Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Pitfalls of “Superior Learning”

Recently I listened to a short clip from a longer conversation between Sam Harris, famous atheist speaker, and Bart Ehrman,  professor of New Testament studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and professed "former Christian." (If you're reeeeeally bored, you can listen to the entire interview at this link). The segment of the conversation that I listened to, dealt with what Harris called "the moral logic of human sacrifice" in the context of Jesus dying on the cross. He explained that our species once upon a time believed in invisible gods who could be propitiated with human sacrifice. In his view, Christianity is little more than an "unwitting cult of human sacrifice" following in the footsteps of such cultic practices in our historical past. The doctrine, or as he corrected himself, the assertion that God required a human sacrifice is the central issue at the heart of Christianity.

One suspects that the idea here is that Christianity took the common practice of human sacrifice, and "cleaned it up" and gave it meaning by ascribing to God himself the sacrifice that propitiated His wrath. But the obvious implication is that the crucifixion of Christ was nothing more than the idea of human sacrifice taken to extreme ends. Since Mr. Harris doesn't even believe in God, one wonders what the hub bub is all about. After all, if there is no God, then the crucifixion of Christ, if it even happened at all, has no further meaning than the fact that someone was found to be an enemy of the state and executed accordingly. It is truly astounding how so many who are adamant in their atheism are also some of the most rabid haters of anything that has to do with the God of the Bible. And notice that it is almost without exception the God of the Christian and not any other god. The logic of such approach truly is bewildering!

But there are even other and much more serious problems with such a simplistic and uninformed idea. Mr. Harris obviously has no understanding of what God's decree for His creation means. He cares not a whit about the implications of the entrance of sin into the world and the fact that a Holy God cannot coexist with sin. He ignores the fact that the crucifixion, and indeed the whole scheme of redemption, was not some sort of plot hatched by a bloodthirsty god, but the decree of the very same Holy, Pure God who was, in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19).

The greater issue, however, lies in the fact that Mr. Harris, as so many other unbelievers (one could say every unbeliever, to one extent or another), rages against the idea that he is a sinful creature who is in need of a Savior. His, and theirs, is the willful ignorance of the Pharisee who thought that because he had some connection to the physical people of God, that in itself meant they were safe and sin free. In the atheist concept, ignoring God and shouting that there is no such being provides the comfort that the dark, sinful soul needs since there will be no one to give an account to in the end. And make no mistake, there are no such things as neutral people (Matthew 12:30). Everyone outside of Christ’s redeeming work, without exception is lost and on his way to hell. As the saying goes, ignoring the problem won't make it go away. The very fact that they harbor such hate for a God they don't believe in is clear evidence of their suppression of that knowledge.

And then we have Mr. Ehrman, who went to a number of Christian colleges and who, as I pointed out at the beginning, is a professor of New Testament, but who seems completely ignorant of what Christianity is all about. His is a cautionary tale about the fact that, we can have a tremendous amount of book knowledge, and still miss the entire spiritual point of Christianity. Regardless of how much you may know about the Bible, it is clear that without the illuminating work of the Spirit on your heart, you will remain as dark as those who know little to nothing of it. Mr. Ehrman, as many others, is constantly bathed in the Bible and in theology, but has no spiritual discernment of its truths. The condemnation of such people, should they refuse to repent, is too horrible to contemplate.

In the final analysis, however, what the exchange really brought to mind is how arrogant unbelievers can be. They sit in their ivory palaces and pontificate about their "superior knowledge" (since they don't believe in foolish myths) looking down on the rest of us. Do they really think that any of us cares what they have to say? Will anyone down here in the trenches give one minute's thought to their brainless bloviating about "child sacrifice"? The irony in all this is that, while they are shocked and appalled at such belief and practice, they will be the first to tell you that real child sacrifice, the aborting of babies, is fine and leads to human flourishing! How's that for cognitive dissonance?!

In the end, the moral of this tale is that we need to pray for such people. They not only are deceived, but they are deceiving millions into a hell they will end in without believing in it. I used to think people will not be surprised at where they end up in eternity. Alas, I've begun to rethink that position. Seems to me that every day we see folks who are so beguiled by the likes of Sam Harris and Bart Ehrman that they are following them into hell hypnotized by their "superior learning." May God have mercy on them, and us!


  1. I always reject the "former Christian" designation by atheists and others who wish to add credibility to their disbelief by suggesting they "tried it and it failed." My view is that they are fooling themselves (at best) or are simply deceitful (at worse).

    I have noted that in the last few years (I don't recollect it ever being used in the more distant past) a propensity to equate the sacrifice of the Lord with human sacrifice as practiced by various religions historically. It is indisputably a total and complete non sequitur - a totally silly, bogus argument. I'd like to say more but we are suddenly in a terrible lightening storm and I'm afraid what I've written thus far is about to be lost if the power goes out! Maybe more later..

    1. David, as always your comments are spot on. Of the "former Christians" that I've heard of or listened to, none seem to have a clear, cogent idea of what their former beliefs were. They seem to attach the "former Christian" label on themselves as though it somehow confers upon them a level of respectability they would otherwise lack. But all they do is show just how ignorant they are and why they are the unbelievers they are. If you don't understand the faith you supposedly hold, then how are you going to live by it? Thanks for your thoughts.