Labels

In varying circumstances, labels help us and they hurt us. They help our brain sort out the puzzle of life, but they irreparably prejudice our thoughts about what we’re labeling. Consider, for a minute: fishy aftertaste, used car salesman, feminist, Southern Baptist…

[Had to get in a denominational dig there. I’m sure I’ll write more about the poison of denominations at a later date!]

Anyway, McLaren writes at length about the things his detractors say about him, including the labels and terms used to discredit. My favorite among these, “heretic,” made its way into my blog’s title, because I’m sure I’m destined to be labeled the same way. Consider it some tongue-in-cheek truth in advertising.

So last night in the course of penning my first Truth and/or Heresy post, I wanted to check the date that Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus was published. My source became the all-knowing Wikipedia, and in the midst of fact-checking, my eyes were drawn to a quote from a critical review of the book:

Alex Beam, of the Boston Globe, wrote that the book is “a series of dramatic revelations for the ignorant”, and continues to say, “Ehrman notes that there have been a lot of changes to the Bible in the past 2,000 years. I don’t want to come between Mr. Ehrman and his payday, but this point has been made much more eloquently by … others.”

Now, I believe Ehrman’s intentions to be good and proper. He states quite plainly that he is agnostic, an ex-Christian who left the faith after wrestling with the question of suffering in the world. Fine and dandy! He notes, also, that among his goals is to educate lay people about the scholarly thought accepted by the large part of Biblical academia, a task that is very admirable and to which I also hold dear. But in the end, the reviewer takes offense because [1] he’s read better writers, and [2] Ehrman is getting (gasp) paid. As if the critique was written out of the benevolence of the writer’s heart.

Heretic and money-grubber. What isn’t to love about the path I’ve chosen?

My hope is that we could rise above categorizing one another by a handful of quotations or beliefs, to see more deeply the relative truths we speak within our narratives. That’s how the puzzle of life should be sorted.

A Weekend In Literature

This Saturday, my wife and I awoke to three large mounds of laundry, and her weekend master’s classes meant that I was the lucky one to head to the laundromat. In doing so I wanted to revisit one of my favorite passages in Brian D. McLaren’s recent work of genius, A New Kind of Christianity. You see, I’d heard a lot of preaching lately on “the way and the truth and the life,” attributed to Jesus in John 14:6, and I remembered that McLaren rebuffed folks who read the passage as an eschatological and evangelical golden ticket for Christians. If you have the book, dive your nose in pages 215-224; if you don’t have it, get it tomorrow. You may not agree with the totality of the book, and even I don’t, but you will be inspired.

For our wedding, one of Lauren’s friends got us a gift card to Barnes & Noble, which we split last night. She bought some curriculum-related thing for her first grade classroom, and I got Jesus, Interrupted by Bart D. Ehrman. A little bit of backstory here: I first heard of Ehrman about three months ago when in the library I stumbled upon a book that took issue with his 2005 work Misquoting Jesus. I checked it out, but returned it soon after. It wasn’t well written, despite the references to John Lennon and The Beatles, and it read completely like a contrived defense against some heinous madman think-tank scholar. To my surprise, Ehrman also popped up recently in a History Channel documentary I was watching, where his credibility was obvious. Sure, he said radical things, but I think radical things myself… oh well. Long story short, I bought his book Saturday night.

After church and youth group today, and after completing Day 27 of my 30-day trip through the four gospels, I started reading out of Jesus, Interrupted. I’m one chapter in, and the story is a story that needs to be told. The Bible has errors, many small but several that are significant. It’s not the perfect, God-breathed story that is preserved for us without flaw. And that’s okay.

When I first realized this at Miami University around the spring of 2006, my eyes were opened. I was set on a course for academic Biblical scholarship, a reality that will finally come true next week at Anderson University. I plan to discuss my theological goals, wishes, etc. in a later post, however. For now, back to Ehrman.

He writes that too many people are stuck in a devotional reading of the Bible, trying to glean some measure of wisdom appropriate for application to their lives. This is positive, fruitful and necessary, I believe. But churchgoers are largely oblivious to the realm of historical-critical Biblical analysis. Yes, it’s out there and can be found if they want it, but well-meaning pastors also shield them from it. As if people can’t handle the supposed can of worms it might open if there are any inconsistencies with the texts, or if the Exodus is called into question… and so on.

Tomorrow is a new day and I plan to post more about my goals at Anderson, my reasons for going to seminary, ideas for practical application of my postgraduate education, and the like. And I should get to a biographical page, as well. For tonight, thanks for reading!