"See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty conceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, AND NOT ACCORDING TO CHRIST" -Paul, Colossians 2:8
Tonight, as many of you well-connected to the UNC-Chapel Hill Religious Studies department know, is the day of Dr. Ehrman's latest debate calendar. This time it will center on the question, "God and the Problem of Suffering." He's debating a guy from the Veritas Forum, a high-thinking Christian apologetics group headed by Ravi Zacharias, who is probably also very smart and well suited for this style of talking.
I've been to one other debate by Dr. Ehrman held at Southeastern Seminary loosely about the Da Vinci Code and its legitimacy. (Actually I've been to another when I took his class, but it was just him debating himself. For a few minutes he'd make a point, then put on a cowboy hat and overcoat and make an opposing point. Kinda funny, he looked just like a bearded Indiana Jones when he'd make counterpoints). Things like this really interested me in the past because it would basically validate my skepticisms or beliefs depending on the outcome of the debate. It was an easier way to think and process deep, confusing spiritual things.
But now, I really worry and pray against the "philosophy and empty deceit according to human tradition" that will be stated so convincingly tonight. When I was an upperclassmen, I prayed that the freshmen in my small group Bible study group wouldn't even take his class, because intellectually, it wouldn't be a fair fight. An 18 year old with basic Case for Christ level knowledge can't stand against a guy who has written more books than most 18 year olds have read.
I think that apologetics training is great and necessary so that we can give a defense at all times like Peter says. I also believe the Gospel is rational and historical. Of course we can see easily how "philosophy and empty deceit" can describe Ehrman's position as contrary to Christ and God's word, but sometimes our own ideas of how to justify the Gospel are also just philosophy. We rely more on our God-philosophy, based in human traditions that we are just more familiar with, than we rely on God's presence in our hearts and lives ultimately making it according to Christ.
Tyler Jones from Vintage spoke Sunday about these Biblical issues and made the case that was so true in my life as an intellectually struggling Freshmen in Ehrman's class that on the road to Emmaus, Jesus says that believing the Scriptures is a matter of the mind, yes, AND ALSO THE HEART. If your heart is not engaged along with your mind in the text, then you cannot have faith from God, because He desires us to be wholehearted in this belief, not just on paper. And I agree and think that most people who struggle to accept the Bible as authentic or reliable have primarily obstructions in their hearts more than head knowledge that is too difficult to reconcile.
I'm about to go meet in Lenoir hopefully with some International students who are interested in philosophy or ethics and who might be stimulated to a relationship with God through thinking out realities of life and the ethical code written on all our hearts. Many Chinese especially have never thought through linearly the wisdom and folly of a lingering Buddhist/Agnostic worldview and there could really be some breakthroughs tonight in some hearts! Pray with me that some will come to the free debate in Memorial Hall (holding almost 2000 people and is sold out!). Also pray that none of us will be taken captive by anything but Christ's real presence in our hearts!