Happy Easter, if you buy into that stuff

Every Holy Week, GetReligion must examine the slew of sensationalist religion stories that crop up. I don’t know why everyone in the fourth estate thinks this is the ideal time to uncork that story they think is going to finally blow the lid off this Christianity fad, but that’s the way it is.

Still, even as a long-time GetReligion reader, I have the unenviable task of presenting a particularly bad example of the genre. If there’s one positive thing I can say about the following story, at least with the headline “Discrepancies don’t shake Christians’ faith in the Bible,” you know what you’re in for:

Vanderbilt University student Katherine Precht knows what skeptical scholars say about the Bible: It’s full of errors, contradictions and a murky historical record.

Still, none of that has shaken her Christian faith.

That’s because Precht embraces a big-picture view of biblical truth. For her, it means the Bible speaks truth on ultimate things, such as Creation and salvation.

“Sure, there may be contradictions, [but] God was working through the scribes who put it together,” said Precht, a United Methodist from Montgomery, Ala. “Even though [the Scripture] is 2,000 years old, I see it alive and living . . . in friends, in Christians, in the world.”

As Christians prepare to mark Easter, the culmination of the holiest week of the year, many are mindful of hard-to-ignore critiques that would deem creeds and Scripture, at best, untrustworthy and at worst, downright false. Many have heard “Jesus Wars” author Philip Jenkins insist their beliefs are merely the result of ancient politicking. Still, they trust what the Gospels say about Jesus’s last days, despite the doubts of biblical scholars like Bart D. Ehrman, whose public questioning has made him a best-selling author.

You get the idea.

So despite the fact that Christian apologetics might arguably be the most studied subject in human history, what we have here is an article that plumbs the depths of alleged biblical contradictions in a mere 537 words. It makes no clear distinctions between different Christian perspectives on biblical literalism, and at one point includes the spit-take inducing paragraph transition, “Some writers, however, have cast doubt on Christian doctrines” before dropping this science on us:

“The view on the religious right, about the Bible being some kind of inerrant revelation or an infallible revelation from God. . . simply isn’t tenable anymore,” said Ehrman, a fundamentalist-turned-agnostic who teaches at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Yet, by and large, Christians seem to be holding fast to their beliefs and sometimes reconciling them with scholarly challenges.

Crazy, huh? Some Christians are still holding fast to their beliefs despite “some writers” who don’t believe in Biblical inerrancy. There isn’t a single argument in this piece — for or even against faith in the Bible — that’s fleshed out enough to even discuss intelligently. Notice, please, the complete lack of material from scholars on the other side of these issues, scholars who hail from completely mainstream campuses in a wide range of denominational settings, from Baptists to evangelical Anglicans.

However, this does not stop Religion News Service from putting it out and the Washington Post picking it up the day before Easter. I’d like to believe the goal here isn’t to insult Christian readers, but given the timing and complete lack of a newsworthy premise, I have to wonder. Was this article radically cut somewhere in the publishing process?

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  • Chris Bolinger

    Vanderbilt University student

    Glad that they went with an expert for the opening. Maybe I can get the Post to interview me for the opening of an article on playing Texas Hold ‘Em, as I have played a few times and occasionally watch tournaments on ESPN.

  • Chris Bolinger

    Check out the gas prices on the graphic!

  • Jerry

    I have the unenviable task of presenting a particularly bad example of the genre.

    On some days of the year, I think it’s more than OK to present a particularly good example of the genre. Really.

  • Dave

    At least it’s a break from parallels between Watergate and the Vatican.

  • Dan

    In my opinion, this year’s “infantile insult of Christians at Easter” award should go to the NYT Magazine for putting the “gay Easter bunnies” on its cover.

  • Dave G.

    Check out the gas prices on the graphic!

    LOL!

  • http://religionnews.com Daniel

    Mark,

    The Post’s version of this article is indeed radically cut. The original story ran to about 1,000 words; the Post cut it to about 540.

    But by all means, shoot your mouth off first, then ask questions. Seems to be a lot of that around here lately.

    Sincerely,
    Daniel Burke
    Religion News Service

  • Chris Bolinger

    Mark’s critiques are valid, even for the uncut version. The original story gives more ink to the thoughts of two university students and a United Methodist pastor than to those of Professor Craig A. Evans, a real expert on the subject. Why?

  • Martha

    See, this is where Catholicism is superior. Since we deny the Bible, we don’t get caught by the whole “inerrancy is no longer tenable” thing ;-)

  • Jon in the Nati

    But by all means, shoot your mouth off first, then ask questions. Seems to be a lot of that around here lately.

    Stay classy, bro.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    One thing I object to is the word “merely” in the sentence about Philip Jenkins book “Jesus Wars.” As in “…author Philip Jenkins insists their beliefs are MERELY the result of ancient politicking.”
    The fact of the matter is that the Christian God is the Lord of History. And he directs history in many different ways including using His enemies to accomplish His purposes (as is very clear in the Old Testament). In fact, a number of books have been written by religious scholars about God’s “Hidden Hand” in history–and that would include the results of “ancient politicking.”
    Indeed, many Catholics believe that today God is using His enemies in the media to purify the Catholic Church of an evil plague that was quietly eating at the vitals of the Church. And, as this purification was painful to the ancient Hebrews, so is today’s purification of the Church painful for modern Catholic believers–especially the open hatred and virtual gloating coming from some media quarters that is part of the process.

  • Carbon Monoxid

    The NYT explained that those were the gas prices at the time of Christ.

  • Liv

    @Daniel Burke:

    Whether 540 or 1000 words, it still doesn’t seem to have much of a news hook. Not to mention it’s yet another installation in the “why Christianity probably isn’t true, or at least not literally”-themed stories that sprout like weeds every single Easter and Christmas. I’d love to see the media be more creative at Easter and Christmas.

  • mark

    Daniel,

    I’m sorry that I didn’t see the longer version of the story. That the Post truncated the article so much is a valid criticism, but obviously that shouldn’t reflect on RNS.

    I have looked at the longer version of the story now. And I’m afraid I have to agree with others here that the additional words don’t really invalidate my criticisms. I just don’t think this is one of RNS’s best efforts. There are some additional comments that help, but the sourcing of traditional Christians seems oddly reliant on students rather than scholars. The article still lacks a newsworthy premise, which makes the unfortunate timing stand out.

    You guys do lots of fine work and I’m sure we’ll have plenty more positive things to say about RNS in the future.

    Best,

    Mark

  • B. Minich

    It seems that the Post was looking for their yearly “we’re skeptical of Easter and its claims” story, but there wasn’t a big hook this year (i.e. no James Cameron with a documentary disputing the Resurrection). So, they had to go with this generically bad story in my opinion. At least the Cameron story was newsworthy, in the “prominent director releases something!” sense.


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