Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Lutzer Letter, Part 2

Not long ago in this space I posted an open letter to Erwin Lutzer regarding his errors in Hitler’s Cross. A week after I posted that, I decided it was time to send it directly to one of Lutzer’s outlets for his own attention. So I went to the comments area at Moody Media, and sent them the text of the posting.

The response wasn’t really surprising. No admission of error. No intention to correct the errors. And of course, Lutzer himself didn’t answer. However, the answer did end up being far more lame than I had hoped. Here it is in full, save the ritual greetings and closing:

We always appreciate hearing from our readers, even when substantial disagreement exists. From the length of your letter, we recognize the time and effort that you marshaled in order to respond to Hitler's Cross. Our hope is that even in the midst of your objections that you found the book edifying in its call for Christian perseverance in the face current trends among the American church.

You hope so, huh. Well, no, I didn’t find it edifying at all, not in that sense or in any sense. Gross misinformation is seldom edifying even in the service of some supposedly higher mission. (I don’t think Lutzer has even a remote grip on “trends” in the church either. But that’s another issue.)

But let’s think about that answer for a moment, and what it says to us.

First, it diminishes and trivializes the problem of blatant error by calling it “disagreement” – as though Lutzer and I were merely having a chat about which brand of tea we each prefer, as opposed to matters of definitive historical record in a book being read and trusted by millions.

Second, the rendering of the matter as one of “disagreement” shows a blatant disrespect for the the scholarship of credentialed historians I referred to in the initial post, in essence assuming that they are no better reckoned as a source for truth than conspiracy theorists and amateurs like Ravenscroft and Sklar.

Third, the closing portion as much as says the following: It doesn’t matter whether we got the facts right; the message is more important. In this I am reminded of an incident I was part of some time ago in which I caught a certain celebrity political source using a false quote of one of America’s Founders. When I noted that the quotation was false, I was admonished by one of the followers of this source for “missing the point.”

We are in a dangerous situation, epistemologically, when we sacrifice truth and accuracy for the sake of some sort of “point” we are trying to make. Fundamentally, we open the door to those who argue, for example, that the Gospels or Paul didn’t have to be reporting history; they were just trying to “make a point.” I’m sure Lutzer’s servant was not thinking far enough to realize this, or that he was thereby undermining the grounds for his own faith by being so trivializing. But it is for this very reason that it is essential that Lutzer and other popular pastors like him not be given some sort of free pass to foul up history in the service of pastoral teaching.

I’ll continue to find ways to bring this matter attention, and make myself a thorn in Lutzer’s side. I’ve been advised by a veteran apologist that Lutzer is not likely to correct or admit his mistakes. That’s probably true. But if he does not so here, it won’t be for lack of effort on my part.