Here's a belated report on yesterday's panel discussion with Bart Ehrman, Tom Wright, Dominic Crossan and Dale Martin on the authority of the Bible. The panel was reviewing Ehrman's and Wright's latest books. Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus is (it is said) the first ever layperson's introduction to textual criticism. It begins, unusually, with Ehrman's 'testimony' of how he was brought up in a church-going, but not very religious family, got 'born again', went to the Moody Bible Institute, then Wheaton (where doubts began), then Princeton (where he was finally flipped by the difficulty of Abiathar in Mark 2:26). Nothing so personal has yet appeared from Ehrman in print to my knowledge. I'd say that Wright and Ehrman came off about equal. Tom has brilliant verbal skills; Crossan came across as weak; Martin tried to pursue the line that Bart and Tom were making category errors by connecting history and theology too closely.
Bart clearly came across as the only one who knew about textual criticism and his premises were not challenged. The audience was about 500 and there was a lively debate in which various people were involved from the floor, including David Parker (against Tom) and Voelz (against Bart). Tom was the only one who defended anything like a traditional Christian approach to the Bible, though he explicitly distanced himself from speaking about 'God's words' as a designation of Scripture. The whole panel seemed agreed that verbal inspiration was moribund and only a belief maintained by the 'ultra-conservative'. Historically, of course, it is mainstream.
Overall I think that it is a pity that some of the premises of the discussion were not challenged, but I think that classic evangelicals have to do a bit more work on honing arguments before such a public debate would be at its most profitable.
[Update 3 Jan 2006: my review of Misquoting Jesus is now available here.]