Est. May 2008

04 March, 2013

Be Careful What You Wish For

The folks behind the History Channel’s new series, The Bible – Roma Downey and Mark Burnett – wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal explaining their belief that the Bible ought to be taught in our public schools as literature.  I applaud their efforts – I, too, believe that teaching the Bible in our schools would be beneficial, as it was during at least the first half of our nation’s history.  Even super-anti-theist Richard Dawkins was heard to say that he thought the Bible should be taught to public-school students – again, as literature.

But I wonder if these folks realize what the consequences of this idea would be.  I mean beyond the obvious shrieking and wailing of the ‘church-and-staters’; I’m talking here about the problems Hollywood and anti-theists (I won’t call them ‘atheists’ because, in my book, they believe God exists – they just deny Him) are going to have.

As I pointed out in my previous post, Ms Downey and Mr. Burnett took a bit of ‘creative license’ with their movie, as have pretty much all producers and directors of Bible-based movies.  They can do this simply because of the level of Bible illiteracy nowdays – the vast majority of people won’t even notice that the stories these Hollywood folks tell under the aegis of ‘the Bible’ are often highly embellished.  Only a relatively few people have enough biblical literacy to notice the ‘errors’ and call Hollywood out on them; now imagine a generation, or two, or more, who have a level of biblical literacy because the Bible is being taught in schools.  Imagine these folks all voicing their concerns over movies that take ‘creative license’ with their source material. 

Hollywood would either have to ‘up its game’ when it comes to ‘Bible’ movies, or they’d have to dispense with ‘Bible’ movies altogether.

As for anti-theists, they, too, would have to ‘up their game’ when it would come to defending their views of the Bible.  Right now a great many of them depend on the biblical illiteracy of their audiences, a fact which can be seen quite easily by reading some of the rebuttals believers have written to some of Mr. Dawkins’, Sam Harris’, and Christopher Hitchens’ (may he rest in peace) books, articles, and speeches and debates.  Imagine, rather than a few rebuttals, you had dozens, or hundreds, of them.

And the reason this will affect anti-theists to a greater degree (IMO, again) is that their arguments are most often directed at the existence of God.  But take a look at the phrases Ms Downey and Mr. Burnett bring up in their article.

The ‘handwriting on the wall’ is from the book of Daniel, and describes a disembodied, supernatural hand writing on the wall of Belshazzar’s palace; Daniel interprets the words as a warning from (you guessed it) God to Belshazzar that he’s about to die.

The ‘straight and narrow’ alludes to the difficulties people will encounter when trying to enter (you guessed it) God’s kingdom (see Matthew 7).

The ‘mouths of babes’ comes from a dispute between the Pharisees and Jesus over the people praising the latter when He entered Jerusalem (see Matthew 21:14-16), specifically calling Jesus the ‘Son of David’, a messianic term which equated Him with (you guessed it again) God.

‘The extra mile’ is in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5), which speak of holy and righteous living before (yes, again) God.

The ‘twinkling of an eye’ is how Paul describes (in 1 Corinthians 15:52) the speed of the transformation of the believer’s body from one of perishability to one of imperishability – and only the imperishable body can live in (yep) God’s kingdom.

A ‘drop in the bucket’ is how Isaiah described the nations from (yep) God’s point of view (Isaiah 40:15) within the greater context of (yep) God’s existence.

‘Stumbling blocks’ defines people (both in the Old and New Testaments) who interfere with believers in their walk of faith; it’s also how Jesus describes Himself (and how Paul describes Him) in relation to non-believers (various locations). 

All these literary allusions are traceable back to God, and even the best of intentions to only teach the Bible as literature will mean that God is going to ‘rub off’ on the readers.  In fact, IMO, there’s no way one can teach the Bible as ‘literature’ without having to reference God, and by referencing God one comes to know He exists.

This also could be seen as a bane by some preachers, especially those who’ve played in any way fast and loose with their exegesis of Scripture: imagine some of these folks – for example, prosperity-gospel preachers or some of the more liberal mainline denominations – with congregations full of a generation or two of people who’ve read and are familiar with the Bible trying to convince them their interpretations are biblical.  Imagine a majority of parishioners suddenly walking up to their preacher and saying, ‘Um, that’s not what it says.’

As far as I’m concerned, increased Bible literacy and understanding is a very good thing; I wonder, though, if certain folks who are pushing it realize what it may mean to them in the future.

No comments: