David Lamb recently posted his impressions of the first episode of the documentary series Bible Secrets Revealed, the second episode of which airs this evening. I appreciated David’s comments, but also found myself wondering about one point he made (which relates to a topic that came up here on this blog as well). He complained that Evangelical views were not adequately represented (Michael Kruger likewise complained about the documentary not presenting “both sides”).
Since I know that Evangelicals were interviewed, and that one or two scholars from Azusa Pacific appeared more than once in the first episode, I’m not sure that comment is accurate. But even if it is, I wonder about whether makers of a documentary need to make a point of including Evangelical views even when those Evangelical views are not accepted outside of conservative Evangelical circles, and thus are likely to reflect the influence of dogmatic presuppositions rather than the results of scholars following evidence where it leads.
Of course, if you are going to include Reza Aslan, then you really ought to be giving every stance held by actual Biblical scholars a voice first!
But seriously, this is a genuine and important issue. I’ve seen documentaries which present multiple sides including ones that are really fringe, and I’ve seen documentaries which present an issue as having been settled in one particular way when a matter is a subject of genuine scholarly debate. Documentaries should reflect the scholarly consensus if there is one, and reflect the lack of consensus if there is genuine rather than merely manufactured controversy.
Note also that Answers in Genesis has offered negative comments about the documentary – that is typically a good sign. It is truly ironic when groups like that quote 2 Timothy 4:3–4, which says “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” That is exactly what Answers in Genesis does. It refuses to listen to anyone who doesn’t say what they want to hear. And then they have the audacity to accuse those who’ve followed the evidence where it leads of doing what they themselves do!
For more related to this topic, see Fred Clark’s American football-related thoughts about the documentary, Anthony LeDonne’s snippet about Mark Goodacre, Bob Cargill’s screenshots of the credits, and Brian Bibb’s post about being academic and accessible.
Feel free to come here to talk about tonight’s episode after it airs!