The divide between liberal and conservative thinking is highlighted in the uproar surrounding Aslan’s book. In the process, the author is laughing all the way to the bank.
Until Lauren Green of FOX News interviewed Aslan last week, the debate was primarily limited to an adoring liberal media fawning over the manuscript while conservatives went on defense and dissenting biblical scholars attempted to counter his claims.
Ultimately, the most likely outcome will follow the traditional focus of liberal versus conservative perspectives with not much being decided.
On one side Green is being criticized for challenging Aslan’s ability to write an unbiased religious account of Jesus Christ when he is a Muslim. Various media outlets have termed Green’s interview an “embarrassment.” Even some FOX supporters called it “a mess.”
Countering that position, other observers, such as Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch, blame the media for ignoring Aslan’s Islamic background and misrepresenting his credentials in the interviews he is doing about his book.
Spencer is a non-Muslim who writes extensively about Islam. In that sense any legitimate claim about Aslan’s right as a Muslim to produce a book about Christianity is moot. That said, Spencer’s dispute lies in what he says is the falsifying of facts that Aslan and the media have overlooked in endorsing the book.
Aslan appeared prepared for such assertions by Green by immediately defending his right as a religious scholar citing his four degrees which include one on the New Testament. Aslan then mentioned he has twenty years of research in all religions which include his studies on the life of Christ.
It is here the discussion becomes muddy. Consequently, the controversy will continue, but from now on, rather than discussing the merits of the book and its treatise, we will once again become mired in an endless philosophical argument over opposing liberal/conservative thought..
As sources have pointed out, Aslan’s degrees are a Bachelors of Religious Studies from
On the surface, Aslan’s focus on religious studies appear extensive. However as Joe Carter explains in GetReligion “
Says Carter, if this is the point Aslan is making, then having a degree in the New Testament is, at the very least, misleading.
As Matthew J. Franck points out in a column in First Thoughts, “…in making untrue claims about his (Aslan’s) credentials he raises questions about his credibility. It also raises the question of how often so-called experts and authorities with no real expertise or authority on a subject are presented by New Media outlets as representative “scholars.””
Some will argue that the degree of Aslan’s degrees doesn’t really matter when it comes to the overall context of his book. Franck disputes that point by stating Aslan is falsely presenting himself as an academic historian. As Franck sees it, “Most academic historians as well as academic sociologists would take offense at the idea that a “sociology of religions” degree and a “history of religions” degree are interchangeable.”
The unfortunate result of all of this will be that the argument will divert the focus to Aslan and his credibility while the author establishes a sizeable bank account. What will be lost is the intriguing premise Aslan offers in his book, which should provide legitimate material for debate.
The same is also true of an evaluation and study of the life of Muhammad.
If Jesus Christ and Muhammad were both analyzed honestly, without preconceived bias, it would go a long way toward a greater understanding of Christianity and Islam, regardless of who writes them.
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About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world.
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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