Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Ehrman vs. Wright Smackdown

If you haven't already seen it, there is an interesting exchange between Bart Ehrman and N. T. Wright over on Beliefnet. It's the kind of thing they used to call a "smackdown" but they have replaced that term with the more gentlemanly "Blogalogue - Debates with Spirit":

Is Our Pain God's Problem?

You have to read them from the bottom up if you navigate from that page, or you can begin with Ehrman's first and proceed through each contribution (three each) by clicking through at the top of each page. The debate is interesting but ultimately frustrating. As is also characteristic of the old "smackdowns" on Beliefnet, the scholars who are debating with one another are celebrity scholars and their tendency is to use the opportunity to expound their own views afresh, often using the other's views only as prompts. In other words, one never gets the feeling of rigorous intellectual exchange of the kind where the scholars are thinking fresh thoughts. At the end of Ehrman's last post, for example, he asks Wright if he agrees on any one of four of the leading claims in his new book. Wright does not answer the question directly, but implies that it is the wrong question. To be fair to both, I do feel that each one is trying to listen to the other, but perhaps what we need on these occasions is a live debate with a chairperson who can hold each one to account, and direct each one to speak in bite-sized chunks rather than mini-essays.

1 comment:

Whit said...

Thanks for that Mark. Sorry to be such a stranger.