NEXT MONTH IT WILL BE 43 YEARS since I became a Christian in November 1969. And this week
I’ve been hit in the face by shafts of doubt like I don’t even remember experiencing in any of those
Doubt about the very existence of God even.
Why now? And what to do, how to handle it?
Actually I enjoyed the videos. I found his basic historical methodology to be sound and I was
interested to see where it would all lead.
of the Jesus experience to the people who were around at the time. Granted that he had a
reputation for working miracles, but there were others apart from him who had that sort of
reputation; and if we leave that bit aside, we find a picture of a Jesus who was just sort of, well,
I’m not even sure why this should have got to me the way it did. After all, that’s the whole point, isn’
t it? If we believe that he became a man, then we have to believe that he became like us—that is,
ordinary. Perhaps we get so carried away with the risen Christ sometimes, and projecting that
back into the historical figure, that we need every so often to be brought down to earth and
reminded of that very ordinariness.
SURVEYS HAVE BEEN CARRIED OUT to find out what it is that makes people convert to
Christianity, regularly come to the same conclusion. That is, that people most commonly convert
as a result of meeting Christians and being impressed by their character and their transformation.
They see the work of God within others, and it’s that that convinces them of the truth.
And that’s the way it should be. It’s not ultimately about history. It’s about morality. That’s why the
predictions of Dawkins and his ilk that Christianity will eventually just die and fade away are
ultimately misguided. It won’t happen, because as long as people are being morally transformed
others will be drawn in.
The history is ultimately neutral. It doesn’t prove one way and it doesn’t prove the other way. Its
neutral. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
BUT I STILL FEEL A BIT SHAKEN by Ehrmans’s well-reasoned and ultimately quite valid
argument that you don’t actually need God to explain Jesus. Everything that can be historically
demonstrated about Jesus can also be explained in human terms without having to bring God into
I shouldn’t really feel that way. After all, that’s not what brought me in, and that shouldn’t be what
keeps me in.
The reasons I came to faith and have stayed in faith are really these:
SO MY BELIEF is nothing to do with the bible actually, it’s all down to subjective experience.
Which is how it was in the early church, of course, since they didn’t have any bible in those days.
Bible or no bible, we can never actually prove or disprove Christianity.
Bert Ehrman, as a historian, deals with this well. The miraculous, he points out, is not really open
to historical analysis. Miracles are, by definition, extraordinarily unlikely events, deviations from
the norm and from the rational path. Otherwise they wouldn’t be miracles. Since they are by
definition deviations, they defy analysis by normal tools of historical analysis. We can say with
reasonable certainty that during his lifetime, the people around Jesus believed that he was
performing miracles. That’s the historical record. As to whether the miracles ACTUALLY
HAPPENED, a historian can say nothing.
Where does this leave us? Living with our doubts, I think, and choosing faith. Where there’s faith,
there will always be doubt. I’m happy with that. I didn’t need proof to come into it, so I don’t need
proof to keep going. Feelings come and go. We make our judgments, choose our path, and go
(1) Unfortunately this particular series of video lectures entitled “The Many Faces of Jesus” is no
longer available on YouTube, apparently due to a copyright dispute. However numerous other
lectures by Bart Ehrman are still available there, in which a broadly similar viewpoint is put forward.
(2) Mark 9.1
(3) Philippians 2.7