Thursday, January 1, 2015

Looks Like Newsweek is Good News Weak

What is it about Christmas that makes the media pull out their duller, rustier knives?

Last week I detected a stirring in the Christian blogosphere. Some article I never would’ve noticed, in a magazine I never read, written by a journalist I’d never heard of, had rattled a chain or two. I was shocked, shocked, to discover that the mainstream media in the U.S. dislikes us hate-filled Christians and our big, black book of lying lies for liars.

They wave their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnations of homosexuals. They fall on their knees, worshipping at the base of granite monuments to the Ten Commandments while demanding prayer in school. They appeal to God to save America from their political opponents, mostly Democrats. They gather in football stadiums by the thousands to pray for the country’s salvation.
OMG! What can these vile creatures be up to?
They are God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians who pick and choose which Bible verses they heed with less care than they exercise in selecting side orders for lunch. They are joined by religious rationalizers—fundamentalists who, unable to find Scripture supporting their biases and beliefs, twist phrases and modify translations to prove they are honoring the Bible’s words.
The absolute rotters!
This is no longer a matter of personal or private faith. With politicians, social leaders and even some clergy invoking a book they seem to have never read and whose phrases they don’t understand, America is being besieged by Biblical illiteracy.
Quick, man the ramparts, the Biblical Illiterates are coming!

Needless to say, the rest of the article was every bit as balanced, credible and accurate as those first three paragraphs, as Dr. Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, noted:
When it comes to Newsweek’s cover story, “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin,” Eichenwald appears to be far outside his area of expertise and knowledge. More to the point, he really does not address the subject of the Bible like a reporter at all. His article is a hit-piece that lacks any journalistic balance or credibility. His only sources cited within the article are from severe critics of evangelical Christianity, and he does not even represent some of them accurately.
Dan Phillips on the PyroManiacs blog, identified the motivation behind the article right away:

New Testament Greek scholar and papyrologist Dr Daniel Wallace took the time to dispose of the article’s main assertions. Here’s Wallace on Eichenwald’s misunderstanding of the infamous and oft-quoted Bart Ehrman line about “copies of copies of copies”:
But let’s examine a bit more the actual statement that Eichenwald makes. We are all reading “at best,” he declares, a “bad translation—a translation of translations of translations of hand-copied copies of copies of copies of copies, and on and on, hundreds of times.” This is rhetorical flair run amok so badly that it gives hyperbole a bad name. A “translation of translations of translations” would mean, at a minimum, that we are dealing with a translation that is at least three languages removed from the original. But the first translation is at best a translation of a fourth generation copy in the original language. Now, I’m ignoring completely his last line—“and on and on, hundreds of times”—a line that is completely devoid of any resemblance to reality. Is it really true that we only have access to third generation translations from fourth generation Greek manuscripts? Hardly.
Apologist James White, of Alpha & Omega Ministries, took up two episodes of The Dividing Line to refute the article:

Part One:

Part Two:

Dr. Michael Kruger, President and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, wrote the definitive rebuttal in two-parts on his Canon Fodder blog (Part One; Part Two). If you read these rebuttals, check out the comments; Eichenwald himself shows up to answer his critics and maintain his innocence of the charge of Christian-bashing.

Kruger sums up the whole sorry mess with these words:
By way of conclusion, it is hard to know what to say about an article like Eichenwald’s. In many ways, it embodies all the misrepresentations, caricatures, and misunderstandings of the average non-Christian in the world today. It is short on the facts, it has little understanding of interpretive principles, it assumes that it knows more about theology than it really does, and it pours out scorn and contempt on the average believer.

Nevertheless, in a paradoxical fashion, I am thankful for it. I am thankful because articles like this provide evangelicals with an opportunity to explain what Christians really believe, and what historical credentials the Bible really has. Eichenwald’s article is evidence that most people in the world understand neither of these things. With all the evangelical responses to this article, hopefully that is changing.

In the end, there is a rich irony to the title of Eichenwald’s piece: “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin.” While he intended this to refer to evangelicals, I think it applies best to his own article.

Personally, while I’m glad to watch our heavy-hitters swatting down these anti-Christian poltroons of the press, I’m not sure such an ignorant, ill-informed piece like Eichenwald's was worth the effort. Besides that, Newsweek’s regular readership is now so small, and its influence on the national conversation so slight, that I doubt anyone would’ve even heard of the article were it not for all the “evangelical responses”. And, Kruger’s optimism notwithstanding, I don’t believe for one minute that the world’s ignorance regarding what we actually believe has been affected one tiny bit.

Happy New Year!

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