Friday, January 02, 2015

Attacking Christianity


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.

Irresponsible Accusations

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 ... [Continued]

So you're in high school.  The girl seated next to you is so ugly she could eat corn through a picket fence.  But she's nice, and doesn't mind that you look at her chemistry test answers.  You don't insult her, you don't make fun of her; you simply don't give a shit.  If you did make a habit of acting like that, your friends would wonder about your obsession with her.  Maybe suspect that she secretly gives you a boner.  See what I'm saying? To atheists, religion is a non starter.  They're respectful, but no way do they ask her to dance. They don't care. So what's going on?  Christianity is anathema to the Statist.  Lenin, and Hitler acted accordingly.  So there's that.

I object to Newsweak being labeled 'mainstream media." Like MSNBC, Newsweak is a niche market enterprise trolling for the audience of disaffected leftists, global warmists, professional homosexual activists, race-baiters, vegan religionists,  communists, and other of the addle pated jobbernowls who plague society.  The bottom line is they are all liars who depend on this buttressing from other liars for exculpation that keep them from brainal implosion.  I'm mad as hell and I'm not taking it in silence anymore.
  I will turn my cheeks to them.


Anonymous said...

NEWSWEEK is still in publication?

Who knew?

- One Man Gang

bocopro said...

Did a lot of reading thru the histories and scriptures of various religions and sects -- Buddhism, Egyptian, Greek, Zoroastrian, Hebrew, Shinto, Christian, Amerind.

Found none which I could buy into completely but something good and decent in all of 'em, even the Qur'an (at least the surahs of the first half or so).

Bottom line is that most, not all, but most of them say in one way or another that one man's right to do whatever the hell he pleases ends at the tip of the other guy's nose. I particularly Buddha's version, which is suspiciously similar to the Golden Rule.

MY bottom line is that I'd rather live in a community of moderate Christians who don't go around thumping people on the head with the Bible and condemning them to hell is loud voices than in one with no belief system whatever or one that says to slaughter nonbelievers.

If people lived by the ethics and morals taught by Buddha or Confucius or Jesus, we wouldn't really need governments in the first place, especially governments who want to regulate everybody down to the level of insects in a hill working for a queen who grows fatter every day from their labors.

Anonymous said...

Newsweek rubs the liberal lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.

Sir H the Comet

Anonymous said...

I believe the "banishing children from the house" accusation is in reference to parents telling their kids that have declared themselves to be homosexuals or not their actual sex to leave. Of course, he sees a problem with the whole idea of moral standards, at least someone else's. While he sees that as a bad act I'm willing to bet there are lifestyles or actions that would cause him and all who nod in approval to do exactly the same thing.


Anonymous said...

Like the NY Times, Newsweek is written for its core audience of Trotskyists and homosexuals.

Phil N. LeBlanc

Anonymous said...

And Phil, the same can be said for Time Magazine, also.


rickn8or said...

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.

Sorry, but I've observed Christians doing exactly that.

--Fred Phelps and his Merry Band.
--"Roy's Rock"
--Demanding their prayer in school, and the teaching of "Intelligent Design" in Biology courses.
--Gott Mit Uns
--Promise Keepers

While there are millions of Christians that know their Bibles, there are only a miniscule amount that know about their Bibles.

Most Christians + read it for what it means, instead of what it says.

Reading the Bible from cover to cover has created more atheists than Madelyn Murry O'Hare ever dreamed of.

Anonymous said...

So an ignorant boob wrote a ...hate-piece which is incorrect in its facts and silly its conclusions.

Who's he gonna convince that wasn't already, shall we generously say misinformed?

Not to say he shouldn't be called on his idiocy -- long and loud. That's the balancing part of Free Speech: you are free to say any damfoolthing you wish to, and you get to hear what others have to say about it.

Not to say he is capable of listening to those responses....

But there ya go.


Anonymous said...

" I will turn my cheeks to them."

Me too butt a it will be the other cheeks....

Cheeky x

Anonymous said...


You can drop the a or thinka me as Canadian.

Spell checkless x

Post a Comment

Just type your name and post as anonymous if you don't have a Blogger profile.