1. The Disney-ization of Christianity continues apace.
Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, famous for Pastor John Hagee and his over-the-top dioramic teaching on prophecy and the End Times, is about to treat us with a 28,400 square foot building portraying Noah’s Ark, complete with “true-to-size animatronics animals…to underscore the Bible’s authenticity.” Here’s the promotional poster on their website:
In case you missed our post from a couple of years ago that is linked above, here is my description of “Disney-ization” —
But I know what Disney is and what they do — They take classic stories and make cartoons out of them.
Disney does not fool me into thinking what they do is great art containing profound insights into life and the human experience. I accept and enjoy them for what they are, no more. Their artists and animators are first class and what they do, they do well. But whether you are talking about their films, their theme parks, or their pervasive merchandise, the bottom line is that Disney is an animation corporation. They take stories that are classic because of their universal themes and dumb them down so that the kids can enjoy them with mom and dad. They remove all the messiness, complexity, nuance, and grit from these tales and sanitize them for a G or PG-rated modern entertainment audience. They are enjoyable, but as subtle as a punch in the face; as deep as the puddle in my driveway after a light rain.
I guess if your goal is to sell a product, Disney is the way to go; after all, they’re pros at it.
If your goal is to follow Jesus, I’m not so sure.
2. In more hopeful news, some Christian home-schooling households have apparently had enough with pseudo-science. The Atlantic reports that a growing number of these families is now requesting that the textbooks they use teach mainstream modern science, including the evolutionary model.
The article quotes one such parent, Erinn Cameron Warton, an evangelical Christian who homeschools her children. Warton, a scientist, says she was horrified when she opened a homeschool science textbook and found a picture of Adam and Eve putting a saddle on a dinosaur. “I nearly choked,” says the mother of three. “When researching homeschooling curricula, I found that the majority of Christian homeschool textbooks are written from this ridiculous perspective. Once I saw this, I vowed never to use them.” Instead, Warton has pulled together a curriculum inspired partly by homeschool pioneer Susan Wise Bauer and partly by the Waldorf holistic educational movement.”
A few textbook companies are starting to listen, and the article cites examples of some (including our friend Scot McKnight) who are starting to provide materials and encouragement to those who think both believing the Bible and a recognizing the facts discovered through scientific methods is legitimate and preferable to the one-sided approaches of those who claim any acceptance of theories like evolution automatically equals “disregarding the Bible.” Other parents are using public school textbooks for the science portion of their curricula. Jen Baird Seurkamp, an evangelical who homeschools her children, avoids textbooks that discredit evolution. “Our science curriculum is one currently used in public schools,” she says. “We want our children to be educated, not sheltered from things we are afraid of them learning.”
3. In more news from Texas, Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas recently went toe-to-toe with Fox TV commentator Bill O’Reilly about whether or not some of the narratives in the Old Testament are written as factual history or as stories. O’Reilly is from a Roman Catholic background and says he was taught that one may legitimately understand these accounts as allegorical or mythical in some sense without denigrating the truthfulness or authority of Scripture.
Jeffress disagreed, and trotted out arguments that, in my view, don’t hold water. “Here’s the problem, Bill,” Jeffress said. “If you start labeling these stories as fictitious or fable, where do you stop? It’s like peeling the layers of an onion, you end up with nothing.”
This is the illegitimate “slippery slope” fallacy so common in these debates and in all culture war fear-mongering. It only works if one holds an extreme view of inerrancy that fails to recognize the complex mixture of genres in the Bible and the human elements involved in its composition, editing, and arrangement. To use another analogy, the Bible is not a balloon that, if pricked in one small spot, gets blown to bits. Each narrative and portion of Scripture must be examined and understood as it has been given, and recognizing that Jonah may have been a Hebrew folk tale or Adam and Eve a mythic retelling of Israel’s beginnings does not have an automatic impact on the resurrection narratives or Paul’s interpretation of Christ in the epistles.
One Christian site reported this encounter with this headline: “Dr Robert Jeffress Crushes Bill O’Reilly On ‘Allegory’ Assertions Of The Old Testament.” Really? Please. Dr. Jeffress’s arguments are the ones that blow up with a tiny pin prick.
One person Jeffress didn’t impress from the interview was Young Earth Creationist Ken Ham, who made it clear he did not appreciate the fact that, despite his Biblical literalism, Jeffress said he can accept scientific findings such as an old earth. Here’s what the Dallas pastor said to Bill O’Reilly that Ham found so offensive:
“The Bible does not contradict true science. It may contradict the passing fads of scientific theory that are always evolving. For example, it used to be thought that the cosmos always existed. But, then we had Sir Frederick Coyle, who named the Big Bang Theory, who said, ‘Guess what? The universe had a beginning 13.7 billion years ago,'” Jeffress said, adding that he believes that might be true.
“One of the things fundamentalist Christians mess up on is they try to say the earth is 6,000 years old. The Bible never makes that claim.”
This is, of course, heretical compromise to Ken Ham. So he responded with his usual rant about how people like Jeffress are accepting the “fallible” findings of modern science as their authority over God’s “infallible” Word.
Ken, how about we change our terms and discuss “general” or “natural revelation” vs. “special revelation,” the specific purposes for both, the different ways we learn from both, and how there are many areas not addressed by Scripture that are covered by the former? How about if we discuss the genre of Biblical passages, their cultural and historical background and the context within the Bible itself of creation passages, as well as the human elements involved in composing, editing, and arranging the materials in the Bible? Or shall we simply keep up the drumbeat of propaganda? Ham is thoroughly docetic when it comes to his view of Scripture and he and his organization have nothing to do with the advancement of genuine science. It is pure separatist fundamentalism.
I had to laugh, though, at one line in Ken Ham’s critique of Jeffress: “This pastor in my opinion really just sent a signal to the church not to listen to people like those of us at AiG. He really sent a signal not to support the Creation Museum and our resources.”