The former hipster atheist is the now well-known New Testament scholar Michael Bird. He writes about his turnabout in Christianity Today. Here’s the subtitle of the CT article: “Bart Ehrman’s narrative suggests the more educated you are, the less likely you are to believe. My life proves otherwise.”
Though I didn’t start as an atheist (is there a “nothing” category?) I agree. I’ve found the the high-browed educational elite are often the most close-minded. I don’t wonder about what they fear. When I was a grad student at Penn (that’s the ivy league for you non-hipsters), I once had an afternoon to kill. I went to the Semitics reading room (Penn has one of the oldest Semitics programs in the country). My objective was simple: How many books published by an evangelical press can I find? I looked at every title in the reading room. I found one book (count it – one). It was R. K. Harrison’s Old Testament Introduction. Now, things may have changed since the 90s. I don’t know. What I do know is how I feel like laughing every time I hear an atheist or critical scholar spout nonsense about how evangelicals are afraid to test their ideas. Pure BS. The evangelical institutions I’d gone to or visited had hundreds (probably thousands) of books written by critical scholars, regardless of their theological persuasion (if any). There was no sense of fear. No censorship of material that someone (gasp) might find a contrarian perspective in (of all places) a library. And then there’s the Zeitgeist buffoonery. Good grief.
For the record, the UW-Madison was much more open to having books by evangelical presses. I did the same thing there after I arrived as at Penn. Must be that ivy-league thing.
Here’s Bird’s conclusion — you have to appreciate how it mimes Paul’s testimony in Philippians:
Some have great confidence in skeptical scholarship, and I once did, perhaps more than anyone else. If anyone thinks they are assured in their unbelief, I was more committed: born of unbelieving parents, never baptized or dedicated; on scholarly credentials, a PhD from a secular university; as to zeal, mocking the church; as to ideological righteousness, totally radicalized. But whatever intellectual superiority I thought I had over Christians, I now count it as sheer ignorance. Indeed, I count everything in my former life as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing the historical Jesus who is also the risen Lord. For his sake, I have given up trying to be a hipster atheist. I consider that old chestnut pure filth, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a CV that will gain me tenure at an Ivy League school, but knowing that I’ve bound myself to Jesus—and where he is, there I shall also be.
I stumbled on one of your earlier posts where you are “debating” John Loftus, a major ex/anti-Christian Atheist on the internet. I thought you did a great job dissecting lots of the poor logic that gets past as scholarship.
Thanks. Most of the sort of atheist “thinking” he’s doing is shooting at caricatures.
I’m glad you put “debating” in quotation marks. I don’t do debates. I believe debates are for the lazy. If someone really wants to know the answer to something, they’ll read about it and do research. That takes time and effort. An hour-long sideshow where the “winner” is the one with the funniest line isn’t worth my time. I doubt anyone is ever persuaded to switch positions by a standard debate. But that happens when people really want information and then do the work. Otherwise, it’s just hearing what you want to hear and a different form of entertainment.
Though you are technically correct, most people simply can’t or won’t do that level of research for any number of reasons. If that is the case, there is no other choice but for the knowledgeable (like you) to make some effort and debate these sort of people. If not, you are simply going to see the majority of the people (the simpletons, and I include myself with them) leave, while the only ones left are the elite. I don’t think you or I want that to happen.
True – and that’s why I blog instead of debate. The vast majority of people (I hope) can read and understand. That isn’t an elite qualification. If people who can read for understanding just won’t, then that’s too bad. That tells me they don’t *want* an answer; they want entertainment.
Right. I meant more broadly. I hope people like you would do more “publicly” against atheistic arguments. For example, what you did with the work of Thom Stark was gold…and I just happened to stumble on that accidentally.
Harry Blamires, “The Christian Mind”
“No Christian who understands the Church’s true nature can talk of
the Church as being in danger of being engulfed. It is too late for
the world to destroy the Church, two thousand years too late.
The world had its chance and did its best – and its worst – on Calvary.
God answered with a body of men and women against whom the gates of Hell shall not prevail. We have His word for it. And if the gates of
Hell shall not prevail, need we worry unduly about the latest
secularist estimate of the Church’s statistical manpower or the jibes
of shallow brains-trust intellectuals who have yet to find their peace?”
Harsh? No. Direct.
Blamires was tutored by C.S. Lewis at Oxford. I’ll see their “la” and raise them “la de dah”.
He’ll be 100 next year. I noticed 2 or 5 of his books I’d like to read. He’s probably still writing….
Smart/Tenacious/Gifted wins again.
About 5 min after posting I came to my senses and realized this might be the one (possibly only) place on the internet I shouldn’t be cavalierly tossing around “gates of hell” quotes.
Three little mercies where granted the fool.
1. Florid 19th Century travelog.
2. Recent random podcast. Noted scholar/lecturer gets a little enthusiastic about said gates around the 42 minute mark.
3. The delightful daydream of riding my 9yo self/bike past the gates of hell and rattling a stick down the bars.
Silly grin included.
That “Philippians 3” quote from Bird is priceless!! Just made my day.
Theology is by default the only scholarly pursuit that presumes you have no inclination to factual information. You can BELIEVE whatever your specific brand of Christianity happens to be, and “work” from there. To me, the whole notion of Theology is an anathema to actual, real science. An inhibiting force to progress and education. The single most prevalent reason to the state of the entire world as it exists today. And looking at this particular article Scientifically, proves that since there aren’t many stories around like this one, that a person that is scientific and critical by default, has turned to an imaginary deity for his “personal truth”. To me, “Divinity Schools” are an anathema to actual schools, so I can’t respect anyone who’s turned to stupidity, and superstition as opposed to actual learning and scientific proof. If anything, I’d like to hear the proper basis for this particular transformation in thought and reason. Thanks, and sorry if I seem hostile. Oh, and since history’s my wheelhouse, I can’t really let it slide that here’s talk of THE historical Jesus, of which there is absolutely NO historical proof in the context that Christians believe. Just like there’s no historical justification to Israel’s claim to Palestinian lands, and the racial segregation that is being perpetuated in the name of said belief. Respectfully, Jan Helo. PS. a HUGE fan, loved you in the Ancient Aliens Debunked. 🙂
Thanks for the note, but you misunderstand theology. Theology is a kissing cousin to philosophy. It’s claims )involving deity or otherwise) can be tested for logical coherence. Consider the analogy of ideas. Ideas can be coherent or incoherent — while being indifferent to science and untestable by science. Science deals with the material. Ideas are not material. Yet they can be just as real as anything you’d put under a microscope.
As I noted to another commenter, it’s not coherent to assert that evidence for someone’s historicity is only real if that evidence comes from the same era as the person’s life. It is also incoherent to say that if there is no evidence of a life it was never lived. These approaches basically rule out the historicity of most of the billions of people who’ve lived on the planet. That’s hardly coherent. It’s absurd. Your premise rules out the gospels, Josephus, Tacitus, and the Talmud, all of which refer to Jesus of Nazareth. Why is it that the writers must be wrong if they didn’t write during the person’s lifetime? I don’t see how that is at all coherent.
Thank you for the answer, and the answer you provided is precisely the reason why you are the only one vested in the subject I even care to approach for clarification on the matter of theology. That being said, if historical fact is of no consequence to the study of theology or the validity of it, then theology by the premise you outlined, should count in all of the deities and supertitions around the world as total equals of your own preference of Christianity, and not pose imaginary superiority to every other religion except your own. And if theology is to be counted as an actual “scientific” endeavor of any kind, and taught in universities, in my opinion it has to show proper progress like every other field of study is supposed to. And currently the only theology that I see progressing is Roman Catholic, ironically enough.
My point is this: If you require no historical proof of the existence of Jesus of Nazareth, and put aside every argument against it on the basis of the field of your study, how can the study of his person, or his statements be equal to actual hard sciences that tend to work against Him ever even existing? And how can said study ever be equated to fields like archaeology or physics, or any other of the “hard” sciences?
My interest in theology was actually your doing, after I watched your lecture on the whole Da Vinci code thing about Gnosticism. Difference is that I value theology as a huge part of social history, but not really as a field of study in itself, since in my opinion something that doesn’t ever evolve beyond the same principals that hold it together, I.E. God created everything. Whether it’s an Evangelical view that God created the world and everything in it, or a Catholic view that God created the universe and everything in it, as a part of His “plan”, and this mysterious plan is supposed to encompass everything that happens in the universe, either way it seems absolutely nonsensical and unscientific to me.
By the way, I do love your Naked Bible podcast, and am a new subscriber. 🙂