I hesitated, “well, yeah.”
He looked at me, “not me,” and then he went on about “practical ministry” and not being one to spend any time on thinking. Thus my last connection seemed to snap and I felt all the more disconnected from a faith that had been one of my deepest passions for the past four years. It was all in my heart to serve, but somehow I really didn’t fit in. So I left thinking that I must be the only one like me.
Then a few weeks ago I happened to listen to an interview on NPR’s Fresh Aire podcast of New Testament scholar, Bart Ehrman, author of the best selling “God’s Problem,” and recently published “Misquoting Jesus” and I realized that there was someone else at least a little bit like me…
Though our lives paths have not been exactly the same, they have been similar enough for me to recognize the force to reconcile ones passions, devotion and upbringing with the nagging realization that it’s never entirely as neatly “packaged” as our faith would have us believe. For Ehrman, it was the inability to reconcile the nagging problem of a benevolent personal God with a world full of injustice, cruelty and suffering. I just wish that my turning point could have been some noble selfless struggle. Damn.
So listening to Ehrman was the complete opposite experience, that is, instead of feeling like there’s no one out there like me, I felt like I found someone who might understand me. Here was someone who was raised in a Christian home, became a born-again Christian in his high school years in answer to personal concerns about Heaven and Hell, went to a Fundamentalist college to study the Bible and then went to pursue an advanced degree and career in New Testament studies. At the core of this pursuit was the drive for Truth, in this case, looking for the “true” or “best” New Testament texts, because if this is the Word of God, than we need to have the original words or at least the ones as close as possible to the original words. While pursuing his advanced degree he did the pastoral gig, Note that his Master’s Degree is an M.Div. (Master of Divinity) which is a pastoral/ministry oriented degree. So, right up to the point where Ehrman went to Princeton and got his advanced degrees, I was on the exact same path. And had I not gone through a divorce at that point in my story I probably would have continued to run the same path. As weird as all of this might seem, I find a sense of hope in the realization that there might be someone else out there like me, someone with a scholarly appreciation and respect for the biblical text but who is also unwilling to just go with the party-line and ignore the nagging questions. Unlike some of the professors whom I knew at Biola who left teaching and teaching at the university when their doctrinal positions came under scrutiny, Ehrman’s situation is pretty unique, being a New Testament scholar at a secular university, such that he is free to see where the evolution of his faith takes him. That encourages me to not take the hard line, either/or approach to my journey like I did when I left the church twenty-year-ago. I wish I understood where I belong in all of this. jbb
The following embedded video is the first part of a ten part lecture by Professor Ehrman. I’m actually thinking taking one his courses through the online Teaching Company