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Three Cups of Tea and The Acts of the Apostles

April 27, 2011

There has been a lot of hoopla in recent days (in case you’ve been out of the news cycle) around questions of truthfulness in some of the accounts and claims in the popular “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson.  Just how accurate is much of the information is the key question.  That is especially the case in relation to the number of schools built in Afganistan by Mortenson’s non-profit organization, use of donated money, and other issues related to inspirational aspects of his story. 

I couldn’t help but immediately relate this all to my most recent post on the Book of Acts in the New Testament and just how influential its author (“Luke“) became as a result of the historical (or quasi-historical) accounts he gives there.  What an incredible source of inspiration it has been, of course for centuries longer than “Three Cups of Tea” which has been a long-running best seller.  According to Wikipedia, it has been selected by over 300 communities as a One City One Book read and is published in 39 countries. 

Of course its influence is no real comparison to any major book of the New Testament (and “Luke’s” two-volume work of his Gospel and Acts is about 25% of the NT, stuck near the front).  The real significance is the issues raised when an influential, inspiring book is questionable as to its veracity.   It is much more than the reputation of the author (and/or professional writer assisting) that is at stake.  What of the inspiration raised, that at least in part, may be based on exaggeration or outright falsehoods? Does it or should it change? With inspiration goes action, such as donations to a related cause or specific organization.  (This goes for support of local churches, Christian missions, etc. as well as for CAI founded by Mortenson.)

Some think that entirely different standards than ours now were in existence for ancient works such as Acts or the Gospels.  For others, since the NT books are foundations of Christian faith, they need not or should not be questioned, at least seriously, as to historical accuracy.  Do you think so? What issues does this “extending backward” (which I think it is vital) of our modern sense of fair play in publications of importance raise in your mind? What should we expect of writers like Luke, and what, if anything should we do to fact-check him?

I could easily write a lot more on this but I really do want your thoughts and feedback, so will end for now, just reminding you that my prior two posts relate to this, especially the review of “Forged” by Bart Ehrman, which covers several related topics.

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