Friday, October 7, 2016

Losing Faith

by Tony Thomas

I recently subscribed to Bart Ehrman's blog: "The History and Literature of Early Christianity". It is certainly not for the faint of heart and not recommended if you are new to the Christian faith or not a serious student of the Bible. Still, it has some interesting and thought-provoking content that I find both interesting and informative. And, although he charges $25 a year for access, all of the funds go to charity and support agencies like CARE and Doctors Without Borders to ease the suffering of others. That is certainly a worthy pursuit.

Bart was once a professing evangelical Christian who was trained at Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College. He decided to go to Princeton to study with the great textual scholar, Bruce Metzger, and that is where his faith was undermined through exposure to higher criticism and theology influenced by Schleiermacher, the Tubingen school and modernism.

First to go was Bart's belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. While at Princeton, he found a discrepancy in Mark and that produced a domino effect. Little by little and doctrine by doctrine, his faith in Christ was stripped away. By his own admission, he spent many years as a thoroughly liberal Christian who embraced some of the Bible's moral teachings and little else. 

 To Ehrman, Jesus was a human rabbi and good moral teacher but not the Son of God. Finally, as a result of thinking about the existence of evil and suffering in the world, Bart determined that he could no longer believe in the Christian God. He became an agnostic. He now believes that there is no Creator of the universe, that we are nothing more than an accident and when we die, that's it! We just cease to exist. Poof!

As most of you know, besides many scholarly books, Bart turned his attention to writing mass market books that deny the historicity of the Bible and of Christ. Even though he is essentially recycling old modernistic ideas, many readers have been swayed by his top-selling books that include: "Misquoting Jesus", "Jesus Interrupted", "God's Problem" and "Forged". Most people (even Christians) do not know how to respond to his hypotheses which are totally based on microscopic historical analysis of the texts. Although he makes theological assertions, he denies that he is doing anything but history. As an agnostic, he denies the supernatural and his modernistic presuppositions dictate his conclusions.

I have watched numerous presentations and debates featuring Bart and his ideas. I have also read some of his books. He is a likeable guy and a brilliant scholar. He has a dry sense of humor and I have memorized most of his jokes. Although he claims that he is happier as an agnostic and no longer wakes up in a cold sweat at night thinking he has made a terrible mistake, I wonder. How can a man who has spent decades reading, studying and even memorizing whole books of the Bible walk away from the faith and feel no remorse?

I compare Bart's story to that of Charles Templeton. If you watched Lee Strobel's movie, "The Case for Faith", you will remember that he was an associate of Billy Graham and a fellow evangelist. He went with Graham to Europe to preach and was instrumental in founding "Youth for Christ". He, too, went to Princeton, lost his faith and became an agnostic for the same reasons as Bart. He wrote a book called "Farewell to God - My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith" and some of his thoughts are featured in the movie. When interviewed by Strobel, he spoke quite emotionally about how he missed Jesus and how he adored Him. By contrast, Bart is pretty unemotional about his loss of faith in Christ.

I pray that the living God will rekindle Bart's faith through the power of His Holy Spirit.

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