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Though television specials about Jesus are as ubiquitous to the Easter season as bunny rabbits, CNN’s six-part series, Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery manages to find a unique angle. Rather than retelling Gospel accounts of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, it focuses on six ancient relics long purported to be associated with Him.
The first episode, for example, investigates the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. It’s a mildly diverting inquiry that ends about where any reasonably skeptical viewer would expect it to. The real problem, however, isn’t that CNN is trumpeting a headline that was old news 25 years ago. It’s the conclusions the producers draw from their investigation.
More than once, one of the show’s experts conjectures in breathless tones over melodramatic music that should the shroud prove genuine, it will also prove Jesus actually existed. That’s just silly.
While there’s plenty of debate over who Jesus was, no serious historian doubts whether He was an actual historical figure. CNN’s suggestion that authenticating a soiled piece of linen also authenticates that a Nazarene named Jesus lived in the first century is at best a bit of simpleminded theatrics. At worst, it suggests to the biblically uneducated viewer that if the shroud isn’t real, then there was never a real Jesus Christ either.
Likewise, Christian viewers could take some comfort from CNN’s effort to include believers among its lineup of scholars. Unfortunately when, despite all the glaring evidence against it, one archaeologist claims to “believe in his heart,” that the shroud is real, it casts a dubious light on his other profession of faith.
There is never a need to abandon reason to receive salvation through Christ. God gave us all we need to verify His Son’s life, death, and resurrection in the Bible. As Luke writes, we have only to investigate the accounts of eyewitnesses and servants of the Word to have certainty of what it teaches.
So how ’bout it CNN? Next year, why not a series testing the accuracy of Scripture? Pick any book or chapter you want. We already know what the result will be.