Wednesday, November 19, 2008


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.

Bill Ball


Mike said...

I know that this misses the real point of your post, but I strongly agree with you regarding PBS and the quality of their programming. I watch PBS, listen to NPR, and even support two local public radio stations financially (it helps that Michigan offers a very generous tax credit for contributing to local public broadcasting).

I do believe that there is a "liberal slant" at PBS/NPR, but that is the case generally with most of the larger media in the country. It doesn't bother me, because there is also a lot of slant from the other side, so there is no reason not to be a well-informed, well-rounded media consumer. And, as you so correctly point out, "God gave us brains to discern."

If I have a problem with public broadcasting at all, it is that I am uneasy with direct taxpayer funding of it on a philosophical level. That is to say, is public broadcasting something that should be supported with taxpayer’s dollars? Furthermore, is it the business of government to run any aspect of the media?—and we know that if the government funds it, the government runs it. These questions can be tossed around and argued, but the broader point that I would want to make is this: public broadcasting was perhaps once necessary in order to get quality and thought-provoking programming into the home; today, however, that is no longer the case with the abundance of similar, commercial programming offered by channels such as the History Channel, Discovery Channel, and a host of other specialty education and information channels.

In general, I think it may be time for the public to pull the plug on public funding of public broadcasting. PBS is really a redundancy of commercial programming that is widely available, and it represents direct government competition with private industry. I would not necessary advocate shutting down public broadcasting; rather, I think it should be de-funded as concerns the public treasury directly. Universities can still have their public stations by allocating part of their budget to their stations (funded indirectly with tax dollars) and by collecting tax-deductible donations from supporters (another indirect tax subsidy of sorts, but one that taxpayers choose to pay, and not one that is mandated). By taking the direct taxpayer support away (mandated, compulsory support), the conservative critics (I think) would go away; conservative don't like a lot of the programming, but they really don't like being forced to pay for a point of view diametrically opposed to their own.

Now, again, I have totally blown past the point of your post, but at least I’ve had the chance to ride one of my horses for a little distance this afternoon.

Bill Ball said...

Mike, i rally appreciate your comments and the fact that you are able to disagree without being disagreeable.
Though I have strong opinions in many areas, I have tried to limit my remarks on this blog to those for which I feel that I have a Biblical basis. I realize that I have not always suceeded. What follows is just opinion, though hopefully informed opinion.
As far as PBS and NPR, my fears are less of government influence than of corporate and foundation supporters.
Commercial stations are ending up under the control of fewer and fewer large conglomerates, and their bottom line is the bottom line. I think that that is evidenced by the mindless trash that fills their programming. There is some worthy news programming, such as 60 Minutes and some of the Sunday AM talk progams, but I see a bias in most of their news coverage, not to the left or to the right, but toward what entertains and sells. If government supported stations can give us something better then I'm for it.