First, a disclaimer and a word of caution:
I am not endorsing Ehrman’s books, nor am I necessarily encouraging you to read them. Digging into issues like this is something I feel called to personally, but that does not mean I think it’s for everyone. If you do feel led to read books like his, I recommend you pray about it, make sure you don’t have a house of cards faith, make yourself aware of Christians who give good responses to him and his claims, and get insight from mature believers around you. Then proceed with courage and faith!
Close to a year ago I was talking with an agnostic facebook friend about the Christian faith. During our exchange, I did something that has become a fairly common thing for me when I discuss controversial issues with someone who disagrees with me: I offered to read one of their favorite authors if they would read one of mine. Normally no one takes me up on such an offer, or they tell me what I should read and never commit to reading my recommendation. This time was different. My friend committed to reading ‘Letters from Skeptic’, by Boyd, and I to reading ‘Jesus Interrupted’, by Ehrman. Jesus Interrupted is popular Biblical criticism book which isn’t exactly pro ‘inspiration’ or even pro-Christian.
Well, it’s just about a year since I committed, and just last week I finally finished the book. I had many thoughts and emotions while reading the book:
“That is such a load of crap! He gives opinion like it’s fact!”
*frustration at the church*
“Wait… is this true? I wonder what other scholars say about this…”
*heart pounding fight or flight emotions*
“I agree with this… and see no problem in it.”
“Ahh! What a load of crap!!”
You get the point.
“But why”, you might ask, “was reading it an act of faith? Sounds more like a faith injurer to me…”
Let me ask you a question in response: “If you have a relationship where you feel like you walk on egg shells, or there are certain things you just don’t say, or questions you aren’t allowed to ask, would you say that you have a lot of faith in that person? Would you say it is a strong relationship?”
I wouldn’t. I would say it’s a weak relationship. My strongest relationships are the ones where I’m freest to be honest, be real, have conflict, and have that conflict resolved. Not the ones where we avoid conflict at all costs. My strongest relationships are the ones where we have faith in each other and the relationship that we will survive our conflict and be stronger for it.
So it is with me and Jesus when I read ‘Jesus Interrupted’. I was exercising faith in Him when I read something that I knew would be quite taxing on my mind, emotions, and spirit. I was exercising faith when I sat quietly with no good immediate mental response to some part of the book that claimed my faith is a sham. It was that uncomfortable faith where there are lots of questions and uncertainties, but you choose to trust Him anyways. It’s a place I land often.
The result for me? A more fearless faith. Honestly, a larger part of this increased fearlessness is from reading Christian scholars who aren’t afraid to honestly deal with things like historical criticism and science- authors like Boyd and Enns. But part of it is facing my fears, walking into the places I feel called to go, into the unknown, fiercely holding the invisible hand of Jesus, trusting that He is strong enough to handle my questions.
So for you facing your fears might not be about intellectual or theological questions. It might be about being willing to consider that God wants you to move half way around the world or step out in faith with your money. It might be about seeking reconciliation in a broken relationship. Or maybe it is about asking questions. God is always calling us to trust Him more, so whatever it is for you, hold His hand and let Him lead you where you need to go.