Are You a Radical Bible Skeptic?

Here’s a question you might ask yourself: how much evidence would be enough to satisfy me in demonstrating the Bible as inerrant and perfect in its historicity, and that it is the unique Word of God? Many scholars and ordinary people seem to be demanding, without saying it out loud, that we would need to see recorded footage of the historical events in order to believe the Bible as history. This underlying assumption belies an extreme skepticism which, in order to be consistent, would have to question whether George Washington was really the President of the United States. Is this a description of you? This thinking masquerades as “intellectualism” but is actually shown to be a hard-core presupposed assumption that there can be nothing supernatural in this here cosmos.

Is that you? Do you scoff at the miraculous parting of the Red Sea because “things like that don’t happen”?

If you are a hard-line skeptic, then I suppose even if I could show you film footage of Jesus rising from the dead, that you would object that it was a re-enactment and a hoax. Therefore, I am mainly speaking to those of you who have an open mind to think critically and honestly about the evidence and beauty of the historical and theological records in the Bible. Once the prejudices one is holding have been challenged and discarded, there opens up a cosmic vision of glory and beauty and pleasure which would be impossible for the hardcore skeptic.

So let’s interpret the nature of the Bible… One of the more fascinating ways to check the history of the Bible is to study archaeological finds from the Middle East. A good sampling of sources claim that there are more than 25,000 archaeological finds which confirm just the Old Testament history. Keep in mind that the great majority of the Bible is narrative which can be placed in an historical setting – a specific location, people, and set of events. This opens it up to being scrutinized for accuracy against the archaeological record, (and by the way is a very bold move if you are trying to create a fictional story as if it were true) . You would think that if the biblical authors were making it all up as myth, that there would be scads of digging which would turn up the truth of the matters and overturn the Bible as a reliable history of the cosmos.

Yet that doesn’t happen.

Infamous 19th century atheist skeptic Sir William Ramsay decided to once for all prove the Bible wrong by attacking the book of Luke, archaeologically. His forays into the Middle East and ancient Greek world turned him into a Bible believing Christian after every archaeological study he attempted proved Luke to have been accurate to the greatest detail.

As an example, the Book of Mormon on the other hand is filled with faulty history, even claiming that the Native Americans are the descendents of the Israelite Jews. The Quran also shows itself to be definitively human as the author did not even know what the Christian doctrine of the Trinity was, over 500 years after the completion of the New Testament; claiming that the Trinity according to Christians was Father, Son, and Mary. If the God of the Quran truly was God, then do you think he would know what Christians had believed and preached for hundreds of years?

With all of our archaeological work, we continue to find evidence corroborating the biblical record. 40+ authors writing over the course of 1,500+ years starting almost 4,000 years ago, and their witness is found to be accurate and true. Wow! I love the Bible and its unified, glorious interpretation of the cosmos. Have you looked through it by faith? Or are you continuing to presume that for the Bible to be truly God’s Word, it would have to be truly simple, non-supernatural, and filled with video recordings of the events it depicts?

Besides all of the exciting physical, historical evidence for the biblical record, there is the overriding power of its composition. If and because it is the true, unique Word from the unique God, it is therefore able to transform people as they read it and believe it. This is the witness of God’s Spirit.

In my next post, I will begin to commend the Bible to you as not only the supreme lens through which to interpret the cosmos in general, but the only true and undefiled lens through which to interpret your own self. When you see yourself through the lens of God’s Word, you can also see the beauty and glory of the entire story of redemption, and how it applies to you. I hope you are hungry for delicious, fulfilling truth.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Categories: Foundations of ItC blog, The Nature of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Are You a Radical Bible Skeptic?

  1. Blog Reader

    I don’t have any trouble believing in a virgin birth, or the parting of the red sea, or a man rising from the dead. After all, this is Almighty God we are talking about here!

    My trouble is reading about God instructing rapists and their victims to marry, condoning brutal abuse of slaves, commanding men to slaughter untold numbers of children. I have to believe someone was lying when they claimed it was God who wanted those things and worse. The alternative is too horrifying to consider and would push me personally so far from God I shutter to think of where I’d end up. Is it really so impossible to you that men slipped some stuff into this otherwise perfect book? I am not skeptical of God, but one thing I can tell you for sure: man will destroy anything he touches. And that includes the bible. 99% of the bible could be as God intended for us. But man not slipping a single thing in is far more unbelievable than any of the ‘unbelievable’ events in the bible. The bible’s portrait of humanity points to my conclusion.

    • LookingUp

      @Blog Reader

      While I agree with you that some of what’s written in the Bible is hard to believe, I don’t agree with you that this is reason enough to doubts its veracity. Regarding your examples of things that must have been added by man and not from God, consider this…

      The authors of the Bible were all inspired to write from particular contexts and from within a particular culture. There were prevailing cultural norms in existence when the Word of God was brought to them by the powere of the Holy Spirit. We are viewing their writings from a very different context and through the lens of very different cultural norms.

      Regarding rapists being ordered to marry their vicitms. This law was brought to mankind in a time when women were considered nothing more than possessions. They were routinely abused, killed, divorced, and used by men without any regard for their individuality and personhood. Rape and incest were common and women were often cast off for any reason a man felt valid or for no reason at all. Women had no place in the political system, they could not own property, and were considered worthless if they did not have a husband or could not bring forth children, in particular sons, to their husband if they had one. Into this context comes the Word of God commanding a man to marry a women if he takes her sexually outside of marriage against her will. Realizing that God’s revelation came in dispensations when mankind was ready to receive it, believe it or not, this was a tremendous improvement to the condition of women in that society. The law to marry a women that a man had taken sexually served two purposes: 1) It served as a deterent to men regarding rape because if they were going to do it they had to be prepared to care for the women and the resulting child or children, and 2) If a woman were raped, she would not have to suffer the dishonor of being an unmarried woman with a child, which in that society and in that time was a terrible disgrace. While these ideas are somewhat difficult to accept in our day, in the day they were given they were revolutionary and led to women being more honored and cared for than they had been in all the centuries before.

      Regarding brutal abuse of slaves, I would have you bring forth the verses you are referring to. Again, with slavery being common and oftentimes terrible, the Bible actually instituted a vast improvement to the lives of people who were committed to work for a master due to a debt needing to be repaid or some other agreement between the servant and the master (or land owner). Slavery in the Bible is a very different concept than many in our day might have in their minds of African being hauled to America in the bottoms of ships and brutally treated once they got here. Biblical slavery was oftentimes more of a business agreement between the haves and the have nots. The Word of God in many places calls for men to treat their servants with great care, dignity and respect.

      Regarding the command to kill, again, believe it or not, this may have been a merciful act on God’s part. When God was bringing the the children of Israel into the promised land, there were many places that were occupied by horrible, ruthless, pagan, barbarians. These people were given to child and virgin sacrifice and all forms of disgusting rituals. Much in the same way that God determined that mankind had fallen too far to be redeemed in the time of Noah and the flood, He apparently determined that there were certain cultures that posed such grave danger to His people Israel and the surrounding nations that the best thing was for them to be wiped out. In His wisdom and omniscience He knew they would never turn from their wickness, and they would raise their children into their wicked ways. The adults had already chosen to resist God and to perpetrate evil continually, and their children would have been subject to it. God, in His mercy, ordered that these types of people be wiped out thus removing the wicked, evil influence from Israel, and sparing the children from having to grow up in it and be subject to it. The children were innocent and were received back to God to live eternally with Him, and the adults were hastened to their innevitable judgements.

      As Christians we believe the Bible is true, and where we have a hard time believing it we trust that God had His reasons for declaring and commanding the things He did at the time. Ultimately, He entered into the brutality He is determined to rescue us from, by taking on the form of a man (Jesus) and dying for our sin against Him. God is not the one to blame for what is wicked in the world, we are. He loves us so much He’s given us His Holy Word which we can trust, His Son who gives eternal life to all who blieve in Him, and His Spirit that we can live lives that honor Him that others would believe and be saved.

      I hope some of this was helpful to you.

      Humbly,
      Frank

      • Hello friends… Frank, thank you for your many and well thought out responses on my blog. I was in the midst of writing a reply to our blog reader when I saw your reply come through. Having read it, I could not have put it nearly as well myself.

        I would simply iterate your reply somewhat: we must take extreme care in interpreting the narratives of Scripture from our vantage point in 2012 North America. Our culture is far removed from theirs, and so in order to understand why things happened the way they did, and how God in His holiness and justice interacted with sinful humanity many centuries ago, we must learn about the context and humbly ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten us.

        Blog Reader, as usual thank you for your honest feedback and questions.

  2. Blog Reader

    Thank you. I mean that. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to explain that to me.

    I’ll go through my 3 examples:

    The rape victim marrying her attacker – your instruction was amazing and I can’t tell you how thankful I am for it. While I still think it is incredibly f’d up (excuse me), what you explained makes sense.

    Condoning abuse of slaves – I remember in the old testament there was a part that said if you beat your slave so brutally that he or she dies during the beating, you should be punished, but if the slave survives the beating for a day or 2, you should not be punished for the beating. Maybe you will say this was used as a deterrent in a culture where beating slaves to death was commonplace. I sure wish God had said people should not own other people.

    The commandment to kill innocent children – again pretty messed up, but I accept your explanation and appreciate it.

    If all of my bible qualms could be addressed the way you have so thoughtfully done, I think it is very possible I might come around to a different point of view.

    I’m still bothered by this idea that God finagled his Word to suit / fit the culture. It seems like God’s Truth should supersede culture and it would have been ok for God to say something like ‘it is wrong for people to own other people’.

    Reading this blog has been a very interesting experience so far.

    Next thing I know you people will convince me to go to church.

  3. LookingUp

    Hi BR,

    So glad you found my explanations helpful. Just sharing what God has allowed me to understand. I’ve asked some of the same quesitons in my time before and as a Christian. I’m always amazed (I guess I shouldn’t be anymore!) how God is able to get satisfying answers to sincere askers.

    One more thought regarding your concern that God, “…finagled his Word to suit / fit the culture.” While He did do this oftentimes when He was initially revealing Himself to and through the children of Israel, if you look at the Ten Commandments you find precisely what you are saying you would expect. This set of ten laws was like a super-condensed version of the extended set of laws He gave them to govern particular situations. These ten laws presented an entirely different moral code than what was practiced by the culture at the time, and would have completely stunned those who received it. By the time you get to the New Testament you have Jesus delivering a moral code (see Sermon on the Mount for instance, Matthew 5-7) which set the moral bar so high that only He could clear it. What He commanded not only dealt with the outward deeds, but got at the very heart motivation behind the deeds. But instead of justly condemning us for missing the mark continually, He mecifully goes on to the cross and offers Himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins in order that we might be justly forgiven and declared righteous by faith in Him alone. What a God. What a Savior!

    Kind regards,
    Frank

  4. A film of the resurrection isn’t sufficient.

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence… A film is not extraordinary. I would have to be there in person before and after to conduct a through examination. Anything less is just an empty claim.

    • Thanks for the input jdiver. If you were a member of a jury and watched a trial take place with a few hundred eyewitnesses to a certain event, and there was actually multiple corroborated testimony to the fact that a number of people had willingly been killed to testify to the veracity of the events on trial, you would be that sole juror who would have to hold up the vote because you hadn’t been there to see it yourself, before and after?

      That is radical.

  5. Looking Up

    @jdiver

    You are presenting an extraordinary degree of scepticism in your post. Your requirement of being there in person before and after to conduct a thorough examination implies you do not have the ability to exercise faith. I’d ask you to consider whether or not you apply this same degree of scepticism regarding other beliefs and habits in your life, or whether your are applying this extraordinary need for evidence only to things related to the claims of Jesus. Can you think of any areas (scientific, philosophical, physical, historical) where you believe extraordinary claims despite your inability to have not been there in person before and after the event to conduct a thorough examination? Some things you may have a strong opinion about despite not having the evidence you require for the case of Jesus’ resurrection might include: the origin of the universe, operation of the brain or psyche, existence of astronomical objects, potential for life on other planets, existence of historical figures such as Hitler, Washington, Lincoln, Ceasar, Martin Luther King Jr., Plato, Einstein, etc., when human life begins, Darwinian evolution, existence of absolute truth about anything. My hunch is that you probably have strong opinions on at least one or more of these subjects, all of which involve believing extraordinary claims. If you do, you have put your faith in whatever position you are currently holding firm to. The question is, why would you not put your faith in Jesus despite the abundance of Old Testament prophecies predicting his coming, and the detailed first-hand accounts of his having been here?

  6. When all else fails, Romans 10:17.

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