[Preface: these reflections grow out of the post Stupidity hurts. A lot.]
Name-dropping can be fun. It can blow up in your face, too.
It's always a great thing to have some Big Names on your side. Anyone who's written even semi-academically knows the value of some juicy corroborative footnotes, "proving" your point. Even on a personal level, if you can't find one soul in all of the ages of Christendom who sees a verse as you see it, you know you're probably wrong. But if you can say, "Well, John Calvin saw it the same way," you're golden -- thanks to enlisting a "gold-standard" Big Name.
I was at a Bible conference once, decades ago. The speaker, a well-known Bible scholar, was setting out his view of Ezekiel 38-39, which was very much a minority view. I asked him if he could name anyone else who took that view. He named one little-known scholar. I asked him if he could name anyone else. He glared at me.
"Ezekiel!" he snapped.
As long as I've been a Christian, I've noted how infatuated some of us are with names. We "prove" that Christianity is scientific by citing the names of a lot of dead Christians who were scientists, and one or two living ones. We like big names, actors and writers and politicians, scholars and poets and painters, singers and novelists, humanitarians and the notorious. It makes us feel, at some level, that our faith is validated. "See? [Jack/Jill BigName] was a Christian -- and (s)he's really smart/cool/attractive/famous!"
Perhaps it makes us feel "cool" by association. I'm a Christian, like those "cool" people. Therefore, it's a "cool" faith.
But there are problems with this fond attachment. If our faith is validated when the big and the mighty profess it, what happens when they don't, or when they bail on it? What happens when they apostatize? Or what of those in the same field (biology, archaeology, philosophy) who seem not to find a glimmer of compelling attraction in the Gospel, or the Bible?
If we are going to validate our faith in the Bible as God's Word by telling of William Ramsay's journey towards the truth, or William Foxwell Albright's -- then what of Bart Ehrman's apostasy from it? Does that discredit our faith?
This is where I think we need to hear Paul speak afresh.
What I mean is that each one of you says, "I follow Paul," or "I follow Apollos," or "I follow Cephas," or "I follow Christ." 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:12-13)In the final analysis, regeneration, conviction, conversion, saving faith -- these are all one-on-one transactions. God uses means, and He likely used someone to bring the Word to you, as He did in my case (Romans 10:14). But I did not savingly believe because Gregg, the endlessly-patient fellow who told me about Christ, believed. I believed because God struck His word to my heart, convicted me of my sin, convinced me of the truth of His word, and of the compelling glory of His Christ.
For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not being merely human? 5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:4-7)
...and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)
And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
So when I found out that "cool" and impressive people were Christians, that was great. But it didn't convince me more of God's truth. Nor, did it lessen my conviction when I learned that some defected, went wobbly, or apostatized outright. They weren't why I believed; and they wouldn't cause me to disbelieve.
So in the course of my later education, I had the wonderful blessing of getting to know some real scholars, personally and from a distance, and it was an encouragement to me. But then I found that some had what we call "issues" and/or feet of clay -- I was saddened, but my faith was unaffected.
Their professed belief was not why I believed. Their professed disbelief would not cause me to disbelieve.
This is why I respect scholarship, and profit greatly from scholars -- but I don't follow them, and I certainly don't worship them.
And this, too, is why Bart Ehrman's story, as reported in the article I discussed, saddens me. It saddens me because of what it tells me about Bart Ehrman.
But it doesn't tell me one thing about truth, God, or His Word.
Listen to godly men. Learn from godly men.
But lean on God alone (Psalm 118:9; 119:99; 146:3).
Paul gets the closing thought: "Let God be true though every one were a liar" (Romans 3:4a)