Listen to the whole interview on NPR here.
Bart is right. Christianity is not reasonable or sensible. You cannot argue or debate people into faith. Christian faith is not a reasoned choice among equal or at least equally appealing alternatives. The faith is not spread by arguing folks into the Kingdom or by making a case for the reasonableness of the faith. Faith is by the Holy Spirit working through the Word. Yet we Christians often fall victim to the idea that we can argue others into the Kingdom or that Christianity is a relevant and reasonable religion that does not require all that much faith but is an appealing and winsome philosophy or history or ethic. When we do this, we do a disservice to the Scriptures themselves. Faith is not a reasoned choice. It is the fruit of the Spirit's work in breaking through the hardened shell of doubt and skepticism. Bart is also right in getting the message of Paul fairly truthful in that it is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone that accords salvation and not the works of the law and the power of this message for conversion. However, he fails in that he is not at all sure that this has anything much to do with Jesus.
But mostly Bart is just plain wrong and disingenuously so. He insists that such things as heaven and hell are not Scriptural at all, that Jesus did not say the things attributed to Him, and that the Christianity that resulted from Jesus is different than the teachings of Jesus. Ehrman finds the ethic appealing but cannot abandon his intellect or his reason to succumb to the claims of Christ or the Scriptures. In this, he reveals his own bias and pride and finds the claims of Scripture simply untenable for the modern mind and in the modern world. Ehrman is simply above Christianity.
At least Bart has acknowledged his error of the past in assigning the conversion of Constantine too much weight in the quick and profound conversion of pagans to Christianity. He admits now that the rate of conversion was so great that the conversion of Constantine did not really matter all that much. But he still holds to the idea that the Christianity of Constantine's time bears little resemblance to the Christianity of the earliest Christians.
The reason pagans were worshipping their gods is because the gods could provide them with things that they could not provide for themselves. It was all about divine power. We can't control if it rains. We can't control if the livestock reproduce. We can't control what happens when we get sick. We can't make ourselves well, but the gods can.Ehrman insists that it was the miracles of Christianity that proved the Christian God superior to all other gods.
What the Christians argued was that the Christian God was more powerful than any other god, that this God was active in the world. He not only brought salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus, he continues to act in the lives of his followers. He heals the sick. He casts out demons. He raises the dead. This God is very active and he is more powerful than any of the others, and so it came to be a competition between the gods, where the Christians were trying to convince people that their God was the superior one.
So listen with care to Bart Ehrman who delights in sounding really orthodox one moment and then sounds like Christianity's worst critic another moment. But most of all he is well spoken and winsome and easily creates doubt and fear about the credibility of the Gospels, the integrity of the New Testament, and the truthfulness of Christianity.