…airs tonight on our local PBS affiliate, WNPT. I’ll try to catch as much as I can, but bed-time for the girls is going to interfere with a good deal of it.
Judging from the commercials for it, I predict the visuals will be wonderful, the talking heads will have a few memorable things to say, but the conclusion of the matter will frustrate most conservatives. If you are looking for NOVA to put together a show that “proves” the Bible using archaeology, then no doubt you’ll be disappointed. Maybe that is a concern for you, but it’s really not a concern I share. I don’t expect them to do that, and I won’t be disappointed if they reach conclusions folks at church won’t like. My expectation is that they will try to present some archaeological data on its own terms, with no bias toward faith. The question for me is will they do this well and fairly. I will be disappointed if they are sloppy with the evidence, if it is biased against faith or if they caricature people of faith.
When these kinds of shows crop up there is a predictable backlash from conservative/evangelical Christians and I expect to see some in the blogosphere tomorrow. Sometimes these shows can be unfair, and for that they are justly criticized. If you want to ridicule faith, then go ahead, just don’t pretend to do it under the guide of science. But to set aside faith-claims about an ancient text in order to examine whether and how the archaeological record available to us, examined by the canons of historical and archaeological inquiry, compares to that religious text is not, seems to me, unreasonable. In other words, I predict by this time tomorrow I’ll be saying…”why all the fuss?”
If your faith rests on the viability of this or that interpretation of ancient material culture or artifacts, then a PBS special is the least of your worries. And if the best response Christians have to these sorts of show is to get huffy, then we’ve got bigger problems than we care to admit.