"Students taking a college-level Bible course for the first time often find it surprising that we don't know who wrote most of the books of the New Testament. How could that be? Don't these books all have the authors' names attached to them? Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, the letters of Paul, 1 and 2 Peter, and 1, 2 and 3 John? How could the wrong names be attached to books of Scripture? Isn't this the Word of God? If someone wrote a book claiming to be Paul while knowing full well that he wasn't Paul -- isn't that lying? Can Scripture contain lies?When I arrived at seminary I was fully armed and ready for the onslaught on my faith by liberal scholars who were going to insist on such crazy ideas. Having been trained in conservative circles, I knew that these views were standard fare at places like Princeton Theological Seminary. But what did they know? Bunch of liberals.What came as a shock to me over time was just how little actual evidence there is for the traditional ascriptions of authorship that I had always taken for granted, and how much real evidence there was that many of these ascriptions are wrong. It turned out the liberals actually had something to say and had evidence to back it up; they weren't simply involved in destructive wishful thinking. There were some books, such as the Gospels, that had been written anonymously, only later to be ascribed to certain authors, who probably did not write them (apostles and friends of the apostles). Other books were written by authors who flat out claimed to be someone they weren't."
Sunday, September 20, 2009
I'm reading Bart D. Ehrman's book, "Jesus Interrupted." There are a lot of things in this book that should make fundamentalists very uncomfortable, but I particularly like this passage from the beginning of Chapter 4.
I like this phrase: "It turned out the liberals actually had something to say, and had evidence to back it up." To how many areas of public discourse could that apply? Evolution? Global warming? Weapons of mass destruction? Health care reform? The list could go on and on. Because that's the real difference between liberals and conservatives: liberals value evidence, conservatives value belief. Liberals will change their views if evidence proves them wrong. Conservatives will stubbornly stick to their guns even in the face of overwhelming contradictory evidence. And liberals have a lot of evidence on their side. Look back through history, and you'll find that nearly every instance of social progress -- separating church and state, freeing the slaves, women's rights, desegregation, social security, medicare, clean air and water legislation, the list goes on and on -- was promoted by liberals and opposed by conservatives. And now, looking back, we celebrate those liberal accomplishments as milestones of a free society, and the conservatives who opposed them are at best forgotten, or at worst recognized for the narrow-minded zealots that they were.
Liberalism has a good track record. Conservatism, not so much. And liberals need to keep pointing that out. Like Frank Schaeffer said, we can't accommodate the village idiot. We have to let them stand on the mountain waiting for Armageddon while the rest of us get on with the business of making the world a better place.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Here's a segment of the Rachel Maddow show, in which she speaks with the author of the book "Crazy for God", Frank Schaeffer. Mr. Schaeffer, a former fundamentalist Christian who came to his senses, describes the extent of the insanity running through the conservative Christian ranks. I've been saying these very things for years, and people have always just sort of looked at me like I'd gone too many days without sleep. I think Mr. Schaeffer hits the nail right on the head. Enjoy.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
I've always had a pet peeve about people crediting prayer and miracles and God for saving their lives when, in reality, it was modern medical science that did the job.