Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Mystery of Christmas - 48 Hours Mystery

We can generally expect at least a few TV specials each Christmas on the skeptic's view of the Bible, Christianity, and/or the Christmas story. This year is no exception with at least two such shows. CBS offered one such effort on their Saturday night news program, 48 Hours Mystery. I have emailed the following review to the folks at CBS. It will be interesting to see if there is any response.

First allow me to praise the special for giving equal time to both believers and skeptics. The overall balance was better than expected from a major network. The quality of the content was also excellent, and I think the average listener could follow and understand the issues.

There were two rather glaring evidences of bias, however. They were subtle, but bias nevertheless.

First, in describing many of the arguments put forward by the skeptics, the program used words like many theologians agree, or most theologians agree, or even just theologians agree. In no case was there any way for the viewer to know if this was a few obscure ranters and ravers, 25% of all theologians, or 100% of mainstream experts, but only 5% of evangelical writers and thinkers. By leaving it vague, the implication was that there are vast numbers of theologians who are skeptical.

In not one case were the words of the Ben Witherington backed up by any statement from the moderator with regard to anyone else agreeing with him. Not once did she use the words used to support the skeptics. Yet, the skeptics represent a small minority of Christian theologians. The vast majority would agree with Mr. Witherington at every point.

In addition, the program used three different skeptics, who each had full references to their backgrounds. In the case of Ben Witherington, he was described as "a conservative Bible scholar and an evangelical minister." But it would have been more complete to say at least some of the following: "Bible scholar Ben Witherington III is Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. A graduate of UNC, Chapel Hill, he went on to receive the M.Div. degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from the University of Durham in England. He is now considered one of the top evangelical scholars in the world, and is an elected member of the prestigious SNTS, a society dedicated to New Testament studies." This information was a Google away.

By providing only a more modest background of Mr. Witherington's credentials, the program obviously intended to give him less credibility.

Finally, while most of the arguments provided by the skeptics had to do with questions around the historical accuracy and consistency of the 4 gospels, the program really failed to provide any of the well known rebuttals to these questions. They could, I'm sure, have had Josh McDowell or Lee Stroebel on the program to offer such rebuttals.

All-in-all a good, but flawed effort.
You can read the entire transcript of the show to confirm my comments if you would like. I will let you Google Ben Witherington yourself to see how hard it was to get his credentials.

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