I have to admit, I sometimes get a bit tired of being the whipping boy for fundamentalist and conservative evangelical Christian apologists. If they would deal with my views head on and actually get the facts of my life right, it would be one thing. But when they publicly accuse me of holding, or having held, positions that I never did – when they are flat our wrong in what they say about me — it gets under my skin.
The first time I noticed this in a big way was when Craig Evans – a long time colleague and friend – indicated, in writing!, that the reason I had become an agnostic was that I came to realize that there were differences in our manuscripts of the New Testament. Good grief. I had known about differences in our manuscripts from the time I was sixteen years old!! I had studied them and known all about them in all the years I was a fundamentalist. These differences had nothing – Zero, Nada, Not a Thing – to do with my becoming an agnostic. Why didn’t he just ask me about it before saying something so outrageous? He has my email address.
Today a member of the blog sent me the following little bit from William Lane Craig. ) (I don’t know why I get dragged into these things by evangelical scholars; I never talk about *their* personal lives or faith….). He too could find my email address and could simply ask me if what he says about me is true. It’s not. Here’s what he says (with a link to the rest of his post which, thankfully, is not about me):
“We should have to re-think our doctrine of inspiration in that case, but we needn’t give up belief in God or in Jesus, as Bart Ehrman did. Ehrman had, it seems to me, a flawed theological system of beliefs as a Christian. It seems that at the center of his web of theological beliefs was biblical inerrancy, and everything else, like the beliefs in the deity of Christ and in his resurrection, depended on that. Once the center was gone, the whole web soon collapsed. But when you think about it, such a structure is deeply flawed. At the center of our web of beliefs ought to be some core belief like the belief that God exists, with the deity and resurrection of Christ somewhere near the center. The doctrine of inspiration of Scripture will be somewhere further out and inerrancy even farther toward the periphery as a corollary of inspiration. If inerrancy goes, the web will feel the reverberations of that loss, as we adjust our doctrine of inspiration accordingly, but the web will not collapse because belief in God and Christ and his resurrection and so on don’t depend upon the doctrine of biblical inerrancy.” Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/what-price-biblical-errancy#ixzz3FN3RdTDC
So let me say to start with that I completely agree with Craig theologically. The beliefs in the deity and resurrection of Christ should not be based on a view of inerrancy of Scripture. But what does *my* faith journey have to do with that? Precisely nothing. Maybe I said something once that led him to think otherwise? I thought I’d always been careful in what I said about my journey from fundamentalist to agnostic, but maybe I slipped up somewhere? If so, I’m sure he’ll let me know.
But the reality is that he is FLAT OUT WRONG that my former belief in the deity of Christ and the resurrection “depended on” my belief in the inerrancy of the Bible. I have two incontrovertible proofs for that. The first is that I believed in the deity of Christ and in the physical resurrection BEFORE I held to a view of Biblical inerrancy. The second is that I believed in the deity of Christ and in the physical resurrection AFTER I gave up my view of Biblical inerrancy.
I was raised to believe in Christ’s deity and resurrection. I believed it from my very earliest days, as soon as I had any thoughts about God, and Christ, and faith. When I came to subscribe to the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, as a teenager, this supported beliefs that I had already had. It did not lead me to adopt those faiths.
And when I gave up my views of inerrancy as a twenty-something, upon realizing that the Bible in fact contains historical errors, discrepancies between various accounts (for example, in the Gospels), mistakes of various kinds, and different views of important things (such as how Christ was understood in different books of the NT, how salvation was to be attained, and so on), I did not then, that day, or the next, or the next week, or the next year, or for a good while give up my beliefs in Christ’s deity and resurrection.
Craig could have known that had he bothered to ask me. As a philosopher, Craig is intimately familiar with the logical fallacy “post hoc ergo propter hoc” – which means something like “if something happens after this thing it therefore happened because of this thing.” It’s true that I gave up my beliefs in the deity and resurrection of Jesus. But it was not *because* I had given up on inerrancy. It was simply *after* I had given up on inerrancy.
The way it actually happened is this. I had held to the traditional teachings of Christianity (including Christ’s deity and resurrection) since the time I could think. Those views were reinforced as I attained a more thinking age. And reinforced even stronger when I came to hold to the inerrancy of the Bible. But – just to take the view of the resurrection – I believed it not just because the Bible said so, but because I thought it could be historically demonstrated to have happened. And because I knew, personally, based on my spiritual experience, that Jesus was still alive. Therefore he had been raised. And therefore he was divine.
When I gave up my view of inerrancy, it did not “cause” me to abandon my beliefs about Christ. Instead, it opened up to me the possibility of establishing *other* grounds for what to believe – not simply what I had been raised on and not simply what the Bible taught. I came to think that any belief had to be subject to critical scrutiny. In other words, one had to use one’s intelligence to figure out if a belief made sense. God had given me a mind, and he expected me to use it. The more I thought about it, the more I studied the ancient records of the NT, the more I saw how the doctrine of Christ’s divinity had developed historically and come into being because of a clear set of historical and cultural circumstances, the more I realized that it was a human-made idea. And I came to realize that it was not the view that Jesus had of himself or or that his earliest followers had of him. That made me begin to doubt it.
My doubts in the resurrection came later, and for other reasons. These doubts again were not *because* I no longer held inerrancy. The came *after* I held to inerrancy. But since the reasons for belief in the resurrection (as with the deity of Christ) were not *due to* inerrancy, I did not abandon the belief when I gave up inerrancy, but only later. It was decidedly not the case of post hoc ergo propter hoc.
I don’t mind others talking about me and my life in public. But when they do so, I wish they would get their facts straight.