11 Things Atheists Criticize About the Bible, But We Know Better

It’s been a long time since I have posted here. I have been focusing on Spanish materials and many other aspects of my work. But recently a blog post entitled “11 Things the Bible Bans, But You Do Anyway” caught my attention. I wrote, in a matter of minutes, a detailed point by point response, to the post at this site. Now I realize that the original post comes from this site. At any rate, I thought I would rewrite my answers here. Hopefully no one will get sucked in by the weak reasoning of the people who posted this in the first place.

The point of the original author was that the Bible contains many stupid prohibitions, and Christians are stupid to believe it. And the author provides 11 ideas to prove it. Here they are:

1. Round haircuts (Leviticus 19:27)

2. Playing football (Leviticus 11:8)

3. Fortune-telling (Leviticus 19:31, 20:6)

4. Pulling out during sex (Genesis 38:9-10)

5. Tattoos (Leviticus 19:28)

6. Wearing polyester and other mixed fabrics (Leviticus 19:19)

7. Divorce and remarriage (Mark 10:8-12)

8. Letting people without testicles into church (and tenth generation children of illegitimate children, Deuteronomy 23:1-2)

9. Wearing gold (1 Timothy 2:9)

10. Eating shellfish (Leviticus 11:10)

11. Wives defending their husbands by grabbing their husband’s opponent by the testicles (Deuteronomy 25:11-12)

The author goes on to criticize the ban on homosexuality as well, and trudges out the oft-repeated platitude that if we accept what the Law of Moses says about homosexuality, we must be consistent and prohibit all of the above as well.

How ought we respond to this?

1. First of all, it’s not as if Christians haven’t thought long and hard about these and other passages, or that such sentiments come as a surprise. The writer of the original post ignores centuries of thoughtful reflection on these topics, and acts as if he’s the first to notice. But we Christians have very careful rules established to determine how to relate the Old and New Testaments and determine what is applicable today and in what way. In practice we may be inconsistent in our application of the Bible to life, but our interpretation of the Bible makes perfect sense if one takes the time to investigate.

2. One rule we use to mediate the relationship between the OT and the NT is that if a prohibition in the OT is repealed in the NT, it is no longer valid. The whole idea in the OT about unclean animals and foods was done away with in the NT (see Peter’s vision on Acts 10:9-16). So it is not inconsistent to obey other laws in Leviticus but not obey food laws. We can effectively scratch #2 and #10 off our list of 11. They are no longer an issue. But, you might object, weren’t those laws random and ridiculous when they were in force? No, not really.

The point of such laws is that Israel as a nation needed to be distinct from the nations around it in order to form and maintain its identity as a people. Food laws were one of the ways to maintain that distinction. And there was a rationale behind which animals were forbidden. From Genesis 1 on, God was all about separating things into separate categories and not mixing them. The word for that idea is holiness.  Israel needed to be holy – separate from the nations around it. So the animals that mixed elements from other animals were forbidden. Animals that chewed the cud AND had split hooves, creatures that lived in the sea AND walked on legs instead of swimming, etc, were forbidden. Israel was to be a nation that didn’t blur its boundaries, and refused to eat animals whose composition and behavior blurred such boundaries.

So, no, there was no moral reason not to eat such animals, but the prohibition was not a random one. God wanted to form a distinct nation that would in time bring salvation to the other nations. And to do so, he gave them a separate diet and hygiene, among other things. Once Jesus came bringing that salvation, the apostles were charged with taking that salvation to the nations. So now the idea was not to be separate from the nations but to go out into them. Acts 10, mentioned above, makes that very connection: Peter’s vision was not so much about food but about contact with ‘unclean’ Gentiles (non-Jews). The Gentiles and their culture were no longer unclean, including the food they eat. And so we see apostles living like Gentiles and adopting their culture in order to share the good news with them, rather than insisting that they adopt Jewish culture.

In short, in the preceding I show that the original rule wasn’t stupid, that the changeover wasn’t haphazard, and that Christians have a rationale for ignoring these two prohibitions found in their Bibles. Enjoy your bacon and shrimp, everyone!

3. The prohibition against round haircuts and blended fabrics (#1 and #6 on our list above), while not specifically repealed in the NT, clearly fall under the same umbrella. Blended fabrics was all about mixing things that should not be mixed, in order to avoid mixing and intermingling with the pagan nations around Israel. Now such rules are a non-issue, because we are a new Israel that incorporates Gentiles on the basis of faith in Jesus, not on the basis of adopting Jewish culture. I’m not really that crazy about tattoos, myself (#5 on our list), but I would still place it in the same category.

4. Another item in which a former prohibition has been repealed is #8. Israel’s worship emphasized that access to God was limited. Certain people were only allowed so far. The temple had several areas, and depending whom you were, you would not be allowed to pass a  certain point. The point was not that God didn’t love everyone the same, but that God limited access to himself because of sinful humanity, and the layers of exclusivity were a visual reminder of that. Even among healthy Jewish male priests the same rules applied: in the center of the temple complex, only the high priest could enter, and only once a year.

But in the New Testament Jesus dies for humankind, and according to the book of Hebrews he gives us – all of us who believe in him – direct access to God. So whether you are Jew or Gentile, male or female, rich or poor, slave or free, whether you have perfect health or you have, like those mentioned in #8, ‘damaged goods’, God invites you to draw near to him through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

5. That leaves us with #3, 4, 7, 9, and 11, all of which have less to do with the difference between the Old and New Testaments and more to do with the author failing to read the passages in their historical and literary contexts.

6. The sin of Onan in pulling out during sex (#4) was not that he pulled out, but that he did so in order to avoid a sacred obligation to his deceased brother’s family. In those days it was important to produce offspring and continue the family name. But sometimes men died young, and if they had brothers, it was the brother’s duty to provide offspring for the deceased brother. Then it was their duty to financially provide for such offspring. Onan was more concerned about saving money than he was about his brother’s family line, so he pulled out in order to avoid spending the big bucks on raising a kid for this brother. But note that he didn’t do so by refusing to sleep with his brother’s wife. He shacked up with the widow and did the equivalent of spitting on his brother’s grave. If you do something similar, you are guilty of this very justifiable prohibition. Otherwise ignore it.

7. While we are on the subject of being fruitful and multiplying, let’s tackle #11. I admit that this is the strangest of the prohibitions on the list. My gut reaction is that this only got in Deuteronomy’s rulebook because someone had recently done something like that. But it might be that in those days when two men got into a fistfight, women made it a habit of attempting to grab their opponents by the family jewels. Who knows? Even here, I think, there is a logical rationale: as mentioned before, producing offspring was all-important in Israel, an obligation stemming from Genesis 1 itself. So the idea is that if two men are fighting, they are bound to get a few scrapes and bruises, but it would be far worse to eliminate an opponent’s ability to have kids than it would be to let the guys just duke it out. A foreign idea, maybe, to our ears, but it has its own internal logic.

8. The prohibition of wearing gold (among other things) in 1 Timothy (#9 above) should be read in connection with the similar recommendation in 1 Peter 3:3-5. People should invest their time and money in cultivating their inner, spiritual beauty, not in enhancing their physical beauty. In that culture women needed to attract men, and the apostles say they should do so by displaying the qualities that really matter, not by enhancing their physical appearance. And people shouldn’t go to church meetings dressed in a way to draw attention to themselves. They should be modest. Rather than being a foolish, random prohibition, I think it is quite relevant for Christians today. I see too many people doing in church just what Paul and Peter urge us not to do in these passages.

9. Divorce and remarriage (#7 above): Jesus prohibited divorce and remarriage because men were using divorce as a ‘legal’ way to dump their wives and hook up with another woman without getting stoned for adultery. Jesus took away that loophole in order to protect women – who in that society could not realistically survive financially without being under the wing of either a father or a husband – from being dumped for something simple as burning their husband’s toast and then being forced out of necessity to remarry. Jesus was saying that men should not be able to get away with that kind of thing without being held responsible.

Jesus and, incidentally, Paul, both recognize that there are valid exceptions when divorce is allowable. Jesus mentions that if your spouse commits adultery, you might find it necessary to divorce. Paul mentions the possibility involving cases of abandonment by an unbeliever. I would use the precedent afforded by these exceptions to add another: when wife and/or children are threatened by severe harm from their husbands. What is sad is not the prohibition given by Jesus but the misuse of it by Christians who force wives into staying in abusive, hostile marriages for fear of sinning by divorcing. Jesus’ point was to protect women from cruel husbands. He is to be applauded, not ridiculed. But Christian misuse of this prohibition goes directly against the spirit of the command, and is to be condemned.

10. Down to one: fortune-telling. Sorcery of any form is a pagan ritual, not a harmless pastime. It involves going outside the religious establishment and paying an unauthorized, self-proclaimed religious person to consult what turn out to be demonic forces about important choices pertaining to your future rather than using the brains and wisdom God gave you and resorting to prayer when that is not enough. It is condemned by both testaments, and rightly so.

So there you have it. I sat down an hour or so ago, and pumped out this article without so much as getting up or checking other resources, and I answered all 11 objections to the Bible without a sweat. I’m not saying it is always this easy. There are much more demanding objections to Christian faith. But the Bible is not stupid, as the original 11 point post claims. And we who believe it are not stupid for doing so. Blessings to all who have an ear to hear.

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08. September 2009 by Dave Gifford
Categories: Uncategorized | 102 comments

Comments (102)

  1. I think Wright is right. There are lots of passages in the Bible that supports justice towards both humans and animals.

  2. Matthew 23.9 says that Jesus’ followers should not view certain members of their fellowship as higher up or as closer to God, and give special titles accordingly. The church is to be a democratic brotherhood of equals, and no Christians should be considered superstars with special privileges, so to speak. This doesn’t forbid every use of every title. The NT uses titles like elder, deacon, apostle. Practically speaking, the church like any group needs to assign certain leadership roles and assign certain functional roles, and give titles accordingly to identify the people with those roles.

    But Mt 23.9 does forbid unequal treatment of Christians based on their title or lack of title, and it would discourage or forbid the use of certain titles that would lend themselves to such abuses, like Father, Teacher and Rabbi. Obviously many modern practices go against this: the use of titles like Pope, the way priests and pastors are often seen as mediators, the wide distinction made by some between lay people and clergy, and abuses of authority in the church.

    I myself agree with what Jesus says, and I see my role not as someone above others but someone on the same level, but assigned to do certain functions in the church. I do what I can in my ministry to avoid being given special treatment or honors, and I try to lift the esteem and authority of lay Christians with whom I work.

  3. Do you mean INjustice? I think Wright was concerned about supposed injustice in the Bible towards animals.

  4. Well, the Bible does have a lot of quotes that supports justice for the animals.
    Hosea 8:13 says- “They offer sacrifices to me because they are those who eat the meat, but Yahweh does not accept their sacrifices, for He is mindful of their sin and remembers their wickedness”.
    I think it proves that animal sacrifices were just an excuse created by the people to kill animals to eat meat. Check Jeremiah 7:22.
    There is also strong evidence that Jesus was a vegetarian, especially in the Gospel of the Holy Twelve, but the evidence that Jesus would be a vegetarian today is irrefutable. Most meat-eating Christians may argue that Jesus multiplied fish in the miracle of the bread and the fishes. But even a literal interpretation does not justify eating animals. Multiplying fish who are already dead (thus causing no additional suffering), to feed them to hungry people who do not understand the ethical objection to eating fish, could be seen as an act of compassion. It shows that Jesus loved animals, because he could have just gone on a fishing expedition as they were just next to the sea. But instead, he multiplied fish that were already dead. So, he caused harm to no creature. Also, some scholars contend that the Greek word for “fishweed” (a dried seaweed) has been mistranslated in this story as “fish”. It is certainly true that dried fishweed would be more likely in a basket with bread, and fishweed remains a popular food among Jewish and Arab peasants like the people to whom Jesus was speaking.
    In Luke and John, Jesus is seen helping the disciples catch a vast quantity of fish. In Luke, the event is depicted as his first call of the disciples. In John, the event occurs after the resurrection.
    Most reputable Biblical scholars see the events symbolically, and from a symbolic standpoint, Jesus assisting the disciples in netting massive quantities of fish could not be much clearer, especially considering his promise that he will make them “fishers of men.” They are bringing disciples (fish) into the fold.
    Even if Jesus did eat the Passover Lamb 2,000 years ago, that should not mean that the 20 billion of God’s creatures who are abused for food each year should be eaten. There is also strong evidence, actually, that Jesus did not eat the Passover Lamb.
    But, anyway, what Jesus ate 2000 years ago does not change the fact that today’s slaughterhouses are disgustingly inhumane. I can never imagine Jesus killing animals for food.
    The Garden of Eden, God’s perfect world, was vegetarian. And the only reason God gave Noah permission to eat meat was because all the plants were killed in the flood. Prophet Isaiah predicts that the new world which God is going to create is going to be complete vegetarian. He says even the lion will lie with the lamb.
    Let me show you some Biblical animal rights quotes:
    “Do not be among winebibbers, or among gluttonous eaters of meat.”
    Proverbs 23:20
    “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” (said by Jesus)
    Matthew. 9:13
    “A righteous man has respect the life of his beast, but the evil are cruel to theirs.”
    Proverbs 12:10
    The love of Jesus is for all. It is not limited to a single species.
    I believe that if Jesus comes back to this world, this time, he is going to fight for the rights of the poor innocent animals.

  5. In my opinion, the world would be alot better without yall religious types always causing problems, thinking yall are better than everyone else. The world has enough troubles without religion trying to stick their nose where it don’t belong. Therefore, I believe it would be best if not only Christians, but all religious beliefs kept their nonesense to themselves.

  6. How thick your hypocrisy is, Grangraad: you clearly think you are better than all of us, you are making a comment where it doesn’t belong (derailing a thread dealing with biblical interpretation to give your opinion of Christians), and you haven’t kept your beliefs about religion or your nonsense to yourself.

    Freedom of expression for you but not for those with whom you disagree, huh? Great idea. I would rather live in a world where everyone has a right to express their beliefs, especially those beliefs which they feel are most urgent for the world to hear. You would like to take that away from us. Your comment, taken to its logical conclusion, is oppressive. And I am not convinced it is honest. In my own experience, many Christians are shy and reticent to converse with unbelievers about what they believe. They tend to keep their beliefs to themselves when they should not. So be glad that they are not being as open and vocal as they ought. You would never hear the end of it!

  7. I think rather than making a case against what Atheists bring up as inconsistencies in the Bible and Christians interpretation, he actually plays into it. By highlighting in point 3 that there are some things “not specifically repealed in the NT” but are overlooked there is an inherent double standard if you are not applying the same strict adherence to them as say Homosexuality which is not repealed. The picking and choosing of OT prohibitions is the point Atheists are trying to make. If people are going to use the Bible to deny a certain class of people rights then they should be judged as well. You cannot be black and white on some prohibitions and gray on the others. Times changes and so must we.

  8. Hey Seattle, thanks for the comment. But I am not sure I understand. Round haircuts and blended fabrics are not specifically repealed, but they are not explicitly condemned in the NT, and my point in #3 is just to say they seem related to the above points. But with homosexuality, while not specifically repealed by the NT, it is explicitly and repeatedly condemned by the NT. So I have not picked and chosen, but applied consistent principles. Unless I am missing your point? On another note, I must say I do not agree with those Christians who want to deny rights to homosexuals. That’s not my agenda.

  9. I have to disagree with Gangraad. I have personally met a lot of Christian missionaries who help the poor and offer service to the needy but they don’t utter a single word about Jesus.
    That’s exactly what Mahatma Gandhi said. God will judge you by your actions, not by your religion. Let’s see what the Bible itself says:
    Mat 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
    So, the Bible itself makes it clear that calling the name of the Lord is not enough. To enter the kingdom of God, and to make God happy, we have to help the poor, protect the innocent and so on.
    There are some narrow minded Christians, whom I have met. They believe that good works and righteousness is unnecessary. They believed that salvation can be found just (and only)by accepting that Jesus died for your sins. I strongly oppose this. So did Mahatma Gandhi.
    I think it’s because of Paul’s corruption. I believe Paul to be a false apostle. He wasn’t even in the last supper and his teachings contradict with what Jesus taught. I also believe that Jesus was a vegetarian, (He is, according to the Gospel of the Holy Twelve)but it was Paul who removed this vegetarianism doctrine from Christianity.
    That’s why majority of the early Church leaders were vegetarian.
    Many famous scholars, especially the Essene scholars, believe Paul to be an apostate, not an apostle.
    Jesus taught:
    Mat 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
    Paul taught:
    Rom 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
    Jesus forbade slavery, while Paul didn’t.
    Paul taught:
    Eph 6:5 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;
    Jesus taught:
    Mat 23:10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.
    Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
    Lk 4:18 …to preach the deliverance of the captives, set at liberty them that are bruised.
    Paul also opposed equal rights for women, while Jesus believed that men and women are equal. So, I strongly believe that it was Paul who corrupted Christianity.
    Let’s see what Mahatma Gandhi said:
    “I draw a great distinction between the Sermon on the Mount of Jesus and the Letters of Paul. Paul’s Letters are a graft on Christ’s teachings, Paul’s own gloss apart from Christ’s own experience.”
    Let’s see what Ernest Hemingway said:
    “That Saint Paul…. He’s the one who makes all the trouble!”
    The new Testament is full of Paul’s teachings instead of the teachings of Jesus. That is another evidence of corruption.
    Jesus warned us many times that there would be false prophets and teachers. He told us not to be misled. But, sadly, many people were misled by Paul’s teachings. When Abraham Lincoln tried to free the slaves, Paul’s teachings were used by the Church to support slavery. With Paul’s teachings removed, Christianity can become a complete clean and perfect religion.

  10. Please remember what Mahatma Gandhi said. He said that he didn’t believe every word in the Bible to be the Word of God. But, you take every word in the Bible to be God’s command. Please be logical. Would a loving, kind and compassionate God really be pleased with the killing of his own innocent children?

    The Bible should not be taken as an encyclopedia. I am not sure whether we should call it “holy”, because it has been passed down from many generations ago. I am not trying to show “chronological snobbery” here. What I mean is that, according to many scholars, necessary teachings were removed by the so-called “correctors.” Many parts of the Bible were tampered with. The Gospels we have today are copies of the copies of the copies of the original teachings of Jesus. We have never had any of the true teachings in the first place.

    As far as I know, The Bible is a book about the beliefs and laws of the ancient Jews, their lifestyle, their religious ways and how they tried to connect with God. The Bible is showing us how the ancient people lived. It is not telling us to adopt these laws.

    Yes, each and every word in the Bible may have a deeper meaning, but that does not mean that each and every word is a Word of God.

    Gandhi said that The Sermon on the Mount can be taken as a Word of God, and the rest should not be taken too seriously.

    I believe Paul is the main culprit behind the corruption of the Bible. Let me tell you more about the hypocrisy of Paul. Let me provide more evidence to prove that he was not an apostle, but an apostate. Historical evidence is not very necessary to prove that Paul was an apostate. Just grab your nearest Bible, and you can know why his teachings should be ignored. Paul is worse than Judas. Judas betrayed Jesus, but Paul betrayed His teachings. Now, let’s see how he was an apostate.

    1. He wasn’t handpicked by Jesus like the other apostles were. In fact, he didn’t even meet Jesus. He is a self-proclaimed apostle. He claimed that Jesus appeared to him in a vision. That’s a blatant lie. There were already the apostles that Jesus himself handpicked. So, why would Jesus need to appear to someone he didn’t even meet?
    2. In Romans 14, he said that people who eat only vegetables are weak in faith. It can also be interpreted as “Vegetarians are weak in faith.” His hypocrisy can be clearly seen here. He himself judged vegetarians by calling them “weak” in faith, and later he is asking us not to judge our brothers. He said that meat-eaters should not argue with or judge vegetarians, while he himself did by calling them “weak.” Again, what he said, if it is taken seriously, would be complete blasphemy because majority of Christian scholars and reformers were vegetarians. Albert Schweitzer, John Wesley, the list can go on and on. And, according to this apostate Paul, they are all “weak”.
    3. His teachings were different from the teachings of Jesus. Jesus opposed slavery. Paul didn’t, and instead asked slaves to be faithful to their master. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said that to enter the kingdom of God, we must be righteous. Paul says that all we need to do is to believe that Jesus died for our sins.
    4. The New Testament should contain more about the teachings of Jesus. Instead, it has more about the teachings of Paul, and very little about what Jesus taught. Paul’s letters should not have been accepted in the Bible in the first place.
    5. He was rejected by many people including all the Asians. (2 Timothy 1: 15)
    6. His arrogance knew no bounds. He even went as far as to say, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” He wasn’t even imitating Christ in the first place.
    7. Paul said that anything can be eaten, as long as we pray to God before eating it. While in the Gospel of the Holy Twelve, Jesus tells us to abstain from flesh. In fact, vegetarianism was an absolute requirement for Christianity at that time. Many followers of Jesus, like the Ebionites, were vegetarian. They rejected Paul because Paul was corrupting the teachings of Jesus. He removed vegetarianism and inserted his own blasphemous words.
    8. They way Paul keeps denying that vegetarianism is necessary to connect with God only confirms that vegetarianism was an absolute requirement for Christianity in the beginning. Lots lof evidence support this. Like- why would people like the Ebionites follow vegetarianism?

    In other words, Paul created a different version of Christianity. We all know how the teachings of Jesus were rejected by many people. But, later why did Paul’s version of Christianity spread all over the world?

    The answer is simple. By following Paul’s version of Christianity, people could continue eating flesh, continue keeping their slaves with themselves and continue abusing women. That’s why it was accepted worldwide.

    Thankfully, Paul’s version of Christianity is losing its ground these days. Many Christians, nowadays, like the Seventh Day Adventists follow a vegetarian diet. A lot of Christian missionaries teach people to be righteous instead of believing that Christ died for their sins. Slavery has been banned, thanks to people like Abraham Lincoln. And, women are gaining a good position is society.

    It is just a matter of time before Paul’s version of Christianity is completely wiped out.

    I also have a question for you. It is said that Jesus was the son of David. It means that he was a descendant of David. So, Joseph, father of Jesus was a descendant of David as well, which makes it clear that Jesus was connected to David’s bloodline. But, Matthew gospel says that Jesus was born through the Holy Spirit. It says that Jesus was not a real son of Joseph. So, the question is how can Jesus be both a Son of David, and son of the Holy Spirit?

    And, why did Jesus say, “I am the son of Man” countless times. Was he implying that the story of the virgin birth was false?

    Also, prophet Isaiah predicted that Jesus would be named Emmanuel. But, he wasn’t. His real name was Yehshuah, neither Emmanuel, nor Jesus. In fact, he wasn’t called Jesus by anyone all his life. It was a translation error. So, why wasn’t he named Emmanuel? Can you clear this doubt as well?

  11. Wow, just a day or two I defended Paul against the claims of a Paul-hater on another site, and now the subject is coming up again. Weird. Having studied and taught on Paul for years, I have to say you misunderstand Paul deeply.

    1. Your point 1 is his word against yours. The apostles gave him the right hand of fellowship. If they were concerned about Paul being a faker, they apparently were convinced somehow.

    2. Your point 2: Paul was calling certain people weak not because they were vegetarians but because their consciences were delicate about certain Jewish scruples, as opposed to others who felt the freedom to eat freely. Had he not clearly sided with those advocating freedom, the ‘weak’ would have imposed their scruples on the others, forcing non-Jewish people to adopt Jewish customs in order to become Christians. Paul wanted to defend the church against these restrictions placed on Gentiles. He didn’t have a problem with people being vegetarians. He had a problem with those people forcing their vegetarianism on others, saying that others could not be right with God unless they conformed to their ideas. The same happens today: Christians telling other Christians they have to abstain from coffee, that women can’t wear pants but have to wear dresses, or else they are not true Christians.

    3. Your point 3: Jesus never spoke out against slavery, so I am not sure what you are referring to, other than in Luke 4 where Jesus announces release for captives. Paul in 1 Cor 7 said that if slaves have the chance to win their freedom they should take it. And Paul’s letter to Philemon lays a theological foundation that undermines the basis of slavery. But it would have been disastrous for the early Christian movement, so weak in an Empire that opposed them, to try to overthrow slavery. The Romans would have clamped down and destroyed the movement for being rebellious and threatening the social order.

    4. Your point 4: You are just stating your opinion, to which you have a right. You are not making an argument here, so I don’t feel the need to respond to it. There is a pretty even distribution between Jesus’ teachings and Paul’s.

    5. Your point 5: Many great people and their ideas are rejected. Jesus himself was crucified. How does this affect the truth or nontruth of his teachings?

    6. Your point 6: When Paul writes this in Philippians 3, Paul WAS imitating Jesus. Like Jesus, he had set aside his own privileges and accepted suffering for the sake of saving others. Compare Philippians 2 (about Jesus) and chapter 3 (about Paul) and you will see the parallels.

    7/8. Not an argument. You are just agreeing with the Ebionites and the Gospel of the Holy Twelve over against Paul, while I do the opposite.

    Now to your questions:

    1. Both Mary and Joseph were descendants of David. So Jesus was legitimately a descendant of David. It is believed that Matthew contains Joseph’s genealogy, and Luke contains Mary’s. This is not a problem.

    2. By claiming to be the Son of Man, Jesus was claiming to be the fulfillment of the one like a son of man in Daniel 7. He was avoiding using the term Messiah, which would have been misunderstood by his contemporaries, and using a term that pointed to something deeper about his identity. He was not saying “I am the son of the man, Joseph.”

    3. Jesus didn’t need to be named Emmanuel for Isaiah’s prophecy to be fulfilled. Emmanuel means God with us, and in Jesus God drew close to humankind. You may be incorrect to say Jesus was never called Jesus in his lifetime. He lived in a culture where Aramean and Greek were both spoken, and may himself have known some Greek. No way to know. The Gospel writers used the Greek equivalent of his name because their audience was primarily Greek – Gentiles and Hellenized Jews. So it is not a translation ‘error’ but a conscious decision to present Jesus in a way that eliminates unnecessary hindrances to people to accept him.

    As I stated elsewhere, I would rather continue my correspondence with you by email than through blog comments, since your questions are not related to the articles. My email is dgifford (at) crcna (dot) org. Blessings and hope this helps, Dave

  12. Ever since Wright posted examples showing that the Bible contradicts itself, I’ve been looking for some as well.

    The people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.
    And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. -Numbers 21: 5-6

    So, your god killed some of his people just because they were thirsting for water? Do you really expect me to believe such nonsense?

  13. Horace: You are not looking at the whole picture. If I were God and did numerous miracles big enough to cover the entire ancient empire of Egypt, and by doing so freed people who had been groveling in slavery, then led them by a pillar of fire out of Egypt and on dry ground with the red sea hemmed up on either side, and promise them they would soon become an independent and free nation, and with fire and smoke give them the justest laws the world had seen up to that time, and then had to listen to those very people complain that slavery in Egypt was better, and doubt my ability to get them water, I’d be pretty miffed, too.

  14. Dave and I graduated high school together. He went into Ministry and I into chemistry (which feels like a ministry because I teach in a private Christian school).

    I really like the issues this site explains. I really liked the Theological Bill of Rights. I cannot say I’ve always been consistent with this Bill of rights, but I have been moving toward a philosophy very similar.

    It is too bad about the comments though. I’ve read Mr. Wrights comments here and what he did on another site, http://www.truthaboutdave.blogspot.in/. His treatment of Dave is just ridiculous and filled with an obvious agenda to bash a Christian. Dave was just the unfortunate choice and misrepresented as a quick reading on Dave’s posts here demonstrates to any reasonable person.

    Mr. Wright is presenting a Jesus consistent with a 21st century Hindu culture rather a 1st century Jewish culture which the Bible records. This is a common problem even with Christians–we interpret the Bible in terms of the culture we live in rather than the culture the Bible was written in.

    What is this business about “strong evidence” about Jesus being a vegetarian and that the Bible was tampered with to favor Paul’s version of Christianity rather than Jesus’? I had a professor make the claim there is no historical evidence that Jesus even existed then go on to state that He was more likely born in April than December but no evidence was cited. This is obviously not consistent.

    In the same way one cannot reject the Bible’s testimony about Jesus (or Paul) as being tampered with and substitute your own with the testimony of “strong evidence” to support your case and then not giving this evidence. Anyone can make such statements, but proving them is another matter. I have studied quite a bit on textual criticism and I am absolutely convinced that we have all the words originally written by the authors of the Bible. The more I study, the more convinced I am of this and claims about tampering are dismissed as poor scholarship on the critic’s part. In order to be consistent, I offer Bruce Metzger’s works as a good starting point on this evidence if anyone is interested.

    The so-called tampering that is supported by scholar’s is called conflation–verses or phrases being added to a Gospel or letter because these additions seem to harmonize books like the Gospels. However, this is only found to a greater degree in one type of manuscript (the Byzantine type) which are late manuscripts anyway. Furthermore, this “tampering” only adds information to a Gospel or letter that was already found in another Gospel or letter not brand new information added to a particular text nor any theological or historical errors. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever of Christians or Jews adding to or taking away from the sacred text.

    Many groups like the Muslims, Mormons, Hindus, etc. like to make this claim to put forward a “gospel” or agenda that the Bible flatly condemns. The tampering claims are almost as old as the New Testament itself, yet the arguments do not usually stand up. Mohammad made this claim in ~600 AD, Joseph Smith made it in ~1839 AD. Mr Wright, as well as others, are doing it today, “there is nothing new under the sun.”

    Dave, great post, I never made the connection between holiness (separateness) and the dietary and clothing laws as a physical example of this. It now makes sense. I honestly never understood why those laws were given until now. Keep up the good work.

  15. Thanks Dr. Succaw! Just for fun I looked up Wright’s beloved Gospel of the Holy Twelve on Wikipedia, and it says that even historians favorable to vegetarianism think it is a hoax.

  16. Well, if that’s the case, the point made is still very weak because don’t you Christians describe your god as kind and compassionate? From what I see, your god is only hotheaded and impatient.
    And, thanks to Gary for linking me to Mr. Wrights blog. I agree with all the points Wright made except the one that God actually exist.

  17. Thanks “Horace”, who pretends not to know Wright but whose email is wrightrobinson1…hahaha.

  18. i dont believe that god does not exist, but your explanations for “inconsistent” interpretations of the old and new testiment are also open for attack… there are so many instances in history where the “modern” interpretation of the bible is done only by man…not by God. in the middle ages the catholic church had church appointed prostitutes because it was better for men to cheat with them than with other women…who decided that? man did. not God. I 100% agree with the main messages of the bible. we should be good people, we should help others, we should strive to be the best people we can be, but lets remember who wrote the bible:man. man is not entirely trust worthy. there are countless things in the bible that are contradictions or even absolutely ridiculous. distinguishing between the old and new testiment is mearly an agreeing or disagreeing with people from very very long ago and people from very long ago. would God be more proud of someone who does the best they can, help others, and constantly be trying to better themselves, or someone who textbook follows the bible, judges anyone who doesnt, and is generaly unpleasant to be around as a result? because if you can honestly say that some of the most religious people you know aren’t like the latter, then you’re clearly in a bit of brain wash yourself

  19. Thanks for your comments, Mike. I agree that we Christians can be hypocritical and inconsistent. I also agree that part of the goal is to get to the point of being better people and loving others, and many Christians get stuck spinning their wheels at the steps toward the goal. They forget the Bible is a means and not an end. Many study the Bible but become critical and judgmental, and yes, unpleasant instead of better. But this article is not about that. This article is just to say that the points in the article are points for which there are consistent answers, and those answers have been around a long time. But rather than study the issue, the people I am responding to in the article just ignorantly poked fun at the Bible and proclaimed themselves superior to it.

    You are in danger of doing the same. But there are many helpful Christian books and even encyclopedias to address the supposed contradictions of Scripture you mention. I recommend you turn to some of those to discover a healthier perspective about the Bible. You can find some of the books I am thinking of here. Blessings.

  20. The pick-and-choose that people are upset about isn’t the justification, but how the followed rules arn’t even upheld beyond their basic prejudice. For example, Leviticus states that not only shoud homosexuals be ostracized; they should also be hunted down and murdered (see Leviticus 20:13). While it may also still be said to be aplicable to ostracize them, why isn’t Nehemiah 13:23-27 still aplicaple on not marring those from other countries, it is still an easily possible one, so why is it disregarded? And the justification talks about how Leviticus only made sense in the context, but the gay abomonation has no context nor any explanation, so how can it be justified?

  21. @William: Re: marrying people from other countries: the issue of racism is on nearly every page of the New Testament. The NT’s message is that the distinction between races has been abolished. “There is no Jew or Gentile”. So now believers are free to marry people of other races, and the previous commands not to do so can be disregarded. But in the case of homosexual behavior, prohibitions regarding such behavior are not rescinded but actually repeated in the NT. And regarding ostracizing versus hunting down and murdering, the NT forbids both. Jesus’ example was to befriend sinners and outcasts and call them into the kingdom. Also, since the people of God are no now longer a nation but an international movement, the church is not in the business of executing people for offenses. If a Christian commits a sin, the church calls on the person to repent, and if the person after repeated admonition refuses to repent, he or she is not ostracized or hunted and executed, but simply treated as a non-member, i.e., the church members go back to befriending the person and calling him or her into the kingdom just as they do for any other unbeliever. All of the above is simply to say the same as the original post: many people assume we are picking and choosing in an arbitrary way, but there are longstanding and understandable explanations for the differences between the various issues.

  22. You don’t even know your own Bible. Leviticus 11:8 has nothing to do with football. It’s about not being allowed to eat pig meat. And your excuse for everything is that times change? So then why does any of this have to relate to us?

  23. @David P: The original atheist article I was responding to with my article jokingly made it about football, because of the “pigskin” of the football. While the verse in Leviticus isn’t about football, applying it to football is fair game. My answer is most definitely not that “times change.” We can’t justify picking and choosing what we want to obey from the Bible by appealing to the passing of time and changes in society. What I said, in essence, was that
    a. God himself made and explicitly announced the change in the New Testament. This means Christians are not arbitrary in not obeying that command in Leviticus. And,
    b. God made the change, not arbitrarily, but based on the changing needs of the moment. His plan had stages, and the need at one stage of the plan called for separation from other nations, and the need at the current stage calls for going out into all nations to create an international movement. And eating pig meat was one of many symbols of separation meant to help Israel remember to keep separate from the nations. Now that the plan is quite different, those symbols are no longer needed. So I can go enjoy my Bacon-ator burger with a clean conscience, whereas had I lived in Moses’ day, I would not have been allowed.

  24. How can you argue that some ‘laws’ of the OT have been repealed or ‘updated by modern logic’, yet not apply the SAME LOGIC to all portions?

    If some OT law is negated because “Well they just said that one cause reproduction was so important…”

    Wouldn’t the same argument apply to “Sex with another man as you would a woman” ??

  25. @TDonovan: I think I have made my case clear, between the article and my replies to other comments, so I refer you to those. See especially my reply to David P. But in brief, I DO apply the same logic to all the laws: only later revelations from God (ie the New Testament) can repeal or modify the existing laws. And the New Testament appeals and modifies various laws. But it reaffirms and reinforces the law against homosexual behavior.

  26. While I respect the views of anyone that is a believer, I must say that as a skeptic I still have some problems with the justification and interpretation being done with the bible. Just from a position of curiosity, in the NT it tells women to submit to their husbands. Obviously its not being a widely held practice thankfully, but I was wondering about the justification. It seems pretty clear what was meant if you read the passage. And if the justification is that it held some purpose before that no longer exists today, couldnt you take that exact same principle and apply it to various other passages? You mentioned that the passage on wearing various fabrics or wearing gold no longer need apply. But how do you know? I don’t think anyone alive today has had a one on one conversation with God, and therefore any interpretations made could be incorrect. And obviously as we see, many churches hold different beliefs about the same exact pieces of scripture. So why are there steadfast held beliefs with no wiggle room with certain scriptures, but more of a new interpretation and following with others?

    I think the viewpoint coming from atheists or agnostics is more of a skepticism that those who are doing the interpretation could be incorrect, and therefore the bible should be more of a practice of taking it all as it is written, or ignoring the particulars and semantics, and simply trying to be a good person. The middle ground can clearly be a gray area, with Christians differing on the viewpoints of evolution, marriage, etc. So I was just wondering why everything in the bible isn’t subject to the same amount of interpretation as is some of the passages you mentioned above. Thank you.

  27. @Philip: Thanks for your thoughtful response. I tend to be pretty conservative: obey the Bible pretty straightforwardly unless there is sufficient warrant for understanding the command as either: 1. rescinded by a later revelation from God (the laws about kosher foods), 2. never meant for general application (Timothy, take a little wine for your stomach), 3. that culturally one needs to obey it in a different way in order to be faithful to the principle behind the command (shaking hands or bowing instead of greeting one another with a holy kiss), etc. When I became a Christian I actually struggled with why Christian women don’t wear head coverings in worship as it says in 1 Corinthians, and studied the text carefully and discovered that Paul in that passage actually presents a caveat that undermines the practice as being cultural. So yes, I try to take everything in the Bible seriously rather than cavalierly.

    I realize that different Christians are at times going to be at odds as to how to interpret and apply, and I know on some things I will probably end up being dead wrong. That is okay. The point is to keep studying, and be faithful at any given moment to the light that is granted to us so far. I respect fellow Christians whose interp and application is very different from my own, especially when I see that they are trying sincerely to be faithful to what they have learned along the way. But what is harder to respect is when people, such as the person that my article is responding to, mock something they haven’t even taken the least bit of effort to understand. So my post is pretty much limited to trying to shame such people by showing that the Bible, and Christian application of it, makes more sense than they think it does.

    As for specifics from your comment, I believe the ‘Wives, submit to your husbands’ is still an applicable command, but the ‘Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church’ balances it out, and when Paul said them, the command to husbands would have been the more countercultural, challenging one. Wives submitting doesn’t mean being a doormat or never challenging or admonishing their husbands, and the command really isn’t meant to justify men lording it over their wives in a macho fashion. Paul is aiming at mutual sacrifice, each for the good of the other. I imagine when many people today read ‘Wives submit’ they imagine a sheepish, mousy wife having to bow to the wishes of a tyrant in order to avoid a verbal or physical thrashing. Reading a letter like Ephesians as a whole shows that is very far from Paul’s mind.

    My justification about fabrics no longer applying was made by comparing it to the prohibition of kosher food, etc, that WERE rescinded, noting that in both cases, they were symbols of separation that upheld the need for Israel to be separate from the nations, but since God no longer separates his people from the nations, the need for those symbols disappeared. So I am arguing that what clearly happened in the case of food, also must have happened in the case of fabrics for the same reason. If you think that is a weak justification, I can understand that. I realize it is not airtight, and that it doesn’t come from an explicit statement in the text, but it makes sense, and explains why the command does not continue to be applied today. Again, I am trying to work with the text rather than blow it off, as many have done.

    As for the prohibition of gold, I said that I think it is still very applicable today. My words: “Rather than being a foolish, random prohibition, I think it is quite relevant for Christians today.” Mind you, application is not meant to be wooden and slavish. In one culture, gold may be the issue, and in another it might be silk. But the basic principle is that ostentatious dress is wrong.

    Hope the above helps. Blessings!

  28. So, we have come from “The bible is the living word of God. His command and will to man. Truth.” To “Well, things are only true which we can still legally/safely claim to uphold while keeping good face with powerful government bodies of whichever time period we’re in…”

    Do you not see the GLARING flaw in the logical argument that “This is unquestionably true! It is the word of God himself”, then every other century decide “Well saying that X,Y,Z is true and trying to uphold them is illegal or would upset the status quo, so we’ll go ahead and say that God changed his mind… and that’s not REALLY important … ”

    Either the book was God’s word, and unquestionably truth for eternity… Or it was written, copied, edited, translated, re-written, re-editted by hundreds of men … and is thereby subject to the prejudices, bias, etc.. of the Times, individuals, regions, experiences of the writers…

    You can’t say “Oh, yeah… the bible is God’s word. But we decided God was wrong on certain parts that clash with what we want to do… every few hundred years.”

    You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Which is it?

  29. @TDonovan: Talk about glaring logical flaws, you are creating a false disjunction when you say it is EITHER God’s eternal truth OR written by people with agendas.

    First of all, most of God’s words are not static one size fits all eternal and unchangeable pronouncements like “Do not steal”. They are usually specific communications to specific circumstances, and to understand them we need to study the historical situation they address. And God reveals things progressively. Since his earliest communications to Abraham, he has said, in essence, “I have a plan and I am carrying it out in stages.” So it is not unexpected that at each stage God gives new instructions and explanations. He is not contradicting himself, and it is not a matter of human beings trying to keep face with government bodies and adapting accordingly. Did Moses adapt to Pharaoh, or did he challenge him? Did the prophets adapt to the kings, or did they challenge them? Did Jesus and the apostles adapt to the high priests in power and the Romans? Or did they challenge them? And in church history, to give one example, did Martin Luther adapt to the Catholic church power base of his day, or did he challenge it?

    Second, there is no contradiction in saying BOTH that God inspired the documents we now call the Bible, AND that he did so through human beings, inspiring them, guiding their writing and editing process, preserving the text which they wrote.

    Third, there is nothing inherently wrong with us Christians today using the wisdom God gave to human beings to try to understand and apply the Bible to new situations. On some issues we will find that to be faithful to God’s word, we need to run counter to our culture and insist that certain behaviors and beliefs are wrong just as they were back then. But on other issues we will find that to be faithful to God’s word rightly interpreted, we need to apply it in ways that perhaps seem to run counter to a more superficial reading of the Bible.

    Finally, the Bible itself says that the Holy Spirit will guide Christians into truth along the way. There is the expectation that as centuries go by we will understand these documents more clearly, as we apply them to new and changing situations. The choice, though, is whether we will take the stance of some, who jettison whatever isn’t convenient to them, like those you rightly criticize in your comment (You can’t say “Oh, yeah… the bible is God’s word. But we decided God was wrong on certain parts that clash with what we want to do… every few hundred years.”). Or whether we will take the stance of others, who want to obey as best we can, but do so by taking the time to understand the Bible in its original setting, then carefully and thoughtfully apply it to today’s very different setting.

  30. It stands to reason, then, if a hypothetical religion were founded, grew massively in popularity and political influence… and their Gawd had declared heterosexuality a sin worthy of death… It would be perfectly just, right and unarguable if politicians of said faith declared marriage between man and woman null and void, and no government agent could marry a man and woman. Only same sex couples.

    They’re just expressing their beliefs, right? They just happen to be capable in “expressing” it in form of laws. Bob and Sandra would have no recourse but to say, “Huh, I guess we just suck it up and live our sinful baby-making ways without the financial or legal rights the gay-couples get.”

    Oh, btw, You can’t question the laws of Gawd. We have a book that says baby-makers are evil sinners on page 19. Yes, I know it says on page 22 that it used to be okay for gay people to be friends with straight people… But we decided that, because of something on page 28, Gawd was just a fan of PREVIOUS gay-straight cooperation in society because at the time, gays were persecuted. That’s just the way it is. Sucks for you that so many politicians are believers. MAJORITY RULE!

  31. Ah, that is where you were going with that. For the record, I am really not in favor of using legislation to deny the rights of others, including legislating against gay marriage. I believe in letting others do what they want, with two conditions: a. as long as I don’t have to foot the bill for them to do things that I believe are wrong, or in any other way be forced to act against my conscience, and b. as long as people who do believe and things that go contrary to a religion don’t insist on that religion accommodating their beliefs and practices by trying to become members. In other words, let’s agree to disagree, let’s try to convince each other through civil discussion of our respective positions (using the word ‘Gawd’ to mock others beliefs is not civil, in my opinion), and let’s agree not persecute each other.

    Be aware that I don’t want this thread derailed, so I will not approve comments from anyone if they are about gay marriage and are unrelated to the article. The article, and the thread, are about defending the Bible against the charges brought against it in an article on another blog.

  32. I agree, I think its best to keep this thread a civil discussion, and I think it really sullies the name of a group if the way they act or speak is disrespectful. As a skeptic of those who do believe, I think its important to show that just because someone doesn’t have a faith doesn’t mean they have a moral compass and uphold respect for all beliefs.

    You mentioned you wanted to keep this conversation to the article, but I have some more general questions, so if this is the wrong forum you can point me to the right one. Quickly to address the response on wives submitting to their husbands though, I have to slightly disagree with your interpretation because you said that in effect the two balance out. But I don’t agree, I think there is a clear distinction being made. If the passage was intended to mean marriage should be equal and balanced, why not use the same exact wording? It could have said: Husbands submit to and love your wives, and wives submit to and love your husbands. Its a simple fix. But the wording isn’t the same. And I think thats something to question, rather than justify. But thats just my opinion.

    As to my more general question: it has for a long time now concerned me the ways that many who believe do justify and try to interpret their faith, rather being on the side of challenging it. It may be blasphemous to do so. But I think for religion to be on equal footing with alternate explanations of these big questions (I’m referring to science) I think that it does have to have that same unrelenting questioning of the tenants. I understand what your article above is doing, trying to educate those who make weak arguments against the bible. But youre also trying to protect your faith from outside attacks. However in science really to truly understand something, you have to constantly question its validity. So why not the same with religion?

    Thank you.

  33. Thanks Philip, for your thoughtful responses and questions.

    Regarding your general question, I teach philosophy and the Socratic practice of asking and questioning is part of my DNA, and so am quite comfortable questioning and examining my beliefs. I share your concern for anyone of any belief system who blindly accepts things and doesn’t examine them and challenge them. We start from where we are, and we believe our beliefs – and defend them – until we are confronted with evidence that forces us to adjust those beliefs.

    I don’t really see a conflict between openness to new evidence and arguments, on the one hand, and apologetics, defending and justifying one’s convictions, on the other. They go hand in hand. There are people who suspend all judgment and postpone belief until they can get all the facts in hand and be satisfied, and there are people who defend and justify blindly and have contempt for anything that is different. I have been guilty of both extremes at times in my life, and will no doubt continue to err in both directions. But the ideal is to find that balance. Faith in the truth, and humility to know that your grasp of the truth is minimal.

    But there is another factor. Part of my worldview, my starting point, is that there are supernatural forces that are hostile to God and humankind, and they will do what they can to deceive human beings and discredit the Christian message. I have seen plenty of evidence in my life to convince me of that, and some of the comments to this article only serve to confirm this belief. It is fascinating to watch many people who are committed to reason, logic, scientific method, and openness suddenly become hot under the collar and ditch their principles when the topic of Christianity comes up. They resort to ad hominem attacks, show extreme intolerance and prejudice, and prove themselves to be just as close-minded and unquestioning as they believe Christians to be. So you will have to forgive me if I insist that it is quite right for Christians to have an instinct that tells them to be on guard and not be easily swayed by the many arguments that will inevitably be raised against our faith.

    Evolutionary theory (not “science”, as you put it, which is a method of inquiry, not an explanation) and a philosophy of materialism or naturalism is one interpretation of the evidence and data the world gives us. It understandably privileges the physical data and says this is all there is. Christianity is another interpretation of the data, and understandably privileges the data of the Bible, and says there is more than the physical world we see. In the end, both worldviews are based on faith, because both the physical evidence of the earth and the chapters in the Bible on creation and origins are vague and inconclusive, and can be interpreted in different ways.

    I want to clarify that my focus is on the worldviews interpreting the evidence, not on creation science theory versus evolutionist theory. I am kind of agnostic on that issue. My point is just that one worldview sees the evidence and says matter is the end of the matter, and the other looks at the evidence and says there is spirit in the mix. Each does so by privileging a certain set of data and minimizing or discounting the other data.

    On your specific question about wives submitting to husbands, my responses are a) that husbands are told to love “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for it.” That is a tall order! A love that suffers, sacrifices and serves for the sake of the beloved. So Paul is not saying, “Wives, resign yourselves to a life of servitude to a male chauvinist, oh and husbands, try to have a loving attitude toward your wives.” So the balance is not unequal. My other response is b) why Paul didn’t just say to each “love and submit to each other”? First of all, he does, in Ephesians 5.21. And second, he probably focused on the part of that that each party needed to hear at that given point in time. Christianity’s emphasis on the equality of men and women (Galatians 3.28) and the brotherhood of fellow Christians was radical for its day, and Paul and other leaders needed to make sure that outsiders would see that Christianity wasn’t trying to upset the social order and produce unruly wives and slaves. So Paul had to insist that wives and slaves submit to those over them in society rather than be independent and rebellious. In short, Christianity was teaching something with radical social implications, but was doing so in a spirit of humility and servitude, not in a militant and aggressive spirit.

    HTH, Dave

  34. Hi Dave,
    While I’m sympathetic to any Christian that comes under attack from anyone, its hard to see Christians or any believers as the victims when it comes to ad hominem attacks. Examples of Christians making assumptions and judgements of others based on their lifestyle isn’t a hard thing to find. I was just at a local pride parade, and members of some Church were carrying microphones and shouting “shame on you” at people passing by. So if your point is to say more attacks and vicious behavior is thrown at the Church then by it, its a difficult thing to prove.

    Onto your point on evolutionary theory. For one, all science is a means of explanation. Thats why it was created, to explain things we see everyday and don’t understand. And its still doing just that. Furthermore, evolutionary theory is absolutely science, in every way. It was based on a hypothesis on why adaption is seen in species, and since then its accumulated a lot of data. It even spans multiple scientific disciplines. All the information is peer reviewed, and any scientist that would hang onto his theory or explanation even though its been disproved would be a worthless scientist. And with science, there is no such concern of blindnessly believing anything, if its practiced properly. Because one of the tenants of science is to question everything.

    And just to possibly clear up one more thing, I dont think the information we have about our planet is vague at all. Almost every scientist that has anything to do with studying either the planet, or the things living on it agree the world is very old (4.5 – 4.6 billion years). And there really isn’t much of a question about it in the science community, its pretty much confirmed from radioactive dating, to continental drift, to the rate of gene mutation in bacteria, etc. I do believe there is still room for some higher power to enter the equation, I’m not saying science knows all, or can prove all. However what I do find fault with is the efforts of some to completely avoid science or really just truth. This can be found with the creationist museums, or parents teaching their kids dinosaurs lived alongside humans. Even the attacks against evolution are sometimes misinformed. “I couldnt have evolved from a chimp” being a common one. No legitimate scientist thinks we evolved from chimps. But those are some of the things I think could and should be taught. And I think its somewhat sad when the US ranks at the top of lists of countries that don’t believe in evolution. But thats a different topic. If you have any comments on the issues though, I’d be curious to hear them. Thank you.

  35. @Philip, obviously I would agree there are many hateful Christians attacking others. My point was not to count the number and compare. My point is just to say that I have a worldview that says the world is hostile to Christianity, and I see that worldview confirmed all the time in that many people attack Christianity with all manner of ad hominem attacks, when people like Dawkins for example, supposedly the voice of reason and science, pays young people $ to make videos of themselves blaspheming the Holy Spirit, putting up billboards attacking religion, calling for the end of religion, even saying that us teaching our own children about our faith is a form of child abuse, etc. I can easily see our belief being illegal in a decade or two, at the rate things are moving, and this because of the same people who champion rights and freedom of choice, etc.

    My point about science was not to diss evolutionary theory or suggest it is unscientific. Sorry if I wasn’t being clear. My point was that in your post you called “science” an alternate explanation to Christianity, and that is not correct. Evolutionary theory is the alternate explanation, and science is the method of investigation. Evolutionary theory is based on science, but do not equate the two. You use the method to come up with a theory that explains the evidence. The theory is the explanation, and the theory may turn out to be right or wrong, but that doesn’t mean science is wrong. Science is a method. I say this because evolutionary scientists co-opt the word “science” as if it were their own, and no one else has the right to claim the word. Why couldn’t a creation scientist legitimately use the scientific method, starting with his worldview, and come up with theories that are different from the reigning hypothesis? Didn’t you affirm that science is a matter of always questioning everything? Why is it that in your comment you seem to be elevating evolution to an unquestionable level?

    As I said before, I am agnostic with regard to the creation-evolution debate. It doesn’t really interest me. So I am not defending creationism here. My interest is more in the debate between worldviews, the confusing of science and one particular worldview, the limits of science, and the political coopting of the claim to science by adherents of that worldview in order to extinguish my worldview and others.

    My point is this: It appears to me, non-scientist that I am, that evolutionary theory is what best explains the geological evidence the universe currently gives us. So I would tentatively agree with your comments about the peer-reviewed, multi-disciplinary confidence that scientists can have that they have arrived at the best theory to explain the evidence at hand at this time. But science, like history, is a discipline that always will be adapting as new evidence appears. And so it is presumptuous for scientists to trash other worldviews that claim revelations from God that explain origins in a different way. You are right that the evidence is not vague. But it is limited to what we currently have. That is how science works, it does the best it can with what it has.

    And so because of that limitation, there is plenty of room for worldviews with alternate explanations of origins, and each has the right to use the scientific method, hypothesize, investigate, etc. The reason people bash creation museums, etc, rather than be tolerant of them, and live and let live, is that the people doing the bashing are taking the current best explanation using a limited method, and are elevating it to the level of truth. And then they are using it to be intolerant of other claims to truth.

    In the case of Christians, regardless of our position on creation vs evolution, our beliefs aren’t based on science, strictly defined. But they do have a basis. We believe, for example, in Jesus’ divinity because of reports that we find reliable that claim that he publicly did many miracles, rose from the dead, fulfilled many ancient prophecies, and gave power to his followers to do many similar miracle in public. And this evidence is not scientifically provable today, because it is in the distant past. But it was convincing to many people in the past, and we sense it to be compelling to us, too, we sense it to be a communication from God, and we find confirmation of such when we try to live out its implications. Obeying Jesus’ teachings makes us better people, whereas disregarding them leaves us worse off, etc. So we are not being “unreasonable” for believing these things.

    I am quite aware that my beliefs ultimately rest on the testimony of ancient witnesses, and my own instincts and experience, and that in the end my beliefs may be proven wrong. I try to convince others of what I believe, and use them to make my world a better place, but I am understanding if they are not convinced. But there are others whose naturalist or materialist beliefs ultimately rest only on a theory based on the testimony of present geological witnesses, and despite that, they do not have the same humility. They want to coerce everyone to believe as they do, and some of them have already begun to threaten to take away our right to exist and propagate what we believe. One example is Sam Harris, who justifies human torture of religious people in his book End of Faith. Another is what I mentioned above, that some people want to outlaw the teaching of religion to children, even by parents to their own children, because they claim it is child abuse.

  36. Hi dave,
    As far your claim about religion being banned into the future, I think all of us inherently have a bias to see things that support our views, and therefore attacks on the Church might stand out more to you when they occur. But I think I could make the opposite claim that the Church has too much power. 75% of US citizens identify as Christians, there has never been a firmly non Christian president, Christian interest groups have the power to oppose certain bills, such as (I believe Mormons?) throwing millions into passing Prop 8 in California, etc. Anyone can propose something like banning religions. But obviously putting it into practice is a completely different story, and would face tremendous opposition. And I think rightly so, the country was founded on religious freedom. But I do think its wrong for the Church to get involved in political decision when this country was also founded on a separation of Church and state.

    And maybe we misunderstood each other about the evolutionary science points. I’m not saying that evolutionary theory is equal to science, I mean any theory in science could potentially be proven wrong, so none of them are science themselves. But there is also the process of “doing” science, or using science, which is why I think I said evolutionary theory is science. I meant its using science, and still falls under the large banner that we call science, it doesnt fall under some other category. So I call it science, but not in the literal way of it being science itself.

    As far as your point on evolutionary scientists co-opting the word, I think they have the right to use the word science. As does anyone else that used the method. I think anyone that uses the scientific method, takes concrete data and publishes it in a way for it to be peer reviewed is a scientist. So if there are any Christian scientists doing just that to prove their hypothesis of creationism, then they have every right to be called scientists. However science also has a condition of not being biased. So to be looking for a result before even starting your first experiment would be bad science.

    As far as evolution as just a theory, I agree. We are only using the evidence we have at hand, but you could use that same argument for everything. But thats not put into practice. There are also many alternate views on medicine. Some believe healing can be done with only energy. But when we take a class in physiology, we dont have a lecture on chakra. And why should we? We should teach using the best explanations and evidence that we have available.

    As far as the creationist museums, I think people have every right to oppose them. You said its a mistake to take something that may have ample evidence, but is not 100% proven such as evolution, to be risen to the level of truth. And maybe youre right, but creationist museums are taking something that has no proof, and ever more so ample proof against it, and elevating it to truth. So which is worse? I would say the creationist museum by a mile. And worse yet, its passing itself of as some legitimate scientific facility. I think we have the responsibility to teach children using the best information, resources, evidence, etc that we have. So we could make the argument of alternate views endlessly, I’m sure people out there have their own views on gravity and inertia, but thats not how we learn about the world. So thats why I take offense with the creationist museums, but however I am not against teaching an alternate view of creationism at all, maybe as in it was done in seven stages instead of days, etc. As long as its not elevated as to being on the level with science, which uses concretes.

  37. Thanks for the discussion, Philip. I need to wrap it up at this point because I am feeling overwhelmed in other areas of my life. We are seeing fairly eye-to-eye on some things (for example, that evolutionary scientists have the right to use the word science I have no problem with that, and I am concerned too about some of creationism, etc), and on other things we have made our positions fairly clear. My parting shot would be to say that it is naive to think that non-creationist scientists are being unbiased in their science, because there is a lot of bias – rejecting the possibility of finding a miracle, assuming a closed universe, etc. Blessings to you.

  38. Hello, Dave. Could I please know your thoughts on dinosaurs?
    Sincerely, Timmy.

  39. I don’t have any thoughts on dinosaurs other than that they are cool to draw. This thread is not about evolution, and that topic doesn’t hold much interest to me personally, so I will leave it at that.

  40. This thread is not about dinosaurs, you’re right on that. But, if the Bible is as accurate as you claim, I’m eager to know why it doesn’t mention them.

  41. The Bible doesn’t mention cats either. Dinosaurs and cats are offtopic for the Bible. The Bible was not written to be a comprehensive, scientific history of the world.

  42. Greetings, Dave.

    I agree with Timmy. If the Bible was historically and scientifically reliable, there should have been some hints about dinosaurs.

    First of all, you can’t compare dinosaurs with cats. That’s poor logic. Cats aren’t as significant in the story of creation as dinosaurs are. One may argue that it was the Flood that erased all the dinosaurs. But, science says that dinosaurs lived years before human beings. In the Bible’s story of creation, animals and humans were created on the same day (the sixth day of creation) which doesn’t give any time for dinosaurs to exist and be extinct.

    More scientific errors in the Bible include Daniel 8: 10 saying that the stars are small objects that can be thrown on the Earth and can be trampled upon. Just in case you don’t know, I would like to tell you that the stars are very larger than the earth and they cannot be dropped on the ground. Plus, they are so hot that our planet would melt if they were to come close.

    The first chapter of Genesis also says that the Earth was created before the Sun which is scientifically wrong and impossible.

    I agree that most arguments by atheists against the Bible are weak, but that doesn’t make the Bible free from errors. I also agree that the “11 things the Bible bans” was a poor argument, and the one who wrote it probably did it just to kill time, without any research and all. But, how do you answer the hundreds of scientific contradictions in the Bible? Earlier, the Church even punished people for stating simple facts like the Earth is round and it moves round the Sun. Are you going to say that the Church did “works of justice”? Or will you admit that the Church was wrong? And if you are still going to argue that the Bible was inspired by God, do you really think that God would feed the ancient Israelites wrong info about the universe?

    In this article, if you are trying to prove that atheists are critical and judgmental, and Christians are silent and innocent, I blatantly say it is a lie. Matthew 7: 1 says that Christians are not supposed to judge others, yet I have met uncountable Christians who were judging me for my atheism. Who are they to judge me when they themselves are not being loyal to the doctrine they claim to follow?

  43. Hi Alice,

    If you agree that the 11 things the Bible bans article was a poor argument, then I am satisfied. That is all I was shooting for. I was not trying to say all atheists are critical and judgmental, and all Christians are silent and innocent. I agree that judgmentalism is wrong – I just preached on Matthew 7.1-5 on Sunday. As for the rest, I think you are reading the ancient documents of the Bible quite uncharitably, expecting them to do something for which they were not written: satisfy the curiosity of people living thousands of years after their original readers, regarding matters like scientific theories of origins, that are way off topic from the purposes of these books. I suspect the vast majority of your “hundreds” of supposed scientific contradictions in the Bible fall into that category – expecting biblical language to conform to modern sensibilities instead of allowing for people to say “the sun goes down” despite the fact that it is the earth that is rotating.

  44. Hello. You must have misunderstood my words. The Bible specifically says that light source was created before the Sun, and that the Earth was created before the Sun. My point is that those facts are incorrect. I’m not talking about what were the purposes of writing them. My point is that those views about the universe are incorrect. Can’t you simply agree on that instead of talking about the purposes and all? And, I have a confusion. Who was the father of Joseph? Matthew says it was Jacob while Luke says it was Heli(Luke 3: 23). Can you please tell me which one is correct and which one is wrong?

  45. Where to begin?

    Genesis 1 is a very stylized account in which God “organizes” for three days, separating things into their places, then “fills” for three days, filling the spaces he separated. That is why light is separated on one day and the daytime sky only gets “filled” with the sun days later. Day four corresponds to day one, day 5 to day 2, etc. It is an artful, literary arrangement, not a scientific statement on what came first. What matters is the idea that God separates things and then fills them, because that is what God then calls Adam and Eve to do. To bring order to creation and to fill the world with human beings. Even so, someone who would take the order of the days literally could say that God created the rays of light needed on earth moving “midstream” on the first day, then create, backwards so to speak, the sun and the rest of the stream of those rays of light, later. Not impossible for an all-powerful being to do.

    As for the father of Joseph, most commentators agree that Matthew is giving Jesus’ legal genealogy through Joseph, and Luke is giving the natural genealogy through Mary, (or vice versa), which accounts for the differences in the genealogies. But in both cases Joseph needs to be mentioned, because that is the format of the genre of genealogies, even though Matthew and Luke know Joseph is not Jesus’ literal father. Note that in both genealogies there is qualifying language (Matthew mentions Mary, Luke says “as was supposed”).

    Daniel 8.10 is apocalyptic literature, well-known for its symbolism. So it is not even talking about literal stars. The stars in the verse serve as symbols. So does the goat that knocks them from the sky with his giant horn. The fact that you claim it to be a “scientific error” shows you didn’t bother to read the verse, or you don’t know how to read, or you would have seen the symbolic nature of the text.

  46. How is anyone supposed to know which verses to take literally and which to not? If you don’t take the stories you find inconvenient to be literally true, why do so with other stories? So, if you’re going to take the creation story symbollically, I’m fine with that. What I find difficult to understand is that why Matthew and Luke didn’t write the same list. Jesus couldn’t have got his Abrahamic bloodline from Joseph if Joseph wasn’t his biological father. So, why are Joseph’s ancestors listed? And, even if you bring Mary into this, why isn’t her name mentioned? Plus, Matthew says that Jesus was taken to Egypt while Luke says he was taken to Nazareth. Which one is accurate? You also didn’t answer a question. Do you admit that the Church was wrong when people like Galileo were punished or do you think that the Church has always been right?

  47. How is anyone supposed to know which verses to take literally and which to not? If you don’t take the stories you find inconvenient to be literally true, why do so with other stories? Attention to genre and context, like you do when you read any other writing.

    What I find difficult to understand is that why Matthew and Luke didn’t write the same list. Mary was one of Luke’s source, and he merely wanted to give Jesus’ physical lineage. His genealogy is Mary’s, but since genealogies list fathers, he lists the father. Matthew is writing to Jews and is concerned with legality, and he gives Jesus’ legal lineage through his legal father, Joseph. Matthew is careful to specify that Joseph was the husband of Mary, through whom Jesus was born.

    Plus, Matthew says that Jesus was taken to Egypt while Luke says he was taken to Nazareth. Which one is accurate? Both. Matthew 2.19ff gives the rest of the story. Luke omitted the Egypt story.


    You also didn’t answer a question. Do you admit that the Church was wrong when people like Galileo were punished or do you think that the Church has always been right?
    Yes, the church was wrong to do that. The church has done a lot of terrible things, which shows that humanity is sinful and needs Jesus. I’m not sure what that proves.

    By the way, thanks for not giving up on the conversation after my impatient comment in the last reply, regarding Daniel 8.10. I apologize for such a sharp reply. That was wrong of me, even if my comment in itself was true.

  48. There have been evil atheists like Joseph Stalin, but there also have been many good atheists like George Bernard Shaw, and Richard Dawkins. There have been evil Christians like Adolf Hitler and Dave Gifford, but there also have been many good Christians like St. Francis and Mother Teresa. There have been evil Muslims like Osama bin Laden, but then again, there have been good Muslims like A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
    So, let’s just face the fact: RELIGION HAS GOT NOTHING TO DO WITH MORALITY.

  49. The Church is a democratic institution of equals????? Any verses to actually support this? The KINGDOM of God is NOT a democracy.

    The term “Pope” is from the term “father”,, a BIBLICAL title for clergy — Acts 7:2; 22:1,1 John 2:13; Judges 17:10; 18:19; Matt. 3:9; Luke 3:8;
    Mark 11:10; Luke 1:32 ,1:55, 1:73 16:24,30 ; John 4:12, 8:56 ; Acts 3:13,25; 5:30 , 4:25, 7:11-12, 15,19,38,44-45,51-52, 7:32, 13:17,32,36; 24:14; 26:6; 28:17,25, 22:3 , 22:14 ;
    Rom. 4:1, 4:16-17 , 9:10; 1 Cor. 10:1 ; Gal. 1:14; 2 Tim. 1:3 ; Heb. 1:1, 3:9, 8:9; James 2:21; 1 Peter 1:18; 2 Peter 3:4

    Maybe you should read Matthew 16:18 and compare it to Isaiah 22:19-22 and see Acts 1 as well (Judas needed a successor for his bishopric?) Matt. 16:18; 18:18 – Jesus uses the word “ecclesia” only twice in the New Testament Scriptures, which demonstrates that Jesus intended a visible, unified, hierarchical, and authoritative Church.

    Acts 20:17,28 – Paul refers to both the elders or priests (“presbyteroi”) and the bishops (“episkopoi”) of the Church. Both are ordained leaders within the hierarchical structure of the Church.

    1 Cor. 12:28 – God Himself appoints the various positions of authority within the Church. As a loving Father, God gives His children the freedom and authority to act with charity and justice to bring about His work of salvation.

    Eph. 4:11 – the Church is hierarchical and includes apostles, prophets, pastors, and teachers, all charged to build up the Church. The Church is not an invisible entity with an invisible foundation.

    Phil. 1:1 – Paul addresses the bishops and deacons of the Church. They can all trace their unbroken lineage back to the apostles.

    1 Tim. 3:1; Titus 1:7 – Christ’s Church has bishops (“episkopoi”) who are direct successors of the apostles. The bishops can trace the authority conferred upon them back to the apostles.

    1 Tim. 5:17; Titus 1:5; James 5:14 – Christ’s Church also has elders or priests (“presbyteroi”) who serve the bishops.

    1 Tim. 3:8 – Christ’s Church also has deacons (“diakonoi”). Thus, Jesus Christ’s Church has a hierarchy of authority – bishops, priests and deacons, who can all trace their lineage back to Peter and the apostles.

    Exodus 28:1 and 19:6 – shows the three offices of the Old Testament priesthood (1). high priest – Aaron (Ex. 28:1); (2). Ministerial priests – Aaron’s sons (Ex. 19:6; 28:1); and (3). Universal priests – Israel (Ex. 19:6). The New Testament priesthood also has three offices: (1) High Priest – Jesus Christ (Heb. 3:1); (2) Ministerial priests – the ordained bishops and priests (Rom. 15:16; 1 Tim. 3:1,8; 5:17; Titus 1:7); and (3) Universal priests – all the baptized (1 Pet. 2:5,9; Rev. 1:6).

  50. And while I agreed on your points, the article was a bit weak… it doesn’t convince the pro-gay agenda-pushers. But it was a good effort and tool for deeper study! God bless!