Sunday, July 4, 2010

Bart Ehrman on Coast To Coast March 13 (thumbs up)

Just got around to listening to this episode and really did not know what to expect; Ian Punnett has hosted some strange guests with some questionable opinions of late; but a show on Biblical textual criticism is right down my alley, and I enjoyed it.

I was surprised that Ian Punnett, who is an ordained minister, would invite a guest who argues agnosticism from a post-Christian perspective. I didn't listen to the call-in portion, but I can imagine that it was a bit hot--just as you don't question the principle tenets of Islam in Saudi Arabia, you don't question Christian fundamentalism in the U.S. of A. But what interested me about the show is how my life path mirrored, in a very superficial way, Ehrman's life path. He started out as a committed fundamentalist (or, perhaps more accurately, a strict constructionist of the Biblical writings), to a period of equivocation where he tried to reconcile his beliefs with the contradictions that life experience presented him, to, finally, agnosticism. (Though I have passed through my agnostic phase.) The show was, at the very least, a useful antidote to the extreme religiosity that characterizes much of American life (on the surface, at least). I've seen the pendulum swing several times in my life, so perhaps it's swinging back around again.

As someone who believes in an afterlife and, in a non-specific way, to entities and forces higher than myself, I wasn't really bothered by Ehrman's agnosticism. It didn't threaten my opinions. But then, I think that most Americans are reared with an automatic sense of entitlement to telling others what and how to think (and bombing them if they resist); and if life experience does not succeed in knocking this out of us, then, perhaps, episodes like this might cause us to begin to backtrack, if only marginally.

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