Colbert Lampoons Ehrman

For those of you who may have forgotten, Bart Ehrman is a New Testament scholar at the University of North Carolina. I have written about him numerous times on this blog. He’s the guy who used to be an evangelical Christian but who left the faith some years ago. He is now writing popular level books trying to convince others to leave the faith as well. I wrote a review of one of his books that you can read here.

I am not sure why Ehrman would subject himself to this, but I don’t mind that he did. Colbert is actually pretty effective at poking holes in his arguments.

Favorite line: “What’s the son of a duck? It’s a duck.”

(HT: Ben Witherington)

60 Responses to Colbert Lampoons Ehrman

  1. D.J. Williams April 13, 2009 at 8:48 am #

    The vine/branches pun was quite possibly the worst attempt at humor I’ve ever heard.

  2. Faimon April 13, 2009 at 9:20 am #

    Props to Ehrman for being willing to subject himself to that….must sell him a lot of books. Through it all, however, at least he remains calm and gracious.

  3. mike April 13, 2009 at 9:57 am #

    ehrman didn’t subject himself to anything. colbert was making fun of those who would argue with ehrman. his whole gig is to spoof the conservative media. the fact that ehrman was on his show at all demonstrates that colbert wants his audience to be aware of ehrman’s (one-sided) publications and skepticism.

    sorry, guys, i’m not an ehrman fan, but i don’t think you realized the jokes on you

  4. Darius T April 13, 2009 at 10:24 am #

    I think Mike’s half right… neither side came out looking good.

  5. D.J. Williams April 13, 2009 at 10:40 am #

    On a more serious note – did anyone else find Ehrman’s assertion on “My God, My God..” to be incredibly poor? I just preached Psalm 22 last night, and surely a scholar of Ehrman’s pedigree is aware of the connection. To simply paint it as a “despairing Jesus” is disengenuous. Look, I know that Ehrman has become increasingly agenda-driven, but either way, you just expect better from someone who purports to be a scholar.

  6. Darius T April 13, 2009 at 10:57 am #

    Ehrman is one of the more intellectually-dishonest atheists… he certainly knows that half of his “points” are invalid, but he makes them anyway to an ignorant audience. If he actually believes them, then he is spiritually blind. It’s pretty obvious he is suffering from a heart of stone.

  7. Nick April 13, 2009 at 11:27 am #

    Mike, actually Colbert is a very committed Catholic who believes in the resurrection…I think he clearly wanted to expose Ehrman here, not glorify him.

  8. Russ Dennis April 13, 2009 at 2:37 pm #

    Colbert is acutally also a SS teacher. To check out some other intersting things about this post, check out my blog, Imago Christi.

  9. GUNNY HARTMAN April 13, 2009 at 2:44 pm #

    That was AWESOME when the audience laid out on Ehrman threw out his “I am de vine; you are the branches.”

    I had to watch it again just for that bit.

  10. Steve D. April 13, 2009 at 6:48 pm #

    Half way through it I got the feeling Ehrman was asking himself why he agreed to do the show.
    I read Misquoting Jesus for a review. Ehrman came across as a disgruntled employee out to discredit a former employer. No credibility whatsoever. The only people convinced by his garbage are those who are looking to be convinced.

  11. Matthew Staton April 13, 2009 at 8:12 pm #

    By going on the show, Ehrman advertises his book. I’m guessing sitting in the hot seat is the price of doing business.

    Not sure what to make of Colbert – how much was he being satirical? The thing is, his point ended up having more strength than Ehrman’s. The notion that each gospel writer witnessed a traumatic event and recorded it differently and therefore they are in contradiction – that is weak. The idea that Luke presented a calm, peaceful Jesus being nailed to a cross – what? Agree with the earlier comment that “My God, My God, why…”? is a powerful lament, connecting humans, God, suffering, and the Psalmist. Is Ehrman satirizing his own position? I guess I am not clued in enough to Colbert humor to decode it all…

  12. Todd April 14, 2009 at 12:24 am #

    Denny, the funniest part of the “son of a duck” line was the end, “if it walks like a duck, if it raises the dead like a duck . . . then it is a duck.”
    By far the most annoying parts were when Ehrman would be in the middle of an argument, Colbert would deftly punch two or three holes in the argument, Ehrman would reply, “Exactly,” and then continue with his argument as if Colbert had agreed with him.

  13. Tom 1st April 14, 2009 at 12:36 am #

    I thought Colbert was brilliant. For as silly as he makes conservative evangelicals looks sometimes, I thought he did a really good job of showing how liberal biblical studies scholars are just as silly.

    My favorite part was when Colbert went crazy on him about the Gospel of John. Brilliant. Thanks for sharing this, Denny.

  14. volfan007 April 14, 2009 at 10:39 am #

    Heretics are out there. We see one clearly here.

    David

  15. Russ Ware April 14, 2009 at 10:58 am #

    I’m not that familiar with Colbert or the nature of his show over-all, but it seems clear to me that his approach to Ehrman was no parody.

    Colbert had done his homework, though it seemed to me like he would have been ready to ‘give a defense’ without much special preparation. I guess some Catholics actually know the bible after all… huh.

    I’m usually turned off by this type of lampooning, even when I agree with the points being made. But, I confess being quite amused by this.

    The elephant analogy at the end was my favorite part. There might be a lesson here for… say… various theological perspectives within the Church as well: some grab onto sovereignty, some grab covenant, some are holding onto sacrament, some only feel grace, some recognize works, etc… and it really is all a part of the same ‘elephant.’ 😉

  16. mike April 14, 2009 at 11:22 am #

    ok, i see i better clarify something. i never said colbert was not a christian or not a believer. i’ve heard that he is, though i haven’t investigated it. what i said is that his show is a spoof. he often spoofs the policial right and religious right, or the odd mixture that is so prevalent in our country. that’s what he was doing with ehrman.

    do you not see that, by having ehrman on his show, he allowed him to advertise his book and disperse his lies to a national audience?

  17. Russ Ware April 14, 2009 at 11:59 am #

    Mike… I get it. Colbert parodies the religious/political right. In fact, I should start watching if he is on hulu, as I would probably enjoy that.

    But defending the core of our faith is a different matter, and Colbert come across pretty sincere in his defense of the faith in this ‘interview,’ in spite of his flamboyant, spoofy style. As you well know, there are plenty of us who are embarrassed by the religious/political right on almost a daily basis that are… gasp… completely committed to Christian orthodoxy, the authority of the scripture and the gospel.

    In either case, if Colbert can spoof on the religious right and defend the faith from confused individuals like Ehrman at the same time, then GOD BLESS HIM! 🙂

  18. Darius T April 14, 2009 at 12:01 pm #

    At the same time, Mike, would anyone have come away with the impression that Ehrman is competent or anything less than a nutcase? I think there is a grain of truth to what you’re saying as far as Colbert spoofing the Christian conservatives, but I don’t see how it would have helped Ehrman except with those who already know his arguments and believe them.

  19. Barry April 14, 2009 at 3:27 pm #

    Ehrman, “In John 15 Jesus says, “I am dah-vine” (divine).”

    Wow. That was corny. All I heard was the chirping of crickets.

  20. JB April 14, 2009 at 4:35 pm #

    Stephen Colbert is fantastic and for the most part an equal opportunity offender. The duck comment was priceless.

  21. luke.britt April 14, 2009 at 5:02 pm #

    Denny,

    I happen to like Ehrman’s books. Though I disagree strongly with things he says, I still enjoy his writing style and the way he handles issues.

    I think it’s a dumb move to go on Colbert and I’m sure his publisher asked him to do it. I feel for Ehrman. He needs compassion from Christians. It’s obvious he has strong difficulties with Christianity, but maybe if we prayed for him he could also change.

    I’m tired of the throwdowns we give people like Ehrman, Hitchens, and Dawkins. They need prayer and love soaked in the message of the gospel, not apologetic responses.

  22. Peter G. April 14, 2009 at 8:03 pm #

    Oh my goodness. I watched this last night and it was painfully funny. I actually started feeling sorry for Ehrman.

    As for Ehrman’s humor, of course the whole show is a satire of the conservative right but sometimes Colbert uses the satire to hit the other side too. I think one of the commenters over at Colbert Nation hit the nail on the head regarding this clip with Ehrman when he said, “He normally hides his jokes in seriousness; but, during that interview, he was hiding his seriousness in jokes.” I’ve noticed him do this a few times when he has religious folks on the show who are out to discredit Christianity (I’m thinking of his interview with Anne Lamott in particular). Also, if you compare this interview with Erhman with his first one, I think Colbert was on the offensive more this time around. Normally Colbert with crack jokes at his guest’s expense and then throw them a softball to let them redeem themselves. There wasn’t any of that in this case.

  23. Paul April 15, 2009 at 2:02 am #

    Wow, Erhman is really spinning his wheels here. From what I hear he does much better with a large classroom of Freshman at the Univ. of North Carolina. Sad.

  24. Mason Beecroft April 15, 2009 at 3:28 am #

    Ehrman and those like him need a big hug? Nah. Send St. Nick into the room for the old “Arius” throwdown.

    Actually, lack of discernment and pious sentiment cannot be mistaken for a love soaked message. When someone joins Hymenaeus and Alexander, then we need to have the Pauline fortitude to say as much. If I ever join Ehrman and company, then I don’t need sympathy or compassion or someone telling me, “I’m praying for you, bro.” I need someone to call me to repentance. I need a pastor, a prophet…
    +Mason

  25. volfan007 April 15, 2009 at 10:04 am #

    Luke,

    Hell will be extra hot for people like Erhman. He is a heretic, and he is leading people astray. It would be better if a millstone….

    David

  26. luke.britt April 15, 2009 at 10:12 am #

    Thanks for expressing exactly what I hate about Christians right now.

  27. Russ Ware April 15, 2009 at 10:52 am #

    Luke,

    I am saddened as well by volfan007’s comment. It reflects both a lack of Christian compassion and sound theological understanding. Ironically, statements like this may turn as many people from the faith as unbelievers like Ehrman. Remember, while Ehrman has a Christian background, he is now an unbeliever. He is not a Christ follower. He is quite honest about that. So he is not teaching a false Christianity, but rather against Christianity.

    The idea that hell will burn extra hot for anyone is problematic in several ways (I will not get into).

    The millstone comment is strange since that is a biblical reference to those who would be instruments in causing other believers to sin. Furthermore, at least in the Luke version, the millstone comment is accompanied by the command of Christ that we are to continually forgive the ‘sin causing brother’ nonetheless.

    volfan, I suspect that you would be as delighted as anyone if Ehrman were to return to the faith.

    It’s just all too easy to get caught up in a hateful attitude. It happens to me too. Inasmuch as that attitude is fueled by other believers, that may be a better application of the millstone passages, so we should all be more careful. 🙂

  28. volfan007 April 15, 2009 at 11:19 am #

    Russ,

    No hate here…just stating the facts. Nothing would thrill me more than to hear that Erhman got saved. But, the fact is that he is someone who used to claim to be a Christian, and who teaches NT at a University now. He is leading young, vulnerable minds astray. He is leading people to be synical of the Gospel, and to reject God. He is encouraging people to go to Hell. So, yes, Hell will be hotter for people like him. All lost people will be judged according to thier works one day. And yes, hell will be hotter for some than others. Hell will be hotter for Hitler and Stalin and Saddam Hussien, than it will be for the good, ole boy that was a great neighbor, who never got saved. Now, the least degree of Hell will be more horrible than we can imagine, but it will be even worse for people like Voltaire and Joseph Smith and Mary Baker-Eddy.

    My friends, hell will be hotter for someone like him, unless he repents. And, truly, I pray that he repents and gets saved.

    Luke, you can hate Christianity and Christians if you want to, but the truth is the truth, whether you like it, or not. There was once a time in my life that I hated Christianity and Christians. I was lost and in rebellion against God. I was living in sin as hard as I could, and still get away with it. But, one nite, the Lord saved me and changed my life completely. He gave me real life. He forgave my sins. And, He can do the same for you. You can be saved as well. I mean, if God saved a low down, rotten sinner, who deserved hell forever, like me; then he can surely save you, too. Luke, have you ever seriously considered the Gospel? that Jesus needs to be your personal Lord and Savior? that Heaven and Hell are real? that judgement is coming, and that Jesus will be the Judge of all men? I’m sorry that you were offended by my statement, but I do not apologize for what I said. What I said was true. And, I do pray that you will turn to the Lord with all of your heart and put your faith in Jesus completely for your salvation.

    David

  29. Paul April 15, 2009 at 11:59 am #

    Paul in #23 — please add an initial to your name. You’re gonna confuse people when they see a “Paul” not trying to sell CD’s and antagonize conservatives around these parts. Seriously, Darius and David will both have heart attacks if they see someone named Paul agreeing with them on a regular basis.

    David in #27 —

    1) it’s Cynical, not synical.

    2) you can be a real, honest Bible believing Christian and spend far too much time rolling your eyes at people who talk way more about hellfire than they do about forgiveness, grace and love.

    2a) I understand the argument that you’ll make regarding that point, so there’s no need to go into it. However, YOU also need to understand that in a community of Christians (like the community that gathers here), there’s no need for the fire and brimstone talk. We all already get it. Which is why we’re saved in the first place. Right?

    As for Colbert’s interview, GOOD! I’m frankly kind of Daily Show/Colbert Report’ed out, so I tend not to watch unless I stumble onto it these days, but man is it refreshing to see a Christian who is a liberal actually defending his faith instead of capitulating to any argument that comes along.

  30. volfan007 April 15, 2009 at 12:11 pm #

    Paul,

    If we’re all Christians in here in this “community,” and we all get it; then why would you have a problem with me saying what I said about Erhman? I was just stating what is true. I was just making an observation about him and his views. So, what’s the problem?

    And, yes, Jesus did talk a lot about Hell. Even though He was speaking in a very religious “community” that knew the OT like the back of thier hand. Yet, Jesus still mentioned it frequently.

    And, Paul, if you really knew me, then you’d know that I spend far more time talking about grace, forgiveness, and mercy; than I do about Hell. But, I do mention Hell when I feel that it’s appropriate to do so. Hearing Erhman speak, and hearing what he does, and where he comes from just seemed to make me feel that it was appropriate.

    David

  31. Micah April 15, 2009 at 12:29 pm #

    volfan007 – You sure do seem to be confident in your theology on the specifics of heaven and hell 🙂

    Just to be clear, I do believe that heaven and hell exist and I do believe that this Ehrman guy could be leading people astray.

    My problem with your approach is that it doesn’t accomplish anything good. I’m baffled when trying to understand WHY someone would say something like this. I doubt it would make any hearer want to convert….rather, it is likely to make them move further away.

    Isn’t judgement God’s?? Do you know Ehrman’s heart or God’s plan for him? Does it make you feel more confident in your theology to verbalize something like this?

    I could be wrong, but are we supposed to go around telling non-believers that they’re going to hell? I just feel very uncomfortable communicating in this manner.

    Micah

  32. Paul April 15, 2009 at 12:45 pm #

    David,

    1) re: your comments on Ehrman…you ask why it should be a problem that you said them. I ask why it should need to be stated in the first place. We all know that if you willingly walk away from your salvation that it’s not gonna be good for you. So, you’re preaching to the choir.

    2) Difference between Jesus’ audience and me: they thought they were righteous. I wouldn’t dare say that I’m righteous to any degree. I know that I’m only saved by grace, and not because I keep ceremonially clean.

    3) David, how am I supposed to “really” know you? All I see is a grumpy conservative guy who likely spent a decent amount of time in Tennessee who constantly whines about liberals and talks about damnation. Please, show me the full David, and I will happily recant.

  33. volfan007 April 15, 2009 at 12:54 pm #

    Micah,

    If I seem confident in my views about Heaven and Hell, its because of studying the Bible my entire life…from the time of 5 or 6 years old til now…I’m 47 now. I would dare say that I’ve spent thousands of hours studying the Bible and what it teaches on subjects like Heaven and Hell.

    Anyway, concerning your remarks about judging Erhman, God’s Word judges Erhman. I don’t. I’m just sharing with you what I see and hear out of his own mouth, when lined up against the teachings of Scripture. “By thier fruits you shall know them.”

    And, yes, we should tell unbelievers where they’re going when they die. Hopefully, it will make them think deeply about thier soul and eternity, and could cause them to get saved.

    Paul,

    Where do I start with your…uh hum…comments? I would say that Erhman is heading for Hell, just as I would state that fact about people like Joel Osteen and Benny Hinn. I see no problem with stating it, and I wonder why you have such a problem with me saying it.

    Secondly, Paul, do you personally know everyone that reads Denny’s blog? How do you know that there arent lost, religious people in here…reading…never commenting? And, apparently, Luke is a lost man…by the way he was talking above.

    Thirdly, how do you see a grumpy, conservative guy in me? Man, you really have read me wrong…big time. Although, I can be grumpy at times. And, I am conservative. And, I was born and raised in TN, BTW. To see the full David, you would need to spend time in person with me.

    David

  34. volfan007 April 15, 2009 at 12:59 pm #

    BTW, Paul, when I think about you, I think about a thin, liberal fella with some hip looking glases, who has the bedhead look. I imagine that you’re flakey, and you wear fashionable clothes that a metrosexual would wear…like in New York City. And, you probably drive a small, gas efficient car. You drink coffee at Starbucks, or something like it. And, you are young and unmarried.

    Am I seeing you right?

    David, aka, Grumpy

  35. Matthew S April 15, 2009 at 1:11 pm #

    Apostle Paul: Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.

    David: forget that! Burn, Ehrman, burn!

  36. Matthew S April 15, 2009 at 1:16 pm #

    uh oh, I got consigned to the moderation bin

  37. Paul April 15, 2009 at 1:30 pm #

    Grumpy David,

    1) I do have hip glasses.

    2) I don’t drink coffee.

    3) one of my friends constantly refers to my sense of style as “business slacker.” (i.e., nothing hipster about it, unless hipsters are suddenly flocking to Bachrach for their dress shirts).

    4) I sport the jew-fro if I don’t keep my hair nice and short. And while it’s prematurely gray, it’s gray nonetheless.

    5) I’m a drummer with a kid. Who also happens to be an avid off-roading geek. SUV’s are my only mode of transport.

    6) I have the wedding ring to prove the unmarried bit wrong.

    Here’s the difference in the assumptions:

    You have always treated every liberal who comments here seemingly with scorn. (I know, pot, meet kettle)

    The only people who would be fans of the Volunteers would likely be from Tennessee.

    And that’s all I said about you.

  38. Darius T April 15, 2009 at 2:23 pm #

    Paul, you didn’t mention if David is correct about you being thin. 😉

  39. Darius T April 15, 2009 at 2:24 pm #

    I’m not sure why thin people are liberals, but if so, I’m obviously a conservative in that sense of the word. 🙂

  40. Paul April 15, 2009 at 2:30 pm #

    Darius,

    I think the term that they use to describe me is “stocky.” At my last BMI assessment, I was told that I would weigh 180lbs if I didn’t have an ounce of fat on me. And I’m 5’10.

  41. Matthew Staton April 15, 2009 at 2:58 pm #

    Denny, my comment made at 1:11 eastern time seems stuck in moderation.

  42. volfan007 April 15, 2009 at 3:21 pm #

    Paul,

    I went to your profile. Nice sound to your band, BTW.

    Paul, I honestly can say that I love people, even liberals and homosexuals and non coffee drinkers. But, I do absolutely scorn liberal views and thinking.

    David

  43. luke.britt April 15, 2009 at 3:59 pm #

    David,

    I am a Christian and try to follow Christ with everything I’ve got. I’m not very good at it and get frustrated often.

    The things I have become most frustrated with about Christians like yourself are those who judge outsiders when Paul seems to think we shouldn’t do such a thing. Also, I’m not sure where you got the whole “degrees of Hell” idea.

    I agree that everyone, not just unbelievers, will be judged according their deeds (Rom 2.6) and that we should all try together to follow Jesus’ commands.

    I’m not “lost”; I’m just some rag-tag guy Jesus found in a church one day.

  44. volfan007 April 15, 2009 at 4:12 pm #

    Luke,

    I’m sorry, but when you said,”Thanks for expressing exactly what I hate about Christians right now.” I just thought that you were unregenerate and didnt like Christians for that reason. I’m glad that you’re a Believer.

    Luke, when I say that a person who rejects the Diety of Jesus is not a Christian, that is a fair and righteous judgment; is it not? In the Gospel of John, the Lord Jesus told His followers to judge righteous judgments. That’s all I try to do.

    Also, the degrees of Hell come from the fact of lost people being judged according to their works. Hitler has a lot more to answer for than the Mormon neighbor who treated people good…wouldnt you say? Dear, sweet Grandma, who never got saved, will have less to answer for at that judgment, than John Wayne Gacey, or the Zodiac Killer will have to answer for; correct? Thus, Hell will be hotter for the Hitler’s and heretics of our world, than for the nice man who owned the grocery store, who never got saved.

    David

  45. Russ Ware April 15, 2009 at 10:23 pm #

    Can someone please confirm for me that varying degrees of ‘hotness’ in hell for ‘worse offenders’ is not standard Calvinist/Reformed theology.

    That’s all I need is another reason to completely give up on you guys. 😉

    So… it’s not… right?

  46. volfan007 April 15, 2009 at 10:42 pm #

    Russ,

    If the lost are to be judged for thier works, then would it not be reasonable to assume that some will be punished more than others?. Hence, Hell will be hotter for some than for others. Like, Hitler will be punished more than good ole Sam, who lived down the road. Do you not think that Hitler, or John Wayne Gacey, will be punished more than good ole Sam, who never hurt anybody?

    The Bible teaches that the lost will be judged according to their works…every evil deed, thought, attitude, and word. They will be judged to be condemned to Hell, forever.

    The Bible also teaches that Christians will be judged for thier works…to be rewarded for how they lived for the Lord during their Christian life. They will be judged for how they lived for Christ, and they will be rewarded accordingly.

    David

  47. Russ Ware April 15, 2009 at 11:33 pm #

    So, I already knew David’s view. :-I

    What of it, my brothers of Reformed persuasion? Did God, according to your construct, not only predestine Hitler to hell, but also predestine him to suffer even more than ‘good ole Sam, who never hurt anybody?’

  48. Darius T April 16, 2009 at 12:42 am #

    Russ, I’ve been thinking about this very topic recently. I tend to agree with David, since it appears to be quite Biblical. First, let us consider that the Bible affirms that people will get varying rewards in heaven, even though heaven is going to be an incredible reward by itself. I don’t think I can grasp how we will be completely satisfied even though we won’t have the best rewards that some others may get. So likewise, it makes sense that people going to hell will get varying punishment, even though it seems hard to fathom how anything could be worse than hell. Works don’t get you into heaven or hell (well, in a way they get one into hell), but they do form a basis for one’s “rewards,” whether good or bad.

    So with that in mind, let’s look at what truly matters: the Bible. Jesus said repeatedly that it would be worse on Judgment Day for the Jews who rejected Him than for cities like Nineveh and Sodom. He also told Pilate that the one who had betrayed Him was guilty of a greater sin than Pilate. He also talked about it being better that certain people have a millstone tied around their neck and drowned than to do certain things, which implies a more serious level of sin and punishment. There seems to be pretty significant Scriptural support for the idea that people suffer at different levels in Hell. If you have any texts which contradict this, please let me know, I am very interested in figuring this out.

  49. volfan007 April 16, 2009 at 9:47 am #

    Darius T.,

    Thank you, Brother.

    Russ,

    One more thing, well, actually two things you need to know. I’m not a 5 point Calvinist. As a Baptist, of course I’m Calvinistic, or Reformed-like, in my theology; but I’m not a 5 point Calvinist.

    Secondly, the lost being punished for thier works, and the saved being rewarded for thier works, is just plain ole Biblical. It’s not a Calvinist thing. It’s not a Reformed thing. It’s just a Biblical thing.

    Now, as Darius said, works wont save anybody. A person is saved by grace thru faith. But, those who are lost will be punished according to thier works…evil done as a lost person. And, the saved, the regenerate, will be rewarded for the works they do for the glory of God…for how they used thier talents…for thier obedience…for thier faithfulness, etc.

    So, Russ, it’s just Biblical.

    David

  50. Darius T April 16, 2009 at 10:42 am #

    That said, I’m not sure if this is an orthodox position. I don’t think this is a topic which has been discussed (or thought about) a lot. It ties in closely to the debate about the equality of sin. Is all sin equal in God’s eyes, or is there better and worse sin? Some Reformed go too far in denying levels of sin due to their desire to show all sin as ultimately a rebellion against God (which it is, no denying that). God sees all sin as deserving punishment, but it doesn’t seem like that means it all gets equal punishment.

  51. Russ Ware April 16, 2009 at 12:18 pm #

    Well, I’m a little disappointed that the only people I can get answers from on this are David and Darius.

    No offense to you guys, it’s just that I have a pretty good sense of where you are coming from already, and you are definitely living at the extremist end of some spectrum that I would be unable to clearly define. That being said, I am well aware that the Baptist/Reformed hybrid is a beast all it’s own… not to be confused with historical or classical Reformed theology or Calvinism per se. It can be pretty confusing sometimes to try to figure out the ‘theological stew’ you guys are cooking up. 😉

    David,

    “the lost being punished for their works, and the saved being rewarded for their works, is just plain ole Biblical”

    I don’t necessarily disagree, though I wonder if it would be truer to the text to say that the lost will be judged according to their works’ rather than punished. Either way, it is a huge leap from there to get to ‘different levels of hotness in hell,’ an idea that carries with it a number of implications regarding the nature of hell and the eternal (as apposed to the temporal) consequences of sin. Furthermore, the bible certainly does not mention this idea specifically. That doesn’t make it not so, of course. It just means that it is not explicitly biblical. There is at least as much biblical implication for some type of post-death completion of temporal punishment for Christians than there is of this ‘degrees of hell for the damned’ idea.

    Darius,

    I agree with you on the widespread confusion regarding sin. Of course some sins are worse that others in one sense. If I’m driving 5 miles per hour over the speed limit, I am breaking the law. That is sin. But it is not likely that anyone is going be effected or harmed, and I’m unlikely to suffer any temporal consequences for this violation.

    If I murder my neighbor, obviously the temporal consequences of that sin are at a completely different level. That’s obvious, I don’t even need to try to make a list.

    If I get caught, my temporal punishment for going 5 miles over the speed limit will probably be nothing more than the delay of being pulled over and given a gentle warning to slow down. But if I get caught for murder… well… you see the point. Not to mention all of the other temporal consequences emotionally, psychologically, sociologically, etc…

    In the temporal sense, murder is a far worse sin than fudging the speed limit.

    But, in the eternal sense, sin is rebellion and thus separation from God. One sin, any sin brings about that rift, and only the complete removal of ALL sin mends it. Period. So in that sense, all sin is equal. It all carries the same eternal consequence, and all requires the same remedy.

    I would just also add that I believe Evangelicalism and Protestantism in general tend to underplay the importance and significance of our works, and the role they play in our faith. (I’ve expressed my views on the weakness of the biblically contradictory ‘sola fide’ slogan on this blog before)

    So… to bring this back around… Personally, I don’t think we have any clue what hell is really going to be like. Biblical imagery notwithstanding, our human minds just don’t get it. We just have no idea what it would be like to be completely and utterly ‘in the dark.’ No light (literally or metaphorically), no hope, no love, no grace… a complete absence of God’s presence and redemptive work… forever. The most depraved and twisted individual on earth hasn’t even come close to experiencing what that will be like. The idea of burning for eternity in physical, literal flames might be part of that, OK, but that is child’s play compared to the greater unfathomable reality of complete and final separation from God.

    I also believe that all the people who end up ‘in hell,’ will end up there by their own ultimate choice to reject God. Since God has offered a means of redemption in his Son, that’s the sin that ultimately gets you to that horrible place. All other sins will be forgiven if we accept God’s offer of grace (whether speeding or murder), but not that one, because it is the ultimate rejection of that very grace. And that grace is our only remedy.

    And so this is why to say that Ehrman will ‘burn hotter’ or that there is a special place in hell for him is problematic for me. I do not see the value of that type of speculative specificity in terms of our gospel mandate. I simply find it offensive and mean spirited. It does not reflect a heart of compassion. I do think such statements drive people from the gospel and the truth of God’s revelation, which is exactly what we are so disgusted with Ehrman for doing, albeit in a different manner. The gospel is a stumbling block already for those who do not believe. Let us not add barriers that are not even there. And furthermore, it trivializes hell… the eternal consequence for those who ultimately reject God.

    I understand the desire to express an especially high level of disgust for what Erhman is saying and doing. Is he doing more harm in terms of the gospel than ‘good ole Sam?’ I’m not so sure. But, that doesn’t negate the validity of ‘calling Ehrman out.’

    I just wonder if there would be a better, more solidly biblical, way to make the point.

  52. volfan007 April 16, 2009 at 12:53 pm #

    Russ,

    You said,” I simply find it offensive and mean spirited. It does not reflect a heart of compassion.”

    So, I guess you think the same of these people…

    Jesus…called the Pharisees a brood of snakes, whipped money changers out of the Temple, and called the Pharisees a bunch of stinking, white washed tombs.

    John the Baptist…where do we start?

    the Apostle Paul…turned some men over to the Devil

    James and John…the sons of thunder

    All of the OT prophets, from Jeremiah to Elijah to Malachi

    Peter…called people murderers

    And, the list goes on and on. Russ, do you reckon this might have turned some people off of the Gospel? And, this kind of preaching and plain talk also led some people to salvation.

    I guess I’m in good company. Maybe it would’ve helped you stomach better what I said if I’d said that unless he repents, he is going to Hell and fry like a sausage.

    David

  53. Darius T April 16, 2009 at 1:10 pm #

    I agree with David. Jesus said repeatedly that it would be better that a man have a millstone tied around his neck and be drowned than to commit certain sins. That’s pretty harsh. Imagine if David had said that it would be better for Ehrman to have an anchor tied to his feet and dropped into the lake… I have a feeling that you, Russ, wouldn’t like that either, even though Jesus said it. In which case, your “fight” may be with Scripture and not David.

  54. Russ Ware April 16, 2009 at 1:14 pm #

    David,

    These are false comparisons. We should not be afraid to say the hard stuff THAT IS PART OF THE GOSPEL.

    “My friends, hell will be hotter for someone like him, unless he repents.”

    That statement is simply not part of the gospel. And your ‘fry like a sausage’ comment is not in the spirit of the gospel. The horror of eternal separation from God is a serious matter.

    Russ

  55. Russ Ware April 16, 2009 at 1:21 pm #

    Darious,

    You’ve done a great job of attacking me for something I didn’t say. What about what I did say?

    I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t say harsh things when appropriate. I am simply questioning the value of a very specific harsh thing that is not found in scripture and you even acknowledge may not be an ‘orthodox position.’

    You guys need to read and respond to what I am actually saying rather than what you ‘have a feeling I might think or say.’

    Please. 🙂

  56. Darius T April 16, 2009 at 1:34 pm #

    What I acknowledged as possibly not orthodox was the idea that there are differeing levels of hell or punishment. What I was “attacking” was this comment of yours, Russ: I am saddened as well by volfan007’s comment. It reflects both a lack of Christian compassion and sound theological understanding. Ironically, statements like this may turn as many people from the faith as unbelievers like Ehrman.

  57. Russ Ware April 16, 2009 at 1:40 pm #

    Darius,

    Yes, I know! The idea that there are differing levels of hell is what I have been challenging the whole time, Dude. That is the comment of David’s that I am talking about the whole time. That is the specific thing that I find problematic and offensive (with the sausage comment now added in). Are you actually reading my comments? 😉

    I think we have exhausted whatever slight benefit might have come from this dialogue.

    On to the new N.T Wright post! 🙂

  58. Matthew Staton April 16, 2009 at 2:33 pm #

    I suppose I’m Calvinistic of middle but not reformed like many here.

    This could sound snide but it’s not intended that way, it’s just a comment.

    I didn’t expect the reformed folks to defend the notion of worse circles of hell. It seems to me that 9 out of 10 sermons I hear from reformed churches end up beating the total depravity drum pretty hard. Even just with little comments like “You might know an unsaved person who thinks they love their child. But they are incapable of true unselfish love. The ‘love’ they feel is depraved, selfish, fallen…” Total Depravity puts all humanity in the same stack: totally depraved. How is it possible for there to any levels in that?

    I’m not debating the point. Maybe I’m just showing ignorance. I’m just sayin’.

    And I have a paper due that is 25% of my grade and a project at work that is going crazy… I’m losing my mind..

  59. Darius T April 16, 2009 at 3:21 pm #

    Matt, it depends on what one means by Total Depravity. I haven’t heard the main Reformed writers and thinkers say it like you just mentioned, but rather that BEFORE GOD, nothing we do (prior to coming to Christ) is worth anything or done for truly right reasons (i.e. to glorify God). I’ve never heard anyone say that an unsaved person can’t legitimately love their children (though I would say that it’s harder), just that they can’t do it for God-glorifying motives. That’s Total Depravity. We can do good things, but only out of self-love or God’s common grace. It is impossible for fallen men to have right motives.

  60. Mike Templin April 19, 2009 at 11:11 am #

    “Luke, have you ever seriously considered the Gospel? that Jesus needs to be your personal Lord and Savior? that Heaven and Hell are real? that judgement is coming, and that Jesus will be the Judge of all men?”

    volfan… Luke Britt is my brother in Christ, he is committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, he is not in need of evangelism. Maybe you should know a person before you call them out on that. That was truly silly, he calls us to pray for those who persecute the church (sounds like Jesus to me) and you ask him if he is in the faith. Come on.

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