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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Here's the Core of Biblical Scholarship Newsweek Apparently Knows Nothing About, or Chose to Ignore

WELCOME! If you are here for the first time as a result of Hugh Hewitt's column in The Weekly Standard or Vox Blogoli VI on his blog, I hope you find these observations useful and interesting. And I hope you will come back again often and let me know what you think of what you read here. Remember - the Blogosphere is a conversation, not just a visit! And don't miss my letter to Meachum that should be posted by noon today.

Christmas is about the birth of Christ, right? For Newsweek managing editor Jon Meachum, it appears the holiday season is simply the occasion for debunking the myths of Christ that are at the heart of Christmas.

In the process, Meachum provides yet another revealing illustration of the ignorance that blinds so many in the MSM. By ignorance, I don't mean lack of intelligence, as Meachum is an articulate, hard-charging, intelligent journalist who has been something of a phenom since he became Newsweek's managing editor at a tender age. No, I mean ignorance of any knowledge that conflicts with or otherwise doesn't comport well with the received liberal orthodoxy about the allegedly mythical basis of orthodox Christianity. It is this sort of ignorance of the existence and content of "the other side" of so many issues that is so frequently the distinctive characteristic that hobbles the MSM.

Meachum's story is the topic at hand for blogger-extraordinaire Hugh Hewitt's latest installment of his Vox Blogoli feature. Periodically, Hugh selects a significant topic and throws it out there for comment by other bloggers. The result is a catalog of blogger analysis, comment and resourcing devoted to the topic being discussed. Be sure and check out Hugh's Meachum Vox Blogoli here. At last count, Hugh had linked to more than two dozen bloggers, including Tapscott's Copy Desk!

I'm not going to launch into a detailed analysis of the many logical flaws, evidentiary omissions and outright misrepresentations of the state of scholarship that mark Meachum's cover feature. After you read Meachum's effort, you should spend a good amount of time with the knowledgable, logically precise and spiritually loving critique by Mark Roberts here. I guarantee you that regardless of your views on spiritual issues Roberts will impress upon you the extent and quality of scholarship in a variety of disciplines that has been done in recent decades and which supports the scientific and historical accuracy of the traditional understanding of Christmas. and indeed of the Old and New Testament Scriptures.

What I want to do is provide three resources for those who wish to explore this topic further. First, for those seeking a concise and highly readable popular explanation of the abundant scientific, archeological and linguistic evidence that supports the literal resurrection of Christ, His Virgin Birth and Jesus claims about Himself, there is no better resource than Josh McDowell's "Evidence that Demands a Verdict." This resource is available in a two-volume paperback available in most larger Christian bookstores, as well as in revised single volume edition titled "The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict," which recently updated the arguments and scholarship.

As a representative of Campus Crusade for Christ since 1964, McDowell has spoken to an estimated five million people in 53 countries. (Full Disclosure: McDowell's campus presentation on these issues when I was a college freshman in 1969 at Oklahoma State University was instrumental in the development of my own faith.) He's a layman, not a scholar, but it quickly becomes obvious for the person encoutering his work for the first time that McDowell is an exceptionally careful and comprehensive researcher who effectively and honestly confronts the logical and historical difficulties so prominent in liberal Biblical criticism.

McDowell is perhaps at his best in chapters such as "The Trilemma: Lord, Liar or Lunatic," which addresses the argument that Jesus was merely a great teacher or moralist who never actually claimed to be the Son of God, and "The Resurrection: Hoax or History." When you grasp the significance of the penalty for failure commonly imposed on the military unit assigned to guard the tomb following the crucifixion - regardless if it was a Roman Kustodian or a Jewish Temple Guard - you begin to see the logical impossibility of the liberal argument that Jesus disciples stole his body and then propagated the lie of the Resurrection.

Second, former Chicago Tribune business journalist Lee Strobel's "The Case for ..." series represents a highly readable, comprehensive look at much of the ground covered by McDowell, but from the more skeptical perspective of somebody who learned long ago to "check it out, even when your mother says she loves you. "The Case for Faith: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of Toughest Objections to Christianity" lays out the critics objections - much of which will be familiar from your reading of Meachum's recent Newsweek piece - and then marshalls an amazing barrage of facts, analyses and logical deduction from history, biology, the medical sciences and much else.

Third, for those who really want to get into these issues, an invaluable and fascinating resource is "When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties" available from Amazon.com by biblical scholars Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. Geisler and Howe address the commonly expressed query from skeptics: "How can you believe the Bible when it is so riddled with contradictions and inaccuracies?" Geisler and Howe literally start with Genesis and go through every known objection to specific passages in the Old and New Testaments. Along the way, they focus on the logical, historical, archeological and scientific evidence for and against the objection. Where there are unresolveable difficulties (there are a few), Geisler and Howe acknowledge them forthrightly. But in the vast majority of cases, they provide a convincing demonstration of their case that the Bible is in fact the most historically and scientifically accurate work ever written by men.

Even if you read only a small portion of the work by McDowell, Strobel, Geisler and Howe, you will very likely find yourself wondering if Meachum purposely ignored them or was simply unaware of the scholarship they present. Either way, Newsweek has again illustrated the MSM's Achilles Heel - refusing to open its eyes to the wider world beyond liberal shibboleths.