Good biblical scholarship is important… really important. Not only does it help us understand our own Bible and biblical tradition better, it also enables us to spot quite easily when biblical scholarship is misused in ways that are frankly disrespectful to Christians of all stripes and contrary to all reason and good will. Such is the nature of “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin,” a piece from Newsweek by Kurt Eichenwald, who, I might add, is not a biblical scholar.
The errors of this rather lengthy article are almost too numerous to recount. Its message is muddled, for the author is unsure whether he wants to write social commentary or poorly popularized biblical scholarship. By the third or fourth section, I had lost all patience with it.
Thankfully, Fr. Lawrence Farley did not lose patience with it and authored a rather thorough treatment of it, which I encourage you to read. Fr. Lawrence displays a proper handling of biblical scholarship, also articulated with a popular, non-specialized verbiage, which presents relevant evidence that almost every scholar, whether faithful Christian, Jewish, or secularist, could agree with. Here’s a brief excerpt:
Just in time for Christmas, Newsweek continued the media’s predictable and venerable tradition of trashing the Christian Faith. (Expect the next instalment just around Easter time.) To be precise, on December 23, it published a piece by Kurt Eichenwald entitled, “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin”. The intended victims of the annual seasonal assault are listed in the opening paragraph as those who “waves their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnation of homosexuals…they are God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians who pick and choose which Bible verses they heed with less care than they exercise in selecting side orders for lunch”. Mr. Eichenwald is on a roll, and seems to be clearly enjoying his righteous indignation at those doing the screaming. His strategy throughout the article leans mostly to showing how unreliable the Bible text actually is, and you would never guess from his own vitriolic vituperation heaped on those “who appeal to God to save America from their political opponents, mostly Democrats” that many thoughtful Protestant Christians retain their faith in the reliability of the Biblical texts and do not actually scream about homosexuals or Democrats.
If you are uninterested in the article and Fr. Lawrence’s response, I offer this: It is not biblical scholarship itself that is the enemy of Christ and His Church. There are, rather, two such enemies to be found: (1) An evil heart that seeks to subvert the Kingdom of God through deceit, and (2) A heart which, through extremism, is unwilling to integrate faith and learning, and thereby preaches a false gospel to the world that is irrational, contentious, and like Mr. Eichewald’s article, full of ill-will and disrespect.
As our Lord commanded us, let us be wise as serpents but harmless as doves. Let us take responsibility for our scriptures so that, like the great apologists of the second century, we might present a good and reasonable faith to the world, in order that the supra-rational mystery of our salvation in Christ might be revealed to open hearts.