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Willimon "Reviews" Ehrman

William Willimon (one of our favorite White Horse Inn guests) has "reviewed" Bart Ehrman's book, God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question--Why We Suffer?  I put "review" in quotes, because as a former theological liberal himself, Willimon knows well the world Ehrman now seeks to inhabit and exposes Ehrman as a "poser" of the first order.  Good stuff from Willimon who really knows how to turn a phrase.  Click here: The Christian Century

Yet another church seeks to be "hipper-than-thou," promoting their "U2-charist," featuring U2 songs during their New Year's Eve communion service.  I thought U2 was pretty much passe in most circles.  Maybe they should feature "Coldplay" or "Porcupine Tree" next time.  Click here: U2 music to set church’s communion tone | Religion | - Houston Chronicle

Our old buddy Pat Robertson is at it again.  This time, God told him that America's financial crisis would pass because Americans would willingly embrace socialism.  According to Pat, God has gone Keynesian in his economics.  Well Pat, some of us haven't and won't.  Isn't it time for this guy to hide somewhere in shame?  Click here: Pat Robertson: God says U.S. will accept socialism

Finally, this one will give you the police-state heebie-jeebies.  Police secretly poking around in your hard-drive?  Click here: Police set to step up hacking of home PCs - Times Online

Reader Comments (24)

How nice to see a good theologian who not only knows about Keynesianism but reject it too. :)
January 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKim
Regarding Pat Robertson: I have just finished reading the book of Job. In it, God slams Job's friends for misrepresenting Him.

The Bible, and Luther have much to say on this subject matter. It is clearly taking the Lord's name in vain, when a person says, "thus says the Lord", apart from the means of Grace -- the Word and the sacraments!

We speak to God in prayer. He speaks to us in His Word and sacraments.
January 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLloyd
I ran across the link to Willimon's review over on the Heidelblog yesterday and read it. Yes, he does an excellent job categorizing Ehrman. I still think old Bart is an excellent example of what can go wrong with the entire Evangelical approach to "decision" theology that's so prevalent in this country.

Which reminds me, IIRC sometime around the end of this month is when James White gets a shot at him in a live debate setting. I'd hate to be the one on the receiving end of James White in any kind of debate and I expect that will be true of Ehrman, as well.
January 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge
It's way past time for Pat to meet the stones.
January 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew
Bart Ehrman has been on Issues etc a few times and is definitely an arrogant you know what. Williman put him in his place much like Luther used to when arguing with his antagonists. Luther told Erasmus that his words and arguments were like dung served on a silver platter- scholarly, sophisticated, elegant and prosaic yet never able to accomplish God's purposes because they were held captive in a skeptics heart. I think Luthers famous remark that the Holy Spirit is not a skeptic was also aimed at Erasmus. More Christians should have the courage and ammunition to not back down from the condescension that these aggressive new atheists are using when confronting Christians.

However, I also like Todd Wilkens approach towards these people. He just allows them the freedom of the microphone to say what he will and backs them into a corner with the questions he asks. He does not even have to use any kind of intimidation tactics- he just lets them dig their own graves.
January 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Y
Since Calvinists put the accent on grace over law, I’ll overlook the “U2 as passé” comment.

But even though I consider them second only to Van Morrison and the Beatles in greatest-o-sity in any era, I still prefer my sacraments to be made out of water, bread and wine instead of vinyl or polycarbonate plastic. Who thinks up this stuff?
January 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterZrim
In regards to Keynesianism, Obama's plan of getting us out of the economic mess we are is full of Keynesian economic theory. I can open up a whole can of worms here. Does Two-Kingdom theology allow for the practice of Keynesian economics- Is there a specifically Christian form of economics? The reconstructionists were anit-Keynesian to the core and advocated the Austrian economic theory. When I was going to Calvin College in the late 80's and early 90's the economic professors there found faults and problems in both theories. Some of the professors (who were Christians as far as I knew) were strict Keynesians. This is going to be important to get a handle on as the future of our economy is looking pretty dismal at this point. You will see debates occuring which swing from one economic theory to the other. Economic theory can be just as ambiguous and confusing as differing theological perspectives. Don't get caught up in thinking that one side has all the answers. This is going to take vigorous debate with the differing theories clashing and hopefully some people will have enough wisdom to lead us on the road to recovery.
January 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Y
Besides God Himself, is there anyone who Pat Robertson is accountable to? Does he provide evidence/verification of these pronouncements from God, or are we simply to swallow them wholeheartedly?
As regards embracing socialism, there must be some profit margin for PR to embrace this system, since that seems to be the driving force of so much of what he does.
January 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermatt holst
Justed watched Pat Robertson's predictions. Does He still consider himself a Pastor or does he just use the title so he can fool people into thinking that God does really speak to him when he goes off into to mountains and prays about economic and governmental matters (this reminds me of Scott Clark wishing he could tell Jonathan Edwards not to go out into the woods to pray as much as he did and listen subjectively to his mind work and then claim it was God talking to him)? Of course, he has to relate all this to the Gospel and the Church somehow. He is doing all the things which a good understanding of Two-Kingdom theology would prevent him from doing.

Do all the people he hires on his show have to be Yes-people or they get fired? This lady was looking at Pat with google eyes and seemed amazed at the wisdom which was pouring out of him. I guess it would be hard to confront Jonathan Edwards due to his intellect and authority just as it would difficult to confront Pat Robertson if you were employed by him. He comes across as so humble and contrite does he not? Although he kept patting himself on the back with his great predictions from last year.

Economically, he definitely was coming from a Austrian economic viewpoint but admitted that the Keynesian ecomomic theory of Obama was going to get us out of the recession we are in. Although he did not mention the theory by name. Increasing government spending and cutting taxes will have the effect of boosting the GNP. The problem arises of how much is too much before inflation kicks in. There is always a lag time as to when the policies actually start to do some good and it is difficult to measure the effects quickly so as to know when to change the policy.

Some strategists are talking now of the Fed printing money and actually making loans to businesses and individuals directly instead of having to go through the banks. This would cause quicker effects to take place in the economy. Whether this is legal or not is kind of the issue in question from what I have been reading on the matter. National Debt also then becomes a problem which carries with it a whole nother can of worms.

Austrian Economic theory trusts the markets more than government policies. This has its own set of problems also though which I will not go into.
January 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Y
Pat knows his economic theory better then he does the does the various theological viewpoints. Or, he just chooses to disregard differing theological perspectives because God suppossedly speaks directly to Him. This is the kind of garbage which could be easily corrected if those who are not Calvinists or Lutherans would trust that the historical confessions, creeds and catechism's are not just man's inventions but the historical Church trying to wrestle with the truth that is revealed to us in the Scriptures alone.

He might be worth listening to economically if he would just quit bringing God into the matter. God was not telling him a thing he was just spouting off various economic theories which he is obviously well versed on. That is mental laziness not having to try to verify the theories as they are put to the test in the economy. Saying that God is telling me that this is the best policy is baloney. It has nothing to do with God and everything to do with careful reasoning which God it seems expects us to do when governing ourselves.
January 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Y
U2 is a great band, but should not be included in a church service of any kind. matt holst brings up a good question about Pat Robinson and accountability? Does he claim to be a prophet or what? What happanes when he is wrong, do we get to stone him as the Bible teaches or take him off the air?

God's Problem is with Ehrman and his lack of understanding.

Zrim how can you compare the Beatles and U2 both great in there own right. What about the Rolling Stones or Led Zepplin?
January 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertiminator
I had a few things wrong in explaining some aspects of the economic theories I mentioned above. Government spending and cutting taxes would not effect inflation they would just increase the national debt if they did not work properly by increasing the GNP and wealth of the nation. Some forms of stimulus (government spending) work better than others depending on what economist determine was the cause of the recession. Or, to put it another way some government programs to combat recession make sense while others do not. Three criteria are crucial for evaluating fiscal stimulus packages. First, does the program target the weakness in the economy that caused the recession, or is it largely peripheral? Second, are the funds going to be spent in a timely fashion? Third, does the program fundamentally strengthen the economy going forward into the expansion phase?

If the Fed decides that printing money to make more loans is necessary they have to be careful how much they print or this is what will cause inflation. The money is not adequately backed by other monetary items of value and therefore the money loses its value which is what inflation is. Austrian economics advocates bringing back the gold standand as that other monetary item of value. But Keynesians believe that the gold standard produces other problems which are more difficult to overcome during bad economic times. This is what the reconstructionists were pushing for back in the 80' snd 90's. The professors who I had at Calvin never thought much of the Reconstructionists and wrote many articles and papers against them during that time.

The Reconstructionists also did not agree with the government intervening in the economy in any way by fiscal stimulus or tax changes. This stuff used to be fodder for heated arguments back then. The reconstructionists often blamed Keynes homosexuality for the policies he used to advocate. So, I guess what everyone learned was that there really is no Christian blueprint for how to run governments or deal with economic policy. This is where Two-Kingdom theology holds such promise for Christians who decide to go into vocations in either politics or economics. It is best to just use your reasoning skills to deal with policy issues and keep your theology and religion out of it.
January 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Y

Good point.

I suppose personal preference, like the secret will of God, is "a labyrinth from which there is no hope of return" (Calvin). My point was less to compare great bands than to 1) question the misguided suggestion that U2 is "passé" or otherwise in any way un-great and 2) how asinine "U2-charists" are. FWIW, if one can draw that line one just might make a good two-kingdomite (!).
January 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterZrim
"The Lord said the dollar is going to go down dramatically," Robertson said in the interview. "If I'm hearing him right, gold will go to about $1900 dollars an ounce and oil to $300 a barrel."

"If I'm hearing him right"- Apparently this was not a great connection and some of the words may have gotten garbled (funny in the Bible this never seemed to happen and the technology is so much better now), or maybe Pat is suggesting God was mumbling when he spoke (although again this was never the case in the old days).

This type of trivializing of God and claiming personal revelations of this type is just pathetic/appalling/outrageous. And yet apparently he has an audience that watches his program faithfully and sends him $$$ to keep him on the air and well provided for.

Where is the fear of God?
January 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterreg
I just knew that "U2-charist" was at an Anglican / Episcopal church; last time I heard about that going on, it was also at one of them. Only they would still think they're being 'hip' and 'relevant' by embracing U2.
January 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWill S.
Regarding the developing UK police state (a depressing assessment, but one I grow to agree with more day by day), the worst thing is that our Conservatives, supposedly defenders of freedom, tend to criticise the practical difficulties and implications of these schemes, rather than calling down a thousand curses on a Government which has gone so far beyond the line it has lost sight of where real liberty lies. Minor parties sell our freedoms for narrow sectarian interest, as the DUP did over extended detention (42 days was lost in the end, but we still have 28); our only Parliamentary defenders are the Liberal Democrats, who are slowly becoming more reliable but remain small in number.
January 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Walker
Back to Ehrman- actually I do not think Mr. Williman provided an adequate explanation for the question of why we suffer or, as it is usually framed, the problem of evil. John Warwick Montgomery gave an excellent explanation of this on Issues, etc a couple months ago. He started off by stating that C.S. Lewis provided the best explanation that he has heard on the problem in his book The Problem of Pain. The simple explanation is that created creatures made bad decisions and this is what brought evil into the world. The question always comes back that if God is all-powerful and all-loving why didn't he just prevent it from happening. Montgomery went on and explained that God had given Adam and Eve free will and they misused it which brought about evil. Why then does God not terminate evil when anyone acts evil?- because he would have to recreated the world over and over again. We do not know God's time line- God's promise is that He will end the consequences of evil at some point. Eden will be restored by God Himself.

God has made amazing efforts to reconcile fallen humanity even though he did not need to- this is His love and grace. Evil is a broken relationship not a substance. We go a way that God does not want us to go and this is where evil comes into play and why we suffer. Evil is our fault- could God have prevented this? Yes, but then there would have been no original free will and we would be puppeteers on God's string.

Another way atheists frame the question is that if God does not deal with evil is He a legitimate God? The answer is that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. God is not obligated at any level to clean up our mess- but He does. We have no basis for complaining about suffering and evil in the world. The question then becomes not why do bad things happen to good people but why do good things happen to bad people?

Adam means mankind- we all sinned in Adam. We would not have done any differently than Adam did.

Now, Calvinists and Lutherans believe that our wills are not free anymore after the fall and it takes the monergistic work of the Holy Spirit to give us a will to respond to God's call to faith in Christ. But evil comes from the gift of free-will that God originally gave to Adam and Eve and which they abused and therefore were held morally culpable for the bad decision. Or, as Karl Barth called it the impossible possibility. Barth had no problem framing problems in contradictions like that. To us Lutherans and Calvinists it was a possible possibility and it really did happen.

Of course, atheists are going to respond by saying you do not really believe in Adam and Eve and talking snakes do you? And then they will start with the condescension again. But the above is an adequate explanation if you believe that the scriptures are recording actual history.

Which brings us back to Willimon who probably understood that Ehrman would react that way when he states in the beginning of the article that the professor has taken the common journey of many in the West who take God less seriously than themselves. And that Ehrman has shifted his radical subjectivity and narcissism from his former fundamentalism to his atheism. So, what is the point of making the argument at all according to Willimon. Until anyone admits that there is the possibility of objectivity they will always end the argument by going subjective on you and then declaring that they do not know what you are talking about. Or, that everyone is stuck in their subjectivity and we can do nothing about it. Objectivity is not a possibility for us according to Ehrman. And that is how they normally end the argument but at least we have inserted a bit of doubt into their position and hopefully the Holy Spirit will then choose to open their eyes.
January 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Y

Good Point
January 7, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertiminator
Regarding the police hacking into UK computers . . .

UK has so many surveillance cameras already. Don't think for a moment that this couldn't happen in the US. With all the enormous powers of Google to catalog our keywords and the URLs we personally use, data wicked Google has already agreed to hand over to the goverment. The UK may already be turning into the grandest tyranny on earth right now. Because, as Goethe said,

"The most hopelessly enslaved are those who falsely believe they are free."

It's fascism with a smile, and it's coming our way. Now more than ever, I REALLY feel inclined to memorize the Heidleberg Catechism, Q and A #1!! I don't think it ever meant as much to me before as it does now.
January 7, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjenny
Some interesting posts by those living in England. Governments have a tendency to overstep their bounds- especially during difficult times. Our freedoms have to be fought for and defended. A worthwhile question always to bring to the forefront of our minds is when is it legitimate to resist the government and how do we go about doing it. Maybe its time to rent the movie Braveheart again. It is always inspiring to watch Mel Gibson and his gang of motely characters sacrifice their lives so that others can remain free. This always reminds me of David and his band hiding in the caves of Adullam broke and downtrodden yet full of the spirit of resistance and courage.
January 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Y

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