Skeptics and Biblical Studies

I’m reading through Bart Ehrman’s NT introduction (now in it’s sixth edition) and it’s mostly enjoyable. Ehrman needs no introduction, especially to students of biblical studies. He’s made a name for himself through his numerous popular-level books on various aspects of early Christian history and in the process has amassed a loyal fan base as well as a welter of critics who are always ready to pounce on his latest offering.

I don’t know Ehrman, so I can’t comment on him as a person, neither have I read any of his popular works, so I won’t comment on those either. I’ve only read some of his more academic works and they were well written and informative. However, if there’s one thing Ehrman is known for it is his skepticism about many aspects of the New Testament and this shines through in the latest iteration of his NT intro. I’ll be more specific when I finish reading it and write the review, but suffice it to say that Ehrman has not relented in sticking to the claims that have made him the darling of agnostics and the whipping boy of conservative Christians. Despite Ehrman’s sometimes overreaching claims, I still enjoy his work. Skepticism is not an inherently bad thing; in fact, I think it to be a very positive thing. I myself am skeptical about a number of things in the realms of theology and biblical studies that I once took for granted and I don’t see that as a bad thing. Skepticism is good when it drives us to mine the depths of any available evidence in search of the truth and if that truth happens to result in the devouring of once-sacred cows, then so be it. After all, if all truth is God’s truth, then we must pursue it at the cost of our traditions and wrong beliefs.

At the same time, when skepticism turns into a rank, hostile fundamentalism that is no longer interested in dialog, e.g., Richard Dawkins and his ilk, well I think it’s gone a bit too far. Skeptics, I think, are still open to conversation about whatever evidence is available about whatever topic, but those who close their minds to conversation, well, their every bit as bad as the folks at Westboro.

Αυτω η δοξα

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