Bill O’Reilly, Robert Jeffress, “The Bible,” and the Truth of God’s Revelation
Bill O’Reilly had on Pastor Robert Jeffress of The First Baptist Church of Dallas, TX. Jeffress gained a lot of attention during the 2012 presidential elections when he opposed Romney—in favor of Perry—on the grounds that Romney was a Mormon. Jeffress argued that we needed an evangelical in the White House.
O’Reilly’s segment focused on whether the Bible should be understood literally or allegorically. The unstable Fox News host began the segment with an irresponsible remark:
“The Bible,” which was co-created by Mark Burnett and his wife, Roma Downey, “highlights fundamentalist Christian beliefs.”
The History Channel show can be debated (at another time), but the opening assumption already triggers the insult of ignorance of anyone who believes such events to be literal. “Fundamentalist Christian beliefs” is the media’s way of perpetuating evangelical Christians as theological dinosaurs. Further, it carries on the abusive stereo-types usually addressed towards Islamic radicals. If you are a fundamentalist, you are in some way capable of doing things the typical enlightened human being would never do.
The Origins Question
O’Reilly asked Pastor Jeffress if Adam and Eve were literal figures that lived in the Garden of Eden. Jeffress affirmed our first parent’s historicity by stating that our Lord himself in Matthew 19 affirmed their origins. O’Reilly’s next assumption is a rather profound one:
If you believe in Adam and Eve there are a number of other things you have to believe.
Precisely. Now, Big Bill thinks this is ridiculous, but at least he grasps that one thing necessarily leads to the other. If one denies the historicity of Adam and Eve, then one is left with endless possibilities of denying other such miraculous events. Former Professor of Westminster Seminary, Peter Enns, recognizes that. In fact, he dedicates most of his time these days to wondering about all sorts of ways to de-historicize the Bible to the point of even considering whether we are truly to be blamed for the sins of our first parents. The consequences here are not trivial.
O’Reilly asserts that a belief in Adam’s historicity also means that we have to believe that actions like incest and stoning need to be affirmed by the 21st century Christian. O’Reilly has never sat under a professor of Biblical Theology, so in one sense his ignorance can almost be overlooked. But O’Reilly is actually publishing a book on Jesus, so it would be good if he consulted one; preferably an orthodox one. The chances of Bill doing so are the same chances of his beloved evolutionary process actually having happened.
This is where the question of origins becomes important in this discussion. The beginning is actually a real beginning, which includes types, shadows, symbols, and poetry all grounded in an actual, literal set of human beings.
The story of the whale was a tale
This would not be an interesting interview unless O’Reilly brought to our attention that fantastically absurd event where a big fish consumed a man. How crazy! How insane that the Creator of Heaven and Earth, who made the stars and who made all the animals on land and sea would create a fish that could house, or to provide “a condo”—as O’Reilly mockingly stated—for a man for three days. Really, O’Reilly? Really? I’d say in the miracle list, this ranks rather low. It would have been that simple!
Jeffress then nails it:
If you start labeling these stories as fictitious or fable, where do you stop?
You don’t! You keep going and becoming more and more skilled with your scissors. You give man the power to alter history and he will shape it after his own image.
Jeffress’ concluding remarks makes his case quite well for us “fundamentalists.” He points out that the virgin birth is a remarkable miracle. If we assert that Adam and Jonah were products of ancient tales, then the virgin birth and the resurrection of Jesus necessarily need to fall into that category.
The biblical story is not just a game of legos. We can’t simply build it up and tear it down as we please, or when it does not seem to harmonize with the theories of the day. The Biblical story topples other stories because its Writer created the characters and has ensured that its narrative never be torn down. Adam is not just another brick in the creedal wall. If you pull it out the dam breaks and the apostolic witness will be covered by the deluge of heresy. Literal or allegorical is not the real question. The real question is: “Can we trust Yahweh to do what He says He will do?” The answer is simple.
Uri Brito is the Senior Pastor of Providence Church and connoisseur of fine Psalmnody.