Losing Faith: How Scholarship Affects Scholars

See the Biblical Archaeological Review's Losing Faith: How Scholarship Affects Scholars. Both Bart Erhman and William Dever are interviewed, along with two others who remain believers. Erhman lost his faith because of the problem of evil. William Dever expressed himself in these words: I’m not an atheist. I’m an agnostic. I don’t know but I’m willing to learn. Right now the Christian tradition does nothing for me and the Orthodox Jewish tradition does little for me. In my own experience, I find this God so distant that it doesn’t make any practical difference. And, for me, I guess the final straw probably was the death of my son five years ago. If I had believed in God, I would have been very angry, but I didn’t and I survived. As the Yiddish expression says: “If God lived on earth, people would break his windows.” That’s been my experience.

They both claim they would still like to believe. They just cannot do it.



John W. Loftus said...

Christian Scholarship led me away from the faith.

There are surely many Christian professors who struggle
with serious doubts as well.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting that. It seems to me that Ehrman has become more vocal about his non-belief in recent years. He had that debate with Craig last year, Misquoting Jesus is a fairly recent book, and now this.
Maybe MJ was his 'Why I am not a Christian' book and set the stage for him to emerge as an anti-theist of sorts?


HeIsSailing said...

Great article - thanks for sharing. Some interesting points:

William Dever:"Next year will be the 50th anniversary of my first trip to Israel. I worked there for 49 years and let me tell you something: Seeing Judaism and Christianity and, God help us, Islam up close and personal does not help. Living in the Holy Land, I became extremely cynical about religion."

I am not a scholar by any means, nor have I been to the Holy Land. But it seems the same is true for me. The closer I get to really studying my Bible, the closer I get to the creeds of our church, and the more I study my life as a fundamentalist, the more cynical about it I become.

James Strange: (regarding the claims of Jesus' resurrection) Strange: I don’t believe that, but, yeah, I believe in something that means that Christ is alive, and our explanation of that is that there was a resurrection...I’m not in any position to be able to check those claims or even decide on their plausibility. I guess I just don’t worry about it.

Strange is in a strange position here. He concedes that his research results in opposing the claims of Christianity, yet he just believes in an 'existential' sort of way and does not worry about the literalness of the claims. I don't understand this mindset. Is this just another case of not confusing someone with the facts? I want to give people like this the benefit of the doubt, but it seems to me that if the claims of Christianity are not valid that should be the end of it.

I seem to relate mostly with Ehrman's perspective in all of this.

Daniel said...

Note that as learned as these men are about the Bible's history, culture and all its supposed evidences...they weren't helped by it one bit when they ran into the problem of evil.

It makes no difference that the man lost his son, that was basically what made him sit and seriously consider this problem. You can't say it was solely emotive rebellion, because many of us have never experienced that sort of personal loss, but chose to sit down and consider the PoE in depth.

As I've said many times, if not for the PoE, I'd be an agnostic. The problem of divine hiddenness presumes that a god wants us to know it exists, and believe in it. And so it isn't enough to make me an atheist. The PoE is indeed the ultimate insoluble difficulty for those who believe in the omni3 gods of the West. And it will always be.

Lee Randolph said...

Thanks John,
awesome article. In my simplistic mind I see religion as a kind of emotional phenomena. Another way to look at it is that maybe some people are not bothered by seemingly mutually exclusive concepts living in their head. Maybe its just a resistance to the idea of having to accept uncertainty.
That article did shatter an idea I had about the more you know the less you believe. I'm stunned.