Ehrman Not Anti-Christian

Ehrman Not Anti-Christian June 2, 2015

Ehrman not anti-Christian

It is one of the major problems with fundamentalism that it recognizes no other form of its religious tradition as authentic than its own narrow version. And so it perceives as an attack on religion what is in fact an attack on narrowness, on unjustified dogmatism, on sloppy thinking, and many other things that deserve to be criticized not out of dislike for religion in general or Christianity in particular, but first and foremost by those who love Christianity and want to see it flourish rather than be stifled by the oppressive forces of fundamentalism. It is fundamentalism which is an attack on religion. Criticism of fundamentalism, on the other hand, is the best support to religion that anyone can offer.

See further Ehrman’s recent blog post reflecting on the recent Pew survey, in which he wrote:

Some of my former friends among the evangelicals get upset with me for “leading people astray.”   It’s people like me – or those damn neo-atheists – who are at fault for these shifts from Christianity to “unaffiliated.”   I don’t see it that way.  In my view, no one has been led astray.  People instead have been encouraged and persuaded to think for themselves, based on knowledge that is widely available to anyone willing to look, see, and think.  (Knowledge of science; knowledge of world religions, each with distinctive views; knowledge of the Bible or the history of early Christianity; and so on).

For my part, I have long insisted and continue to insist that in fact I personally don’t care at all – not in the least – if people agree with me in my religious views.  I really don’t care.  My evangelical friends don’t believe me.  They really don’t believe me.  They can’t believe me.  They can’t believe that someone like me would have hard fought views and not want everyone to agree with him.  I suppose that’s why they’re evangelicals.  (!)

I on the other hand don’t feel that way.  My view is that everyone should be what they, on the basis of hard thought and consideration of all the information, should decide what they really think or believe.  They should not think or believe what they were told by someone — their parents, their teachers, their pastors or priests or rabbis, their Sunday school teachers, their school teachers, their friends, their lovers, or anyone else.  They should think through everything carefully themselves, and make an informed decision.

If people do that and remain or become evangelical, I’m OK with that.  So long as they don’t hurt and exploit others, especially the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized.   If they remain or become Catholic, AOK.  If they remain or become Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, pagan, agnostic, atheist, or anything else, I really don’t care.  I care only that (a) they think about it and (b) they actively love others and do good to others and help others in need.

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  • Jay

    Someone who is more concerned about the preservation of a common mummy mask than the discovery of possibly the oldest manuscript of the gospel of Mark is pretty anti-Christian. Seems like he has become a fundamental atheist.

    • I suspect this is a joke, but in case it isn’t, I’ll say this in response: If someone is happy to destroy the material culture of a society in the unlikely chance that doing so will provide them with access to an unprecedentedly ancient manuscript, and they want to do so not because of the precious historical knowledge thus achieved, but rather in the hope of scoring some points in a dubious sort of debate about religion, then they seem pretty anti-Christianity, adhering most likely to a form of pseudo-Christian fundamentalism.

    • Peter Kirby

      That’s not really an ‘atheist’ position, per se. For example, I’m an atheist, and I also feel that the manuscripts are too important not to be recovered somehow.

      • Erp

        But what is the cost? Archaeologists have learned that their predecessors in going for the big items destroyed much that would have yielded other information about the past. A specialist in Egypt of that time would likely find value in the mask as it is.

  • This, incidentally, is also why it’s narrow-minded to class all atheists as fundamentalists. You might as well class all theists as fundamentalists.

  • Osceola Seminole

    In my opinion Bart Ehrman is anti-Christian, being that, in his research findings, he concludes that the vast majority of what he has discovered negates the deity of Jesus Christ. The life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most FUNDAMENTAL doctrine of Christianity, Bart Ehrman knows this. Therefore, if he is able to discredit the foundation that Christianity is built upon he has thus ruined the Christian religion. To be anti-Christian is to be against Jesus Christ first. In everything Bart does with regards to his research findings demonstrates his anti-Jesus stance. This is not difficult to understand.

    • So given that the authors of the Synoptic Gospels did not view Jesus as a pre-existent deity, presumably you view them as anti-Christian too?

      It is arguable that, if you decide in advance who you think Jesus must have been, and then force everything to somehow fit your preconceived view, that is anti-Christian.

    • Kalysto

      Findings that refute something do not inherently make them or the person “anti-_whatever_”. A non-Christian would not suddenly be a “Christian” or “pro-Christian” if he made a discovery of evidence to support something that had long been accepted on belief alone in Christianity. Likewise findings that refute or prove something did not exist do not inherently make them or the person “anti-Christian”. Rather simply non-Christian in the sense of not perpetuating something that was accepted but unsupported. Something being “non-” isn’t the same as being “anti-“. Someone can be a non-Christian and yet not be anti-Christian.

  • Trey

    I have only recently become aware of Dr. Ehrman thanks to an article in “Newsweek” magazine from 2014 and I can honestly say that his writings have actually helped me in my faith rather than lead me away from it. Growing up in the Bible Belt, I feel safe to say that what is being handed out on Sunday mornings is more detrimental to Christianity than anything Dr. Ehrman has to say. Also, while I’m here, I’d like to give a nod to James F. McGrath – I love your stuff, too.

  • TStapes

    I have only recently become aware of Dr. Ehrman thanks to an article in “Newsweek” magazine from 2014 and I can honestly say that his writings have actually helped me in my faith rather than lead me away from it. Growing up in the Bible Belt, I feel safe to say that what is being handed out on Sunday mornings is more detrimental to Christianity than anything Dr. Ehrman has to say. Also, while I’m here, I’d like to give a nod to James F. McGrath – I love your stuff, too.

  • Paul

    I don’t think Ehrman is anti-Christian per se. I do think that he argues a lot like the fundamentalist Christian that he used to be. One of his basic arguments seems to be “since there are contradictions, the Gospels automatically are unreliable,” rather than taking a more nuanced view. He seems to argue for an “all or nothing” approach more often than not. Of course, I refer more to his popular work. Ehrman the scholar is somewhat different.

    That being said, Ehrman the popularizer does bring some fairly mainstream stuff to the public sphere (i.e. Jesus as an eschatological prophet). I think his Christology stuff is wrong, but that’s a completely different debate.