Bart Ehrman on Why He (an Atheist) Teaches the Bible

Over at his blog, biblical scholar Bart Ehrman addressed a question asked of him by a parent wondering why he should send his son to the university where Ehrman teaches to take his class on the Bible if Ehrman doesn’t actually believe in the book about which he is teaching. As Ehrman points out, going to a university shouldn’t be about indoctrination but about exposure to ideas. Moreover, we don’t expect people to necessarily agree with philosophies or subject matter about which they teach. “Plenty of people teach Marxist theory without being Communists,” Ehrman writes, “or 20th century German history without being Nazis, or criminology without being mass murderers.” Of course, this isn’t true of all schools. For example, when I went to Pensacola Christian College all teachers there had to agree with the college’s views on the Textus Receptus and the King James Bible, and they all had to profess faith in Christ, as well as a host of other things related to conservative Christian doctrine. These types of schools – PCC, Bob Jones University, Liberty University – are less about learning than they are about confirming a set of beliefs already shared by the student body. In other words, diversity is discouraged.

Later in the post, Ehrman brings up why he specifically chooses to teach the Bible even though he is an atheist: “The same reason other scholars in the university teach Homer, or Shakespeare, or Toni Morrison.  It is great and historically massively significant literature.” This hits the nail on the head. For my part, in light of the times people – both Christians and atheists – have asked me why I bother to write about the Bible here on my blog, I love the Bible because of the significance it has had in my life, and not just the 20+ years I spent as a Christian. Even today, as I read the Bible every morning and engage with my Greek New Testament I find fascinating new things that make me smile and other things that make me think to myself, Boy, I really need to do some research on this! The Bible has held my attention for a long time and I think it will for the foreseeable future.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

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