Read the Bible, Leave the Church.

When we nonbelievers are sitting at our usual weekly watering hole, the question come up, ”Why did you leave the church?”  A common answer is, “I read the Bible.”

I’m sure in some cases this is not of what really happens.  Yet, in some cases I know it to be true.

Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar, has provide his own explanation of how he went from being a fundamentalist to an agnostic.  He explains it started by carefully reading the of the Bible.  In his case, it is believable.

Ehrman was an evangelical and attended the Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College.  He then went to Princeton Theological Seminary. At both Wheaton and Princeton he studied Greek and began rereading the Bible.

While he knew even while at Moody there places where the Bible contradicted itself, he saw them as small and insignificant.  Eventually, it was in the Book of John he began to see larger problems.

We have to remember the Book of John has the most quotes from Jesus.  It includes the quotes most often used to make a point.

What began to bother Ehrman were the claims of John’s Jesus that were so different than those of the earlier Gospels.  In John, Jesus says he was a god figure before he was born.  This was not how his disciples saw him, nor those who claimed to know him as described in the earlier Gospels.  There, he was a man who became a god.

Ehrman knew it cannot be both.

Avatar of Jon Lindgren

About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years.
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47 Responses to Read the Bible, Leave the Church.

  1. Tyndale says:

    Socinianism is not new. At least Mr. Ehrman does not claim to be Christian.

    • entech says:

      Surely that particular heresy can only be applied to Christians, as Bart is not a Christian he would be better described as an apostate rather than a heretic.
      Sorry, I can’t see the relevance of your post.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Tyndale 4:23 What makes you think Ehrman is about socinianism?

      • Tyndale says:

        When you were outlining Mr. Ehrman’s view on the deity of Christ, it is a similar argument the Socinians used. I know very little about him or much about his belief, but I am just going by what you relayed.

  2. Michael Ross says:

    Ehrman was a seminary student? So was Charles Darwin and Joseph Stalin. Some of these schools do the faith much harm.

    • entech says:

      Amazing some of the people that never completed their seminary training.
      Quite clearly Stalin dropped all religion fairly quickly.
      Darwin took much longer, some of your colleagues claim that he never really did.
      Ken Ham wasn’t a seminary student, probably better if he had been, we would be spared all his endless rubbish about evolution = atheism and children riding around on pet dinosaurs.

  3. Wanna B Sure says:

    One would think by the title and content of this blog, and Ehrman’s credentials that leaving the faith is an inevitable result. Not so. From where he came, and through what he went to arrive at where he is, is not so curious. There are many many more knowlegable, better credentialed, matured / seasoned theologians, experts in languages, including biblical/ contemporary history, and professors who have come to conclusions quite opposite of his. While interesting, he is re-hashing old material already known, to a new and quite uninformed audience, presenting it as new. He is what he is.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Wanna 6:16 “presenting it as new.”

      In his books and blogs he regularly refers to people who disagree with him. I don’t think he ignores the disagreements in the field. He is in his mid 50′s, and has had papers at the major conferences and in major jounals so to say he is somehow not among “mature/seasoned theologians” seems inaccurate. I don’t know what your definition of “mature/seasoned theologians” is, but by mine he would qualify.

      What is different about him, as he explained in a blog a while back, was that he discovered he could explain theological concepts without using the language of the field of theology. This made the field, and his views, accessable to people outside the field.

      In my expereince, when someone in the academic circles starts writing and speaking to the general public, their stock within the acakemy circles starts to fall. In economics, Gailbraith was such a person. I was at a conference once where there was an entire sessession devoted to debunking him.

      I hope I did not imply the path out of the faith is inevitable. Recently, Ehrman invited another academic to guest blog on his site just to show not all New Testament scholars lose their faith.

      • Wanna B Sure says:

        Just following his trail from hyperliteralism through liberalism to where he is today. Big words or not is not the issue.

      • entech says:

        He has said that his books fall into two categories, those for the professional audience of his peers and the other for a more general audience. He is fortunate, and so are we, that he can present in understandable terms.

        Critiques either take the form of fellow academics on points of analysis and interpretation and those who think they know better because he doesn’t agree with them.

        • Wanna B Sure says:

          Entech; I take it then that you believe the less knowlegable laity should indeed follow Ehrman blindly, as he “can speak their language”. That sort of reasoning was the fuel that feed the start of Adventism, with the resulting “great disappointment”.

          • entech says:

            You take it incorrectly. No one should follow anyone blindly.

            That he can present the results of his research and analysis in an understandable way is good, that does not mean what he says should be accepted uncritically, what is needed is some one who can present an alternative with clarity.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            And that is done every Sunday from the pulpits of many churches. Thoroughly educated and experienced clergy do use technical language when among themselves, but they don’t bring it to the pulpit. This is the rule, not the exception. You and Jon seem to propose the opposite. In adult Christian classes, apart from Sunday worship more in depth content is appropriate, yet not so lofty the average layman has to bring a dictionary or an encyclopedia with him/her. Most often for the layman, Sunday worship is the extent of exposure to Christian content, and the level of Ehrman and the like aren’t on the scope. Nor need it be for most.

      • Wanna B Sure says:

        Jon; I take it then, that you don’t disagree with me when I say ; “There many many more knowlegable, better credentialed…experts in languages, including Biblical history/ contemporary history , and professors who have come to conclusions quite opposite of his”.

        • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

          Wanna 12:45 “Jon; I take it then, that you don’t disagree with me when I say ‘There are many many more knowledgeable better credentialed experts in languages..who have come to conclusions quite the opposite of his.”

          In a previous post I disagreed with you assertion he was not a mature and credible scholar by my defintion of what this means. He is in his fifties with a decade or two in pretegious universities in the field and has a good record of publications.

          As to your sweeping generalizations about many many more superior people who disagree–the only factual statement I know of is that there are those who disagree. I think it is factually correct to say every single professor in the field of religion finds many many” others disagree with him/her.

          He has many views on many subjects. Do you know if the majority of professors at what are called major universities disagree with him on every point he has made in his several books? If you know this to be true, I would like to know what source you have used to make such a statement. If you don’t have a source, perhaps you are blowing hot air.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Perhaps the warmth that I feel from you is defense of someone who has no more if not less credibility than those who disagree with him. I understand why you champion him. Your priorities generate this devotion. I could care less whether …”Professors at what are called major universities disagree with him on every point he has made in his several books”. I have found many of these “professors” to be not all that reliable or trustworthy from either side. Many of these “universities” are incubators of unorthodox, heterodox, and other old “isms” yet to be re-introduced. Which brings us right back to Ehrman, as he fits into the same circle.

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            Wanna 1:40 “I feel from you is defense of someone who has no more if not less credibility than those who diagree with him.”

            There you go again, throwing out generalities. You are the champion of unsubstantialted generalities. At least a little reference to factual or documentable statements would be appreciated.

            All I wrote was what Ehrman has said and how he thinks. Obviously, you disagree with him–I have no problem with that. I did not say he was better than a thousand others. Then you come on here saying the theological majority disagrees with him. What do they disagree with him on? Who is it that disagrees? I have no idea what you are talking about.

            Now, I pointed out in my blog Ehrman found it disconcerting that what was said in the Bible at the time of the Jesus death were different than what appears in the Book of John. The Book of John says Jesus said he was god before he was born. The people at the time of his death thought he was a man and then turned into a god.

            What would be helpful to readers here would be for you to point out what is wrong with Ehrman’s arguments. Instead, you want to change the subject to something pointless–that there are people who disagree. Of course there are.

          • entech says:

            All hail WBS. He of the perfect knowledge, if you don’t agree you are wrong.

            Read a few of your posts, objectively, as if written by some one else and you will see what I mean.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            I do appreciate your obeisance with humility.
            I remain consistent and you are free to your opinion.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Jon; @your 2:11; So we are washing socks, and you wish to throw in the entire closet. Not important. What I said is sufficient.

    • entech says:

      What incredible blind hatred. The man got his doctorate from Princeton, with great honours. Numerous awards, More than 20 books, only a few popular and 2 of the others are standard textbooks. Over 20 years teaching at the same Bible Belt college with average of 400 students a year – I wonder why they keep coming?

      What are your qualifications as a critic, you are very circumspect when it comes to anything except intimations that you have been a religious instructor of some kind – professorial level or the odd weekend summer school/Sunday school.

      • Wanna B Sure says:

        What incredible arrogance to deny anyone disagreement of someone you wish to champion. Especially the poster boy of Jon’s blog. What incredible blind hatred of anyone without a doctorate from Princeton, (or Hawvawd) Pray tell, (I use that term loosely) what degrees in anything related to theology do you have to make you more qualified to judge.

        • entech says:

          @ 12:41 Tut, tut. letting your anger get the better of you like that, I never denied your right to disagree, given your strong defences of Christianity it would be amazing if you did not disagree in the strongest possible terms.
          My reference is:
          many more knowlegable, better credentialed, matured / seasoned theologians, experts in languages, including biblical/ contemporary history, and professors who have come to conclusions quite opposite of his.
          And my post is about your sad attempts at belittling the man, the serious critics of him and his books treat him with respect while questioning his analysis and conclusions.
          Yours seems to be he is wrong because he doesn’t say things that I agree with, therefore his qualifications are useless.
          Where on earth you get What incredible blind hatred of anyone without a doctorate from Princeton, from, I can’t imagine, I was defending Ehrman’s credentials not being anti anyone else.

          My qualifications in theology are a total zero, I do read a lot and went to a Church of England school (that was over 50 years ago, probably doesn’t count). I present some questions about what I think could be wrong in your Bible and in religion in general. I don’t deny any one the right to disagree, I do get a bit annoyed at times with what I think are distortions and outright lies about my position, basically I say teach me that I may learn, that I rarely agree or am convinced does not mean I don’t give most things due consideration.

          @ 12:51 and 12:58 Most likely, there are many that came through Oxford and Cambridge too. I say that is totally irrelevant and diverting, and, expect that, going by past history, you will pick that up turn it around and throw it back

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Your revealed anger in your 12:22 was met only with equality.
            Your understanding of my assessment of Ehrman is incorrect.
            No, I’m not going to throw much back at you. Due to your circularity, it happens all by itself.

          • entech says:

            Whatever you say, you have the most incredible ability to deceive yourself and project your failings onto others.

            I have no idea what your harassment of Ehrman is I only see that you use that as part of you desire to attack Jon whenever you can.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Now it’s harassment, and attack. Your sacred cows are questioned, and all we get is “hyper-boil”. PLOM

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Just a quick follow up; You say you read. You must admit that I very seldom include suggestions to read, or even Bible references. However when I have recommended a book or two, you seem to dismiss them outright. This tells me that what you read is done selectively, further enforcing your position, while ignoring opposing views. I am not surprised.

      • Wanna B Sure says:

        If memory serves, there have been several corrupt politicos come through Princeton, and Hawvawd. Some have written books. According to your specifications, that makes them right, and no one should question.

      • Wanna B Sure says:

        Let’s throw Yale into the mix too.

  4. Michael Ross says:
  5. Wolfy32 says:

    I guess I’m saddened that the Christians derailed any intelligent discussion about this subject. It was a good theological subject, one deserving of intelligent discussion. And instead we got a childhood playground response “You’re opinion is stupid and wrong, so Neener neeener neener.”

    When asked for something more intellectual it was “:P neener eneener neener.” from the Christians. I would expect Christians to stand up for their beliefs, provide evidence, provide counter arguements, provide something, other than, :P . Even if the arguements are dismissed, it would be a lot better than saying and doing nothing but belittling others. How is belittleing others Christianlike at all?

    As to the subject.

    As to the subject, Jesus was to be God incarnate through the Holy spirit. In other words, the way I saw it. Is the Holy Spirit was the communication channel, the bridge between humanity and the supernatural world / crossing time and space to the God Being.

    In that sense he had extremely limited ability to draw on God’s power, which in turn, he represented God himself, through his connection to God. It was kinda like, you need to walk in a person’s shoes to know what they’re going through, so, I see it as God saying, hey, I need to know what it’s like to be Human before I judge this race as fit for my kingdom or not.

    So, enters Christ, to represent God with a direct channel to God that humanity didn’t have at the time.

    When Christ Died and resurrected, he let the desciples know that he sends his spirit upon all of humanity that they may too become like Christ. That humanity too could draw upon God’s power, strength, spirit, what have you. In this is born the day of pentecost. The day the spirit of God that Christ used to channel God’s power came upon *ALL* of humanity. For all would be able to perform miracles such as he has.

    Most, if not all, of Christ’s acts on earth, were to empower humanity, starting with the poor. Even the “Beatitudes” — Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. Or Blessed are those that believe without seeing.

    Christ wanted to empower all of humanity, not just kings and queens or pharoahs. (which was a threat to judaism to say that everyone could have a direct tie to the God head – would be the ultimate sacraligousness.)
    Such talk is even a threat to catholicism. Original through the 20th century, much of catholocism focused on reading the bible in latin, and not allowing people to read the bible in English. This prevented people from gaining the ability to empower themselves and gave the power to the parishoners and priests.

    How much misinformation and misinterpretation was given and to prevent people from reading and knowing the bible for thesmelves, was the opposite of what Christ represented.

    He cared about the individual, not the theology. Sure he advocated some ritual, such as the last supper, but, in most cases he rarely if ever performed the same miracle the same way twice. Meaning the focus was not on a specific set of actions, but, more on one’s personal relationship with the God head.

    It is this way that God presented a human representation of God, to help stear our civilization.

    And regardless of whether any of the new Testament is true or not (at this point does it matter? We can’t prove it either way at the moment.) Look at the impact it’s had on our civilization. If there is a God and the new testament was orchestrated in some way, we can’t possibly know what impact was sought but it’s had a pretty global civilization impact. We can debate until we’re blue in the face the possible inaccuracies. If there’ s a God, I don’t really think it cares about that arguement at this point….. The impact has been had and for better or worse, it’s changed a lot of lives.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Wolfy 1:08 “It is in this way God presented a human representation of God, to help stear our civilizaton.”

      Thank you for expanding on your view of the faith. It could well be the correct one.

      What interests me is the question of who the god-man figure was. What did the original people think he was? Did the perception of what he was change from the very begining decades?

      It appears to me there was both disagreement of who/what he represented almost from day one and then it quickly started to change. That is, he was originally thought to be a man who changed into a god, but later, in the Book of John was changed into a figure that was god before he appeared.

      This is important because the question of the return has never been resolved. If we don’t know who/what he was, how can there be agreement of what will show up the next time?

      • Wanna B Sure says:

        Jon; @ 1:49; “This is important , (…the question of who the god-man was.) because the question of the return has never been resolved”. Two different but related subjects, ( 1. who he was/is, and, 2. the “return”. Within the Christian community, the question of who is resolved. The question of when/ how is up for discussion. Only outside the Christian community, and including a couple large groups that consider/ call themselves Christian has it not been “resolved”. Sooo- – - Christian=resolved——non Christian= disagreement, AKA “unresolved”.

        • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

          Wanna 2:10 “Within the Christian community, the question of who is resolved.”

          I can’t argue with what you believe because you own it. I’m just saying the Bible has at least a couple different definitions of “who”. One was designated before a virgin birth. The other designated later.

        • Wanna B Sure says:

          So, you are in the non- Christian grouping.

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            Wanna 4:38 “So, you are in the non-Christian grouping.”

            Feel free to have whatever opinion of me or anyone else you wish. All I’m doing is referring to information that is in the Bible.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            So then as a metaphor, when you read the first chapter of Tom Sawyer, you didn’t know of Becky Thatcher. Later on, she and Tom got lost in the cave. A later event, yet the same story. But then Samuel Clemens was not Mark Twain. Right? Two thousand years from now, they may never know.
            I know your “reasoning”, but again, it is from the camp of non-belief, (non- Christian).

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            Wanna 5:51 “…but again, it is from the camp of non-belief.”

            Now, you have gone into your usual mode of “guess what I’m thinking.” If I point out something written in the Bible, and I have accurately related what is there, why does it make one twit of difference whether I’m a believer or not a believer?

            The importance of being or not being a believer comes when one puts that information into a practice of the faith. Somehow, you have the urge to imply what I have pointed out as incorrect because I am not a believer. It would be more helpful if you would point out it is incorrect.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            OK, you are incorrect. There.

      • Wolfy32 says:

        I’m not saying I’m right or wrong.

        There is a sentiment that the old testament was written about a much different time period where God’s were viewed as eternal judges on the fate of mankind. We have to take into account that Ancient time humanity is much different than now and we have a really tough time relating to any of it. Where human life was treated as something to be used and tossed aside. How many thousands of lives were lost building pyramids? Statues, and simply hauling rocks. People were robotic labor pools and that’s it. Only the truly powerful and / or rich were able to amount to anything more than a pile of flesh goo.

        So, for a people, for a time, such as people amounted to nothing, but just piles of flesh goo robots, people viewed themselves as such. At least the lower class people. The God of the time, is the same God as it is now (should he / she /it be in existence), however, how people viewed that God changed over time as people’s perception of themselves changed over time.

        I view it similar as one that gains confidence in themselves over time. The world around them changes in the person with a new found sense of confidence and self esteem. Did the world really change? Did God really change, or did mankind’s perception of itself change over time?

        As to Christ’s role. Well, it ties in with what I previously said. Maybe God was fed up with mankind being self destructive, self emasculating, and lacking self worth. What else could boost the confidence, inner strength, and confidence of all levels of mankind, by having the son of God / man, the Christ / messiah, come to earth, live as a humble and meek human and then die like everyone else? Wow? When Christ resurrected there was a new covenent signed with all of humanity indicating, hey, I’m not here to condemn or judge you. “For he sent his son to neither condemn nore destroy the earth, but was sent that the earth might be saved.” John 3:17.

        It’s an empowerment to all of humanity, saying hey, if I can live as a human, if I can go through the most torture all of humanity can offer, and die as a human being at the hands of another human. If I can do that, then , maybe it’s not so bad for humanity to go on with strength, confidence in its survival and growth without feeling guilty or ashamed of oneself.

        Maybe it was the laws of the land, corrupt leaders, or something more that made humanity feel ashamed, or somehow less than an animal, yet, the message that changed the course of humanity is that of a

        ‘umm, you’ve got what it takes to make something of yourself. Believe in yourself and show me what you can become. I showed you what I can do, it’s your turn.’

        Just my take on the general message of Christ. Maybe the story isn’t real, it’s just the writings of very intellectual and very aware writers of the human condition. And maybe they simply gave humanity what it needed…. Hope to go on, to be something more than just a pile of flesh goo robots that just haul stones day in and day out.

        • entech says:

          Maybe God was fed up with mankind being self destructive, self emasculating, and lacking self worth Wolfy, think that if the first bit of the story says man was created in the image of …
          Maybe it is blasphemy that you speak.?

          You speak of this creator becoming a man, a humble and meek human being and dying like everyone else. Nice romantic story, but does it add to the credibility of the narrative. Mankind is created in the form of a human male and a human female, created in the image of the creator, except that they do not know the difference between good and evil, and presumably right and wrong, innocents in the garden. Temptation is deliberately placed in their way and when then succumb they are condemned for ever, not only that but their offspring for every generation to come is also condemned, not quite my idea of justice.
          Oh, Thou, who Man of baser Earth didst make,
          And who with Eden didst devise the Snake;

          So to make up for this ultimately unjust and immoral act, and actually a contradiction of later words attributed to the creator:
          “Now, lo, if he beget a son that seeth all his father’s sins which he hath done, and considereth, and doeth not such like.. that hath taken off his hand from the poor, that hath not received usury nor increase, hath executed My judgments, hath walked in My statutes: he shall not surely die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live.
          Ezk. 18:14
          And similar sentiments in both testaments.

          if I can go through the most torture all of humanity can offer, and die as a human being at the hands of another human Another bit of romance to embellish the story, man has devised much greater torture than that, at least with crucifixion you die, consider waterboarding and worse, you are brought to the point of death and then back to start again, or the imagination that thought up the myth of Prometheus.
          Not only that, he didn’t die, at least if you consider death as a permanent condition he didn’t, a few days later he was up and about, frightening his followers.

          It is hardly empowering if it gives a system that says you are born in sin, you are a miserable little maggot compared to me (ask Job about it) and without the help of the creator, his good grace, couldn’t do the right thing if you wanted to. And then creates a world full of temptation?
          Oh, Thou, who didst with Pitfall and with Gin
          Beset the Road I was to wander in,

          I really do think it is all for the greater glory of God’s representatives on earth rather than for the greater glory go God, I also think the definition of god is not agreed on and must remain undefined.

          • Wolfy32 says:

            I agree with you on the definition of God is not agreed upon and must remain undefined. Depends on if one believes in the idea, or the being…. Two totally separate things, and I think most Christians today serve “a god” to serve themselves. “Prayer Requests”. we ask God for help non stop…. = self serving. It’s like he’s a bottomless bucket of hand outs. The ultimate welfare system…

            However, that said, we don’t have a definition of this being. I spent 6-8 hours arguing with a friend once in high school, his belief was that the bible proves that the concept of “God” is a highly advanced alien race. There’s the possibility that Christ was a simply a clone, so his ressurrection wasn’t a resurrection, but, just another copy…

            Technology scientists have said within 50 years we’ll have the technology to store parts of our consciousness in computer technology, maybe Christ has numerous bodies and a download button… Download me to the next Body… Bing… Resurrection.. To us it’s a miracle. To him, it could be an every day occurance.

            And as far as “In his image”. Maybe our initial bodies were simply clones waiting for a certain level of consciousness. Is not the propogation of our race a form of cloning? Just because it’s a biological process, does not the process of merging two sets of genes to create a copy of ourselves a form of cloning? Just occurs “naturally”.

            Either way, simply put, maybe not all is as it seems or is presented to us.

          • entech says:

            Cloning produces genetically identical individuals.
            So the human reproductive process can’t be considered cloning, the mixture of two sets of genetic information will produce offspring that are identical to neither parent.

            On the other hand Jesus can’t be anything other than a clone, not only identical to the father but somehow is the father?
            The question should be asked then, why put that poor little girl through hell, could just as easily left the child to be looked after by someone appropriate, there was precedent in the case of Moses. Mysterious ways his wonders to perform, indeed.

            Either way, simply put, maybe not all is as it seems or is presented to us.
            You will get no argument on that one, either from the non-believers or even the believers whose beliefs are so often different from each other.

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