Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
A Quick Report from Urbana
04/30/2009 - James WhiteJust a quick note to thank everyone who made tonight such a wonderful success. A group of "channel rats" pitched in to do a lot of work in getting the debate video taped, including ENielsen, Dale, Algo, and brigand. We also had DaveHewitt and Celticman and wonky in attendance, too (and SN was there....in command of it all). Thanks to all who helped! I even got to meet one of the folks who has helped encourage me so much by supporting us through the Ministry Resource list.
I am working on importing video and the like, so I should have at least one section posted to YouTube tomorrow morning. It is processing too slowly to get anything up tonight.
Basically, once again, I did all the homework, my opponent had not, as far as I could tell, even Googled my name. He went through the exact same notes he had used in the Kyle Butts debate, including the exact same alleged contradictions, in the exact same order. Yes, the very items I had covered, in depth, on the DL over the past few weeks. There was not a single surprise from Dan Barker. Everything was exactly as I had expected it to be. Which means my opening presentation was zeroed in exactly where it needed to be, and I could not have been more pleased with the outcome. I have the video recording with me (the one from our professional camera), so we should have audio and video fairly quickly.
Again, thanks to everyone who made this a great evening!
1 Corinthians 1:18-24, Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church, Sunday PM Service
04/29/2009 - James White
Tom Krattenmaker on Ehrman, Me, and "Demonization": A Study in Liberal Media
04/13/2009 - James WhiteSo late on Easter Sunday someone in channel mentions that my name appeared in a USA Today opinion piece. I click on the link and find the graphic to the right. At first I didn't give it a second thought until I noticed that the guy on the left isn't wearing a tie, and hence is dressed just like Bart Ehrman. If that isn't purposeful, it should be! So I am wondering, is this taken from the debate in January? Hard to say.
The piece is titled "Fightin' words," and it is written by Tom Krattenmaker. Here is the bio offered on his website:
I am a Portland-based writer specializing in religion in public life. I write regularly for USA Today's "On Religion" commentary page as a member of the newspaper's editorial Board of Contributors. My work has also appeared in recent years in Salon, the Los Angeles Times, the Oregonian, and the Philadelphia Inquirer.The sub-title on his website banner is, "on religion in American public life."
A onetime newspaper reporter for the Orange County Register and Associated Press (Minneapolis and Trenton bureaus), I have an undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota and a master of liberal arts degree in religion in public life from the University of Pennsylvania. By day, I am an administrator at Lewis & Clark College in Portland (which is a very cool school).
Let me say at the start that I would have been happy to talk to Mr. Krattenmaker, had he contacted me. It is always possible that he tried, but could not reach me. I only make myself available for two full hours every week on the DL, etc. But many of these writers have very short deadlines, so I guess there wasn't enough time to get "the other side" of this particular story.
Further, I see no evidence that Mr. Krattenmaker took the time to do more than look at Ehrman's claims. Counter-claims, or even a study of the relevant fields of NT studies, do not seem to find a place in the background research for the article.
The subtitle on the USA Today page reads, "Is the Bible the literal word of God, or a historical compilation written by different people in different situations over a period of years? This question has provoked some soul-searching about the very foundation upon which the Christian faith is based." Of course, the answer to the question is, "It is both." Only reductionists like Ehrman think there is a conflict between the two. The Bible is historically rooted without being limited to a mere narrative of historical events. But that answer is not even allowed at the table, of course, in the modern media.
The main portion of the article focuses upon Bart Ehrman's new book, Jesus, Interrupted, and I show up in the article as one of "Ehrman's chief critics." We would have gladly sent Mr. Krattenmaker a DVD of the debate with Ehrman from just a matter of weeks ago, but no request was made. But that aside, I am at least thankful for a link to the blog which provides to the reader a fairly wide selection of the videos I have provided in response to Bart Ehrman's claims.
Of course, though this is an opinion piece, it would still be nice to see some kind of balance provided in discussing the subject. But none is provided. For example, we have this paragraph offered up:
If the Bible is the literal word of God, Ehrman asks, how could it be inconsistent on so many details large and small? Let's start with an example appropriate to the just-concluded Easter season marking the Savior's death and resurrection: As Jesus was dying on the cross, was he in agony, questioning why God had forsaken him? Or was he serene, praying for his executioners? It depends, Ehrman points out, on whether you're reading the Gospel of Mark or Luke. Regarding Jesus' birthplace of Bethlehem, had his parents traveled there for a census (Luke's version) or is it where they happened to live (Matthew's version)? Did Jesus speak of himself as God? (Yes, in John; no, in Matthew.)If our author is aware of sound, thorough, careful yet believing responses to all of these issues, he doesn't tell us about them. Indeed, I provided the following video in response to the first of Ehrman's pet "problem texts," yet no mention is made of it:
As to the birth narratives, it should be remembered that as in all of Ehrman's criticisms, the one option that is, by nature, dismissed, is that of harmonization. Ehrman says that to harmonize is to show disrespect for the individual gospels. That sounds wonderful, doesn't it? Who would want to do that! But of course, he then uses the lack of harmony as evidence that the Christian faith is bogus! There's a huge leap from "we need to let Matthew and Mark and Luke speak in their own contexts" to "and as a result, we see that they are contradictory and therefore untrue, and unreliable as historical sources." Ehrman uses a partial truth to leap a mile down the wrong road to a complete untruth. Yes, Mark must be allowed to be Mark: he must be allowed to have his own audience, his own purposes. Ironically, Ehrman insists upon only one context and purpose for Mark, while removing him from the early Christian community, a community marked by the continuing presence of the eyewitnesses of the events of Jesus' life. He demands that we accept a theory of slavish literary dependence, where Mark is written first, and Matthew and Luke simply plagiarize him, altering his text as they see fit. The volumes of Christian scholarship contesting this kind of theory (and the resultant abuse of the text) do not even cross Ehrman's radar screen, and hence find no place in this USA Today piece, either.
Now, let me offer a little experiment here. I would love to publicly debate with Ehrman on his attacks on the deity of Christ. Of course, I doubt he would do it, since, as he reminded us in January, he's a historian, not a theologian. Be that as it may, this article demonstrates, once again, how easy it is to enunciate a falsehood and yet how much time it takes to properly refute it. We have, "Did Jesus speak of himself as God? (Yes, in John; no, in Matthew.)" Now, the paragraph from which this is taken contains a grand total of 119 words (according to Pages, anyway). Now, what if Mr. Krattenmaker had taken the time to contact yours truly, and offered me even 119 words to respond to these claims? What would I have said? Well, here are some examples. First, in response to the allegations about Mark and Luke and the "forsaken" Jesus:
Dr. Ehrman ignores the fact that Mark clearly presents Jesus predicting His own death and even speaking of His own burial. He is in fact in complete control in Mark, and His citation of Psalm 22:1 should be understood as being reflective of the Messianic nature of that Psalm and its fulfillment in Him, not as an indication of abandonment. Ehrman's reading forces us to think Luke would contradict Mark while writing for the very same audience that already possessed Mark's gospel. It is only Ehrman's anti-Christian prejudice that precludes his allowing all the data to speak and that forces him to turn Luke and Mark into enemies rather than friends. (113 words)
And another example, this on the allegation that John presents the deity of Christ, while Matthew does not:
As the great Princeton scholar B.B. Warfield pointed out nearly a century ago, the evidence for the deity of Christ found in all four Gospels, Matthew included, is overwhelming. In the original context of Matthew's gospel the words and actions of Jesus clearly transcend any merely human prophet. Ehrman is simply in error to say that the Jews of the first century believed the Son of God was merely a human: while a human could be called one of many sons of God, the language Jesus uses in Matthew (11:27 among others) and all the other gospels shows us He is the Son of God in a unique way, a way that plainly indicates deity. (117)If Mr. Krattenmaker would like to provide these replies in a future piece, I'd be happy to offer them to him!
The major failure of this piece is the ignorance it shows of even the book it is discussing. Note this paragraph:
Ehrman's book has met with a fierce reaction from some quarters, which is understandable. Who among us isn't inclined to fight back when our deepest, most cherished beliefs are challenged? But there is no need to demonize him as a "wolf" on the prowl against the church, as one critic has. His ideas, like so many other new thoughts and new insights that keep coming around with the surety of the seasons, need not be regarded as insults against God or bids to prove the Bible false.As Ehrman himself repeatedly admits, his work is not "new." In fact, the entire promotion for the book includes the assertion that "scholars" (read that liberal, far left scholars) have been saying these things for decades on end. And that is quite true. But modern Americans, ignorant of history, are gullible enough to buy repackaged versions of old arguments, as long as they are advertised well. Just like the worn-out, repudiated, failed arguments about Jesus being a mere parallel to Osiris, or Mithra, or Dionysus, were buried long ago in scholarship, the Internet, and the short memory of the West today, allow them to be dug up, propped up, and called "new" by dishonest purveyors of anti-Christian rhetoric all the time. There is big money in attacking the Christian faith today, to be sure. ...
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And Now from USA Today (Updated)
04/12/2009 - James WhiteIt looks like Google pulled up a few of my blog articles relating to Bart Ehrman. Tom Krattenmaker has written a piece for USA Today titled, "Fightin' words." Included was the following:
One of Ehrman's chief critics is the theologian and author James White, a leading practitioner of apologetics, the branch of theology devoted to defending and proving the orthodox faith. White denounces Ehrman as an apostate guided by deepanti-Christian bias. He charges in one Internet post that Ehrman has "moved far beyond the realm of his narrow expertise in his last three most popular books, all of which are designed to do one thing: destroy Christian faith."I would encourage Mr. Krattenmaker, should he find the time and be so inclined, to watch the debate with Bart Ehrman and see if I had to get "personal" or whether the facts were the focus of the encounter. Further, Ehrman's status as an apostate is front and center in all of his own publications and self-promotion, so I'm a bit uncertain as to the point Mr. Krattenmaker is making.
If criticisms of Ehrman veer toward the personal it's because his evidence - the Bible's own text - is what it is. And there is no denying the inconsistencies he surfaces between the various Gospels and letters that form the New Testament.
There is always trouble afoot when secular media types try to report on such topics. The number of those in the media with sufficient background to even accurately report on the field, let alone do so even handedly, is small indeed. Such is the case here. Rather than reporting the fact that someone such as myself is asserting that Ehrman is only presenting certain facts, and always presenting them with the worst possible spin, Krattenmaker ignores this. Further, he seems to think Ehrman is presenting some "new" viewpoint, when even Ehrman repeatedly says otherwise! Note his words:
Ehrman's book has met with a fierce reaction from some quarters, which is understandable. Who among us isn't inclined to fight back when our deepest, most cherished beliefs are challenged? But there is no need to demonize him as a "wolf" on the prowl against the church, as one critic has. His ideas, like so many other new thoughts and new insights that keep coming around with the surety of the seasons, need not be regarded as insults against God or bids to prove the Bible false.Of course, that was me "demonizing" Ehrman. As is so often the case with reporters, when you look at the context, well---they didn't, or, if they did, they ignored it. Here is the entire article he pulled that phraseology from:
I Don't Do Theology, I'm an Historical Scholar!A little different in context, isn't it? I wonder why Ehrman's quote got lost? Well, we all know why that is.
03/02/2009 - James White
So says Bart Ehrman when you challenge his highly challengeable theological conclusions and claims. Ehrman's new anti-Christian book, Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don't Know About Them), is lying on my desk, having just arrived. I flipped the book open to the back and my eyes fell upon this statement:
There is not literally a place of eternal torment where God, or the demons doing his will, will torture poor souls for 30 trillion years (as just the beginning) for sins they committed for thirty years. What kind of never-dying eternal divine Nazi would a God like that be? (p. 276).
Now, aside from the inherent problems (poor souls = innocent souls, the issue of divine justice, the continued hatred of those under punishment for God, etc.) in this common atheistic blast, the real issue is, does this book finally signal the end of Ehrman's "I'm not a theologian, I'm just a high-brow scholar so I cannot be held accountable for all the theological pronouncements I make" excuse making? Will those in the "academy" finally see his real intentions, and start to recognize his bias? Personally, I sort of doubt it. Anyone who is embarrassed by the open profession of the lordship of Christ over the mind will not wish to risk their next invitation to some major conference by pointing out Ehrman's bold anti-Christian zealotry. But churchmen who recognize when a wolf is stalking the sheep will do well to cull some of the whopper statements in this book as excellent examples of the fact that Ehrman is no unbiased textual critical scholar. He has moved far beyond the realm of his narrow expertise in his last three most popular books, all of which are designed to do one thing: destroy Christian faith.
I might note that the quote above would be just as applicable to the Islamic view of the fire as well. Just don't ask Bart about that. As he begins his rounds on NPR, do you think someone will ask him, "So, you are saying Allah in the Qur'an is a never-dying eternal divine Nazi?" Yeah, probably not.
Now, the link provided in the online article connected to my name goes nowhere. But, thankfully, a link to the blog is provided. It is linked to an entire category, but, at least that category has a number of blog articles, and in particular, videos, relating to Ehrman. So, let's hope for the best and that some will find that information and be blessed, despite the expected liberal spin of the article.
Update: Dr. Al Mohler likewise commented on the same article, here.
Bart Ehrman on the Colbert Show
04/10/2009 - James White
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
Colbert wins, hands down. Bart takes it good naturedly. But when you only get a few words in edge-wise, you are going to try to go for your "best stuff." You may find the extensive review Ben Witherington is offering of Jesus, Interrupted quite useful (Part 1, Part 2), especially since Witherington and I would hardly be theological bedfellows, yet, he sees the same imbalance that I have noted, and he likewise raises the issue of why a textual critic is basically handed carte blanche to run amuck through the entire NT field of study. [Note: I have been playing with the idea of organizing my response to Ehrman canonically, sort of like Archer's Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, except using Ehrman's favorite texts, as presented in Misquoting Jesus and Jesus, Interrupted as the source material. I think this might assist especially college and university students in accessing the information].
In any case, if you would like to see Ehrman's facile assertion that Matthew, Mark, and Luke do not present a divine portrait of Jesus refuted with depth and fullness--and that nearly a hundred years ago--you will want to read B.B. Warfield's classic work, The Lord of Glory. Compare Ehrman's surface level argumentation with Warfield's in-depth scholarship and rejoice that truth abides even during times of degradation and apostasy.