April 1, 2007

The God Who Wasn't There (part 2)

I wanted to follow up on the events at California State University East Bay that I reported on last month. (See Smear Campaign on Christ and Blind Faith Reflections.)

After my letter to the editor ran in the school paper, The Pioneer, the philosophy lecturer, Russell Abrams, replied with his own letter to The Pioneer, in which he complained about my behavior in the discussion that followed his showing of the anti-Christian film, The God Who Wasn’t There. It really threw him for a loop that anyone would be in the room who knew what they were talking about as far as Christian theology goes. He complained that I wouldn’t stop talking, and he was right that I spoke up more than others – but that’s because I had to respond to those who repeated untrue things about Jesus and the Bible they had seen in the film. I couldn’t let out-and-out disinformation go unchallenged. With that in mind, here’s a portion of his diatribe that ran in the school paper (my comments in red):

"Philosphy Prof Responds to Attack" by Russell Abrams

"I would like to respond to the letter of complaint, published in The Pioneer on March 1, about me and the Philosophy Society’s recent showing of the film ‘The God Who Wasn’t There’ and the discussion that followed. The letter was written by one of the attendees, Cal State East Bay staff member Jackie Alnor…She was correct in claiming that in my brief introduction to the film I said that it debunks Christianity. What I should have said is that the film attempts to debunk Christianity. Let me give you just a couple of examples of her misrepresentations. She claims that I ‘stated that Jesus said things like, "bring that man over here so we can kill him." I never said this. (that’s exactly what he said.) What I did do was present to the discussants for clarification a quotation unfamiliar to me from Luke 19:27 (He couldn’t give chapter and verse at the time – I guess he looked it up later.) that had appeared on screen in the video – ‘Those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’ (He quotes Jesus’ words from a parable as if Jesus was ordering His disciples to bring a man over to Him so He could kill him – that’s also how the stupid film twisted this verse.) Alnor’s interruptions prevented any clarification of this bizarre quotation. (Untrue – I challenged him to explain himself and he went on saying that Jesus was always contradicting Himself, being a man of peace and a bloodthirsty man at the same time.)

"Second, Alnor writes that ‘Abrams stated that the original Bible was written in Aramaic.’ I never said anything of the kind. What I did way was that we need to be able to accurately translate Aramaic if we are going to understand the Bible (Why?) This statement occasioned such an outburst on her part that I could not further explain that much of the first five books of the Old Testament survive only in Aramaic form, the original Hebrew scrolls having been lost…. (Actually, he did make this claim and I did not interrupt him at all – I only challenged his scholarship on such nonsense. He was furious because I made him look bad.)

"Alnor does not appear to appreciate that this university is committed to free inquiry in a multi-cultural learning environment, which means talking with people who disagree with you and being open to their ideas. (If ideas are outright lies and asking others to accept them as fact, there’s nothing academic about that.)

"In my opinion, Alnor came to the film to promote an agenda. (Oh, as if Abrams had no agenda? My only agenda was to defend Jesus who was being lied against.) I say this partly based on her behavior, but also on the fact that she handed out flyers…In sum, I do not believe that Alnor is a credible source of information about the recent meeting of the Philosophical Society…." [The Pioneer, CSUEB, March 8, 2007]

I sent a copy of Abram’s letter to a ministry associate of mine, Jacob Prasch, who is very knowledgeable about Bible linguistics to see what he thought of Abrams’ insistence that the earliest manuscripts are in Aramaic. Jacob gave me back more than I bargained for. He thoroughly debunked the philosophy professor (who has a Ph.D from Harvard) which exposes Abrams for the ignoramus he is. The Pioneer would not run Jacob’s letter, so I sent it in its entirety to all the faculty in the Department of Philosophy as well as their college dean. Here’s a link to Prasch’s letter.

My letter to the editor brought me in contact with other faculty and staff at our university who wrote expressing agreement with me. That was quite a blessing.

In my email to the Philosophy Department with the copy of Prasch’s statement, I asked a rhetorical question. "How can an academic institution that calls for academic excellence harbor academic dishonesty under the banner of academic freedom?" The only response I got was from one other philosophy professor who knows Abrams personally. He wanted to know if anyone from his department had responded to my email and I told him, "no." He too had written to Abrams asking him to defend his silly assertion about the Aramaic but even he got no reply. The colleague said, "Since Biblical studies is not my thing, but the suggestion struck me as very odd, I ran it by some of my more biblically oriented colleagues elsewhere and they said it was ‘rubbish . . . along with the film.’"

Abrams never did respond to Jacob Prasch's rebuttal directly. However, a possible friend of his, writing from St. Louis, wrote a letter to The Pioneer on March 18th, with copies going to the Chair of my husband’s department (Bill is a professor there), and a copy to the Chair of the Philosophy Department (the writer falsely thought I was a student in Philosophy). The paper didn’t run it and my husband’s Chair told him he just hit "delete" after forwarding the letter of complaint to him. It read in part:

"Dear Chairs:

"I commend you both for your religious tolerance shown toward one of your employees and students and your respect for the academic freedom of a certain assistant professor. I have been researching the Calvary Chapel organization, a movement that cult-watcher Rick Ross has labeled a controversial group (http://www.rickross.com), and in the process came across the names Bill and Jackie Alnor (that's because Ross carries our articles on cults and dangerous religious groups on his web page). Bill was once the pastor of Calvary Chapel Lehigh Valley, PA, and on faculty at Temple University. As a native Californian, I noted with interest his migration first to Texas A&M and now to Cal State Hayward (East Bay!). Bill, a professor in your Communications Department, also publishes "Christian Sentinel" magazine and Jackie, a CSUEB staffer and student in your Philosophy Department, writes a blog called "Apostasy Alert." Bill and Jackie routinely use their blogs to attack every point of view, religious or secular, that does not square with their peculiar fundamentalist/charismatic world view. As examples please see the following two of many "Apostasy Alert" articles, selected because they directly involve CSUEB: (He put in excerpts and links to my two Reflections on the topic.)

"It is not my intention to infringe on Bill and Jackie Alnor‚s right to free speech, but I am concerned that their neo-fascist polemic, which often borders on hate-speech and is posted on the Internet for the entire world to see, will cast Cal State University East Bay their employer in a bad light.

"Based on what I have discovered about the Calvary Chapel organization it is certain that if Jackie were to write such things about Calvary Chapel as she does about other groups, she would be labeled belligerent, her husband would be accused of not having his wife under control and they would both get the bum’s rush by the organization. It is fortunate for them that they work for "hostile academic agnostics" rather than "Bible-thumping fundamentalists." Sincerely, R. G., St. Louis, MO."

Well, things have died down and we’re just finishing up Spring Break. I think I’ve heard the end of it – at least for now. But this has left us wondering what support systems are in place for believing students at our university who run into inflammatory anti-Christian sentiments from their own professors in the classroom. I have tried to contact the leadership of two campus ministries, but have not heard anything back from either of them yet. Perhaps because of finals and all – maybe I’ll hear back from them when the next quarter begins.

I know some Christians say that believers shouldn’t send their young adults to secular universities because of such things. But with the apostasy seen at "Christian" institutions of higher learning, the emergent ideas of post-modernism have swept most of them, and they would be even more damaging to young minds. Secular universities cannot be avoided for those who desire to become doctors, engineers, or just about any other field of higher learning. That’s why I’ve contacted the campus ministries – the ball is in their court.


2 Corinthians 10:3-5: "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,  casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ"

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