On December 23rd of last year, writer Kurt Eichenwald had an online article go live which became this week’s cover piece for the newly re-published Newsweek magazine entitled, “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin.” In it, while trying to be objective, he takes shot after shot at a tradition, or evangelical, understanding of the Bible. And, by traditional and evangelical I am not being overly precise. I mean a basic understanding of Scripture that it is true and authoritative.
There are several good responses now on the web and there are several very helpful books on the topic of why the Bible is a reliable document, historically, theologically, and spiritually, and I will link you to a blog by NT scholar Daniel Wallace where he argues at greater length and with greater precision than me, but let me just outline some of the things to keep in mind if you have read the Newsweek piece or plan on it for the future.
1. The article has several factual flaws, such as how the Bible came to be, dating, the history of Christianity, the basics of Christian belief, etc.
2. The arguments used in the article are not new. They have been widely discussed and have been propagated by liberal theologians for centuries and now are re-articulated by faculty in university religion departments, not least by Dr. Bart Erhman of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. These arguments have been addressed and responded to clearly, rigorously, and with the highest levels of scholarship, by evangelical Biblical scholars and theologians. These evangelical rebuttals cannot make an unbeliever believe. That is the work of the Spirit. But, they show that Christian belief in the Bible is reasonable and comports with evidence.
3. The article dismisses out of hand evangelical presuppositions and convictions that drive our view of the Biblical text – in its creation, its transmission, and its present form – and thus does not view current evangelical responses to his arguments as valid. The author then goes on to assume other biases that are the basis of his arguments without defending those philosophically or in any other way. Orthodox Christians – fundamentalists, evangelicals, and even moderates – are all simply cast aside as ignorant and unable to reasonably hold to our view of the Bible. By the way, he lumps everyone together and does not distinguish how certain traditions and strains of Christianity have significantly different approaches to Scripture. He rightly points out some very dodgy views on the Bible, but assumes all Christians see it that way.
4. The article has a very flat view of the Bible and does not account for how literature, not least ancient literature, works. He sees contradictions, inconsistencies, errors, and the lot, not because they are clearly seen in the text, but because he does not evaluate literary genre, how things are intended to be read in context, the overall story of the Bible, the nuances of authorial perspective, etc. It is actually a far more nuanced view of the Bible that allows for evangelical convictions to thrive.
5. Every argument for a position, whatever it is, is evidence of a personal narrative. That is true for orthodox Christians and why we believe the Bible to be the very voice of God. But, it is also true for Kurt Eichenwald. While I think his piece is just not good, or helpful, or written with journalistic integrity, I imagine the effort he put into it by means of research and thought are driven by a personal story of disappointment with orthodox Christianity and its view of the Bible. Some of the hurt might be pretty justified. Perhaps he, or someone he loves, has been very affected by how some Christians used the Bible to attack, condemn, or emotionally jab. So, just as we must own our biases (and let’s admit that our conviction about the Bible is biased…it’s just that we think our biases are correct) we must acknowledge that articles like this one come out of a personal story and are not just an interesting journalistic contribution to public thought and for the common good. I think that means we should pray for Mr. Eichenwald and not just excoriate him. That is possible, you know. We can both repudiate his article and be compassionate toward him – and yes, toward Bart Ehrman and the many other public voices, and not so pubic voices, of those who struggle with Christianity, the Bible, the gospel, and Jesus himself. As the Lord directs you, would you pray for the salvation of folks like this? You and I were no better off before God saved us, miraculously, through the converting power of the Holy Spirit, giving us faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Here is a helpful post by Dr. Daniel Wallace. Daniel Wallace response