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Featured Taking a New Testament Class by a Secular Author?

Discussion in 'Christian Advice' started by tuliplane, Jan 9, 2019.

  1. JackRT

    JackRT Flat earther waking up ... Supporter

    Your question verges on the insulting. My answer is a resounding "yes". Were it not for my discovery of liberal Christian writers, I likely would not be a Christian today.
  2. A Realist

    A Realist Living in Reality

    United States
    Yes. In the same way the "kill 'em all and let God sort them out" right wing Christians are part of Christianity.
  3. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

    I've actually recommended that text for a high school student who was interested in more than I could reasonably teach in Sunday School. It seems to be the most widely used in university courses, and when I looked at alternatives briefly I understood why. But I gave him a caution that I'll also give you. Ehrman knows early Christianity pretty well. But I wouldn't depend upon his chapter on the historical Jesus.

    There were in fact lots of disagreements. That's clear from the NT. Conservative Christians try to treat the Bible as being one voice, when it's obvious from both Acts and Paul that James and Paul seriously disagreed. And while other NT authors don't disagree quite as radically with each other, there are plenty of other cases where there are different viewpoints shown. If you're not prepared to look at that, you'll hate the course.

    However I think his chapter on the historical Jesus is the weakest part of the text. I hope your instructor supplements it with something else. He thinks Jesus was a failed apocalyptic preacher. That is, he thinks Jesus taught that history was about to end. It didn't. This view was common in academia in the early 20th Cent, but it's not so common now. You should get a better view into current historical Jesus work. I'm about to go to work, but sometime later I'll try to make a recommendation.

    If you're in a college that uses Ehrman for an intro to the NT course, you're not likely to find any course on the Bible or religion that is consistent with conservative Christian views. Basically you have to go to a conservative Christian school to get that.

    Incidentally, Ehrman was theoretically a Christian when he wrote that text. He was from a conservative background, who was shocked when he started looking at the actual evidence later, and turned into a radical. People who convert have a tendency to be more radical than people who grew up with the same view. Thus in my opinion his work suggests anti-conservative propaganda. While I agree with him that fundamentalists don't have any idea what the Bible actually is, there's an element of propaganda in a lot of his work that you wouldn't find in a normal Christian or secular scholar. This is more true of his popular books than that text. As an example, he has a book on the New Testament that starts out looking at why scholars don't think books like 2 Peter or 1 Timothy were written by the traditional authors. That's pretty much accepted. But he then starts getting into other books, and ends up with ways to call just about everything inauthentic. That's pretty silly, for reason that probably belong in a different discussion in a different group.
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2019
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  4. HTacianas

    HTacianas Well-Known Member

    United States
    Eastern Orthodox
    From personal experience I can tell you that studying, or listening to, or learning from some secularists on Church history can be a learning experience. But there are some angry atheists out there who'll try to ruin it for you.

    Geza Vermes is one of my favorite authors on the early Church. He was a secularist but had none of the motivations some secularists have in writing or teaching about Christianity.

    If I were you I would take the class. Get a feel for the instructor and see what his opinions are. It's easy to learn from those whose paradigm may be different. But beware those who want to tell you how your opinions are wrong.
  5. tuliplane

    tuliplane Newbie

    Thanks everyone for the input! I read through the book more and it was page after page of discrediting the Bible, trying to prove it's not a God-inspired book, discrediting Jesus and his miracles, etc., etc.

    It's one thing to read through a book like that and point out fallacies, but I came to the conclusion that taking a class on it would be far too much. I would have to write papers, take quizzes, and be involved in discussions on topics from the book and since it is obviously skewed in one direction, then most likely my answers in that class would have to lean toward his writings as the "correct" answers. I couldn't in good conscience participate. Again, thanks for all the advice!
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  6. DamianWarS

    DamianWarS Follower of Isa Al Masih Supporter

    if it's not a Christian perspectives course then why would you expect a Christian author for its textbook? It could be an interesting place to be challenged, but don't be fooled that you are the first Christian to take it and plan to prove everyone wrong; you're most definitely not and they can probably see you coming from the first moment you raise your hand.

    People are probably not taking the course to learn the gospel or spiritual truth they are taking the course to learn about the historical development of the new testament and history of the early church which are different things.

    College/University papers are nor for personal convictions, they are for regurgitating a splattering of sources from various authors and somehow make a point out of it, even if you disagree with that point, it doesn't matter. Just follow the rules and never say "I believe..." but rather "according to this author..." and you should do fine. Even if you disagree and find reputable sources that allow you to make those points, so long as they are coherent, properly sourced and stay on topic then the instructor doesn't really care what you're saying. Their job is to cover the content of the syllabus and ensure you can be tested and measure on it. So long as you play by the rules you can say whatever the sources you find say but never say it's your opinion. If you don't like the rules get a Ph.D. and write you're own quotes, otherwise no one cares academically what your opinion is.
  7. JackRT

    JackRT Flat earther waking up ... Supporter

    Vermes was born and raised a Jew. He converted to Christianity and was ordained a priest. He then converted back to Judaism. He doesn't sound terribly secular to me.
  8. Ing Bee

    Ing Bee Son of Encouragement Supporter

    United States
    It is not necessarily a bad idea to take the class as long as you are willing to spend some serious time looking at countervailing scholarship. I regularly read or engage with material that pushes back on my worldview assumptions in order to be more thoughtful, grounded and articulate in how I share the good news of Jesus, the anointed king of everything.

    If you do take the class, I recommend reading Andreas Kostenberger's book, The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture's Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity. Kostenberger's thoughtful scholarship addresses specifically the ideas of "multiple Christianities" in the first centuries.

    Additionally, books by Dan Wallace, Richard F. Bauckman, Craig Blomberg, Mike Licona, Craig Evans, and Gary Habermas are clear, scholarly works that unflinchingly engage with liberal scholarship. There are many gifts that come to Christians through scholars, even those who are not Christians, and even those who are not friendly toward Christianity.

    As to whether taking the class will shake your faith, I don't know your situation or how the curriculum might impact your worldview so I can't speak directly to that. I will note however that "shaking" isn't always bad. Some of the times when secular scholars or critics "shook" me, I had to examine what my presuppositions were about my Christian faith. Setting aside the reality of particular, historical truths that Christians affirm, "faith" is not primarily "affirmation of a specific set of claims", but personal trust in the Divine Son, sent by the Father, in the power of the Spirit to complete his promised rescue and renewal. If someone told me that some of my beliefs about my wife's childhood memories were wrong, that does nothing to undermine my relationship to my wife.

    Hebrews 11:6 indicates that faith (i.e. personal trust) is essential because no relationship can exists without it. The same is true with Yahweh, the God of the Bible, because if you are going to relate you first have to believe He is there (exists) and that attempting to know Him is a fruitful endeavor (those who seek Him are rewarded). If He is who He says he is in his self-sharing (Hebrews 1:1-2) then He is capable of preserving that self-revelation over time (scripture), capable of reassuring us when we doubt or are confused (see Thomas), and capable of initiating relationship with the most vile and hard-hearted sinner (see Chapter XXIV of Tokichi Ishii's testimony). Since secular scholarship is largely materialistic, the continuing active role of Yahweh (John 3:5-8, John 6:65-68) in the world is ignored or hidden in favor of ideas about social movements, economic pressures, national identity, etc. But all of that is meaningless if the Divine Community of Three is actively bringing people into life-giving relationship.