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What Happened Next: My Life After Moody Bible Institute

Here I’ll continue relating what I told my New Testament class the last period, when I was explaining what I personally believed and why (for anyone who wanted to come).

For me, as I indicated in the last post, going to Wheaton College (Billy Graham’s alma mater) was a step toward liberalism.  Students there were not as gung-ho about the Bible – well, fanatical about the Bible – as we had been at Moody.  They were evangelical Christians, all of them so far as I could tell, yes, and they were committed to the inspiration of the Bible, most of them even the infallibility of the Bible.  But their academic interests almost always resided elsewhere.

That’s because Wheaton was a liberal arts college, and most students were majoring in English, history, psychology, biology, and so on.  The students I hung around with most were in fields like philosophy and classics and, of course, my own major, English.

I chose to major in English for a rather missionary reason.  I wanted to …

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Mythicists and the Virgin Birth: Readers’ Mailbag May 6, 2017
The Life Story I Tell My Students



  1. talmoore
    talmoore  May 4, 2017

    “But, frankly, philosophy had never much appealed to me. I found it rather dry and pedantic (personal predilection).”

    Funny, I love philosophy *because* it’s dry and pedantic. Although I have yet to make it all the way through Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason I keep coming back to it in the hope that my innate masochism will get me through it.

    • Bart
      Bart  May 6, 2017

      Now if you *really* loved it this would be your third time through!

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    HawksJ  May 4, 2017

    You talk about your exposure to geology and ‘learning about…evolution’ in college. Did you not learn about those in high school? I went through the Kansas Public system just as you did, albeit 15 years later, and I certainly learned about those things.

    • Bart
      Bart  May 6, 2017

      Sure, but it was at the very elementary level. And in high school I avoided science as a rule: just never enjoyed or understood it. It it had been otherwise, maybe I never would have become a fundamentalist!

  3. Avatar
    Jason  May 5, 2017

    “I knew that to reach people I would have to understanding where they were coming from.”
    I think this is where you really parted ways with most evangelicals who stay committed to it.

  4. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  May 5, 2017

    Great series. The big problem, of course, is finding an intellectual basis for Christianity that deals with the critical examination of crucial questions and doesn’t just spin some answers emphasizing faith over evidence.

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    nbraith1975  May 5, 2017

    Bart – Do you think that Jesus could speak and write Greek or Hebrew? What about the apostles (The literate ones)? Do you think that any of the NT could have originally been written in Aramaic or Hebrew?

    Thank You

    • Bart
      Bart  May 6, 2017

      No, I think he knew Aramaic, and could not compose in it. Whether he could *read* anything (Hebrew or Aramaic), I don’t really know. The NT was entirely written in Greek — not a lot of debate about that among specialists these days.

      • Avatar
        nbraith1975  May 6, 2017

        If Jesus “knew Aramaic, and could not compose in it,” how is it that he could read in the Synagogue as stated in Luke 4:16? And if he was reading, what language do you think he was reading – Hebrew or Greek (Septuagint)?

        16 He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. He entered, as was his custom, into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. 17 The book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. He opened the book, and found the place where it was written…

        • Bart
          Bart  May 7, 2017

          That’s the one place in the entire NT where Jesus is said to be able to read. I am ambivalent on whether it can be historically accurate or not. In any event, he would have been reading it in Hebrew. Also, the ability in the read in the ancient world did not entail, necessarily, the ability to write (unlike the modern world) (different educational system when it came to literacy)

          • Avatar
            nbraith1975  May 7, 2017

            Bart – I’m having trouble understanding which “parts” of the NT you find to be historically accurate and which parts you are “ambivalent” about.

            Maybe I’m wrong, but as I read your work and listen to debates you have had, it seems you are mostly ambivalent about the parts of the text that lend to it being more accurate in their account of who Jesus was and what he said or did.

            In this case, what “parts” of the text are you not ambivalent about? Maybe that he actually did “enter the synagogue on the Sabbath day,” or that it was the book of Isaiah, etc?

            Thank You

          • Bart
            Bart  May 8, 2017

            Yes, I can see how it might be confusing. But no, it’s not a matter of simply dismissing parts that I think might make the Bible accurate. My view is that every verse, every part of a verse, in the Gospels has to be subject to rigorous historical criteria in order to determine whether they are most likely accurate or not. I give a full statement in my book Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet. In the present case it’s really just a matter of probabilities. If only 3% of the population of Galilee could probably read, and almost all of that 3% were the very wealthy urban elite — what are the chances that Jesus was among the group? It’s unlikely, but still possible. Hence my hesitancy.

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    Pattycake1974  May 5, 2017

    Literature is extremely important in opening up our worldview as you’ve pointed out here.

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    Boltonian  May 5, 2017

    ‘The Sea of Faith
    Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
    Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
    But now I only hear
    Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,’

    • Bart
      Bart  May 6, 2017

      I begin my next book (out in September) precisely with that (Dover Beach)!

  8. John4
    John4  May 5, 2017

    So, what novel are you currently reading then, Bart?

    Many thanks for your thoughtful posts! 🙂

    • Bart
      Bart  May 6, 2017

      I’ve been reading E.M. Forster for a couple of weeks. Just finished Room with a View and am now onto Where Angels Fear To Tread. Fantastic!

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    Macavity  May 5, 2017

    Gerald Hawthorne’s wife was Jane Elliot, the sister of Jim Elliot, the famous Ecuadorean Christian martyr whose wife was Elisabeth Elliot whose brothers were Tom Howard and David Howard whose father was Philip E. Howard, Jr., the editor of The Sunday School Times. Given this web of famous evangelical connections and the fact Gerald Hawthorne’s income depended upon his teaching career at Wheaton College, imagine the psychological pressures there must have been not to renounce his Christian faith! In such a situation, what is the probability that Gerald Hawthorne could ever have become an epistemological agnostic/psychological atheist?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 6, 2017

      Yes, I’ve often thought of that. I stayed in their home once, and met Jane then. She was a wonderful human being. And yes, the family and other social connections ran very deep indeed.

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    gwayersdds  May 5, 2017

    You mention the very same intellectual problems that I have with fundamentalist style of thinking. It is very rigid and limited. The belief that the Bible can be used as a science text book to support creationism is to me impossible As a scientist I do not see a contradiction between science and the Bible. I believe that God created. Just how He did that is not necessarily a theological problem. My personal theory is that when God said “Let there be light” the big bang occurred. At that point all the laws of chemistry, physics , biology etc. were created and the universe follows those laws. Your books have not lessened my personal faith but have certainly allowed me to stretch outside the box. I am currently reading “Jesus before the Gospels” and find it very stimulating and thought provoking, although I probably won’t remember all of it. And if I did it would end up a distortion of the printed word!

  11. Josephsluna
    Josephsluna  May 5, 2017

    It is (because academically, we don’t use it’s)( parenthetical element) a shame I was not blessed with the understanding how important education is until now. Even though I did not have the best childhood, I will be graduating from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) with a B..A in Communication. I will continue after I graduate, of course. I still wear my Princeton sweater when its cold, and Princeton shirt when I workout, because Princeton is my favorite, and always will be. I look up to you and Elaine, always have and always I will.

    May you speak what is on your mind when you are intoxicated….

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