The British convert to Islam, Paul Bilal Williams, has a recent post up called, “Why are Christians not told about these things?” (no longer there; as Williams changed his blog three different times. See the articles I have written on him changing his blogs several times) It contains a clip of a radio interview with Bart Ehrman, the famous agnostic and skeptic scholar of the NT.
Some Christians are told about liberal theories and viewpoints and they are usually dealt with in more in depth classes on apologetics, and actually given answers to these liberal theories of liberal scholars.
The main point that Bart Ehrman and Williams are trying to make is that these views are the majority views of “thinking people” and most credible scholars (in their opinion), and so, the average person should be told them. They both make much of “standard NT scholarship” or “all modern scholars” or “the majority of NT scholarship”, etc. These are the viewpoints of majority of liberal seminaries, Universities, because there is freedom in the west (since the Enlightenment in Europe – the late 1600s into the 1900s) to entertain views and theories that are not doctrinally orthodox. There has not been that kind of 300-400 year freedom in the Islamic world to have liberal theories about the Qur’an. This freedom in the west had grown steadily over the centuries so that the liberal viewpoint is the viewpoint that is respected in the general culture, the main-stream media and secular University world and liberal seminaries.
Does majority opinion mean it is truth?
It is the majority opinion of all scholars, all historians, both believers and unbelievers – that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified and killed by the instigation of the Jewish leadership under the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, around 30 AD. (Erhman included) Oh, except in the Muslim world, where they deny established history.
It would be interesting if Williams could document any Islamic scholar in the Majority Muslim countries (like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt, Morocco, Mali, etc.) and people groups [not Muslims living in the west or Muslim scholars living and teaching in the west ] that teach any of the questions that I bring out at the end of this article.
Williams’ questions assume a lot – one of them assumes that 1 and 2 Tim. and Titus are forgeries and they are not. It is like the question, “when did you stop beating your wife?”
Believing pastors don’t teach their congregations that I and 2 Timothy and Titus are forgeries because they don’t believe that they are forgeries, and only some teach that they are definitely forgeries. But in a Sunday School class, many of them mention the liberal theory that Paul didn’t write the pastorals, but offer apologetic reasons and answers that defend Pauline authorship.
I was taught that liberalism at the liberal United Methodist Church I grew up in. Then the Lord saved me and I left that heretical and apostate church. The view that Paul didn’t write the pastoral epistles is a liberal theory, but it has not been proven.
Some liberal pastors do teach their people some of these things– and when they do that, they loose members, and have been since the 1960s. The same mainline denominations that teach the things you are promoting are the same ones who are accepting homosexuality as ok and ordaining homosexual ministers. That is inconsistent, coming from a Muslim. Ehrman and the interviewer reveal their bias by not wanting 1 Timothy to be in the canon, – but their reasons are that they want women to be ordained as pastors/elders. That is also inconsistent with Islamic teachings on women’s roles.
Some liberal pastors believe Ehrman and those views that have been around since F. C. Bauer (1792-1860); Walter Bauer (1877-1960), Frederick Schleiermacher (1768-1834), Rudolph Bultmann (1884-1976) and more recently, Elaine Pagels , but don’t’ teach it to the people, because the people would stop giving their tithes and offerings and they would stop coming to their churches; and they would not be able to earn a living.
The other questions are also assuming things that are not true. Matthew and John and Paul are all compatible and there is no different teaching on salvation; there is no contradiction and a believing pastor will seek to harmonize the apparent tensions as coming from God in unity; just as you would harmonize Qur’anic passages with each other and Hadith that have tensions and contradictions.
As for the theory that in the early centuries, there are lots of different “Christianities” – this is a very distorted way of presenting historical facts.
The Gnostics denied that God is one and almighty and the creator of all things, and they denied that matter is good. Some Gnostic groups denied that marriage and sex was good – so right off the bat, that is inconsistent with the Islamic worldview.
The Gnostic groups, and Docetists were not even Christians, so there is no such thing as “competing Christianities” in the way that Ehrman, Pagels, the Da Vinci Code fame, and Williams try to make their case for – Ignatius (107-117 AD) is very early and he writes against Docetists, so is the gospel of John (80-90 AD or pre- 70 AD) itself and the book of Colossians (60-62 AD) – they all condemn proto-Gnosticism and Docetism. Polycarp and Justin Martyr also (150-165 AD) And their worldview is totally against any kind of Islamic worldview, so to use them as somehow “pro-Islamic” is inconsistent and illogical. Irenaeus and Tertullian (both of them wrote between 180-220 AD) were exposing all of these heretical groups long before any kind of supposed “Roman forcing” of Trinitarian theology on everybody, that you say. (The Roman Empire did not make Christianity the official religion until between 380-390 AD – during the reign of Theodosius.) Arians claimed to be Christians, but they were found to be heretical.
Williams’ questions would be similar to:
Why are average Muslims not told these things? –
1. The Qur’an has textual variants and at least 3 different streams of evidences of variants between the texts of 1. Ubai Ibn Kaab, 2. Ibn Masood and 3. Uthman
2. Why are average Muslims not told that some of the stories about Jesus in the Qur’an are obviously from Aprocyphal gospels and heretics? (like the Infancy Gospel of Thomas) and why are they not told that some other stories come from fables and legends? (like the Cave of the Seven Sleepers ?)
3. Why are average Muslims not told about the obvious error of the Qur’an confusing Mary the mother of Jesus with Maryam, the sister of Aaron and Moses in the OT?
4. Why are average Muslims not told about the Qur’an’s lack of understanding the doctrine of the Trinity ? (Quran 5:115; 5:72-75)
5. Why are average Muslims not told about the Qur’an’s lack of understanding the established Christian meaning of the phrase, “the Son of God” in 6:101-102 and 19:88-92 and many other passages?
6. Why are average Muslims not told that the Qur’an and Islam denies real established historical fact in the crucifixion and death of Jesus?
7. Why are average Muslims not told that the Qur’an never teaches that the text of the Bible has been corrupted?
[It only claims that Christians and Jews distorted the meaning of the text; it never says or teaches that the text has been changed.]