Bart Ehrman, thus, Matthew Vines?

Andrew Sullivan has been enthusiastic about Matthew Vines and the latter’s new book God and the Gay Christian.  If you’re not up to speed, God and the Gay Christian seeks to establish that belief in the inspiration of Scripture is compatible with the approval of committed, monogamous same-sex relationships.  Vines has made a serious impact in the blogosphere and some have called his book the beginning of a “revolution.”

What makes Vines’s work stand apart from other pro-homosexuality theology is his commitment to the inspiration of the Bible as authoritative for believers today. Lord willing I will start GatGC soon. But I saw something today that is really remarkable in its implications for Vines’s theology.

Sullivan, in answering some reader mail that expresses doubt that Vines’s new book will have maximum impact, makes a stunning connection between Vines’s work and the work of Bart Ehrman:

And that’s why Ehrman’s work and the mounting scholarship that effectively debunks the idea of an infallible, God-uttered scripture is such a threat to the old form of conservative Christianity. Matthew doesn’t go anywhere near that far, but his attempt merely to understand where the Bible is really coming from is not one, I’d wager, that will strike many young evangelicals as verboten. Or at least I can hope so.

Bart Ehrman is, of course, one of the most popular and vociferous critics of Christianity in publishing today. His popular level work has concentrated on the unreliability of the Biblical narrative, contradictions within Scripture and the fabrication of Jesus’ divinity by the early church councils.

Sullivan says in explicit terms that the work of Ehrman and others in “debunking” an “infallible” Bible is going to play an important part in the acceptance of Vines’s thesis.

Why would Vines benefit from the scholarship of Bart Ehrman? According to Sullivan, the answer is that resistance to what Vines is saying can be overcome by scholarship that shows the Bible to be unreliable and non-binding. This would appear to be the opposite of what Vines has said he wants to accomplish within the Christian community.

I think what this illustrates is that, even if Vines himself does not consider Ehrman to be a helpful voice, what Vines is asking Christians to embrace is genetically related to what Ehrman has been saying about Scripture. Of course there is a possibility that Sullivan has just made a mistake in associating the two; but then Vines doesn’t appear to think so.

This is a conversation worth watching. I don’t believe Sullivan is an unqualified expert on theology (far from it), but his comment here is not a throw away. But Bart Ehrman is an avowed unbeliever who thinks Scripture is as much from God as the Salem Witch Trials. To the degree that Ehrman’s work offers help to Vines, we do well to wonder whether or not there is really a “third way” here after all.

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