Was My Weird Background a Help or a Hindrance: Mailbag October 22, 2017

In this week’s readers’ mailbag I deal with a personal question about my background and whether it gave me and advantages or disadvantages in my rather unusual line of work as a secular scholar of the Bible.

 

QUESTION: 

Just as a matter of empirical fact, do you think that your religious background gave you any (intellectual) advantages, or disadvantages, in your work over someone who lacked that background?

 

RESPONSE:

Every now and then I look back on my life and think:  Wow, now ...

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What I Came To Believe About the Bible

It is a little difficult for me to describe what I believed after I gave up on my view that the Bible was the inerrant revelation from God with no mistakes in it whatsoever.  In part that is because there was a long transition period, and over time my beliefs evolved as I studied more, talked with friends and colleagues more, encountered more ideas, thought more.

I was in the perfect situation for this kind of study and reflection.  I was ...

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Why Have I Stopped Explaining How I Lost My Faith? Readers’ Mailbag June 4, 2017

I will be dealing with two questions in this weeks’ Readers’ Mailbag.  The first is about what happened to that thread I was supposed to be doing on why I lost my faith (!) and the other about whether Mark’s account of Jesus’ death contains an inner discrepancy (one verse flat out contradicting another).

 

QUESTION:

I’m a bit confused. A few weeks ago you said you were going to write about what you tell your students on the last day of school ...

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Becoming a Non-Fundamentalist Christian

After realizing that the Bible does in fact contain mistakes, I became a non-fundamentalist Christian and remained one for many years.  It is not easy to describe exactly what I believed “at the time,” only because it was a good expanse of time and there was a kind of transition period in which I evolved into the kind of open-minded, reflective believer that I became and remained, again for some years.

At the early stages I suppose you could describe me ...

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Fundamentalism and the Truth of the Bible

I have recently received a number of inquiries about why realizing there may be mistakes in the Bible might lead someone to become an agnostic.  Here is one that came a few days ago:

 

QUESTION:

I want to thank you for your extensive work in explaining … your journey from believing that the bible contained no errors to proving the bible is not inerrant and simply the work of human writers. What I would like to be explained is the necessary logic ...

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How I First Realized There Are Mistakes in the Bible

I have told the story before of how I first came to realize there might be mistakes in the Bible.  Rather than paraphrasing it again, I’ll simply reproduce the account as I presented it the first time I went public with my faith journey, back in my 2005 book Misquoting Jesus.  Here is what I said there:

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Upon arriving at Princeton Theological Seminary, I immediately signed up for first-year Hebrew and Greek exegesis (= interpretation) classes, and loaded my ...

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My Resistance to Change at Princeton Seminary

Several people have asked me to unpack what I meant in the last sentence of yesterday’s post because, well, it doesn’t make sense.  What I was trying to say was that I had a crisis of faith in Seminary – as many people do, as it turns out – because I thought I could prove my faith claims were true (an Enlightenment position: “truth” is objective and can be proved), but the more research I did, the more I found ...

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The Life Story I Tell My Students

As I’ve indicated, my last class of the semester in my Introduction to the New Testament course is optional.  In it I explain to anyone who wants to come what I really believe and why I believe it.  The way I do it is by telling my life story, from childhood till today.  That takes about twenty or twenty-five minutes, and then I answer any questions for the rest of the time.  The questions could go on for hours – ...

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Pastor Goranson, the Son of God, and I: A Blast From the Past

 

A former colleague of mine contacted me last week — not a colleague from any of my teaching positions, but a colleague in ministry from forty years ago when I was the Youth Pastor at Trinity Covenant Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois.  I’ve been reminiscing about those days, and I remembered an event connected with that church that I talked about in my book How Jesus Became God, involving a moment when my doubts about the Christian faith ...

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My Problem(s) With Fundamentalism: A Blast from the Past

What are fundamentalists, and why don’t I like them?  Here is a post I published almost exactly four years ago now.  My views have not changed!

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QUESTION:

You note that fundamentalism is dangerous and harmful. How do you define fundamentalism and why do you think it’s dangerous?

RESPONSE:

There are of course actual definitions of “fundamentalism” that you can find in scholarship on religion, but I sense that you’re asking more for a rough-and-ready description. Years ago I started defining fundamentalism as ...

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