Tuesday, December 07, 2004


Time and Newsweek have both provided cover stories on the "Christmas story", i.e., the birth of Jesus. Rob Moll provides a breakdown. Needless to say, the results are predictable:
Both Newsweek and Time have Jesus on their covers, and neither article quotes an evangelical scholar in its attempt to narrate how Christians concocted the story of the birth of Jesus....

Newsweek says they want to find the middle, somewhere between London's childlike faith and severe skepticism. Then, author Jon Meacham goes on to report only what those scholars say who do not believe what the Gospels report about Jesus' birth. "The first followers, we should always remember, believed that the Risen Lord was going to return and usher in a new apocalyptic age at any moment."

But when Jesus didn't return, these followers decided they'd better write down the story of Jesus' life, says Meacham. This Gospel story, Newsweek says, cannot be trusted historically because early Christians were by then far removed from the actual events, and, besides, they were only using the story as a means to gain believers....

But, rather than telling us why many scholars find no contradiction between faith and history, Meacham gives those of us who do believe the Gospel story a piece of advice. "Christianity is a religion of perplexing contradictions. To live an examined faith believers have to acknowledge those complexities and engage them, however frustrating it may be."

Shocking! There's no place in the story for the believer's perspective? Well, there's really not at Time, either, it seems:
Time's story goes through all the same scholarly dilemmas, but with a little more sympathy. For example, some of the differences between Gospel narratives, David Van Biema writes, can be understood by recognizing the different audiences intended to read the story.

Van Biema, though, ends without condescending advice. Even those with a "politically progressive analysis of Scripture" find something miraculous in the birth of Christ, as the Gospels tell it. During the nativity pageant at Arlington Heights First Presbyterian in Illinois, pastor Dianne Shields won't be including her historical qualms. She's preached her "scholarly sermons on the Magi and the meaning of Mary's answer to Gabriel," says Van Biema. But she's also going to play the angel in the play.

As she walks down the aisle holding Jesus, Van Biema says, "Many will cry out, if only silently within their hearts, Hallelujah!"

So, even if the Gospel accounts aren't true, it really is fun to pretend it is once a year--woohoo!

I really don't think it's possible for the national news magazines to bring themselves to take the Bible seriously, or even consider letting serious believers speak for themselves.

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