In their conclusion to Truth in a Culture of Doubt, co-authors Köstenberger, Bock, and Chatraw discuss the trustworthiness of the Bible in the wake of Bart Ehrman’s influence. They state:
Can the Bible be trusted? Ehrman, as well as other critics, answers with a resounding no! They insist that the Bible’s difficulties are so extensive that skepticism is the only reasonable conclusion for an unbiased scholar. However, this is simply not the case. This is not to say there aren’t difficulties in the Bible—such as apparent chronological differences and theological tensions—but as one scholar noted more than twenty-five years ago, “The difficulties raised by the biblical phenomena are on the whole a good deal less intractable than is sometimes suggested.” That this quote was penned in the mid-1980s reminds us that Ehrman’s critiques are not new; conservative scholars have long been offering thoughtful responses. Nevertheless, the church to a large part has not sufficiently taken note of and passed down the historical and theological knowledge that builds a foundation for a reasonable faith. Into this environment Ehrman has entered. He has found an audience among past and present churchgoers, some of them skeptics, many of whom are interested, shocked, and left wondering why they have never learned any of this in their churches.
Despite the anxiety Ehrman’s rhetoric can produce, however, in some ways he has done all of us a favor. He has focused discussion on topics to which everyday Christians and pastors have given inadequate attention for too long. In highlighting these issues for the masses, Ehrman opens the door for new conversations to arise over the historicity and reliability of the Bible. Church leaders and teachers must rise to the occasion and be prepared to serve as tour guides through these issues. Christians have nothing to fear by taking a closer look at the evidence, and unbelieving seekers are not required to take a blind leap of faith.
Table of Contents:
Introduction – From Fundamentalist to Skeptic
The Introduction acquaints the reader with Ehrman’s personal background and spiritual pilgrimage.
Chapter One – Is God Immoral Because He Allows Suffering?
This chapter takes up the question, “Is God Immoral Because He Allows Suffering?” Ehrman claims to have problems with the Bible’s trustworthiness, but in his book God’s Problem, his dissatisfaction with God’s way of running the world appears to be Ehrman’s biggest problem. In this chapter the authors show that Christian thinkers have given satisfactory answers to Ehrman’s questions, many of which Ehrman hasn’t adequately explored in his book.
Chapter Two – Is the Bible Full of Irresolvable Contradictions?
This chapter squarely faces the question: “Is the Bible Full of Irresolvable Contradictions?” It’s here that the authors also address one of the claims of Ehrman’s newest book: the New Testament is made up of contradicting Christologies. In essence they conclude that Ehrman is far too quick to rush to judgment and that reasonable explanations are readily available where he cries, “Contradiction!”
Chapter Three – Are the Biblical Manuscripts Corrupt?
This chapter goes to the heart of the matter. Is it true, as Ehrman claims, that the process by which the biblical manuscripts were copied was riddled with errors so that we must lose confidence in the Bible that we have today? Is it true that we no longer have the text of the New Testament and that we have no idea what might have been changed from the originals in the copies that have come down to us? The authors will show that, again, Ehrman’s skeptical outlook has unduly flavored his assessment. We have strong reasons for confidence in the Bible we have.
Chapter Four – Were There Many Christianities?
This chapter continues by discussing the question, “Were There Many Christianities?” In this chapter the authors show that the gospel found in the New Testament was based on the Old Testament expectation of a Messiah fulfilled in Jesus and that this gospel was preached almost immediately after Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Chapter Five – Are Many New Testament Documents Forged?
This chapter takes up the matter of the authorship of the New Testament documents. It makes sense for an opponent of Christianity to try to discredit the authors of its foundational writings; but does the evidence, fairly assessed, really bear out Ehrman’s skepticism in this regard? In this chapter the authors show that we have good reason to believe the professed authors are the real authors of the New Testament.
Conclusion – Reasons to Believe
The conclusion deals with “Reasons to Believe.” We will see that Ehrman is driven by doubt that raises the bar of proof so high no one will ever satisfy his demands for sufficient evidence for faith.
About the Authors:
Darrell L. Bock (Ph.D., University of Aberdeen) is executive director of Cultural Engagement and senior research professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary.
Josh Chatraw (Ph.D., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is director of the Center for Apologetics Engagement and associate professor of Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University.
Andreas J. Köstenberger is senior professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC.