Tuesday, December 24, 2013

An Open Letter to Bill O'Reilley

Dear Bill,

I have thought long and hard about what to say here. I'm not sure I can do justice to my own thoughts. As a result I thought I would write here first then sharpen and reduce by statements to more effectively express my thoughts.

First, I am a consistent viewer of your popular show. For commentary and insight I agree with you in most cases. As a historian -- I teach American Christian history online -- you have an excellent grasp of the founders view and intent. You would fit as a "strict constructionist" in most constitutional matters.

Second, while I am a consistent viewer I quite often turn you off when you approach issues relating to Christianity and the Bible. I do so for several reasons:
  • No matter how much you bloviate, Christianity is not a philosophy. Stoicism, Platonism, Existentialism, and other thought systems are philosophies. They all originated in the minds of men. A philosopher's world-view is centered on human will and understanding. Christianity is centered on a person identified in Scripture as the Son of God. Yes, a disciple of Christ is a new creation who lives by a world-view that centers not on man but on God. Jesus was a man but more than that. You learned in catechism that Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. A disciple is one who looks to the life of Christ and seeks to replicate that life in his/her own. 
  • No matter how much you wish to hide it, Christianity is exclusive. It is exclusive because pure Christianity teaches that Christ is the only way to God. That insistence brought persecution and death to early Christians but they stood their ground until ultimately Christ and his message eliminated the power and extent of false religions recognized in the Roman pantheon and beyond. 
  • No matter what you learned from the nuns, the Bible is God's word communicated through chosen human individuals and it is the very oracles of God. Therefore, when it speaks it speaks truth even if at first glance it seems to contradict science. Thus, the Bible is not a record of man's thoughts about God but God's communication to man. Let me add that you seem to take the word of science over the word of God. I have to ask you to consider how often science has changed course and rejected ideas once thought absolute. It sometimes appears that science contradicts the Bible but that is usually because one (scientist) or the other (biblicist) is mistaken in their interpretation. For example, while I believe the earth is much younger than many, but not all, scientists the Bible nowhere states it is only 4,000 years or 10,000 years old. Neither can science prove the planet is 4.5 billion years old. Both are ideas accepted by faith. So when you press me, I'll take the Bible's word over yours or a scientists any day leaving open the possibility of misunderstanding.
  • No matter how you interpret Scripture you all too often exhibit your learning from the catechism or Catholic tradition rather than the Bible itself. In the matter of Phil Robertson you persistently  quoted Luke 6:37. You are quite right in that we are told not to pronounce condemnation on others. But Paul says "the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God" (6:9). He then lists those God considers unrighteous. That list included the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, those who practice homosexuality and other sins. God condemned those things, Phil Robertson didn't! Oh, by the way, Paul's words are as much the words of Christ as Jesus' own words (see John 16:12 and following. God's message was not complete with Jesus but the Holy Spirit led the apostles to a fuller understanding of it. Robertson was asked a question, he answered it. How many adulterers raised a fuss? How many of the sexually immoral raised the roof? I think you get my point. 
Do you realize that those of us you consider fundamentalists have reasons for what we believe? Do you understand that there are genuine scholars who hold views grounded solidly in reason and Scripture yet graduated from Harvard, Princeton, Yale and other fine schools? Yet you tend to class all those who disagree with you as ignoramuses.

I know this is too long to be posted on the air. I didn't write it for that purpose. It probably isn't pithy enough.

Michael Hines
Sun City, Arizona