It is not unusual for Newsweek, and other major media magazines, to publish critical opinions of Christianity and the Bible during major Christian holidays. I have lost count of how many March/April issues of such magazines have cast doubt on the resurrection, just in time for Easter.
However, the recent Newsweek cover article by Kurt Eichenwald, entitled “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin,” published intentionally (no doubt) on December 23rd, goes so far beyond the standard polemics, and is so egregiously mistaken about the Bible at so many places, that the magazine should seriously consider a public apology to Christians everywhere.
Of course, this is not the first media article critiquing the Bible that has been short on the facts. However, what is stunning about this particular article is that Kurt Eichenwald begins by scolding evangelical Christians for being unaware of the facts about the Bible, and the proceeds to demonstrate a jaw-dropping ignorance of the facts about the Bible.
Being ignorant of biblical facts is one thing. But being ignorant of biblical facts after chiding one’s opponent for that very thing is a serious breach of journalistic integrity. Saying Eichenwald’s article is an instance of “the pot calling the kettle black” just doesn’t seem to do it justice.
There are a variety of categories where Newsweek needs to give Eichenwald a serious slap on the journalistic wrist. Given the length of the article, I will have to deal with it in two parts. Here are some serious problems with part one:
Easy (and False) Caricatures
Eichenwald begins (not concludes, but begins!) his article by describing Christians:
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.
So, Eichenwald’s well-balanced journalistic understanding of the Christian religion is limited to street preachers who scream at people, those who demand the 10 commandments be posted in schools, and the tiresome trope that all Christians are part of the Jerry Falwell moral majority?
Anyone who has studied evangelical Christianity for more than 10 minutes, using more than internet articles from the Huffington Post, would know that the average believer in America is none of these things.
Such stock accusations and caricatures are just low-hanging fruit that are unworthy of serious journalism. Eichenwald should know better.
But, Eichenwald isn’t done. He is not nearly finished expressing his moral outrage against Christianity:
When the illiteracy of self-proclaimed Biblical literalists leads parents to banish children from their homes, when it sets neighbor against neighbor, when it engenders hate and condemnation, when it impedes science and undermines intellectual advancement, the topic has become too important for Americans to ignore, whether they are deeply devout or tepidly faithful, believers or atheists.
Notice that Eichenwald (still in his introduction) just tosses out these (very serious) accusations and generalizations with absolutely no evidence whatsoever. One wonders whether we are reading a news article or the editorial page. Could a journalist ever get away with such evidence-less accusations if it were made against Islam?
Take for instance the charge that Christians are all about “banishing children.” Seriously? If Eichenwald had actually investigated which part of the population is leading the way in adopting children without homes the answer would have been readily available. Evangelicals. Not Muslims. And certainly not liberal media elites.
But, even more than just being factually wrong, Eichenwald seems completely unaware that he is engaging in his own moralistic diatribe—the very thing he accuses Christians of doing. Remember, he complains that Christians are like the “Pharisees” always going around telling people they are wrong. Yet now Eichenwald is doing exactly the same thing. Why, then, is he not guilty of the very charge he levelled against Christians, namely “hate and condemnation”?
Apparently only Christian moralizing is “hate” whereas Eichenwald’s own moralizing is just fine.
Overplaying Transmission Problems
Eichenwald attempts to discredit the Bible by pointing out problems in its transmission. However, the real problem is not with the Bible but with Eichenwald’s misinformed accusations. For instance, he claims:
About 400 years passed between the writing of the first Christian manuscripts and their compilation into the New Testament.
This is patently false. Collections of New Testament writings were functioning as Scripture as early as the second century (and, to some extent, even in the first). For evidence of this, see my book, Canon Revisited.
Eichenwald tries again:
While there were professional scribes whose lives were dedicated to this grueling work [of copying manuscripts], they did not start copying the letters and testaments about Jesus’s time until centuries after they were written. Prior to that, amateurs handled the job.
Again, this is false. There is no evidence that the earliest Christian scribes were amatuers (whatever that means). On the contrary, the earliest evidence suggest Christian scribes were multi-functional scribes who were used to copying all sorts of literature from letters to literary texts and beyond (see chapter 7 of my book The Heresy of Orthodoxy).
Eichenwald is misinformed another time:
Not all of the amateur copyists spoke the language or were even fully literate. Some copied the script without understanding the words.
This is an egregious claim about earliest Christian scribes. There is no evidence that the earliest Christian copyists could be, in any way, characterized as illiterate. Eichenwald may be referring to a reference in the Shepherd of Hermas, a popular second-century text, where an individual was asked to copy a book who could not read. However, there is no indication that this individual was a scribe, nor that this was typical for scribes!
Again, another mistake:
But in the past 100 years or so, tens of thousands of manuscripts of the New Testament have been discovered, dating back centuries.
This is absolutely false. The number of NT manuscripts is a little more than 5,500 (and still growing), but not 10,000. In addition, Eichenwald mentions the high number of manuscripts as if it were a negative! Truth is that the more manuscripts we possess, the more certain we can be about the integrity of the NT text.
Moreover, Eichenwald never mentions (or perhaps doesn’t know) that the NT is in a class by itself when it comes to the number of manuscripts. Most other ancient texts from the first century (or thereabouts) are preserved in around 10-20 manuscripts (and some only in a single manuscript). Thus, the 5,500 NT manuscripts of the NT is impressive indeed.
Overplaying Textual Variations
In an effort to shock the reader, Eichenwald appeals to two significant textual variations in the NT, namely the long ending of Mark (16:9-20) and the pericope of the adulterous woman (John 7:53-8:11). These are the same ones that Ehrman highlights in his book Misquoting Jesus—which is evidently a big influence on Eichenwald.
But, Eichenwald only tells part of the story. First, he doesn’t tell the reader that these are the only two significant variations in the entire New Testament. He presents them like they are typical when they are not. Second, he doesn’t explain how text-critical methodologies allow scholars to identify these changes as later additions. And if they can be identified as later additions, then they do not threaten our ability to know the original text.
Even more, Eichenwald continues to make factual errors about these changes. He states:
Unfortunately, John didn’t write it. Scribes made it up sometime in the Middle Ages. It does not appear in any of the three other Gospels or in any of the early Greek versions of John. Even if the Gospel of John is an infallible telling of the history of Jesus’s ministry, the event simply never happened.
This statement is riddled with errors. For one, scribes probably didn’t make the story of the adulterous woman up—it probably circulated as oral tradition. Second, it was not added in the “Middle Ages” as he claims, but probably sometime between the second and fourth century. Third, we don’t know that “the event simply never happened.” On the contrary, scholars have argued it may be an authentic event that circulated in the early church for generations.
Overplaying Translational Issues
Eichenwald next hones in on the issue of translations, claiming that English translations are utterly unreliable and written simply to reinforce traditional Christian beliefs that, otherwise, have no support. He states:
And so each time προσκυνέω appeared in the Greek manuscript regarding Jesus, in these newer Bibles he is worshipped, but when applied to someone else, the exact same word is translated as “bow” or something similar. By translating the same word different ways, these modern Bibles are adding a bit of linguistic support to the idea that the people who knew Jesus understood him. In other words, with a little translational trickery, a fundamental tenet of Christianity—that Jesus is God—was reinforced in the Bible, even in places where it directly contradicts the rest of the verse.
This paragraph reveals a stunning misunderstanding of the way translations and texts really work. The fact that translators use different English words at different points is not due to some diabolical plot to trick people into believing in the divinity of Jesus, but is simply due to the fact that words mean different things in different contexts.
Moreover, Eichenwald is unaware that even the more progressive English translations do exactly the same thing! For instance, the NRSV of Matt 14:33 reads: “And those in the boat worshiped (προσκυνέω) him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”
Overplaying Diversity in the Early Church
No critique of early Christianity would be complete without trotting out the standard claims that early Christians couldn’t agree on much of anything and everyone was busy fighting over early Christian doctrines. At this point, apocryphal gospels (such as Thomas and Peter) are often highlighted as evidence that Christianity was confused about what it really believed.
Eichenwald executes this part of the refute-Christianity-playbook perfectly. After repeating the standard trope about how “Christianity was in chaos in its early days,” he even offers the claim that Constantine (diabolical fiend that he was) really created modern Christianity as we know it:
And then, in the early 300s, Emperor Constantine of Rome declared he had become follower of Jesus, ended his empire’s persecution of Christians and set out to reconcile the disputes among the sects. Constantine was a brutal sociopath who murdered his eldest son, decapitated his brother-in-law and killed his wife by boiling her alive, and that was after he proclaimed that he hadconverted from worshipping the sun god to being a Christian. Yet he also changed the course of Christian history, ultimately influencing which books made it into the New Testament.
Eichenwald seems utterly unaware that this whole course of argument is incorrect and drawn directly from internet chat rooms and books like the Da Vinci Code. The truth is that Constantine had nothing to do with which books were placed into the New Testament, nor did the council of Nicea for that matter.
But, undaunted, Eichenwald digs his hole even deeper:
To understand how what we call the Bible was made, you must see how the beliefs that became part of Christian orthodoxy were pushed into it by the Holy Roman Empire. By the fifth century, the political and theological councils voted on which of the many Gospels in circulation were to make up the New Testament. With the power of Rome behind them, the practitioners of this proclaimed orthodoxy wiped out other sects and tried to destroy every copy of their Gospels and other writings.
Yet again, Eichenwald is flat out wrong. There was no fifth century “vote” about which Gospels would make it into the NT. On the contrary, the four gospels had been well-established in the church since the second century.
In sum, the first part of Eichenwald’s article is an unmitigated disaster. Its factual errors are legion, its bias against Christianity is palpable, it makes serious and yet unsubstantiated moral accusations against followers of Jesus, and, all the while, offers zero historical evidence backing up its claims.
This is not journalism. This is Eichenwald’s personal diatribe. Newsweek should really offer a formal apology.
Update: For part two of my review, see here.
Newsweek shows how awful it is as a publication. Calling it a “publication” is too generous. This type of malpractice should not go unmentioned. Good thing though, that its readership is unsustainably low and so whatever they publish is bound to go unread. Yet, this is a veiled attempt at questioning the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ; hence an atheist point of view.
Great content, as always, Dr. Kruger. Thanks.
But one additional thought: doesn’t the “demand an apology” angle smack of Christian entitlement? No doubt the early Church faced even worse sentiments & misrepresentations of the faith, yet it’s difficult to imagine any Christian demanding the Roman authorities ‘apologize’ for wronging Christians. If Rodney Stark has it right, Christians won the Empire over primarily through their love & service (doctrine ‘incarnated’, if you will), not through demanding justice. Seems to me that would be the most effective approach today, too.
Michael Kruger says
Thanks, Russ. I appreciate the comment. However, I disagree with your analysis here that this is a call for Christian “entitlement.” If Newsweek publicly slanders any group or individual, willfully ignoring the facts, then there is nothing wrong with asking for that organization to own up to its mistake. Your understanding of Stark’s argument, and early Christianity is not precisely accurate. Stark is correct that the Christian willingness to suffer persecution played a big role in its advancement, but he never said that Christians were obligated to stay silent when they were abused by the state. In fact, in the second and third centuries, Christian apologists spent a lot of their time appealing to the Roman government for fair treatment and justice (see writings of Justin Martyr and Tertullian as examples).
Mark Tester says
If it suits you better, replace “demand an apology” with “demand a retraction.” Newsweek claims to be a legitimate news source and its readership will largely take what is printed between its covers as factual. They are bound by journalistic integrity (if such a thing exists anymore) to report truth. Perhaps we should endure persecution, that’s what Christ did, but Christ did not endure lies or liars.
Honestly, I don’t really know if the original article is correct in any of it’s claims, but I certainly don’t see any evidence provided in this “rebuttal” either. All I see is this:
“Quote from article”
That is completely false because of the following:
1. 
2. 
3. 
As far as I can tell, both of these articles fall short of the burden of proof, so I guess I’ll side with the one who doesn’t believe fairy tails.
Michael Kruger says
I am not sure of your point, Temp. I offered plenty of cogent rebuttals to the claims of Eichenwald. If your complaint is that I didn’t offer footnotes, then you have misunderstood the nature of a blog article. But, I have rooted my response in real historical facts, which you are free to check for yourself. For instances, just look up how many manuscripts we possess of the NT. Is it 10k as Eichenwald argues? Or is it 5.5k as I have stated? Given the egregious number of mistakes like this, it is a wonder you are willing to trust his article at all.
In addition, I have written extensively on this subject elsewhere. I even referred to some of my own books that deal extensively with these issues. Feel free to look further into those.
As for your comment that Christians believe in “fairy tales,” this is unnecessarily pejorative and unfortunately reveals the same attitude present in Eichenwald’s article. Anyone familiar with the nature of ancient literature would know that the Bible is not a fairy tale. I encourage you to move beyond such name calling and check out the real facts about the Bible.
It is Temp’s opinion, and mine as well, that many stories in the bible can be defined as fairy tales. Here is part of the Merriam-Webster definition of fairy tales:
“Simple narrative typically of folk origin dealing with supernatural beings. Fairy tales may be written or told for the amusement of children or may have a more sophisticated narrative containing supernatural or obviously improbable events, scenes, and personages and often having a whimsical, satirical, or moralistic character”
It’s not “name calling” to hold the opinion that many of the stories in the bible fit in this definition. Good for you to be more familiar with the nature of ancient literature so you can look down on and act superior to people like Temp. However, You haven’t written anything in this blog that makes the bible more believable.
None of us were there in biblical times or the period when Christianity got put together. All any of us have to rely on is researching our own and other peoples investigations of various historical and religious subjects. You are a Christian so you bring to your research a bias. An atheist will also bring his/her bias to the research they do. The nice thing about being a freethinker is we focus on the quality of the information without bias and reason for the truth, no matter what it is. Christians cannot do this.
Eichewald’s article is actually pretty good at summarizing the hypocrisy of certain kinds of Christians. I agree with you that he went after low hanging fruit but he did not go after some of the lowest hanging fruit like pedophiles priests. Regardless, I am familiar with the research of just about every point that Eichewald makes and it is not “wrong”. Eichewald is simply accepting the research of scholars like Bart Ehrman when he is making some of his points. He has a right to do this and you have a right to disagree.
Alan Muxlow says
JAS, It is refreshing to read the words of one so enlightened as to have no bias regarding the subject at hand. You have risen above the fray and stand unchallenged as the voice of reason!
If you truly believe that you are without bias and are qualified to sit in judgment of God’s word, then you are simply too ignorant of the subject to be dealt with. Do some real research and come back to the table.
Dictionary definitions are relatively informal theories of what words actually mean – when you have to come up with thousands of them, you may not get every detail absolutely spot on, especially with relatively complex concepts like “fairy tale”. In ordinary usage “fairy tale” refers to stories like Cinderella and Snow White – and I think its pretty clear that the Bible is not in the same category as these. The Mirriam-Webster definition would also seem to encompass various other things that we would not generally consider fairy tales, such as Greek myths and Arthurian legends, so I don’t think it’s a very good benchmark.
John Silvius says
I respect your take on Eichenwald’s article even though, based on my reading, I believe the Bible is far from “fairy tale” status. I do not consider myself a “freethinker” if the definition is one who is free to have “my opinion” regardless of whether logic and evidence point to the likelihood that it is false and could well determine my destiny if I’m wrong. I would respectfully challenge you to read Le Strobel’s “The Case for Christmas” or “The Case for Christ” which are excellent reads as presented from his “investigative reporter” perspective. You might be surprised how much historical data are available to place the writings of Jesus’ followers within less than 20 years of His death and resurrection. In contrast, we have a good record of the life of Alexander the Great in spite of a several- hundred-year gap between his death and the first recorded manuscripts.
Jerome Hildebrand says
What you have written JAS is itself so enlightened you seem to present yourself in possession of some secret knowledge of truth that very few indeed can possess. Including Christians and atheists by your own definition. This is called gnosticism, and it is laughable that you think it new and enlightening.
Katherine White says
Actually, I was coming here hoping for a decent rebuttal, and was pretty disappointed. For example the answer to the fact that there are many many homosexual youth cast out of their homes (or put into abusive “treatment” programs, or various other mistreatments), was answered with a sort of “nu-uh,and we adopt kids too!” Which was a non-answer and a rabbit trail in one.
In any event, after reading both articles, I know nothing more than I did when I started, and that’s disappointing.
steve hays says
Have you ever considered that the homosexual lifestyle is, itself, abusive?
Clint S says
Your comment to Katherine is a perfect example of the point Eichenwald appears to be making. The “homosexual lifestyle”, like the “heterosexual lifestyle” is as abusive or uplifting as the participants involved. I know gay couples in loving relationships leading productive and fulfilling lives. And I know heterosexuals living lives full of hate and ignorance (and yet I’m not blaming their shortcomings on their heterosexuality).
Most of the abuse that homosexuals have to endure come from “Christians” who do in fact use the Bible as a club against them. Your attitude is one broad stroke of condemnation against a marginalized minority that numbers in the millions. Do you really want to claim that this is “Christian love in action”?
steve hays says
If you mouse over to the CDC and explore the medical maladies which are endemic to homosexual activity, this is not a question of how Christians view homosexuals, but how homosexuals abuse their own bodies.
Guglielmo Marinaro says
THE homosexual lifestyle? There are as many possible homosexual lifestyles to choose from as there are heterosexual ones. Which particular one do you have in mind?
The fact that you think an article that criticizes the bible is “mainstream media” shows your defensive mind set. Most Americans still believe in the bible and Christian bias is always coming at every American all the time.
Fortunately, this is finally beginning to shift. With the explosion of the information age and the revelations of the childishness of the bible and Christian beliefs, mankind will hopefully keep moving away from the unnecessary need of ancient religious thought and beliefs. Religions has wreaked havoc on mankind for 1000s of years. Bloodshed in the name of God, Jesus, Allah, etc is shown to us everyday but the educated and wise will continue to grow so we can get past this impeding time of religious childishness.
Happy Winter Soltice!
Michael Kruger says
Thanks, JAS. But, you have misunderstood my statement. I didn’t say that Newsweek was “mainstream media” because they criticized the Bible. Rather, they are mainstream media by definition (given their size, scope, and well-established liberal perspective).
As for your claim that all religion is bad and childish, do you realize how incredibly arrogant and dogmatic that sounds? Atheists are always accusing Christians of arrogance and dogmatism, but you need to see that you are guilty of the same charges. You are basically saying that millions of adherents to these religions, over thousands of years, are all wrong. And YOU are right.
Of course, Christians make absolute statements too. But at least we do it on the basis of purported divine revelation (the Bible). What’s your basis for the absolute claims you make?
Newsweek is a “mainstream media” publication, is it not? Print editions were on sale all the way over here in South Africa, after all…
Your seeming need to correct Dr. Kruger from the safety of your keyboard shows your defensive mindset. Speaking of bloodshed, don’t forget the contribution of atheist state ideologies: Stalin and Chairman Mao managed around ninety million alone.
By the “Bloodshed” you speak of as being “shown to us everyday,” I can only assume you mean the antics of organizations such as “Islamic State.” Are you aware that they even many conservative Muslims condemn their actions?
And when the Bible teaches Christians to endure persecution, be at peace with other people as much as they can, and to love their neighbours as themselves, surely you will understand that grouping us together with the likes of IS is something I would have thought beneath someone so concerned with being educated.
It sounds like you’re expending every effort to suppress the truth in unrighteousness. But it may be that God will soon shine in your heart too, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, as pleases Him.
I hope you will be blessed over this festive season and in the new year ahead,
Thank you Mike. I truly respect your opinions and I apologize for any insulting context in my statements. I come from a big Christian family and I show respect to all of them for their beliefs but many of them do not reciprocate so I get defensive sometimes.
I am actually not an atheist. I am a freethinker. An atheist is a hypocrite by definition, in my opinion. I have been studying religion, psychology, philosophy, science, anthropology, and mythology for 25 years. I do not know if there is or was a god but I do know that the God of the bible does not exist. My son figured this out when he was 6.
Your a biblical scholar so I know you have read the bible. If you add up all the descriptions of God, there are so many opposites that the actual definition disintegrates because it’s impossible to square it out.
I realize a blog is not the best place to have a debate. However, I would appreciate continued discussions on this topic. I could keep responding here or offline directly if you want to. Warning: no Christian I have debated with has been able to handle the heat.
Out of curiosity, how do you “add up descriptions”? And how did you determine that the God of the Bible does not exist? Can you describe for us your methodology, and why your methodology works?
Dan Kreider says
“I do know that the God of the bible does not exist. My son figured this out when he was 6.”
“Warning: no Christian I have debated with has been able to take the heat.”
JAS, you might be mistakenly conflating “heat” and “hot air.” With the unfortunate mix of bloviating and condescension you’ve displayed thusfar, I think it’s unlikely that anyone is going to bother engaging you on the actual substance of your position.
David Marshall says
I am always impressed when a 6-year old “figures out” realities that elude the likes of Pascal, Kepler, Augustine, Newton, Francis Collins, C. S. Lewis, and Alvin Plantinga: he must be a prodigy indeed. However, as an historian of religion, I have shown how Christianity materially benefited billions of women, among other great acts of reform, which have not “wreaked havoc,” but improved the world greatly.
Try an experiment. Read the list of great reformers who were inspired by Jesus on pages 82-86 of my new book, How Jesus Passes the Outsider Test. How many of their stories did you know before you opened the book? If it’s less than 30, here’s a clue: you don’t have one. My guess? It will be less than 10.
Also, it is not only “indisputable” that Christian faith means “belief in the absence of evidence,” it is complete hooey. But obviously you haven’t read enough Christian thought to have a clue about that, either. See a book called True Reason, which demonstrates this fact historically, especially the chapter by philosopher Tim McGrew and myself.
Michael McCurdy says
JAS, you might be interested in studying the late Christian logicians; Cornelius Van Til, Gordon Clark, Greg Bahnsen, and Tim Robbins of the Trinity Foundation. Currently, astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle has been following in their footsteps in using pure logic to defend that ONLY Biblical Christianity is the only logically consistent belief system on earth. Lisle wrote, “Ultimate Proof of Creation”. Biblical Christianity has the best explanations for the existence of a material universe, goodness, beauty, value, meaning, pain, suffering and evil. Also, Ravi Zacharias has been speaking in all the major universities of the world on the subject of Christian apologetics. Take all these things away however and simply study the life of Christ and you must conclude that indeed, He was either a “liar, lunatic or Lord” as C.S. Lewis said. I wish you well and truly hope that the Holy Spirit opens your eyes to the truth for indeed, “truth” is not a concept(s) or idea(s) but rather, truth is a person; the person of our Creator God; Jesus Christ, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6. Our sinful hearts “suppress the truth in unrighteousness”; “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” Romans 1:18. We are “dead” in our sins and unable to see the truth that is right in front of us unless the Holy Spirit of God peels the scales away from our eyes. We basically want the freedom to sin and live without the “constraints” of God’s authority over us yet, it is only when we are born again and have the indwelling Holy Spirit that we are truly free. I will pray the Lord illuminates your spiritual vision and you realize your sinful state that is a complete afront to God’s holiness; that you realize your need of a Savior (just like all of us) and realize that God went to extremes to make it possible for sinful creatures to have their sins forgiven and washed away so that we may be able to be in His presence. He is a generous God and no gift could be greater than to give us Himself. I pray you get to experience His presence in this way. I wish all the best God has to offer you!
It’s John Robbins at the Trinity Foundation, not Tim Robbins.
JAS. please see my reply further down the blog. It might shed some light on some things.
Continue your journey my friend
Steven Yost says
Unfortunately he has never experienced the deep change of heart that comes with Christ. Being a Christian is not about living by rules but rather living your life with focus on God through faith in His only Son, Jesus. Remember, this is faith. It is sad that the world wants to destroy faith and hope.
Steven, it is not unfortunate that I don’t believe what you believe. I can tell that you were probably raised in a Christian family so you believed what you were told and went along with the crowd. That’s natural and I get it.
I was also raised in a big Christian family but I explored the non-Christian world and dug deeper into a variety of topics to increase my knowledge and understanding of the world and the human condition. My change of heart went in the direction of reality based knowledge and reason because religious faith, by definition, is the absence of proof. It is the acceptance of imaginary and unproven things that someone tells you or you read about. All organized world religions are man made. That’s an undisputable fact, if you know what a fact is.
It’s really no different than when my kids believed in Santa Claus. They believed in him just because I told them and they wanted to believe it. They had all these books and movies around them telling them about Santa and what he did and said. He knew when they were good or bad, etc. Sound familiar? It’s all nonsense.
People like me, the “world” as you refer to, do not want to destroy faith and hope. We want to end ignorance and childish beliefs. My faith and hope is in mankind reaching a higher state of existence in society beyond the society controlled by Christians, Muslims, etc. i think we will get there eventually but probably not in mine or your lifetimes.
How do you know you are a free thinker, just because you think you are? Is this not just a childish dream & how do you come to define reality. How did you go back in time to establish if God was there or not ?
I can understand where you are coming from, I grew up in a Christian family and walked away from it. But I did return, not because it was easy to go along with but because of where the evidence led. I couldn’t silence it’s consequences for my life.
So, I must disagree with your definition of religious faith. It is actually trust in something found to be trustworthy, in the face of difficulty. Your definition may stand as having been indicative of your “faith” experience and the reason you left it, and was definitely part of my reasoning for practically leaving it as well.
There really isn’t any legitimate parallel between Jesus and Santa claus… but I imagine another will touch on the significance of the historical, etc
God bless and merry Christmas,
Ed Dingess says
In other words, you exchanged divine revelation for your own stripe of reason and your own view of the world, as the ultimate reference point by which all claims to truth would be measured. Rather than God being your ultimate reference point, you became your own ultimate reference point. Additionally, you point to “reality” as if such a thing exists independent of interpretation. What you fail to realize is that you operate on presuppositions that are faith-based the same as those you criticize. You cannot even begin to measure truth claims without some idea of a criteria. But you cannot have even an idea criteria without some knowledge. Additionally, you cannot possess knowledge without some idea of criteria for judging whether or not it is true knowledge. Can you see your dilemma?
You speak of “reality based knowledge” as if it’s just there for anyone with half a brain to see. But isn’t that the point? Which version of reality are you talking about? Just in case you missed it, philosophers are anything but agreed on what reality is after all. In a universe of chance, knowledge is actually impossible. The relationships necessary for the underpinning of knowledge are nothing more than individual unrelated events in a chance universe. Induction becomes a vicious circle that can produce nothing but questions and no answers. It evaporates. And with it all science too. Your view of the world is based on abstract reasoning coupled with human autonomy. I would love to hear your philosophy of fact. What makes a fact a fact? What work have you done to solve the one-many problem because if I take your words at face value, you seem to have figured it all out and reached the conclusion that Christians are just ignorant, superstitious people that don’t know any better.
Your claim of reality based knowledge sounds very similar to a naive common sense realism where the senses are completely reliable in and under all circumstances. You ignore or fail to understand the devastation that your system of works on it’s own self given your basic commitments to what reality actually is. The rationality of the human mind and the irrationality of particulars cannot be brought together by science or any other philosophy known to man. At the end of the discussion, what I hear from guys like you is, “that is just the way things are.” And I suspect if you are pressed enough on your basic beliefs, that you too will end with, “thats just the way things are.” You will not be able to account for the intelligibility of human experience, in areas like logic, science, morality, because apart from God, they are simply not intelligible.
Finally, to compare belief in Santa Claus to belief in Jesus Christ as the second person of the self-contained ontological Trinity revealed in Christian Scripture displays an amazing ignorance of historic Christian orthodoxy and the historical account of the Christian faith from the very beginning, starting with Gen. 3:15. Being raised in a “Christian” home in America really isn’t helpful in assessing one’s actual understanding of Christian theism. In fact, in many cases, it is an obstacle to understand biblical faith and that is a very sad state of affairs indeed.
Alan Muxlow says
Wow. I’m not sure JAS will appreciate this, but I sure did! Keep up the good work.
JAS, I just need to say that I did not grow up in a Christian home and came to Christ after two kids and finding the right church. Sorry you had a bad experience somewhere along the line to turn you from God. Worship is vertical, not horizontal. Stop looking around yourself, and look up.
steve hays says
“because religious faith, by definition, is the absence of proof.”
Who is defining religious faith as the absence of proof? Is that how Christian theologians generally define religious faith? Is that how Christian philosophers generally define faith?
For instance, Princeton theologian B. B. Warfield defined faith as “a mental state or act which is determined by sufficient reasons.” Moreover, he said faith is based on testimonial evidence.
“It is the acceptance of imaginary and unproven things that someone tells you or you read about.”
To say they’re imaginary or unproven begs the question. Moreover, nearly everything you yourself believe is based on what someone told you or you read about. So your objection is self-refuting.
Hebrews 11-1-3 Hebrews 11:1-3 NIV
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
Romans 1 among many other texts needs to be considered when understanding living by faith. Evolutionary dogma also has its faith in certain presumptions & ever changing “evidences or facts”. The disciples were challenged by Jesus to live by faith & He was there with them while many rejected the Christ…Faith in action is probably different to knowledge of history & prophecy for the future but none the less true.
Creation & the Fall is not that hard to experience along with the reality of sin & death, Did Israel go into exile, was the temple destroyed,etc, all physical realities, yet we require something more than knowledge to live by faith…the Spirit, action & truth.
Another reality is oppostion to God (not that hard to see!). So its good news vs newsweek or newsweak as Dr Kruger rightly points out the false accusations against the household of faith.
timothy Rea says
Castigating Newsweek is a complete waste of time and energy. It is like debating with a brick wall.
Sylvia Peck (@spit316) says
There are people who will read the Newsweek article who will also have this blog post available to them. Perhaps Newsweek will not apologize, but it is good for the public to have this piece stating that they should and explaining why.
This kind of stuff makes me worry about the fate of our society.
Perhaps it’s simply a misconception on my part, but it seems to me that unbelievers used to have a little more integrity and commitment to the truth. It’s like they’re not even trying anymore.
Alan Muxlow says
The Newsweek article is simply a vehicle to proclaim the truth of the Bible. Jesus corrected error and so did Paul. There is a long Biblical tradition of addressing the false claims of unbelievers.
I love your play on words at the end Michael,
“factual errors are legion”. Exposing the motivation behind this is that its not carnal but in fact spiritual and requires that Christians exercise the pulling down of strongholds and capture every thought and imagination holding itself against the knowledge of God to the obedience of Christ – 2 Corinthians 10:4-6. The gift Christians have of persecution is to drive them deeper into the faith and knowledge of God as their hope and salvation. Amen.
Great article, Michael! Thanks for writing it. I have been meaning to read Canon Revisited — Dr. James Anderson recommended it in a class of his that I took. Merry Christmas!!!
Jeff D. says
James White also dealt with the article on The Divine Line on 12/23. The audio is located here
Billy Mac says
Dr. White did a good job. Although I’m posting this blog post on my facebook. It would probably be of good use to non-geeky types I attend church with. It was written well enough to sharpen my understanding, and to give a good working understanding to someone who hasn’t read much concerning these things. Thank you Mr Kruger.
Bill Emanon says
Good post, but you’re wasting your time. Nobody reads Newsweek anymore anyway. Trying to answer Newsweek (or HuffPost etc) is like trying to teach a pig to sing — it wastes your time and annoys the pig,
Grace to you!
Jeff D. says
Not a waste of time. I appreciate so much the president of a seminary, on the front lines. It is good for us, it is good for the unbeliever to read as well. Thank you Dr. Kruger.
I began reading the article but honestly, stopped after just a few minutes. The errors were so glaring that even a regular layperson with any Bible and history knowledge would see them for what they are. These are the kinds of arguments I’ve seen on boards from those who are completely ignorant of the truth but will spout what they have heard from a couple of (quite ignorant) people. It’s crazy how easy it is to show the truth and short circuit their arguments and now I see these same arguments in a mainstream publication? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised but I would have hoped that the publication would have done a LITTLE more research!
Testimony of four gospels, via Irenaeus (ca. 175-185; Wikipedia has a reasonable bibliography):
It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the “pillar and ground” of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life; it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh.
(Against Heresies, III.11.8; available from newadvent.org or ccel.org in Philip Shaff’s Ante-nicene Fathers, or a convenient Google search near you.)
Information regarding manuscripts is almost embarassingly prolific. The NT is inarguably the best-attested ancient document in existence, and so has engendered a good bit of research from all comers.
To be charitable, the NW article probably munges things together a little bit. There are more than five thousand Greek texts of varying age, some quite early (p52, at present the earliest, is dated ca. 125). CARM cites Geisler, 2001, with the number of 5,686 (http://carm.org/manuscript-evidence). More have been discovered, but it’s probably not greater than 5,800, I think.
There are other non-Greek witnesses to the NT in many languages including Syriac, Coptic, Latin, Old Church Slavonic, et c., and it may be that the author cites a number that includes all of these texts, too. Without attribution, it’s hard to say. CARM says there are more than 25,000 from all sources.
Most of the arguments about the assembly of the NT are not very nuanced. The major texts were compiled, it’s true, in the 300s and 400s, but compilation and authoring are two very different things: a book with a table of contents does not spring out of nothing. Much of the NT witness is far earlier: even skeptics admit that there are four Pauline epistles that were written before 64 AD, and p46 (which contains some of his letters) dates from ca. 175. (You can read about it at earlychristianwritings.com; the technical term is German, natch: Hauptbriefe.)
Bruce Metzger and F. F. Bruce are generally well-regarded authors in the text-critical space if you’re interested in dead-tree sources.
While space (and probably attention) fails to capture the discussion of the canon, the Muratorian fragment is of some interest here (a 7th c. witness to a ca. 170 list of NT books). Tertullian’s attacks (ca. 208 AD) against Marcion indicate that there were works that were accepted among the ancients as well. ntcanon.org has a number of resources.
So there are a few things to chew on.
Heath Norment says
Dr. Kruger, thanks for taking the time to not only write this article, but also in responding to those who- deliberately or not- are critical of your research. I, along with many others, look forward to your second part.
Foppe VanderZwaag says
Thanks, brother, for your quick response. I too was astounded, not only that Eichenwald offered such cheap potshots at the Bible and Christianity, but also that any reputable paper would even publish it. Just a small note, clean up some typos. Someone might stumble on them. Appreciate your first installment. Look forward to the next.
Paul M says
As I can fully understand the desire to contend for the faith against such idiotic articles and their authors (who masquerade as journalists), I submit it is a waste of time and only furthers a written fistfight with no positive outcome…ignoring them is a better strategy. Articles working to discredit are merely intended to distract. Besides, there are those who choose to not “hear or see” no matter the evidence.
Great article! Just a note because your accusers will likely pounce on it–typo on the 16th line under “Irresponsible Accusations.” I think there is a word missing.
AJ Castellitto says
Same tired old fabricated secular shots @ Truth! They have no shame!
Isn’t it interesting how vehemently a “non-believer” fights and thrashes and rages against “Someone” they claim doesn’t even exist…?
…Always amusing to me, as one who is eagerly looking forward to enjoying the company of the Trinity in the New Year…..Prayers for all ~
ferdinand paguia says
Christianity and its Bible have been assailed by its opponents since time immemorial. The Word of Truth have been contradicted since the Garden. But God in His omnipotence have always guarded the hearts of His people against such tirades. We have apologists who take the defense of the faith for the simple believers. We can never expect the opponents to say anything good about our God (even denying His existence), because they have never experienced His goodness, or if ever they have, they deny that it comes from Him. Let’s just continue to pray for these people and never lose that compassion for them. God never tires of extending His love even for His enemies, and so must we do the same.
steve hays says
I think some commenters miss the point of Kruger’s critical review when they dismiss it as a “waste of time.” I doubt that Dr. Kruger is attempting to persuade Eichenwald or the Newsweek editors that they are mistaken. That’s not his objective or target audience.
Rather, he’s writing this for the benefit of fellow Christians–as well as non-Christian lurkers who may be unaware of the other side of the argument.
Likewise, the point is at issue is not how many people happen to read Newsweek. Rather, this Newsweek article is representative of stock objections to the historical Jesus. So Kruger’s rebuttal is generally relevant to those *kinds* of objections, which unbelievers recycle ad nauseum.
Christian parents are naive if they think these sort of objections can be safely ignored. Many kids raised in evangelical churches lose their faith when they go to college or read a book by an atheist because they were not forearmed to deal with these objections.
Kurt Eichenwald says
I enjoy good theological discussion and would never attempt to claim that one person has the knowledge of the absolute truth of the Bible, but…
Most of what you said in the beginning of this article about what I wrote and what I meant is wrong. I never criticized Christians – in fact, when you posted this, I was spending the day with some of the finest Christians I have ever met.
No, the people I was writing about are the hypocrites – the ones who use the Bible to condemn and judge others while ignoring Jesus’s admonitions against doing that, the ones who believe that football stadium prayers are in keeping with Jesus’s words about prayer, the ones who call giant granite ten commandment statues are sacred and worship there even though this is specifically criticized by God in the Old Testament, and on and on.
What I am criticizing are those who call themselves Biblical literalists who say they believe every word of the Bible is from God, but then pick and choose what parts of the Bible they want to claim are absolute. This is not about Christianity. It is about hypocrisy.
As for the rest of the piece: the essence of the message is, dont just take what some person tells you and declare it the word of God. It’s not. Read the Bible, in all of its substance, both reverently and critically (meaning dont just gloss over contradictions and its history, but learn them and contemplate them.)
What the piece advocates is reading and learning about the Bible, because too few people do that. And it astounds me how many Christians say they find that to be an atheistic message and resort to name-calling. (Which is a sin, by the way.)
Michael Kruger says
Thanks for your comments, Kurt. I appreciate you engaging in a dialogue here. But, the claim that you are not really criticizing Christians rings a bit hollow. Truthfully, the strong reaction your article has elicited from Christians from all over the country shows that they feel very criticized. Even if that wasn’t the intent of your article, that is what it accomplished.
Also, the explanation that you are not criticizing Christians only works if you get decide who is really a Christian and who is not–based on your own opinions of what constitutes a Christian. Truthfully, such comments come across as judgmental, which is perhaps why so many Christians find your article troubling. With a wave of the hand, you dismiss an enormous number of professing Christians because they express their faith in a way that is offensive to you.
Maybe your argument is that these folks aren’t Christians because their actions don’t match the Bible. I agree that is a good standard to use. But, I think you are operating out of a misunderstanding of what the Bible teaches at a number of points. You mention Christians are inconsistent in three areas. Let me address them one at a time:
1. You claim it is unbiblical for Christians to judge. I assume you mean Christians shouldn’t go around condemning people’s behavior based on Matt 7:1. Truthfully, this is one of the most misunderstood passages in the Bible–and it is often misquoted and misapplied by the mainstream media in precisely the way you have done. But this understanding of the passage, although very common, is a serious distortion of the text. First, Jesus is not saying that it is wrong to call out sin in people’s lives or to condemn immoral behavior. In fact, Jesus spends much of his ministry doing this very thing! In the rest of the sermon on the mount (prior to Matt 7:1) Jesus condemns all sorts of behaviors as immoral. Second, other NT authors spend a good deal of time condemning sinful behavior (read the apostle Paul, for example, especially 1 Corinthians). Third, you assume that it is harmful to someone when we declare their behavior to be sinful. But, according to Scripture, we are loving people when we warn them against their destructive lifestyle and turn them back to the path of life. Fourth, you spent a good deal of your own article condemning people’s behavior! You had all sorts of condemning comments for Christians whom you claim shut children out of their homes. On your own terms, you are the one violating Jesus’ command not to judge.
Jesus’ point in this passage was not that one can never condemn sinful behavior. Nor was he trying to say something like “You can never tell someone they sin, because you are a sinner too.” Instead, Jesus was speaking to the self-righteousness of the Pharisees (and others) who condemned others while they were unwilling to hold themselves to the same standard.
The truth of the matter is that God calls us to affirm the moral standards laid out in the Bible, while recognizing our own sinfulness and dependence on God’s mercy. Christians should always be willing to call something a sin that Jesus calls a sin.
2. You keep complaining about prayers in a football stadium. Truthfully, I am confused on your objection to this. Christians gathering together for corporate prayer has been a common practice throughout the history of the church, even in significant numbers. Perhaps you are referring to Matt 6:5 when Jesus says we are not pray for show, but to pray in secret? But, Jesus’ words here are not a prohibition against public prayer meetings, otherwise Christians could never even pray in a church service! He is referring to the Pharisees who intentionally put their prayer on display for show and to make themselves look good. I can’t speak for the motivation of every Christian who has every prayed in a football stadium, but I hesitate to judge the motivations of a heart that isn’t my own. In the spirit of charity, I think it is fair to say that most of them are not doing it to make themselves look good; on the contrary, they recognize that many people will heap scorn on them. They are doing it because they believe in the power of prayer and the power of coming together as Christians for a common cause.
3. You criticize Christians for “worship” at the base of 10 commandment statues. I assume the problem here is the bible condemns idolatry, and you take this as a form of idolatry? If so, then you are misinformed about what Christians are doing when they advocate the posting of the 10 commandments. Christians are not viewing that as an idol or an act of worship, and it is seriously misleading for you to portray them as doing such. Even a minimal amount of journalistic research about this (perhaps by interviewing Christians about what they intend and why they are doing it) would reveal that this has nothing to do with worship.
As for the rest of your piece, you have not responded or clarified any of your very serious factual mistakes about the history of the Bible. For a journalist to make this many historical errors about the Bible in a single article, after chiding Christians for their biblical illiteracy, needs to be seen for the problem that it is. You have misled the public by these factual mistakes and you should acknowledge them in a retraction.
I agree that many Christians need to know the Bible better. But your article didn’t come across as a positive encouragement for Christians to read their holy book more closely. Instead, it came across as an attempt to destroy the credibility of the Bible and the moral integrity of Christians. Again, it came across as fundamentally judgmental and condemning–two of the very things you seem to accuse Christians of doing.
By way of example, your opening paragraphs refer to Christians as “frauds” and to Christianity as a religion that “engenders hate and condemnation, when it impedes science and undermines intellectual advancement.” Do you really think such comments are going to create an open and honest dialogue? And do you really think that people will receive your article as merely an attempt to address biblical illiteracy?
My take away from your article is that you probably have read very few books by Christian scholars on the other side of the debate. If you have, you never mentioned a single one in your article. Indeed, the only scholar you mentioned in your article is one of Christianity’s most vocal opponents, Bart Ehrman. If you are interested, I am more than willing to begin a larger dialogue with you (offline, of course) to share the perspective of an evangelical scholar. There are answers to the issues you raised, perhaps it would be interesting for you to hear them.
My invitation is genuine. Let me know if you want to discuss further.
Hello Professor Kruger,
I appreciate your response to Mr. Eichenwald and believe you are correct on almost all counts – but I think one correction needs to be made. You said to Mr. Eichenwald, “the only scholar you mentioned in your article is one of Christianity’s most vocal opponents, Bart Ehrman.” I counted three reference to Ehrman in his original article, but he did also refer to Jason David BeDuhn and Richard Elliott Friedman. I couldn’t find any references to any conservative scholars. I agree with your overall point that Eichenwald’s errors and distortions would probably have been avoided if he didn’t just cite professors from one side of the debate (Pat Robertson and Sarah Palin don’t count as “scholars” here).
Thank you for your very detailed responses on these topics. They helped me a great deal.
Kurt Eichenwald says
Thanks for the respect you are offering me in this discussion. That does not seem to be the case with some of the folks commenting here. I appreciate it.
I think there are a few primary points in my piece that are critically important: I do not believe that God speaks in whispers and riddles, that what the words say are what the words say, which is why it is so important to be sure what you are reading is what the original author wrote. I can pick up 10 different english bibles and read 10 different sets of words. Not all of them are right. They can’t be.
I would say I am a redline Christian – meaning that the words attributed in the Gospels as coming out of Jesus’s mouth are the most important. I think too many people reach for other sections of the Bible when the words from Jesus grow uncomfortable and then pick and choose which of those they want to follow.
Let’s take a bit of what you talk about here: Jesus’s words in the Sermon on the Mount are abundantly clear – all of us have planks in our eyes and should be focusing on our own shortcomings and sins rather than spending time pointing out the splinters in others’ eyes. This was not directed to the pharisees – this was directed to the crowds. The words Jesus uses throughout the Sermon is “you.” He says that here as well. And when he talks about judgment, he continuously is saying how people will not see the Kingdom of God.
Which leads to: You say Jesus condemned behaviors all the time. Yes, he did – and we are not Jesus. If you consider Jesus to be God, then you also know that God knows what will allow people to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. God does not need our help in determining who is or is not saved. Preach the Gospel? Go for it. Stand there condemning other people and justifying that by saying Jesus did it too? The sin of pride.
The one thing too many fundamentalists miss in this piece is the basic point: If they believe every word of the Bible is the literal Word of God and therefore they have the right to condemn certain behaviors, they cannot pick and choose which ones to condemn. Being a drunkard or prideful or debating are listed as sins in parenthetical clauses right along with engaging in an act with the same sex. How does someone stand by and proclaim someone else is damned and not then exhibit the sin of pride? How can a woman say that the Bible is the word of God and that she follows every word and then where pearls, or work as a teacher, or have a job at all in which any men report to her without violating 2 Timothy?
That is my point. Too many Christians seem to believe that the Bible is absolute until it comes to their own behavior. They rank sins based on which they themselves think are worse, when there is no such ranking. They do not accept themselves as sinners, because if they did, they would be focusing on planks in their own eyes. And they do not accept that sinners – even those that keep sinning – are saved by their faith in Christ and the resurrection.
As for the big public prayers – once again, the words of Jesus are quite clear. Saying “the church has done this for centuries” does not get around the fact that the words are quite clear. Jesus says prayer is to be something done in private, in secret. He does not say “the pharisees” – he says, once again, “you.” To say that people are going up on the giant sony trinitrons or waving their arms and shouting in any way conforms with the redline words of Jesus is beyond me. Again, it is possible to rationalize around the problem, and lots of people do it. But Jesus’s words are absolutely clear. I’m not sure why anyone would think Jesus didn’t mean exactly what he said. And if they believe the words are the absolute word of God, why do they ignore them? Or why do they need to read things into them that aren’t there? What is Jesus talking about when he says don’t babble like the gentiles, but say the Lord’s Prayer. That is very clear to me, and I am not sure how it is not.
As for the 10 Commandment Statues – this came from an interview I saw where a Christian minister was talking about one of these things where he had been praying and declared that it could not be moved because it was “a sacred stone.” And it amazed me that someone who supposedly taught others how to follow God could even consider using that phrase. Deuteronomy is also quite clear: “Do not erect a sacred stone, for these the LORD your God hates.” That someone could use that phrase while kneeling and praying at what is little more than a rock amazed me – it is not sacred. And, when I have this discussion, too many Christians proclaim to me that it is.
So, in the end, what was the piece about? That people need to stop thinking the Bible is a simple book. If they wish to say it is the absolute word of God from Genesis to Revelation, then they have to live ALL of it, not just bits and pieces. They can’t focus on five sins and use that to condemn other people while ignoring the 300 others, many of which apply to all of us. They shouldnt reinterpret clear words to make them easier. They need to know what the Bible says and not just start with what they believe and try to read what they want into it. And to know that, they need to know what the original authors said, to the closest degree possible.
That was what the piece was about. And it amazes me that there are some people who would actually consider that an anti-Biblical or anti-Christian message. It goes to my point – there are people who are so prideful that they believe those who disagree with them aren’t Christians. All I ask is that people honor their own words – if every word of the Bible is true, then they must abide by every word. And they shouldn’t play games with the words to make them fit.
Bottom line: God doesn’t speak in whispers and riddles. And He doesn’t need our help in making judgment.
Jeff D. says
Kurt. Will you go on the podcast with James White this week?
steve hays says
“I would say I am a redline Christian – meaning that the words attributed in the Gospels as coming out of Jesus’s mouth are the most important.”
i) One problem with that statement is that, at best, it has regard for the authority Jesus, but disregards the authority of Scripture.
Another problem is that “redline Christians” typically have a low Christology. They reject the deity of Christ. So they don’t think his words are absolutely authoritative.
A case in point is asserting that Jesus mispredicted the future.
ii) Also note the disclaimer: words “attributed” to Jesus. That illustrates how you can’t separate the authority of Jesus from the authority of Scripture. If the Gospels are fallible, uninspired records, then these are merely words attributed to Jesus. They may really be the words which the redactor put in his mouth, like a playwright who creates dialogue for his fictional characters.
“And it amazes me that there are some people who would actually consider that an anti-Biblical or anti-Christian message.”
By definition, an article that attacks the veracity of Scripture is anti-Biblical.
“It goes to my point – there are people who are so prideful that they believe those who disagree with them aren’t Christians.”
i) That hyperbolic trope is an intellectual co-out. Dr. Kruger doesn’t take the position that if someone disagrees with him, that ipso facto means they are not Christian.
Suppose Dr. Kruger is an amillennialist. That doesn’t mean he thinks premillennialists aren’t Christian. Although he’s a Presbyterian, that doesn’t mean he thinks Baptists, Lutherans, or Evangelical Anglicans aren’t Christian.
ii) The Bible contains explicit creedal statements. In addition, entire books of the NT are written to explain to Christians what they are supposed to believe. From the standpoint of the NT church, to be a Christian you must believe certain things and disbelieve contrary things. There are boundaries to what constitutes a Christian profession of faith. Some things are out of bounds.
iii) It’s unclear why considering himself a Christian is something that Kurt values. Why does he take umbrage when that’s questioned? What makes that important to him?
iv) This isn’t just a question of how “fundamentalists” view people like Kurt. Atheists also question why people like Kurt cling to a Christian residual instead of making a clean break. Atheists consider the position of somebody like Kurt to be an inconsistent and intellectually unstable compromise.
James Snapp, Jr. says
No matter what you might have been /trying/ to do, many of your statements in your article are demonstrably false. Are you going to retract them or not?
These words you write appear to be a testimony of your belief in the authoritative word of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. True believers openly declare their faith in Christ. Your choice of wording here compared to some in your article seem a bit contradictory; will you now clarify for us your genuine belief? Do you, Kurt, believe that the historical Jesus of Nazareth is The Son of God, fully man and fully God, and that He is our ONLY path to redemption as the Messiah prophesied in Scripture? Is Christ Jesus your Lord and Savior whom you accept as such?
Thank you for your time, and courage to respond here, in defense of your writings.
Kurt, you say the essence of the message is, dont just take what some person tells you and declare it the word of God. It’s not. Read the Bible, in all of its substance, both reverently and critically (meaning dont just gloss over contradictions and its history, but learn them and contemplate them.)
I wonder why you didn’t just this if this is what your message was? For some reason, you included all kinds of stuff that has no basis in reality, and that makes it hard to read the rest of your article with any seriousness.
If this is your message, I (as an evangelical pastor) agree 100% with you. I routinely tell my congregation not to believe something because I say it, but to study the word.
When people come to me with the complaints about contradictions, I always like to ask them to identify one. I have yet to have a person identify an actual contradiction. Many of them just bail out right there. Every now and then, people suggest one that, upon actual study, turns out not to be a contradiction.
Most interesting, you talk about the hypocrisy of those who only believe part of the Bible and get rid of the parts they don’t like. Then you talk about being a redline Christian (I think you mean a red letter Christian). By definition, it seems you pick the words of the Bible you want (the red letter words) and dispense with the rest of it. I would suggest you can’t do that, if for no other reason because it includes yourself as a target of your own writing. But there’s actually a better reason. Those “red letter words” affirm the authority of all of Scripture for those to whom it was written.
I definitely think the Bible deserves a more serious interaction than you have given it here. I hope you will give it that.
Jerome Hildebrand says
Very well said.
Michael Weeks says
I think it is obvious Kurt that you are preaching the religious belief of equality irrespective of morality and that is in complete and obvious contradiction to God’s word. So much of what you claim is easily shown to be false and I look forward to Newsweek publishing an in-depth reply.
Rhonda McIntyre says
Mr. Eichenwald, you stated above that this article was written about Christian hypocrisy and you clearly defined what you believe that looks like. You also went to great lengths to refute the historical revelations and truths of God’s word and how that evolved over time. However, because you are not literate in biblical history nor a Christian yourself, all you really wrote was an uneducated, uninformed and generalized article on bashing Christians and their beliefs. How appropriate also for you that this article was published right at Christmas time.
Interesting also that you above in response define name calling a sin. Jesus didn’t have a problem calling the Righteous Pharisees “Vipers”. Jesus also warned followers in scripture to beware of “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing”. Jesus called twelve men as his disciples and the New Testament gives the varied accounts of these ordinary individuals. One disciple betrayed him and the other eleven really didn’t totally “get” who Jesus was and is until he was crucified and rose again. I would imagine after being with Jesus for nearly three years and then being first hand witnesses to his death and resurrection there would be quite a bit of journaling going on.
And so as Christians today. We all are on individual paths following Jesus. If we allow his spirit within to lead us our path is straight but because we are all human, we fail many times. Because we are not perfect we look to the one who is. Yes, there are those who are wolves in sheeps clothing that claim to be Christians and are not. But God will deal with them in the final days.
Mr. Eichenwald, I would suggest that you do a better informed search on this entire subject. Have you ever read “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel?
Kurt Eichenwald says
I will come back to address some of the other issues soon when I am not so busy, but I must address this:
From where do you get the decision that I am not a Christian? I hope it is not simply because I don’t believe exactly the same as you. The Christian world would be quite a small one – and full of people with sinful pride – if only those who think exactly as you do count as followers of Christ.
Ed Dingess says
This raises a very interesting question. Your complaint is that Christians misunderstand the teachings of Scripture. That raises the question as to how you think the Bible defines what it is to be a Christian. After all, I cannot think of any teaching more basic to the Christian faith than that. That being said, if you could put your finger on the one thing that separates Christians from non-Christians, what would it be? In other words, why do you believe (you seem to imply that you believe) that you are in fact a Christian? And if you were put on trial and accused of being a Christian, what evidence would the prosecution have readily available to make it’s case against you?
John Kreiner says
Kurt, If you want to say you’re a “Christian” because you’ve studied the Bible and adhere in some sense to some of the teachings of Jesus, you have a right to your opinion. However, if you want to be one in the Biblical sense of being “born again” as Jesus talks about in John 3 (to a religious leader who had knowledge of the Hebrew scriptures, no less), and what Michael Krueger is talking about, a minimum condition (necessary but not sufficient) is to believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, that he was as dead as Abraham Lincoln and Kurt Cobain are, and became at least as alive as you or me today. Given the fact that you quote Bart Ehrman in your article, and he denies the bodily resurrection of Jesus, it’s not a bad assumption that you agree with him on this. If you don’t agree with Ehrman on this, please clarify this. But in mine and Kruger eyes, as well as many of the other readers here, as well as the Scriptures, if you deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus, then you’re definitely not a Christian in the born again sense of John 3, and you need to repent to be saved: “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.:” (Romans 10:9 ESV)
beyond partisan (@beyondpartisan) says
You’re a liberal Christian at best – very arrogantly railing against more conservative Christians instead of trying to respect their view of things.
Jared J says
Quite glad to see this. I am disappointed that an exhaustive catalogue and refutation of the factual errors isn’t a practical option. You have been very generous to Eichenwald in the small sample of factual problems you’ve mentioned. I doubt even an Ehrman could give Eichenwald’s article a pass with a clear conscience. It’s more on par with Archaya S. stuff.
David W. says
Mr. Kruger, your rebuttal to the Newsweek article amounts to the same generic rebuttals offered in debates between New Testament scholars such as any ‘Believer Scholar’ versus Bart Erhmann. The debates always consist of disagreements about the texts of varying degree with the Believer simply aghast at the egregious mistakes made by the unbelieving critic. The Newsweek article covers a lot of ground beyond the specialty of textual criticism and historical knowledge of the construction of the New Testament. You never even attempt to debate the rather truthful description of contradictions, the changing nature of God from Genesis to Revelation or the very plain and truthful description of Jesus. What is your answer to Jesus plainly saying his return would be within the lifetimes of some of his followers or Paul’s plain instructions indicating an imminent return. Jesus clearly taught that the end was near, thus his instructions to not worry about tomorrow, to forsake family and friends, etc. You never answer the abundant questions about the Trinity or the nature of The Holy Spirit, the Rapture or any number of legitimate points brought up by the Newsweek article that seriously undermines the foundation of what we understand as Christianity and what it means to be a Christian. Laughing at the ignorance of Newsweek’s textual assertions does nothing to rebut the point of the entire article, the majority of which has nothing to do with the nit picky disagreements of a few years here and number of copies there. You ridicule specific points and even quote them but don’t offer even the slightest support for your ridicule. You hide behind this being a blog and ask readers to hunt through your other writings and books. The fact of the matter is that you cannot rebut anything but the minor details of textual assertions which makes this no rebuttal at all. .
Michael Kruger says
Thanks for the comments, David. But, I think your complaints miss the mark:
1. You complain my rebuttal is “generic” and that I don’t offer “even the slightest support” for my claims. Not sure what you mean by this. If you mean that I don’t offer extensive footnotes or citations of primary sources, then you have a profound misunderstanding of what a blog article can (or should) do. The limitations of the blog article are precisely why I point people to my more thorough historical works. It seems you are dissatisfied with either option. You complain my blog article offers insufficient support, and then when I point people to more thorough treatments of these issues you claim that I am just avoiding the issues. You seem difficult to please.
2. You complain about all the issues I did not address. However, keep in mind that (a) this is only the first installment of my response; a second one is coming. (b) No rebuttal can address every single issue raised by the original author. A more charitable approach is to just consider the issues I do address.
3. You act like the legion of historical errors made by the original author are irrelevant. You call these “minor details.” But doesn’t this call into serious doubt the other historical claims made by the author? If he gets some many historical things wrong, why are you so sure he gets the other things right? What it demonstrates is that this author is (a) not adequately informed about his subject, and (b) prone to exaggerate the problems with the Bible to make his case. I doubt you would be so forgiving if the author was an evangelical Christian and made similar mistakes.
David W. says
Thank you for the reply but with all due respect it appears to my reading that it is you who misses the mark by concentrating your criticism on the “legion of historical errors” most of which concern textual criticism and canon construction rather than the larger point of the piece. The author is criticizing the modern incarnation and practice of Christianity as it exists and seems at odds with the Bible itself as we know it. ‘We’ being the ordinary human exposed to American Protestant and Catholic teachings through the King James Bible and American Christian church culture. Anyone who has read or listened to a variety of New Testament scholars could spot several instances where the author was off the mark a bit however that does not mean the author was equally off the mark in other areas. Anyone who embarks on a plain reading of the Bible in its entirety will recognize the inconsistencies and head scratching contradictions the author points out. Any reasonably intelligent person will wonder at some of the teachings and instructions of Jesus, Paul, and other disciples in their seeming urgency at events described as immediately forthcoming now 2,000 years in the past. You speak to none of this and I simply noted that no one in your line of special textual historical knowledge ever does. While I certainly feel comfortable in agreeing with your answers to the issues you do address insofar as I have knowledge of them I wonder why you do not also give the author the benefit of acknowledging the truthfulness of the far more numerous points he makes about the modern Christianity as practiced by the majority of professed Christians in these United States today.
Michael Kruger says
David, you repeatedly act like issues associated with “textual criticism and canon construction” are of no consequence. If that is the case, then why does Eichenwald spend so much time on them in in his article? Obviously he thinks they matter. Indeed, he thinks they are way to discredit the Bible. More than this, why does Bart Ehrman spend so much time on them? Obviously, he thinks they matter. You seem to be the only one that thinks they don’t.
Your continual dismissal of these issues shows that you are not willing acknowledge the positive historical evidence for the Bible when it is presented to you. Instead, you just wave it aside as if its irrelevant.
Your repeated claim that a “plain reading of the Bible” will reveal obvious inconsistencies is simply false. Most of these so-called contradictions evaporate on closer inspection. Moreover, scholars since the very beginning of Christianity (e.g., Augustine) have provided answers for these things. It is interesting to note that you seem unaware of these answers. Can you cite a single evangelical scholar you have read and show that you have interacted with his explanations?
As for your claim that Jesus said he would return within the lifetime of his disciples, this also reveals a misunderstanding of the way eschatology worked within early Christianity. For a thorough treatment of this issue, see Ben Witherington, Jesus, Paul and the End of the World.
David W. says
I never said they don’t matter. I said they matter less than the other points he brings up. And no, scholars have not “provided answers for these things”. Even C.S. Lewis remarked that Mark 13:30 is the most embarrassing verse in the Bible before wrestling with it to an unsatisfactory answer. Scholars twist, speculate, presume, and outright make up explanations for the most difficult questions raised in the Bible. To say otherwise is intellectually dishonest and I suspect you and every other Biblical Scholar knows that. Thank you for the link and I will include that in my reading this evening.
Michael Kruger says
But, you have never explained why they matter less. You just declared it to be so. The transmission and canonization of the Bible are very core issues, and scholars have affirmed this for generations. These are the issues both Eichenwald and Ehrman have raised. Again, you are the odd man out.
Your declaration that all scholars who have offered answers to these problems are “intellectually dishonest” and simply “twist” Scripture reveals an amazing amount of hubris. With a wave of the hand, you condemn all the explanations that have been offered for thousands of years of church history. And you do this without having really engaged these explanations on a scholarly level. A bit more modesty would be in order.
There is nothing “embarrassing” about Mark 13:30. You shouldn’t just take that one verse and claim what you want to perceive it to claim. You should take account of all the verses before and after that one in order to understand the context. In his commentary, David Guzik informs us:
Oh…and just for the heck of it I will include this portion:
steve hays says
“What is your answer to Jesus plainly saying his return would be within the lifetimes of some of his followers or Paul’s plain instructions indicating an imminent return. Jesus clearly taught that the end was near, thus his instructions to not worry about tomorrow, to forsake family and friends.”
Where does Jesus say not to worry because the end is near? He doesn’t. Rather, he says not to worry because Christians ought to trust in God’s providential care. If God provides for the lesser (e.g. birds), God will provide for the greater (his children). It’s an a fortiori argument, not an eschatological argument.
Where does Jesus say forsake family and friends because the end is near? He doesn’t.
In fact, he doesn’t instruct Christians to forsake family and friends. Rather, if family or erstwhile friends force a Christian to choose between them and Jesus, then allegiance to Jesus takes precedence.
David W. says
Mr. Kruger can answer this far better than I but reading the Gospels in context in their entirety you will find that Jesus does indeed demand this total commitment and disregard for one’s life and one’s future. You have understandably chosen an interpretation that is acceptable to you, not necessarily what the overall scriptures lead a reader to believe about what Jesus is saying. Your interpretation has none of the radical nature that is clearly found in Jesus.
steve hays says
Notice that David isn’t quoting any statements from Jesus that make the connection he originally claimed.
steve hays says
“Anyone who embarks on a plain reading of the Bible in its entirety will recognize the inconsistencies and head scratching contradictions the author points out.”
“An individual can easily get lost when entering the circus of competing interpretations.”
“The fact that there is widespread disagreement among scholars, denominations, schools, ministers, and believers is sufficient proof that it is unclear.”
That’s a typical specimen of how unbelievers lack critical thinking skills:
On the one hand they say the reason there’s “a circus of competing interpretations” is because they Bible is unclear.
On the other hand, they say the Bible contains “inconsistencies” and “head-scratching contradictions.”
But you can’t very well say the Bible is unclear, then in the very next breath say the Bible clearly contains inconsistencies and contradictions. An unclear Bible can’t have clear contradictions. For if the meaning if Scripture is ambiguous or obscure, then you can’t impute inconsistencies to Scripture. If the interpretation of Scripture is up for grabs, then it has no definitive meaning in reference to which you can say it contradicts itself–or anything else.
So you need to decide which chair you’re going to sit on. If you try to straddle both chairs you will fall down between them.
David W. says
Sure you can Steve. It’s very simple and I don’t have to accept the rules as you set them. Several times you have laid out in fallacious fashion my choices of what I can and can’t do.
” But you can’t very well say the Bible is unclear, then in the very next breath say the Bible clearly contains inconsistencies and contradictions. An unclear Bible can’t have clear contradictions.”
An erudite fellow such as yourself obviously struggles in communicating with less learned layman. ‘Unclear’ is perhaps a poor word choice. Maybe I should have used the phrase ‘brings into question’ or ‘instills doubt’ about major portions of the Bible and their historical truth. Is that better?
“If you disbelieve older revelation, you won’t believe newer revelation.”
And you know this how? There is no middle ground here Steve? No other choice for me on this playing field you’ve laid out? You are the one so fond of calling those who simply question, doubt, or wonder about things so very certain to you “unbelievers”. To what do you refer by that term when so recklessly labeling people? One of my favorites is, “That’s a typical specimen of how unbelievers lack critical thinking skills.”
That’s a good one Steve. False dichotomies and faulty generalizations seem to be a specialty of yours, the latter a mainstay for internet bullies. It appears to be great fun. I think I’ll try it. Here’s a typical specimen of how a jerk with few friends talks to strangers on an internet comment section:
“You’re the one who operates with a faith-based infidelity that’s impervious to empirical disconfirmation. You exercise blind faith in your secular dogmas. When I respond to you with reason and evidence, you get emotional.
Your glaring anti-intellectualism is a testament to the irrational character of infidelity.”
Who talks like that?
steve hays says
“Unbelievers” is a biblical label.
I notice that you leave out my supporting arguments when quoting me.
David W. says
I know full well ‘unbeliever’ is a Biblical term. I asked specifically what you meant by it. By the way, I was raised in the church, in a Bible believing family as conservative as the day is long. A pastor’s son, born again and baptized after what I believed to be the Holy Spirit working in my heart. I’ve read the Bible my entire life and was raised in its every influence and I’ve walked and talked with the Lord and relied upon him for the vast majority of my waking days. What happened to me was not my doing. I simply lived, observed life, read, earned degrees, worked, raised a family, and went to church. One Sunday morning one of our young pastors fresh from seminary taught a class about the construction of the Biblical Canon, how it was formed, when and how the books were written and came to be. All my life I had simply subscribed to the Scofield Bible and my upbringing that Moses had written most of the OT, that the disciples were alive and well when the Gospels were written but now my knowledge had been increased and thus my sorrow because it followed that one night I was explaining God’s plan of salvation to my children along with the usual Bible story as I tucked them into bed and suddenly it struck me as ridiculous and unbelievable and strange and bizarre. I began to question things I had never questioned before. I began to read Biblical Scholars both conservative and liberal, to view debates between scholars such as Wallace and Erhman, of Lane Craig, to read atheists and agnostics Hitchens, Harris, and apologists Lee Strobel, Chesterton, Lewis, and Albert Mohler and Garry Wills. Historians like Karen Armstrong and liberal theologians like Spong. My critical thinking skills (and yes, I possess them) combined with my life experience and whatever wisdom I have accumulated have led me to seriously question the conservative rock solid certainty of your theology and my former beliefs. This is MY story and I would advise you to not be so presumptuous and so outright condescending to those who simply wish to engage and ask questions. As someone else pointed out in these comments, the attitude of superiority on display adds support to many of the points in the Newsweek article. I’ll look for a more welcoming blog to sound out thoughts and questions in the future.
C. M. Granger says
Correct me if I’m wrong David, but if you re-read your initial comments on this blog post, you criticized Dr. Kruger for not dealing with the primary substance of the article and for missing the mark in his rebuttal of Eichenwald’s arguments. Now you state that you only wish “to engage and ask questions” when Steve challenges your assertions. What questions were you asking, exactly?
Certainly you’ve shared your personal experience. However, if you wish to defend your assertions you’ll have to defend them with argumentation. Thus far Steve has corrected your faulty understanding of several texts you cited to illustrate your points. I haven’t seen any counterarguments with regard to these texts.
It isn’t condescending to expect you to defend your positions, especially when you criticize a biblical scholar (Dr. Kruger) in a public forum such as this.
steve hays says
“What is your answer to Jesus plainly saying his return would be within the lifetimes of some of his followers or Paul’s plain instructions indicating an imminent return.”
Well, you don’t bother to quote which of Paul’s “plain instructions” you’re alluding to, so there’s nothing to respond to.
Regarding the first clause of your statement, here are two counterarguments:
steve hays says
Keep in mind that Dr. Kruger has been hosting a series of guest scholars responding to Peter Enn’s “Aha moments.” That was probably interrupted by the busy holiday season (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas) and end of term grading. I expect that will resume next year.
steve hays says
“What is your answer to Jesus plainly saying his return would be within the lifetimes of some of his followers…”
Let’s revisit this allegation. It’s a good example of how unbelievers fail to think through their position. This allegation isn’t even internally consistent with critical assumptions. That’s a problem when unbelievers simply repeat piecemeal objections which they picked up in some liberal book or article.
i) For liberals, there’s no presumption that statements attributed to Jesus in the Gospels were actually spoken by him. Hence, from a liberal standpoint, Jesus never said that. Even if it’s a shortsighted prediction, it doesn’t tell you anything about Jesus.
Rather, on liberal assumptions, this is probably a saying which the early church or the redactor made up out of whole cloth and put on the lips of Jesus.
ii) Moreover, liberals typically date the Gospels to sometime after the fall of Jerusalem. Even if they date Mark to just before AD 70, they date Matthew and Luke to a later date.
iii) Furthermore, liberals typically classify Biblical predictions as prophecy after the fact.
If, however, we combine all three liberal assumptions, then that means the Synoptic redactors invented a prophecy after the fact, which they put in Christ’s mouth–a prophecy ex eventu which, according to unbelievers, was demonstrable false at the time of writing.
But why in the world would the Synoptic redactors fabricate a prophecy which they themselves knew to be mistaken? Jerusalem lay in ashes. That was years ago. Yet there was no Parousia.
So liberal assumptions generate a liberal dilemma.
iv) Apropos (i-iii), presumably the Synoptic writers didn’t understand these predictions to be failed prophecies. If they had, wouldn’t we expect them to edit out the discredited claim? Liberals think the Synoptic writers exercise considerable license in redacting the Jesus traditions.
And if that’s not how the Synoptic writers understood the prophecy, then that’s not how modern readers should understand the prophecy. Do it make sense to interpret the prophecy contrary to how the Synoptic writers understood it?
v) If, however, it makes no sense to think Synoptic writers invented a prophecy after the fact that was demonstrably wrong even before they put it on the lips of Jesus, then what’s the alternative?
Well, the alternative is a prophecy in advance of the fact, along with a record of the prophecy in advance of the fact. In other words, you have to date the Synoptics before AD 70.
Assuming Markan priority, if Jesus died in the 30s, then Mark was written in the 50s (or sooner) while Matthew and Luke were written in the 60s (or sooner).
But that puts liberals in a bind, for in that event the Synoptic Gospels were written within living memory of Christ’s public ministry. About 20-30 years after he left the scene.
Pushing the date back makes it far harder for unbelievers to claim that the Synoptic Gospels were out of touch with the historical Jesus, with what he said and did. So that generates a different dilemma for liberal assumptions.
David B says
I appreciate very much Professor Kruger’s refutation of the many serious errors in Eichenwald’s article, and I look forward to part II of Professor Kruger’s response. It does appear that Eichenwald is only familiar with the most liberal writers on these issues. It is so sad that many people such as Eichenwald are evidently ignorant of the wealth of brilliant scholarship on the other side of the issue. For example, Dr. Gleason L. Archer, with degrees from Princeton, Suffolk University Law School, and Harvard Graduate School, in his Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties does a brilliant job of answering objections made against the Bible’s accuracy. Just to cite one example of many, he answers very well the fact observed by Eichenwald that the geneologies of Matthew and Luke differ. Matthew gives the legal lineage through Joseph, and Luke gives the biological lineage through Mary. Another excellent conservative scholar is Dr. William Lane Craig, who is noted for the brilliance of his debates concerning the resurrection. So brilliant were his arguments that his opponent on one occasion, after truly being backed into a corner, was reduced to speculating that Jesus must have had an identical twin, and that’s how the people were fooled into believing in a resurrection.
Any discussion with atheists has to begin with biblical anthropology (man’s fallen, sinful nature) using real world and historical examples of it. Atheists don’t have the big picture of Christianity, they can’t conceive of why anyone would have to die on a cross, let alone what Person needed to do it, etc. Atheists are at their most vulnerable when declaring how “ethical” they are. It is there you can make progress in waking them up, or reaching their conscience. They’ll get angry, but that’s not a bad reaction. I got angry the first time I read Dostoevsky for crying out loud. Then I began to understand him. The old evangelists had it right, you have to start with telling people about their sin nature. The last hundred years gives us a lot of material to use as example, most of it committed by officially atheist regimes.
David B says
In response to David’s point about needing to begin by telling people about their sin nature, I think C.S. Lewis makes a valid point that in modern times we have lost sight of how of we have a sin nature, and thus I think his book, Mere Christianity, does a wonderful job of helping people realize that there really is such a thing as right and wrong, and that none of us truly follows what is right all of the time. I wonder if Eichenwald has read Mere Christianity.
Clint S says
I do volunteer work in a homeless center for young adults (the cut off age is 23). Up to one third of the residents there typically are gay or lesbians kids tossed out of their homes by their fundamentalist parents, and forced to survive on the streets by any means possible (including prostitution or selling drugs). So yes, I’ve seen many, many instances of “Christians banishing their children”. At least the young adults I see at the shelter now have a place to sleep and eat and get counseling. But there are far more still out in the streets doing everything they can to survive.
Ed Dingess says
The fact that this may or may not be the case has nothing to do with Christian theism or the Bible. No one would deny that people professing Christ have done bad things from day one. Judas committed high treason and he was in the inner circle. Logically speaking, what does that have to do with the teachings of Scripture and of orthodox Christianity? Nothing, as I see it. So why bring it up? If it is a non sequitur, why introduce it? Could it be that the reason is a desperate attempt to color Christian theism with the acts of a few? Christianity does more charitable work than any other single entity on the planet. So what! Does it’s charitable work have any bearing on it’s truth-claims? Of course not. It is simply unethical to use such tactics in these sorts of conversations. Some men use the Bible for power, others for personal selfishness, others for control and manipulation, some to get rich, etc. How a person uses the Bible is not at all related to the nature and content of the Bible. I am not sure that these kids have been tossed out or if they left because their parents would not allow homosexual activities in the home. Unless you were there, to witness what actually took place between that parent and the child, I would suggest a little lest dogmatism might be a better course. Get the facts straight before reporting on them I think is a good principle to live by.
Clint S says
I seem to have touched a nerve there. I wasn’t addressing Biblical scholarship, but I was addressing a specific point brought up by Professor Kruger. Kruger protested Eichenwald’s statement about Christian parents “banishing” their children, claiming that this was a specious charge. From my own experience, I know otherwise, and have encountered many instances where gay and lesbian children have been kicked out of their homes by Fundamentalist parents and forced to fend for themselves on the street. This observation directly addresses Kruger’s point and is totally relevant to his rebuttal. So please spare me angry diatribes about what I said being a non-sequitor.
I have counseled many young gays and lesbians in the shelter who have experienced this. I didn’t “witness” the actual banishment, but those who underwent it told me about their experiences. I have no reason to suspect that they were lying. None of the young people in question were kicked out for “homosexual activities in the home”. They were kicked out for being gay. Period. In nearly every instance the parents banishing them were orthodox Christians citing Bible Scripture to justify their actions. This type of unloving, harsh behavior by supposed “Christians” is what Eichenwald was writing about and Kruger was protesting. So, once again, my posting had relevance in spite of your heated claims otherwise.
Are there Christians who do good works? Of course there are. Eichenwald wasn’t writing about them, and my comment was not meant to address them. That should be obvious to most readers. You might want to consider cooling down a bit next time before leaping into the fray with irrational and inaccurate charges. I think that would be good principle to live by.
Ed Dingess says
The problem is that the language of the article is a sweeping generalization about Christian behavior “so-called” while the subject of the article is “The Bible.” The move from what could be classed as morally offensive behavior to a sweeping generalization to an indictment of the Bible is the issue.
I have had numerous conversations with homosexuals and my experience has been that unless you endorse and celebrate their lifestyle and even accept them in the covenant community, then you are ipso facto abusive, hateful, and unloving. What one person calls unloving and abusive is entirely subjective absent the actual facts of the specific case. I don’t doubt that there may have been a misguided Christian or even religious hypocrite here and there that may have kicked a kid to the curb for any number of reasons, but I highly doubt the situation is as wide as you imply. Like I said, you are getting one side of the story. You can’t really be certain about those circumstances. How do you know that the parents refused to allow sexual activity in the home or merely refused to accept and endorse the lifestyle and the kid reacted by leaving? You don’t. And even if you were aware of a few cases, it would be a tremendous leap to place your individual experience on par with scientific research don’t you think?
Do you think the Newsweek article is claiming that these parents misunderstand the Bible’s position on allowing your kids to live under your roof even though they are gay or is the idea that Christians misunderstand that the Bible condemns homosexual sex? I know where my money would be if I were a gambler.
beyond partisan (@beyondpartisan) says
Yet you yourself said the cut-off age was 23 years old. 23!!! Not 13, but 23. Are you kidding me? At the point the kid hits 18, they are now an adult and should be capable of fending for themselves without resorting to prostitution. What you are missing in all this is that there is an underbelly to the LGBT movement (particularly for transgenders) that involves encouragement of fetishes, promiscuity, drug abuse and prostitution.
The transgender in Australia who was murdered had also been a prostitute who sold being both female up top and male on the bottom. Go read the stories from ex-gays on the PFOX website and you’ll see a good amount of the prostitution is part of the underground transgender culture. You cannot blame the Christian parents for this, especially if the kid left home at 18 (either by choice or otherwise).
Furthermore, how many of these kids (if they were younger) were victims of LGBT predators who brought them into the prostitution ring? How can you blame the Christians for this when there would be no homosexual prostitution without demand from gays themselves? It’s really ironic – you lambast the prostitution and yet don’t think to point a finger at the homosexual johns who are looking for young boys to exploit.
steve hays says
“I do volunteer work in a homeless center for young adults (the cut off age is 23). Up to one third of the residents there typically are gay or lesbians kids tossed out of their homes by their fundamentalist parents.”
Your claim is statistically implausible. Homosexuals comprise a tiny fraction of the total population. Hence, homosexual kids of “Fundamentalist” parents would comprise a fraction of a fraction.
Moreover, if you really care about homosexual kids, why don’t you care about the dire medical consequences of homosexual behavior?
Clint S says
My statistic is entirely plausible. My point exactly was that a disproportionately larger percentage of homeless youths are gay and lesbian, a much larger percentage than one would find in the general population. And that’s because a much larger percentage of young people kicked out of their homes are gay. You don’t get that?
The shelter I volunteer in does address medical concerns of the residents, including safe sex education to prevent the spread of STDs. Both the heterosexual and homosexual residents receive this training. Responsible homosexual behavior is no more “dire” than responsible heterosexual behavior.
You don’t seem to like homosexuals, do you? Instead of painting them all with your disapproving brush, why don’t you try to see that these are human beings just trying to live their lives. Homosexuality is determined at birth and cannot be altered. Like race and gender. You may resist that fact, because it would take away any rational reason for your homophobia, but it happens to be true. Jesus hung out with the marginalized in his community: the poor, the Samaritans, the tax collectors, the lepers. You might consider following this lesson of compassion instead of spouting off about the “dire” homosexual lifestyle.
Ed Dingess says
I am going to stop commenting at this point on homosexuality as it is off topic. But I do want to thank you for proving my point. My act of rejecting homosexuality, rather than viewed as a Christian position, a religious conviction, is viewed by you as “not liking homosexuals” or not being compassionate. In other words, the only way to like gay people is to accept their lifestyle and celebrate with them their sexual proclivities. You made my point for me and it is not at all shocking that you would focus on this issue. Not shocking at all.
Of course, by the same train of thought:
My act of rejecting religion, rather than viewed as a non-theist position, a non-religious conviction, is viewed by many Christians as “persecution” or not being tolerant. In other words, the only way to like Christians is to accept their beliefs and celebrate with them their spiritual proclivities.
John Silvius says
As you know, RJTO, “persecution” like “tolerance” are overused words in today’s western culture and each have a wide range of expressions as varied as the number of different possible interpersonal interactions and circumstances. Any interaction between two or more people who each believe their “religion” is the correct one, whether a “religion of agnostic or atheistic humanism” or one of “Christian theism” requires a deliberate effort on the part of each to avoid being obnoxious or even simply rude. Each party believes their “faith” has been located in the right place and will make them acceptable in the event that they are judged by some authority higher than them–human authority or Divine Authority (if such really exists). The humanist bases his/her religion on human reason and good works; whereas, the theist places his/her faith in a divine revelation of moral standards dating back to the Hebrew account of creation.
Personally, as a young agnostic, the thought of the possibility that the Bible is really a divine revelation in language I can read (having been faithfully translated and kept over the centuries), and the thought that the God of which it speaks might one day call me into account for my beliefs and actions was very unsettling. Now as a believer in the written Word and its ultimate revelation as God in human flesh (the incarnation), I am resting by faith in the finished work of Christ, God’s Son, Who died in my place for my rebellion and sin against God. The gift of being adopted into God’s family through faith has at least two responsibilities for me to fulfill: (1) To recognize that I am now responsible for humbly sharing the faith that once was shared with me so that others might believe and gain Eternal Life, and (2) to recognize that when I share words of Jesus like “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me.” I must expect harsh responses and rejection (“persecution”) because of the exclusivity of the Christian message. Christianity is indeed unique in its exclusivity of any other routes to justification before God that is not grounded in “work of Christ in His death and resurrection” as opposed to all other religions that rest on works that humans must do to justify themselves. The clash between these two will produce “persecution” in all forms from verbal abuse common in the West to grotesque abuse and executions such as those experienced by Christians in the Middle East today. I realize that history records abuses and executions by theists (including Jews and professing Christians) but these actions are not condoned by an basic understanding of the Scriptures of the Bible. Historical records will support that the number of deaths of professing Christians who stood for their faith by far overwhelms the number of non-Jews/non-Christians who have taken a stand and died for their faith. In my view, it is “pride” that fuels the persecution and intolerance, and love and humility that produces agreement, confession, and unity— of human to human, and of human to God, and of human to creation. Jesus shows us not only God’s perfect love but also the humility and grace that goes with it, and He invites us to follow Him in humble submission and confession that His way is the only way to true salvation from our self-ishness and pride.
steve hays says
“You don’t get that?”
I get that you’re making a dubious claim. Repeating your dubious claim doesn’t make it any less dubious.
Why should I believe you? What about kids who are kicked out because they’re hooked on drugs and steal from their parents to subsidize their habit? Or runaways who leave home because the stepdad or live-in boyfriend is abusive? Why should I think that’s at most 2/3?
“Responsible homosexual behavior is no more ‘dire’ than responsible heterosexual behavior.”
As in the higher correlation between sodomy and colectomies or colon cancer?
“You don’t seem to like homosexuals, do you?”
Actually, you’re the one who dislikes homosexuals, given that you condemn them to a genocidal lifestyle.
“Instead of painting them all with your disapproving brush, why don’t you try to see that these are human beings just trying to live their lives.”
Actually, the brush I used was from the CDC.
“Homosexuality is determined at birth and cannot be altered. Like race and gender. You may resist that fact, because it would take away any rational reason for your homophobia, but it happens to be true.”
That’s ironic considering the fact that you’d be accused of transphobia for asserting that gender is determined by birth and can’t be altered.
“Jesus hung out with the marginalized in his community.”
He also condemned sexual immorality.
Clint S says
I have no interest in getting in some silly flame war with you, so this is my last post. You and Ed above have made Eichenwald’s point better than I ever could. Knee jerk intolerance and ignorance. A perfect example why churches are losing their members in droves, particularly among the younger generation, who is fed up with the messages of hate wrapped up in pious sermonizing. Truly pathetic. You can rant at me all you want. I’m not coming back to this site, and will not be reading anything else you post.
steve hays says
“Knee jerk intolerance and ignorance. A perfect example why churches are losing their members in droves, particularly among the younger generation, who is fed up with the messages of hate wrapped up in pious sermonizing.”
You’re the one who is willfully ignorant. What I did was refer to medical evidence from the CDC regarding the disease-ridden nature of the homosexual lifestyle. If you click on their website, there’s lots of cautionary material on that topic. You’ve done nothing whatsoever to even engage, much less refute, the medical evidence.
You’re the one who operates with a faith-based infidelity that’s impervious to empirical disconfirmation. You exercise blind faith in your secular dogmas. When I respond to you with reason and evidence, you get emotional.
Your glaring anti-intellectualism is a testament to the irrational character of infidelity.
beyond partisan (@beyondpartisan) says
Clint said: “A perfect example why churches are losing their members in droves, particularly among the younger generation, who is fed up with the messages of hate wrapped up in pious sermonizing.” Well that’s just not really the reality. The churches who are losing members in droves are the liberal ones (i.e., Episcopalians). Conservative churches are doing quite well and the conservative Anglicans who split off from the Episcopal church (in part due to the Episcopal churches overly liberal stance on homosexuality) are trouncing the Episcopalians in terms of growth and new church plants.
beyond partisan (@beyondpartisan) says
“Homosexuality is determined at birth and cannot be altered. Like race and gender.” This is not true. Where is your body of scientific evidence supporting this? There is none. Even lesbian Camille Paglia has admitted it is a choice. There are tons of ex-gays who disagree with you. For example, Joseph Sciambra is an ex-gay who says he was sucked into homosexuality through pornography when he was a child. Oh, you want to deny their feelings and claim the ex-gay experience is a lie? How judgmental and intolerant of you. Hypocrite.
“I do volunteer work in a homeless center for young adults (the cut off age is 23). Up to one third of the residents there typically are gay or lesbians kids tossed out of their homes by their fundamentalist parents…” That’s a nifty and sweeping claim. A few questions: first, the LGBTQ young adults you mention are homeless, what substance abuse/behavioral problems do they typically have, if any? Do a substantial portion of them have a criminal record of any kind (do they have warrants out on them, are they on probation, etc.) Second, you say “up to one-third…” What does that mean? Does that mean at one point in time one-third of your residents are LGBTQ, or has that happened multiple times? What is the average LGBTQ population over say an eighteenth month period? Third, how were these residents LGBTQ status determined? Was it self-reporting? Did a licensed mental health professional make a determination, or what? Finally, clarify two things as to your “one-third” claim. Were all the one-third kicked out, or just some of them? Second, do you typically ask the parents of these residents as to whether in fact they were kicked out, and if so why.
Yes, I am skeptical of your claims.
David W. says
So many here argue that the Newsweek author should listen to scholars “from the other side”. An individual can easily get lost when entering the circus of competing interpretations, biased views, and scholarly tomes written to persuade. The most perplexing of questions is why does God need Biblical scholars, translators, and interpreters, to explain and legitimize his very important message? IF God has indeed inspired all hands, minds, and events to bring us the Book of Truth in our hotel room drawer shouldn’t it be easily read and understood?
Michael Kruger says
God doesn’t need biblical scholars. The message of the Bible stands on its own authority. And its core message of salvation is clear. Just because you think it is unclear, is not sufficient proof that it is.
Even so, God can sill use scholars to refute the arguments and criticisms of biblical skeptics. Moreover, he uses scholars to help explain the portions of the Bible that are less clear (no one is arguing that all portions are equally clear).
David W. says
The fact that there is widespread disagreement among scholars, denominations, schools, ministers, and believers is sufficient proof that it is unclear.
Michael Kruger says
You are confusing disagreements over any aspect of Scripture, with disagreement over the core message of Scripture. While there are plenty of disagreements over the former, throughout the history of the church there has been substantial unity around the latter.
David W. says
Then I’ll be more specific. There is widespread disagreement among biblical scholars as to the nature of Jesus (divine, not divine, apocalyptic preacher, claimed divinity, didn’t claim divinity, etc.) and his message which is sufficient proof that it is not clear. I have a clear understanding of what the core message of salvation was for me as a born again Southern Baptist. What is the core message of salvation as you understand it? If it is like mine, it can be related in very few words.
Michael Kruger says
Widespread disagreement among biblical scholars is not the same thing as widespread agreement amongst bible-believing Christians. Again, when it comes to the latter there is substantial doctrinal unity throughout the ages, even on doctrines like the divinity of Jesus.
steve hays says
“Then I’ll be more specific. There is widespread disagreement among biblical scholars as to the nature of Jesus (divine, not divine, apocalyptic preacher, claimed divinity, didn’t claim divinity, etc.) and his message which is sufficient proof that it is not clear.”
Your statement is confused. The disagreement is not due to the lack of Biblical clarity, but their disbelief regarding the historical authenticity of statements attributed to Jesus or statements made about Jesus in the NT.
David W. says
I doubt Kruger would agree with this. Biblical scholars may very well agree on words attributed to Jesus from the earliest texts and still disagree on their meaning and significance in regards to his message.
David W. says
I’ll take that non-answer as agreement that there is widespread disagreement among Biblical scholars regarding the nature and message of Jesus and that disagreement is evidence of the nebulous nature of the “core message of salvation”. And if learned and accomplished scholars such as yourself cannot agree, what hope is there for we, the ignorant, stumbling masses who rely on scholars to explain words that appear self-explanatory?
Michael Kruger says
Your claim that disagreements among secular scholars somehow proves that the biblical message is unclear is ridiculous. People can refuse to believe the message of the Bible for all sorts of reasons apart from its clarity or truth (e.g., they may just just hate the Christian message and want to find ways to refute it). On your terms, any controversial belief (namely something over which people disagree) must be rejected as unclear! I can only assume that you hold no beliefs over which there is any substantial disagreement! The silliness of such a view is self-evident.
steve hays says
“The fact that there is widespread disagreement among scholars, denominations, schools, ministers, and believers is sufficient proof that it is unclear.”
That’s sociologically naive. People can disagree for a variety of reasons. They may disagree due to cultural conditioning. They may disagree because they don’t like a particular interpretation.
They may disagree because they feel the mistaken need to supplement Scripture with an additional authority source to underwrite dogmas that have no basis in divine revelation.
steve hays says
“The most perplexing of questions is why does God need Biblical scholars, translators, and interpreters, to explain and legitimize his very important message? IF God has indeed inspired all hands, minds, and events to bring us the Book of Truth in our hotel room drawer shouldn’t it be easily read and understood?”
Your statement is absurd on the face of it. Naturally it requires translators inasmuch as not everyone knows ancient Greek and Hebrew. Although the Bible was written for the benefit of humanity in general, it was written to a specific audience at a specific time and place. As such, the meaning is to some degree historically situated. That’s the nature of historical revelation. God addressing real people in real space and real time.
David W. says
Absurd? Perhaps. But an excellent question when the message God wishes to convey is of such high stakes to all mankind that it requires complete faith on the part of modern man absent of any further revelation for the last 2000 years…
steve hays says
“Absurd? Perhaps. But an excellent question when the message God wishes to convey is of such high stakes to all mankind that it requires complete faith on the part of modern man absent of any further revelation for the last 2000 years…”
That’s utterly disingenuous given your contempt for centuries of prior divine revelation. If you disbelieve older revelation, you won’t believe newer revelation.
David B says
A good example (Just one of thousands to be sure) of how Biblical scholars can help, concerns the Da Vinci Code. Dr. Kruger mentioned earlier that Eichenwald seemed to be basing some of his erroneous statements on the book The Da Vinci Code, which evidently many people believe to be true history. But The Da Vinci Deception, by Dr. Erwin Lutzer, pastor of the Moody Church in Chicago, exposes the falsity of what people think of as history in the book, and shows it to be fiction far removed from the truth. Before an attack like The Da Vinci Code was written, refutations of it wouldn’t have been necessary, but now that such an attack has been written, and others like it, the everyday layman isn’t always equipped with sufficient facts to refute such errors himself or herself, but I am very grateful that God has provided wonderful scholars who are able to sort out the truth from the error, and prove over and over the truth of II Timothy 3:16-17, that all Scripture is inspired by God. I myself used to greatly dislike much of the Bible, but I learned later how I was in error after I heard a brilliant lecture by a former math professor at Indiana University, Dr. T.V. Varughese (now living in San Diego) on the authority of the Bible. He pointed out that the Bible itself claims to be inspired by God (2Tim. 3:16) and said we can take two approaches in defending that claim. He gave first what he termed the “Defensive Approach,” and followed it with the “Offensive Approach. Dr. Varughese taught that in the Defensive Approach, when the Bible is attacked on historical, scientific, or philosophical grounds, each specific objection can be dealt with and answered, and he gave many examples. But more than that is needed because new objections could always come up later. So, we need the Offensive Approach. He called this “the Linear Argument for the Authority of the Bible.” He said he was calling it “linear” to contrast it with “circular” arguments. (Example of circular argument: How do you know the Bible is the Word of God? Because Jesus says it is and he’s the Son of God. How do you know that Jesus is the Son of God? Because the Bible says he is.) This really caught my interest and I was so excited to hear what this LINEAR argument would be. It must have gone for more than an hour and he used dozens of overhead transparencies (back in the days before powerpoint.) It’s too much to restate all that here (perhaps another time) but the end result was that I realized the evidence was overwhelming that ALL of the Bible is indeed God’s inspired, inerrant Word, and that submission to Jesus as Lord includes submission to all of the Bible’s teachings.
Not sure why I find myself here. One thing I have learned over years of searching is that getting involved in such debates is an utter waste of time and energy.
Non the less, here I am and here is my opinion.
It’s not a question of who is right or wrong, it’s a question of consciousness.
Let me explain. We all experience and understand life and spirituality based on our level of consciousness, which in turn is determined by various factors of which parents, environment and intelligence is but a few.
Now true to the only constant in life which is change, it is our only obligation here on earth to expand and evolve our consciousness.
and the only way that consciousness can expand and knowledge can be acquired is by personal experience and “a long term pro active effort by an open mind. To develop your awareness you must carefully discover the nature of your personal reality, your local reality and the larger reality not through studying, talking or reading about it but through your first hand experience. This is what your life is all about, growing your quality through the subjective and objective experience of an interacting consciousness. Always remain skeptical and demand clear, objective measurable results before reaching tentative conclusions. Your awareness cannot expand and learning will not take place unless you make a concerted effort to reach beyond the ingrained believe and dogma that dramatically limits your vision and retards the evolution of your consciousness.”
The more we evolve consciously the more understanding we gain and less need there will be for blog debates.
All knowledge is self knowledge. Therefore all answers must be within us but we must first unlock the doors of our conditioned minds.
“Through self examination and inward focus one can discover that all states of consciousness are the result of the execution of an option. They are not unchangeable certainties determined by uncontrollable factors at all. This can be discovered by examining how the mind works.
The primary defect now is, as it always has been, that the design of the human mind renders it inartistically Incapable of being able to tell truth from falsehood. This single most crucial of all inherited defects lies at the root of all human distress and calamity.
Although the human mind likes to believe that it is off course, dedicated to truth, in reality, what it really seeks is confirmation of what it already believes.
The ego is innately prideful and does not welcome the revelation that much of it’s beliefs are merely perpetual illusions
The human mind presumes that the commonality of a belief system is evidence of truth and of course history is full of obvious examples of the contrary.
The mind has only information and imagination about anything, it cannot actually “know” because to know is to be that which is known. All else is only speculation and supposition. When the mind is transcended there is nothing left to ask about. That which is complete lacks nothing and that completion is self evident in its Allness.
Although the personal self likes to think that the thoughts going through the mind , are my thoughts , they are actually only the thoughts that prevails at a given level of consciousness.
Mentalization is of egocentric origin, and it’s primary function is commentary. Unless requested, thought is vanity: an endless procession of opinion, rationalization, evaluating and subtle judgement.
We must strive for the pursuit of truth via knowledge, through a thorough examination of the illusionary nature of ego and mind and there various programs. Enlightenment then occurs through letting go of these false programs, whereby one experiences a realization of what is.
Reality becomes self evident when the obstructions of perception and mental activity are removed, including all belief systems.”
We then come to the the great realization that we are one with God and all confusion about the bible and Jesus disappear.
Thomas Moore says
Finally — someone who thinks like I do! The main difference is that I have found the path to consciousness more like a horizontal journey than a “higher” experience. A long road through a wide variety of terrains. A narrow road full of twists, turns, and delusions to be left behind.
Thomas Moore says
Clarification:The key point, clearly taught in Gal 2.20 and to be found throughout the NT, but missed by — up until Pine’s blog entry — virtually all “Christian” commentators — is breaking the power of the ego through crucifixion and becoming Christ. The point i have been making since i had this experience 6 years ago is that it is the ego, the “old man,” the “sin nature” that fuels debates like this one. Pine writes “We then come to the the great realization that we are one with God and all confusion about the bible and Jesus disappear.” Exactly. I learned how it works living in Vietnam for 3 years, interacting with people whose culture is based on the 3 sages (Buddha, Confucius and Laotzi) all of whom (along with the NT) teach the diminution of ego as central to spiritual growth, I am guessing that Pine hails from Asia. I was told in Vietnam that i have an “Asian mind” which explains (for many years) why i have felt so alone and misunderstood among Western friends who seem to accept the idea that the self can be rehabilitated and sanctified. See http://adam4d.com/mtd/, who reviews Christian sociologist Chris Smith’s research on Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, the religion of “Christian America.”
David B: I for one would LOVE to know what the content of that “linear” argument is! Are you in a position to supply it please?
David B says
Thanks, Ian. I just now had a chance today to get to the computer. Glad to know of your interest in the linear argument. I could try to type it in here (sorry it’s not posted on a website), but it’s a bit long, so it would take a while. Things are kind of hectic here right now, so I probably can’t do it right now today, but will try to get to it soon.
Joe N says
Here’s another question to ponder while you argue why it’s difficult to figure out what the Bible says and/or what it means: why wasn’t Jesus literate and leave His profound messages in his own writing? The fact that we are all on this blog 2000 years after his death debating who/what/when words were written kind of proves one of Echenwald’s points.
I also find it ironic that two Christians on this blog are arguing about homosexuality and their different Christian interpretations of how they should be treated. This blog is really proving many of Echenwald’s points.
steve hays says
“Here’s another question to ponder while you argue why it’s difficult to figure out what the Bible says and/or what it means: why wasn’t Jesus literate and leave His profound messages in his own writing?”
That’s pretty naive. Just as unbelievers deny the traditional authorship of the Gospels, if Jesus himself wrote about his true identity, mission, and miracles, unbelievers would deny the authenticity of those writings. Even if they admitted the authenticity of those writings, they’d dismiss what Jesus wrote about himself as biased and self-serving.
Are you really that clueless about the modus operandi of unbelievers like yourself?
“The fact that we are all on this blog 2000 years after his death debating who/what/when words were written kind of proves one of Echenwald’s points.”
That’s debated by unbelievers.
Ed Dingess says
Echenwald’s article actually had a point? He begins with “They wave their Bibles around, they worship at granite monuments, they are God’s frauds.” He ends with “Don’t judge anyone” which means don’t judge any behavior we don’t want judged.” And in between those bookends, he engages in some of the sloppiest journalism in recent memory. And you claim that his point is made because there are false-Christians attempting to force homosexuality into the Christian community? The article is an exemplar of what it purports to criticize (falsely I might add): biblical ignorance.
The article is a ruse. Echenwald’s title implies that he cares about getting the Bible right. But upon closer reading, there is nothing about his article that indicates that he really cares about getting the Bible right. He could care less about rightly understanding the Bible. It is a bait and switch, and a sloppy one at that. The truth of his article is to impose modern western values onto the Bible, and subsequently, onto what he thinks Christianity should be. He reads it the way he wants it to be.
Reading the Bible always involves a threat, a risk, if you will. Either the Bible threatens to change you, your heart, your mind, your philosophy of life, or you threaten to change the Bible. It seems clear enough where Echenwald falls on this issue.
C.M. Granger says
I haven’t read the original article, but if the author’s intent was to attack or criticize hypocrisy among fundamentalists, was this intent clearly stated or patently obvious? If not, one would think integrity would require such a clarification in Newsweek.
Jeff D. says
Dr. Dan Wallace also has commented on the Newsweek article: http://danielbwallace.com/2014/12/28/predictable-christmas-fare-newsweeks-tirade-against-the-bible/
James Snapp, Jr. says
I have offered a critique of parts of the Newsweek article/anti-Bible-propaganda/mess as well, both at the Text of the Gospels blog — http://onyxkylix.blogspot.com/2014/12/the-bible-so-misrepresented-its-sin.html and http://onyxkylix.blogspot.com/2014/12/the-bible-so-mispresented-its-sin-part.html and at the NT Textual Criticism group on Facebook, focusing on the egregiously misleading and/or false claims in the article.
I enthusiastically agree that a retraction is called for. And I call for it.
Surprised there aren’t any comments about the “Holy Roman Empire” choosing what ‘beliefs’ went into Scripture! And I can’t wait to see how you treat Eichenwald’s Trinity absurdities. The reason I suspect this slop got published in Newsweek is because 1) Newsweek needed clickbait, and 2) Eichenwald has been getting clobbered on Twitter by Christians and needed a place to prea–I mean, make his case without instant pushback from those who deign to disagree with him.
Dear Dr. Michael Kruger I do appreciate the article and your polite responses, that actually means a great deal to me. I have a great deal of skepticism concerning the Bible, but rarely do I bring it up and never in faith communities to keep me from stumbling others. I have given up asking questions on either side, just because it gets bogged down in rhetoric in my limited personal experience. They should retract the article as inaccurate and misleading. I also agree with David that it is “click bait” for Newsweek. I hope you have a nice new year.
Well, Mr. Eichenwald left out the bit about his type being prophsied to say exactly what he is saying.
Well Mr. Kruger, for me it is the lack of evidence that any of this actually happened, not the texts, their contexts, etc. This is what I have a problem with. More than a million people were said to be walking around a very small desert for 40 years. Any human moving around, or camping in one spot for that matter leaves behind evidence that they were there. They leave behind trash. They leave behind their dead. They leave traces of old fires. What have we found to prove the Exodus? Exactly nothing. Ramses tomb has been found, and nowhere does it mention the plagues to visit Egypt in the hieroglyphs, nor any sign of Jewish slaves petitioning their government to let them go repeatedly. We have evidence that Jericho was already deserted at the time the Hebrew bible says the battle took place. And of course we all know that the sun doesn’t go around the earth, but instead the earth revolves around the sun. God could not have “stopped the sun in its position” because the sun doesn’t move. If he stopped the earth’s rotation we all would have flown off into space.
See? It is the very practical “LACK OF EVIDENCE” that makes me believe none of this ever occurred. Including the fact that there is no corroborating texts from other cultures that were present at the time all of this was supposed to be occurring. Sorry, Tacitus and Josephus don’t cut it for all the reasons you know so well. Why does Matthew talk about the dead getting up out of their graves and walking around, yet something so significant goes on unremarked upon by the other cultures living there at the time, like the Romans and Pagans? Surely the sky going dark and the temple curtain being torn in half would have been noticed by the Jews, yet they make no mention of it.
The bible is like the story of Cinderella. Many people can write all kinds of dissertations upon it, but until you can show me the glass slipper, the castle where it all took place, the graves of the principles, and other writings outside of the kingdom to corroborate it, then all you have is a fairy tale. This is made even truer in your case, where your main proponent of the faith, Paul, seems to imply that Christ was never a human being, but a heavenly spirit only.
So until you can actually produce the hard evidence (the remnants of the ark would be a good start, or the remains of the ark of the covenant) then more and more of us, especially the “unchurched”, those of our countrymen now growing up without formal religion (which is actually the fastest growing group in the country) are going to start shedding their belief in ANY of the Abrahamic belief systems. They are already atheists about Zeus and all the other old gods. Pretty soon they will be atheists about just one more god.
Better start digging guys, your time is running out.
steve hays says
“More than a million people were said to be walking around a very small desert for 40 years.”
That’s a very disputable figure, which fails to take into account the varied meanings of eleph in Hebrew. Douglas Stuart, in his commentary on Exodus, has an multipage excursus on eleph, concluding that there were 28,800-36,000 Israelites who left Egypt. Here’s another analysis:
“Any human moving around, or camping in one spot for that matter leaves behind evidence that they were there. They leave behind trash. They leave behind their dead. They leave traces of old fires. What have we found to prove the Exodus? Exactly nothing.”
We’re talking about an event that happened about 3500 years ago. Entire cities have been swallowed up by the desert (e.g. Petra).
“Ramses tomb has been found, and nowhere does it mention the plagues to visit Egypt in the hieroglyphs, nor any sign of Jewish slaves petitioning their government to let them go repeatedly.”
That’s native. Saddam Hussein bragged about winning the Gulf War.
“We have evidence that Jericho was already deserted at the time the Hebrew bible says the battle took place.”
Win Corduan has a witty quip regarding that fallacious reasoning:
“Anyway, what really amuses me is the ever-increasing consensus that the Bible is wrong with regard to the exodus and conquest because archaeologists just can’t find any evidence for it in the thirteenth century. The various sites give evidence that the crucial towns already were destroyed before that time. Could it be that this lack of confirmation is due to the fact that the time frame, as provided by the Bible, puts the exodus and conquest clearly into the late fifteenth century? One makes a false assumption concerning the Bible (or, actually, parrots the same misinformation that’s been around for well over a century now), disproves the assumption, and then claims triumphantly to have refuted the Bible. It doesn’t work that way logically. If you show that an assumption leads to a contradiction, you have refuted the assumption, not the system in which you made the assumption.”
“And of course we all know that the sun doesn’t go around the earth, but instead the earth revolves around the sun.”
That’s a scientifically naive statement. Actually, that’s a case of relative motion.
“If he stopped the earth’s rotation we all would have flown off into space.”
i) To begin with, that’s an uncomprehending objection. If God performed a miracle like that, he’d made the necessary adjustments.
ii) Because the passage is poetic, it’s hard to identify the “mechanics” behind the miracle. But in context, the miracle involves prolonging daylight to give the Israelites extra time to defeat the enemy. Minimally, it’s a miracle of sunlight.
“This is made even truer in your case, where your main proponent of the faith, Paul, seems to imply that Christ was never a human being, but a heavenly spirit only.”
i) Paul is not the “main proponent” of the Christian faith. The NT consists of several important writers.
ii) Where do you imagine that Paul says that?
“Why does Matthew talk about the dead getting up out of their graves and walking around, yet something so significant goes on unremarked upon by the other cultures living there at the time, like the Romans and Pagans?”
Most people wouldn’t even know who these revived saints were. Some or many of them had no contemporary friends or relatives. Only those who had died fairly recently, and had relatives in Jerusalem, would be recognizable as former decedents.
“Surely the sky going dark and the temple curtain being torn in half would have been noticed by the Jews, yet they make no mention of it.”
Jerusalem was burned to the ground by the Romans. How much literature survived that conflagration?
“So until you can actually produce the hard evidence…”
Try this for starters:
“They are already atheists about Zeus and all the other old gods. Pretty soon they will be atheists about just one more god.”
By that logic, I should be a solipsist. Why believe in one more person than myself?
Steve, I think it is time that you bowe down and exit the stage.
It is obvious that you are not in search of truth and understanding but is desperately seeking confirmation of that which you already believe, as is clear by your numerous weak counter arguments.
C. M. Granger says
Pine, stating that Steve’s counterarguments are weak doesn’t make them so. Could you elaborate? If they are weak, they should be easily refutable. Please proceed.
It does not matter if Jesus himself joins in this debate and tries to explain the words he uttered. You guys will twist and turn the facts to suit your own agenda.
Please read my entire post from earlier for my perspective on this issue.
Jeff D. says
I wouldn’t put it as an agenda, but be that as it may, you seem blind to your own.
C. M. Granger says
Pine, that’s pure cop-out. In your earlier comments you state at the outset what follows is your opinion. Opinions are fine, as far as they go, but without reasoned argumentation they carry no intellectual weight. Therefore, I have no reason to accept your opinions.
You said Steve’s counterarguments are weak, I’ve simply asked you to demonstrate your assertion. Shouldn’t be that hard, right?
i) To begin with, that’s an uncomprehending objection. If God performed a miracle like that, he’d made the necessary adjustments.
Need I say more.
If this is how you going to make your point, I’m fighting a loosing battle.
There is a reason why there is so much misunderstanding and different opinions over the same point.
The issues and differences will NEVER be resolved.
The reason for that is not that one opinion is greater than the other but that these universal truths in the bible are understood differently at different levels of consiousness. The objective of ” my opinion” is to show you the way out of this maze.
Do you really want to spend the rest of your life going around in this circle or are you in search of true knowledge and understanding.
If you raise your level of consciousness you raise you’re understanding and that is done by not studying more of the same but more of what’s different. The rest will take care of itself.
steve hays says
“Need I say more.”
If you wish to refute what I said, then yes, you need to say more. You haven’t begun to show what’s wrong with my statement.
It’s undiscerning to say that if God halted the earth’s rotation (on one interpretation of Joshua’s Long Day), catastrophe would ensue. It’s not as if God would slap his forehead and exclaim: “I forgot to stop the atmosphere from spinning! Sorry about that guys! Better luck next time!”
That’s an unintelligent way to critique a miracle. That’s a naturalistic objection to a supernatural event. But the miracle in question takes for granted that ordinary dynamics are temporarily suspended within that local system. It’s not as if God didn’t anticipate the natural consequences and take that into account when performing the miracle, to mitigate the physical consequences.
That’s not consistently critiquing a miracle on either naturalistic or supernaturalistic terms. Rather, that objection combines and confounds two opposing principles.
“The objective of ‘my opinion’ is to show you the way out of this maze. Do you really want to spend the rest of your life going around in this circle or are you in search of true knowledge and understanding. If you raise your level of consciousness…”
Did you get that from a fortune cookie or a Kung Fu movie?
True understanding is worthless is a godless universe. Truth is only valuable in a universe that respects the difference between truth and falsehood, right and wrong. That requires a wise, benevolent Creator.
steve hays says
“Why does Matthew talk about the dead getting up out of their graves and walking around, yet something so significant goes on unremarked upon by the other cultures living there at the time, like the Romans and Pagans? Surely the sky going dark and the temple curtain being torn in half would have been noticed by the Jews, yet they make no mention of it.”
I) Just for starters, our major source of extrabiblical information about 1C Palestine is Josephus. However, he wasn’t even born when these events took place. He was born about 5 years later.
His works on Jewish history were written after the fall of Jerusalem. His Antiquities was written 60 years later.
What makes you think he’d know anybody who lived in Jerusalem during Good Friday-Easter?
Keep in mind that the fall of Jerusalem was immensely disruptive, resulting in massive dislocation of former residents.
ii) Are we to suppose that if, say, Josephus reported the same event as Mt 27:52-53, you’d believe it? Seems highly unlikely given the attitude on display in your lengthy comment. So why demand evidence that you’d dismiss out of hand if it was furnished?
Divina Commedia says
Sigh. First of all, I am Catholic so I don’t necessarily interpret the Bible the same as everyone else here. However, I would like to make a couple of points, if you are still reading.
First, it is not as simple as to say human beings inevitably leave trash around and so we should have evidence of things. History simply doesn’t work like that. Furthermore, The Exodus is partially a typological event – that is, seen in the liturgical lens of the Divine Warrior and enthroned King defeating the Sea and the gods of Egypt. It is a myth based around a true event. Ditto for the Settlement of Canaan. It is a narrative adopted by all those who would call themselves Yahwists, whether descended from a group that escaped Egypt, which is likely that some did, or not. It is about the liberation of Yahwists from the imperial oppression of other gods, beginning with Abraham and YHWH’s liturgical enthronement and “rest” in the Temple among creation, as Wisdom on Mount Sinai, the pattern of creation. In other words, it is typology fulfilled, at least within the Church, when Christ as God-With-Us creates the New Temple of His Body, uniting heaven and earth, our Divine Warrior slaying the powers of death and hell, Christ enthroned in our Liturgy. Please see the following: “The Exodus in Biblical Memory” (Ron S. Hendel), “YHWH Fights for Them! The Divine Warrior in the Exodus Narrative” (Charles Trimm), “Ancient Israel’s Faith and History” (George Mendenhall), “Egyptian Sun-God Ra in the Pentateuch” (Gary Rendsburg), and “Sabbath, Temple, and the Enthronement of the Lord” (Moshe Weinfeld).
Furthermore, what do you mean there is no evidence that such things ever occurred? We don’t have records for a lot of things that occurred in ancient history – often coming from only one or another historian or chronicler. With all charity and meaning no disrespect, I suggest that you understand better how history actually is uncovered, and the profession actually works. Please read the excellent historiographer John Tosh for these complexities.
Why don’t Josephus and Tacitus cut it? You never explain that, and it isn’t obvious at all. You seem to be (I can’t tell) perpetuating the idea that Jesus was a myth, never a real human being, by saying he was a “heavenly spirit only.” Quite frankly, I am rapidly losing patience with these ideas randomly asserted without credible citations online. Believing Jesus to never have existed at all and being an invention of Paul is a long defunct idea from the comparative mythology schools of the 19th century. No credible historian worth his salt believes this today. The Jews would never have mistaken a resurrection for a ghost or visitation, believing very much in the General Resurrection of the actual, physical body. Please see Richard Bauckham and N.T. Wright, both distinguished NT historians, before accepting these ideas. The resurrection is part and parcel of the glorification of Israel, the linchpin of Jewish hopes for kingdom vindication. And no one to my knowledge has yet produced the Body of the Messiah.
With regards to the Settlement, please see Gary Rendsburg in this regard as a lot depends on when you date the Settlement. As for the so-called stopping of the sun, the sun was NOT said to be halted but rather eclipsed – that is, “stopped” (gone dark). No orbital miracles required.
Finally, as to the objection that YHWH is just another god (like Zeus, Marduk, or Odin) to be rejected, I strongly suggest you look into the actual, Patristic doctrine of what the One God Is in Himself before making, again, these groundless accusations – whether you call him Allah (“the God” – derivative of Aramaic “Elah,” the God), YHWH, or Brahman. Biblically, YHWH is (according to Albright, Freedman, and Cross) “He Who Makes What Is” or “He Who Makes the Hosts of Heaven.” In Himself, the Creator is Being and Beyond Being, Simple and Infinite and Omnipotent – that is, the ground of the universe and all existence, not composed of parts, “He Who Is,” as the Vulgate says. Put simply, fairies and elves and gods and angels are creatures – things within the universe which might or might not exist, composed of complex parts and dependent on other things to exist. God (Allah, “the God,” the One, as opposed to other gods) is that which must exist, greater than anything that can be thought of (Anselm) and the unity of opposites (Nicholas of Cusa). Being must exist because we are (we have being or participate in being). As Meister Eckhart put it, God upholds nature’s nothingness in his Something. Yet we are not the sum or totality or identical with Being. Please see David Bentley Hart’s “The Experience of God” and Kallistos Ware’s “The Orthodox Way.” That is not a storm god or a rain god – although, interestingly enough, Zeus was equated with the One God by the Stoics. But whether it is right to the call the One God Zeus or YHWH or address the God this way is a different and actually far more substantive question, one that has occupied us since Origen’s reply to Celsus. Alas, I sometimes think if only we get back to those debates, and we’d be getting somewhere.
Honestly, God is best seen liturgically. Read the Bible and nature through Apostolic liturgy and myth, and one comes to appreciate a religion better than if one is intent upon shooting holes through literalism and fundamentalism.
I cannot make any better suggestion than reading Athanasius’ “On the Incarnation.” Also, read how Christianity interacted with antique philosophy through Ilaria Ramelli. Or, just read “On the Incarnation.” It should be required for all Christians, really.
If you have encountered fundamentalism in your life, please let me say a heartfelt apology on behalf of my religion – as I have known many damaged by it. Yet I will also say I know many who are equally victims of nationalism, patriotism, fundamentalist Marxism, and consumerism. I will only end with this quote:
“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phillipians 4:8)
Where the truth is, there is God. We are not afraid of the light of truth since it is there that God is, whereas the darkness cannot comprehend it. So we will not belong to the darkness.
“Ubi caritas et amor Deus ibi est.”
Wherever charity and love are found, there also is God.
Ed Dingess says
I cannot help but wonder why we don’t see the demand for external corroborating evidence for Scripture as a display of autonomy. Why must we think that the Bible requires external historical support in order to be accepted as credible and reliable? Do we not recognize the story of Scripture as self-vindicating, and it’s authority as self-sufficient? I think it is fine to contradict historical error in these kind of attacks on Scripture but I think we must do so within the context of Biblical authority. We should never allow the unbeliever to place Scripture in a position of relying on external corroboration before accepting it’s account. I cannot see how that is any different from Locke’s project to subject special revelation to rational standards before accepting it as such. The proper response to the Word of God is varied: obedience, believed, embraced, adored, absorbed, etc. But never is it to be tested nor should the believer ever imply that it is ok as far as it goes, to test the Word of God. It is just this authoritative demand of Scripture that brings out the true hostility of the unbeliever toward God and all that He is. The ancient documents of the Hebrew text, the LXX, and the place of the exodus in the history of Israel is overwhelming evidence of it’s place in history. One does not have to look any further than the history of Scripture as it fits in the history of Israel to realize that this story is true.
Additionally, it matters not if we uncover archeological evidence that the exodus happened. Well, let’s say it won’t make a difference in the disposition of the unbeliever. They will still reject the outrageous claims of the miraculous plagues and such. How many times have we heard this before only to show through later discovery that there was some physical evidence left behind after all. And how many times do we see the quibbler simply find other excuses NOT to believe Scripture? Scripture demands to be received and believed without question as to it’s truthfulness and it’s nature. That is how we should present it and that is how we should defend it. Making it less demanding might make it less offensive to man, but I would submit that such an approach would be highly offensive to our LORD.
steve hays says
“And of course we all know that the sun doesn’t go around the earth, but instead the earth revolves around the sun. God could not have “stopped the sun in its position” because the sun doesn’t move. If he stopped the earth’s rotation we all would have flown off into space.”
Let’s revisit Lorraine’s objection:
i) To begin with, I disagree with his interpretation.
ii) Since, moreover, the objective of the miracle is to aid the Israelite army, Lorraine’s object cuts against the grain of the text. God wouldn’t perform a miracle at cross purposes with his goal. If the miracle had the side-effect of destroying the Israelite army, that would be counterproductive. So that is certainly not what the narrator intended.
iii) But what’s most ironic is how unbelievers like Lorraine raise unscientific scientific objections to the Bible. Even if we grant Lorraine’s interpretation for the sake of argument, his scientific objection is unscientific.
To my knowledge, the earth’s rotation is not what keeps us pinned to the surface of the earth. Rather, that’s due to gravity. In fact, the earth’s rotation slightly weakens the downward gravitational pull.
By itself, cessation of the earth’s rotation wouldn’t cause us to fly off into space, for the earth’s rotation isn’t what keeps our feet planted on terra firma in the first place.
iv) If the earth’s rotation instantly halted, and the oceans kept moving at about 1000 mph, that would result in tsunamis. That, however, would be horizontal or curvilinear force, not vertical, upward force. It would knock things over–not rocket them into outer space at escape velocity.
v) Again, even if we grant Lorraine’s interpretation for the sake of argument, the text doesn’t say God instantly stopped the earth from rotating.
If a supersonic jet were to instantly halt, the passengers would keep on moving at that speed, which would be fatal to the passengers. But, of course, supersonic jets gradually decelerate.
vi) Likewise, if the earth’s rotation instantly halted, and the atmosphere kept moving, that would be like a 1000 mph hurricane. It would flatten cities, forests, &c.
But even on its own terms, that would be horizontal, curvilinear force, not vertical, upward force.
And, of course, it’s entirely arbitrary to think God wool fail to make the necessary adjustments to avoid global catastrophe.
Evidently, Lorraine read this silly “scientific” objection from some village atheist site, but didn’t bother to think through the underlying science.
Mike Gantt says
What struck me hardest about Kurt Eichenwald’s article was that he majored on minors. That is, he never addressed the central claim of the New Testament that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead according to the promises of the Old Testament. How can you talk about the Bible for 9,000 words and never get around to that?
John Silvius says
Kurt Eichenwald’s Newsweek article is very troubling to me both from its tone and the author’s failure to deal honestly and professionally with the origin of the Bible and the revealed truth claims it contains. But I have learned more from reading the reactions of readers, and from Eichenwald’s reaction to reader reactions, and particularly from the exchanges here in Canon Fodder than from the article itself. Eichenwald’s words have touched deeply held beliefs on all sides of what we as humans use to justify our behavior (our “right-ness”) before God (or some other higher power if not the God of the Bible).
According to the Gospel accounts, Jesus also “touched deeply held beliefs…” when He engaged with those living in His time, and I have addressed Christ’s approach as a model for Christ-ians today in Oikonomia at http://www.oikonomiajes.blogspot.com/2014/12/should-christians-just-be-nice-or-what.html
Ed Dingess says
The fact is that God’s dealings with sinners fall all along the spectrum of what modern Americans might consider “nice” or perhaps even “harsh.” It depends on the circumstances. Context is everything. To the rich young ruler, Jesus was harsh. To the woman taken in adultery, he was “nice” or compassionate. The fact is that Jesus did not accept the woman in her adultery but told her that this was NOT to happen again. If you think unbelievers simply want forgiveness of repentance sin and that they perception is that Christians won’t do that, I think that is not a fair description of the circumstances. While there are harsh legalists out there, the real issue is that unbelievers want to be affirmed in their sin, without regeneration, without repentance. The want to go on their merry way fornicating without judgment from anyone. If you actually think that is not an accurate depiction of the state of affairs, then you better look again not only at culture, but at Scripture as well.
John Silvius says
Thank you, Ed. Your point is well taken. I did not mean to minimize Jesus’ command to the woman to “go and sin no more.” My point, perhaps not clearly made is that Jesus shows us how to “make the approach” to that one who is clearly in violation of God’s commands, whether it is by His approach to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) or the woman caught in adultery (John 8) by coming in love, mercy, and compassion. From this position, His assertions of God’s righteous standards are clearly made and seem more effective in bringing conviction of sin and the need for repentance (e.g. to the Samaritan woman, “”You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.” to which she who had avoided being in public at the well as much as possible later said, ” “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?”)
Finally, my intent in the closing paragraph in my blog was to emphasize that our compassionate witness to unbelievers should not be given without a clear challenge to the need of repentance.
I thought Newsweek was very forthcoming: The piece was entitled “The Bible: So misunderstood it’s a sin”, and Kurt Eichenwald lived up to the title by demonstrating a thorough misunderstanding of the Bible. I just wish Newsweek had an editorial staff able to catch his gaffs before they hit the press. But then there wouldn’t be much left of the article.
Charles, did you read through this response of Dr. Kruger’s to Mr. Eichenwald’s article, and the second part? How can you then conclude that Mr. Eichenwald’s article is a demonstration of “thorough misunderstanding of the Bible”?
If you are interested in more material demonstrating the weakness of Mr. Eichenwald’s article, I submit the following two podcasts for your consideration:
I’m hope you will appreciate them.
John Kreiner says
Grant, I think Charles actually agreed with you. He was turning things around by saying that even though Kurt was saying many people misunderstood the Bible, that the article actually demonstrated Kurt’s own misunderstanding of the Bible. Charles was saying that the article title was true–but in the opposite way Kurt intended.
Thomas Moore says
Having just discovered this blog, I would like to communicate with “Pine.” How is this possible?
Quote: “Eichenwald’s well-balanced journalistic understanding of the Christian religion is limited to street preachers who scream at people, those who demand the 10 commandments be posted in schools, and the tiresome trope that all Christians are part of the Jerry Falwell moral majority?”
Eichenwald did not say all Christians behaved that way but was pointing out many Christians use the Bible to justify behaving that way. That was one of the main points of the article: misuse of scripture by certain Christian types.
You say Eichenwald has “absolutely no evidence whatsoever” when stating “..the illiteracy of self-proclaimed Biblical literalists leads parents to banish children from their homes, when it sets neighbor against neighbor, when it engenders hate and condemnation, when it impedes science and undermines intellectual advancement, the topic has become too important for Americans to ignore, whether they are deeply devout or tepidly faithful, believers or atheists.
Many Christian parents have disowned their gay kids and forced them out of the family home so as not to condone their “lifestyle”. The statistics are there. Does that sound like banishment to you?
Christians not only fight over theology/interpretations with non-Christians but OTHER Christians as well, setting “neighbor against neighbor”.
For the “engender[ing] [of] hate and condemnation” one only needs to look at the treatment of gay people by many Evangelicals/Fundamentalists.
“[I]t impedes science and undermines intellectual advancement”. Um, Ken Ham anyone? (To name one of many.)
I would bet the only reason why you find yourself at this blog party is because you found eichenwald’s article very fascinating and true to nature you wanted both sides of the story and then before you new it…
I’m actually an extreme sport athlete, South African ex pat living in the Colorado Rockies.
My teachers over the last 21 years has been paragliding, mountain biking, skiing, kayaking and golf as strange as that might sound.
The greatest discovery a man can ever make, is that he is the creator of his own reality.
If we realize how powerful our thoughts are we will never think a negative thought again.
If there is a creator and we realize that we are the creators of our universe then we must conclude that we are one and the same.
All that is left, is to gain true understanding by studying the illusionary nature of the ego and the mind or as you so beautifully put it by crucifying the ego and becoming Christ.
Not sure if this will be posted as some of my comments were not excepted on this blog.
But I wish you luck on your journey my friend. Your life will be filled with never ending growth and change that will always lead to better and greater things.
I do give the moderator permission to send Thomas Moore my e mail adress if you wanted to communicate.
John Silvius says
Thank you for your statement, “The greatest discovery a man can ever make, is that he is the creator of his own reality.” Based on your expression of existentialism, you would have to allow that “my reality” could be different than yours. And, my reality is based on a faith, not in myself as the definer of reality, but upon the Creator God Who has revealed Himself to mankind through natural revelation (those glorious mountains and vistas, the feeling of gliding through space with gravity and winds acting upon your body, etc.) and the special/divine revelation in which God has given us what we need to answer the worldview questions–Where did I come from? What is wrong? (Or why do some consider the world absurd?) How can wrong be righted? Where will I spend eternity?
In God’s divine revelation which I regard as objective truth that is meant to impinge upon my reality with a loving “fear not, for I bring you good tidings of glad joy, for unto you is born a Savior, Christ the Lord…Who will save us from [destroying yourselves in] your sins (Luke 2:10; Matthew 1:21). Like you, I have stood on mountaintops (Rockies, Andes, etc.) and felt the elation and wonder of the universe around me, but what I experienced is not a reality of my own creation (I may be great and think “powerful thoughts” but the greatest reality is that God saw fit to pursue me through His Word, the Bible, and through people who cared enough about me and so little about themselves that they showed the love of God to me in flesh and blood. So, in all due respect and sincerity, next time you are “blessed” as I have been with the privilege of traveling to a great setting in this world, take along a copy of Psalm 19 with you and recite it, or maybe even memorize it and let it flow from your soul and tongue as you look upon the physical reality around you. “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words [that its revelation should be limited by language barriers]; Their voice is not heard . [yet it speaks loudly of its Great Creator God]. My joy is not in “becoming Christ” but in “becoming like Christ” through repentance for my rebellion against God and confession that I need His love and guidance to become more like Him. “If any man be clothed in Christ [washed clean of sin and clothed in His righteousness], He is a new creation; old things have passed away, and new things have come.” II Corinthians 5: 17
Thanks for reading and considering “my reality” which, though imperfect, could also be yours. And don’t be surprised if God isn’t already using these words to tap on the shoulder of your reality with love and invitation to walk with Him.
With all due respect John, you just don’t get it, do you.
Read my first post if you haven’t already. Reading it again won’t hurt either.
When you expand your consiousness you don’t abandon God and your believes. You just evolve in your understanding of Him and due to greater understanding we can expand our reality.
Study the nature of ego and mind and you will understand why you cling to the believes you have.
You will realize you are not special and chosen because of what you believe but that your are merely acting exactly as you should without understanding.
Only those who puts in the effort to gain true understanding will be born again and live to there full potential.
Everything in life evolves so should your spirituality.
Become like a child, be open to learning. The glass can not be topped of if it is already full. Empty your mind of the idea that you know the awnsers.
You do not no matter how convinced you are.
Life teach us through experience and we adapt and change based on the evidence we acquire.
Why would god create a universe of diversity if he wants us to all be and think the same
Wake up to a limitless world my friend
If we are climbing Mount Everest as our life experience. You have lost sight of the objective somewhere along the way. You are stuck at base camp. Refocus and realise this life is meant to summit. Don’t waste any more time.
steve hays says
Sounds just like something Yoda would say.
John Silvius says
Thank you for your reply, Pine. I read your first post which includes many expressions you have no doubt come to believe along your journey of denial of ego and the distracting illusions of life around you on your way to complete oneness and harmony with God. We are of course still on separate foundations of belief–you on the foundation based on your mind as the ultimate determiner of your own reality; me, trusting in what I call objective revelation of reality through the Bible in which God reveals Himself through inspired writers as Creator of the universe as and expression of His glory, and among the creatures, mankind as His image bearer, meant to share perfect relationship with God and to enjoy God forever. However, led by the angel of light (Lucifer) who himself sought to usurp God’s glory, humankind rejected fellowship with God because of the lie of Lucifer that God was withholding “true reality” from them and cannot be trusted. This rejection of God required judgement and death (separation from God Who could not violate His standards and still be God). God solved this “dilemma” by offering Himself in the incarnate form as Jesus Christ who took the penalty of death in place of all who will believe in His sacrificial and substitutionary death on the cross. So, while you and I both are made to have fellowship and unity with God, and both of us desire this oneness because of our human nature, the only way to achieve that is not by our own efforts or our mental and philosophical pondering, and expounding; but, by what Jesus said, “He who has ears, let him hear (Matthew 11:15).” And, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17).” So, by hearing and faith in Christ’s death and resurrection, we are reconciled with God. Note that our lostness as rebels requires reconciliation before we can experience God’s presence and acceptance. The Apostle Paul who once had rejected God’s Son Jesus and His substitutionary death, came to believe and wrote about how his own EGO was brought to bow before God’s truth, “”I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20).” So, Pine, we are both made for fellowship with God, and we both seek oneness with God. One of us is trusting in his own definition of reality and the power of his own mind, the other has responded to God’s call through His divine Word to “Come unto Me all of you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest; take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly and you will find rest for your soul, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30). Not to give up my mind to please God…far from it because He asks me to recline against Him through His Word and “learn of Me” using my mind directed by His Spirit. If you haven’t read the Bible, I urge you to give it a try as so many have and found the peace and joy that is inexpressible. Listen, I believe I hear Him calling you, Pine. Thanks for reading.
Thomas Moore says
Thank you, John Silvius, for your kind, thoughtful response to Pine and me. You are indeed a gentleman. 10 years ago I would have written a similar reply (although not nearly as elegant) while I lived under the impression that the Christian life consists of becoming “more like Jesus” through the church rituals — attending church, reading my Bible, and following the rules that were set down for believers. This approach, though, failed to make any radical difference in my life, nor as far as i could discern, the lives of my Christian associates (compared to my unbelieving friends).
I will respond to your response to Pine:
“… I read your first post which includes many expressions you have no doubt come to believe along your journey of denial of ego and the distracting illusions of life around you on your way to complete oneness and harmony with God.”
This echoes my own experience (not mere “belief”) as well.
We are of course still on separate foundations of belief–you on the foundation based on your mind as the ultimate determiner of your own reality; me, trusting in what I call objective revelation of reality through the Bible…
No, it’s based on 41 years of experience, both inside and outside of the religious establishments. John, I think you have it backwards — my experience is the foundation for my belief. Belief defining experience is, in fact, the position (“foundation based on your mind as the ultimate determiner of your own reality”) that you argue against.
“… in which God reveals Himself through inspired writers as Creator of the universe as and expression of His glory, and among the creatures, mankind as His image bearer, meant to share perfect relationship with God and to enjoy God forever.”
A clear statement of the Reformed point of view.
“However, led by the angel of light (Lucifer) who himself sought to usurp God’s glory, humankind rejected fellowship with God because of the lie of Lucifer that God was withholding “true reality” from them….”
5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened…
It was not a lie — they saw the “true reality” of good and evil as their eyes were opened.
“This rejection of God required judgement and death (separation from God Who could not violate His standards and still be God). God solved this “dilemma” by offering Himself in the incarnate form as Jesus Christ who took the penalty of death in place of all who will believe in His sacrificial and substitutionary death on the cross. So, while you and I both are made to have fellowship and unity with God, and both of us desire this oneness because of our human nature, the only way to achieve that is not by our own efforts or our mental and philosophical pondering, and expounding; but, by what Jesus said, “He who has ears, let him hear (Matthew 11:15).” And, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17).” So, by hearing and faith in Christ’s death and resurrection, we are reconciled with God. Note that our lostness as rebels requires reconciliation before we can experience God’s presence and acceptance.”
Yes. All very true. However it seems to me that John is taking the “our own efforts or our mental and philosophical pondering, and expounding…” approach himself, irrespective of his claim to embrace a philosophical abstraction he labels “objective revelation of reality.” Jesus Himself is the “objective truth,” not some theological abstractions deduced from the written Word through the Reformed tradition. “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
“The Apostle Paul who once had rejected God’s Son Jesus and His substitutionary death, came to believe and wrote about how his own EGO was brought to bow before God’s truth, ”I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20).””
Yes, but the “bow” in John’s interpretation of this key verse falls way short of the crucifixion that the passage calls for. “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” The destruction of the ego’s power to control me. I had this experience 6 years ago after 35 years of humdrum “Christian” life. The churches usually focus on the rehabilitation of the self. Paul teaches that it must be crucified. The “new creation” cannot occur until the power of the old creation (self, ego, sin nature) is eliminated. I have become a completely different person.
“So, Pine, we are both made for fellowship with God, and we both seek oneness with God. One of us is trusting in his own definition of reality and the power of his own mind, the other has responded to God’s call through His divine Word to “Come unto Me all of you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest; take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly and you will find rest for your soul, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30). Not to give up my mind to please God…far from it because He asks me to recline against Him through His Word and “learn of Me” using my mind directed by His Spirit.”
I think you misunderstand our point — it is not the “power of the mind” that we trust. Mind is also deeply affected by ego. To have the mind of Christ one must break the power of ego (the human mind) and become Christ, as Gal 2.20 states.
“If you haven’t read the Bible, I urge you to give it a try as so many have and found the peace and joy that is inexpressible. Listen, I believe I hear Him calling you, Pine. Thanks for reading.”
And thanks again for your comments, Dave. I urge you to seek your own crucifixion. Then you will understand what we have been writing about.
It’s crazy, isn’t it Thomas. I remember now why I stopped a long time ago debating this kind of thing.
All we can do is live an inspired life and be all we can be.
The greatest tragedy in all of the universe, when supernovas believe that they are merely undeserving human beings.
Mike Veneman says
I wonder after today’s events in Paris if he dare write such rubbish about Islam?
Ed Dingess says
The point here that needs to be challenged is the uncritical assumption that human experience is uninterpreted. It is NOT! Everything humans encounter is subject to interpretation. Basing belief on any experience is to base belief on an interpreted experience. The last time I checked, all interpretations are based on presuppositions and in this case, presuppositions about the phenomena of human experience. The gentleman needs to be pressed on how it is that human experience is intelligible and why it is that our experiences are so different and why in some cases, experience misleads and why in other cases I interpret common experiences very differently from others. We must keep these conversations at the level of worldview and force people with these brands of philosophies to defend them at their foundation.
John Silvius says
Thomas Moore and (indirectly related to comments by) Pine, I thank you for your comments and critique of my response of yesterday to Pine. I believe the conversation has reached a point where it is difficult to continue what could be easily resolved by direct communication. Here are some of the pairings that you, and perhaps me at times, are confusing:
1., Thomas are you saying that your years in the Christian establishment have changed you, and if so, how? Am I correct that you are disappointed with Christianity? If so, I am confused how you would write, “To have the mind of Christ one must break the power of ego (the human mind) and become Christ, as Gal 2.20 states.” Are you describing the spiritual level you have attained while still being “disappointed” (or some better negative describing word)?
2. Related to #1, I don’t believe Scripture supports the notion that in our spiritual journey we can reach a point as you claim of “break[ing] the power of ego (the human mind) and becom[ing] Christ, as Gal 2.20 states.” Galatians 2: 20 is Paul’s testimony that when he surrenders his own self or ego to Christ, he is figuratively speaking, “crucified with Christ” and “Christ lives in Him.” However, Paul nor we become Christ, although we become more Christlike in our character and actions.
3. Related to #2, you seem to suggest a dichotomy between Christ and His Word. Christ is taught in Scripture as being the “living Word” or “Word became flesh” (John 1:14) in the sense that what God had been revealing in His Word for centuries was revealed in the life/flesh/actions of Christ as He walked, taught, and eventually the way He surrendered and died a death of love for mankind. We cannot “see” Jesus as you know, but we learn to adopt His character and express it though reading, studying, memorizing and applying in obedience the truths of the written Word. As Paul taught his disciple, Timothy, in 2 Timothy 3: 15-17, “and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
4. Related to #3 — you suggested that we have our “experience and belief” in different order. I would see both as beneficial in the sense that our deeply held beliefs that form our worldview can color our experience (e.g. as a botanist with a fairly good ability to identify flowering plant species in Eastern N. Am., I view the landscapes in which I walk very differently than my wife who has only limited taxonomic skill); but also our experience can color and modify our beliefs, particularly “learning experience”–the type of discipline that Paul challenges his readers to exercise; or that Jesus teaches His disciples from John 15 when He discusses the vine and the branches, and how abiding in the vine (obedience) is essential to producing fruit because through obedience we gain experience in sensing God’s approval and we can have peace knowing that we are affirmed in our conscience as opposed to being guilty and ashamed at failing. I have had both victory and the defeat of disobeying God (sin) on a regular basis, but God invites us back to “confess our sins” so He can again “cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
I hope this is some clarification for you (and for my sake) and that you will not lose heart. With that I close and rest my case while praying that God will show Himself real to you through His Helper and Teacher, the Holy Spirit, as you remember those things from His Word that you have studied.
As a “little Christian apologist fish” in a big pond of wonderful and highly educated and influential Christian scholars here, I must say that the discussion has been quite enlightening!
I plan to be back here to read all of the comments in this thread, but limited time tonight only permitted me to read through to Mr. Eichenwald’s and Mr. Kruger’s rebuttal comments. I must say that Mr. Kruger did a fabulous job of pointing out exactly why Mr. Eichenwald’s commentary was perceived as insulting and offensive to most biblically-based Christian believers in the Messiah – Jesus Christ.
Someone here may have already stated this in their comment(s), but I wanted to know whether or not Mr. Eichenwald understands that being a born again Christian – first and foremost – requires repentance of sins.
John the Baptist paved the way:
Also, notice the connection between the prophesy of Isaiah – written hundreds of years before John the Baptist and Jesus Christ were born.
After the forty days and nights in the wilderness (and satan’s ploys to tempt Jesus from His mission), Jesus declared:
Repentance is not a popular doctrine with the secular world, and telling people that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” is even more unpopular these days.
Jesus told his disciples:
Most people are OK with the above verse. But the very next one showed that Jesus was not “politically correct” – as many people try to be today – regarding condemnation. This is often why Christian belief is often disdained, ridiculed, and labeled in a negative way.
Even people who actually witnessed the risen Christ, refused to believe in Him.
Therefore, as Christians we realize that not everyone will be willing to believe in Jesus Christ. All that we can do is share the Gospel – the rest is up to the Holy Spirit of God; knocking on the door of the hearts of the unsaved.
There will always be those who take offense at Christians for honestly sharing the true Gospel of Christ. However, we need to continue to heed what Jesus said after His Resurrection and just prior to His Ascension back to the Father in heaven: