Thursday , June 24 2021

5 common arguments against the Bible (and how to respond)

The Bible has an essential place in the Christian faith. The Bible claims to be – and the Church has recognized – the Word of God. Throughout the centuries the Church has recognized this status by referring to the Bible as its canon, which means that the Bible is the standard written for the his faith and practice. These are extraordinary statements to be made on a collection of ancient literature, and many people in today's society have great difficulty understanding why Christians would put their beliefs and their behavior under the authority of the Bible. I can think of five common objections I have heard over the years:

  1. The Bible is full of contradictions and discrepancies.
  2. The Bible is full of violence, genocide, prejudice and injustice, often commanded by God – and has been used by Christians to justify more violence and oppression.
  3. The biblical descriptions of nature and natural history are hopelessly in disagreement with science.
  4. The Bible was written by ancient and primitive people and no longer has any value for modern people.
  5. Christians do not even agree on what they're saying, so who cares if it's true or not.

Having thought about these problems over the years I have been a Bible scholar, I would like to offer the following answers to these objections.

1. It is full of contradictions and discrepancies

It is not very difficult to convince someone that the Bible is full of contradictions, that is, if they do not know the Bible very well. All you have to do is quote Proverbs, where the author tells us not to "answer (26: 4) – or is," respond to a madman according to his madness "(26: 5). that Matthew places the "Sermon on the mountain" on a mountain (Matthew 5: 1), while Luke says that Jesus spoke in a "quiet place" (Luke 6:17) .Abija is a good king (2 Chronicles 13) or bad (1 Kings 15: 1-8)? Have humans been created last (Gen. 1: 1-2: 4a) or first (Gen 2: 4b-25)? Of course, these are just examples of countless others that people love to bring up.

A little excavation, however, will show that proverbs are not written to give us universally valid principles ("I would always respond to a madman according to his madness"), but rather they are true only if applied in the right situation. Depending on the "crazy" you're talking to, you need to determine which proverb is relevant to the situation.

The Gospels are not intended merely as de facto relationships, but emphasize the theological meaning of real events for their contemporary audience. Thus Matthew places Jesus' sermon on a mountain to bring out a connection that all his original Jewish Christian readers immediately recognized. That is to say, Jesus speaking on a mountain about the law would have reminded them how God gave Moses the law on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19-24): Luke, written mainly for Hellenistic Christians, would not have received this connection so readily.

The same goes for the story of Abija in Kings and Chronicles. These are not just collections of data about a king named Abijah. The two stories are using the story of Israel and Judah to answer questions relevant to their time. The author of the Kings writes to those who survived the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians to explain why they are in exile. They and their kings broke the law of God and suffered the consequences. The chronicles, on the other hand, have been written in the post-exilic community and, among other things, are interested in choosing events in the lives of their kings that show their devotion to God.

Regarding the two stories of creation: while both are interested in telling us who created everything, neither of us is interested in telling us how he did it. Neither of us tells us the actual sequence of creation, but describes creation in figurative language. We can turn to science and ask questions about how God has done it.

As I have shown, the alleged "tensions and contradictions" in the Bible are usually cases in which someone misunderstands the gender and purpose of a certain passage, or is measuring the Bible to an inappropriate standard. In my over forty years of professional Bible study, I have yet to hear such an affirmation that it really sticks when I do a little digging work. I suggest that others too do it.

2. It is full of violence, genocide, prejudice and injustice, often commanded by God – and has been used by Christians to justify more violence and oppression

Yes, the Bible is full of prejudice, violence, attempted genocide and injustice. The Bible, after all, gives us the brutal truth about sinful human beings.

Of course, the people who bring this accusation against the Bible do not have in mind these cases of human violence and injustice, but rather they think of those many stories in which God brought violence to people either directly or through the actions of his followers. Think about the history of the flood (Genesis 6-9), the killing of the Egyptian soldiers on the Red Sea (Exodus 14-15) or the conquest (Joshua 1-12). But while it is difficult to get our western minds of the 21st century, these are stories of justice, bad people who receive the judgment they deserve. God brings the Deluge against violent humanity (Genesis 6: 11-12); closes the Red Sea against the Egyptian soldiers who were trying to kill the Israelites, and orders Joshua to fight the Canaanites because their sin had reached "its full extent" (Genesis 15:16).

It is only people who live in relatively peaceful circumstances who have the luxury of being "turned off" by such stories. The hard truth of the Bible is that people who reject God and harm other people will eventually receive punishment for them. This is also the message of the New Testament, in the teaching of heaven and hell.

The divine violence of the Bible is part of the battle of God against evil. And this battle develops over time. When Jesus comes, he actually intensifies and intensifies the battle so that he is now directed to the spiritual powers and authorities, and these enemies are defeated not by killing but by dying on the cross, where he "triumphs over them" (Col 2.15 ).

For this reason, the followers of Jesus, Christians, must realize that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Eph 6:12). This battle is won with spirituality (truth, justice, peace, faith, the word of God), not with physical weapons. Today, any use of violence to defend or even defend the Gospel is sinful.

Even so, this transition from physical to spiritual war in the Old Testament does not bring with it a critique or a rejection of what happened in the Old Testament. In fact, the war against evil human beings and the dark spiritual powers come together in the picture that the Bible gives us of the final judgment (for example, in Revelation 19: 11-21).

That said, I have to admit that there are questions in the Bible, both Old and New Testament, which I find difficult to understand. In particular, the instruction of Moses that Israel should not leave "all that breathes" alive (Deut. 20:16) is difficult for me to wrap my mind, especially when Joshua is doing this after the battle of Jericho , when the Israelites "completely destroyed everything in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox and sheep and donkeys with the edge of the sword" (Joshua 6:21). Perhaps, as some scholars suggest, "man and woman, young and old" is just a way to say "all there", but in reality there were not young – but why mention young people if they were not included? Perhaps, as others suggest, Jericho is now a military garrison with few, if not no children, but even if a child is dead, it is still worrying. Perhaps – and this opinion is very likely, in my opinion – the Canaanite culture was so deeply corrupted that it had to be completely eradicated.

Ultimately, I find myself, like Job at the end of the book of Job, to bow before God despite his inexplicable suffering. For others, the image of God killing or allowing death in particular of non-combatants will continue to be an obstacle, but I believe we should resist the temptation to explain it.

3. His descriptions of nature and natural history are hopelessly in disagreement with science

The Bible is not in contrast with science in its descriptions of nature and natural history. Biblical truth and scientific truth will never come into conflict as a principle because, as theologians of the past have told us, God has given us two books to reveal who he is, that is, the book of nature and the Bible. While these two books will never really conflict, our interpretations of one or the other, or both, could be wrong, which leads to the appearance of conflict. At this point, we must remember the wise words of Pope John Paul II: "Science can purify our religion, religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes."

Genesis 1-2, the main biblical story of cosmic and human origins, describes these events using imagery, which should be obvious to all readers and has been obvious for most of the centuries. The fathers of the Church as Origen and Augustine recognized that the true days with the evening and the morning must have a sun, a moon and some stars. Thus the days of Genesis 1 – where the sun does not appear until the fourth day – must not be real days. When Genesis 2: 7 describes the formation of the first man as God blowing on dust, this is also a figurative language. After all, does God have lungs?

So we do not need science to tell us that Genesis 1-2, while deeply interested in the question about who created everything – God! – He is not at all interested in how he created everything. Therefore, we can turn to the other nature-book of God to answer this question. And through the tools of science, we see that natural history is better understood as a long and slow process of cosmic and biological evolution, which leads to the creation of human beings. This does not pose a real threat to the teaching of the Bible.

4. It was written by ancient and primitive people and no longer has any value for modern people

The Bible was written by the ancients, for safety. The first writings come from the second half of the second millennium BC and from the most recent parts dating back to about 300 BC. It's been a long time. The New Testament is more recent, but even those books were written almost 2000 years ago. They were written in ancient Hebrew, in Aramaic and Greek by people culturally different from us. In fact, we often misunderstand the message of the Bible if we do not remember our temporal and cultural distance from those who wrote it. But it is one thing to say that the Bible was written by ancient people and another thing to say that they were written by primitive people. Even without taking into account the statement that these authors speak in the name of God, such an accusation would be the pinnacle of our cultural arrogance. Yes, the ancients did not have computers, cell phones, videogames or even electricity or machines, neither Shakespeare nor Plato, and should we even say that these writers are too old to say anything real or meaningful? We have made significant progress in our understanding of the natural world since biblical times, and the biblical authors often reflect their ancient worldview (which, we say, the world was flat and perhaps at the center of the cosmos). But the Bible does not intend to teach us about cosmology, and the defective cosmology it assumes does not affect its intended message.

Others believe that the Bible is primitive in its understanding of the supernatural. The dying are miraculously healed, the dead are brought back to life and the sea opens to allow the Israelites to escape the Egyptians. But perhaps the modern vision of the cosmos as materialistic here is wrong. The Bible is God's revelation of a dimension that escapes our empirical perception.

Jews and Christians appreciate the Bible much more than any other literature, ancient or modern, because we recognize that God speaks to us through the human authors of the Bible (the Jewish part for the Jews and the Old and the New Testament for Christians) . In other words, while the books of the Bible have not been written to us, they have been written for us and have continued relevance to us today.

5. Christians can not even agree on what they are saying, so who cares if it is true or not

Christians often come to different conclusions about what the Bible teaches on a whole series of subjects. All we have to do is walk the road and see a Baptist church on one side, then a Lutheran church on another, then a Catholic church, a Presbyterian church, and back and forth to come to the conclusion that there is not one. it is one, but a myriad of different Christian messages.

Christians do not agree on many things, such as how to interpret Genesis 1-2, how to understand God's sovereignty and human responsibility, what happens during communion, when someone should be baptized, how they manifest themselves gifts of the Spirit in us, when Christ returns, and again and again. Such differences may lead some people to conclude that if Christians do not agree on what the Bible teaches, then why bother with everything.

But such a conclusion lacks a very critical point. In the midst of all the disagreements on secondary issues (which some Christians unfortunately treat as more important than themselves), almost all Christians actually agree on the most important issues. What are these things? Well, if you want to know what all the Christians agree from a look at I believe in the apostles . All Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Catholic and many other churches affirm the Apostles' Creed. Even Christians are united in clear teaching that the Bible tells us that we were created by God, that we are sinners who need a savior, and that this savior is Jesus Christ, son of God, who died on a cross and he was relieved of death in power. As the Confession of faith of Westminster (a Christian creed written in the seventeenth century) puts it, these are the things that "are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation", and these things are clear because "they are so clearly proposed and open in some places of Scripture or else, who not only the learned, but the ignorant, in a due use of ordinary means, can attain a sufficient understanding of them ".


Let me conclude by saying that it is never wrong to express your own questions about the Bible, and these questions are natural to ask. I have questioned them myself over the years, but they have led me to a more in-depth study of the Bible. As I have further studied, I have reached a deeper respect for the Bible as the Word of God and my study continues. My hope for others would be that these questions could be catalysts for greater interaction with the Bible and not become an excuse to reject the Bible.

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