Is it appropriate for a church leader to publicly question Christianity and the Bible? That's apparently what happened when Kent Dobson, a respected Bible teacher here in my corner of Michigan, appeared on a Discovery Channel program that raised questions about the historicity of the Bible. Dobson resigned under pressure from the school board and some concerned parents:
Dobson, the 31-year-old son of retired Calvary Church pastor Ed Dobson, resigned his post as Bible teacher at NorthPointe Christian High School last week after the school board questioned his role in the March 16 special, "Jesus: The Missing History."
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?
In the program, which is not scheduled for rebroadcast, Dobson does not definitively answer the questions or take a position. He interviews biblical scholars who present evidence that contradicts the Bible.
It was quite a shock to see this in the newspaper this weekend—I don't know Kent personally, but he did contribute a few posts to ThinkChristian back in 2005. The problem, it seems, is not that Dobson doesn't believe in the Bible, but that in the Discovery Channel program, Dobson doesn't strongly answer or settle some of the difficult questions he raises. Here are a few clips from the program—keep in mind that these are just those clips that presumably caused the controversy, and aren't displayed in their full context:
A series of emails from the school board and community shows that the situation is predictably messy and complicated, and while I'm sympathetic to Kent and have a great deal of respect for his work, I don't want to comment much on this case because I don't know all the facts. Hopefully he and his church community will work this out in a Biblical manner. However, this bit—from an email by an upset parent—stood out and points to a broader question (emphasis mine):
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.
I'm not sure how I feel about that. I don't know any Christian who hasn't, at some point, questioned God and the Bible—whether it's out of honest doubt or angry skepticism, most people have asked these questions. But is it different when a Bible teacher raises these questions without offering a definite answer to them? If your local Sunday school teacher publicly raised questions like this, would it upset or worry you? Should kids see their adult leaders asking these questions out loud, or is that potentially harmful to their faith?
That's a lot of big questions... but what do you think?