So says the parent of a student at NorthPointe Christian High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan, commenting on the ouster of Kent Dobson, apparently a capable and Christ-loving teacher well loved by his students (H/T: ThinkChristian). Dobson hosted a Discovery Channel special about the Gospels that apparently ended up leaving too many unanswered questions. Actually, this parent’s remarks are too utterly dumbfounding not to quote in full:
We are writing in concern to the program that was aired on Sunday night with Kent Dobson.
We have many concerns regarding this program and am wondering where Kent Dobson actually stands with his Christian beliefs. We understand that this was done with unbelievers and that parts of this were edited.
The part that actually concerns me that as a Christian the Bible was questioned. The Bible is never to be questioned!
Why as a Christian would one place himself in this type of situation where we would actually be questioning the Bible.
We have a big reservation with having our son in this Bible class. What exactly is Kent teaching our children!
We would like many things cleared up by Kent Dobson himself. We would also like to know what the School board is going to do regarding this program.
Ah, where to begin? I haven’t seen more than a few brief clips of the show with very little context, but according to the mlive.com story linked above,
On the hourlong program, Dobson questioned biblical scholars on possible contradictions between the Gospels and the historical evidence of Jesus’ life. The questions included:
• Was Bethlehem Jesus’ birthplace?
• Was Jesus a carpenter or a stone mason?
• Was Jesus’ eviction of money changers from the temple a political or religious move?
• Is there any truth in the Gnostic gospels?
Only the first of these questions bears on the issue of the Bible’s historicity at all. Whether Jesus was a carpenter or a stonemason is an issue of how one understands the Greek word tekton, and Jesus’ motivations for driving out the money changers are only hinted at in Scripture. As for whether there is “any truth” in the Gnostic gospels, I suppose the ones that say that Jesus existed and had followers can be said to have “truth” in them. At any rate, that is not the same question as “Should I chuck Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in favor of these other documents?” but rather “Is there anything these non-canonical documents can tell me to enhance my historical understanding of Jesus?” My personal answer would be, “Yes, but not very much. There’s a reason they’re not in the canon.” I’m thinking the answer given by a teacher at a conservative Christian school is not going to be far different.
So, if these are in fact the sort of questions Dobson investigated, Christians can and should be neutral to the answers arrived by half to three-quarters of them.
Second, it should be noted that the Discovery Channel does not really have a stellar reputation for producing programs that put conservative-minded Christians at ease. Their biblical specials tend to feature scholars on the radical fringe of biblical scholarship. I note the Jesus Seminar‘s Jon Dominic Crossan’s appearance in Dobson’s special. Did Dobson interview others whose more traditional views got edited out? Or is Dobson simply guilty of trying to be an impartial journalist? If he is to be faulted, perhaps it is for being a bit too trusting of a network with an agenda at cross-purposes to his own?
Finally, and most important. I wonder how the parent quoted above deals with Acts 17:10-11:
That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas off to Beroea; and when they arrived, they went to the Jewish synagogue. These Jews were more receptive than those in Thessalonica, for they welcomed the message very eagerly and examined the scriptures every day to see whether these things were so.
How, I wonder, does one “examine the scriptures” without questioning the Bible? Furthermore, how does one do what Paul insisted the Thessalonians do—”Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess 5:20-22)—without examining even deeply cherished beliefs so as to exercise genuine discernment about what is true and what is false; what is good and what is evil? Is it at least possible that some of the things we think the Bible says aren’t really in there? How will we know if we never “question the Bible”?
It’s scary to imagine a Bible so fragile that it cannot bear to be confronted with tough questions. It’s scarier still to imagine that is the bible “conservatives” believe in. Once more from the article:
NorthPointe has a “Christian world and life view taught from a conservative viewpoint,” according to the school’s Web site. That’s in contrast to Dobson’s style of asking questions and digging deep for the truth, friends said.
It may be in contrast to the “conservative viewpoint” of NorthPointe; it is assuredly not in contrast with the testimony of 2,000 years of careful—and sometimes innovative—biblical investigation by some of the greatest minds the church has produced from Origen on down. The Bible has a depth and resiliency that some people will never understand, and that makes me sad.
I’ll give the final word to Mr. Dobson himself:
“I don’t think even [the apostle] Thomas wants someone like me to stop asking questions. I think that’s just part of being an honest person,” Dobson said.
Using the F-word in Class