Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bible Battles

It's the fight that seems never to end. Every generation of Christians is faced with those who challenge the truthfulness and reliability of the Bible. We expect this from unbelievers and those who are hostile toward Christianity. What is disheartening is when these voices of criticism come from within the church. It is a subject that has prompted some interesting conversations on this blog.

Al Mohler has posted some thoughts on a USA Today article attacking the trustworthiness of the Bible:

The Monday "On Religion" feature in USA Today is consistently interesting, even if often exasperating. That is what should be expected of an opinion column -- strong opinions in both the column and the reaction it prompts. Well, get ready to form your own opinion about today's feature, for it is likely to make a lot of waves.

Tom Krattenmaker, a Portland, Oregon based member of the paper's Board of Contributors, levels a broadside attack on the unity, inspiration, and veracity of the Bible as the Word of God in his column, "Fightin' Words".

Krattenmaker first celebrates what he describes as "a year of retreat and retrench" for conservative Christianity. Now, he says, "here come more challenges to traditionalist views of the Bible and Christian faith from a lineup of big-name, liberal-leaning scholars and theologians."

First up on Krattenmaker's list is Bart Ehrman of the University of North Carolina. As Krattenmaker explains, Ehrman "mounts evidence against literalist conceptions of the Bible as factual history and a divinely transmitted testament to an afterlife-focused religion called Christianity."
This is an important and timely post. Read the whole thing HERE.


Mike said...

"What is disheartening is when these voices of criticism come from within the church."

My question to this statement is shouldn't we listen to these voices even if we disagree? I think that Christians find it easy to dismiss the attacks from the outside (i.e. Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, etc.) because of their underlying presuppositions but it becomes a bit more challenging when it is coming from inside (i.e. Enns, Sparks, and the Emergents) because they know the proofs and the streams of logic that we use to defend our views on the Bible...which, after reading Beale's book on the subject, I can understand why some inside the church want us to take a new look at this issue.

While I may not agree with everything these inside authors may say about the Bible I think the tact we need to take is thoughtful engagement, not sandbagging. The response of many traditional view evangelicals is beginning to sound a little like the Shakesperean refrain..."the lady dost protest too much, methinks..."

Todd Pruitt said...


Certainly you understand why so many of us respond vigorously when so-called evangelicals publically trash the reliability of the Bible.

When a supposed evangelical says publically (publically!) that the Bible is FULL of errors and contradictions, that the Old Testament is largely myth, that the New Testament wrongly interprets the Old, and that Jesus erred and made mistakes then no one should be surprised if some of us do not say, "Hmmmm, that's valid although I personally disagree. Let's get together and converse about it shall we?"

No. Our response ought to be public and clear. We take positions like those mentioned above as afronts to God. It is His Word after all that has been called "error"
"contradiction" and "myth".

Let's imagine that I post a negative review of a book. Let's then suppose that the spouse of that author posts a message on my blog that indicates that she is not very happy with me. Am I surprised? Of course not. Am I shocked that she did not say, "Oh goody a conversation!"? Of course not. She is not necessarily interested in dialoguing with someone who has dealt publically and negatively with her loved one's book. she takes it as an afront against her husband and it is entirely understandable why. By calling her husband's work "error" I have said something about his knowlege and professionalism and perhaps even more.

When someone "within the camp" says that the Bible cannot truly be understood as God's Word then them are fighten words. You're not talking about some book. You're talking about the Word of the Lord. Trash it and you've trashed Him.

This is not sandbagging. I don't have to rehash all the fine work done by many scholars who believe the Bible. I'm just not that interested in entering "conversation" with someone who is determined to believe the Bible is not trustworthy.

Harley A. said...

Mike, what makes you think Mohler wasn't listening? I think he heard loud and clear.

And, I don’t understand how Mohler wasn’t engaging. Perhaps it’s a definition issue. No, Mohler didn’t invite Ehrman or the USA Today guy over for coffee. But, he did publish his thoughts and concerns and he didn’t do it anonymously. These guys have every right and adequate forums to respond publicly and/or privately.

And, where is the indication that Mohler's response wasn't thoughtful ?

Not following you...

Doug said...

According to my research on Ehrman, whom Krattenmaker heavily leans on in his column, he is agnostic, giving up his belief in the inerrancy of the bible after a number of years of study.

Clearly Mr. Ehrman is represented as a "evangelical christian" but he isn't.

Todd, when you state, "what is disheartening is when these voices of criticism come from within the church." Are you refering to Ehrman as being "within the church?"

I certainly have a problem with Ehrman's conclusion but then he states he is agnostic, so I don't consider him "within the church"

Thus, Mike, I agree with Todd on this issue. The article seems to celebrate a new light being shed on the Bible, don't think that is a wise thing to do.

Mr. Ehrman seems to be puffed up by his knowledge, but misses the mark completely. This seems to be heresy through and through.

Todd, what I will challenge you on, is perhaps the idea that somehow a Paul Young or John Eldgrege is at the same level as Ehrman. I personally don't think they are. Your thoughts? You have mentioned in previous posts or comments that Young "messes with atonement" and Eldredge has "sloppy theology" (quoting from memory, forgive me if I am not 100%).

Blessings brothers!

Mike said...

The reason I made this point about challenges from within and without is one of intent. If the challenge comes from Hitchens or Dawkins clearly their intent is to demean and belittle faith of any kind even to destroy all religious expression...so we understand their POV in the context in which they state it. The criticism from within I think is different...although it may sound the same (even identical) to the criticism coming from the outside. However I don't think all of the criticism coming from within is the same as the outside criticism. Their intent is not to belittle or destroy faith but rather (in Todd's words from an earlier post on this subject) to keep us from going out on an intellegently untenable limb. Now I know Todd will probably respond that it is not untenable but I think that is where the engagement comes in.

I think there really is a difference in intent in these two groups which should make a difference in how we respond.