Michael Kruger from RTS Charlotte concluded his review of Jesus Interrupted with these words:
In the end, Jesus Interrupted can be best summarized as a book filled with ironies. Ironic that it purports to be about unbiased history but rarely presents an opposing viewpoint; ironic that it claims to follow the scholarly consensus but breaks from it so often; ironic that it insists on the historical-critical method but then reads the gospels with a modernist, overly-literal hermeneutic; ironic that it claims no one view of early Christianity could be “right” (Walter Bauer) but then proceeds to tell us which view of early Christianity is “right;” ironic that it dismisses Papias with a wave of the hand but presents the Gospel of the Ebionites as if it were equal to the canonical four; and ironic that it declares everyone can “pick and choose” what is right for them, but then offers its own litany of moral absolutes. Such intellectual schizophrenia suggests there is more going on in Jesus Interrupted than meets the eye. Though veiled in the garb of scholarship, this book is religious at the core. Ehrman does not so much offer history as he does theology, not so much academics as he does his own ideology. The reader does not get a post-religious Ehrman as expected, but simply gets a new-religious Ehrman–an author who has traded in one religious system (Christianity) for another (postmodern agnosticism). Thus, Ehrman is not out to squash religion as so many might suppose. He is simply out to promote his own. He is preacher turned scholar turned preacher. And of all the ironies, perhaps that is the greatest.
I don’t know if Dr. Kruger knows Ehrman personally. I would not say I do, either, in the sense of really knowing the man. However, when you spend as much time as I did studying his teachings, listening to him speak in various contexts, reading his writings, in preparation for our debate, and then meet him in that context, you get past the “Yeah, I saw him in a TV clip once” level of knowledge. And the above litany of contradictions (not just ironies) I think flows from a deep lack of self-reflectiveness on Ehrman’s part. Not only does he truly believe his own PR, but I have rarely heard Ehrman self-conciously raise issues of reflection upon his own position. That is, when I speak, you will always hear me say things like, “Now, having said that, others have suggested…” or “But how do we respond to this issue our position raises?” But once Bart speaks, well, what else is there to say? When he says “scholars have determined,” well, by golly, scholars have determined! He does not see what Kruger notes above: he may have abandoned any logical or meaningful foundation for dogmatic pronouncements, but he still makes them, this time, on his own authority. And since many in our modern culture bow down in adoration at the great gift he offers (reason to disbelieve), after a while, you get used to being taken as the final authority.
This explains an element of our debate from January that did not fully strike me until I watched the debate months later while showing it to one of my GGBTS classes. During the debate I am focused completely upon the specific points being raised, and am not nearly as sensitive to tone and behavior (one of the reasons I rarely get caught up in emotions and the like). As I watched the debate with my class, I was taken aback by Ehrman’s dismissive attitude, not only toward me (that is to be expected, I don’t sip lattes with French textual scholars), but especially toward the audience. He truly was preaching at them, but, at the same time, did not seem to realize he was. There was such a striking contrast between his profession of pure scholarship, being a historian and not a theologian, and the fact that anyone could tell he was preaching. But he could not see that, and that is what I mean by a lack of self-reflection. It also struck me that his self-chosen appellation, “happy agnostic,” does not seem to be as much description as hope. He seems caught in a spiral of his own making: the only way to continue to grow his popularity and his book sales is to become more and more gratuitous in his attacks upon his former faith (that is the nature of the fame engendered by apostasy), but that only drives him farther and farther away from his own self-claimed academic neutrality and fairness. He has to become the mirror image of what he is so obviously intent upon denigrating, hence the ironies listed above.