The invincible ignorance of Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald

Numerous scholarly refutations have been made of Newsweek and Kurt Eichenwald’s Christmas polemic against the Bible and historic Christianity. Dr. Michael Brown, whose own detailed rebuttal of Eichenwald’s article was published by Newsweek, subsequently invited Eichenwald on to his Line of Fire radio show.

The resulting two-hour programme is exceedingly frustrating to hear for anyone with even a basic knowledge of Christian history and the transmission of the Bible. Nevertheless, Eichenwald’s refusal to concede his fundamental errors of fact is enlightening. Throughout the show, Eichenwald demonstrates his invincible ignorance by evading every opportunity to engage meaningfully with the arguments and evidence against his position.

Dr. James R. White, director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, has responded to a portion of the Brown-Eichenwald interview in his usual inimitable and sometimes acerbic manner. The relevant segment starts at 47:35 into the audio/video of the 27 January 2015 episode of Dr. White’s Dividing Line programme. It is worth hearing for anyone interested in understanding Eichenwald’s errors.

A debate between White and Eichenwald is clearly warranted, but it seems unlikely that Eichenwald would be willing to expose his arguments to direct examination by Dr. White, notwithstanding White’s exceedingly long track record of engaging honourably in well-mannered formal debate.

Eichenwald is, at least, right about one thing: many self-professed Christians are woefully ignorant about both the Bible’s history and the teaching it contains. Ironically, it is this very lack of knowledge that is exploited by those like Eichenwald who espouse tired liberal unorthodoxy. His article thus demonstrates why Christians need to be informed and educated about their faith, always ‘ready to give a defence to everyone who asks’ (1 Peter 3:15).

A clear summary of early Christian beliefs

In his post One of the Clearest (and Earliest) Summaries of Early Christian Beliefs, Dr. Michael J. Kruger quotes and comments upon a description of Christian beliefs written by Aristides, a converted Athenian philosopher, to the emperor Hadrian around 125 A.D. Dr. Kruger concludes:

This is a surprisingly thorough and wide-ranging summary of core Christian doctrines at a very early point in the life of the church. And it was this form of Christianity that was publicly presented to the Emperor. Once again, we can see that core Christian beliefs were not latecomers that were invented in the fourth century (or later), but appear to have been in place from the very beginning.

Did the earliest Christians believe in substitutionary atonement and imputation?

Did Jesus die in our place, bearing the punishment for our sins? In Did the Earliest Christians Really Believe in Substitutionary Atonement (and Even Imputation)?, Dr. Michael J. Kruger writes:

The average internet-level narrative goes something like this: the earliest Christians had no clear understanding for why Jesus died on the cross and what it accomplished. The idea of a substitutionary atonement is a late invention designed to retroactively explain the (otherwise embarrassing) death of Jesus. In fact, it was not until Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo (Why the God-Man?) in the middle ages that someone came up with the idea that Jesus died in place of sinners.

Of course, such a narrative can be readily refuted just examining the writings of the New Testament itself–particular[ly] the letters of Paul. However, it is also worth noting that this view was held by some of the earliest Christian writers; in this case, by the author of the Epistle to Diognetus in the early second century. Here are some excerpts from the author that affirm key aspects of substitutionary atonement:

Newsweek publishes response by Dr. Michael Brown to its Christmas hit-piece on the Bible, but says ‘we stand by our story’

Newsweek and Kurt Eichenwald’s ignorant Christmas polemic against the Bible and historic Christianity prompted a number of cogent rebuttals. Newsweek has now published a lengthy response by Dr. Michael Brown. Nevertheless, Newsweek editorial staff insist in the introduction to the piece that they ‘stand by’ their story and ‘disagree with some of Dr. Brown’s points’:

Newsweek’s recent cover story on the Bible, as we expected, proved quite controversial, particularly among the evangelical community. Some agreed with our point, others expressed anger and still others came back with substantive replies. Our hope from the beginning was to inspire debate, and so we invited one our evangelical critics, Dr. Michael Brown, to continue the discussion. While we stand by our story and disagree with some of Dr. Brown’s points, we do not think it is appropriate to publish a reply here. However, Dr. Brown has generously invited the author of the piece to appear on his national radio show next week to resume this important dialogue.

The Josh Alcorn suicide: thinking from a Christian worldview

In a forthright episode of the The Dividing Line that is certain to upset those who prioritize tone over truth, Dr. James R. White, director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, offers a biblical perspective on Josh Alcorn’s recent suicide. Dr. White writes:

The hatred being heaped upon his parents, the abuse the young man suffered at the hands of the LGBT “community” itself that encouraged his self-destructive thinking, and the sinfulness of Josh’ own attitudes and actions, must be examined. If Christians continue to imbibe the spirit of the age and refuse to call men to a higher standard, one based upon their true nature as creatures made by God’s hand in God’s image, we will be guilty of encouraging more and more Josh Alcorn’s, and the destruction of more lives.

Round-up: responses to Kurt Eichenwald’s Newsweek article, ‘The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin’

Several cogent responses were provoked by Newsweek and Kurt Eichenwald’s ignorant Christmas polemic against the Bible and historic Christianity. Here are the best:

  • Dr. Michael J. Kruger, President and Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC, wrote a two part rebuttal on his blog: part 1, part 2.
  • Dr. James R. White, director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, devoted two episodes of his Dividing Line programme to refuting Eichenwald’s piece: part 1, part 2.
  • Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote a blog post.
  • Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and Executive Director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, also authored a post.