Ask the Editor: Biblical objectivity

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Friday, January 5th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. On this first Friday of 2018, we’re pleased to launch a brand-new feature. It’s called Ask the Editor and answering will be WORLD editor-in-chief Marvin Olasky.

REICHARD: Marvin is a pioneer in the realm of modern Christian worldview journalism. He literally wrote the book on it! So about once per month he’ll join us to discuss one of WORLD’s distinctives, the things that make us unique as a news outlet.

EICHER: We’ll also be taking your listener questions for Marvin. So if you’ve ever wondered why we do something the way we do, send us your question. You can tweet it to WORLD Radio, you can email [email protected], or — my preference — you call our listener feedback line, so we can hear it in your voice. That number is 202-709-9595. That’s 202-709-9595.

REICHARD: Today Marvin covers perhaps the most foundational principle of WORLD’s journalism. Last week you heard John Piper allude to it, when he referenced WORLD’s high view of Scripture and God’s sovereignty. The journalistic term Marvin has coined for that is biblical objectivity. Here he is to explain.

MARVIN OLASKY, EDITOR IN CHIEF: My house in Texas is very tall. It’s made of wood and it slightly sways when heavy winds hit. The builder of the house used to live next door. He gave me the plans. When I wanted to know whether the house would fall down, he told me about the construction. He knew how the house was made because he had made it.

Journalists these days sometimes define objectivity as getting opinions A, B, and C then quoting them equally. But say one neighbor down the street says my house will fall down if the winds get to 10 miles per hour. Maybe a second neighbor says it’s made of kryptonite and would resist even an attack from Superman. Maybe a third neighbor says my house is made of cheese and would fall apart in a hurricane, but don’t worry, because I could eat my way out. If I quote all their opinions equally, will I have an objective story? No. Even if they were all experts and not nutty, I would not have an objectively accurate story, because they don’t know my house the way the builder does.

A balancing of subjectivities does not give you objective accuracy. God is the builder of the house we all live in. He gave us the Bible, which explains how the house was made and what it’s made of. WORLD’s mission statement says our task is to produce biblically objective journalism. We believe that only God knows the true, objective nature of things. We believe His book, the Bible, is the only completely objective and accurate view of the world. We come close to objectivity only when we follow the Bible. We believe the only true objectivity is biblical objectivity.

What about those who do not define objectivity as a balancing of subjectivities?

To some of them, objective means showing the nature of reality apart from any opinion. To some of them, an objective reporter is like a smartphone with a built-in camera and recorder just showing what it sees and hears.

That does not work.

What your smartphone records depends on where you’re standing and where you’re pointing. Then you have to decide which photos and sounds to keep, show, or playback. When covering stories, reporters decide all the time what’s most important to present and what to get rid of. Beliefs, judgements, and ideologies direct those decisions. WORLD reporters make decisions about stories every day, but we try not to make them on the basis of our own opinions. We try to apply biblical wisdom to the situations we face. Given our human limitations and sinfulness, we can never achieve God’s perspective, but by following the Bible’s teachings, we try to come as close as we can in our fallen way.

When you read WORLD, you’ll see in our reporting that humans often act terribly but are still wonderful, created in God’s image, and worth dying for. We try to be Christ-oriented. We cover both crucifixion and resurrection. We cover sorrow but also hope.

Please pray for us and tell us when we mess up.  

For WORLD Radio, I’m Marvin Olasky.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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