Thursday, November 24, 2016

Academic Confusion...Class DISMISSED!

Although I feel that a "higher education" in ministry is not required to be an effective minister, pastor or church leader, I certainly do not discourage them that pursue this avenue. However, and with that said, I feel for some of our families who send their children to Universities expecting that their faith in Jesus and in the bible to flourish often are disappointed when those same children come back confused and sometimes disillusioned by professors that are either agnostic about God or just flat out atheistic in their approach to explaining away the bible and the God presented within it.

Individuals such as Dr. Hector Avalos, a Professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University, who is an atheist (see my debate with him HERE, HERE and HERE) and Dr. Robert Price, who was once the Chair of Theological Studies at Johnnie Coleman Theological Seminary, and of course, Dr. Bart Ehrman who is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.(Evidently a position of certain distinction) Along with Dr. Ehrman at UNC is Mr. "Jesus Dynasty" himself, Dr. James Tabor who continues to attempt to prove that not only is Jesus buried, but he was not the Messiah, is of no special concern upon history, certainly is not God, had a human father that was certainly not God and had a secret family here on earth. You certainly don't expect to be confronted with atheist dogmas when trying to learn the bible, but that's par for the course.

Dr. Ehrman, who is a sort of a reluctant favorite of mine, as I will purchase a book here and there to see his latest and greatest mis-hits, or should I say, mis-directions, is one that is a preeminent scholar in New Testament Literature and, whether you agree with him or not, is a staunch advocate for a real Jesus as opposed to the Jesus mythers who seem to believe the garbage and stink of Richard Carrier's ideas are somehow "fresh" and enlightening. 

So, even though I gave Dr. Ehrman my anti-Christ Advocate award, I will commend him for vehemently arguing the historicity of Jesus. It seems that when Dr. Ehrman believes something to be true, he acquiesces to that truth and what he believes, as long as there is evidence in support of his position. So all of my critique of Dr. Ehrman is not necessarily negative, and if we were to meet, I would be honored to discuss matters with him I'm sure. (provided that he didn't charge me like he does to be a member of his blog)

WITH THAT SAID, I MUST still continue to condemn atheists and agnostics in seminary leadership positions such as Ehrman, for making it a mission to de-convert students who have trusted that they will grow in their faith and learn truth. It seems that many will be confronted with a healthy dose of misdirection, confusion and flat out deceit.

There are two things to be said about this however. First, it could be that some non-believing individuals attend seminaries directed by atheists, so that they can further develop their unbelief. There are some individuals who graduate from seminary, see opportunity to only make money in and from ministry. I am reminded of a theology school student who said, he didn't believe in God, but he was only taking the course because the church offered him a pastoral leadership job. For these hirelings, there is no conviction or call of God. It is only a money making venture, or a place to gain accolades and attention. Still there are others who only want to expand there pursuit of seeking to "bring down" the Christian faith. Teachers and professors such as Ehrman are the gurus they need to employ to help them increase in knowledge and to gain some sort of credibility.

Secondly, and this may be the case, maybe the expectations of sincere students and families are misplaced. It comes down to this for them, they should do better research,  I believe that it is ultimately the responsibility of the student and their family to research these institutions just like they research everything else. So I can't lay the total fault at Ehrman's feet.However, having placed a child in college, I understand that sometimes individuals are so overwhelmed with college acceptance and the name and prestige of a University acceptance or chance to be a part of a University, that research sometimes takes the back seat and emotions take control.

The Opportunity

This is where Professor Ehrman comes in. As I've stated, I believe that studying under him will   enlighten any student to certain truths and also certain errors. Certain materials that students would not normally be exposed to, appear to be discussed indepth. In addition I believe that he has a command of history and literature and would not relish a debate him on those singular issues. However, Dr. Ehrman's interpretation of biblical fact is very problematic and from the way his written material reads, the Professor seems to make whole cases off of a partial interpretations of scripture, and that is my problem with his presentations in general.e

Although I have never sat in or been a part of his class, I have however read some of his books and continue to review them from time to time (too much mis-information at once makes my head hurt) Dr. Ehrman does examine some complex Christian biblical "difficulties" but in most cases he conflates these "difficulties" to the level of faith breakers. In other words his presentation is one in which it would seem that he is saying, because this alleged "discrepancy" or proposed "contradiction" exists (whatever they are according to him) that the bible should be abandoned as the word of God and that the early church leaders did not know what Jesus they were referring to. Of course, this sort of narrative fits snugly into his overall premise as he seeks to hold out for his German predacessor, F.C. Bauer's theory of "competing Christianities", which seems to have been debunked ad nauseum by many in the scholarly community and especially by many of the fine authors and graduates of the Dallas Theological Seminary, and Biola University graduates, who's scholars produce some of the best reading available on religious studies. 

It seems that Dr. Ehrman's objective is to encourage believers to jettison the bible if something does not make sense to him or doesn't fit what he views as "evidence" for the Christian faith and faith belief. Rather than look for and present solid answers to his question, even if he maintains his question, Professor Ehrman takes the route that Christianity and the search of God through and by it is some kind of hopeless venture and that we are ultimately left to follow the dictates of our own minds and hearts.

The Heart Of The Matter
In this article, I will present one such topic about which Professor Ehrman makes a whole case without a thorough examination of the evidence and a point which may catch some of his students unprepared.

When Was Jesus God, Son Of God And Messiah?

Once such subject that Dr. Ehrman confuses the biblical text on is what the bible teaches about the deity of Jesus. This is the fundamental tenet of the Christian faith. One cannot be a Christian unless one considers Jesus as divine. Professor Ehrman however believes that Jesus being divine was nothing that was attributed to him in life but was only attributed to him after his resurrection. This is his argument in his book "How Jesus Became God" . The book Description says this:
"Ehrman sketches Jesus’s transformation from a human prophet to the Son of God exalted to divine status at his resurrection. Only when some of Jesus’s followers had visions of him after his death—alive again—did anyone come to think that he, the prophet from Galilee, had become God. And what they meant by that was not at all what people mean today.
As a historian—not a believer—Ehrman answers the questions: How did this transformation of Jesus occur? How did he move from being a Jewish prophet to being God? The dramatic shifts throughout history reveal not only why Jesus’s followers began to claim he was God, but also how they came to understand this claim in so many different ways."
Ehrman makes somewhat of the same argument in his book, "Jesus Interrupted" [Harper Collins 2009].

On pgs. 94-95 speaking of Paul's preaching and teaching about Jesus, Ehrman notes:
"In Paul's speech to potential converts in Antioch of Pisidia, he speaks of God's raising o Jesus in fulfillment of Scripture: "What God promised to our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, "You are my Son, today have I begotten you'(Acts 13:32-33)"
He then goes on to say:
"In this text the "day" Jesus became begotten as God's son was the day of the resurrection. But how does that square with what Luke says elsewhere? In Luke's gospel the voice utters the same words, "You are my Son, today I have begotten you"(Luke 3:22) when Jesus is baptized"
He draws it out further by pointing to Gabriel's instructions to Mary in confirming that the child that she would have would be divine (Lk. 1:35) saying:
"In this instance it appears that Jesus is the Son of God because of virginal conception: he is physically God's son"
He concludes by asking:
"How can Luke say all three things? I'm not sure its possible to reconcile these three accounts: it may be that Luke got three different traditions from three different sources that disagreed with one another on the issue."
This appears to be the argument that Professor Ehrman is making in his book, "How Jesus Became God" 

A student may have a difficult time answering this. Ehrman, certainly takes literally the term "this day" as to mean, that precise moment, locking Paul into a narrative that he taught that Jesus was only Messiah after his resurrection which may be in conflict with what the gospel writers contend. Again Ehrman sews the seed of hopelessness and non clarity. 

Are things as hopeless as Ehrman claims?

I think NOT. Here is the primary reason why:

Interestingly, in the same book, "Jesus Interrupted", Ehrman lists a number of reasons why he does not believe in the authority of scriptures and why he believes that the church has either mis interpreted Jesus words, or that Jesus words just do not exist to affirm that Jesus was deity prior to his resurrection. 

Since Ehrman contends that the gospels are late creations "around" what is believed about Jesus and are an amalgamation of sources, then let us revert to a minimal facts argument. Let's agree that there are other works that are not in dispute which may help us settle this issue. Surprisingly enough, without saying a word, Professor Ehrman agrees that there are such books which are authentic and not in dispute about what is said within them 

On Pg. 112 of the same book in the chapter "Who Wrote The Bible" under the section, "Are There Forgeries In The New Testament?" Professor Ehrman states the following:
"Of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, only eight almost certainly go back to the author whose name they bear: the seven undisputed letters of Paul (Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians and Philemon) and the Revelation of John (although we aren't sure who this John was)"
Interestingly, in most scholarly circles, it is believed that these letters, the ones that Ehrman names, were written prior to the gospels. In fact according to the late F.F. Bruce in his 1943 work, "The New Testament Documents Are They Reliable?" the most preeminent work and authority on New Testament documents and their dating, the dating of the works that Ehrman names are as follows:

Romans: 57 AD
1 Corinthians: 54-56 AD
2 Corinthians: 54-56 AD
Galatians: 48 AD
Philippians: 54 AD
1 Thessalonians 50 AD
Philemon: 60 AD

Now, that creates somewhat of a conundrum for Ehrman at this point. He has previously argued that the gospels were late developments. (I mean read the book and his works on the subject and you'll see). However, these works, some of the first that Paul wrote, were early developments. Most if not all prior to AD 60 and one, Galatians some 15 to 18 years after Jesus crucifixion (depending upon the date) Because of this, Ehrman, like most critical scholars would contend that what these books say are the actual teachings of the early church on the subjects that they embark upon. 

Paul On The Deity Of Christ

Interestingly enough, Paul says specifically what he means about Jesus and who he was and when he was deity. 

Philippians 2:5-115-Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6-Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7-But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8-And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9-Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:10-That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11-And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 

This what scholars have deemed a "hymn" was delivered to the New Testament church by Paul from an early account within ministry. It is clear that Paul did not contend that Jesus was deity only after the resurrection. He contends, rather clearly that Jesus was deity, PRIOR to his virgin birth because he was/IS God!

Here is another that conforms to the thought that Jesus was pre-existent as God:

1 Cor. 8:6But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

Remember, Paul was a monotheist in the most strict sense of the word. The attribution of the one God by "whom are all things" is not in contradiction or contrast to the Lord Jesus Christ "by whom are all things, and we by him". The statements are in accord with one another. 

Then  Paul further affirms that Jesus was the "Son", once again, from the beginning and not just after his birth or resurrection. 
Gal. 4:4 ~ But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, (ESV)
According to what Paul alludes to, his teaching did not just simply begin with him. He says in 1 Cor. 11:23. "For I have received of the Lord..." Certainly the resurrected Christ met Paul on the road to Damascus. This would allow a further revelation of Jesus to Paul as he records in Galatians 1.
There is somewhat of a scholarly consensus that Paul receives his instructions directly from the Lord in regards to the sacrament of the church that was already in existence as something commonly held and believed among the church. In other words, what Paul receives, by revelation, is in accord with what the believers of the "Way" were already practicing and teaching among one another. This would be a confirmation to believers that Paul had indeed either met Jesus by revelation or had been with church leaders and was versed in the early creed of the faith. 

I present the 1 Cor. 11 passage to address issues that the church was not aware of these things and that these issues were developed by Paul. Clearly they were not his creation. The church already had a "high view" of Jesus prior to Paul's interaction with them.  


Here we have a claim of Ehrman that the church and followers of Jesus was inconsistent as to when Jesus was God and Messiah. However, when we examine the scripture it does not display the discord that Ehrman claims. 

We see that from early documents, agreed upon to clearly have been written by the person claiming to have written them, that Jesus was taught to be not only God at birth or resurrection, but also preexistent and God before he came to earth. 

I haven't touched on the book of Revelation but if we go there, it is chalk full of more of the same information. At either rate, we do not see a church in conflict over when Jesus was Lord, Messiah or God. We see a church accepting that Jesus was God in a preexistent form, working miracles on earth and rising again from the dead to demonstrate his power over all life and death, ie: acting as God!

What are we to make of Luke's account in Acts 13 that Paul invoked Psalms 2 to say that "this day" or the day that Jesus was resurrected that he became the Messiah? Or that Jesus was somehow the Messiah only because he was born of a virgin?

Personally, I say not much!

Obviously, Paul taught that Jesus was God in a preexistent condition and therefore the Messiah at birth. To the Jews or Greeks who did not know, which was the context of Paul's preaching at Antioch, the resurrection, though having occurred prior to that day, would have been the day in which this revelation would have been made known unto them. Paul did not teach, in the early letters, neither did the church contend that Jesus became Lord or Messiah over time or because of some event that occurred during his lifetime no matter how special that event was. 

Further, Psalm 2 is a prophetic Psalm and was also alluded to by the writer of Hebrews to point to the deity of Christ as well. Similar to Peter's use of the book of Joel in Acts 2, Luke displays that Paul alludes to the time in which Jesus would reveal himself to the world, even the unbelieving Jew, by the irrefutable fact of the resurrection. 

What neither he nor Luke intend to convey is that the resurrection is the time in which Jesus would be made Messiah. While some would say that interpretation renders the use of the word "day" or "Yom" in Hebrew with undue ambiguity, because of the prophetic intent it is a moot point and one that does not have any bearing on the communication that Jesus was deity before he was born, was Messiah when he was born and is our savior because he shed his blood and demonstrated who he is through the act of resurrection. 

Clearly, that is what the church taught and what the church believed. Paul affirms this early as recorded in Acts. 


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