How Can Seminary-Educated Pastors Preach the Bible?

How Can Seminary-Educated Pastors Preach the Bible? September 11, 2014

Editor’s Note: Our Atheist ex-pastor answers a question posed by one of our frequent commenters, Maine Skeptic, about the supposed divine origins of the Bible.


questionDear Dave:

I’ve been listening and reading works by Bart Ehrman, who is often criticized by professors and authors at Dallas Theological Seminary. While they paint Ehrman as attacking Christianity, it sounds like all he’s really doing is revealing what is actually taught at mainstream seminaries about the inaccuracies and contradictions in the bible.

I realize that a lot of pastors these days have had very little scholarly training, but it blows my mind that a significant number of conservative seminarians are learning about the Bible contradictions and then returning to churches or Bible schools where they teach that those contradictions don’t exist.

What goes on in the mind of a pastor or professor who has every reason to know the Bible is untrue, but who continues to aggressively defend it as divinely written?

Thanks in advance,

Maine Skeptic




Dear Maine Skeptic,

This is a great question.   During my Theological Studies, I remember hearing about liberal theologians with names such as Rudolph Bultmann and his notion of demythologizing the gospels.  I remember hearing about the Gnostic gospels and the notion that the resurrection of Jesus was not corporeal but spiritual.

Two things were going through my head at the time.  First is that since I had come to know Christ as my savior, I believed He rose from the grave and said and did all the things recorded in the gospels even if the stories varied a bit from one gospel to another.   In other words, I didn’t want to hear anything other than what I believed to be true when I entered College.  I was so anxious to get out into the trenches of pastoral work, that I was content to just “get through” the requisite training, earn my degree and start to minister to people.

The other thing going on my head is related to the first.   There was no way I was going to raise the issues of scholarship I was learning in pastoral ministry.   I assumed that the last thing people wanted to hear from the pulpit is that maybe Jesus didn’t rise from the grave on Easter morning.   Or that the nativity story is plagiarized and written to ensure that Jesus was born in the city of David.   I didn’t want to wreck anyone’s Easter or Christmas.

So to answer your question, I was exposed to the findings of Biblical Criticism in training for ministry but I basically ignored them because they didn’t fit my faith convictions and what I thought would be the expectations of people in the pews.  Having read most of Ehrman’s books now, however, I find his work fair and fascinating.


Editor’s questions to our readers:

If you are current or former clergy, how did you (or do you) handle Bible stories in your sermons?

If you are a current or former person-in-the pews, would you have liked to hear about Biblical scholarship during sermons? What kinds of sermons do you like most?

Do you have a question for the Atheist Ex-Pastor?  If so, please contact him at rationaldoubtblog [at] gmail [dot] com.


301Bio:  “Dave” is a syndicated religion columnist, broadcaster and former preacher and author of Christian devotional material.


Photo Credit Question marks — Image by © Gregor Schuster/zefa/Corbis


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