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Learning theology from an agnostic


Dick Tracy isn't concerned that he's learning about theology from an agnostic.Tracy is in the Adult Forum Sunday school class at Trinity Episcopal Church, 1011 Vt. The class is working its way through a 24-part video series by Bart Ehrman (at right), a noted theologian at the University of North Carolina who grew up attending Trinity.![][1]"I have heard that he is an agnostic now," Tracy says. "Of course I'm not, so we disagree on that point. However, I don't think that affects what he presents. Maybe it just makes his point of view less slanted in favor of one or another sect."The video series is called "The Great Courses," and Ehrman's portion talks about the Apostle Paul's letter to the Romans."The content of the tapes is probably not much different from what you would hear in a seminary or college course on the New Testament," Tracy says. "His teaching skill shows forth in the tapes, however. His presentations are scholarly, but also very clear and interesting."Ehrman, who graduated from Lawrence High School in 1973, might be best-known for last year's book, "Misquoting Jesus." However, he had written 18 books previously. "Misquoting Jesus" describes the evolution of various translations of the Bible, and is landed him several TV appearances, including one on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."Tracy says the Adult Forum, which meets from 9:30 a.m.-10:10 a.m. each Sunday, appreciates the fact that Ehrman grew up in Lawrence - even if he left the Episcopal church early for a nondenominational church."It is special only in the sense that another local Lawrence boy made good," Tracy says. "I did not know him, but there are members of the church who do remember him as a boy. I have heard that, as a young man or teenager, he left the Episcopal Church for a more evangelical denomination." [1]: www.unctv.org/.../ images/2004/bart_ehrman.jpg


Jamesaust 10 years, 8 months ago

Unfortunately, the people who would benefit from this won't attend (or if they do won't get anything out of it) and those who are likely to attend do so only to confirm their existent, mischievous beliefs.

Those unlikely to attend have a simplistic, cartoon vision of the Bible: apostles witness Jesus' resurrection and ascension, and sit and write down everything they remember about this astounding person, this gets copied and people read and a religion builds up around the faith. This is, of course, almost upside down: apostles begin teaching about this astounding person and their belief in his resurrection, they attract followers that form into a religion, people write down things from what the apostles said or the hearsay from people who had heard these apostles, and eventually there's enough variance and finger-pointing at 'false' doctrine that a triumphant church sets forth an official (and not at all necessarily wrong) text.

Those likely to attend are those most impressed by Ehrman's recent work, whose title is almost at odds with the text (perhaps the publisher picked a title they thought would 'sell'?). Recognizing and identifying problems and issues with the official text or noting various unofficial contenders are taken to introduce and justify doubt about the whole of the enterprise. Not only did Ehrman's last book not expend much effort in quoting anything by Jesus but the core examples he gives of textual revision are peripheral to the meaning of the undisputed text itself. For example, the abrupt ending of Gospel of Mark (no resurrection) is taken to introduce the concept that there was no resurrection originally in Christianity at all (much along the style of 'The Davinci Code'). Of course, this is hardly a new problem with the text but almost certainly one with a simpler answer: the last section is just missing, supported by the fact that the original, Greek versions end abruptly with a conjunctive. (It might as well have been followed by ellipses.)

All in all, a good example of why its next to impossible to teach secularly about the Bible or Church history -- too many who want to turn the event into indoctrination, whatever their motivation.

mick 10 years, 8 months ago

This guy's nothing but your typical University academic clone. I'm surprised he doesn't wear a bowtie and tweed jacket.

machiavelli 10 years, 8 months ago

I wish we could plant more agnostics in populations that have god-fearin' and gun-totin' infestation. Tell them everything they want to hear, then slowly destroy them from within.

janeyb 10 years, 8 months ago

Count me in among the "thus implanted". But why would we want to destroy the god-fearin'? They are too afraid of Hell/God/Church/Bible to move. It's great crowd control. Take God away from a bunch of evangelicals, and what do you get? I don't want to know!

LCL 10 years, 8 months ago

These comments are hilarious and moreover they point to the blanket assertions atheists make about Christianity, ie that it is monolithic. Do you all really think that the Episcopal Church - the church that has a female presiding bishop, quite a number of openly gay bishops and priests in its clerical ranks, myriad clergy that deny the virgin birth, the ressurection, the authority of the Bible in doing theological reflection, and have thorougly engaged religious pluralism - is in any way reflective of this caricature-myth about Christianity that confirms your own ideological position? Do you really believe your own hyperbole, that all Christians (including liberal Episcopalians) are "gun toting and god fearing"? I don't write this to defend religion, Christianity, or the Episcopal expression of Christianity. I write this to point out the very superficial understanding you all seem to share about Christianity. At the very least I hope your realize that a group of Episcopalians watching a video of Bart Ehrman (who by the way was one of my teachers at UNC and, moreover, works in religious studies not theology - huge difference) makes absolutely no difference in the mainstream of Christianity nor any inroad ("destroy them from within") in the Christian fundamentalist right. Take a break from your echo room sometime - the air is much better out here.

Brian Conrad 10 years, 8 months ago

WOW why are all the atheists so full of hate and scared of believers? Everything in life is THEORY . but if someone believes they must be gun totin idiots? most believers I know do not even own a weapon and are the best of society... you are most likey to be held up, beat up , raped or murdered by someone who only cares for themselves and still you bash those who do not believe your ideas?

yourworstnightmare 10 years, 8 months ago

Religion as philosophy is the only valid way to approach it. Like Plato or Aristotle. Once miracles and the supernatural become involved, it is reduced to a child's fantasy.

mick 10 years, 8 months ago

"Professing to be wise they become fools."

mick 10 years, 8 months ago

You set up believers as a straw man and argue against that. That is nothing but a very stupid logical fallacy.

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