An open Bible with the pages shuffling

Sam Harris & Bart Ehrman

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I’m bringing you this week’s theology post a day early, as tomorrow is release day for my new single so I’ll be posting about that instead of my usual Thursday Theology post.

Today I want to direct you to a fascinating discussion between two well-known atheists who are presenting arguments on a variety of matters related to Christianity and the reliability of the Bible. I will embed that discussion below, and then follow it up with a video response from Christian scholar James White.

I believe we can all learn a lot from these two videos, regardless of our beliefs. My Christian followers may think, “Why would I want to spend two hours listening to two atheists criticising the Bible?” but my answer would be that if you’re at all interested in apologetics (that is, defending the Christian faith), then these two discussions will add to your understanding and therefore your armoury.

This first video is an interview with Bart Ehrman on the Sam Harris ‘Waking Up’ podcast.

The second video I’d like to share, in the interest of balance, is a response to the Harris / Ehrman discussion by Calvinist Christian scholar James White. I have skipped the first part of this video (you’ll see it starts at 7.24) as prior to that White is discussing an unrelated subject.


What did you think of the arguments? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below. For posts every week related to theology, Christianity, apologetics, and more, please consider subscribing to this blog.

9 comments

  1. Once again you’ve planted a provocative post! I could listen to only snippets of the first video. Intellectual assaults on scripture that is “living and active” would be laughable if not so grievous. “Knowledge puffs up” and leads to pride. Poor atheist, God opposes the proud.
    Heard some of 2nd video too…good to have Biblical input!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lisa. I appreciate that listening to all of both videos is a big ask in terms of time commitment. Also, I understand that Christians may feel they want to guard their hearts against such challenges. Nevertheless, I think they cover some important topics. God bless!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Steven! I’m actually writing and I’m not at work. 🙂

    I didn’t have time yet to listen to the entire 2-hour interview or the rebuttal, but I have listened to several other Bart Ehrman interviews as well as his New Testament Gospel survey “class” available on CD through Great Courses. Any Christian who listens to this ought to be aware that there are very strong rebuttals to nearly every claim that Ehrman puts forth. For example, Ehrman wrote a book titled “Misquoting Jesus” which was soundly rebutted by another book, “Misquoting Truth” by Timothy Paul Jones. What I came to realize was that Ehrman is guilty of the same “errors” that he attributes to Christians. One example would be his dating of the NT manuscripts. Since Ehrman already believes that the miracles never happened and that predictive prophecy is impossible, he gives very late dates for the gospels… because Jesus could never have predicted the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70, so they couldn’t have been written prior to that time.

    It is the same with many of his claims… having already disavowed the gospel accounts as fictional, he then makes up alternate explanations based squarely on that preconceived belief. I’m not sure if he gets into the Pauline epistles in this interview, but again he dismisses the veracity of some epistles because of alleged differences in vocabulary or structure, yet he never seems to take into account that Paul often used various intermediaries (secretaries) to compose his letters as he dictated, and wrote very few in his own hand, or that Paul’s letters span at least thirty years, during which it is likely that he developed new terminology or ways of explaining the truths of the gospel. For Bart Ehrman, unless a person writes in exactly the same style using exactly the same terminology every time, the letters must be forgeries.

    And he makes all these claims as a “scholar” lending credibility to his views. For any Christian not aware of Ehrman’s biases and background, it can sound very troubling. There is one major element missing in Bart’s journey from faith to agnosticism – he never had any personal encounter with the living Christ. He had some beliefs and he studied at Moody, Wheaten, and Princeton, but he never had a living relationship with God. For anyone who had encountered the Lord, or experienced God speaking or working a miracle in their life, the notion that God doesn’t exist or that Jesus Christ is a fiction is truly ludicrous. Bart is one of those who is ever learning but never experiencing the truth. His apparently “neutral” and scholarly analyses of the Bible are loaded with his own preconceived beliefs and “facts” that shape every conclusion he reaches. He is very much a wolf appearing as a harmless, intelligent sheep.

    And he serves as a great example of Paul’s explanation that the gospel is like foolishness to those who don’t believe, and that scholars, wise men, and debaters often can’t grasp the truth because it is apprehended by faith, not by being smart (by worldly standards). Nevertheless, there have always been plenty of intelligent, well-educated folks who do believe, showing that Jesus isn’t just for the uneducated, but for anyone who has faith or desire to believe. For those who have encountered the living Christ, Bart Ehrman appears as a sad, misguided fool who has devoted his life to disproving the very thing that could save him.

    I’ll try to give the whole thing a listen later on.. cheers!

    ~ Don

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agreed with a few things you said in your comment, but I wanted to point out that it’s well documented by scholars that the gospels were all written decades after the resurrection, certainly after most of Paul’s letters and it’s well-known that John’s gospel most likely was penned by John’s disciples from his common teachings near the turn of the century in the late 90’s. So some of your information is not accurate.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi David!

    I appreciate the feedback. The dating of the gospels is still a contested issue. Those postulating a “late date” beyond A.D. 70 generally do so under the assumption that Jesus could never have predicted the total destruction of the Temple in advance, so his “prediction” – and those gospels – must have been written post 70.

    In my research, the more logical route seems to be that Acts was probably written prior to A.D. 70, since it leaves us with Paul alive under house arrest, and fails to mention important 60’s events like the martyrdom of James (brother to Jesus), persecution under Nero, and the siege of Jerusalem.

    So if Acts is a sequel to Luke, then Luke was written even earlier, and Mark – said to be the earliest of all – even before that. What all that means is that Mark, Luke, and Acts were probably all written in the 50’s or early 60’s, and the bulk of the content of Mark / Luke was orally transmitted prior to that.

    That is a gap of only 20-35 years before the gospel accounts appeared, documenting what was already being passed down orally. There was no gap of 4-6 decades as scholars like Erhman like to claim.

    I also have an excellent work entitled The Primacy of John (can’t recall the author right now) in which he documents an impressive array of internal evidence to suggest that John’s gospel predates them all, and represents a compilation (as you say) of John’s eyewitness accounts. He demonstrates that John has more “eyewitness” characteristics than any other gospel, and that there is no compelling evidence to give it such a late “end of century” date as many do.

    Anyhow, folks who want to disparage Christianity usually push a very late date for all the gospels in order to boost their claims of inaccuracy and unreliability. But there’s another side to every story.

    A very interesting subject!

    Don

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for posting this. I must say the conversation with Harris and Ehrman is very frustrating to listen to. First, you have the ad hominem attack of using the phrase “fundamentalist” over and over again to try and discredit the position from the start. Not to mention Ehrman says that he knows plenty of Christians who don’t believe in the Resurrection and that they are “highly sophisticated” as opposed to the “Evangelicals.” Then you have claims made as if they are 100% sure and aren’t debated by scholars at all, like almost everything he mentions about the Gospels!

    This reminds me to not overstate my case for Christianity, as now I know what it’s like to hear that from the other side. Apologists like myself can be bad at this and make sweeping statements and over-generalizations as well! But there is good information here to know where the other side is coming from.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Carey! I appreciate your comments, and your sensitivity towards ensuring you aren’t making sweeping statements in your evangelism. Thanks so much for taking the time to read my post and listen to the Harris / Ehrman podcast.

      Liked by 1 person

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