About 6 weeks ago I received a forward from a friend. It was an e-mail from an organization that sends out warnings about looming crises in our nation. I don’t remember the name of the organization.
This e-mail was warning us about a program soon to be broadcast on PBS attacking the Bible and attempting to shake our faith. We the readers were urged to write or petition our congressmen to remove this danger by pulling the plug on PBS funding.
My first reaction was anger! I wanted to write back to all concerned and express my views: PBS is the only TV network that has consistently decent programming. It is the only network that provides good entertainment AND balanced news. If PBS were removed I’d be stuck watching all the sex and violence or the sensationalist news coverage on the networks. Yes, PBS programming expresses many of the current scientific views that clash with my Christian beliefs. But God gave us brains to discern.
Well my conscience and my wife restrained me from doing anything rash. I merely decided to watch the TV guide for the appearance of this “blasphemous” program. Trouble was I deleted the e-mail and forgot both the name and the date for this program.
At last it appeared! Tuesday evening there it was: “The Bible’s Buried Secrets.” It was touted as showing archaeological sites and inscriptions that would shed light on the origins of monotheism. This must be it, I thought and settled in to watch.
Well, it was a disappointment. Though it was slickly produced and narrated as if it were some unsolved mystery, it really gave little, if any new information. Its basic thesis seemed to be that man had created God somewhere around the 10th century BC.
Most of the information given was not new, but was arranged so as to raise doubts in the minds of believers. I don’t know if this was deliberate on the part of its producers or not. I suspect not.
Some of the information given:
-- There is evidence from archaeology and contemporary history that verifies the overall biblical story as far back as 1000 BC, the time of David. True!
-- There is little inconclusive data from farther back than 1000 BC that verifies the Bible. Well … ?
-- There is no archaeological evidence of the exodus. True, as far as we know.
-- The archaeological evidence for the conquest of Canaan is still being debated. True!
-- The Israelite people continued to worship idols and multiple deities long after the establishment of the Temple of the One God in Jerusalem. True! Anyone who reads the books of Kings knows this. Archaeology merely verifies it.
Beyond this it gets a bit weird, with the experts using words like “perhaps” and “probably” quite a bit. Hypotheses are presented as though they were facts. The implication was that if we can’t verify a story in the Bible then we can dogmatically assert that it didn’t happen. This allows us to dismiss all biblical history up to 1000 BC, and better yet, to make up our own.
And so we have an alternative history which itself is unverified and unverifiable:
-- There was no mass exodus from Egypt. There were only a few slaves who escaped Egypt and headed for Canaan.
-- There was no covenant with Yahweh made at Mount Sinai. The escaped slaves picked up the name of Yahweh from a Midianite deity on their way to Canaan.
-- The “so-called” conquest of Canaan was really a peasant revolt apparently instigated by the escaped Egyptian slaves.
-- The Torah (the five books of Moses) was not written by Moses because he probably didn’t exist. It was really a composite of four different strands of tradition and these strands were composed at various times during the kingdom period. They were finally pasted together into a whole during the Babylonian captivity. When Ezra read the Torah to the returned exiles (Nehemiah 8:1-8), he was reading from a “hot-off-the-press” new edition – the final draft of the freshly composed work. [For a good and biting rebuttal of the 200 year-old “documentary theory” of the composition of the Torah, read the note on chapter 14 of Herman Wouk’s This Is My God, pages 272-280 in the paperback edition.]
So what are we to make of all this? I think it all comes down to this: if one begins one’s studies with the presupposition that the God of the Bible does not exist, then one will probably come to a conclusion that agrees the presupposition (apart from a work of the Spirit of God). And of course, then there must be a “scientific” explanation to account for the Bible and its claims for the existence of one God who created the universe.
“And even if our gospel is hidden, it is hidden in those who are perishing, in whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the Image of God should not shine on them” (2 Corinthians 4:3, 4).
By the way, I’ll keep watching PBS.