Friday, August 2, 2013

Reza Aslan’s “I was just like you” Argument


Agnostic and Bible critic, Bart Ehrman, has often claimed that he had been the most zealous of evangelicals before attending grad school. Reza Aslam, Professor of Islamic studies takes it a step further. Although Iranian and Muslim by birth, his family immigrated to the USA to escape the Ayatollah Khomeni. In the USA, he wanted to be just like the other kids – Christian! So he became a flaming evangelical, sharing his faith with whomever. However, he took that all-too-common fatal step and entered the radical propaganda factory we call “college,” and all hell broke loose:

  • The sudden realization that this belief is patently and irrefutably false, that the Bible is replete with the most blatant and obvious errors and contradictions — just as one would expect from a document written by hundreds of different hands across thousands of years — left me confused and spiritually unmoored. And so, like many people in my situation, I angrily discarded my faith as if it were a costly forgery I had been duped into buying.
Amazingly, his university-bred anger allowed him no opportunity or interest for reading that many able defenses of the Bible. Instead, he uncritically returned to Islam:

  • I began to rethink the faith and culture of my forefathers, finding in them a deeper, more intimate familiarity than I ever had as a child, the kind that comes from reconnecting with an old friend after many years apart. 
However, Aslan, author of the new book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, hasn’t rejected “Jesus” entirely – just the Christian, biblical Jesus. His Jesus is now the Jesus of the Koran:

  • Today, I can confidently say that two decades of rigorous academic research into the origins of Christianity has made me a more genuinely committed disciple of Jesus of Nazareth than I ever was of Jesus Christ. I have modeled my life not after the celestial spirit whom many Christians believe sacrificed himself for our sins, but rather after the illiterate, marginal Jew who gave his life fighting an unwinnable battle against the religious and political powers of his day on behalf of the poor and the dispossessed – those his society deemed unworthy of saving.
In coming to this opinion, Aslan has uncritically accepted a book, the Koran, defended by threats of violence, filled with contradictions, while tossing aside the Bible, which has withstood critical assault for centuries. Even the critic Ehrman asserts:

  • The oldest and best sources we have for knowing about the life of Jesus…are the four Gospels of the NT…This is not simply the view of Christian historians who have a high opinion of the NT and in its historical worth; it is the view of all serious historians of antiquity…it is the conclusion that has been reached by every one of the hundreds (thousands, even) of scholars. (Truth and Fiction in the DaVinci Code, p. 102)
Were Ehrman and Aslan ever truly Christians? Rather than trying to answer this question, it is clear that by invoking this “I was just like you” narrative, they feel that they can make their present stance more credible.

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