By now, you’ve heard of the ‘interview’ of Dr. Reza Aslan by “religion correspondent” Lauren Green of Fox News. It was awful for a number of reasons, not least in which the interviewer questioned the interviewee about his qualifications to write about Jesus. Her specific question was related to religion — because somehow, a Muslim cannot write about Jesus (a Jew Christians and Muslims reverence in some capacity). Of course, not being Muslim hasn’t stopped a single Fox News pundit from talking about Islam.
But, I digress. To be sure, while I do not believe Jesus was a political rebel, I do believe it is likely he was at the very least mistook for that, given Mark’s account of his death, as I speak about in my book.
Aslan protested the line of questioning and instead presented his qualifications.
I am a scholar of religions with four degrees including one in the New Testament . . . I am an expert with a Ph.D. in the history of religions . . . I am a professor of religions, including the New Testament–that’s what I do for a living, actually . . . To be clear, I want to emphasize one more time, I am a historian, I am a Ph.D. in the history of religions.
There is a problem with this.
As Matthew J. Franck, director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute, points out, Aslan’s presentation of himself is not without question.
Aslan does have four degrees, as Joe Carter has noted: a 1995 B.A. in religion from Santa Clara University, where he was Phi Beta Kappa and wrote his senior thesis on “The Messianic Secret in the Gospel of Mark”; a 1999 Master of Theological Studies from Harvard; a 2002 Master of Fine Arts in Fiction from the University of Iowa; and a 2009 Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
None of these degrees is in history, so Aslan’s repeated claims that he has “a Ph.D. in the history of religions” and that he is “a historian” are false. Nor is “professor of religions” what he does “for a living.”
I do not think Aslan loses credibility because he is a Muslim. As I have written before, the origin of fact does not dismiss the credibility of the fact. However, what does hurt is when you promote yourself as something you are not in the face of sheer stupidity. Dr. Aslan is a scholar. He holds degrees in theology, but so too fiction and sociology. Not history. Having a theology degree does not mean you are qualified as a professor in New Testament. Neither is he a historian by trade nor, as it appears, a professor of religions. Had Green drilled down on these questions, Aslan would not look like the defender of the faith many hold him up to be. Just because Fox News is what Fox News is, doesn’t mean we should automatically defend their opponents. I do not believe he is a liar (HT to Jim West), but he does have a something of a misrepresentation problem.