I just returned yesterday from a two-day event in New Orleans involving a public debate with an Australian New Testament scholar named Michael Bird. To explain the situation, I need to give some background. As most readers on the blog know, a couple of years ago I published my book How Jesus Became God. This was my attempt to show how it is that the man Jesus, an apocalyptic preacher from a remote area of rural Galilee, came to be considered the second member of the Trinity, God the creator, who had always existed, who was fully equal with the God of the universe, who was in fact of the same “essence” as him. How’d that happen exactly?
Also as many of you know, a group of evangelical scholars learned I was writing the book, and decided, even before they had seen it (!), that they wanted to write a response to it in order to correct its misperceptions. They were afraid, I suppose, that I might lead someone astray. And so they asked my publisher if I would share a draft of my book with them so they could write essays addressing my various points. Both my publisher and I thought it was an interesting idea, to have a response book appear not a year or two later, but on the very same day of publication. So we went ahead with it. The evangelical scholars wrote up (rather quickly) their responses, and it came out under the title (to no one’s surprise, even though it’s clever) How God Became Jesus. The editor of the volume, and contributor of two of its essays, was Michael Bird.
And so a debate was set up this past weekend, between Michael and me, on the question “How Did Jesus Become God?” It was held as this year’s “Greer-Heard Forum” (named after the two who fund the forum every year) at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Now that is not a place that you might normally expect me to speak. NOBTS is an extremely conservative evangelical theological school that focuses on training Southern Baptist ministers and educators. I doubt if they would call themselves fundamentalists, since, so far as I can tell, no one seems to call themselves fundamentalist (a fundamentalist is always the guy to the right of you, wherever you happen to be standing); but they are certainly conservative evangelical. The professors there all have to sign a statement of faith that says, among other things, that the Bible is completely inerrant – no mistakes, of any kind, whatsoever.
Even though it is extraordinarily…
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