Sunday, March 7, 2010

My way or the highway

In our culture today we hear cries of discrimination and reverse discrimination. In dealing with the issue of tolerance, it seems the only ones who get a free pass are the very ones who are themselves intolerant of others views. Agnostic and Skeptic, Bart Ehrman is championing the cause of tolerance as a wolf in sheep's clothing. In his book, "Lost Christianities," Ehrman closes with a chapter on tolerance. Of course, he weaves the same story that has been woven before, and that is of Christian intolerance.

The major point in the book according to Ehrman is that Christianity (which Ehrman calls proto-orthodoxy) had sufficiently beat to death other legitimate Christian movements that are not considered orthodox. He reasons that orthodox Christianity was the big winner in the past, and because of its intolerance of other legitimate Christian movements it is the lone survivor. He implies that if orthodox Christianity were tolerant then we would see a very different view of who Jesus is and even our ethical system would be different. Consider this point by Ehrman concerning the New Testament, "It is quoted in the Senate to justify war and peace,...of a woman to have an abortion...death rights...slavery. It has been used for good and evil. But where did this book come from? It came from the victory of the proto-orthodox."[1] According to Ehrman, many of the issues today would have been handled differently, had proto-orthodoxy tolerated the other so called Christian groups.

In trying to prove that the proto-orthodox Christians were intolerant, Ehrman says, "The problem was that the Christians refused to worship the other gods, especially the gods of the state. If the state gods had made the state great, then surely they deserved to be acknowledged through acts of worship."[2] Ehrman pushes the lack of tolerance further by saying, "These Christians were exclusivistic in their views. They believed that the one and only true God had given one way of salvation, and that the only way to be right with this God was through this way he had provided - the death and resurrection of Jesus. This exclusivity...bred an intolerance toward religious diversity...Those who did not accept the one true God by believing in the death and resurrection of his Son for salvation would be condemned to the flames of hell for all eternity."[3]

One thing is for certain, Ehrman never hides his disdain for the religion of Christianity. What about Ehrman's charges, are they valid in saying that Christianity was intolerant to other legitimate forms of Christianity? His views are totally inconsistent if Jesus rose from the dead. If Jesus bodily rose from the dead and the Gospels and New Testament epistles make factual, truthful, and historically accurate claims, then Ehrman is simply beating his head against the wall. Ehrman is good at tearing down the "Straw Man," but as of yet, he offers no explanation of how Jesus should really be perceived.

Paul is correct in his epistle to the Corinthians by saying, "And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith(1 Cor. 15:14)." This it seems to me is Ehrman's hangup. He is unwilling to accept the possibility that Jesus rose from the dead. In Ehrman's worldview, the bodily resurrection is an impossibility, and therefore he feels free to say that Christianity is intolerant and exclusivist, but if he is wrong it doesn't matter what he states. If Jesus did rise, then Ehrman is lost in translation. Ehrman has determined that Jesus did not rise from the dead and because of his unwillingness to debate this issue he is clouded in his views and he becomes the true prophet of intolerance.

Ehrman is a skeptic at heart. His unwillingness to intelligently debate why Jesus did not rise and give reasons to disprove the resurrection make him equivalent to a religious hack. In listening to Ehrman debate and in reading from his numerous works, it is clear to me that Ehrman has nothing to offer as to why his skepticism is legitimate. In fact, skepticism itself is self-defeating. For Ehrman it is, my way or the highway, showing all who the truly intolerant person is.

[1] Ehrman, Bart, Lost Christianities, p. 248
[2] Ibid, p. 255
[3] Ibid, p. 255-256

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