Archive for the ‘Responses’ Category

Responding to Bart Ehrman (part 3): The Design Argument

February 18th, 2015

Ehrman’s Agnosticism Concerning God
The Design Argument

For a moment, let us assume that Dr. Ehrman’s view of the universe is correct. The universe exists without divine intervention. It just is. So if we just look around at the universe, taking what we see at face value, what is the universe telling us about ourselves and itself?

The Local UniverseThe universe tells us we are a miracle (in a secular sense, of course). The universe does not exist in chaos, you see, but there exists a grand order to it. Galaxies exist along threads; Stars along webs of matter and energy. Planets spin in stable orbits mimicking the pattern set by the smallest of molecules. The physical forces holding this symphony together are delicate. And those same forces work together to ensure the earth is in just the right place, at just the right time, in just the right way, for life to exist.

The Anthropic Principle

The Anthropic principle states that the universe appears to be fine tuned to allow like on earth. One can think of a grand board covered with over a hundred dials. Each of these dials controls a different aspect of the universe. One controls the distance from the sun, another the weak nuclear force, and another the amount of water on earth. Each of these control dials has been set just right. Even a little variation in a single dial and life on earth will cease to exist.

The Anthropic principle is the basis of a popular Design argument that states:

  • Premise #1: Every design has a designer.
  • Premise #2: The Universe shows evidence of design.
  • Conclusion: The Universe has a designer.

Rather than attempt to refute this argument, Dr. Ehrman has publicly stated during numerous debates with apologists like Dr. Craig Evans and Dr. William Lane Craig that he is not an atheist. He is an agnostic. The Anthropic principle is a contributing factor to this belief. Although the God of the Bible does not exist, in his opinion, the universe certainly is not a random occurrence.

So does this mean Dr. Ehrman is a proponent of Intelligent design? He has never stated his position. Can one logically believe in the anthropic principle and reject intelligent design? Probably not.

Intelligent Design

Dr. Hugh RossIn the last 20 or 30 years, great advances have been made in fields of genetics, physics and astronomy. The more we learn, the most designed it all appears to be. This has led to the modern movement called Intelligent Design.

So let’s begin by assuming, once again, that the universe was not created by God. The universe just is and we are examining it as mere observers. Dr. Hugh Ross, a well-known intelligent design proponent and astronomer, offers some food for thought:

  1. Age of the universe:
    1. If the universe were much older, no solar-type stars in a stable burning phase would exist in the right part of the galaxy.
    2. If the universe were much younger, no solar-type stars in a stable burning phase would have had time to form.
  2. Average distance between galaxies:
    1. If the distance were much larger, insufficient gas would be infused into our galaxy to sustain star formation.
    2. If the distance were much smaller, the sun’s orbit would be too radically disturbed.1

Dr. Ross also gives some of the parameters of the earth itself that makes life possible on earth:

  1. Distance of the earth from the sun:
    1. If the distance were even a little further out, our planet would be too cool for a stable water cycle.
    2. If our planet were a little closer, the planet would be too warm for a stable water cycle.
  2. Earth’s axial tilt:
    1. If it were even a little greater, the surface temperature on earth differences would be too great for life.
    2. If it were a little less, the equator would be too hot for life and the polar regions far too hostile.
  3. The earth’s rotation period:
    1. If it were much longer, diurnal temperature differences would make crow growth nearly impossible.
    2. If it were much shorter, atmospheric wind velocities would make life on land nearly impossible.
  4. Age of the earth:
    1. If the earth were much younger, the planet would rotate too rapidly.
    2. If the earth were much older, the planet would rotate too slowly.2

Dr. Ehrman has written many books. He chooses a topic and designs each of the chapters in the book in order to support the main topic he has chosen to write on. The book is the designed creation and Ehrman is the designer behind the design. The contemporary scientific evidence asks no more of Dr. Ehrman concerning the design of the universe than a reader would ask of Ehrman when he writes a book.

Dr. Ehrman should examine the following quotes by highly esteemed astronomers. Maybe then he would publicly endorse intelligent design and, just maybe, give the God of the Bible a second chance.

A superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology …3
– Astronomer, Dr. Fred Hoyle

… the laws [of physics]… seem themselves to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design…. There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature¹s numbers to make the Universe…. The impression of design is overwhelming.4
– Astronomer, Dr. Paul Davies (former atheist)

As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency or, rather, Agency must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?
– Astronomer, George Greenstein,  from his book The Symbiotic Universe.

The medieval theologian who gazed at the night sky through the eyes of Aristotle and saw angels moving the spheres in harmony has become the modern cosmologist who gazes at the same sky through the eyes of Einstein and sees the hand of God not in angels but in the constants of nature…. When confronted with the order and beauty of the universe and the strange coincidences of nature, it¹s very tempting to take the leap of faith from science into religion. I am sure many physicists want to. I only wish they would admit it.
– Theoretical physicist, Dr, Tony Rothman


Dr. Ehrman does not mention or refute the contemporary scientific evidence which shows that the universe had a beginning. He does not disagree with the anthropic principle either. So if he does believe that the universe was created, as this suggests, and therefore the universe had a creator, isn’t the God of the Bible the best qualified for this position?

Tugging on the emotional heart strings of his readers, laying out how bad the world is, does not disprove the God of the Bible. It certainly is not the same thing as answering the powerful scientific arguments for a beginning, and the beginner, of the universe. This all leads into the next part of this series which deals with the Moral Argument. The Moral argument can be used to show the existence of God from our moral sense and experience. It also acts as a foundation in answering Dr. Ehrman’s primary reason why he abandoned the Christian faith: the evil and suffering in the world that this calls into question the existence of the God of the Bible.


1 Hugh Ross The Creator And The Creation 154,155

2 Ibid. 154, 155

3 Ibid. 157

4 Ibid. 157

Responding to Bart Ehrman (part 2): Ehrman’s Agnosticism

December 2nd, 2014

Ehrman’s Agnosticism Concerning God

and the Cosmological Argument

After the brief spiritual biography of Dr. Ehrman given in the last article, it is important to identify the two sets of presuppositions that  he brings to the table. The first set makes presuppositions about the existence of God and the second set about the possibilities of miracles. Each set builds on and reinforces the other in his books. However, since this article only deals with his agnosticism, I’ll begin there.

Dr. Ehrman’s presuppositions about the existence of a “supreme being” are fairly straight forward. Dr. Ehrman considers himself an agnostic when it comes to whether a supreme being exist and the God of the Bible most definitely does not exist. In his mind, all the pain and suffering in the world makes much more sense if there is no supreme being than if there is.

Angelic Star FieldSo a good place to begin responding to Dr. Ehrman’s agnosticism is at the beginning; The beginning of the universe. Unless we are going to invoke magic, Dr. Ehrman needs to address the both philosophical and scientific question: How did the universe get here?

Considering that Dr. Ehrman doesn’t believe in the supernatural, he must appeal only to science, and it is clear from Dr. Ehrman’s writings that he hasn’t really considered what it means that the universe had a beginning. Considering this would lead him to the necessity of a “creator”. Apart from any supernatural assumptions, the scientific disciplines of Cosmology, Physics and Astronomy all agree that the universe had a beginning. And if the universe had a beginning, then it had a cause.

So Dr. Ehrman needs to deal with the scientific evidence for the beginning of the universe whether or not anything supernatural was involved. This evidence can be summarized into 5 major lines of evidence.

First, there are three major scientists, Einstein (1916), Tolma (1922) and Gamov (1946), who all found that the background temperature of the universe is cooling down.2  Right away this tells us that at one point it had a maximum temperature and that the universe can’t be eternal.

According to the Big Bang theory, at some point in the past all the matter and energy in the universe existed as an infinitely tiny point. Where did this come from? What was it made of? That is still the subject of speculation. Regardless, the theory states that suddenly this tiny point of intensely hot energy expanded faster than the speed of light. Immediately following this event, the temperature of the universe was at its maximum. Since then the universe has been in the long process of cooling down.1 

If the Universe had always existed, it would show a constant amount of usable energy (i.e. heat) and thus have a constant temperature. Since the universe is constantly losing usable energy, it can’t be eternal. Thus the universe had a beginning.

Big Bang VisualizationA second line evidence, once again using the Big Bang theory, is that when the tiny point of energy expanded at the beginning, all matter and energy emanated from that point outward. We should then expect to see this expansion.

Space, with all of its galaxies, solar systems, stars and other heavenly bodies is expanding from that original point of the big bang.3 Three of the most important scientists in astronomy discovered this expansion of matter throughout the universe; They were Albert Einstien (1916) Edwin Hubble (1929) and George Gamov (1946). If the universe has always existed, all the matter in the universe would be evenly distributed throughout the universe. It is not.

Penzias and WilsonThe third major line of evidence for the beginning of the universe is the Cosmic Microwave Background (the CMB). This is the original radiation wavelengths from the initial expansion we call the Big Bang.

In 1965 two astronomers, Penzias and Wilson, were listening on a special astronomical instrument designed to detect certain types of energy waves. Right away, they heard static. After an investigation, they decided that it was bird droppings on the instrument causing the static. Yet after they cleaned off their instrument, they still heard the static. Moving the instrument around, believing the source to be terrestrial, it was soon discovered that the static was coming all parts of the universe.

At first, this the microwave radiation was assumed to be the “left overs” from the original Big Bang as predicted by earlier scientists!4 However, it was far too large and too hot. Later discoveries confirmed this. Unfortunately for scientists of the day, it was found that many bodies in the universe give off cosmic microwaves.

It was decades later before satellite data gave scientists what they believe is a picture of the residual cosmic microwaves from the original Big Bang event. If this is true, and the map they created accurate, this confirms both the expansion of the universe and its cooling trend.

If the universe never had a beginning, known sources of microwaves would have accounted for what is measured. If the CMB had been absent, it would have been the end of the Big Bang theory altogether. Another theory would have been needed to replace it.

This was the most important discovery in astronomy in 500 YEARS! It was yet another indication that the universe had a beginning.

Fourthly, if the universe was caused by a Big Bang event, there should be some evidence in the structure of the universe. If the universe has always existed, telescopes should show us a very ancient universe that is almost identical to the present one since all the galaxies, stars, and planets should have existed eternally into the past.5

Dr. Hugh RossIn 1992, the scientific satellite, the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) offered astronomers an important clue about the formation of galaxies. The data seemed to confirm that the energy which came forth from the initial Big Bang explosion was used in the formation of the first galaxies. Hugh Ross, an astronomer, states that this is “perhaps the most concrete Big Bang evidence is that stable orbits and stable stars are possible ONLY in a big bang universe. Physical life would be impossible unless planets orbit with stability, stars burn with stability and stars orbit galaxy cores with stability.”

If galaxies had existed from eternity past, galaxies would look very different  from what we see today. Life may not even be possible in such a universe.

Albert EinsteinThe fifth line of evidence for the beginning of the universe has to do with the scientific work of Albert Einstien. When one takes a bird’s eye view of the entirety of Einstien’s work, especially his theory of Relativity, it is shown that this theory shows that the universe must have had a beginning, and if the universe had a beginning, then it had a beginner. It was Einstien’s work that laid the foundation for the first four lines of evidence cited above to show that the universe had a beginning,

Dr. Ehrman has to account for the existence of the universe. Science has shown that the universe began to exist, that it did not always exist. No contemporary scientist believes that the universe is eternal. Whatever problems Ehrman may have with the God of the Bible and the problem of suffering does not make these 20th century scientific discoveries disappear. He has to refute each of the five lines of scientific evidence that shows that the universe had a beginning and therefore had a beginner. In the next article, it will be shown that the universe and the world shows evidence of having been designed. And if there is evidence that the universe is designed, then it must have a designer.

2 Ibid 4

3 Ibid.5

4 Ibid. 5,6

5 Ibid. 7,10

6 Ibid 7

7 Ibid. 9

8 Ibid. 9-11

9 Ibid. 12

10 Bart Ehrman, God’s Problem 3

Responding to Bart Ehrman (part 1): Biography

October 27th, 2014

Did Jesus Exist (2013)Who is Bart Ehrman?

Dr. Bart Ehrman is an accomplished scholar and teacher in ancient biblical texts. He holds a teaching position at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is also an atheist who writes extensively about Jesus, except that the Jesus he writes about is not the Jesus of the Bible.

His latest book is entitled “How Jesus Became God” Some of his other books include: “Jesus Misquoted” “Jesus Interrupted” “Lost Christianities”, and “God’s Problem”. In each of these books, Dr. Ehrman attacks some aspect of the Historical Jesus, the Bible, or the accepted Christian Gospel.

Of course, numerous Christian scholars have written researched and well documented refutations of his books. Surprisingly, very few doubt the evidence he presents. The biblical texts do contain both different accounts and personal retellings. What they accuse Dr. Ehrman of doing is making invalid presuppositions in his argumentation. These presuppositions skew both his view of Jesus and his view of the biblical texts.

Bart EhrmanA look at Dr. Ehrman’s personal biography shows his transformation from an evangelical Christian, to an agnostic, and finally to an atheist. Dr. Ehrman states that he’s an agnostic on the existence of God, but is most certainly an atheist concerning the personal God of the Bible. The reason for his atheism is actually a common one: the problem of evil and suffering in the world. Dr. Ehrman just couldn’t reconcile how a “supposedly” loving and caring God, as we read about in the Bible, could allow so much suffering and evil in the world. This eventually led him to the conclusion that the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible does not exist.

Dr. Ehrman grew up in Kansas in the mid 1950’s. His family faithfully attended an Episcopal Church in Lawrence, Kansas. During his high school years, Bart had a “born again” experience and began attending Youth for Christ. Bruce, a leader of the local Youth for Christ group, help to lead Bart into a “born again experience.1

Bart was very impressed by Bruce’s knowledge of the Bible and decided he wanted to be a serious student of Bible.

Bart EhrmanWith that desire deep in his heart, young Bart Ehrman went to Moody Bible Institute in fall of 1973. During his time at Moody, Bart took traditional Bible courses such as biblical and systematic theology.

At the time, Moody Bible Institute had a strong emphasis on a particular type of Biblical inerrancy called “verbal plenary inspiration.” This view taught that there were no errors in the original manuscripts.

College student Bart Ehrman soon discovered that we don’t have any of the original manuscripts of the New Testament. He then began to wonder about the accuracy of the texts we do have. Did the scribes who copied the New Testament manuscripts change, alter or distorted the written texts? Whether intentional or unintentional, could scribal errors and changes, made for theological or political reasons, have corrupted the New Testament texts? These questions concerning the transmission of the New Testament manuscripts led Bart to take additional courses at Moody on textual criticism.3

Scrap of the John Ryland PapyrusAfter graduating from Moody in 1976, Ehrman had an even stronger desire to be a Christian scholar. Despite his doubts, he continue his education at Wheaton College, a major American Evangelical college.4 While at Wheaton, he took courses in New Testament Greek. During his time there, he increasingly questioned the relevancy of believing in Biblical inerrancy. We don’t have the original manuscripts of the New Testament. Scraps do exist from the late first and second century, but the only complete manuscript copies we have were supposedly written hundreds of years later.5

After graduating from Wheaton with these questions still in his mind, Ehrman went on to Princeton Theological Seminary where he studied under the renowned Greek scholar, Bruce Metzger. He took even more courses in Old Testament Hebrew and New Testament Greek. The deeper he went into these courses, the further Bart’s confidence in the doctrine of inerrancy continued to erode.6

Dr. Ehrman’s total abandonment of his view of biblical inerrancy came when he did a term paper on a passage from the Gospel of Mark for his professor, Cullen Story. For his term paper, Ehrman looked at the story 2 where Jesus has a confrontation with the Pharisees over the disciples picking the heads of grain on the Sabbath. In the course of the confrontation, Jesus justifies his actions by appealing to the Old Testament. When David was on the run from King Saul, David went into the temple to eat the consecrated bread “when Abiathar was the High Priest.” Bart then looked at 1 Samuel 21:1-6 where it describes that during this very time when David ate the sacred bread in the temple, it was Abimelech who was the High Priest. Abimelech was the father of Abiathar. So Dr Ehrman started to wonder if the author of the Gospel of Mark made a mistake. Was the text in error by recounting the wrong man as high priest when David ate the consecrated bread?

When he handed in his term paper to Dr. Story, Dr. Story agreed with Dr. Ehrman by writing a one liner on his term paper that said, “Maybe Mark did make a mistake“.7

Everything went downhill for Ehrman from this point on. He found more supposed errors in the Bible. By the time he left Princeton Theological Seminary, he completely rejected the evangelical doctrine of Biblical inerrancy.8

The Late, Great Planet Earth coverHal Lindsay’s book “The Late Great Planet Earth” also contributed to Bart’s erosion of confidence in Biblical inerrancy. One of Lindsay’s assertions in the book is that Jesus would return in 1988, a generation of forty years after the modern rebirth of Israel in 1948. When Jesus did not return in 1988, that only confirmed Bart’s doubts about the inerrancy of the Bible.9

Dr. Ehrman states that his problems with the Bible led him away from his evangelical beliefs that he had learned in Moody and Wheaton. Though he had abandoned his evangelical beliefs about the Bible, yet he still considered himself a “liberal Christian.”

It was not the problem of missing original New Testament texts, it was the problem of evil and suffering that led Dr. Ehrman to totally reject Christianity. He states that the facts of scripture do not match with the hard facts of life. Given all the suffering and pain in the world, the God of goodness and love that Bible proclaims simply does not exist.10

Now that we’ve looked at the reasons for Dr. Ehrman’s presuppositions about the bible, in the next two articles Dr. Ehrman’s agnosticism will be answered. Then Dr. Ehrman’s atheism concerning the God of the Bible will be examined: Can he justify his atheism concerning the God of the Bible based on the suffering and pain in the world?

1 Bart Ehrman Misquoting Jesus 1,2
2 Ibid 4
3 Ibid.5
4 Ibid. 5,6
5 Ibid. 7,10
6 Ibid 7
7 Ibid. 9
8 Ibid. 9-11
9 Ibid. 12
10 Bart Ehrman, God’s Problem 3