Dr. Peter Williams vs. Dr. Bart Ehrman: Are the Gospels True?

Ladies and gentlemen,

I thought this was an excellent debate from 2 respected gospel scholars who have come to completely contradictory conclusions regarding the gospels. Peter Williams has done tremendous work (in my humble opinion) showing why it is very reasonable to trust the gospels as authoritative. In contrast, Bart Ehrman is a self-professed Christian-turned-skeptic. The debate is a little academic, but worth it to mine through (praying for Ehrman to have a “Saul of Tarsus” moment!):

Peter J Williams & Bart Ehrman – The story of Jesus: Are the Gospels historically reliable? (1.5 hours)

God’s Teachers 2: Imparting Life

God’s Teachers 2: Imparting Life Video (1 hour, 33 min)


  • 1 Tim. 4:11-16: faithful in doctrine and life
  •  2 Tim. 1:12-14: by dependence on God’s Spirit

Impart Life

  • Psalm 128:1-4; Acts 20:28: You
  • 2 Cor. 3:1-3 (cf. Acts 9:1-2): Others

Grow Yourself in Christ

  • Acts 2:37-41: Begin
    1. Repent
    2. Be baptized
    3. Receive the Holy Spirit
  • Acts 2:42-47: Continue
    1. Study Scripture
    2. Fellowship
    3. Prayer

Grow Others in Christ

  • 1 Thes. 1:4-2:12 (especially 1:5): 
    1. Speak (Eph. 6:18-20; Col. 4:2-4: with prayer)
    2. Holy Spirit conviction
    3. By example

2 Timothy Notes: With Attention on Teaching/Discipling Principles

  • 1:2 – focus on individuals at the end of Paul’s life, not “projects” or “movements” directly
  • 1:3 – constant prayer/praise for Timothy
  • 1:4 – intimate bond with those he disciples–tears when he left; joy when together
  • 1:5 – knew his family
  • 1:6-7 – impart Spirit —> ultimately for ministry
  • 1:8-12 – God’s teachers suffer–it’s our high calling
  • 1:12 (compare with 1:14) – God entrusts and guards the deposit in us
  • 1:13 – follow what I taught you
  • 1:14 – we guard by the Holy Spirit the deposit
  • 1:15 – MANY departed from Paul
  • 1:16-18 – praises 1 who was loyal
  • 2:1 – sees Timothy as his child
  • 2:1 – strengthened by God’s grace
  • 2:2 – faithfully share and entrust to others good deposit
  • 2:3-6 – you must suffer–endure it well
  • 2:7 – think + God’s help = understanding
  • 2:8-13 – I endure; we endure —> salvation for others, salvation for me: 
    1. look to Jesus without
    2. trust Jesus within
  • 2:14 – Pass on what Paul teaches
  • 2:14 – Pass on: don’t argue over words
  • 2:15 – rightly handle God’s word
  • 2:16-19 – reckless teaching leads astray in doctrine and character
  • 2:19-21 – only holy vessels honor God, though all vessels serve their purpose
  • 2:22 – pursue holiness with others who are pursuing holiness
  • 2:23-26 – God’s servant = kind, patient, gentle to all; able to teach
  • 3:1-5 – avoid those rejecting God’s ways
  • 3:6-9 – some with depraved minds will keep learning but not find truth – stay away from them!
  • 3:10-17 – persevere in doctrine and life – see me + Scripture as teachers in this
  • 4:1-5 – patiently and persistently preach God’s word (even when less want to hear it)
  • 4:6-8 – Paul about to die and be crowned with all Christians
  • 4:19-22 – greet some, and some greet you; Jesus be with you

“Is Thy God Able…?”

This is one of my favorite poems of all time, I have it affixed to my Bible.

Poem by M.E. (Margaret) Barber (a mentor to Watchman Nee):

Thou servant of the living God,
Whilst lions round thee roar,
Look up and trust and praise His name,
And all His ways adore;
For even now, in peril dire,
He works to set thee free,
And in a way known but to Him,
Shall thy deliverance be.
Dost wait while lions round thee stand,
Dost wait in gloom, alone?
And looking up above thy head
See but a sealed stone?
Praise in the dark! Yea, praise His Name,
Who trusted thee to see
His mighty power displayed again
For thee, His saint, for thee.
Thou servant of the living God,
Thine but to wait and praise;
The living God, Himself will work,
To Him thine anthem raise.
Though undelivered, thou dost wait,
The God who works for thee,
When His hour strikes, will with a word,
Set thee for ever free.
(Dan. 6:20)

Prove It

Audio of “Prove It” (5 min, 16 sec)

A friend asks, “Why should I trust a God I can’t see or prove even exists?”

If such a scenario hasn’t happened, it will. Even some reading this now are probably saying, “Good point,” to this argument.

So…how would you respond?

Let’s listen to Dr. Jerry Root share his own story of responding to such a question after a class he taught (which, I believe, captures so well the crux of the real flaw with the initial question).

Here is the transcript:

I [Dr. Root] said [to this atheist student], “…You’re from Brown University, you must be very bright–ivy league school–tell me about that, what are you studying?”

She says, “Biochemistry.”

We talked a little further and I said, “Well we talked about spiritual things in this class. What did you think?”

She said, “Well, as a biochemist,” which I thought was a little premature–she was only a sophomore. She said, “As a biochemist, I live by the principle if I can’t perceive it empirically I just don’t believe it.”

I said, “That’s the principle you live by? If you can’t perceive something empirically you won’t believe it?”

She says, “Yes.”

I said, “Would you please set that principle forth for me empirically?”

I hope you see the problem. It’s an inherent contradiction. It’s a proposition that is not empirically perceived…

She saw the contradiction. She was a bright Brown student, and she freaked out.

She said, “I’ve never seen the contradiction in my own presupposition.” She said, “Why, everybody at Brown University believes this.”

I said, “No, there’s Christians there, too.”

And I said, “And you know what? Just to be fair to materialists, I’ve met materialists who would never subscribe to that. So let’s be fair.”

But I said, “This is the thing. Um, John Polkinghorne, who taught at Cambridge University and was…had a degree in theology and a degree in physics. He taught physics; he was the president of one of the Cambridge University colleges. He said, ‘If you ask the scientist, “Why is the kettle boiling?,” the scientists would tell you based on the measureable features, on observable features: the heat from the burner is agitating the molecules and it’s burning it up. I mean, it’s ah, ah…at a hundred degrees centigrade sea level it boils.’

“He says, ‘That’s a good answer, that’s the answer the scientist would give you.’

“He said, ‘But you could also say, “I would like a cup of tea, and would you like one, too?” And the second answer you couldn’t arrive at by mere scientific method.'”

And so this becomes very, very important.

And I said to her, too, “Mortimer Adler, the philosopher, who was at the University of Chicago, said, ‘In three generations we’ve gone from saying, “That which is measurable is that which is important for science,” to saying, “That which is measurable is the only thing that’s important.”‘”

Lecture by Jerry Root, Lanier Theological Library, Sept. 18, 2019

In case you missed it, here’s the point:

Everyone begins with unproven assumptions. Let’s call those presuppositions. Even the one who demands scientific proof is beginning with the presupposition that empirical, scientific proof is a necessary prerequisite to following Christ. Where does such a notion come from? It is a presupposition that cannot be proven (which is the ultimate irony).

Of course, Christians also have presuppositions.

I presuppose that Jesus is Lord, and that the Bible is His Word. I believe such conviction only happen by revelation, and that revelation comes primarily and specifically through God’s Spirit and God’s Scripture (as we have humble hearts to obey/receive)…but also comes in a general way through reason, observation, and nature.

So if we can all agree that we all start with presuppositions, the true question is:

Whose presuppositions are the most sound, consistent with reality, and ultimately true?

Now that’s a question worth exploring!