I received this comment from a Christian in the “feedback” section of my blog recently :
Thanks for your honest and earnest story. For what it’s worth, I have read Ehrman (Misquoting Jesus and various articles in BAR) and listened/watched his lectures on BAR media. He’s a smart, nice, articulate guy, who values truth and people too. I see his unbelief as a natural consequence of his linking the Bible with fundamentalism.
Given his experience, the link would be hard to break. It was for me. He has taken the fundamentalist ultimatum (Either you believe every word is literal history and/or the word of God, or you may as well be an atheist) to its logical conclusion.
One of the problems we face in determining the truthiness (Computer science actually uses that word) of the Bible is the diversity of “true religions,” which implies at least most of them are false. Another problem we face is the hubris exhibited by dogmatists, exceeded only by their intransigence. One must wonder how the Bible can be true or even useful when it is subject to such disparate readings. This oversimplifies the issue, but I think we are bound to miss the import, if any, of the Bible and of Jesus’ story until we notice that Jesus was more secular than people of his time and people ever since have wanted him to be.
He claimed that his purpose was to set people free (Luke 4:18 – 21), not burden them with a new religion. Martin Luther and the other reformers were heroes, but their goal was to correct mistakes apparent in the medieval church. Going back to the Bible is more than fixing up the ceremonies, doctrines, etc., but rediscovering what the radical Jesus showed and taught of the Kingdom of God.
Taking Jesus as a genuine, secular man opens the possibility of discovering his way, apart from the encrusting barnacles of religion. However, his outrageous claims of his identity demand either acceptance, at some level, or repudiation. Of course, some repudiate the claims because they think his followers invented them. That opinion and its opposite separate honest people. On supernaturalism, one can misread the Bible as an intentional maximalist or an intentional minimalist. Either bias can be extensively confirmed. A more innocent way of reading is to suspend one’s preferred frame of reference and absorb the story and its implications.
Of course, we must consider the ways that ancient people perceived and interpreted their experiences. No law of God or Nature requires us to assume their cultural position, but neither should we assume we can’t make sense of anything they said. I am convinced you can escape fundamentalism while following the way of Jesus. Bathwater and baby…
Jesus (allegedly) said the following:
Now large crowds were traveling with him [Jesus]; and he turned and said to them,
“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. …So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.”
–the Gospel of Luke, chapter 14
If someone today made such a statement I’m sure you would agree that such a person is not dealing with a full deck. He is mad. Yet you believe a man living 20 centuries ago, making similar mad statements, is worthy of your discipleship and even worship. Why??
Sorry, my Christian friend, you are not being rational. Your emotions are preventing your brain from using critical thinking skills. The claims attributed to Jesus are the claims of a delusional mad man.
Yes, I will throw Jesus out with the bathwater!
End of post.