A friend of mine asked me to watch the first section of Zeitgeist (a movie you can watch for free on the internet at http://zeitgeistmovie.com/) and give him some perspective on it.

Here goes:

I don’t recall ever having run across so many factual inaccuracies in such a short span of time. I doubt I even caught them all — they were flying fast and furious.

I’ll start with a few that are easy for an untrained layperson to see right away. There’s some other stuff he said that I know is false, but demonstrating it is less easy. It becomes “my expert you’ve never heard of” versus “his expert you’ve never heard of” with me saying “my expert is better than his expert — trust me.” So I’ll keep this list focused on stuff anyone can easily verify on their own.

One easily‐checked fact that he builds his argument on is that the Southern Cross is the real inspiration for the cross of Jesus (watch from 17:35 through 19:03). Three problems with this:
a) The Southern Cross is a modern invention — not an ancient constellation. Check http://www.windows.ucar.edu/the_universe/crux.html and http://www.fillingthesky.com/constellationhistory.html
b) The Southern Cross is not visible from where the New Testament was written. In the Northern Hemisphere you have to be below 30 degrees latitude to see it. The New Testament was written from Jerusalem on north.
c) It’s hard to see how a constellation that didn’t exist and couldn’t be seen inspired the story of Jesus when Romans actually killed people on crosses all the time. Is he seriously suggesting that the Romans didn’t actually crucify people?

Missing such a basic fact doesn’t inspire confidence in the more esoteric, less easily‐checked facts he uses to make his entire case. There are other easily‐checked facts he distorts. Two from the Bible struck me.

In the time range 23:38 — 25:20 the movie claims that Jesus is a personification of the astrological sign of Pisces. Towards the end of this section, the narrator states that Jesus’ disciples asked him when he would celebrate the next passover with them him after he is gone and that Jesus’ answer in Luke 22:10 was code language for Aquarius (the next age of the Zodiac). This is easy enough to check — and it turns out to be a lie. Luke 22:10 is about the passover they are celebrating that night, not the next meal they will share after his resurrection. That isn’t a minor difference — it undermines his entire interpretation.

Another example of his willingness to distort the Bible to make his point occurs around time marker 21:10, when he says that the Bible teaches that Jesus comes from heaven wearing a crown of thorns, which represent the rays of the sun. He quotes John 19:5 to support this point. Look it up. There’s not even a hint of Jesus descending from heaven anywhere in this passage. He’s walking from one place to another — not descending from the clouds as the narrator claims.

These two instances aren’t nitpicking — these are very easily checked statements in the bestselling book of all time which is always available for instant fact‐checking on the internet at places such as Bible Gateway. If he didn’t even check these references that key parts of his argument rely on, then how much stock can we place in his references to obscure ancient Egyptian texts that only scholars have ready access to?

He’s evidently received criticism along this line, because he felt compelled to give some documentation for his use of ancient texts at http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com/GMappendix.htm

Just look through it. Pay attention to the stories of Jesus in the right column (you are presumably more familiar with them). I think you’ll be surprised at how flaky that list is.

Bottom line: Zeitgeist is very imaginative, but that’s about it.

UPDATE 2/24/2008: This post is still generating comments. It’s been six months since I wrote this post, and since then a helpful review by Ben Witherington has been posted — The Zeitgeist of the ‘Zeitgeist Movie’. Look to it for a more detailed rebuttal of the movie’s claims.

Congratulations, George O. Wood

While I was busy touring Monterey Bay Aquarium with my family and eating durian, most of the rest of the Assemblies of God was in Indianapolis for our biennial ministerial gathering.

George Wood has been elected General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God. I honestly didn’t think he had a chance — our movement is still pretty anti‐intellectual and he has two earned doctorates. In addition, I thought he might be perceived as part of the “old guard” in a time of great change. I’m delighted that I was wrong — he’ll be a great leader. He’s a very flexible thinker and sees both the strengths and weaknesses of our movement pretty clearly.

Alton Garrison was elected the new Assistant General Superintendent (I expected he would take one of the two top spots) — and he’s a very savvy leader. He’s much more well‐read and innovative than most people expect an evangelist from Arkansas to be. He’ll be a great voice to have at the table.

John Palmer is the new General Secretary — I had expected him to become the executive director of AG US Missions instead. I’ve never met him, but I’ve heard nothing but good things. Tim and Julie Smith in particular have given me very encouraging reports about him. He seems like a great addition to the team.

Zollie Smith was the most surprising election. He’s my new boss’s boss (director of US Missions, taking the position I expected John Palmer to land), and I’ve been hearing good things about him for years. His election was a milestone for the Assemblies of God — he’s our first non‐Caucasian executive officer.

I’m very excited about the leadership team that came out of this General Council. It bodes well for our future as a movement. We picked some extremely competent people.

Oh — and the business sessions were feisty this year. If you’re into that sort of thing, you might want to check them out