Today I came across the title of an older book by prolific writer Bart Ehrman, chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament. If I might psychoanalyze the title, it seems full of the anger of an ultraconservative who has just lost faith.
Our division chair, David Smith, sent me this story about some of Ehrman's most recent autobiographical words on his loss of faith: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/june/11.26.html. Although Ehrman was raised as an Episcopalian, he went to Moody, then Wheaton, then Princeton before he became a "happy agnostic."
What really saddens me about this tale is that the process that resulted in such anger was completely unnecessary. From the title of his book I mentioned above, you can see that the beginnings of his faith loss started with a commitment to the KJV as the right text that is just begging to be destroyed by any study whatsoever. Not that there aren't some intelligent people who think the "textus receptus" is the most accurate text (e.g., http://www.daveblackonline.com/). But I would argue they believe this because of their presuppositions, not because of an honest assessment of the evidence.
According to Ehrman's new book, he lost his faith when he found what he thought to be one concrete error, Mark's mention of Abiathar as the high priest in the time of David, while Samuel says it was Abimelech. This type of thing used to trouble me as well when I was in my late teens. I actually have a book of some 700 pages called Alleged Discrepencies that tries to iron out these sorts of things. For Southern Baptists and others, the Chicago statement on inerrancy demands that you be able to explain every single incidence in Scripture like this one or else we can't have Christian faith.
What a waste! ... to lose your faith because of matters like whether there was one blind man or two, whether Jesus was crucified the day before Passover or on the day of Passover itself. What ever happened to "on Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand"?
I have no interest to spend my time trying to find problems in the Bible. But, but to be blunt, Christ's incarnation and resurrection do not rise or fall with the Bible's inerrancy--especially when it is defined as narrowly as the Chicago statement. Did Joshua conquer Jebus or not? It's an interesting question, but "Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again"!
Somehow I suspect that people whose faith is so troubled with details like these have taken their eye off the ball, er, off Christ. Christ is God; the Bible gives witness to them. Even Jesus says in John that he gives witness to the Father, not to himself. So how twisted is it to get so preoccupied with these sorts of details in the Book that you forget Who it is really about? Not a truth of the Apostle's Creed is affected by whether Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple in the first or third year of his ministry.
I've argued here a while back that the Wesleyan Church as a whole has never connected its understanding of inerrancy to the Chicago statement. For us, the word "inerrancy" is not closely or narrowly defined. As Asbury puts it, "The Bible is inerrant in all it affirms." But we give some slack to our Bible scholars, pastors, and studious laypeople to wrestle with just what that might mean.
This is why I think a group of Free Methodist pastors from southern Michigan are ultimately barking up the wrong tree in their attempt to move the FM church more solidly in a Chicago statement direction. Well intentioned, they will condemn some in their midst to unnecessary faith crises because they are majoring on the minor.
What a waste! The lines that Moody and perhaps Wheaton drew for Ehrman set him up for a completely unnecessary faith crisis. So beware, ye Wesleyans and Free Methodists. "Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!" That's the cake. There's a lot of delicious icing on the cake. But it's icing. Christ takes the cake!