PBS Communicates Both Fact And Opinion In ’God In America’

America’s renewed interest in spiritual things prompts media responses like this week’s PBS special, “God in America,” a six-hour series exploring how religion has shaped our nation. The show’s goal is assumed to be that of education, to present a historical timeline of our 400 year history highlighting milestones impacted by religious belief. Yet all attempts to educate also serve to shape the student’s thinking. As such, even educational shows must be watched with both eyes open to the influences of our confused culture.

In part two of the series, one of the key issues of Christianity was raised, that of the authority of Scripture. Stephen Prothero, Professor of Religion at Boston University, summarized it well when he said, “Anybody in America who cares about the Bible, which is to say virtually everyone, is interested in this question: Is it necessary for Christians to believe that every sentence, every word in the Bible is true, or can we just believe that the Bible is divinely inspired?”

In the last 100 years more than any other time, this question has divided those who identify themselves as Christ-followers in this country. Consequently, we now have the evangelical, conservative camp, and the liberal, modern camp. The former, often called the “Religious Right,” holds to the inerrancy of Scripture; while the latter left-leaning group clings to the word “inspired” and claims the Bible is merely “motivated by” God rather than actually “God-breathed” as the original Greek text suggests. (2Timothy 3:16) This then begs the question: From which camp did PBS write and produce “God in America”?

As neutral as PBS may have intended to remain in this production, they appear left-leaning due to their choice of footage from interviews with chosen religious scholars. PBS included comments by their selected “experts” that spoke against the truth of Scripture, while they gave little to no attention to the wealth of evidence for the authenticity and reliability of Scripture. As such, Bible-believing Christians were presented, ever-so-subtly, as uneducated, unsophisticated, stubborn fools.

Carefully weaved into the contemporary academic narrative of “God in America – part two” were lines such as these:

“There are errors in the Scriptures…”

“Moses could not have written the first five books of the Bible.”

“Now we don’t have to leave reason at the door when we go to worship.”

“This is old-fashioned ancient religion that is not suitable for the modern world.”

“The whole world has now seen not just the ignorance of, but the stupidity of the so-called fundamentalists, represented by William Jennings Bryan. How could any intelligent person believe in this kind of stuff?”

Contrary to popular belief, many Bible-believing Christians today hold advanced degrees in not only religion, but science, government, philosophy, math, engineering, education and countless others.  Yet there are many who sit on the fence wondering who to listen to, and what to believe. Such people may be interested to read from the scores of scholarly short works available online by reputable Christian organizations such as Probe Ministries, Josh McDowell Ministries, and Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries, just to name a few.

A large portion of Christ-followers in America today believe the Bible is just another book, that it is merely a cafeteria of ancient ideas about morality from which they can pick and choose; yet nothing could be further from the truth.

“And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.(2Peter 1:19-21, ESV)

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  1. Karyn, I appreciate your point of view, but I think debate and difference of opinions over faith are necessary and healthy. Suggesting someone might not be a true Christian because they have doubts about the Bible in some way, shape or form is an oversimplification. Differences of opinion indicate a discussion and intellectual inquiry are taking place, which outstrips ignoring it as subject matter altogether.

    October 14, 2010
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  2. Thanks for reading. You said “Suggesting someone might not be a true Christian because they have doubts about the Bible in some way, shape or form is an oversimplification.” I have reread my post and am at a loss for where I stated that, even indirectly. I do state my view that the Bible is not just another book of ancient ideas. Hopefully, as a fellow believer in Christ and an Everyday Christian colleague, you would agree.

    October 14, 2010
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  3. Sure, I agree on that point. I don’t agree that someone’s expertise is invalidated by having an opinion of the Bible that doesn’t involve inerrant interpretations. That’s not the way scholarship works in any academic sense.

    October 14, 2010
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  4. We share another point of agreement. There are surely many literary experts on the Bible, and not all of them believe that it is the literal Word of God, nor do they even believe in God. There are also many believers in Jesus as Savior who do not believe that the Bible in its original text is the inerrant Word of God. And even among those who believe the Bible is trustworthy and without error, there remains disagreement when it comes to interpretation. Fortunately for us, God does not require us to have everything figured out upon arriving at the gates of Heaven. He only asks one thing – to believe in Jesus. Of course, to believe that basic tenet requires believing in at least some of the words of the Bible. And so we are back to where we began – cafeteria-style Christianity. I am simply one of many who believes that God has provided for us an entire banquet to enjoy instead.

    October 14, 2010
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  5. STEPcoach said:

    Karyn, I appreciate the article and your coverage of this vital issue. However, we must never forget that we deal with spiritual as well as temporal conflicts. The enemy’s desire to discredit our faith – and our Lord – is active and energetic in all areas. If he can turn one questioning person away from faith with a television show, his efforts will be successful.

    November 11, 2010
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  6. I finally finished watching this series on DVR and found it be well-balanced and informative.

    November 11, 2010
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