Friday, April 04, 2008

A Letter to Refute

Dear Friends,

I found this awful, riddled-with-biblical-interpretation-errors "letter of the week" over at WorldNetDaily and decided to post it here so that we can contribute to the refutation of it.

I will be working on my response, but please feel free to address any, or all of the statements that you feel led and prepared to refute!

In Christ,
Christine

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The Bible is a house of cards

Posted: April 04, 2008
1:00 am Eastern

© 2008 (WorldNetDaily)

I read and enjoy WND every day, but I'd like to respond with a critical view to Jonathan Falwell's "Was Jesus a liar?" commentary.

Mr. Falwell criticizes Barack Obama because Mr. Obama said something that implies he believes non-Christians can be "children of God."

But, Mr. Falwell opines, the problem is that "such sentiment is not what the Bible teaches. According to God's Word ...," etc., etc., etc.

News media recently reported that Mr. Obama mentioned in a speech that he is not impressed with certain "obscure" passages from Paul's epistles. Therefore, Mr. Obama cherry-picks verses from Scripture. That is, he believes some Bible passages that seem reasonable to him; he decides not to believe verses that don't seem reasonable to him.

Combine these two stories – 1) Mr. Obama's sentiments about parts of the New Testament that St. Paul wrote and 2) his remarks that Jews and Muslims can be children of God – and we see Obama marching to a different drum.

That is, he is apparently not marching in step with fundamentalist Christians.

Further, not surprisingly, Mr. Falwell exhibits fundamentalist tendencies in his editorial.

For example:

He declares that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. Why? Because the Bible says Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.


He says the counsel of the Lord stands forever. Why? Because a verse in the book of Psalms says the counsel of the Lord stands forever.


He notes that "if we follow Christ, we cannot then mold the Bible to fit our needs; treat Jesus as simply a 'good man'" or "embellish the Gospel with man's ideas."

My bottom-line question for Mr. Falwell: Why not? Of course we can do those things. I do at least two out of three of them every day.

There is life beyond fundamentalism. God exists beyond (and in spite of) fundamentalist Christianity.

The Achilles' heel of fundamentalist Christianity is the Bible itself and the long and convoluted history of its coming to be considered (by Bible literalists) the infallible writing of God himself.

The fundamentalist assumes something that is in no way a proven fact: that the Bible is the error-free Word of God.

A study of the origins of Scripture reveals that – contrary to fundamentalists' hope against hope – it is little more than a house of cards.

Indeed, the Bible contains writings that are inspirational and uplifting. But it as well includes accounts of murder, mayhem and immortality by supposedly righteous and godly folks and even God himself. In other words, it paints a picture of God (and followers of God) that makes him out to be a petty, jealous, irascible tyrant.

I do not doubt God's existence. But, when I began to wake up to the precarious state of the "proofs" of the veracity of the Bible, a startling thought slapped my consciousness upside the head:

Does the real God, the one who stands quite apart from the nonsense of the Old and New Testaments (and the nonsense of the tenets of any religion), care if we think he is the self-contradictory, ill-tempered Yahweh? Does it make any difference if we hold onto a distorted, perverted view of the One Infinite Creator?

Yahweh's counterpart in the New Testament is sometimes better behaved, but not always. Yes, Jesus commendably advises loving one's enemies and turning the other cheek. But, especially in the book of Revelation, the Savior will blast you with supernatural nuclear force after the pre-millennial Second Coming if you dare to cross him, if you fail to believe and follow the precise formula that conservative Christians hold to in the name of the Christ of the Apocalypse, Gospels and Epistles.

Here's an interesting exercise for people who are not afraid to travel where the quest for eternal truth leads them:

Investigate the mess that is the biblical canon and listen in on the many interesting debates (readily accessible via the Internet) of conservative Christians with Bible skeptics.

Yes, you can read Josh McDowell or N.T. Wright and their reasonable-sounding standalone arguments apart from any reasonable context. But read their debates with Bible critics instead. The conservative Christians have an abysmal success rate during such professionally moderated discussions.

Mr. Falwell's method of arriving at conclusions is properly to be called circular reasoning.

If you want to prove the veracity of the Bible, you simply cannot credibly do it by citing only the Bible in your arguments. You must do it by relying on your God-given powers of reason, the existence of the universe itself and logical philosophical arguments based on premises that originate outside the Bible. Otherwise your arguments do nothing but run around in circles. Otherwise we can prove that any book is the one and only Word of God that happens to make that outrageous claim on one of its pages.

I want to close by saying that I have not written this letter with the purpose of criticizing Mr. Falwell. I'm sure he is a genuinely compassionate man who has an obvious desire to do what God wants him to do.

But what if God is less than happy with the way Falwell and many others have blindly followed, and then enshrined and worshipped, a collection of writings that – if we can back up from them a moment – can easily be seen to be myth, legend, mistakes and, in many cases, outright hoaxes.

A good place to start: Bart Ehrman's excellent books, such as "The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture," and Albert Schweitzer's series on the quest for the historic Jesus.

My reply to Mr. Falwell's question "Was Jesus a liar?":

Probably not. But we can't know for sure because we have no reliable record of what he did and said or even credible proof that he was an actual historic figure. (Maybe he was; maybe he wasn't.)

J.D.
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HT: WorldNetDaily

9 comments:

GMpilot said...

Have at it, then. Refute it point by point, and we'll see who has the better argument.

Remember, this guy's a believer too, so name-calling and other distractions are not allowed.

I look forward to this one with great interest.

Christinewjc said...

GM,

You perceive the author of the letter as a believer? Believer in what? In whom?

I didn't get the impression that he is a believer in Jesus Christ. However, he seems intent on trashing every "fundamentalist" believer (including the Apostle Paul!) and puts forth his own opinion that Obama's (obviously reprobate theology) type of faith is "the true" Christianity.

Paul was honest in his writings. He didn't dance around the difficult issues regarding the fact that Jesus stated, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me."

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians that if Christ did not rise from the dead, our faith is useless and futile (see 1 Cor. 15:12-19). Paul combines the resurrection of Christ, a knowable historical event - (which the letter author claims may not be true because he even doubts that Jesus is a true, historical figure...something that most informed skeptics never even claim!) the truth of which can be determined thorough evidence and reason - with saving faith.

Paul could have (if he wanted to) separated reason and faith. He could have encouraged believers to have faith no matter what the evidence showed. But he did exactly the opposite in that 1 Corinthians portion of Scripture!

There is plenty more to refute in that letter. But I wanted to point out this one fact. Christian faith is not "a blind faith." Not in the least!! It is dependent upon a historical event that can be thoroughly investigated by those who would take the time and effort to do so. A good synonym for genuine faith in Jesus Christ is simply "trust." Believers can certainly trust that which we can know to be true. It is a wise thing to do, of course.

Investigating the truth claims of Jesus Christ allows us to answer the question that he poses to all of us, "Who do you say that I am?"

Our trust and faith is stronger when we have excellent reason to believe in whom we are trusting!

As far as this "letter writer's" opinions about the Bible goes, there are hundreds of Scriptures that attest to the fact that people who do not have saving faith in Jesus Christ are bound to object to, as well as reject, many verses that their sinful flesh does not want to face as truth.

The Scriptures are still "living and active" and "sharper than any double-edged sword" (see Hebrews 6:12). That "sword" cuts to the fact that we are sinners in desperate need of the Savior, Jesus Christ. But people put up their sin-filled "shields" against the convicting influence of the Holy Spirit! Confessing and repenting of sin, inviting Jesus Christ to indwell the person's heart is the first step in making us "wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (see 2 Timothy 3:15).

Without the Holy Spirit's guidance in the heart of the believer - we get these kinds of riddled-with-biblical-interpretation-errors that writer "J.D." demonstrates in his letter.

More later.

Mark said...

This is nothing new, it's called Christian Pluralism. Basically Christ is not the only way, but folks being "moral" "good" etc..and (fill in the blank) are also saved. That is what this author adheres to, and the author remains God's enemy, and unsaved.

His final statement speaks volumes:
But we can't know for sure because we have no reliable record of what he did and said or even credible proof that he was an actual historic figure

I suspect the author's god is his or her self - nothing new either. What is most offensive to this author is the fact that the truth is Exclusive - only one truth and only one way to salvation. It's interesting most world religions are the exact same way - just Christinaity that offends folks the most. Why? becuase it makes folks deny themselves and their own desire to be God and make their own rules etc..

Basically this author says we can't know God, which in fact is actually saying we can know God. Logic must not be his / her strong point. If a quality of God is unknowable, somebody knows God. After all, it would take a moron like this author to say God is unknowable then say God is eternal, good, and just - right gmpilot?

I love Falwell!

Mark said...

The fundamentalist assumes something that is in no way a proven fact: that the Bible is the error-free Word of God.

The tomb is empty, historical fact, and done deal - as the ancient texts thousands of years before predicted.

“That the New Testament consists of the twenty seven books which have been recognized as belonging to it since the fourth century is not a value judgment; it is a statement of fact. Individuals or communities may consider that it is too restricted or too comprehensive; but their opinion does not affect the identity of the canon. The canon is not going to be diminished or increased because of what they think or say: it is a literary, historical and theological datum”.

“Those who are interested in the Bible chiefly as historians of religious literature have naturally little use for the concept of a canon”
.
-F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture


How true this is! The unsaved professor instructing students in Christian history will inevitably avoid the historical facts and relationships that divinely marry the Old Testament and New Testament texts into the universal pronouncement of a sovereign God’s incarnation into our human world –Jesus Christ.

God’s word has been delivered to us – it has always been eternal. The two hundred year process of canonization may have been a church task involving men with varying degrees of theological perspectives, but its results- the canon of scripture, was anything but worldly.

TammyC said...

You make excellent points, Christine. On the historical fact issue, biblical archeology is also a fascinating field that affirms the biblical record far too often for many people's comfort. And yes, the Word of God is pretty much just a great collection of words (nothing more) to the one who doesn't have the Spirit dwelling in them. I heard someone say once that for a non-Christian to read the Bible is like someone reading a stranger's mail: they might understand the words, but without the relationship there's a lot they just won't get.

And that brings us to the real difference between "us" and "them." It's that intangible thing known as relationship. The God I worship isn't out there somewhere; He's right here, with me. I have come, over the years, to understand what it means to recognize and follow His voice and living close to Him makes all the difference. *I* may never be able to convince a non-Christian of this fact, but no non-Christian will ever convince me that the One with whom I have this relationship doesn't exist.

Matt W. said...

I think that the author of this letter, in an argument fairly early on in the letter, has made a very common mistake, that is applying the nature of man to God. Saying that the Bible cannot be true, because they don't seem to *me* to be things that a god would do. If studied in depth and in context, everything in the Bible, of course, affirms the true nature of God, even if it is difficult for us to understand.

We see over and over again in Scripture that it doesn't take long for people to turn against God, obviously Adam and Eve knew God, and knew His truth, but by the time of Noah, they had turned so completely away from God, and gone on in their own human pursuits, that He saved only Noah and his family from the flood, while destroying all other persons. So, after the flood, there were again only people who knew God and knew His truth, and yet, even by the time that God called Abram out of his fathers house, how far had the entire world again gone astray? So, by the time that the Isrealites came to the Promised Land, God, knowing how easily humans, and even his chosen people, could be corrupted, he commanded that they utterly destroy the people of that land. In many cases telling them to leave no one among their enemies alive. This is difficult for us to comprehend when all we ever hear is about how God is love, forgetting that God is, above all else, Holy, and He is also just. But those commands confirm, rather than deny, the nature of God, they are not in contrast, even though at a quick glance, they may seem to be so.

I also had a talk about this with a woman at work recently. She was struggling with something that she had been told about the Bible canon being just a collection of writtings, written by men, and how can you really trust them, after all, her friend had said, they were compiled by the Catholic Church. This really took her aback since she was raised Catholic, and having come to realize the truth of saving Faith, really has no use for the Catholic Church.

My answer to this was made easier by the fact that she is a Christian. First I told her we would deal with the Old Testament, which was well established at the time of Christ, and I said, wouldn't Jesus have told us if we were wrong about that? I mean, he obviously would have known. And then I said, as to the New Testament, they didn't cast lots on the books to see if they would be included, but it was rather a very in depth study, but beyond that, doesn't our faith play into this to some extent? If we trust that God created the Universe, and that He sent His Son to die on the Cross and rise again to save us from our sins, is it in any way a stretch to believe that he would take an active role in Preserving His Holy Word through the ages so that we could know the truth?

Actually, I'm not sure if I just said everything that I was thinking, but there is something else, very much related to this, that has been weighing heavily on me for a few days. My wife's Grandmother (that is her Mom's Mom) is not a Christian. She does believe in God, or at least, a god, I'm not entirely sure how I should define that. Anyway, as she gets into her old age, she is starting to ask more questions. However, she is someone who believes that the Bible is a collection of stories written by men, who may have been good people, as far as that goes, but that it isn't actually the Word of God, or at least, we can't be certain that it is. So what I'm struggling with is, how do I convice an unbeliever that the Bible is, in fact, the True Word of God. I think that with someone like her, that must be the first step. If she becomes convinced of that, I think we may, with the help of God, be able to show her the truth.

This is compounded however by the fact that my Father-in-law sent her an essay (I guess is what you would call it) that his friend had written concerning Heaven and Hell (actually, I can't be sure his Friend actually wrote it as I have found him to have plagurized [I'm sure I spelled that wrong, but you know what I mean] things in the past) which I don't think was really helpful. In fact, when I found it in my email inbox and saw that he had sent it to her my heart sank, I dropped my head, and said, "Oh God, please don't let this get in the way of her comming to You." Now she has responded to it with a bunch of other questions and such, and while my F-I-L is a smart man, he's not an intellectual, that is he's not well read outside of the Bible, but she is, in fact, she is a remarkably smart woman (first impressions of her to the contrary, that is to say, if you met her, you wouldn't think so) and remarkably intellectual, and as such, I fear that he will soon be out of his depth in trying to engage her. Anyway, from reading what she wrote to him, I can only believe that the key to this is for her to come to know that the Bible is in fact the Word of God. I'm just not sure how to explain it so that she might believe it. I am spending a lot of time praying about this, but any help you can provide me would be greatly appreciated. In fact, I think the fact that you did this post today is part of the answer to my prayer.

God Bless,
Matt W.

Arlen said...

Christine,

Quite frankly, the author of this letter seems to be extensively insecure in his own beliefs (whatever they may be) because he seems so intent on tearing down the beliefs of others. Why do you think that is? Why would someone want to intentionally degrade the faith of others? (Because he is insecure).

Regardless, he has faith as well. How so? I seriously doubt that he could conclusively prove everything he aspires to believe. Therefore, if he can’t prove it, he must have “faith” that his arguments are true.

But I happen to believe in the person of Jesus Christ and the system of fundamentalist Christianity. Why? It most assuredly requires faith, just not as much as the letter writer’s belief system (whatever that is) does.

As I once stated: I respect everyone’s right to an opinion, but rarely do I respect the actual content of that opinion. Besides, if we new all the answers, what would be the need for faith?

Blessings to you,
Arlen

Mark said...

Why would someone want to intentionally degrade the faith of others?

Arlen, be careful brother, it is not "degrading" when one points to the exclusivity of truth - Jesus Christ. In many instances that is called proclaiming the gospel with couarge and hopefully humility and fear.

As I once stated: I respect everyone’s right to an opinion, but rarely do I respect the actual content of that opinion.

Amen!

Christinewjc said...

Mark,

Great point about "pluralism." I don't know whether or not you watched the Dr. David Jeremiah sermon video in the Hope in the Midst of Failure thread, but he touches on the subject of religious pluralism infiltrating Christian churches at an alarming rate today!

The fact that the tomb is empty separates true Christian faith from all other religions.

Great comments!

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Hi Tammy C.,

Welcome and thanks for your very kind comments! Good point about the fact that time and time again, archaeological finds support the biblical record.

Archaeological evidence, as well as prophecy fulfillment, as well as the evidence (both biblical and extra-biblical) of Jesus' life, death, resurrection to life, his being seen by 500 people for 40 days, and then his witnessed ascension to the Father demonstrates that we have a reasonable faith that is like no other religion. Why? Precisely because it is backed by so much evidence!

*******

Matt,

It is so difficult to know that a beloved relative is unsaved and we can't seem to reach them with the gospel. I can understand your concern regarding your father-in-law. However, God can work His miracles despite what men do!

I remember visiting my grandmother a few years ago. She was quite old - around 95 at the time. When I visited her, I saw a card written by a Christian woman who was sharing the gospel with her! My fears about her dying unsaved were released. Sometimes, God uses other people to reach our closest loved ones with the gospel.

It is hard to have patience since we never know the day nor the hour of someone's death. But we can pray for them. Such intercessory prayers can even be moving other Christians to lead our loved ones to Christ...even when we do not know about it!

If you think that sharing this post with her might stir up a good conversation - go for it!

And, if she says that someone else told her the wrong thing you can just say that believers are not perfect and can make mistakes. Sometimes it helps to show non-believers that believers make mistakes. The important point however, is this - God doesn't! We can put our trust in Him! Faith in Jesus Christ is an eternal constant of truth that no man can take away...no matter how hard they try!

Some people have found this How to Become a Christian page helpful. Click on "the good test." It answers most of the objections of even the most intellectual people!

God bless!

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Arlen,

Maybe he degrades the "fundamentalists" because he sees them as to rigid in their beliefs. Well...we have news for him! Jesus was quite rigid when he proclaimed that he alone is "the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me."

You stated, "I respect everyone’s right to an opinion, but rarely do I respect the actual content of that opinion."

That's a great way to put it!

*******
Mark,

You hit the nail on the head! The author of the "letter of the week" objects to the exclusivity of the Truth - Jesus Christ!

No matter how nicely a Christian might present such truth claims, they will be rejected and admonished for doing so. Why? Because those who reject the truth hate being told the truth!

Great comments everyone!