Was Jesus just a charismatic preacher or is He indeed God?
This question will be the subject of a debate scheduled for the Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum in Faith and Culture at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary this weekend (Friday and Saturday) and will feature six of the world's top scholars according to a statement from the institution.
Michael Bird, a lecturer in theology at Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia, is expected to debate with Bart Ehrman, a noted New Testament scholar and one of the faculty stars at the University of North Carolina on Friday evening in the Leavell Chapel.
The debate is expected to be particularly interesting because Ehrman is a former evangelical Christian whose studies led him away from his faith. He regularly references his story in his best-selling books about the origins of Christianity. He is also a frequent contributor to CNN and television documentaries about early Christianity.
Bird, on the other hand is a former atheist whose studies led him to faith in God.
One of Ehrman's recent books is How Jesus Became God, published by HarperCollins. Bird along with four other scholars responded with a book of their own titled How God Became Jesus. It was published by HarperCollins' Christian publishing affiliate, Zondervan.
"How Did Jesus Become God?" was chosen as this year's forum title as a compromise between the books of both scholars which were released on the same day two years ago.