Newsweek’s Jon Meacham and Christmas

The Newsweek managing editor produces this lengthy and intended “myth-busting” account of how we misguided evangelicals simply Don’t Understand Enlightened religion. It is the standard explanation “Jesus Seminar” treatment, focused on the lack of positive proof of all of the Biblical events.

But, I suspect that Meacham is one of those people who is trapped by the world he has chosen to live in. He actually has a history of respectful interest in matters of religion, which would make sense given his choice of a little-known religious-origin college for his undergrad studies. Read his description, in his fine book Franklin and Winston, of the church service conducted by FDR and Churchill aboard ship up in the Arctic, where Roosevelt read the prayers and robustly led the hymns (“O God, Our Help In Ages Past”) in a way that would give apoplexy to Barry Lynn if it were reported about Bush and Blair today.

I almost feel sorry for Meacham, because he gives off an almost wistful sense of wanting to believe, but not being able to harmonize “simple” faith (that is not the same thing as “simpleton faith”) with the hyper-sophisticated and cynical world that the editor of a major national newsmagazine must inhabit, that of a nice “god” who stays out of the way and doesn’t interfere with how we want to lead our lives.

In this way, he reminds me a lot of the late and now little-known (in America) Chuck Templeton, who was the closest associate (and acknowledged superior preacher) to Billy Graham in the late 1940’s. He lost his faith after attending Princeton Theological Seminary, and died unhappy after a polymathic media career in Canada. Despite that apostasy, incidentally, he and Graham remained good friends until his death, with Templeton telling anyone who would listen, “Billy Graham is a NICE guy!” Templeton cried at times because he wanted the warmth of the relationship with Jesus back in his life, but simply could not believe no matter how much he desired to do so.

The entire “expert analysis” approach trumpeted by The Jesus Seminar has been thoroughly debunked by many people, including Dr. Greg Boyd’s Cynic, Sage, or Son of God (now unfortunately out of print), Penn State’s distinguished professor of history, Dr. Philip Jenkins’ Hidden Gospels: How the Search for Jesus Lost Its Way, ( going all the way back to Albert Schweitzer’s The Quest of the Historical Jesus,


The most interesting account I have found is Charlotte Allen’s The Human Christ- The Search For The Historical Jesus (, because she summarizes, in very readable form, the attempts made by every different new group of liberal scholars going back 2,000 years to suddenly re-manufacture Jesus in their own images. Today’s “Jesus Seminar” clone of those previous militant naturalists straightening out us superstitous “Jesusland” residents is painting a picture for us of a pacifist, tolerant, feminist and (especially- the common trait) non-divine philosopher named Jesus. Certainly not the Son of God.

But all of history is what we believe based on the best accounts we can find, minus what we have falsified, not what we have built up because we found another brick; we start imagining the edifice without having all the bricks because they simply do not all exist any longer. If we didn’t reconstruct the past this way we would never be able to know anything at all. So, Jesus and all elements of His life we read about in the most comprehensive accounts we have of any character of antiquity, with generally such supportive compatible accounts that schlars invented a supposed common document, “Q” that they were all supposedly copied off of. Where we can, we discard errors.

Then we believe or we don’t believe. And nothing significant to Christianity has been falsified.

But the dirty little secret in the entire controversy is the “catch 22”: if you are a debunking, anti-divinity scholar, your views are credible. But, if you have the same or far better credentials, write for publications that are as prestigious, but you also happen to be a Believer, your scholarship is tainted and your work does not exist. This is the way that Mr. Meacham and his friends justify ignoring the large majority of scholars, through the centuries dating back to Origen, up till today. If they believe, they are not qualified- they reach the wrong conclusions.


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