2. The Bible is Not Reliable Secondary Evidence

2. The Bible Is Not A Reliable Source of Secondary Evidence For God.

This post is my ongoing discussion of answers to objections to my Summary Case for Atheism, in which some Christians have contended that the Bible provides sufficient secondary evidence for belief in God.

A. Background
Some of the most popular Christian apologetic works begin from the proposition that the Bible is true, including Josh McDowell’s seminal Evidence That Demands A Verdict and Lee Strobel’s effort to follow in McDowell’s footsteps, The Case For Christ.

If you are enamored of these two books, I would strongly recommend that you begin by reading (1) The Jury Is In, a massive online refutation of McDowell organized by Jeffrey Jay Lowder, and (2) Lowder’s lengthy review of Strobel’s Christ, The Rest of the Story.

Eventually, I will go into these (and other, similar works such as Geisler & Turek’s I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist in subsequent posts, and I will link those posts here.

B. The Bible Is A Collection of Manuscripts Selected By Humans, Not God
There is no single, agreed-upon, authoritative “Bible;” rather, different sects of Christianity consider a wide variety of books to be Biblical “canon.” Thus, we (and I) err when we speak of “the” Bible, singular. In reality, we are talking about various compilations assembled and debated by ordinary people.

Thanks to the works of people like Bart Ehrman, we also know that the books of whatever Bible we do have are changed — often in substantial ways — from earlier texts.

i. Mark 16 as an example
Consider a relatively famous example, Mark 16. Go ahead and click on the link, and you’ll see a funny little notation there: “The most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20.” In other words, historians now believe that everything after Mark 16:8 is a forgery.

Among those are verses 15 through 18, which read:

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

That highlighted bit there (verses 17 and 18 ) is where Jesus supposedly promises Christians that they can do all sorts of magic things, including handling snakes and drinking poison. Now, perhaps it’s no big deal for you that this promise from Jesus turned out to be a forgery — but there are literally hundreds of thousands of Pentecostal Holiness Christians who have believed that all of Mark (including the forged, poison-drinking, snake-handling bit) is the divinely-inspired, inerrant word of God for about a century. And, of course, all Christians thought Mark 16:17-18 was genuine until 20th Century textual critics came along.

ii. Development of the NT canon is arbitrary
What do we really know about the New Testament? The Gospels are pseudonymous (that is, Mark did not write Mark, and so forth), and even conservative Biblical literalists believe that Matthew and Luke were partially copied from the lost Q document. And thanks to some contemporary works of fiction, many Christians now realize that the New Testament canon was not assembled until more than three centuries after Jesus’s supposed death.

Think about that for a minute. When Athanasius was declaring various NT books to be “canonical,” he bore the same relationship to the events described therein as you and I do to, say, the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679. If there were 200 books about that Act, would you feel qualified to decide which ones were fact and which ones were fiction? I sure wouldn’t.

What you have on your bookshelf labeled “the Bible” is the product of debate and vote over three and a half centuries — some of which continues to this very day.

C. The Bible Bears the Unmistakable Hallmarks of Legend and Myth

i. “Just So” Stories
For example, consider Genesis 3, the well-known story of the Fall of Man, in which Adam and Eve are tempted by the serpent in the Garden of Eden into eating the forbidden fruit, with predictable results.

This passage, on face, appears to be a series of “just so” stories: it is the tale of how snakes came to crawl on the ground without legs (what the Bible colorfully calls ‘eating dust’); why childbirth is painful; and how come men have to do all the hard work. Don’t these passages seem exactly the same as “How The Zebra Got Its Stripes?” and the like?

And the Bible is literally full of “just so” stories like this. Genesis 9:13 purports to explain how the rainbow came to be — are we really to believe that light did not refract prior to Noah’s flood? Similarly, Genesis 11 (the well-known Tower of Babel story) purports to tell us how come so many people speak different languages. How is any of this any different than, for example, the story of Prometheus bringing fire to mankind?

ii. Talking Animals
In general, when you see talking snakes and donkeys (Num. 22:21-30), people living for hundreds of years (Gen. 5), stars somehow falling to the earth (Matt. 24:29) (or, alternatively, fighting in battles alongside humans! (Judges 5:20)), you know you’re reading fiction. When Matthew 27:51-54 tells us that a horde of zombies went on a rampage throughout downtown Jerusalem after Jesus’s death, we should probably recognize that as a legend. We know that people don’t generally take up residence inside fish (even “great” ones!), and we’re a little bit suspicious that eight people could gather together and cram all those animals on a big wooden boat. And so on.

To be clear: my argument is not that it is impossible for there to have been zombies, big boats full of animals, people living inside fish, talking snakes, virgin mommies, or any of that stuff. Anything’s possible, I guess. My argument is only that those sorts of things, coupled with the “just so” morality tales we see in the Bible, give off the unmistakable whiff of myth.

D. The Bible Garbles Actual History
Some things in the Bible are set in actual historical places and at actual historical times. But much of whatever Bible you’re using garbles what we know of actual history, placing it squarely in the realm of what we call today “historical fiction.” Here, I think a comparison to Homer’s Illiad is helpful. The archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann actually found the remains of Homer’s Troy, validating many of the names, places, and events in the Iliad. Although this discovery changed the way we viewed the Iliad as literature, it did not stop us from viewing it as literature. In other words, the fact that the Iliad correctly records that there was a city called Troy that was attacked by Greeks, it does not follow therefrom that the Greeks actually smuggled in a big wooden horse, or that the various gods fought alongside the Greeks and Trojans, or even that the Greeks dragged Hector’s body through the streets heaping abuse upon it.

Similarly, although some of the events in both the Old and New Testaments are recorded in history, the Biblical writers make a hash of it. Historians generally believe that there was no exodus of Jewish slaves out of Egypt as described in the Bible, or in fact, any of the subsequent conquest events described in Exodus. We know that Asa could not possibly have mustered an army of 580,000 Israelites and then used that army to slaughter a million Cushites (as described in 2 Chronicles 14); Bronze Age goatherders and desert warriors could not plausibly have maintained lines of supply for armies that big. (By contrast, for example, the Athenian invasion of Sicily — occurring nearly a thousand years later — was less than 1% of the size of the fantastic numbers frequently claimed in the Bible!) For this and other reasons, it is not surprising that none of these hundred-thousand-person battles attested to in the Bible are corroborated by any other source.

Similarly, although the historian Josephus chronicles the life and reign of Herod the Great in agonizing detail, he somehow never sees fit to mention the supposed slaughter of the innocents ordered by Herod described in Matthew 2:16-18. Is it more reasonable to believe that Josephus simply forgot to describe what would have been one of the worst atrocities in history — or that the passage in Matthew is a reworking of (and allegory to) Pharoah’s slaughter of the Jewish innocents described in Exodus 1:22-2:1?

In other words: when we review a Bible, we see that the historical events described therein are best categorized today as “historical fiction” — that is, real events embellished for literary and other reasons, and fictional events that are told in a historical setting but with garbled details, persons, and so forth. This is also true of the Gospels — they mangle contemporary historical events (as partially described above), are uncorroborated by contemporary historians, and bear the marks of legendary development and creative fiction.

E. The Bible Appears to be of Human Origin

i. Physical Description of the World
Finally, the works assembled into various Bibles are unmistakably of human, rather than divine origin. The world described in the various books of various Bibles reflects the world as understood by the people who wrote it. The cosmology is all wrong; the writers repeatedly depict a fixed firmament to which stars — alternatively described as either small bits of fire or living beings (see above) — are affixed. The geology is all wrong; the Earth is described as a flat disc (Is. 40:22) that God lives “above”, and from which it is possible to see “all the kingdoms of the world” if you just climb a mountain tall enough. (Matt. 4:8 and Luke 4:5, respectively.) The reason why today we use phrases like, “I feel sorrow in my heart” as figures of speech stems from the fact that the people who wrote the Bible believed it to be literally true; they did not understand that the brain was the source of thought.

Ask yourself: how could God have conversed and inspired the authorship of the Bible, and not corrected basic misconceptions about the world — obvious things like the moon not being a “lesser light” in the sky, or the shape of the earth, or the fact that the sun does not revolve around the earth, and so on?

ii. Morality — Slavery and Genocide
Worse — and most damningly — the morality of the Bible reflects the morality of the people who wrote it, including explicit endorsements of slavery and genocide that would make all but the worst villains of history blush.

Go read Exodus 21 and Leviticus 25:39-46, in which the God of the Universe sets forth precise rules for how the Jews can buy, sell, and keep slaves. (In a similar vein, in Joshua 9, God supposedly gives the Gibeonites to the Israelites in perpetual slavery!) And lest you think this is confined only to the Jews (as if that matters?!??), Colossians 4:1 explicitly permits a master to own slaves (but encourages him to “treat them well”), while Titus 2:9-10 instructs preachers to preach compliance to slaves.

In fact, in the New Testament, God even has his own version of the Fugitive Slave Act — which, you may recall, is considered one of the greatest moral atrocities in U.S. history. (See 1 Cor. 7:17-24 and Eph. 6:5-9.) And Paul dutifully returns a runaway slave to his owner in Philemon 1:1-13.

Imagine if you were a time-traveller accidentally sent back to the 1st century AD, and you happened to interact with the characters in the New Testament. Would you be able to bite your tongue as Paul ships Onesimus back to his master for punishment? Would you be able to sit through the sermon in Titus 2, in which the church is supposed to preach servility to slaves? Wouldn’t you cry out at the injustice?

And yet we are supposed to believe that Jesus — the divine, omnipotent creator of the Universe made flesh, the most perfect man ever to exist — that he walked amongst these people and never once clearly and unambiguously said something like “owning another person is always wrong, now and forever?” I don’t buy it.

I haven’t even gotten to the genocide of the Amalekites, in which Saul is first ordered to kill every man, woman and child in Amalek, and is killed by God for the sin of showing mercy. (1 Sam. 15) Is it even remotely conceivable that an all-just, all-loving God could behave in this way?

In conclusion: we get nothing out of the Bible that Bronze Age goatherders did not put into it. Some of what they put into it is good; much of it is evil. Some of their conceptions about the universe were correct; many more were staggeringly wrong. But none of it is divine. Moreover, what we even call the Bible today reflects human debate and cherry-picking over the next 300 years after the events supposedly described, and even those cherry-picked books are subject to alteration and forgery.

F. Resorting to the Bible as Evidence Is Self-Contradictory
It is worth noting that the arguments given by apologists for belief in the Bible are contradicted by the Bible itself. Acts 9 tells the famous story of Saul of Tarsus’s conversion on the road to Damascus, in which Jesus himself is said to appear to Saul and convinces him to give up his former life persecuting Christians and take up a new life preaching the Gospel. It was only the personal vision of the risen Christ that caused “the scales to fall from Saul’s eyes” and shepherded his conversion to Christianity.

Similarly, every Christian knows the story of doubting Thomas, John 20:24-31, in which one of the disciples — acting as a good skeptic, I might add! — sensibly notes that “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” in the resurrected Jesus. And so he gets to feel around inside of Jesus. A little gross, to be sure, but effective.

But these two events (and countless others) raise far more problems than they solve. Why do Saul and Thomas get to experience the risen Christ firsthand, while billions more have nothing to go by except the flawed Bible and the bad apologetics of the likes of Lee Strobel? John 20:29 tells us, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe,” but what about those of us who have not seen and therefore cannot believe? It doesn’t make sense — and, if you think eternal salvation depends upon sincere belief in the risen Christ as a prerequsite — it’s grossly unfair.

For these reasons, I conclude that the Bible is not reliable secondary evidence for God and thus this second set of arguments is insufficient to refute the general case for atheism.

51 Comments »

  1. Nathaniel said,

    Andrew,

    Do you really believe that what you have presented here is a strong case for the conclusion that the Bible is not historically reliable?

    I’m asking because there is no point in critiquing it if you are going to turn around and say, “Oh, right, er, well, that wasn’t really what I took to be a serious case, so it doesn’t really matter if I’ve what I wrote here was unreasonable or unfair or uninformed in a dozen ways.”

    I realize that you wouldn’t have put it up if you thought it was any of the above; I am not questioning your honesty. I’m just wondering whether, if this argument were thoroughly dismantled, it would make you rethink your position.

  2. Andrew said,

    Nathaniel:

    While I would not say that the above is rigorous from an academic standpoint — as with the entirety of this site, I am doing my best to communicate complex ideas in a straightforward, accessible manner — I do think this accurately summarizes my reaction to those who claim that the Bible is “evidence.” And I would absolutely rethink that position if you could “thoroughly dismantle” the above.

    I would suggest that you do so in fragments by identifying the part of the outline to which you intend to respond. I’m particularly curious as to how you intend to tackle parts C, D, and E, for example.

    Indeed, if you want a real quickie, just explain how Exodus 21:20-21 (“If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property”) could possibly be “the word of the living God.” I meant what I said up there: the more you read this thing, the more you realize it couldn’t possibly have been authored by an all-knowing, all-loving creator of the Universe. No way.

    • Eyes&Love said,

      Please read the words of Christ – there you will find your answers to your questions above. Your obvious intelligence will assist you – however your unproven faith against God may hinder your understanding.

      • Uh… you realize actually reading the bible is one the quickest ways to atheism, right? And it takes more faith to believe than not believe, in the same way it would take more faith to believe there is a magical pink dragon living on the moon than to not believe such a thing.

    • fishlift said,

      Hey Andrew, there are a lot of good questions and points in your blog. I just wanted to give a quick reference site for this statement about God and slavery. Take it as yo will.

      http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/slavery_bible.html#.UGFKP0JMbnY

  3. Dave said,

    Andrew,

    Opinion is a real bear. As you moved through this section, you make statements that you consider to be fact without any explanation of proof. You say things like: “even conservative Biblical literalists believe that Matthew and Luke were partially copied from the lost Q document.”

    I am a conservative Biblical literalist with a PhD and I don’t believe this.

    Listen, if you are expecting that God is going to visit you to explain all of your questions, you are going to be disappointed. What skeptics like yourself don’t understand is the nature of God and the concept of theological faith. (They have plenty of faith in the non-existence of God, but can’t seem to muster a faith that God could exist.)

    If you allow me to, I will challenge your thinking and if you really want to know why people like me are Christian, I will try to explain.

    One thing I will not do is waste time arguing if you don’t really want to know.

    The ball is in your court.

    • Andrew said,

      Sure. As I said on the other thread, that’s part of what this blog project is about. If you read through the posts, you’ll see that I respond to Christians here all the time (and generally pretty politely, to boot). Say something interesting, and I’ll front-page it.

      With respect to the section you’ve quoted, obviously that means some conservative Biblical literalists, not all; for example, William Lane Craig accepts the Q hypothesis. I guess if you want to dismiss him as a heretic or as insufficiently Christian, you can feel free to do so… :)

      • Dave said,

        Andrew,

        I have been considering the offer to write here and have decided that to do so would probably not resolve any issues for you or for me.

        Here is how I see it. You are a stated atheist and a skeptic about everything “Christian.” Therefore you are going to doubt, challenge and mistrust everything that I present from the base principle that I am a Christian.

        You have already stated that my personal experience is not enough to convince you of the reality of God and more especially of the claims of Christianity. Since my personal experience is all that I have to stand on, I would end up being nothing more than a spectacle for you blog and someone you could point to as proof that there is no real proof.

        You see I have fought this fight for more than 30 years and know that those who will not believe have always fought in this arena. Most claiming superior intellect and discounting everything that the Christian brings forth as drivel. (Word used of my arguments on this blog.)

        While I would love to explain my faith journey to you, I don’t find that this “shark tank” would be the best place to do so. Besides I am not sure after reading your posts that anything I could add to the argument would change your opinion.

        Thanks for the opportunity to speak to this subject, but not here and not now.

        Dave

        If you would like to speak to me on a personal level, I would consider that.

        • Cheri Mullins said,

          Put the shoe on the other foot Andrew. You feel exactly how I feel…. when I am with a group of fervent christians :) “Shark Tank”

        • Cheri Mullins said,

          I meant to address that comment to Dave not Andrew. My apologies.

  4. Aaron Baker said,

    In contrast to some others who’ve posted here, I think you’ve given a pretty good summary statement of why no one well acqainted with modern scholarship can be a fundamentalist. Summaries are always to some extent conclusory–so some will carp, and probably never bother to investigate the evidence that backs up the conclusions.

    If some who are unhappy with this summary are serious about wanting a scholarly exposition, I can suggest off the top of my head two books they might consult:

    Donald B. Redford’s EGYPT, CANAAN AND ISRAEL IN ANCIENT TIMES has a good chapter on the hopeless task of squaring Genesis and Exodus with what’s actually known now about the Middle East in the Bronze Age (“These are the Bene-Yisrael,” pp. 257ff.)

    Emil Schürer, HISTORY OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE IN THE TIME OF JESUS CHRIST (revised English version) has a nice appendix on the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke that lays out in critical detail their failure to be historical–not to mention their disagreement with each other.

  5. Andrew said,

    Dave,

    I try to run a pretty respectful place here. (If you think this is a “shark tank,” do yourself a favor and never, ever visit Pharyngula!) I don’t reject things simply because they’re Christian, although obviously I reject Christianity for the reasons set forth herein.

    I would ask you to think about this: if all you have to go by is personal experience, isn’t it reasonable for those of us who haven’t had those experiences to remain skeptics? As I’ve said time and time again on this blog, my goal is not to convert Christians; my goal is to get Christians to understand and accept that it’s reasonable to be an atheist.

    • Dave said,

      Andrew,

      You have shown me nothing but respect and I appreciate that in you.

      I also agree with you that everyone has the right to be skeptical about Christianity. As I stated, Christianity has, as is most basic tenant, faith. If you or anyone else chooses not to come to a place of faith in the God of the bible, then it is perfectly reasonable to be an atheist.

      However, that fact that is reasonable doesn’t make it right or without risk. What I don’t understand about atheists is why they would want to reject a God who loves them and simply wants to live in fellowship with them providing them great peace in this life and unimaginable blessings in the next, but instead chooses to believe in a material world that provides unending speculation about its origin and promises nothing more than the grave at death.

      That’s just me … but I know that I am alive for a higher purpose than that.

      Thank you for keeping me in the discussion,

      Dave

      • Andrew said,

        Dave,

        I do my best. Glad to know you feel that way.

        I don’t want to “reject a God.” I want to figure out if your God is real or not, because I value believing in true things and disbelieving false things. That’s the whole point of this blog.

        All I can say is that I was a sincere believer as a child and a teenager, and a sincere seeker after that. Despite that, I don’t appear to share in your experiences. All I can do is ask whether that seems to be a sensible way for the all-powerful creator of the Universe to reveal himself to us. For me, at least, it doesn’t seem to be.

        regards,
        -Andrew

      • GBM said,

        “but I know that I am alive for a higher purpose than that.”

        Not to be flip, but I have always found sentiments of this sort incomprehensible. By way of analogy, if tomorrow I were to create a sentient robot with the express purpose of having it dance the mambo, would you think that this robot was fulfilling some sort of higher purpose when it did so? Or that if it failed to do so it was somehow deficient? I guess what I intend to ask by this is how could God’s plan be in any meaningful sense ‘higher’ than any other random pursuit you engaged in?

        A related worry is that it seems in principle difficult to have anything like a ‘meaningful task’, or a ‘higher purpose’ in a universe that contained an all-knowing, all-powerful, creator God; if this being sets us a task, doesn’t that seem to render us second-rate and deeply inefficient tools? Given that any task set for us by God is something that God’s self could do infinitely more efficiently and infinitely better, it seems to me that our situation in a theistic universe is similar to an eight-year old with osteogenesis imperfecta being asked to help Arnold Schwarzenegger lift weights; we aren’t really helping.

        Anyway I’m curious to hear your response.

      • Dave said,

        GBM,

        To try to explain this will be very difficult, but I will try. Please understand that for me to give an explanation will require me to leave the strictly secular nature of this blog and enter the realm of theology.

        I say this because I know that theology is not a provable concept that can be measured by the laws of science. However, I know that the concepts of which I speak are real and have only my personal experience to rely upon for “proof.”

        Let me begin by saying that in all of human history, God has never tried to prove his existence. He simply states that he exists and we are granted the freedom of choice to believe or to not believe his assertion. God always leaves the choice up to us.

        As I have stated already, I started my life as an unbeliever. That unbelief carried me through the first 20+ years of my life. In those years I believed everything from the “big bang” to Eric Von Danekin’s “flying saucer” theories, to theistic evolution. I knew there was a reason for life, but never could match that understanding with the world around me.

        Even after I was introduced to Christianity, it took three years of hearing and considering for me to accept the truths I now understand. My new-found faith did not go over well either with my family or my old “friends.”

        So … now that you know where I came from, let me try to address your concerns.

        First, I an not just a sentient robot wound up and let go to do God’s bidding. The wonderful thing about my faith and the God whom I serve is that he, while guiding my life, always leaves the choice to follow or not to me. In other words, I don’t do the “mambo” because God makes me, but because I believe that if God wants me to do the mambo that it must be good for me and therefore I choose to follow his lead.

        Let me use Andrew for an example. In answering this post he said, “All I can say is that I was a sincere believer as a child and a teenager, and a sincere seeker after that.” Now, accepting Andrew at his word (which I do), he was at one time in his life a sincere believer and a sincere seeker. Yet now he is a skeptic and an atheist. God did not strike him down or send him immediately to the pits of hell, but allowed him to choose to reject what he at one time sincerely believed and sought. I even believe that if Andrew in the sincerity of his heart accepted the salvation that God offers, he still has it regardless of his current level of disbelief. That being said, God has a course charted for me, Andrew, and even you. Whether or not we follow it is entirely up to us.

        The higher purpose comes, not in being created to do the mambo, but in the willing and surrendered pursuit of the dance for the glory of the Creator.

        Now to discuss the “meaningful” nature of my life on earth. Yes, I believe in an all knowing, all powerful, always present Creator. However because he can do something without me doesn’t mean that he should. He chose to use me as a part of his eternal plan. I don’t need to know the whole of that plan or how significant my part in it is. Meaning comes to me in knowing that I am a part of something more magnificent and powerful than anything I could ever produce myself. Could God do it without me, sure. But, what is special about my life is that he chose not to. He chose to include me and I am awed by that fact.

        I am not magnificent, but my life is. Not because of what I know, not because I have earned a PhD., not because I command great armies, but because every day I wake up I have the opportunity to labor along side the God who created me.

        I don’t know if this explains anything in a way that makes sense to you, but it makes sense to me. And the wondrous part of it all is that you have the same right to choose as has been given me.

        Gotta run!

  6. Dave said,

    Andrew,

    You are certainly not alone. I know many, many people who have sought after God in their early lives who now have stepped away from what they were taught. I come to this point from the other direction. I had no real church upbringing. I came to an understanding of God as an adult.

    My life experiences since then have not been free of struggle and wonderings about the reason for those struggles. But, amidst them all there was God. I know that there are no hard and fast material objects that I can point to or use to prove God to you. That is why I can only speak from my experience.

    I can tell you about the power of God in a rain storm and you can say it a natural occurring event. I can look at the Grand Canyon and say it was formed quickly as a result of a breached mud dam after the flood, you see mountains of evidence that it occurred naturally over the course of millions of years. On and on we could go, with no resolution on either side.

    I love to study cosmology and am fascinated by the workings of the oceans, land, and atmosphere. My curiosity about the natural world is uninhibited by my faith. I just see God’s hand in it all rather than the slow methodical working of the law of numbers and chance.

    So … as you can see we are at an impasse. We both wonder at the universe around us and could certainly enjoy each others understanding of it, but beyond our mutual curiosity we stand apart. That is what is sad for me.

    Thanks,

    Dave

  7. Mike said,

    I can tell you about the power of God in a rain storm and you can say it a natural occurring event.

    THAT says it all! Credulity to the max!

    • Shamelessly Atheist said,

      Not a good example, since the two are not equivalent. Here’s why:

      “God causes rains storms.” Can we verify this? No. This is simply not amenable to testing. It is a just-so story.

      “Rain is caused by natural processes.” We can test this, and indeed cloud seeding relies on our understanding of the processes involved. If our explanation of why rain occurs is wrong, it is unlikely that cloud seeding would work.

      I suppose one could argue that God is then toying with us by allowing us to think cloud seeding to produce rain and prevent hail storms, but step back from that kind of rationalization and it is easily seen for what it is – silly.

      • Dave said,

        Shamelessly,

        First, I didn’t say that God caused the storm, what I said was that I see God’s power in the storm. And, no you cannot verify that statement. It is a matter of faith and that in not verifiable.

        What is testable is what you notice with your senses. And I agree that this is all that is testable. It doesn’t explain how these elements produce storms, it only explains that they do.

        God doesn’t “toy” with his creation. He established it with all the natural laws and with the curious minds of its inhabitants. Understanding any natural occurring event simple opens the mind of man to the power of God.

        I don’t expect you will believe this, and that’s ok, but it is how I see this wondrous cosmos that I live in.

        Thanks for your comment,

        Dave

  8. Mike said,

    First, I didn’t say that God caused the storm, what I said was that I see God’s power in the storm. And, no you cannot verify that statement. It is a matter of faith and that in not verifiable.

    Lord help thou my unbelief! Or my lack of credulity!

    I wish I could still have such childlike faith, I really do. My ignorant days WERE much more blissful.

    Back in the day, I might have even seen Satan’s power in the storm! Why not?

  9. Dave said,

    I’m fascinated by those who call faith ignorance. You see with all the “evidence” you claim to have, you still must speculate as to how it all came to be as it is. That speculation IS an act of faith because you cannot say for certain that the thing you hold as “fact” could not one day be recognized as not true at all.

    My claim to the truth of God is certainly mine alone, but I am not ignorant for believing it, just at peace.

    Cheers

    • Hylomorphic said,

      Generally speaking, one does not hold speculation to be fact. Speculation entails a much, much lower degree of certainty. That analogy between speculation and faith fails pretty hard.

  10. Tim said,

    Dave said: “What I don’t understand about atheists is why they would want to reject a God who loves them…”

    I don’t think you understand what atheism is. To reject a God, I’d have to believe in that God and turn away from it. I simply don’t believe in God because there is no evidence that stands up to scientific rigor to attest to a creator of any kind.

  11. Cameron said,

    Dave,

    God loves the atheist in a general sense by letting them suck His oxygen while also letting them use that oxygen to deny His obvious existence and try to erase it with “naturalism”. But Rom 8:6-8 shows that the natural man CAN’T respond to God how he ought because he is born into sin (Rom 5).

    It’s only when God changes a Christ-hostile heart and gives that person spiritual birth, as opposed to physical birth, that their old nature will be done away with and have a new nature to love God. Therefore, Scripturally speaking, those who continually deny God’s existence and don’t bow the knee to Christ, evidence that God in fact hates them, NOT loves them.

    Only the one who believes in Christ’s work on their behalf and repents can really be assured that God loves them, in a saving way that is, not a general way.

  12. Adi Corrales said,

    Cameron

    Just three questions:

    1. Your god that love us all, hate me?

    2. He hates me because HE does not change my christ-hostil heart and gives me spiritual birth?

    3. Then, What option I have? your all loving god hates me because he choses not to change my mind?

    That’s a little irrational, don’t you think?

  13. Cameron said,

    Adi Corrales,

    1. Biblically speaking, the best way for you to know whether God will forever love you or hate you is tested by how you respond to the gospel. I would suggest reading this article I wrote to compare false gospels, or dumbed down gospels, to the real gospel of Christ, the apostles, and Scripture. Namely, the most important true message for everyone who has ever lived.

    http://restorethegospel.wordpress.com/2007/12/06/the-four-spiritual-flaws-a-critique-of-the-four-spiritual-laws/

    2. God does not hate sinners because of what He does not do in response to their sin. His response of hating and punishing sinners is because He loves Himself, thus loves justice, righteousness, and holiness. He hates all sinner’s because of them, because they are lawless, evil, and supress the truth. The only difference between any person who is saved (because God crushed that person’s sin in Christ instead of themselves) and a person who is not is a 5 letter word called “grace”.

    3. No, He hates you because you are a sinner, are wicked, are evil, and supress the truth. The ultimate condition by which He loves you or hates you is if He crushed your sin in Christ, instead of waiting to crush it in you soon when you die. Again, this goes back to (1). You’re own response to the gospel message, namely, belief and repentance, is the test for which of these is the case. Not only would you believe if God enabled you to, but you MUST believe so you can prove to yourself which is so.

    No, that’s not irrational. What law of logic have I violated? You may not like these truths, but you’d have to take that up with Scripture and God, not me. Sorry. It’s not my gospel.

    • “He loves Himself,” — I love myself too, daily and in the shower, but that doesn’t mean I’m going hate someone just for being human.

      • Cameron said,

        You’ve missed the point. God loving himself entails God also loving justice. When we are “human”, or are evil and sin, it is an offense to God because he is good. If your going to use yourself as a comparison to God then it would be similar to how you might hate it when people are selfish and wont admit it.

  14. Nathan said,

    Ok, here are a couple things. God put the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden. He told Adam and Eve not to eat of it. When they were tricked, did they sin when they have not eaten of the knowledge of good and evil? With no knowledge of good and evil, how could they be charged as sinning? But yet the Bible states that it judges each of us based on our knowledge. This would make more sense if the tree was something other than the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

  15. Cameron said,

    They sinned because they broke God’s command. The sin was, like all sins, a matter of the heart. They willfully disobeyed God in their hearts and failed to uphold righteousness. They did have knowledge of “good” hence they were in bliss. But they could not juxtapose their experience of good with evil, namely, experience it within themselves. But then they experienced evil within themselves as it battled what image of God was left in them, as it is with all humans today. So your point that they somehow needed to sin in order to be able to know they were sinful isn’t really substantiated nor anything the text is trying to teach.

  16. Adi Corrales said,

    Your god does not love me because I don’t believe in him, and I don’t believe in him because your god hasn’t changed my mind about it, then your god hate me because he chooses/want not to change my mind, and because that, he does not love me….. circular logic.

    if your god chooses or wanted to hate someone, or just don’t love someone, then he/she/it is a discriminatory been. If he don’t change my mind, how can I believe in him? Just because you said so? You said god said I have to believe in him, but he still refuses to speak clearly with me. Then I have to conclude that god WANTS to hate me by not changing my thoughts. I think there is not justice or righteousness in that, because, as you said, I will be punished for something your god didn’t do! (change my “heart”) Well, I feel just like a passenger…

    in your own words…

    “It’s only when God changes a Christ-hostile heart and gives that person spiritual birt”

    “He hates all sinner’s because of them, because they are lawless, evil, and supress the truth.”

    “those who continually deny God’s existence and don’t bow the knee to Christ, evidence that God in fact hates them, NOT loves them.”

    “He loves Himself, thus loves justice, righteousness, and holiness”

  17. Harold Kelley said,

    Cameron

    Actually your reply to Adi Corrales on December 13, 2009 is really pretty close to the truth of the Bible.
    1. Your god that love us all, hate me? Maybe, maybe not. No one can tell you yes or no, but whether he does or not will be in your desire to receive Christ as Lord and Savior. That the only way anyone can know in this life
    2. You cannot not assume God hates you just because he has not changed
    your heart YET. I don’t know your age but he has perhaps years to make
    that change in your heart.
    3. Again you are making an assumption that you cannot prove. Down the
    road, months, even years from now He may change your heard [not your
    mind] and once he changes your heart, you will very willing change your
    mind because you will realize it is the only loagical think you can do. You
    wont be the first Athiest to come to this conclusion.

    So you see it is not irrational at all, It’s [dare I say] Biblical.

    I’m looking forward to hering from you I assume via your blog

    Pro Rege,

    Harold

  18. Cameron said,

    Adi Corrales,

    Your god does not love me because I don’t believe in him, and I don’t believe in him because your god hasn’t changed my mind about it, then your god hate me because he chooses/want not to change my mind, and because that, he does not love me….. circular logic.

    I never said this. You’re argument here is with yourself because I never said this and if you read the Bible, it doesn’t teach this. I’ll spoon feed you though. Sinners, like you and me, apart from special grace, will not believe in God. Believing in God isn’t what makes God love you, but proves that He has specially loved you and changed your mind and heart to love Him.

    You said God is a discriminatory being. Absolutely! But even moreso, everything God decides is good and right.

    You said god said I have to believe in him, but he still refuses to speak clearly with me.

    No, God IS speaking His truth to you right now through me, because I am an ambassador of God’s Word, just like every Christian. And you DO believe in God, you just supress the truth and knowledge you already have of Him.

    Then I have to conclude that god WANTS to hate me by not changing my thoughts.

    Lol! No because He could still change your heart before you die, even apart from your will – which then would become your will! If you believe in Christ and repent then you’ll know.

    I think there is not justice or righteousness in that, because, as you said, I will be punished for something your god didn’t do!

    Here’s my proof that you’re suppressing the truth, which Scripture says you’ll do. Remember, we’ve already gone over that Christ punishes you because of your sin, wickedness, and lawlessness. He changes your because your sin has been punished in Christ instead of you. Those are 2 entirely different “because” statements. Nice try!

  19. Cameron said,

    Harold Kelley,

    2. You cannot not assume God hates you just because he has not changed
    your heart YET. I don’t know your age but he has perhaps years to make
    that change in your heart.

    Well, actually you CAN assume that God hates you until your heart and mind is changed. The major clarification is that you can ALSO assume that He might still change your mind and heart out of love. But if one is going to assume the latter, it’s usually an indication that He has! In the end, one must believe that Christ’s lived, died, and rose for their justification and repent (life long love of Christ and others) to know they are right with God. All believe now while there is still time!

    3. Again you are making an assumption that you cannot prove. Down the
    road, months, even years from now He may change your heard [not your
    mind] and once he changes your heart, you will very willing change your
    mind because you will realize it is the only loagical think you can do. You
    wont be the first Athiest to come to this conclusion.

    So you see it is not irrational at all, It’s [dare I say] Biblical.

    I’m looking forward to hering from you I assume via your blog

    The heart and mind are very synonymous spiritually speaking and inter-related. Sorry I’m not buying your point. If you now love someone you’re also going to naturally think about them in different ways, etc.

    And the point I made in point 3 is Biblical. You’ll have to take it up with Scripture NOT me, hence 2 Cor 13:5, 1 John 3:4, Mat 22:37-39, James 2:10, Gal 3:10, Rom 10:9-13 for starters.

  20. champe said,

    haha… im laughing because, it seems you have something agains the bible and so you search for evidence all over the place to dismantle it, I would like to know the main reason, the underlining reason for you to post such. Let me just say this, the bible was not written as an authority for astro phsysics or chemistry, biology but its purpose is to inform us of origins and the world beyonds ours. Using the bible as athourity for achiology or physics is like trying to use a fork to drink milk… it wasnt made for that. Truths presented in the bible inform us of something Science can not… that is origins, not evolutionary origins, but the bible informs us of why we suffer, why we live in such a cruel world, the hope and salvation.

  21. Robert Kilps said,

    The Bible is more reliable than you or I! What do you have to ‘offer’ this world as an athesit? Hope? NO! Peace? No! Faith? No! Honesty? No! Morality? No! Jobs? No! Insight? No! No! No! No! By the way? If there is NO God how did humans learn to love? How did godless humans develop a conscience? Why do we laugh and cry? Where did good and evil come from? In light of how this world ‘works’, and in light of the symbiotic unity found in this world, and in light of the mathematical perfection found in this universe one would have to be completely void of light to not recognize there IS a Master Designer. It takes a LOT MORE FAITH to be in atheism than it does to believe in God!

    Robert Kilps

    • rbgage said,

      I’ll grant you that it take faith to be an atheist, but I doubt that it takes more faith than that required of a theist in general and certainly less faith than that of a Christian. Atheists simply have to have faith in the non-existence of God, while Christian have to have faith in lots and lots of things: God, walking on water, angles, whales swallowing folks, Jesus rising from the dead, seas dividing, original sin, bringing people back from the dead, Adam and the rib thing, and the list goes on and on. I would also argue that atheists do have something to offer although it may not seem like much. We offer mankind faith in itself to have the potential to do really great and wonderful things without seeking outside of itself. We offer mankind the awesome and often unarchived opportunity to take responsibility for itself without room for excuses.

  22. kontaktne lece said,

    Hello quite nice blog site man, wonderful, everything is good structure articles, i’ll bookmark and subscribe for the feeds!Hello there i discovered your amazing web site through google while searching just for good read, and your posts seem to be extremely fascinating to me!

  23. random said,

    I wonder what God does while He’s not watching us…

  24. Robert Bryant said,

    Atheism is a word not describing the rejection of a particular god, but is descriptive of that person who is non theistic. How many gods thought real by others are rejected by christians? Are christians not atheists to
    these believers? Is it not simply that we are all so unknowing of a reason for existence that we create our own, and attempt to force that
    doctrine upon others?

    Robert Bryant, Sr.

  25. Susan said,

    Ummm… I’m sorry to tell you that what you are trying to say is unfortunatly based very much on OPINION. You don’t have much actual evidence to abck up what you’re trying to say and much of what you have said is easily dismantled. Even from a non-Christian point of veiw I find a lot of holes in your argument and it isn’t very convincing at all.

  26. J said,

    dude your missing the mark by a mile, I think you could have done a better job, your arguments all suck. After comparing them all to christian sites arguments in favore of, I must admit the Christians have a better argument, the next time you try to discredit them at least use something new instead of the same tired arguments that have been tossed back and forth for centuries, for which they have a lot of good answers by the way.

  27. Syed said,

    Sure the Bible is not authentic at all as you find hundreds of versions all around the world. Christians also not sure what they are reading. They are not clear about religion. Bible was replaced by the Holy Quran that is ONE version where ever you go. Just type in google for Bible and you will find how many versions are available for Bible. Just think nuetrally if the book has many versions how it can be RELIABLE? Please CONFESS the REALITY. Don’t get ANNOYED.

    • Sorry but the Koran is just as bad as the bible: a fairy-tale used to explain natural events, or at times, for someone to get his own way. The Koran itself was cobbled together long after Mohamed’s death and it was arbitrarily decided what to include (much like the NT), hence some contentious “Satanic Verses”.

      • Cameron said,

        No, natural events are now just confirming what the Bible has taught for so long. Nice try.

  28. Hisham said,

    Hi, you seem to see christianity as the only alternative to atheism. If you are sincere in trying to make sense of life and finding the truth, please check out islam, the quran contains the answers to every single question on man’s mind if only people studied it instead of blindly criticizing it. Thanks, :)

  29. sunnyorm said,

    how to increase your “marketplace”

    and jesus was a sailor, when he walked upon the water, and he spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower, and when he knew for certain only drowning men could see him, he said; all men will be sailors then, until the sea shall free them, but he, himself was broken, long before the sky would open, forsaken, almost human, he sank beneath your wisdom like a stone.

    leonard cohen

    there is no original sin

  30. Nicelle said,

    There is one issue in this post that confuses me: if you truly believe that people were responsible for faking the Bible as the word of God, you must therefor keep people accountable for the fraud. How does a fake, human generated Bible then lead to the rejection of God? Do you truly and intellectually believe that the Bible is the only proof of the existence of God? There is a middle road – accepting that many things in the Bible have been conjured up by people, but that it, like many other ancient documents, may contain some truths. There are people in this world, many of them very intelligent, that reject the Bible as the “word of God”, but still worship God. See “The Controversy of Zion” by Douglas Reed as one of many examples. His book is freely available on the internet. Failure of the Bible is no excuse to be an atheist. If you go to a cellular molecular level, it is impossible to believe in evolution and maintain your intelligent honesty. Look at the diversity, absolute precision and wonder of life around you. This is the true testament of our God.

  31. Neil said,

    I have read through the text and the various comments. There are four things I wanted to say.
    1 Why is this comment box so small!!!
    2 It’s really good to see that generally there is polite reasonable conversation happening here – these forums often get pointlessly abusive.
    3 The author mentions the passage in Mark and Bart Ehrnman’s work – to give the impression that the Bible is full of issues like this. It isn’t. This is the only major piece of text – and it’s been highlighted in Bibles as long as I know as being a later interpolation (or ‘fake’). No other textual issue is close. The nearest I know of is where it talks about there being three that bear witness: water, blood etc.And no textual issue puts any point of Christian belief in doubt. Even this part of Mark is consistent with things such as Paul being bitten by a snake without ill affects. Yes, some people have been very silly and sat down in tanks of snakes; but I can’s see that they’re treating the Bible respectfully or sensibly – after all they just ignored Jesus saying ‘do not put God to the test’…
    4 The last point was about the language the Bible authors use to describe the world. You’re being rather unfair. They weren’t writing a cosomological description of the world. They were using poetic or descriptive language to describe what they saw. It would not be unreasonable today to talk about ‘the earth shall not be moved’ or the sun’s journey from East to West. We know that the Earth moves all the time, and that the earth is moving relative to the Sun, it’s not the Sun travelling from E – W; but we still would be happy using that language. And if you look down on a round object it does look like a disc….
    So I think you’re being overly critical here. If the Bible writer had started by saying: “I am now going to explain to you the cosmology of the Sun and the Moon and the Stars…” you would have a point, but these passages are just not talking about those points.

    Thanks for the post though – very interesting.

  32. Travis said,

    Andrew,

    I actually appreciate your civil tone here. I also appreciate this article, in that it is good, just like a weight lifter who strains and tears their muscles to build them, to test and strain our faith as Christians. I also see why and how you would argue the way you do here. A few thoughts…

    I do not think that merely personal experiences


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