Why the ‘Biased Testimony’ Objection Fails
No, the resurrection accounts in the Bible are not “fake news” on account of being written by biased sources.
This is the age of fake news. Distrust of the media has never been higher. The reasons for it aren’t all bad reasons. We’ve all seen the press skewing things to suit a political narrative. Both sides have been guilty.
It’s gotten so bad, you even have social media companies trying to combat fake news. Funny enough, they often reveal their own biases in the process. And to add to the irony, on those same platforms, we have the President constantly calling out certain members of the press for fake news!
So yeah. We’ve got some trust issues. This is the cultural background we’re living in. In this age of hyper-awareness of bias, Christians have the audacity to say Jesus is alive and that we have historical evidence to prove it.
But these reports are from Christian sources. They’re not dispassionate, disinterested parties. They’re skewed in favor of their faith. Does this mean that the gospels are unreliable?
Bias doesn’t necessarily mean distortion.
In fact, sometimes bias motivates someone to take special care with the truth. Take the Sandy Hook school shooting as an example. You’ve got Alex Jones/Infowars claiming the shooting never happened. According to Jones, it’s an anti-gun rights conspiracy.
Survivors have become victims of harassment by people who believe this far out stuff. They’ve become passionate to expose what actually happened that tragic day. In this case, their personal bias encourages historical accuracy.
Now think about what the Gospel writers were reporting. Claiming that a crucified Jewish man is alive and is also God wasn’t popular. It was getting people killed. This was happening when they were writing their accounts.
They knew the world’s bias would be against their claims. They could’ve watered down their statements to be more culturally acceptable, rather than expose believers to harm. They didn’t.
We have Luke who indicates that his bias drove him to be more accurate:
“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:1-4)
Rejecting biased writers means undermining almost all history.
We don’t throw out Tacitus because he wrote from a Roman bias. We don’t junk Josephus because he wrote from a Jewish bias. We don’t discard Robert E. Lee’s memoirs because he wrote from a Confederate bias. That’s not how we do history.
Sure, we need to keep bias in mind and understand that it can color what’s reported. But a good historian will try and see past the biases and sort out what’s fact and what’s distortion. That’s what historical-critical methods are for.
This is why even skeptical critics still use the Gospels as the primary source for the historical Jesus. They recognize that the gospel writers have biases. But they still sift through the accounts and generally, all agree on several facts on the life of Jesus. Here are just a few that they agree on:
- John baptized him.
- He’s considered to be an exorcist and miracle worker.
- He had 12 disciples.
- He taught in parables.
- The Romans crucified him.
- The disciples had “resurrection experiences” after his death.
- His disciples went from cowering in fear to proclaiming the resurrection.
They might reject miracle stories, but ironically that’s often due to their own anti-God, naturalistic bias.
Now think about modern reporting again for a second. Breitbart and The Daily Kos publish news stories. Both have glaringly obvious biases. That doesn’t mean that neither is reporting facts at all, ever. You might be more cautious about what you read there. But unless you are hyper-partisan, you don’t ratchet up your skepticism all the way to infinity.”
Saul of Tarsus had a bias — against Christians. Yet he changed.
Besides that, bias works both ways. Saul was not a fan of Christianity. He agreed that Stephen had it coming when he was martyred for the faith. He persecuted Christians. Later he met the risen Jesus and his bias changed. He became Paul, an apostle of Jesus.
Remember, Paul wasn’t separated from the events as we are. We have access to documents, he had direct access to the people. He talked with the priests who plotted to have Jesus executed. He was a student of Gamaliel. He heard all their proofs that Jesus was a deceiver of the people.
Besides his own encounter with Jesus, Paul also had full access to the others who also claimed he saw Jesus after his death. He could interview them. He could hear from those who followed Jesus up close. And we know he met with Peter, James, and John to cross-check his own message. (Galatians 2:1-9)
He was there at the right time and place to sift fact from fiction. This is exactly the type of source we want when we’re looking to sort out the facts from fake news. And we got it in Paul. This is the kind of info historians drool over.
Check your own bias.
While we say this is the age of fake news, it’s strange that most of us tend to only follow the sources that confirm our own biases. We all know that person who shares a few memes too many from Occupy Democrats, or that latest epic Ben Shapiro roast. Groupthink travels in packs.
The same goes for matters of faith. We need to point out to our skeptical friends that they need to consider their own bias. If God exists, would that be acceptable to them? If Christianity was true, would they believe it? Are they open to being wrong? If we start from a place of stubborn disbelief, we’ll seek out “the experts” that just confirm our bias.
I understand that the sword cuts both ways. Christians can be guilty of this too. So let’s all stop assuming bias equals distortion of the truth. In fact, our own bias can prevent us from seeing it for ourselves.
Erik Manning is a freelance baseball writer and digital marketing specialist. He blogs at isjesusalive.com, a website dedicated to Christian apologetics. This article was originally published on that site and is used by permission.