Dr. Bart Ehrman was given the Religious Liberty Award. He was introduced by Jennifer Bardi, Editor of The Humanist magazine. (Avid followers of this blog may remember her from my March 8 posting. Yes, I did bump into her in the hall during the conference. She knew who I was. And yes, this too was a perfectly cordial encounter.)
Ehrman is yet another of those who started out as a gung-ho fundamentalist studying for the ministry. He was an expert casuist in explaining away Biblical discrepancies, and wrote a 35 page paper trying to rationalize why a person referred to in one of its books had a different name in another, but he finally realized it was just a mistake. A little thing – unless you consider the Bible the inerrant word of God.
But what finally really blew him off course was the problem of suffering – how could there be a benevolent all-powerful God? Ehrman realized Christianity’s attempts to answer this killer question just didn’t make any sense. He came to see his fundamentalist past as oppressive and harmful.
The rest of his life has been spent writing books making people aware of the problems with the Bible. Starting with the fact that we don’t even have the original Bible, long since lost and reconstructed in the early centuries. And some of it even constitutes what Ehrman labels forgeries – portions plainly written by people who were not who they claimed to be in the text.