A while ago, there was a man living in Europe. He reinvented a very self-evident idea: Only a praying theologian is really a theologian. Then he took his Bible in one hand, and a newspaper in the other, tipped his hat and walked away.
Yes, you’ve guessed it, this man was Karl Barth. Perhaps the greatest theologian of the 20th century. The idea behind prayer as a preresuisite for theology is that the person who is theologizing must be a believer in God. Otherwise, his theological practice will be false from the get-go: You can’t study/practice something you don’t believe exists.
But, the world is full of ironies. Atheist/agnostic theologians being just one of these ironies. Such is Dr. Bart Ehrman, a New Testament schollar at the University of North Carolina, Chappel Hill. While it is almost rude to summarize the entire work of a PhD in one sentence, if I’d dare to do such a thing for Ehrman, the summary of his scientific work would be:
We can’t believe what the New Testament says about God and Jesus because the New Testament we have today is compiled from copies and revisions. These copies date at least 400 years after the originals were written. Over the centuries, so many copyist inserted so many edits/revisions that what we have now today as The New Testament is more a compilation of theological ideas from countless of authors rather than a historically/forensically reliable version of the original books of the New Testament.
Ok, so it’s a rather long sentence, but then again, I can’t properly summarize Dr. Ehrman’s work in just one word. Not yet at least. But stick around. We’ll get to that later on in the text.
So, Dr. Ehrman holds that Christianity is in a no-win situation because we simply don’t have the original New Testament books as they were written by the NT authors. Bummer.
But Ehrman’s ideas don’t go unchallenged, to put it mildly. If I’d be more forensic about Ehrman’s ideas, I’d rather (gladly) say his ideas are being butchered by theologians world-wide. But, that is the nature of science. You post an idea, you invest a lifetime in developing it, and then you get your coleagues lovingly butcher your ideas for years to come. Theology, as a science, is a rigorous one, and theologians take no prisoners when it comes to disecting ideas and separating theological fact from fiction.
The cool (I guess) thing about Theology is that just about anyone in the world has an oppinion on Theology. Most of these oppinions are hardly oppinions because they’re just uninformed babbelings from people. Others, who do take some time to read up on the matter so that they’d have material to think over, end up forming their oppinions and live them out.
One of these people who did spend some time to read up on the matter is Colbert, from The Colbert Report. So the guy invites Ehrman on a short interview about a book Ehrman wrote. Naturally, if Ehrman wasn’t going against the grain of everything what Christians believe about the NT, he wouldn’t make it as an author. But pick on an idea that insults devout Christians and you’re set to make big bucks by selling your books, because nowadays everybody hates Christians.
So… Colbert. He invites Ehrman, and pulls out the big guns on poor Dr. Ehrman. In 5 minutes, Colbert deconstructs, spits and stumps on the core idea of Ehrman’s career.
In a nutshell, Colbert’s response to Ehrman is that (paraphrasing)
If we don’t have the originals of the New Testament books, you really can’t argue for or against the reliability of the NT books. You can’t say that what our version of the NT isn’t true because you have nothing to compare it to. So the argument is good only for folks that don’t have the balls to believe in God, or “look Him in the eye and say I don’t believe you exist, God.”
What Colbert goes after in this argument is the same as the Archbishop of Canterberry pulled on Richard Dawkins a couple of years ago, when he challenged Dawkin’s delusion of using Science to prove the non-exisance of God, to which Dawkins acknowledged that based on raw scientific data he cannot be convinced that God doesn’t exist. The flip side of the idea is that you can’t use Science to either prove, or disprove the existence of God.
Back to Ehrman, who himself admits “I have no balls”, we can’t use textual criticism to either prove, or disprove the reliability of the NT writings. What we can use however, is the early practice of the Early Church, and their belief of the nature of Christ as the God-man.
Watch the video, it’s a giggle:
After seeing the video, and seeing Colbert butchering Ehrman in 5 minutes, and then Ehrman admiting he now has no balls, I can be as bold and summarize Ehrman’s life work in one word: Idiot!