Eichenwald, Newsweek, the Bible, and the Wrong Target

By Robin Schumacher

Originally posted at The Christian Post

If you've been following the news, you have no doubt seen or heard about Newsweek's (perhaps the magazine should be more aptly titled Newsweak) Christmas-timed article "The Bible: So Misunderstood It's a Sin", written by Kurt Eichenwald. As Christians, we should be used to demeaning works like this each Christmas and Easter, but I'll admit, it's still tiring to read more of the same from those who look to misrepresent God and His Word.

My purpose here is not to correct the legion of historical inaccuracies, poor logic, bad stereotypes, misinterpretations and misrepresentations in Eichenwald's article. Dr. Michael Kruger has already decisively accomplished that in Part 1 and Part 2 of his refutation, as has Al Mohler in his rebuttal piece. Instead, what I'd like to address is the overarching thesis that Eichenwald puts forward, which I believe is every bit as flawed as the explicit arguments he makes against the Bible.

Eichenwald provides the primary reason for his writing when he says:
When the illiteracy of self-proclaimed Biblical literalists leads parents to banish children from their homes, when it sets neighbor against neighbor, when it engenders hate and condemnation, when it impedes science and undermines intellectual advancement, the topic has become too important for Americans to ignore, whether they are deeply devout or tepidly faithful, believers or atheists.
In other words, there are bad things happening in the world because people are interpreting /using the Bible incorrectly and that, says Eichenwald, needs to stop. Now on the surface, that sounds like a fair request, until you actually read Eichenwald's views on the Bible and then understand what little certainty you have left of Scripture and what remains on the cutting room floor from Eichenwald's shears.

Bumping it up a level, behind all of Eichenwald's attacks on the Bible is a claim that he and most atheists, skeptics, etc., state in one form or another: "If we could only get rid of this religious belief then [fill in the blank with a supposed problem or woe] would disappear." This is the target Eichenwald and others like him aim at with their artillery, but they miss their mark by a country mile.

Let's take a look at three of the most common claims in this vein and see how they match up with the truth.

War and Violence

Atheist Sam Harris says that religion is "the most prolific source of violence in our history."

If we could only eliminate religion then war, bloodshed, etc., would almost be a thing of the past.

The only problem with Harris' claim is that it's completely false.

Now let's be clear — monstrous atrocities like those currently being committed by ISIS are fueled by religion (Islam) as were events such as the Thirty Years' War and others like them. There's no denying that.

However, wiping out religion isn't going to come close to removing war and violence from our world. Historians Philip and Axelrod have demonstrated in their three-volume Encyclopedia of Wars (which covers 1,763 wars that have been waged over the course of human history) that only 123 wars have been religious in nature. That amounts to an amazingly low 6.98% of all wars. Further, when you subtract out wars carried out in the name of Islam, the percentage is cut by more than half to 3.23%.

The conclusion is that all religions combined — minus Islam — have lit the fire behind less than 4% of all of humanity's wars and violent conflicts. (Slide presentation on religion and wars.)

So if Eichenwald and others like him want to target the proper religion where war and violence are concerned, they should aim their literary canons at Islam and not Christianity. Even then, the real target of their ire should be the secular causes and naturalistic philosophies behind the 90+ percent of all wars and atrocities that have stained our world.

Intellectual Advancement

Scientist Steven Weinberg once stated: "The world needs to wake up from the long nightmare of religion...Anything we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done, and may in fact be our greatest contribution to civilization."

Eichenwald more than hints at this in his article: getting rid of religion would supposedly open the floodgates of intellectual advancement. At least two things are worth mentioning about this faulty assertion.

First, while events like the often misunderstood Galileo episode happened, such things don't eclipse the fact that there have been legions of intellectually-gifted religious scientists who have delivered world-impacting accomplishments. One can ask, for example, how Francis Collins' belief in God held him back from his groundbreaking scientific work on DNA?

Second, we can easily turn the issue around and ask if an atheistic scientist's bias keeps him/her from accurately pursuing scientific truth. We listen to Richard Dawkins say, "Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose", and hear Francis Crick remind his listeners, "Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved." (Emphases mine.)

Or maybe these biological organisms look designed because they are designed? Why rule out that possibility?

To listen to some of these atheistic scientists talk, it's not because of evidence. For example, George Klein admits: "I am an atheist. My attitude is not based on science, but rather on faith... The absence of a Creator, the non-existence of God is my childhood faith, my adult belief, unshakable and holy."

Such admissions and the unwillingness of atheistic scientists to allow for the possibility of a Creator lead other scientists like Dean Kenyon to speak out and say: "If science is based on experience, then science tells us that the message encoded in DNA must have originated from an intelligent cause. What kind of intelligent agent was it? On its own, science cannot answer this question; it must leave it to religion and philosophy. But that should not prevent science from acknowledging evidences for an intelligent cause origin wherever they may exist."

Human Harmony

Skeptics like Eichenwald never seem to grow tired of caricaturing Christians after the Westboro Baptist church-goer. If only the world could be rid of such hate-speech filled and condemning people, humanity could live more harmoniously and be better off.

It's tempting to say such thinking is not Eichenwald's fault because the media goes out of its way to highlight the extreme side of most things, while not giving airtime to items that don't help its ratings such as the countless Christian-founded shelters that assist people day in and day out. But I don't think Eichenwald deserves a pass here as he's supposed to be a journalist and know better.

In short, just a quick read through Alvin Schmidt's How Christianity Changed the World should silence any skeptic who wants to paint Christ followers as Westboro types that hate non-Christians, are demeaning to women, and don't love their neighbor. Of course exceptions do exist, but as Augustine wisely said, one should not judge a philosophy by its abuse.

Make no mistake, Christians can and will (and have the right to) speak out on cultural issues like abortion that are serious matters. Doing so in truth and love is not hate speech, although opponents of Christianity will always paint it that way — something the Apostle Paul noted when he wrote, "So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?" (Gal. 4:16).

The Wrong Target

In his article, Eichenwald says that, "This examination is not an attack on the Bible or Christianity", but his shotgun-styled approach and rebirthing of so many historically failed attacks on the Bible says differently and thus in my opinion is disingenuous. It's both sad and funny that Eichenwald misinterprets and misapplies what the Bible says countless times in his piece, yet he passionately tells us the world would be much better off if only the Scriptures were properly interpreted.

In the end, Eichenwald's attempt at undercutting the authority of the Bible follows the same failed path of many who have preceded him. Moreover, his thinking of improving the world by gutting Christianity is every bit as flawed.

I wonder what we can expect from Newsweak this Easter?

Published 1-7-15