My post on what I call “hyper-rational Protestants” and the canon of Scripture generated much discussion.
The Protestant interlocutors attempted to demonstrate through historical evidence and rational analysis alone that we can know the Protestant canon is true. The Catholics tried to show them that the evidence is ambiguous and cannot provide conscience-binding certainty.
This post will draw an analogy between this particular Protestant line of thought and the work of former-Christian-turned-agnostic Bart Ehrman. To begin, a formula for your consideration:
Bart Ehrman = Hyper-rational Protestants – Faith
That reads, Bart Ehrman’s paradigm is like that of the hyper-rational Protestant, if you subtract the aspect of faith.
Because he has analyzed all the historical evidence and argues that it demonstrates without question that the authenticity of the Bible is questionable, that many of the books are forgeries and frauds:
And how does he defend his ideas? As he says in the video, “these ideas are not just my view but the consensus view among critical scholars!” And he lists the most prestigious colleges and seminaries in the U.S., noting all the New Testament scholars agree with him.
Sound familiar? It’s the same line being given by my Protestant interlocutors, who claim that the historical evidence is a landslide in favor of the Protestant canon. And like Ehrman, they want to dive into all the details to try to prove their point. Notice in the video how he lists verse after verse of the Bible that relies on a single textual variant (among many that do not contain the critical verse). He loves this stuff.
And as a side note, Ehrman knows quite well how ambiguous the historical evidence can be. He makes his entire livelihood off of it, using it to attack Christianity’s credibility! Which undermines the claim that the Protestant canon is obvious from the historical evidence.
Can Christians respond to him and counter with their own evidence that his reading of the history is not the only plausible one? Yes. They can. And they should. But do you think Ehrman is going to be convinced by their analysis? No way!
Because, like my Protestant friends who commented up a storm last week, Ehrman is convinced that his reading of history is the obvious one. His conception of history is dogma. And his supporters, some of whom have challenged me at various times over the interwebs, always brag on his impeccable and exhaustive historical scholarship, claiming that it is irrefutable. They want to drag the conversation into the weeds of Ehrman’s details and his pet passages.
I refuse to go there, both with Ehrman’s followers and with my Protestant friends, because I’ve been down that road many times, and it goes nowhere. It’s not the way out of the maze. The way out is to climb up above the maze, so that you can see clearly to escape.
Fortunately, my Protestant friends have faith, faith that believes God inspired books to be written, faith that believes He guided someone(?) to compile them together. Ehrman doesn’t. But Ehrman and my friends both make the mistake of relying on historical evidence and reason alone to demonstrate which canon is the true one.
So my appeal to my Protestant friends is: Don’t be like Bart Ehrman! Use your faith and your reason to climb on top of the maze and see the way out, the way which leads to the Catholic Church.