Category: Books

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@BartEhrman & the Line Between Scholarship & Sensationalism

On March 25th, Bart Ehrman's latest book came out, and I haven't read it. However, after reading his HuffPo article about it, I've decided I'm probably gonna read something else.

The thesis of his article – and the book, one can easily gather – is:

It is not hard to make the argument that if Jesus had never been declared God, our form of civilization would have been unalterably and indescribably different.

He proceeds to spout a contrarian stream of logic that challenges the origins of the faith. In an abbreviated counterfactual, Ehrman comes to Constantine:

If Constantine had not converted, masses of former pagans would not have accepted the faith in his wake. The empire would not have become predominantly Christian. The Christian religion would not have been made the official religion of the state. The Christian church would never have become the dominant religious, cultural, social, political, and economic force of the West. We never would have had the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Reformation, or Modernity as we know it. And most of us would still be pagans.

While I trust Ehrman to be a more faithful and virtuous scholar, this paragraph reminds me of the leaps Bill O'Reilly made to connect modern, conservative political thought to the teachings of Jesus in Killing Jesus. The thesis Ehrman spouts is a fairly contraversial one – and he knows it. At the very least, this book will be talked about in many academic circles. However, it could also get picked up by national press, and even television shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report – like some of his previous work. How exciting for him?

Essentially, Ehrman claims that the insistence upon Jesus' divinity by a small group of Jesus' friends is the only way Christianity could have grown into the world-wide force it is today.

This is thin at best, and straddles the line between scholarship and sensationalism. Irresponsibly, I might add.

My Wesleyan heritage tells me that scripture, tradition, reason and experience should work together to inform my faith. Many in the Wesleyan tradition are fighting hard against this heritage, but I still find value in it. I use this dynamic to further understand my faith. Ehrman's book appears as if it will lie well outside the realm of what I consider valuable to further understand my faith.

So, again, I'm probably gonna read something else.

Anyway, that's my two cents.

Comments welcome.

 

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