I Got a C For Defending the Bible: University Unmasked – 17

Back in December, I posted one of my college papers on my blog. This paper was for my New Testament class which wanted me to make the case for something I didn’t believe was true.

Specifically, I had to argue that there are different versions of the parable of the lost sheep in Matthew and Luke (and Thomas) because the gospel authors each had an ax grind and were twisting the truth to fit their needs. Since the assignment said I could make my own observations, I thought I could give the position the class took, while also giving my own views. This would show that I understood the material taught in class, but disagreed. While I was aware this would probably hurt my grade to some extent, I thought I would still get a fairly high score.

I was wrong.
I ended up getting a “C” on the paper, and it had nothing to do with the quality of writing, or failure to follow the details of the assignment. I got a “C” simply because I didn’t agree with the bias of the class.
Here is what the official grading looked like.
Writing skills: Good. Well organized.

Connection to the reading: Excellent! Judicious use of quotation.

Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation: I appreciate the essay took a different approach, but the argumentation is extremely flawed and more or less disregards the teachings of the class completely. It is likely that Jesus did give a parable on a shepherd and the 1 and 99, but for very different reasons than what the essay gave.

Grade: C
What was so wrong with my analysis, synthesis, and evaluation? It was different from the class.

Well, that seems kind of reasonable though, right? I mean, college classes are always right, so if you write an essay defending something the class doesn’t teach, then you must be wrong.
Right?
The only problem is that in this case, my class was taught by a highly biased professor who used a highly biased textbook. Additionally, we weren’t allowed to use any outside sources on any of our assignments. Hmm…
Our textbook was written by Bart Ehrman, who is far left as far as Bible scholars go. Ehrman is far more skeptical of the Bible, its writers, and the content than what is generally accepted in academia. Not only that, but we were being taught that the views we were receiving in class were the views held by most scholars, and that these views were fact. This was completely false.  
Moreover, there were a few times when the professor mentioned the existence of opposing viewpoints, but he would never describe them, choosing instead to keep the class one-sided. Therefore, I think I am justified in trying to argue against what the class taught, since it is a class based heavily on speculation.
However, none of this should have mattered because my paper followed the criteria in the assignment.
“Assignment: This paper is intended as an opportunity for you to make your own observations about one or more texts in their contexts, using the methods of critical analysis that you have been learning. Therefore, do NOT rely on secondary literature such as commentaries on the internet. You are expected to use your Ehrman textbook and your HarperCollins Study Bible.

Directions: Your final essay is to be 5-7 pages, double-spaced and in 12-point font

The parable advances a different theme in each gospel. Compare the three different versions of this parable, considering the full context of each version in its respective gospel. What are differences? Explain why the versions are different. For example, concerning Matt and Luke, where is the original version? What does “the largest sheep” mean in Thomas? In the final analysis, do you think that the historical Jesus actually declared a parable about sheep (or a coin)? Why or why not?”

You can go read my paperhere and decide for yourself if I followed these criteria or not. Personally, I think I did, and so did the grader.
I met with the TA who graded my paper soon after I received the grade, and he told me how he graded it. He told me that if I hadn’t included all of the parts detailing my own views, I would have received a “B”. This is because I parroted back what was taught in class, followed all the directions, and the writing itself was solid.
I would have received an “A” if I had thought outside the box and provided a perspective that was unique, insightful, or that went beyond what the class taught. The TA admitted that I did indeed go beyond the class with my paper, and that it was very unique and insightful. So I should have gotten an “A”, but there was one tiny problem.
I was wrong. Or rather, I was “just plain wrong,” as the TA put it, so I ended up with a “C”.
If you read my paper, you see that I argue that we have different versions of the parable in different gospels because it’s likely Jesus told this parable many different times and with different details depending on his audience. I provide reasoning for why I believe this; however, the TA concluded that my analysis was complete “speculation.”
Okay, so my argument is speculation, but the argument from the class that the versions are different because each author had a personal agenda isn’t speculation? Really? The TA was there 2,000 years ago? How does he know Jesus didn’t tell his parables multiple times as he traveled? Aren’t we all speculating? Furthermore, there are other Biblical scholars who don’t believe as Ehrman and my professor believe, scholars who would agree with me.
The grader had his arguments for what he believes, and I had mine. The assignment told me to make my own observations, and that’s what I did, while also describing what I knew the class wanted me to say.
And yet, still the “C” remained. Apparently, they didn’t like my observations.
I met with the professor (whom I was on good terms with) to try and get a better explanation from him for why I had received a “C”. An hour and a half later (of mostly him talking) he basically said all the same things my TA had said. However, he was a bit more sympathetic.
He explained his own history growing up in the church and how some of what the Bible taught began not to make sense to him, but when he asked his pastor about it, his pastor basically told him to overlook it. His pastor had no answers for him, and my professor felt betrayed. He ended up dedicating his life to studying the Bible for the purpose of discrediting it.
He told me that he understands that I’ve probably grown up going to church (I haven’t) and that it’s probably hard for me seeing that what I believe doesn’t line up with the facts (I wasn’t seeing that.) Apparently he has had a lot of previous students who were like me (or whom he thought were like me), Christians clinging to what they had been taught at church rather than accepting “the facts.” I wonder how many he has led astray with his teaching.
I realized any further debate would be fruitless, so I let him believe what he wanted to believe, and left, but not before my professor recommended more classes he taught on the Bible to me. I told him thanks for the recommendations, but in my head I said “no thanks.” If his other classes were anything like his Intro to the New Testament class, they would be so one-sided as to be a waste of time. Skeptical atheist speculation is awarded an A, while Christian “speculation” gets a C, or worse.  
To rub salt in the wound, the human-pin-cushion girl who sat next to me in class (and was close to failing the class) told me that she had gotten a B on her paper after only spending two hours on it. She pontificated for several minutes about how it was one of the worst papers she had ever written, and yet she still got a “B”. She became even more thrilled when she learned I had received a “C”, since I had earned a bit of an “overachiever” reputation among those who sat next to me for my rather frequent objections to the material being taught.
I had spent hours and hours on my paper over the course of several weeks, even getting mocked by my peers for making an outline that was longer than the required length of the paper. And yet, I could have gotten a better grade had I taken much less time, left out my “own observations”, and simply parroted back the material taught in class.  
This is college; a bastion of ideas and thinking outside the box, it is not.

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32 Comments

  1. Bravo, Reagan. Bravo for being the “largest sheep” and forsaking the way of the flock. (Thomas’ version of the parable)

    I have to say, you are gutsy. More than that. Your love for the Lord overpowers your love for the approval, (better grade) of the world.
    It is greatly encouraging to me, and to others I’m sure, to see someone like you showing the world what a true believer looks like.

    I’m not sure what this lower grade will do to hinder your education (I’m not familiar with this terminology, ha!) But I do know that the Lord has been glorified and He will not overlook that at all. Matthew 25:23
    Keep it up, Reagan!

  2. Wow. Simply, wow. Ugh.

    Ironically, your story is very similar to the college setting in the movie God’s not Dead–the college setting movie reviewers left and right scoffed at and said was never possible in “real” life!!!! Definitely see that movie if you haven’t already!

    Thanks for the insight, Reagan. Stand strong!!!

  3. Hi Reagan!

    Golly! What a story! There are so many acts of persecution against Christians, and time and time again we hear of them through reliable sources, such as World Magazine, but I think the most silly of persecutions is the one you experienced this past winter. How can people be so foolish as to think themselves “above God” and say without batting an eyelash that they can refute many of the so called “questionable” material (in their eyes) found in God’s infallible Word? I feel very sorry, in a way, for this college professor of yours. He sounds like a person in need of a do-over, and a hardy purging from the lies he has ever allowed to be absorbed into his cautious mind.

    It is actually interesting to see how the domino effect of doubt in the Bible has played such a sneaky role in this whole situation. (I’m sure you have already turned this over in your mind, but I want to verbalize it here, if you don’t mind.) Think about it; when a young boy, your poor professor’s questions and spiritual needs were tossed to the way-side by his uncaring pastor. Your professor now lives and teaches about a way to view the Bible that is mostly false, and inevitably, he is now producing more people like himself who will go through life feeling cheated by God because they were taught to distrust Him and in the end hate Him. Ugh! What a mess!!! It really makes my heart sick to hear of things like this.

    You, however, held fast to what you know to be true, and even though you were off-handedly persecuted for writing about it, you were able to let the words of foolish men fall of your back like water off the back of a duck. For this I commend you.

    May the LORD use you in whatever circumstances He chooses to advance His Kingdom!

    Your sister in Christ,

    Jessica
    The eldest sister & singer

    P.S. What do you mean by, “I have not gone to Church all my life”?

  4. Haha! Yes, I guess you could draw a comparison to that. It’s quite an interesting read, by the way. Especially near the end where Jesus says that women have to become like men to enter the kingdom. Sounded to me like modern-day Feminism. Women have to look like and act like men to have successful, fulfilling lives.

    Well, I don’t know if I would say gutsy. If you look at when I posted my paper on my blog, I was thinking I would still get a decent grade. So I wan’t expecting to get a C. Haha! But I’m glad I could be an encouragement!

    And the grade wasn’t a very big deal since I still managed to get an A for my final grade in the class. So that grade really hasn’t hindered me at all.

    Thank you for the encouragement and support! It’s the support from people like you and others that makes it easier for me not to give in to the pressures of the world.

    Stand fast!

  5. I still have not seen that movie but everyone keeps telling me to! I’d like to see that, and I definitely will agree that such things are possible in real life. I’ve experienced it, and I know others who have experienced it as well.

    Thanks for the comment and encouragement!

  6. Hmmm. That is very interesting. Have you ever done a word study on that passage? Like with a concordance? We have the Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance and it has been a helpful resource for studying the Bible. Also I think looking at the culture and the entire scope of the situation would give insight.
    Say, what is that passage? You’ve got me wanting to study it now! 😛

    You are gutsy. Not to be pushy or anything, but this is what I see. You still wrote this paper and you trusted the Lord. The ‘over-achiever’ reputation you have may be mocked by your fellow classmates, but I guarantee your professors are seeing that. I’m sure they respect it wholeheartedly.

    Praise the Lord you got an A! That’s amazing! See? The Lord’s watching over you and your reputation. (Sorry if that sounds patronizing…haha!)

    You are welcome! My pleasure, entirely. I know it’s got to be hard where you are at, and I’m not in situations like this, so I can only offer encouragement. But don’t ever give up or give in. The world wants to see you fall. Satan sees that you are a moving target and he’s shooting at you. Take heart, he only shoots down moving targets so you are doing something right! 🙂 I don’t see you falling any time soon. Keep leaning on and trusting in the Lord, Reagan. I foresee more instances like this coming your way. (Not that I’m some prophet or anything, I’m not. It’s just the situation and setting you’re in)

    Stay strong, my brother in Christ!

  7. Yeah, I feel bad for him too. After all–as he knows–Mark 9:42 says that, “If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.”

    I find it hard to believe he can have the kind of knowledge he has and still not believe in God. My professor is a big disciple of Bart Ehrman (the textbook writer) and Ehrman–as William Lane Craig describes him–has a “good” side and a “bad” side. What Craig means is that Ehrman makes the Bible look very contradictory and not credible when writing books for laymen or schools, but among the academic community, he can’t get away with that sort of thing since that goes against the establishment and what most scholars believe and have shown to be true.

    In other words, Ehrman is intentionally making the Bible look more contradictory and fallible than he really knows it to be. Since my professor is a disciple of his, I’m guessing he is the same way–and therefore–intentionally trying to mislead people. He obviously has bitterness and anger against God, bitterness which likely came from his church upbringing and–like you mentioned–that pastor who didn’t help him see the truth. It has made me wonder how different my professor would be if his pastor had helped explain to him some of the parts in the Bible that at first glance seem to conflict.

    Probably the hardest part of that whole class was not personally having to listen to the ridiculous arguments he made against the Bible, but knowing the couple hundred people in the class with me were hearing it, and probably soaking it in.

    Thanks again for the encouragement and the comment!

    In regards to your post signature, your query would actually require quite an in-depth and thorough answer. It’s a long story. Haha! I’ve actually been planning a blog series to answer that question though, so I would recommend staying tuned!

    Your brother in Christ,

    Reagan

  8. That sounds great! I will look forward to reading the series! I know that was a very personal question, and thus I am grateful to you for answering it, rather than avoiding it. There is satisfaction from both sides that way.

    Your sister in Christ,

    Jessica
    The eldest sister & singer

  9. I see someone else asking if you had seen ‘God Is Not Dead.’ It is worth seeing and very well done. Hope you and your family get the chance. You will not miss the parallel with your piece here.
    You accurately nailed what is happening all over the university scene. Keep standing strong for the truth!
    Blessings!

  10. Your question was a good one, I certainly wouldn’t avoid it. It’s not an easy question to answer either, so blog comments wouldn’t really suffice. I was actually wondering if anyone would say anything concerning that little parenthetical about church I included in the post . It seems someone has. Haha!

    Stand fast!

    Reagan

  11. Well good on you anyway. This reminds me of something that happened when I was in year one at school and we were told to write a “fictional” story…. I can’t really remember if there was any other criteria but I wrote a story where dinosaurs lived with people…. and then had to say in during the lunch break and write another because my STORY was wrong…. and I still remember.

  12. Wow, I think I would argue that your situation is far more ridiculous than what I experienced. You were told to write a fiction story and included humans and dinosaurs living at the same time? For all the teacher you knew, you were saying that such a thing is impossible, hence the fiction. He or she must be really insecure about Evolution.

  13. It’s on our list of movies to watch!

    Thanks for the encouragement!

  14. The thing that irritates me the most is not that this stuff happens (‘though that is certainly an issue), but that this stuff happens all the time and we’re told that college is all about learning to think independently. Maybe if their idea of thinking “independently” is like the average teenager’s idea of “showing individuality” (you know, by wearing what everyone else is wearing).

  15. I had a history professor like that. She was very democratic. I don’t like politics so I’m an unaffiliated voter but lean republican. My sister, more vocal and very republic, had the same professor. We both took a hit grade-wise for not having the same stances she did. And this was community college. I agree with Rachel R. that this stuff happens all the time and everywhere.

    Well, mostly everywhere. I was blessed enough to attend a Christian university and had professors who encouraged us to disagree with them. I wrote a paper where I completely disagreed with the professor and the premise of one our texts. He loved it because he saw where I was coming from. While stressed out college me couldn’t remember a word I wrote (haha!).

    It’s telling that your professor had all these assumptions on you and other Christians and how it’s hard for Christians to let go of their beliefs for the facts. It’s actually him who has the insecurities and can’t let go of his facts and open himself to other possibilities and viewpoints.

    Bravo to you for staying strong. I’ve found that those with solid foundations stay solid in their beliefs. My Christian professors didn’t take offense at being disagreed with because they’ve got their foundations. You do. I hope many more do, too, despite challenges like the ones you faced.

    Visiting you from Wholedhearted Wednesday link up. God bless!

  16. A few observations from a skeptic:

    It seems to me that you took an unnecessarily adversarial attitude towards the assignment when you assumed that “what the class wanted me to do was point out how each Gospel manipulated the parable in order to fit their own personal agendas” and this is reflected in your essay. I think you set up a false dichotomy where you view the only two alternatives as your position that the Evangelists are faithfully recording the parable as Jesus told it and that of Ehrman and your professor that they are “blatantly attempting to manipulate” the parable from “sinister motives.” As I doubt that your professor would describe his position that way, I can see why he might have concluded that you did not understand the points he was making in the class.

    It may well be that Jesus used the shepherd and flock analogy at different times to make different points, although I’m not sure that is really relevant to the assignment. Unless you are assuming that Luke and Matthew were ignorant of all the uses of the parable other than the ones that they record, you can still address the question of why they chose to record the particular versions they recorded. Even if they both were working from a common source like Q, it doesn’t follow that they would have been engaged in any sort of sinister twisting. Knowing that Jesus had drawn different lessons from the parable on different occasions, Luke and Matthew may simply have interpreted their common source in the way that fit the point they were making, which they likely viewed as being true to what Jesus taught.

    The professor may have been wrong about your church background, but if he has been teaching this class for awhile, he has doubtless run across similar challenges before. What you characterize as “your observations” seem to me to be little more than standard apologetic arguments which the professor has likely seen students raise many times. I don’t see much in the way of original analysis and I wouldn’t be surprised if the professor didn’t either. Your classmate who got the B may have demonstrated much more originality than you did.

  17. That’s a lot of assumptions on your party, Vinny, since Reagan didn’t post the actual essay. Just because there were extremes used in the vocabulary HERE, on a blog, where writing styles are very different than in academic papers, does not necessarily mean that’s the terminology employed in the paper.

  18. Oh; I stand corrected. Reagan posted the actual paper in an earlier post, linked in the first paragraph above. Did you read it?

  19. Yes. I did.

  20. I know, I completely agree! Political correctness is king.

  21. Hello Vinny,

    It has taken me awhile, but I want to thank you for your thoughtful response. It took several readings to sort through what I think you’re saying, and I appreciate the attempt to provide constructive feedback.

    I especially appreciate that even though you hold a different perspective you are willing to acknowledge that “It may well be that Jesus used” the same parable repeatedly as he traveled from city to city teaching what the kingdom of God is like through analogy Within the confines of my New Testament class, such a notion was, in the words of the TA, “just plain wrong.” I think the reason you don’t see the relevance to the assignment is because you appear to have lost track of some of the elements of the assignment. The relevance pertains to that part of the writing prompt that said to, “explain why the versions are different.” There was no, as you say, “question of why they chose…” in the assignment. It appears that you may be injecting material into the equation that isn’t there. Likewise, it seems that you are picking up the “adversarial attitude” from comments in my blog post that are not in the actual essay. The “false dichotomy” is not there. I do not actually argue in the essay “that the Evangelists are faithfully recording the parable as Jesus told it.” Although that is something I do believe, it would have been too ambitious of a case to make given the circumstances and limitations imposed. The quotations you cite regarding motives and manipulation are not in the essay either but rather can be found in my blog post. I do agree with you that the professor would not describe his position in those terms.

    Instead, he would describe his position on Matthew by saying that writer of Matthew was advancing an anti-semitic agenda. “There’s a lot of hate speech in Matthew” is one representative quote from the professor. I do consider anti-semitism to be “sinister,” and I suspect that the professor, in any other context, would say that “hate speech” is sinister, or at least some synonym of sinister. The professor would also describe his position on Luke by saying that the writer of Luke was undertaking a propaganda campaign to curry favor with the Roman authorities. Most people would understand how characterizing something as propaganda could be associated with the word “manipulative.” More importantly, contrary to your conclusion, the professor and TA, themselves, acknowledged that I understood the points made both in class and in the textbook.

    Therefore, in the end, even if you are right about an adversarial attitude, it is a red herring. It has no bearing on how the essay stands up against the grading criteria. It is the grading criteria that are the achilles heal of my graders.

  22. But I take it that the main point of your feedback is that I should have taken a different approach like the one that you briefly sketched out. I keep reading that section of your comments and I honestly don’t see a substantial difference (with one significant exception) between what you suggest and what I actually describe in the section of my essay dealing with the Q hypothesis. The significant exception is that your assertion that one can actually know “that Jesus had drawn different lessons from the parable on different occasions” is a much bolder statement than anything I propose in my essay. Even though I agree with you, such a definitive statement would most certainly have put me in even worse shape with the graders. According to the teaching of the course, the only source for the sayings and parables of Jesus available to the authors of Matthew and Luke was the hypothetical Q source. I tried to take a more nuanced approach by proposing some hypothetical alternatives to Q source being a document. Taking the approach you suggest would have been overtly contrary the teaching in the classroom. And even if that were not the case, taking your approach would not have produced a result better than if I simply left out my own observations altogether. As the TA indicated, the writing was good, the connection to the reading was “excellent,” and I clearly demonstrated that I understood what the class taught. Where I ran into trouble was in misunderstanding what was meant by “an opportunity to make your own observations…”

    This brings me to the part of your feedback that I agree with and appreciate the most. Although not mentioned in the written grading criteria, I agree with you that it was “originality” that my TA and professor were using as the criterion to differentiate between a B paper and an A paper. They were looking for something much more imaginative. Of course, by definition, no scenario that would support a more traditional view could be considered “original.” And so there it is. I can’t be certain, but suspect that there is no realistic way for the essay to have been written in a way that is congruent with a traditional view and still receive an A.

    Finally, the comment about “standard apologetic arguments” seems to be some type of linguistic fallacy. Slap a label on it so it can be easily dismissed without actually dealing with the merits of the argument. I am not ashamed in any way to rely on apologetic arguments as long as they are good ones. I infer that by “standard apologetic arguments” you mean those of the particularly Christian variety, but it needs to be said that standard apologetic arguments are not exclusive to Christians. In fact, the entire New Testament course that I have been describing was essentially a standard apologetic argument for the Ehrman brand of New Testament historical criticism. But in the case of my essay, the approach I took may have been standard or similar to others that are probably better, but I don’t think it rises to the level of an “apologetic argument.” Instead it is more on the level of Ehrman’s “telephone game” illustration which I used as a model for my dual-lecture illustration.

    If we acknowledge that Jesus traveled from city to city proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God, then only common sense is required, not a skillful intellectual defense. I have no doubt that other students have taken a similar approach in the past since the professor told me as much when I met with him to discuss the rationale for the grade. If you are right and “originality” was one of the actual criteria for the grading, then it should have been stated as such in the written instructions and the pretense of “providing an opportunity to make your own observations” should have been dropped.

  23. In closing, I’m curious to know if, as a skeptic, you have any criticism at all for a course that self-imposes a singular view and intentionally excludes all other literature in the field of New Testament scholarship besides the Bart Ehrman textbook? The professor told me that he believes that “Ehrman is the closest to getting it right.” The reason he doesn’t allow any other sources or present any other scholarly views is because he believes they are all wrong. He would certainly describe himself as a student and admirer of Ehrman. I would go further and describe him as a disciple of Ehrman. Ehrman is the only one he trusts.

  24. Wow! That’s great that you had some professors who were accepting of other viewpoints. It is sad that this is unfortunately rare.

    Thank you for the support and encouragement! God bless!

  25. Right, Rachel. While I did post the paper, I used much different language than in the blog post.

  26. I find the comment about the professor's seeking originality a little strange. There's only a minimal degree of originality possible when we're looking to build a plausible argument for something that actually happened. There are a limited number of plausible explanations. It would be “original” to say in your paper that extraterrestrials dropped every instance of the parable into the Middle East already penned. But that's not a rational conclusion to draw based on the available evidence.

  27. Personally, I don’t think that we can really know much of anything about what Jesus said and did with certainty, but clearly one possibility is that he was an itinerant preacher who used parables to teach about the kingdom of God. Based on my observations of priests who have interpreted parables differently in different sermons, it seems like a very reasonable hypothesis that Jesus drew different lessons from the same parables at different times. I don’t know why your TA would think that “just plain wrong.” Indeed, I think the multiple possible layers of interpretation is what makes the parables compelling. It is also possible that two listeners who hear the same telling might interpret the parable differently.

    However, I don’t think that the possibility of multiple tellings is itself sufficient to “explain why the versions are different,” which is what the assignment asked you to do. If you are correct “that much of the oral tradition was universally agreed upon” (which is a point that I think speculative), then Luke and Matthew would have known about the multiple versions (that is what I meant by “[k]nowing that Jesus had drawn different lessons from the parable on different occasions”) and you still need to explain why they chose the versions they did in order to explain why they differed.

    Personally, I think it more likely that a basic outline of the parable was preserved, which was subsequently reinterpreted by the person who was retelling it, rather than Jesus’ multiple versions being preserved. I think that is more consistent with what we know about how people use and transmit stories orally.

  28. It is true that my interpretation of your essay is informed by your blog post describing your grade. On the other hand, your professor’s interpretation may be informed by his interactions with you in class and your “rather frequent objections to the material being taught.” What I find problematic in your essay is your analogy to two students hearing the same lecture on different occasions and how “[t]he interviewer can then conclude that these students have sinister motives and are trying to twist the lecture to fit with their individual agendas.” Even if two students saw the same lecture on videotape, they would each have their own interpretation and understanding of what was said. I don’t see that it is a question of anyone having “sinister motives.” (BTW, the “blatantly attempting to manipulate” quote is from the essay rather than the blog post, i.e., “Further, if Matthew and Luke are blatantly attempting to manipulate the text of Q, it is curious why Matthew did not include the Pharisees in the story as did Luke.”)

    I think that one of the problems you faced with the assignment is that it asked you to “us[e] the methods of critical analysis that you have been learning.” The professor thinks that what Ehrman does is much different from what Christian apologists do (and I mostly agree with him). In apologetics, you defend a position that you hold to be true, whereas critical analysis asks you to determine which position is true. It can be hard to think critically about an issue when you have a faith based commitment to a particular position. I don’t know whether it was impossible “for the essay to have been written in a way that is congruent with a traditional view and still receive an A,” but clearly it is a tricky proposition as you would have had to at least create the impression that you hadn’t reached your conclusion before you began your analysis.

    I don’t think that there is anything inherently wrong with a course that is limited to Ehrman’s textbook. I think a course that focuses exclusively on one methodology might be very useful. I am sure that I could learn a lot in a course that focused exclusively on Freud’s methods in psychology or Keynes’ approach to economics, even though many scholars disagree with them on many points. On the other hand, I remember a very tedious management professor was much more enthralled with Peter Drucker than I was, but that wasn’t a barrier to doing well in the class and learning whatever it was there was to be learned. I think that Ehrman is probably pretty mainstream for what you will find at secular colleges and universities and worth understanding if you want to know what it going on in the field.

  29. Once again, much of what you are saying is actually in support of the arguments made in my essay. The points you make about two students seeing the same lecture on videotape (you’re showing your age here with your choice of media. 🙂 ) are well-made and grant even more power to the analogy than I did in my essay. You are demonstrating how the scenario I present in the analogy effectively utilizes the methods of the class to argue against the unwarranted assertion of the class; that the authors of Matthew and Luke altered and manipulated a common source in order to advance their particular agendas as I described in my last response. That was the teaching of the class.

    A point or two regarding your comment about faith-based commitments; like the “standard apologetic” comment, this is as another attempt to use framing language to support a claim rather than reasons, examples, or arguments. If by faith-based commitment you are referring to a particular organized institutional “Faith,” then you would need to point to the particular points in my essay that require a commitment to a particular “Faith.” Otherwise, you are simply framing the conversation in a way that poisons the well.

    If, however, you are using “faith” in a more general sense along the lines of the Biblical concept of faith, you would need to demonstrate how such faith renders an argument invalid. The Biblical concept of faith is not opposed to or devoid of knowledge. Rather it is opposed to or devoid of sight or direct tangible evidence. It is from this kind of “faith-based commitment” that certain people accept as fact the existence of a Q document. They have never seen, tasted, touched, smelled, or heard anyone read from an ancient copy of Q. Yet they believe it existed. That they hold a faith-based belief regarding Q does not render the belief invalid. They have reasons for believing Q existed which provide a basis for their faith. Much of the conjecture of my New Testament course required a great deal more faith than is required to believe in a Q document. So here I get to claim the title of skeptic. I just don’t find the highly speculative and selective “critical analysis” of Ehrman and the professor convincing.

    I appreciate your attempts to provide a rationale for how my essay failed to meet the written grading criteria. I believe you are right on target with your observation about the unstated and undocumented “originality” criterion. However, I’m fairly certain that if the other reasons you’ve presented were part of the real explanation, then I would have heard similar statements from the TA and Professor in my conversations with them. And you’re right about being able to do well in a class without agreeing with the particular views of the professor. I did get an A in the class despite the C on this one paper.

  30. Just want to let you know that there is nothing new about your experience. (As the Writer of Ecclesiastes says, “There is nothing new under the sun.”) Back in 1923, my Grandmother was at Indiana University. The Prof taught evolution. Grandma (who was a very good student with strong grades everywhere else) parroted back to him perfectly what he said, but then inserted her own footnote at the bottom saying that although this was the teaching of the class, she personally didn't believe it. She got an “F.”

  31. I was actually wondering the same thing as this sista —–> concerning that little parenthetical about church I included in the post…Did you ever write that series???

  32. No, I never did get around to writing that series. Still trying to decide if I’m ready to get burned at the stake or not. Haha!

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