Refuting Bart Ehrman's New Book 'How Jesus Became God' - Ehrman Rejects the Deity of Christ
Jesus came as God to love and die for His people
By pastor Mike Robinson
Bart Ehrman in his new book How Jesus Became God asserted: “What can we say about how Jesus most likely understood himself? Did he call himself the messiah? If so, what did he mean by it? And did he call himself God? Here I want to stake out a clear position: messiah, yes; God, no.” Clearly Bart Ehrman denies that Jesus was aware of His divinity. Of course, as an atheist/agnostic, Ehrman rejects the deity of Christ as an ontological reality. Bart Ehrman’s scholarship rests upon skeptical presuppositions.
Bart Ehrman in his new book How Jesus Became God asserted: “What can we say about how Jesus most likely understood himself? Did he call himself the messiah? If so, what did he mean by it? And did he call himself God? Here I want to stake out a clear position: messiah, yes; God, no.” Clearly Bart Ehrman denies that Jesus was aware of His divinity. Of course, as an atheist/agnostic, Ehrman rejects the deity of Christ as an ontological reality.
Bart Ehrman’s scholarship rests upon skeptical presuppositions. Selected scholars suggest that one must put aside the authority of Scripture and analyze the Gospels as "literature." Yet, the Bible doesn’t allow skeptical criticism since it is the revealed word of God. Milton’s Paradise Lost may reach lofty levels of beauty and magnetism, but it isn’t God’s word, its directives are not binding and lack “the power of God unto salvation.”
In the Eighteenth century the search for the historical Jesus began in Europe. Some of the critical scholars tried to remove all supernatural references of miracles, revelation, and the deity of Christ. This naturalistic method led many liberal churchmen to reject the core of Christian doctrine. Numerous books alleging exotic identities of Jesus Christ followed including contemporary works of the Jesus Seminar, Bart Ehrman, and Reza Aslan. Nevertheless, despite scholars' self-assured verdicts that Jesus is not God, those who read the New Testament accounts of Jesus are often swept off their feet in adoration and worship—Christ and His words change everything.
Much of hyper-critical biblical scholarship begins with the presupposition (an assumption taken for granted) that the Bible’s portrayal of the divinity of Jesus cannot be true since it is outside the bounds of naturalistic thought. The rejection of the anything beyond the realm of atheistic naturalism1 is an intellectual pre-commitment; it is not a view based upon proof or evidence. Even so, if one attempts to remove the supernatural elements from the New Testament, one is left without a Savior who speaks with celestial authority. Moreover, deny Christian truth and one has a worldview that lacks the ontological capacity to account for intelligibility. This is so because a worldview that denies Christianity cannot supply the universal operational features2 required for intelligibility.
Worldview principles deliver a devastating blow to critical scholars who seek to undermine the authority and reliability of the New Testament picture of Jesus. After applying scrutiny to their rational foundations, it becomes very apparent that Bart Ehrman and other hypercritical authors are far from scholarly in their treatment of Jesus of Nazareth. They rest upon shattered ground that cannot account for rationality. They are purely ideological writers forming their own deeply biased portrait of Jesus—then they read their revisions back into the New Testament.
The most heretical faction involved in this type of scholarship has received a massive amount of media exposure in recent years. A popular example of this movement is Bart Ehrman. His lectures and books on textual criticism make it appear as if the church has almost no inkling what God originally revealed in Scripture. Additionally, his work leaves the reader with little reason to believe what the Gospels make known about Jesus Christ.
Indeed, the truth regarding Jesus has been assailed by an anti-biblical book variety that is groundlessly critical of core biblical beliefs. This hypercritical agenda is often sounded in caustic and overbearing ways that twist and isolate facts from the entire truth. Besides, they are without a rational foundation that has the ability to supply the a priori conditions required for all critical endeavors. Thus, they lack any grounds to launch their critical attacks against Scripture.
A vigorous quest for the Jesus of history cannot be engineered by atheistic or skeptical thought, since these views fail to provide the truth conditions necessary to make historical research possible.3 In contrast, the Gospels provide a clear depiction of Christ and His unique claims of deity. Herein, I defend the only coherent portrayal of Jesus. It is the lone accurate picture of Christ because it is revealed by God in the Gospels—a representation that is entrenched in history, yet it has fashioned history and culture.
A team and I were witnessing on the Las Vegas strip a few years ago. I gave a man a tract and told him about Jesus Christ. He interrupted me and said, “I am God!” I asked him, “How do you know you are God?” He rolled up his sleeve and showed me a tattoo with the words “I am the Lord.” I replied, “That is not proof you are God. Anyone can put a tattoo on their arm stating that they are God.” I then challenged him, “If you are God, when and where did I get saved?” The answer he gave was way off the mark. I then asked him what verse in the Bible states that “Jesus wept.” He did not know and with his ignorance out went his claims of divinity. We unsuccessfully witnessed to him and invited him to church. People can make fantastical claims, but disproving such claims is often simple. Jesus came and claimed to be God and He offered proof, evidence, and revelation to demonstrate the truth of His claims.
God Comes to the Earth
The Lord God sent the heir of all things to toil in a carpenter's shop: to drive the nail, and push the plane, and use the saw. He sent him down amongst scribes and Pharisees, whose cunning eyes watched him, and whose cruel tongues scourged him with base slanders. He sent him down to hunger, and thirst, amid poverty so dire that he had not where to lay his head. He sent him down to the scourging and the crowning with thorns, to the giving of his back to the smiters and his cheeks to those that plucked off the hair. At length he gave him up to death—a felon's death, the death of the crucified. Behold that Cross and see the anguish of him that dies upon it, and mark how the Father has so given him, that he hides his face from him, and seems as if he would not own him! "Lama sabachthani" tells us how fully God gave his Son to ransom the souls of the sinful. He gave him to be made a curse for us; gave him that he might die "the just for the unjust, to bring us to God" (Charles Spurgeon).
Jesus as the Son of Man and the Son of God has two natures found in one person—Christ is God the Great I AM in human flesh (Exodus 3:14; John 8:58). The Bible reveals the dual nature of Christ and humanity’s salvation demands that be the case. It’s a mystery, but a mystery that in selected ways not only makes sense, but is necessary for redemption. Jesus, in the incarnation, did not lose His divinity. He did not lose His authority or His deity. He voluntarily came to the earth as a human baby to live perfectly as He fulfilled the Law—He took on our humanity in order to die in our place (Isaiah 53:4-6; 2 Cor. 5:21; and 1 Pet. 2:24). All the newfangled views of Christ fail to overturn such truths.
Jesus Christ is too intriguing and commanding to be falsely captured by skeptics like Ehrman and Aslan. Yet, Jesus is not elusive. It’s not hard to know who He is. What is Jesus like? He’s God.
Jesus always flourished, always in command, never trivial or incapable. He did not appear worried, hollow-eyed, apprehensive, shrunken—never an object of distrust to His friends and never capricious to others—Christ never lost a gem of His charm. He would withdraw to pray and return with power and insight. He understood the weaknesses of His humanity and always controlled His appetites. He achieved maturity as a youth discussing the law with Rabbis in the Temple. Jesus was born without sin—He had no flaws, was not infected with dark passions, and was always victorious over fleshly temptations. As the Master, He overmastered all sin and perfectly obeyed and fulfilled the Law of Moses. He was ferociously gracious and blessed with inherent divine love—the sort of person one either hated or absolutely adored.
Over the course of His short ministry, Christ built structures for the church upon His divine nature and work. He preached to the crowds and mentored His close intimate disciples. He called His church His children and lived a life aimed at His crucifixion. He engaged in penetrating stretches of outreach, healing people and casting out demons. He distrusted clergy and politicians, but loved the outcast. In the Sermon on the Mount He delivered a moral code for His community and interpersonal relationships. In the discourse He attacked selfishness, vengeance, greed, and hatred within social relationships—He talked about the need for grace, mercy, forgiveness, and going the extra mile.
For more see my book How Jesus Became God in the Flesh HERE on Amazon
1. Universal operational features required for knowledge, intelligibility, and critical analysis: laws of logic, specific properties, fixed mathematical truths, selected attributes, induction, etc.
2. The truth of Christianity is understood and proved by way of truth and presupposition. The Christian must uphold Scripture as the ultimate source of light and knowledge—all light and knowledge stem from God. The assured proof of Christian theism: except a man build upon its ontic ground as he presupposes the truth that flows from God, in principle, there is no proof of anything. Christian theism is proved as the ontological ground for the very notion of evidence and proof. What is needed is a first principle that has the ontological endowment to not only ground knowledge, but to account for it and its preconditions. The loss of the immovable point of reference, in principle, leaves the ungodly bereft of a resource necessary to construct the critical and analytical enterprise. Without God, one cannot hoist the necessary a priori operation features of knowledge. The Christian worldview supplies the fixed ontic platform as the sufficient truth condition that can justify induction, immutable universals, and the uniformity of the physical world. But materialistic atheism lacks such a fixed ontic platform. Consequently, it fails to provide the sufficient ground required to justify textual criticism and the investigation of literature and history. When anyone attempts to escape the truth that God exists, he falls in a trap he cannot escape. This point is well made in Van Til’s illustration of a man made of water, who is trying to climb out of the watery ocean by means of a ladder made of water. He cannot get out of the water for he has nothing to stand on. Without God, one cannot make sense of anything. The atheist has nothing to stand on (an ontic Archimedean locus of reference) and he lacks a rational apparatus to scale an epistemic ladder that would allow him to view reality with clarity. God and His revealed word supply men their only possible ground with the explanatory clout needed to account for critical and analytical pursuits. The ontological barrenness of atheistic materialism is just one reason the Christian should never grant the natural man the right to determine the criteria for testing truth claims—atheistic naturalism lacks an ontology with a shard of explanatory power. Christianity rests upon God and His Revelation as the ontic Archimedean locus of reference for textual criticism and proof.
3. “Naturalism holds that the physical universe is ultimate. The universe (nature) is the only reality. It is eternal, self-activating, self-existent, self-contained, self-dependent, self-operating, self-explanatory. The universe is neither derived from nor dependent upon any supernatural or transcendent being or entities. Natural phenomena cannot be 'interfered' with, ‘violated’; 'suspended.' There is no supernatural realm.” (Parrish: God and Necessity). Naturalism is defined by Dawkins as the view that nothing exists “beyond the natural, physical world.” One commonly hears secular people identify themselves as naturalists. But what do they mean when they label themselves such? Some claim that they believe only material things exist. Others believe that modern science is the only way to obtain real knowledge. Selected naturalists believe everything that exists is material or supervenes on material elements. There are numerous academic as well as colloquial definitions of naturalism. Additionally, many lettered and unlettered men often comingle or fuse the definitions.