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Food for the Poor Godspy.com: Faith at the Edge



Dan | 0 posts | Member since 04.14.08


RE: Bart’s Problem
I happened to find myself sitting beside Bart Ehrman on a plane last week. So I chatted with him a bit and then purchased God's Problem in the airport bookstore. Scott's response to this book is itself revealing: perhaps he "protests too much." I'd like to encourage readers here to take a more open-minded approach. Scott begins above by saying that there are very few "people in the house [of atheism] worth talking to" and that Ehrman is a resident of the "noisy backroom packed with God-haters and Church-baiters." Honest readers of this book will find that Ehrman is not a "God-hater" (Ehrman's wife is a committed Christian)and will, like me, wonder about the source of all of Scott's vitriol. His tone often sounds the chord of panic, as if Ehrman has indeed struck that chord in him. Scott plays his own rhetorical cards here describing these new atheists as sprawling about their "Epicurean" mansion, "tortured souls" that they are, "prisoners" of their own making. Scott tells us that "Professor Bart" should perhaps invoke sympathy "to such a sincere cry of the heart." As readers, we should ask: Why does Scott feel he has to be so personally insulting to *Professor Ehrman* and why does Scott feel he has to psychoanalyze in such a condescending way? Why can he just not read the book and respond in a way that rises to the occasion of Professor Ehrman's book? (I just don't detect the "church baiting" tone that Mr. Scott does). It's ironic that Scott focuses so much of his response to God's Problem on the language and rhetoric, for his review is littered with its own adjectival exaggeration. Ehrman's voice in this book is, in my view, quite measured and sincere--so why is this "tragic," and why does it matter if Ehrman drives a BMW? Is Scott's point about the BMW some kind of "gotcha" that he complains about when other authors use this shallow rhetorical move? How does that kind of criticism help us to better understand what Ehrman is trying to say? Scott responds to Ehrman's book as if it is a scholarly treatise on theodicy. It is not. It's a popular book--a book that sells in airport bookstores for goodness sake. Does Scott really not know the difference? Has he read so much InterVarsity level "scholarship" that he is left now to make his arguments through psychoanalysis and extended "mansion" metaphors that place the people he doesn't undertsand or disagrees with in Dante-like mansions before he even hears them out? Apparently the scholarship Scott has read makes all of this quite simple: "God’s love is stronger than evil, suffering, and death. That’s the Bible’s true answer to our ultimate question." Hmmm. OK. . . . This is exactly the kind of empty popular response that Ehrman is trying to bring some balance to. Those of us that have sat through many evangelical Bible studies and Sunday sermons that blithely skate through the description of death and suffering of men, women, and children on the backs of whom God chose to "reveal his glory" or otherwise stood in the way of his chosen people don't mind a few extra adjectives to remind us that these narratives are not viewed as mere myth or parable, but rather real children's bodies smashed on the rocks in response to the command of God. That so many Christians and Bible teachers can read right though such material and not pause to question it is the biggest part of Ehrman's thesis. Scott concludes: "For now, Professor Bart no longer has ears to hear this answer. That’s not God’s problem. Tragically, it’s his." No, the real tragedy is that Scott is so cock sure of everything that he's lost is ability to respectfully hear others out, examine his own confident cliche, and have dialogue with those who think and feel differently than he does. Fortunately, there is a younger group of evangelicals that will not respond so predictably to Ehrman's efforts to counterbalance this older generation of dismissive "critique." I just about concluded, "but one must have ears to hear," but that would be to subscribe to the same condescension and dismissiveness that is the refuge of those with such "insider" knowledge that they can no longer have a respectful conversation with those outside the fold. Dan Royer

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