Drawing from the first chapter of Luke’s gospel, journalism professor Israel Balderas made a biblical case for committed Christians taking the role of skeptical, tough-minded journalists.
Balderas, an Emmy Award-winning television news veteran, presented the second lecture in the 2019-20 series on the Christian University on Tuesday. The series has a two-fold purpose: it deepens understanding of what it means to be a Christian liberal arts university and inspires interdisciplinary conversations, said Associate Provost Dr. Nathan Lane.
Balderas has bachelor’s degrees in communications and theology from Oral Roberts University and a Juris Doctor degree from The Catholic University of America. He joined PBA in 2017 as assistant professor of convergence journalism. He serves as adviser to The Beacon Today, the student news site.
He built his case around Luke 1:1-4, emphasizing the ideas of careful investigation and exact truth: “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.”
Exact truth is translated from the Greek word asphaleia, defined as certainty or undoubted truth.
“He knew logic, reason,” Balderas said, referring to Luke.
Journalists replicate Luke’s commitment to finding the exact truth, said Balderas. In the industry classic “The Elements of Journalism,” Bill Kovach and Tom Rosentiel posit that “journalism’s first obligation is to the truth.”
Independence from factions is what distinguishes journalism from propaganda, Balderas said. He called to task a faction of supporters of President Donald Trump who wear T-shirts that say “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required.”
“That’s violence. That’s not grace,” Balderas said.
Balderas pointed to an article in The Atlantic with the headline, “Nothing Will Persuade White Evangelicals to Support Impeachment.” The article was summarized “New polling suggests that Trump’s base is totally unified behind the president, no matter what investigations might reveal.”
It’s a contrast to the way that Luke valued objective truth in the scripture, Balderas said.
Luke, a Greek physician, continued the Old Testament theme of contrasting the dishonest and corrupt priests with faithful men, Balderas said. Christ-followers have a responsibility to keep power in check, just as Jesus did when he called out the Pharisees and lawyers in Luke 11:37-54, Balderas said.
Journalists have an obligation to the truth because their profession is protected by the First Amendment, Balderas said, quoting Luke 12:48.
“What drives us biblically — to whom much is given, much is required.”