings of God, but to deny that God has revealed himself in Christ.
    2. Your position is not one of neutrality, it is one of unbelief, for God has spoken and you reject his Word. Christ himself, who has been and is attested to by God through many witnesses and evidences, has testified himself. To say we cannot know is to reject the God who himself declares that He has made himself known and that man is without excuse.

    To Quote: “Please recognize that the writers differ in opinion, in purpose, and in language. The bible is not a book written by one person, but a book written by many different people. If you say that all these people were inspired by God, well then what about other early Christian writings like the Infancy Gospel of Thomas? Was this author not inspired by God? The way that it was decided [what would and wouldn't be included in the canon of the new testament and the old testament] was a process conceived and carried out by men. Men are not without error; men have reasons and purposes behind every action. The men who chose the books that became canonized into the new and old testaments had their own agendas, and it is possible that they included some books that were not inspired by God and left out some books that were inspired by God [if you subscribe to the idea that God can inspire writers].”

    Response: Your error is that you assume God is not sovereign and / or that God cannot superintend the acts and events of men in order that his will is carried out. You obviously either do not understand or you deny organic inspiration. As to the canonization of Scripture, a whole discussion could take place, but let it suffice to say that “The church has not made the books authoritative but the role of the church has been to recognize the authoritative nature of what was already there. To simply dismiss canonization as the choice of men, without considering such things as Christ’s on witness to the Old Testament, to the criteria of apostolic authority, conformity with the rule of faith, the presence of a strong oral tradition, the witness of the new testament writers , along with the witness of the church and even the disputes and the role they have played, etc.) displays lack of scholarship and understanding and appreciation of how God has sovereignly worked to set apart, preserve and propagate his message and Word.

    To Quote: “What I am a big proponent for is a less radical, less inerrant view of scripture.”

    Response: You are a proponent of picking and choosing which parts you want to believe so that in effect you become the arbiter and determiner of truth rather than God.

    To Quote: “I think that we have to recognize that the text is not perfect- heck, it was transmitted from person to person many many many times over a long period of time.

    Response: You presuppose the Holy Spirit was not involved (or that he did not intend for the word to reflect exactly what he wanted it to. Isn’t it interesting though, that the message of the writers is the same (the gospel itself – as it has been unfolded throughout generations and yet it perfectly fits together as a whole). Because there is “one God, one Lord, one faith, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men, the message and truth does not change, though people and times may come and go.

    To Quote: We can't expect that there wouldn't be mistakes [were the scribes who copied and recopied scripture inspired by God also?]

    Response: Again, this is to fail to understand textual criticism. For example, when one finds hundreds of copies of a particular text, some of them spread over various continents, different generations, etc., along with quotations of the same verses in biblical and extra-biblical writings, then to find a scribal error in a particular place on one of the copies is not detrimental to our understanding and confidence of the original. It’s interesting that the same is found among writings of Shakespeare, etc., (only the copies and evidence of the Scriptures is much greater), and no one questions the whether we have Shakespeare’s works or not. It’s not the evidence, but the intentions of those who want to look for excuses and to them any evidence (no matter how unfounded) will suffice.

    To Quote: “I cannot take a person seriously who does not recognize that there are errors in the bible.”

    Response: Hopefully, this is written in a spirit of personal communication rather offense.

    To Quote: “…A person who bases their entire belief system merely on the text [as it appears Ehrman did- he began to lose his faith when he realized that the bible has errors in it] is a person whose faith in on shaky ground- the text has errors because men wrote it, copied it, and then translated it into english.”

    Response: As has been shown, Ehrman’s error lies not with the text, but his own interpretation.

    To Quote: What external evidence is there that we are descendants of Adam?

    Response: Common ancestry. Common Nature

    To Quote: In accepting Genesis' view of creation, are we just throwing out all possibilities of evolution, a theory developed by HIGHLY EDUCATED scientists, in order to accept an account of creation made by an ANONYMOUS individual?

    Response: As has been shown with Ehrman, “highly educated” does not always mean “correct”, nor does it mean they are without presuppositions, agendas, etc. There are also “highly educated” scientists who oppose evolution. On another level, there are reasons such as “inspiration” (which you presuppose not to exist) which provide reasons for believing, along with the fact that the author (though he did not possess the science we do) was much closer in time to the creation as well as a spiritual descendent of those who possessed the same faith as Adam, Noah, etc. If Genesis was written my Moses (to which many evidences point), he would not be such the ANONYMOUS individual your suggestion might infer.

    To Quote: “ Which account of creation do you believe, Genesis 1 or Genesis 2?”

    Response: That’s like the question “When did you stop beating your wife?” Or shall I ask you which atheistic version of the beginning do you believe (eternal matter, life from nothing, life from nothing from the bottom of the ocean, or from outer space)? While I recognize there are difficulties presented in these chapters, there are also explanations that have been presented which seek to reconcile or answer the apparent inconsistencies and there may be some questions we still cannot answer, though that does not mean it is not true, even as study in the areas of both theology and science continue to reveal thing previously unknown or misunderstood. This much is true though, unbelievers have not proved wrong, while issues may be found in Genesis, unbelievers have a much more difficult time explaining life from no life, morality from matter, law but no law giver, etc.

    To Quote: “Did Jesus believe that the "day of judgment" was going to occur during his time? If not, what evidence is there that he believed judgment would come later?”

    Response: For starters, Jesus predicted his own death, the death of Peter which would follow, etc. In addition to that the Apostle Paul wrote concerning those who would come after him to the church in Ephesus. Both Jesus and the apostles consistently taught that about the times and dates, that they were known only by the Father. In addition, Jesus, in the great commission commanded the church to take the gospel from Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

    To Quote: … Instead, the passage reads: "how they [the wicked] ARE destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!"
    You seem to continually read a meaning other than what is EXPLICITLY written in the text into the words. If the text says it, the author meant it. The author did not write anything about God's ability to, and we can't consult the author to see if that is what he meant; we have the author's words, and we read them, and that is what they say.”

    Response: Note, the passage does not state the wicked are “ALWAYS” destroyed in a moment. Certainly David (the author of Ps 37) had seed the wicked destroyed in a moment. Even Goliath was an example of that. And yet, David also experienced battles wherein he saw the wicked dealt with over time, and even though the battles may have gone one way or another for a time, David’s own establishment as king and ruler over his enemies was accomplished even with a view toward the greater accomplishment in Christ. It seems by wanting to assert “ALWAYS” into the text, YOU are the one who read a meaning other than the author’s into the text.

    To Quote: What historically-reliable events have occurred in the past that were caused because God was exacting punishment and power? The Holocaust? Were Jews at fault? Was God exacting punishment there?

    Response: While I do not pretend to know the Lord’s motives in all that he does this much is true (1) God is just in all he does so that no one receives greater punishment or penalty from God than they deserve; (2) All have sinned and are deserving of death (the fact that this is delayed or that we receive anything short of it, or that some have been given life all result from God’s mercy) (3)There would be no death, destruction, sickness, etc. had man not sinned. (4) Often God accomplishes multiple purpose in or through the same events. For example in Paul’s sufferings, not only was God’s will accomplished through the lives of those who inflicted harm, but also accomplished in Paul’s life.

    To Quote: If you say that all these people [the authors of the books of the bible] were inspired by God, then consider other early Christian writings like the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. Was this author not inspired by God? What criteria do you use to establish if an author was inspired by God?

    Response: The writings of the Gospel of Thomas do not agree with the rule of faith communicated by Christ and the apostles.

    To Quote: “Would the God of the bible allow his words to be miswritten or misrepresented in scripture?”

    Response: God has communicated in the Scripture that all Scripture is inspired.

    To Quote: Were the scribes who copied and recopied scripture as it was passed on from one generation to the next also inspired by God?”

    Response: While not inspired, they were used as instruments by God in the process so that God’s Word has been preserved.