ONE READER sent me an email this week, alerting me to the fact that a pastor friend of his said I was too conservative, when it comes to the Bible and religion.
“I told him you would get a kick out of that,” the reader said, “because I don’t think your books are conservative at all (balanced is a better word for you).”
The reader said his pastor friend reached that conclusion, at least in part, because sometimes when I state a position that’s widely held among Christians, I’ll say that it’s the position held by “most Bible scholars.” His friend took issue with at least one such statement by saying, “Not by my Bible scholars.”
Years ago, an editor tried to get me to take his position on abortion: he was against it. (I don’t take positions on controversial issues; I report the different positions.) The editor objected to me reporting the reasons why “some Bible experts” say they support a woman’s right to choose what to do about her own pregnancy.
He said I should report what the “correct Bible experts” have to say, since if I looked hard enough I could find a so-called Bible expert for just about any position I’d like to report. For example, I could accurately say that “some Bible experts teach that Mary wasn’t a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus.”
Here’s the code I use when I’m writing. The thinking behind the words, in an attempt to stay consistent with my use of terms.
Bible expert or scholar. This person is a professing Christian with a degree in biblical studies who makes a living by teaching others about the Bible.
Most Bible experts. I use this phrase to describe a position that I believe the vast majority of Bible scholars take. As in, “Most Bible experts teach that Jesus is the Son of God.” I admit, I’m guessing. I haven’t seen any recent polls of Bible experts on topics like this one. But after reporting on the Bible for several decades, my general sense is that most Christian Bible experts would buy into that statement.
Many Bible experts. I use this when I believe a lot of experts take the position, but not necessarily a majority. As in, “Many Bible experts teach that the story of Jonah is more like a parable than literal history.”
Some Bible experts. I use this to describe what I believe is a minority opinion. As in, “Some Bible experts say the original copy of the Bible had no mistakes whatsoever. Perfect.”
If you can think of a better way to report on the many different positions that widely respected Bible scholars take, I’m all ears. With a few fingers and two thumbs.