It was during a back-and-forth with some guys on Twitter that I had the idea to write”Is God a Jerk?”
After Part 3 was published, one of the gentlemen I debated with chimed in with his response to my conclusions. I’ve really appreciated his and my interactions as they’ve lacked the vitriol that so often accompany God-debates.
Unfortunately, social media may be a great place for passionate arguing where neither party is really interested in hearing what the other has to say, but stinks for discourse and conversation. @Atheist_Deity lives in Great Britain (as far as I can tell), so I highly doubt he and I will have the opportunity to talk for a few hours in a café.
So, I decided to write this post to answer his questions and reflect a more conversational feel. I’ve taken @Atheist_Deity ‘s comments from Part 3, and I’m going to format it as a discussion as I answer his questions. The only changes I’ll make to his original comments are formatting, grammatical (if needed :-)), and I may add a few words in italics that give the discourse a more conversational feel.
Maybe you’re thinking, “Why is he wasting his time?” I just want to be faithful to the command we have to be salt and light and to the example given to us by Paul. In Acts 17, “Paul was waiting for [Timothy and Silas] at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, ‘What would this idle babbler wish to say?’ Others, ‘He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,’ because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, ‘May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.’ Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.”
Beginning of Conversation
@Atheist_Deity: Sorry Aaron, I’ve read your articles, but you didn’t prove anything, not even from a logical fallacy perspective. You’re now claiming evolution isn’t true, that many scientists agree (which they don’t) and that the bible is completely consistent through its history. You also point a veiled insult in my direction regarding my use of a dull blade against your expert swordsmanship yet, you again failed to address almost any of the points I made regarding the bible being written by men.
@AMBrewster: I’m very sorry it came across that way. I was definitely not calling myself an expert swordsman. I know many men who would qualify as brilliant apologists in all matters theological, scientific, and the like, but I am not one. I wish to be, and daily train to be, but I have a long way to go. Please know that I in no way was trying to compare the two of us. But you are right about my previous assertions; I know that evolution is a false theory, I know that many scientists agree with me in that, and I know that the Bible is completely consistent. In regard to answering your observations about the Bible being written by men, let’s tackle that when we talk about Sinaiticus and Vaticanus .
@Atheist_Deity: Okay, but first let’s talk about Russell’s Teapot. The Bertrand tea-pot is the perfect argument, but not one I would have used myself since it’s a little obvious, and I knew you would have a response thereto.
@AMBrewster: I agree with you for two reasons: It’s a good argument, and I did have a response. :-) You’re right to acknowledge that the burden of proof always falls in the affirmative. With that said, I’m curious if you would mind explaining why you think the Bible doesn’t teach what I say it teaches.
@Atheist_Deity: I was being generic rather than specific regarding the teachings of Jesus, but if you are going to claim that he did not preach tolerance and respect then I think we read different teachings. “Let he who hath not sinned cast the first stone,” “Suffer the little children,” “Happy are the meek,” etc., etc. Yes, there are counterpoints, but that is the very reason why I chose to avoid bible quotes wherever possible since they are open to interpretation and can be easily taken out of context.
@AMBrewster: Once again, I’m sorry if I miscommunicated. I tried to point out that those teachings are not what you claimed them to be in your comments from Part 2. You stated they were the “aim” of the Jesus narrative. That I disagree with completely. They are merely a small part of a much more important whole. Let me illustrate it this way. In professional baseball the players throw, run, and hit. Children do the same things at the park every day. But if an adult is tasked by the manager of professional baseball team to play for them, the manager should expect him to show up at the games with the intention of helping the team win. But if the baseball player never goes to the game because “Everyday I play catch, hit balls, and run around with kids at the park! Why do I have to play now?” he’d be fired.
My point is simple. It doesn’t matter how respectful someone is if they reject the God who wants them to be respectful. It’s not enough to just be respectful.
In regard to “taking things out of context,” I believe the best hermeneutic to approach the scripture with is the same one we would approach any form of communication with – a literal, grammatical, historical interpretation. The Bible literally means what it literally means – it’s only metaphorical when it claims to be. The Bible uses real grammar to communicate real ideas. Historically, words were occasionally used differently and should be understood as such. That’s how you want people to understand your writing, and that’s how God wants people to understand His.
@Atheist_Deity: I genuinely think you have failed to address many of the key points I made in my comments from Part 2, and indeed you introduce a new, interesting one. How can you be so sure that Allah is fake and unreal? If you accept that god exists and that Jesus was real, the Muslims believe both of these but attribute the role of prophet to Jesus, not supernatural being. So why is their model of god any less valid than yours?
@AMBrewster: Well, as we both know, the burden of proof really falls on them, but I did make the claim, so I’ll back it up. First, I personally have to accept the Bible’s claims that there is only one God, and that He has communicated through the Bible, not the Quran. Given the perfect nature of the Bible’s truth, I can’t doubt it on that point any more than I can on any other point. If its wrong, my God clearly isn’t who He says He is. Second, you mentioned that the Quran and the Bible talk a lot about the same people. In fact, Moses is one which both books speak equally as high of. But the problem is in the five books he wrote, Moses communicated to us very clearly who God claimed to be. God introduced Himself as Yahweh, not Allah. Saying that Moses was a prophet of Allah and a good man makes no sense for a Muslim, because the five books Moses wrote show that Allah cannot be who he claims to be.
There are many more things I could say, but I don’t want to hog the conversation.
@Atheist_Deity: The last thing I want to comment on right now is if the perfect nature of the bible is your evidence for a god, I invite you to research the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanicus. This site contains links, quotes and a reference to the book Revision Revised by a Christian scholar. I would be interested to hear your response. But I would also say that it is disingenuous to say that those who do not believe in god should be unable to use the bible as any kind of evidence or battle ground. If a believer is going to use the book to prove their point, we should be able to point out the inconsistencies.
@AMBrewster: You’ve just brought up a HUGE question with that one. I wish my friends, Alan Benson and Mark Minnick were here as they are far better “swordsmen” than I on the specific scholarly details of this discussion. But I will admit, to my own credit, that I do have a seminary degree and have spent quite a bit of time studying textual criticism/translation/etc. But before I attempt to offer a short answer, I want to address your final thought.
If the Bible appears to have contradictions, those should be called out. Unfortunately, what happens is someone will address what appears to be an inconsistency, then a highly qualified individual will explain in very clear, logical, and scholarly ways how the apparent contradiction is, in fact, not one at all . . . but then people ignore the data and continue to propone the falsehood! That’s what I was arguing needs to stop. Though I may not have all of the answers myself, I am not aware of a single biblical critique that actually reveals a flaw in the Bible. So, 1. If there’s an issue, address it. But 2. If the issue is put to bed, drop it. And since there are no attacks that have been levied against the Scriptures that are actually, verifiably legitimate, I wonder when people will finally get tired of losing that battle and try to argue God’s inexistence some other way.
So, I suppose I have to ask the question, “If I were able to prove to you that the apparent issues with Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are not what they seem and have no bearing whatsoever on the doctrines of inspiration and preservation, would you believe me?” Given the track record of other people who attack the Bible, I’d have to say you probably won’t. But, I believe the most loving thing I can do is give you the benefit of the doubt. So here goes . . .
- The doctrine of inspiration has no effect on the doctrine of preservation. The Bible says that God breathed out His Word as the original authors were borne along like ships on a sea. They weren’t in a trance or being dictated to, they wrote, and God imbued their writing with divine truth. I agree that this is the most vulgar description of inspiration ever given, but inspiration isn’t the focus here. I mention this merely to point out that directed inspiration applies only to the original authors of the original autographs. The doctrine of preservation is never said to work the same way. There is no perfect, unbroken line of word-for-word manuscripts . . . and God never said there would be.
- The doctrine of preservation is not proven wrong by the existence of textual variants. This is true for two reasons: A. The unique textual variants are soooooo few and far between. I realize your author made it sound like Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are two completely different books, but he’s not a textual critic and he has an axe to grind. Let me quote a very well known textual critic, Fenton John Anthony Hort, who worked for over thirty years with all of the extant texts. It’s a little lengthy, but it has significant bearing on the discussion.
“With regard to the great bulk of the words of the New Testament, as of most other ancient writings, there is no variation or other grounds of doubt, and therefore no room for textual criticism; and here therefore an editor is merely a transcriber . . . The proportion of words virtually accepted on all hands as raised above doubt is very great, not less, on a rough computation, then seven eighths of the whole. The remaining eighth therefore, formed in great part by changes of order and other comparative trivialities, constitutes the whole area of criticism. If the principles followed in the present edition are sound, this area may be greatly reduced. Recognising to the full the duty of abstinence from peremptory decision in cases where the evidence leaves the judgment in suspense between two or more readings, we find that, setting aside differences of orthography, the words in our opinion sill subject to doubt only make up about one sixtieth of the whole New Testament. In this second estimate the proportion of comparatively trivial variations is beyond measure larger than in the former; so that the amount of what can in any sense be called substantial variation is but a small fraction of the whole residuary variation, and can hardly form more than a thousandth part of the entire text [emphasis mine].”
So, all of the variants between all of the texts of New Testament Scripture that require true textual criticism make up less than one tenth of one percent! This leads me to my second observation, B. The textual variants in question have no bearing whatsoever on any doctrinal system or truth claim in the Bible. In McDowell’s book Evidence that Demands a Verdict, he reminds us that Julius Caesar’s The Gallic Wars has only 10 manuscripts extant, with the earliest one dating to 1,000 years after the original autograph. Pliny the Younger’s Natural History has only 7 manuscripts with 750 years elapsed. Thucydides’ History has 8 manuscripts with a stunning 1,300 years elapsed. Herodotus’ History has 8 manuscripts with an equally astonishing 1,350 years elapsed. We accept Plato’s works with only 7 manuscripts and 1,300 years between them, and Tacitus’ Annals have a comparatively remarkable 20 manuscripts, but there’re still about 1,000 years between the autograph and the copies we have. But when it comes to the Bible we have over 25,000 manuscripts, of which over 5,000 are fragments that are written in the original Greek! In fact, some of the manuscripts we have were written only 40-60 years after the writing of the autograph. We have more textual evidence for the Bible than we do any other ancient book, and the disagreements are negligible.
When you take these two points together, it’s easy to see that God has kept His word concerning the preserving of His Word, especially in light of the fact He never detailed for us exactly how He would do it.
You make the observation that men wrote the Bible. But once again I have to use Bibliologic here. Logically speaking, if God is who He says He is, then it’s completely understandable that an omnipotent, promise-keeping God could keep man from messing up His revelation. And if He’s too impotent to do that . . . then He’s not worthy of our worship.
What do you think?
Here the conversation ends . . . for now.