I had missed the NEWSWEEK cover story on the Bible ["The Bible: So Misunderstood It's a Sin"]. I don't know if you saw it or not. That's partially due to the magazine's quiet decline, and I suppose, partially due to the fact I was not in the grocery store much this month. Earlier NEWSWEEK pieces have disturbed me. Now I simply expect bad things.Meachem is our friend?! In any way, shape, or form? Please. The man who single-handedly transformed NEWSWEEKs religion coverage into an arm of the Episcopal gay marriage machine? And if Mohler feels compelled to make so much of the peripheral garbage in the piece, you know he is in fact scrambling more than a little.
But Al Mohler responded to it like a woman scorned or a scrambling debate opponent. He called it "an irresponsible screed of post-Christian invective."
And you know I am very predisposed to champion Mohler's position here. And yet when I googled the web looking for other responses to the piece I was dismayed. Is this the best that we can do? And is NEWSWEEK deserving of surprised umbrage?
Mohler misses an obvious point. Even repsonsible liberals in an increasingly liberal culture will fumble the ball on this topic. Go back and read ANY NEWSWEEK piece on the Bible, especially from the past five years. A disaster. So Mohler sounds like a naive bested Republican negotiator in the Whtie House when he writes, "When written by journalists like Newsweek‘s former editor Jon Meacham or TIME reporters such as David Van Biema, the articles were often balanced and genuinely insightful. Meacham and Van Biema knew the difference between theological liberals and theological conservatives and they were determined to let both sides speak. I was interviewed several times by both writers, along with others from both magazines. I may not have liked the final version of the article in some cases, but I was treated fairly and with journalistic integrity."
But for me this is all like Republicans trying to fit in on SNL... or like insisting that Catholic Scripture scholar Raymond Brown is the Church's friend. Anyone who has read Brown's THE BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH will realize that Kurt Eichenwald sounds a lot like him if you'd strip away the caustic tenor. The bottom line is that liberal Biblical scholarship and Higher Criticism can be ballyhooed all one wants for their "undeniable insights." In the end, they dissolve faith. And without patent, clear answering, they also diminish credibility. But view the websites for any Catholic publisher, and you'll find no good responses to modern skeptical scholarship. The tactic seems to be to avoid, and then decry, versus thoughtful answering. The previous Pope surprises at points by attempting engagement, but beyond that I do not see it. But the center will not hold if the Biblical foundation is gutted. I think that what Mark Steyn from 2008 about politics holds for the Church in 2015.
...pulling the lever for a guy with an R after his name every other November isn’t going to fix it. If the default mode of a society’s institutions is liberal, electing GOP legislators eventually accomplishes little more than letting a Republican driver take a turn steering the liberal bus. If Hollywood’s liberal, if the newspapers are liberal, if the pop stars are liberal, if the grade schools are liberal, if the very language is liberal to the point where all the nice words have been co-opted as a painless liberal sedative, a Republican legislature isn’t going to be a shining city on a hill so much as one of those atolls in the Maldives being incrementally swallowed by Al Gore’s rising sea levels.And crying hate is not going to fix the problem of attacks on the Bible's accuracy, any more than saying there are some good conservative books, too!, if the default mode of Scripture scholarship and clerical disposition is liberal. If the very language used about the Bible's accuracy is hedged by nods to Higher Criticism, if the entire Old Testament was essentially a committee project, we will be swallowed by tides that think truth is the result of committees and Living Tradition. And good, plainspun folk like Pope Francis who insist we send everyone off to universities for education are kidding themselves if they think those same students will graduate and be satisfied by homespun homilies, any more than will the Jesuits whose sophistication has led them past Biblical stories. Eichenwald went to Swarthmore and has his own band. He is a perfect example of an Obama voter, and yet Mohler expects him to be anything but incredulous to Christian doctrine? Decades and decades of policy and culture have consequences. On the Bible, Mohler wants to be outraged by the conversation. Catholics want to ignore it, even in their parochial schools. I think it is obvious that neither approach has worked. Meanwhile we are busy encouraging everyone to "Dare to Hope" that all will be saved. Dreams of our fathers....The audacity of hope...indeed.Related:
- Hurd Baruch, "The Crisis in Biblical Scholarship" (Scripture Stripped of Dogma), New Oxford Review (December 2014).
- Father Brian W. Harrison, O.S., "On Rewriting the Bible" (Christian Order, March 2020).
[Hat tip to G.N. and L.S.]
Related: At last, a decent Catholic rejoinder: "Ben Eitherington, "News Weak -- The Problems with Mr. Eichenwald's Article" (Patheos, January 6, 2015).