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More on Newsweek‘s Misunderstanding of the Bible

Plumb LineMy Veracity blogging colleague, John Paine, recently referenced New Testament scholar Dan Wallace’s response to Newsweek author Kurt Eichenwald’s Christmas tirade against Christian “misunderstandings” of the Bible.  Sadly, despite some of the genuine substance Mr. Eichenwald displays to the reader, it is the Newsweek piece itself, “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin,” that bears most of the misunderstanding.

The article has generated A LOT of responses, so many that I think it would be best to list out some of the more prominent ones. The original Newsweek article is extremely long, but it is worth taking some time to go through it as it adequately illustrates many of the most common objections and confusions regarding Christianity and the Bible that you will encounter today among secularly-minded thinkers, or those thinkers who wish to reshape Christian faith to look more “modern.” But you should also read a few of the responses as an aid to help you develop an informed response to Eichenwald’s many complaints. It is great way to get an education on some critical issues in doing Christian apologetics in a skeptical world.  Some of what Eichenwald says presents challenging difficulties for the Christian, while much of what he says, if not the bulk of it, can be answered in a manner that effectively communicates an honorable confidence in God’s Word:

  • Michael Kruger (Reformed Seminary in Charlotte, N.C.) has two articles (#1 and #2 ), but what is most valuable is that Mr. Eichenwald offers some rejoinders to Kruger’s critique in the comments section.
  • Ben Witherington (Asbury Seminary, Kentucky) offers a response from an evangelical Wesleyan perspective.
  • For a response from the more conservative wing of mainstream Protestantism, this detailed response from Robert Gagnon (Pittsburgh Theological Seminary) fills in some of the gaps left by others in their critiques.
  • Kurt Eichenwald has repeatedly said that some of the responses to his Christmas essay from Christians were loaded with “vitriol” and “name calling.” Perhaps Eichenwald has this series of video responses in mind ( you have to scroll past much of the unedited chatter in places, but you can look here: #1 and #2)by Reformed apologist James A. White (Alpha-Omega Ministries), but I will let the viewer be the judge of that.
  • In addition to the well-known agnostic Bart Ehrman (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), Mr. Eichenwald leans heavily on the critical views of Jason David BeDuhn, professor of Comparative Study of Religions, at Northern Arizona University. BeDuhn, in this essay, responds to a critique of the Newsweek article by Southern Baptist Seminary head, Al Mohler.
  • If you want to know what the more progressive end of Christianity is thinking about this, read this by blogger Rachel Held Evans, or this from Old Testament scholar Pete Enns.
  • In my view, the best and most thorough response is from Darrell Bock (Dallas Seminary). If you only have time to read one of these, pick either the Dan Wallace one linked above or this one by Bock.
  • The latest response from Newsweek itself is that they agreed to publish the following rejoinder by messianic scholar Michael Brown. In Newsweek’s introduction to Dr. Brown’s essay, they still stand by Eichenwald’s original story, in an effort to promote discussion. Furthermore, they announced that Dr. Brown has invited Mr. Eichenwald to be on his Line of Fire radio program the week of January 19.


Domino Theology

Is your theology built on a difficult to maintain stack of dominos?

Is your theology built on a difficult to maintain stack of dominos?

As a kid, I liked to play with dominos. I would try to arrange them in neat patterns, and even try to stack them in certain ways to build a toy house or a bridge. But the problem with building any structure with dominos is that if you make one slight mess up with any one domino, the whole project would come crashing down.

Some years ago, I put an addition with an extra bedroom on the small house I was living in. But I learned that the most important part was the foundation. Footers supporting the new structure had to be strengthened prior to any further work being done, and I was glad for it! For within a few months after completing the project, a terrible storm came and ripped part of the siding off of the brand new addition. That was a bummer! But the siding was not fundamental to the foundation, so I was able to live in the addition while it was getting repaired. But if something had gone wrong with the foundation, I would have had to abandon the entire structure.

You would never build a real house with dominos.

Dallas Seminary New Testament scholar Daniel B. Wallace recently was reviewing a book and mentioned the problem of domino theology in evangelical Christianity. I think Wallace is sadly correct. It is a real problem in the church.

I have had numerous disturbing conversations with well meaning Christians as to how they view the Bible. Some subscribe to the notion that they believe Christianity is an all-or-nothing proposition regarding the Scriptural text. If they were to find but one error in the Bible, even if it is a small, minor or obscure one, then it threatens the whole substance of their faith. They could never trust any of the Bible or anything in Christianity at all if there was yet but just one small minor problem or discrepancy that they could not solve.

This is domino theology in action. All it takes is one slight move of doubt and the whole thing comes crashing down. Watching all of the dominos fall is great fun for a kid playing a game, but it is a disaster when it comes to trying to build your faith.
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