I admit that I am not always fond of his work. While I tend to agree with much of what he says as regards the data we have, I am often at odds with him in regards to interpretation. I wish that he was a bit more balanced in his approach to the various topics. At the same time, however, I also have a lot of respect for him. He is clearly well informed and at a minimum he is getting people in the church to talk about the topics he raises. If you want an example of his knowledge and intellectual abilities watch the debate he participated in with Dan Wallace regarding the manuscript evidence for the New Testament. While Ehrman may be the person we love to hate, I think he won the debate handily.
In spite of his "pariah" status with some, there is reason Christians should be thankful for Ehrman. Over at the Christian Post Robin Schumacher has outlined why Christians need to take a step back and realize that not everything Erhman has to say is negative. In fact, some of his points help bring an important corrective.
It may sound odd for a Christian to thank Ehrman for some of the things he says, but in fact, Ehrman does deserve credit in a number of places.
First, Bart’s advice on examining evidence regarding truth claims is a good one. Even though he is somewhat selective on what cats he decides to let out of the truth bag for readers to consider in his books, his admonition to put belief systems to the test is spot on.
Next, I appreciate his defense regarding the historicity of Jesus. In his recent book,
, Ehrman takes to task the extreme fringe skeptics (the ‘mythicists’) who say Jesus never existed. While mythicist talk may grace the forums of various internet atheist haunts, you won’t find a credible historian or university who backs such assertions – something Bart demonstrates quite well. Of Jesus, Ehrman says, “One of the is that Jesus was crucified on orders of the Roman prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate.”
Moreover, Bart also validates the historical lives of the disciples, Paul, and their claims about seeing Jesus alive. Of course, he denies Christ actually rose from the dead and offers a variety of explanations for what Paul and the other apostles experienced, but he doesn’t deny that something happened to change each of them into defenders of Christianity.
We also need to thank Bart for openly calling out and educating the Church on passages in the Bible that the vast majority of theologians recognize as not being part of the original canon. The longer ending of Mark (16:9-19), the section of the woman caught in adultery in John (7:73-8:11), and the 1 John 5:7-8 Trinitarian formula still found in a few Bible translations are all considered inauthentic by most Biblical scholars. Ehrman is right to remind believers of this fact.
Of course, nearly all Bibles clearly omit or mark these passages as suspect in some way, and skeptics should understand that it is through the science of Biblical criticism that such verses are classified as not being known by the early Church nor inspired by God. Bart is certainly not the first to bring these passages to light.
Lastly, I appreciate Bart’s honesty in the interview where he admits that it is the logical problem of evil that has turned him from belief in God vs. any supposed errors in the Bible. Many unbelievers cover the true source of their disbelief with various smokescreens, but I am impressed that Ehrman does not do this.
You can read the whole post here. Schumacher goes on to discuss points where Ehrman and Christians part ways, but overall it is a thoughtful post that is worth considering.