Stuff Preachers Learn In Seminary But Don’t Preach About

In How Jesus Became God author Bart Ehrman explains that the historical Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher who went about a small rural area portraying himself as a prophet. He prophesied the end was near. God would intervene in human affairs, throw out the forces of evil and set up a Godly kingdom here on earth.

There is enough surviving written material for scholars to conclude there were many other preachers walking about with this same apocalyptic message to Jews of that day. Jesus was but one of the many.

Ehrman gives talks and debates in both conservative and liberal Christian venues. At conservative ones, he says, the audiences are polite. There is often a debate with a local scholar who is a believer. Those audiences are not that interested in what Ehrman has to say but in how their local professor does in the debate.

At liberal places he says audiences are more interested in his historical information about the time of Jesus. When they learn about the apocalyptic Jesus and the many other end of times messagers they ask, “Why have we not heard of this?” Ehrman explains that main line seminaries, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopalian, etc. all teach this history.  Mostly, however, their graduate preachers do not present it in sermons.

Ehrman says he has asked pastors why they do not discuss this history. The frequent answer is preachers do not want to upset the faithful.

I’ve said before, sermons are written by those in the pews.

9 Responses

  1. Mike

    Your use of the terms, conservative and liberal, is so vague that it is meaningless. That is perhaps by design. If, on the other hand, you were to say that the conservatives in your “story” are Bible-believing Christians and the other so-called “liberals” do not believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, then even the casual follower of your blog would have a solid understanding of the starting point of this discussion. This attempt to “muddy the waters” I would suspect is also purposeful.

    Now, to your point of this story you have presented. I would suspect that the Bible-believing Christians, who you call conservatives, would entertain a talk by this guy out of simple curiosity. They might even fall into the same trap as I do with this blog from time to time: Thinking that we can convince this Ehrman guy of his errors by scoring debating points. Add to that, evangelism, which is what we are called to do. Like this blog, however, it is probably a fool’s errand. But, we try.

    On the other hand, it is entirely possible for these so-called liberals who don’t believe the Bible is without errors can buy into the drivel that this guy, Ehrman, is pitching. What’s the expression: if you don’t believe in something, you will fall for anything. Or to put it another way, there is a verse of a song from our hymnal that says: “On Jesus the solid rock I stand. All other is sinking sand”.

    Hence, for the liberal, there is no solid rock of beliefs. However, assuming your story is even true, there is an obvious reason why these liberal ministers wouldn’t talk about these crackpot theories from some atheist who wrote a book trashing Jesus. The elders, or leaders of a church, not just some generic person “in the pew”, are charged with the responsibility to demand that the preacher toe the line. “Test the spirits” is the expression in the Bible that describes this.

    If you are as knowledgeable as you claim to be, then you already know this reason and are being disingenuous in your comments about “sermons being written in the pews”, or you are not as smart as you think you are. Sneaky or stupid. Neither is a very complimentary option, but I am just making an observation.

    However, the motivation for a liberal minister to withhold this information has probably more to do with him wanting to keep his job. If the minister had an actual backbone, an actual core set of beliefs or principles that he stood on, then he would quickly identify these ideas for what they are. He wouldn’t need anyone from the “pew” to tell him this guy Ehrman is not a Christian and his book is pure rubbish.

    1. Mike 11:19 Thank you for taking the time to explain your views. Many readers here will agree with you and appreciate your writing.

      Probably before you began following this blog I wrote often about my view that those in the pews write the sermons. I see this as an inevitable result of the church business model. The customers are in the pews, the retailer is at the pulpit. The money for the retailer comes from those in the pews. If they don’t like the product they buy and pay elsewhere. Church shopping is more common today than ever in history.

      Professor in main line divinity schools are probably more constrained in what they teach than are preachers out in the field. The professors know the Bible does not say there were witnesses to Jesus coming back to life. They know the Bible was written long after the time the resurrection was supposed to have happened. They know the standard practice of the Romans in conquered countries was to leave bodies of political protesters on the poles for locals to see and get the lesson. It was not to give the bodies to any group that showed up. The professors are monitored by their peers and, even if Christians, cannot endorse the Bible’s tale as history. Preachers out in the field, however, can and are often required to stay with the tale handed down from the parents of those in the pews.

      You, and many others, consider Ehrman’s work rubbish. It appears regularly in peer reviewed academic journals and his books are published by major publishing houses.

      I appreciate that you hold views that are common in certain branches of Christianity. What I write here is also common but does not conform to what you believe. Thanks again for posting.

  2. Mike Lawyer

    Views of a Freethinker is the name of your blog. I think you should consider renaming it to: Atheists bashing believers. For someone who portrays themself as smarter than those dumb Bible believers, you sure spend a lot of time and effort talking about the Bible. If the Bible is as ridiculous as you pretend it is, why do you spend so much time bashing it? Let it go, man.
    Or, maybe you can’t because of it’s profound influence in your life? Perhaps you’ve actually read it and it has convicted you and this blog is your defense mechanism? I’ll keep praying for you!

    1. Mike L. 8:08 Thanks for posting.

      …someone who portrays himself is smarter than those dumb Bible believers..

      Certainly, I do not consider myself smarter than Bible believers. I just read different material than you do. I think it is great for believers to read the Bible and follow their convictions. The line is drawn, however, when Christian beliefs are put into our laws.

    2. godless

      I am curious do you consider yourself a victim when someone criticizes your faith? Should anyone that is critical of the christian faith be banned from expressing those opinions?

      I don’t go to christian blogs and get pissed when someone disagrees or is critical of other atheists. I think those that do are looking for a fight, and nothing else.

      Could one argue that coming to an atheist blog would be like going to the Northern and in turn complaining about all the nudity?

  3. Mike

    Jon, a lot of what you claim professors “know”, in that rather large paragraph listed above, is complete rubbish, of course. The term, revisionist history, comes to mind and one of the chief proponents are the intellectual elite, stocked by many of your friends in education.

    These educational elitists are enamored with the belief that they need to re-examine everything from the past to see if they “got it right” the first time. Obviously, that is an example of human arrogance. What is also predictable is that these elitists will inevitably determine that many of the events, people, ideas, etc., from the past were wrong.

    Why do I say it is inevitable? They go into the examination of these events with the assumption that most people in the past were stupid and/or uneducated. Talk about human arrogance!

    1. mark anthony

      Mike, don’t knock revisionist history. There a credible folks who are doing good work in that regard, looking at data that have been long obscured by prejudiced attitudes, e.g. the Enlightenment take on the Middle Ages. That said there are also a number of ideological crackpots who like to rewrite history. So beware.

  4. Mike

    Hey, godless, what’s the address to the Northern? I am thinking about doing some sightseeing
    on my next trip. 🙂

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