1. Who would benefit from reading Truth Matters: Confident Faith in a Confusing World? How do you anticipate it being used in the church and in public contexts?
We’ve written Truth Matters primarily for high school and college students, parents, and ministry leaders. Others could benefit from Truth Matters as well, but we wanted to write a book that engages those most affected by the arguments being made by critical scholars and are repeated not only in Bart Ehrman’s books but also in classrooms (and on the street level) across the world. Our young people are being told one half of the story concerning the Bible; we felt it was important to write a book on their level to tell the other half of the story.
Unfortunately, this “other half of the story” concerning why the Bible can be trusted is often not even told in our churches! The church has too often left the tough historical (and theological) questions about the Bible out of their discipleship programs. I (Josh) can remember going off to a state college and being taught by my skeptical college professor all the problems in the Bible and issues in its formation. I can remember becoming disenfranchised, thinking, “I’ve grown up in the church all my life, and it’s the first time I‘ve even heard these questions posed. Why am I not equipped to answer these? Are there even reasonable answers?” This doesn’t have to happen. We have written this book so that it will happen far less often.
I (Andreas) remember attending a debate between Bart Ehrman and Dan Wallace, a Dallas Seminary professor, at UNC-Chapel Hill and walking away convinced a book was needed that helped students to think through the issues Ehrman raises without the skeptical bias he infuses into the discussion on every subject he touches.
2. Describe your personal encounter with the work of Bart Ehrman.
I (Josh) began reading Bart Ehrman’s books shortly after his first New York Times Best Seller, Misquoting Jesus. Since then, I have read his works quite extensively. Ehrman is a rare find, an established biblical scholar with the ability to winsomely communicate academic work to a popular audience.
I (Andreas) have followed Ehrman’s writing career ever since his volume on the “orthodox corruption” of Scripture. Bart and I were part of a panel discussion together with Richard Hays and Norm Geisler at a 20/20 conference at Southeastern about a decade ago. Since then, I’ve read his works with growing concern as to what they do to infect others with a pervasive skepticism toward the reliability of Scripture.
3. What is the central thesis of Truth Matters? How does the book fill a gap in popular literature on religion?
Our central thesis is that none of the current popular challenges to the Bible offer a credible defeater to the Christian faith. People don’t need to choose between skepticism and gullibility. Instead, we encourage readers to pursue a “reasoned faith.” We have arranged our book topically around the topics that Bart Ehrman has written about in his popular books. This is the only book that responds to the issues he raises in this comprehensive fashion.
4. Were there topics not included in this volume that you wished you could have included?
Bart Ehrman is releasing a book soon on the divinity of Jesus. We would have loved to have addressed the issues he raises on this subject. Yet, all three of us have a deep interest in this area and look forward to engaging his work on this issue in the future.
5. How does Truth Matters compare to the academic version of the volume, Truth in a Culture of Doubt, and what is distinctive about each?
Truth Matters is an introduction to the issues raised by Bart Ehrman and other critical scholars aimed at teenagers, college students, and their parents. In Truth Matters we have restrained ourselves from including too many footnotes and have tried to speak to our target audience in a way they can understand and relate.
In Truth in a Culture of Doubt we go deeper and take a closer look at Bart Ehrman and his arguments. We include more of a "paper trail" through our footnotes for pastors, students, and ministry leaders who want to track down more of the specialized research. Also, we have arranged this book around specific claims that Ehrman makes. We then provide a response to each one of these claims. This arrangement makes Truth in a Culture of Doubt useful in the months and years after initial reading in that readers can use the guide in the back to track down the specific skeptical claim they are hearing and read our response.
6. Do you think we have heard the last from Bart Ehrman?
We have sneaking suspicion we have not! But, we’re okay with that. Bart Ehrman certainly has every right to continue to write these types of books. However, Christians have nothing to fear. In fact, in God’s providence, the fact that Bart Ehrman is asking these questions gives us an opportunity to address them and to defend the reliability of the Bible even though he is raising them with a skeptical mindset to disparage the Christian faith.
Josh Chatraw (Ph.D., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the pastor of preaching and students at First Baptist Church in Dublin, Georgia as well as adjunct professor at Brewton-Parker College, Zambia International Bible College, and Liberty University.
Andreas J. Köstenberger is senior professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC and director of acquisitions, B&H Academic