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The Fear of Hell, Good Debaters, and the Name of God: Mailbag April 22, 2016

For this week’s readers’ mailbag I have chosen three unusually unrelated questions, one on whether we should be afraid of going to hell, one on how I prepare for public debates, and one on how we got the name Jehovah from the Hebrew name of God, YHWH.   This shows just how wide ranging your questions can be on this blog!   If you one you would like me to address in the future, let me know.   QUESTION: What would you say to someone who is scared of going to hell? RESPONSE: I suppose the first thing I’d say is that I understand the fear very well, from the inside, as I too used to have it.   This was especially a problem for me when I first began to realize that I didn’t believe the Christian message any more, the claim that one had to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus to be “saved” and that anyone who didn’t believe would be condemned to the eternal torments of hell.  One of my greatest fears [...]

2017-11-13T21:03:48-05:00April 22nd, 2016|Afterlife, Public Forum, Reader’s Questions|

My Recitation Debates

Before I talk about the debate I had with myself in front of my class this week, on the topic Resolved: The New Testament Book of Acts is Historically Reliable, I need to do some considerable stage-setting.  First, in this post, let me explain how the class is set up (including the debates the students themselves do), to make sense of what I was trying to accomplish in my staged split-personality (affirmative and negative). So the class is an Introduction to the New Testament, which presupposes no background or knowledge about the field.  It is, of course, historically oriented, rather than confessionally, religiously, theologically, or devotionally.   Students learn the Jewish and Greco-Roman background to the New Testament, and they study the Gospels, the historical Jesus, the letters of Paul, and the other writings of the New Testament from the historical-critical perspective. Twice a week students hear me give a lecture (most recently three of the classes involved lectures on the historical Jesus: problems with our sources; methods scholars have developed for dealing with these problems; [...]

2020-04-03T03:47:38-04:00March 11th, 2016|Public Forum, Teaching Christianity|

The Value (or Not) of Debates

As most readers of the blog know, I do a good number of public debates, almost always (I’m trying to think if there is an exception!) with conservative evangelical Christians or fundamentalists who think that my views are dangerous to the good Christians of their communities and to all those non-Christians they very much want to convert.   My view all along has been that my historical views are not a threat to Christian faith, but only to a particular (and particularly narrow) understanding of that faith.   But most of my debate partners can’t see things that way.  For them, their views are Christianity, and any other kind of Christianity is not actually Christianity. I usually look forward to these debates in advance, but I have to say that almost every time I’m actually having one, I start jotting notes to myself, asking “Why Am I Doing This?” or “Why Do I Do This To Myself?”   I often find the debates very frustrating. I imagine my debate partners do as well.  They just can’t understand why [...]

2020-04-03T03:47:46-04:00March 10th, 2016|Bart's Debates, Public Forum, Teaching Christianity|

Debates For A Price

QUESTION: Robert M. Price posted on his FB wall a few weeks ago that he was considering starting a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to debate Ehrman. Looks like things might be going ahead? Ehrman said on 'The Skeptic Fence' podcast a few months back that he'd be OK with debating Price. Reading between the lines, it looks like that they may made some sort of verbal agreement? Dr. Ehrman, are you aware of this challenge??   RESPONSE: Ha!  No, I’m afraid we haven’t made any kind of arrangement – Bob hasn’t said anything to me about this.  But before pursuing the matter, I should probably provide a little bit of background and context. For those of you who don’t know, Robert Price is a mythicist, one of those small minority of human beings who does not think Jesus actually existed.   In their opinion it is not simply that there are lots of myths and legends told about Jesus that are not historical; it is instead that the man himself never lived.  This is a [...]

2017-12-09T11:06:17-05:00February 14th, 2015|Mythicism, Public Forum|

Defending Myself

Several times a week I get emails from people who ask what it’s like to be the subject of such vitriolic attack by those who don’t agree with my views.   Or they express regret and sorrow that I am so often or viciously attacked.  Or they want me to stand up for myself and reply to my attackers.   Almost always, when I get one of these emails, I think to myself:  Am I being attacked by someone???  Huh.   *That’s* interesting. The reality is that for the most part I’m blissfully unaware of assaults on my views (or character).  I suppose that is mainly because I don’t search around on the Internet to see who is saying what about me.   I do know that fundamentalists and lots of conservative evangelicals think that if I’m not the devil incarnate, that at least I’m one of his more academic henchmen.   And I know that the attacks by these conservative Christians pale in comparison with the attacks by the mythicists, who can’t think I’m an incarnation of Satan since [...]

2017-12-09T11:10:51-05:00January 11th, 2015|Bart's Critics, Public Forum|

Follow-up Apologies for the Post on Dinesh D’Souza

I was completely taken aback when I got up this morning (I’m in London – five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time) to check my blog and Facebook pages to find that I caused a bit of a firestorm by my comments on Dinesh D’Souza when in yesterday’s post I introduced the video of the debate that I had had with him a couple of years ago.  That was not my intention at *all* and I’m non-plussed, surprised, and embarassed.   All sides of the political spectrum have reacted strongly – rabid liberals hee-hawing and rabid conservatives fuming and others weighing in one way or the other.   Woops.  Not what I had in mind. Now that I re-read my opening comments, I see how they are being read, and they are not being read in the way that I meant them.   But I need to apologize to Dinesh and to anyone else I have offended.  My intention was *not* to badmouth Dinesh, whom I like on a personal level even if absolutely not on the political.  [...]

2017-12-14T22:49:10-05:00August 3rd, 2014|Bart's Debates, Public Forum|

My Debate with Dinesh D’Souza on the Problem of Suffering

A prominent figure in the news lately has been Dinesh D'Souza. Dinesh is best known as a hyper-conservative political commentator. His most recent book is America, and this week it is #1 on the New York Times bestseller list for non-fiction. It has a companion documentary film. If you're politically very-right-wing conservative and despise Barack Obama and everything he stands for -- this is the book for you! Dinesh was a policy analyst in the Reagan White House as a 20-something Wunderkind; he has served as John M. Olin Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. The New York Times Magazine named him as one of America's most influential conservative thinkers. Newsweek listed him as one of the country's most prominent Asian Americans. Dinesh has also been in the news for several other things in the past two years, in connection with his (former) presidency of Kings college -- a conservative evangelical institutions that trains conservative Christians in business and finance so that they can get high level places at Goldman Sachs-- and more recently because [...]

2020-12-29T00:55:02-05:00August 2nd, 2014|Bart's Debates, Public Forum, Video Media|
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