Quick Responses to Bad Memes #2 (Ricky Gervais Version)

Welcome to “Quick Responses to Bad Memes #2” i.e. “the Ricky Gervais Version” i.e. “the meme + video version” i.e. “Don’t get your theology from a comedian #2.”

If you see this meme…

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Reply with this meme…

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In early February, Some people got excited that Ricky Gervais (atheist) and Stephen Colbert (Roman Catholic) had a short (very short) debate about the existence of God on Stephen’s show (Watch the clip here).

In my opinion, even a short debate on primetime TV about God is a good thing. But neither man really said much, and based on how atheists are sharing the clip (and applauding Gervais in the video), they seem to think Gervais won the “debate.” Though what Gervais said certainly sounded clever, he really didn’t say anything at all.

Feel free to use the following memes in reply to the primetime “debate”…

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Sincerely, God From the Machine

Quick Responses to Bad Memes #1 – Click Here.

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The New Paganism (Part 1) Pluralism: Are There Many Paths to God?

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Pluralism = The New Paganism

In many ways, Western Christians are living in a culture that is increasingly like the first culture that the first Christians lived in: a pagan culture. Christianity was born and spread within the Roman Empire, a place of many gods and many ways of worshiping, where most* religions were seen as equally valid. Today, we call this pluralism.

(*I say “most” because Christianity went through periods of persecution by the Roman government for its first 300 years until it was officially legalized by Emperor Constantine. Christians – like the Jews – wouldn’t worship any Roman gods or the emperor, who was considered a god. Christians were even called “atheists” by Romans because they believed in only one God, and an invisible one at that. Appropriately, Christians’ convictions have made them unpopular again in many parts of the West today.)  

As our culture becomes more post-modern—as well as post-Christian—in mindset, religious pluralism has grown into the popular spirituality of our day. Both established, traditional religions and unambiguous atheism are being rejected by many and an undefined spirituality—a fuzzy spiritual agnosticism—has been embraced, which lives by the axiom, “I’m spiritual, not religious.” For all practical purposes, these pluralists live as atheists within secular society but still embrace some self-defined form of spirituality, which has little – if any – impact on their lives. Basically, it’s OK to believe spiritual things as long as you don’t take them too seriously.

Sadly, this pluralistic mindset has even made its way into Christian circles, and not just in liberal mainline denominations but also in Bible-believing, evangelical churches.

As our world grows “smaller,” more people today have been introduced to worldviews and religions foreign to their own by neighbors, coworkers, and friends (and the Internet and modern media) than perhaps at any other time in history. This is a positive thing in many ways, but those raised to believe that salvation comes only through Christ Jesus may begin to question whether their neighbors —perhaps loving parents and spouses and contributors to the community — will be eternally separated from God because they’re not followers of Christ. Christians have always understood the Bible to teach that the only way to have salvation from sin is through belief in the work and person of Jesus Christ. This is often called exclusivism.

Furthermore, biblical illiteracy has led to unfamiliarity with what the Bible teaches. Not only has Western culture grown more secular and fewer people grow up in churches, but even those in Christian families and churches spend little time closely reading and studying Scripture. 

Because of these reasons, new understandings of God’s salvation have developed that are much different than the traditional Christian understanding of Scripture. Some of these new understandings simply disregard Scripture. Others claim they’re actually more loyal to Scripture than the traditional stance. Because of these reasons, we need an accurate understanding of what the whole of the Bible teaches about salvation.

The Alternatives

Alternatives to exclusivism include pluralism and inclusivism. Where pluralism validates that all (or most) religions lead to God, inclusivism is more nuanced. Inclusivism believes that Jesus Christ is the only savior, but one does not have to believe in him to be saved. In short, Jesus Christ was absolutely essential in saving humanity from damnation, but one doesn’t have to believe in Christ specifically to benefit from that salvation. In inclusivism, one may be saved through another religion or through general revelation even if they never heard of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

General revelation is the idea that one can know certain things about God through their innate senses (since we are all made in the image of God) and/or through nature (since God created all things). The Bible confirms general revelation, but also that one cannot be saved from sin by general revelation alone.

For salvation, one needs special revelation. Special revelation includes all the unique, supernatural works of God throughout history, which are recorded in the Bible, including God the Son becoming human as Jesus of Nazareth (and his death and resurrection), the work of the Holy Spirit, and even the Bible itself – as the Bible is the written, “God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16) revelation of God.

The Bible confirms all humans know of God through general revelation, yet do not seek him out. Instead they invent their own religions and worship their own idols. These may be literal idols or the “idols” of secular society (such as money, sex, self-centered independence). In essence, all know there’s a true God, yet they want to remain god of their own lives, so they exchange the truth for a lie.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature,have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” (Romans 1:18-23) 

In the book Faith Comes By Hearing, Christopher Morgan explains that there is a spectrum of diversity within this new paganism [1]. For example, some versions of universalism teaches that the whole world (even Satan! [2]) will ultimately be saved through Christ.

QUICK REVIEW:

Pluralism – All (or many) religions lead to God and salvation.

Exclusivism – The traditional Christian view that salvation can come only through Jesus Christ’s free gift of salvation; thus, biblical Christianity is the only true path to God. 

Inclusivism – Jesus Christ’s life and work achieved salvation, but one does not have to know of or believe in Christ to be saved. One can be saved by faithfully following another religion or general revelation.

Universalism – One way or another, everyone (or almost everyone) will ultimately be saved through the work of Jesus Christ.

General Revelation – One can know certain things about God through nature and/or their innate senses.

Special Revelation – The unique supernatural works of God throughout history, including miracles, Christ himself, and the Bible.

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The Incomprehensibility of Pluralism Within a Biblical Worldview

As one moves from exclusivism towards views like pluralism and universalism, one moves away from traditional Christianity, and the more one moves away from traditional Christianity, the more the divine authority and reliability of the Bible is questioned or even completely abandoned.

Abandoning the Bible is the only option open to the pluralist as Scripture is so clearly exclusivistic. Verses like John 14:6, Acts 4:10–12, and 1 John 5:11–12 (see below) so clearly teach that salvation comes through Christ alone that pluralists and universalists must have a low view of Scripture in order to continue to hold their views, as does John Hick, who represents the pluralist view in the book Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World.[3]

The pluralist must deny that the Bible is the preserved Word of God since Jesus’ first followers were certainly exclusivists:

Peter said,

“…let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this [formerly crippled] man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10-12)

John wrote,

And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:11-12)

And Jesus himself was absolutely clear that he was not a pluralist or universalist:

 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Even if we didn’t have these extremely clear verses from the New Testament, the exclusivist nature of the Bible is seen throughout the Old and New Testaments. There are constant warnings against following false religions and gods and regular statements about salvation coming only through the one true God. Plainly contrary to the universalist idea that all (even Satan) will eventually be saved through Christ, Revelation 19 and 20 clearly shows the horrible fate of those hostile to God, including Satan.

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Further, some other obvious issues are raised concerning pluralism:

    1. Religious Contradictions

All religions can’t be correct simply because they have contradictory teachings. And where there are contradictions, someone has to be wrong. The only way a pluralist can affirm all religions are correct is to discard key aspects of those religions – just like how they have to discard key parts of the Bible. Furthermore, anyone who claims all religions are basically the same has little understanding of what different religions teach.

The pluralist may try to get around this by saying that all (or many) religions have some truth within them. This isn’t a problem for the Christian; a Christian can confirm that there is some truth in other religions, yet none but biblical Christianity are wholly true or lead to salvation.

Also, pluralists still have a problem: How do they know what is religious truth or error? By what standard do they judge?

    2. Only Jesus Could Win Us Salvation

The Bible teaches that God is perfectly good and holy, all people have sinned, and all people are alienated from God by that sin. Only Jesus, who is uniquely fully human and fully God, could repair this chasm-sized rift between God and man. No amount of “good works” or rituals can bridge that chasm. Only Jesus could live a sinless life, and only Jesus could die an unjust death. Only someone fully human could represent humankind, and only someone fully God could cover the sins of all humankind. Christians are exclusivists because only Jesus – the only person to ever be complete man and completely God – could achieve for us salvation, plain and simple.

     3. Jesus Died For Nothing

Jesus died a horribly brutal death on a Roman cross for the sake of all those who would believe in him to be saved from their sins. Jesus did this willingly, yet also prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest and crucifixion, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36). God the Son went willingly to the cross, but he also was well aware of the high price he would pay to complete the task he became flesh to accomplish. In Gethsemane, he essentially asks God the Father if there’s any other way to accomplish this, then spare him from the cross. But there was no other way, so he goes willingly.

Here’s the thing: If salvation could be won by any other way, then Jesus didn’t have to die. If there were any other way – even one – for God to accomplish salvation from sin, Jesus died for nothing. In other words, if there were a Plan B for saving the world from sin other than Jesus dying on the cross, Jesus wouldn’t have died on the cross. He would’ve said, “See Plan B.” And if Jesus’ death on the cross were Plan B, he would’ve said, “Plan A works just fine.”

We also have this issue: if there were any other way for God the Father to reconnect with his created people and overlook their sins and God the Father still put Jesus to death on the cross, then Jesus’ death was needless brutality. In other words, if God the Father knew forgiveness of sins could be achieved through humans simply following some rules or completing some rituals or being “nice” or doing X, Y, and Z, why would God the Son need to become a man and die? If pluralism and universalism are true, then God the Father and God the Son both made extremely illogical decisions to allow an act of absolute brutality for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

Dismissing the validity of pluralism and universalism is easy from a biblical standpoint, so what about the more nuanced view: inclusivism?

NEXT: Is knowledge of Christ required for salvation? The Nuanced View: Inclusivism.

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WORKS CITED

[1] Faith Comes By Hearing, edited by Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, see Chapter 2.

[2] Faith Comes By Hearing, KindleLoc 334.

[3] Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World, edited by Stanley N. Gundry, Kindle, Loc 3601.

Check out Who Jesus Ain’t and other books by GFTM here.

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Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog (Part 6) Skeptics, Legalists & the Superstitious

In Raiders of the Lost Ark, we find three types of people: Skeptics, Legalists, and the Superstitious. In this final article in our Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog series, we’ll look at all three.

 

Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog: 

Read Part 1: What’s a Covenant?

Read Part 2: What’s the Ark Anyway?

Read Part 3: What’s All This Old Testament Stuff About?

Read Part 4: The Ark in Action!

Read Part 5: Where Did the Ark Go?

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SKEPTICS, LEGALISTS, & THE SUPERSTITIOUS

Hitler had bad theology. So does Indiana Jones’ arch-nemesis and fellow archeologist Belloq.

Indiana Jones, our hero, has no theology.

And Indy’s friends, Marcus Brody and Sallah have weak theology.

Thus, in Raiders of the Lost Ark, we find three types of people: legalists, skeptics and the superstitious. Thus, in this final article in our Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog series, we’ll be looking at all three.

As you may recall, in the Raiders movie, Hitler wants to find the lost Ark because he believes it will make the Nazis unstoppable. Marcus Brody, Indy’s colleague, explains, “The army that carries the Ark before it is invincible.” Thus, the U.S. army enlists Indiana Jones’ expertise to find the lost Ark before the Nazis (which, in my opinion, is the greatest action plots ever conceived).

Now, Raiders of the Lost Ark isn’t a religious movie; it’s one of the best action/adventure movies ever made, which happens to be driven by a search for a religious artifact. But unlike a work like The Maltese Falcon (another classic), where the much-pursued object is inconsequential and merely a plot device to cause conflict, the unique characteristics of the Ark of the Covenant itself gives Raiders of the Lost Ark an extra element of depth, suspense, and intrigue (and danger!).

 

THE SUPERSTITIOUS

In this day and age, Indy’s friends Marcus Brody and Sallah, both intelligent men, would be viewed by most as superstitious. Both men have enough knowledge about the Ark to be wary of it (and for good reason). Even with Brody’s Bible knowledge, he’s perfectly willing to admit he doesn’t understand it.

Both men at different times warn Indy about messing with the Ark. Sallah, in Cairo, warns Indy that the Ark is “something men were not meant to disturb.” Brody warns Indy of not taking his search for the Ark lightly because “No one knows its secrets.” Indy accuses him of talking “superstitious hocus pocus.”

Despite Brody’s Bible-knowledge, he also says, “The Bible speaks of the Ark leveling mountains and laying waste to entire regions,” which isn’t in the Bible at all. We’ll blame this on the writers of Raiders and not Brody.

Anyway, both men know enough to fear the Ark, perhaps being familiar with some of the biblical accounts of the horrors – such as sudden deaths and outbreaks of tumors – surrounding the Ark that we discussed in a previous article of this GFTM series.

Indy_belloq_ark

THE LEGALISTS

Now, Hitler and Belloq, our two villains (though Hitler doesn’t appear in the movie, he’s the main source of the conflict), believe by simply possessing the Ark they’ll be able to use its power. And even Brody believes, “The army that carries the Ark before it is invincible.”

This is simply bad theology.

But where Brody knows enough to be wary of the Ark, Hitler and Belloq, blinded by their own greed, are straight up legalists. They mistakenly think the power of the Ark is in the Ark itself. Simply possessing the Ark, they believe, will put the power of the Ark at their disposal. As we saw in a previous article, this is not how it works.

Legalists believe if you do X, Y, and Z, you will earn your way into heaven or whatever else might be your spiritual goal. This is the way of religion in general, but this is a serious misunderstanding of biblical Christianity. Salvation comes through faith alone in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:3-9; Romans 11:6). Christ did all the work on the cross; we neither earn nor deserve salvation. But Christ already earned it for us; all we can do is humbly accept his free gift (Romans 5:15-16). No other faith teaches this. All other religions (and corruptions of biblical Christianity) teach that salvation is earned through your deeds, whether they’re rituals or being a “good person.” So, you don’t really put your faith in God, but in yourself or some ritual (or even some object). This is legalism.

So, Hitler and Belloq overlook the source of the Ark’s power (which is God) and put their faith in the Ark itself, an object – which is idolatry, something strictly forbidden to Jews and Christians by the God of the Bible.

And as we saw earlier in the adventures and misadventures of the Ark in the Bible, we can’t force God into a box (or ark)! We can’t expect God to conform himself to our expectations of him, because he’s so much more than we can imagine. Just like Brody and Sallah rightfully fear the Ark, those who truly understand God (as much as humanly possible, anyway), should have a healthy fear of him as well.

Did Hitler really think that the God of the Bible, the God that is so holy that to be in his presence would mean certain death for all of us sinners, who became a man and died for the sins of the world, and who commanded us to love our enemies, care for the oppressed, and overcome evil with good, would share his power with him to conquer the world? Did Hitler really think the God of the Jews would give him his power to help him exterminate the Jews? Come on, Hitler, use some common sense!

At the end of Raiders, we see Belloq, ever the legalist, cloth himself in the dress of the Israelite high priest according to Old Testament law (Exodus 39) and recite a prayer in Hebrew before opening the Ark. Again, did he really think God would bless his evil intentions simply because he did this? Did he really believe dressing in certain clothes and uttering some empty words would give him control over God’s power? No wonder God literally blew him to pieces.

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THE SKEPTIC

Finally, we have the skeptic, Indiana Jones himself, who concludes an explanation about Moses and the 10 Commandments with a dismissive “if you believe in that sort of thing,” and he describes a yellow light shooting from the Ark in a drawing flippantly as “the power of God or something.”

Later, we see his skepticism of the supernatural more clearly in his conversation with Brody at his home. Brody warns Indy about the mystery of the Ark, pointing out that the Ark is unlike anything Indy has ever searched for before. Indy laughs, “I don’t believe in magic, a lot of superstitious hocus pocus. I’m going after a find of incredible historical significance — you’re talking about the boogie man.” Taking out his revolver, Indy concludes, “Besides, you know what a cautious fellow I am.”

A revolver ain’t gonna help against the wrath of God. I’m pretty sure Major Toht and Colonel Dietrich were skeptics too, until God melted their Nazi faces off.

Indy_facemeltindy_facemelt!!!!!!!!!

 

DON’T LOOK, MARION! FACE-TO-FACE WITH GOD’S WRATH

Skeptic or not, by the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy wasn’t taking the Ark lightly anymore. Coming face-to-face with God’s wrath will do that. (And if it didn’t happen after Raiders, you’d think after Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Indiana would’ve accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior!)

Likewise, Belloq learns that legalism doesn’t work either – as we see at the end of Raiders when Belloq opens the Ark.

If you read the story of Samson carefully in Judges 13-16, you’ll find that it’s not his long hair that gives him his supernatural strength, but God. His hair is merely a symbol. The saddest thing is Samson was so caught up in his own sin that “he did not know that the Lord [and, thus, his strength] had left him” (Judges 16:20).

Likewise, the Ark was a symbol of the source of the power, not the source of the power itself. The omnipresent, all-knowing God didn’t need the Ark to hear his people; it was a symbol of entering into God’s presence, a tool for teaching Israel about spiritual realities. Nor did the omnipotent, all-powerful God need the Israelites to take the Ark with them to bless them in battle. The Ark was there for Israel’s benefit, not God’s. And the source of the power of the Ark isn’t some mechanical, impersonal force, but the self-existent, personal Creator of all things.

After Belloq opens the Ark, the strangeness begins, and Indy finally catches on. Perhaps his friends’ warnings from earlier in the film finally sank in. Or maybe he remembers some of those Bible passages about the Ark we looked at in this series. Indy, then, becomes the one giving the warnings: “Marion, don’t look at it. Shut your eyes, Marion. Don’t look at it no matter what happens!”

Why? Perhaps he knew they were witnessing forbidden things. Perhaps he thought witnessing the wrath of God would be too horrifying to handle. Maybe he remembered God saying to Moses, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). Or perhaps he remembered Isaiah seeing the vision of the Lord, and being faced with God’s perfect holiness, Isaiah lamenting,

“Woe is me, for I am ruined!

Because I am a man of unclean lips,

And I live among a people of unclean lips;

For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5)

Whatever the reason, Indiana knew enough to look away. Belloq tried to be his own high priest and all he found was death.

But in Christ we have a high priest who frees us of our sins so we can approach God without fear:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

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Read Part 1: What’s a Covenant?

Read Part 2: What’s the Ark Anyway?

Read Part 3: What’s All This Old Testament Stuff About?

Read Part 4: The Ark in Action!

Read Part 5: Where Did the Ark Go?

New from GFTM Blog: Available in paperback for $9.00 (or less) and Kindle version for $3.50 (or less) on Amazon. Or learn more here.

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Slavery & the Bible (Part 1) Cherry Picking, Worldview & Consistency

As a follower of Christ, I believe the God of the Bible is loving and just, so it deeply troubles me when my faith is associated with something as evil as slavery in memes on social media like this:

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Or like this:

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Interestingly, I once saw one on Facebook like this:

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I say “interestingly” because the meme quotes Exodus 21:20-21, but ignores other passages surrounding it, such as:

Exodus 21:12: “Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death.”

Exodus 21:16: “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.”

Exodus 21:26-27: “When a man strikes the eye of his slave, male or female, and destroys it, he shall let the slave go free because of his eye. If he knocks out the tooth of his slave, male or female, he shall let the slave go free because of his tooth.”

We also find memes like this quoting the New Testament:

slaverymeme3NT

But we never see memes for, say, 1 Timothy 1:10, which includes “enslavers” (ESV) in a list of “the ungodly and sinners” and “the unholy and profane.” The original Greek word used here in 1 Timothy, sometimes translated “kidnappers” (NASB) or “slave traders” (NIV/NLT), specifically means a person who captures someone in order to sell him into slavery.

So, is the Bible anti-slavery or pro-slavery? Why do those hostile to Christianity and Judaism cherry-pick certain verses and ignore others? Isn’t this exactly what they accuse Christians of doing in memes like this…

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 So, what we have here is an issue of consistency.

Christians can accuse hostile skeptics of cherry-picking certain verses and ignoring others.

And skeptics can accuse Christians of doing the same thing.

And both would be right.

CHERRY-PICKIN’

So, we can recognize that those hostile towards biblical faith cherry-pick verses, but let’s keep with that honesty and admit many Christians do the same thing. They remember the parts they like from the Bible and ignore other parts.

The reason Christians do this could be for any number of reasons. For instance, they may ignore verses condemning certain sins like, say, greed or slander because they’re still allowing those sins to rule their lives. Or, let’s be honest, many Christians simply don’t know what to make of certain troubling verses. Many Christians don’t have a good enough understanding of history or biblical theology to understand them. But they trust God and love Jesus, so they continue on.

But we also have to admit, skeptics often do have a just reason for calling Christians inconsistent. But the more important issue is: Are these Christians inconsistent because of a lack of knowledge or because the Bible itself is inconsistent?

 

WRESTLING WITH THE BIBLE

I’m not saying all of these Christians should be ashamed for having holes in their knowledge. And I’m not saying they’re even willfully ignorant (though some are). But I will say that if you believe the Bible is the Word of God, you should do all you can to understand it, which means wrestling with troubling passages.

Studying the Bible is a life-long endeavor, so everyone is going to have holes in their knowledge; there’s no shame in that. But blatantly ignoring troubling passages is a mistake for a number of reason. For one, it gives ammunition to hostile skeptics and may prevent people from hearing the gospel.

Yes, what is said in those memes above should certainly be troubling to Christians who take the Bible seriously. And, yes, there are passages in the Bible that at first appear alarming. But we also have to understand we’re reading them thousands of years after they were written with a modern mindset and little (if any) understanding of the ancient culture where these writings are coming from. But, I believe, with enough study, one comes to understand those troubling passages in the historical and biblical context, and they’re found not to be so alarming.

 

THE REAL ISSUE

So, the issue comes down to this:

Both Christians and skeptics are liable to be inconsistent. But is the Bible consistent?

Both Christians and skeptics, to remain consistent must not isolate verses out of context. But… is the Bible consistent?

Both Christians and skeptics, to remain consistent must look at the Bible as a whole. But, again… is the Bible consistent?

So, the debate isn’t whether Christians and skeptics can be inconsistent (because we know they can) but the big question is — you guessed it:

Is the Bible consistent?

If we work to understand the Bible as a whole, which means not looking at only isolated verses, will we find that the Bible contradicts itself?

That is the big question, and the only question that matters.

I believe the Bible is the Word of God, so I believe that when correctly understood, the Bible is consistent. This means it’ll take a lot of time and study; it means we must understand the verses in the context of history, the culture, and even the languages they were written in; it means we’ll have to wrestle with verses that at first are troubling and even appear inconsistent with other parts of the Bible.

But, as I said, when correctly understood, I believe the Bible is consistent.

This series will explored the subject of slavery and show how God’s view of slavery has not changed throughout history. In the first book of the Bible, we’re told man and women, regardless of religion, race, or economic class, have inherent worth as image-bearers of God. Thus, God and his Scripture has always been anti-slavery.

WORLDVIEW

Like many controversial issues, especially concerning religion and God, how someone would answer that question of whether the Bible is consistent comes down to worldview.

Worldview is simply “a set of beliefs about the most important issues in life” (Ronald Nash) and “the thought system we develop for explaining the world around us and our experiences in it” (Tim Warner).

All worldviews consist of assumptions (presuppositions) – which may be truth, false, or partially true – that we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about “the basic make-up of our world” (James Sire).

In other words, worldview is your basic philosophy about life, which both influences — and is influenced by — how you answer certain significant questions, such as:

Where did we come from?

Where are we going?

What is the primary problem with the world?

How do we solve it?

So, for instance, to someone with a naturalistic, atheistic worldview, of course the Bible is not the Word of God; therefore, the Bible can be inconsistent. In fact, they expect it to be. The Bible was written over a period of about 2,000 years by multiple authors; how, they say, could it possibly be consistent? Thus, they feel no need to understand it consistently.

On the other hand, Christians do believe in a supernatural Creator and that the Bible is the Word of this Creator, so they believe the Bible is consistent. Yes, the Bible was written by multiple authors over 2,000 years, yet Christians find it to be remarkably consistent because these men were guided by the Holy Spirit. If someone thinks about how much culture changes in just 100 years, the consistency of the Bible is incredible! Thus, when Christians encounter difficult verses that may seem to contradict clear teachings elsewhere in the Bible, they work for a deeper understanding of those passages. This usually means a lot of hours of study and a lot of wrestling with God’s Word.

As I said above, person’s worldview effects how he or she approaches the Bible.

(Side note: Another question to ask concerning worldview is does a person’s worldview even give them any grounds for making claims against slavery — or about human rights in general — or any moral claims at all?)

(Another side note: One way Christians are often accused of being inconsistent is how Christians follow some of the Old Testament law and not all of it. This is because Jesus Christ’s death on the cross fulfilled — and thus, freed Christians from — the Old Testament religious law. Christians are no longer bound by ancient Israel’s civic law either, but are still bound to it’s moral law. God’s moral law, since it’s based in God’s unchanging nature, doesn’t change. I address this in an earlier 2-part GFTM series here:

AN ILLUSTRATION: EXODUS 21:20-21

To illustrate how worldview effects understanding, a typical exchange may go something like this. (This will also give you, the reader, a preview of some things we’ll be discussing in future articles about slavery and the Bible.)

Let’s look at that meme again we looked at earlier in this article:

slaverymemeExodus

Skeptic: The Bible condones slavery. Exodus 21:20-21 says, “If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, he survives a day or two, no vengeance shall be taken; for he is his property.”

Christian: There are certainly some parts of those verses that are troubling, but let me point out that before 21:20-21, we see 21:12, which says, “Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death.” So, we see in the passage you quoted that slaves in Israel were equal to everyone else in that if someone killed a slave, even the slave’s own “master,” that person would be put to death.

Skeptic: Still, Exodus 21:20-21 says it’s OK to beat slaves.

Christian: Does it? Just afterwards in Exodus 21:26 we find, “When a man strikes the eye of his slave, male or female, and destroys it, he shall let the slave go free because of his eye. If he knocks out the tooth of his slave, male or female, he shall let the slave go free because of his tooth.” It appears to me the Old Testament is protecting slaves from abuse, not promoting it.

Skeptic: But Exodus 21:20-21 says the master is allowed to beat his slaves.

Christian: Where does it say he is allowed to beat him? Exodus 21:20-21 is an example of case law, meaning it’s addressing a specific situation. Case laws always start with “If…” or “When…” It’s not saying to do this; it’s saying “if this happens, then do this…” “When [or “If”] a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod…” Also, notice there’s equality among the sexes here too. In ancient Israel, it was eye for an eye, a life for a life. If a person attacks a slave – male or female – and kills him or her, the attacker forfeits his life. If the slave suffers excessive injury, 21:26 tells us the slave — man or woman — gets his freedom.

Keep in mind, eye for an eye wasn’t always carried out literally. But appropriate, equal restitutions were to be made — no more, no less. So, for example, right in Exodus 21:18-19 we see a law similar to the slave passage you quoted, and we’re told if two men get into a fight and one is injured and “does not die but takes to his bed, then if the man rises again… he who struck him shall be clear; only he shall pay for the loss of his time…” So, if the injured man doesn’t die, the death sentence isn’t a consideration, but the other man is still expected to make restitutions and pay for the injured man’s loss of time and work and money. Notice it doesn’t say the injured man gets to beat the other guy silly so he loses out on work. Eye for an eye isn’t always practiced literally, but means an equal restitution or punishment for the crime. These were violent times; eye for an eye was actually quelling the violence. It was actually putting a fair limit on how much someone could get “pay back.”

So, we see this same idea in the passage you quoted, Exodus 21:20-21. If the slave is injured, but not killed, the attacker is not put to death, but the slave may be given his freedom. If the slave stays, the master has punished himself in that his slave was unable to perform his normal duties for him, losing the master his own means of making money.

Skeptic: You’re just putting a positive spin on it. It stills says the slave is his property. This is no better than the slavery we fought against in the Civil War.

Christian: I’d like to know the nuances of the original Hebrew word that’s translated “property.” The ESV, which is a solid translation, translates it “money.” And the NASB, another solid translation, has a footnote stating that the word could be translated “money.” This supports what I said before about if the master injuries his own slave and the slave can’t work, it’s a punishment to himself because it will cost him money by having a worker out of commission.

It’s important for you to understand that “slavery” in ancient Israel was more like indentured servanthood. The footnote at the bottom of my ESV Bible even tells us the word translated as “slave” covers a range of social and economic roles. Exodus 21:2 tells us after seven years, slaves are set free. That doesn’t sound like the type of slavery you’re talking about – like the type of slavery we saw in America’s past. Plus, Exodus 21:16 says, “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.” This is clearly not the same “slavery” as the evil slavery we had in early America.

Skeptic: The Bible is just a bunch of random stuff written by men. It contradicts itself.

Christian: You think it would be inconsistent even within the very same book of the Bible? Even within a few lines of each other? Everything we just talked about is in Exodus 21. You really think the Israelites were so dumb that they didn’t realize their own laws were inconsistent?

Skeptic: I’m only telling you what I see with my own eyes.

Christian: And I’m telling you there’s to be a better explanation, which some study, thought, and research reveals.

———–

Notice how the differing worldviews and assumptions (presuppositions) effect their approach and understanding of the Bible: The skeptic assumes the worst about the Bible and interprets the tension between the verses on slavery as inconstancy within the Bible. The Christian assumes the best and works to understand the various verses as a whole, assuming the Bible, as the Word of God, is consistent.

All that being said, this series is specifically for Christians — Christians who trust God, recognize that they’re saved by grace through Jesus Christ, but they find parts of the Bible troubling, and because they love God’s Word, they want to better understand it.

Skeptics are, of course, welcome to read this series as well, and I hope they will. But, if I were challenged by a skeptic on what the Bible says about slavery, I’d likely handle it much different than how I would address a Christian about it. I wouldn’t go into the biblical data with them without first challenging their own worldview. In other words, to make a moral stance against slavery, one first has to have a basis for morality and human rights — a basis I don’t believe most skeptics have, especially naturalists, materialists, and atheists. To address this, I steer you towards this earlier GFTM article: Morally Schizophrenic: Moral Outrage in a Land With No Moral Compass.

NEXT: Israelite Slavery Vs. Roman Slavery Vs. American Slavery: Not all types of slavery are equal.

Other related GFTM articles:

Making Sense of Old Testament Laws (Part 1 of 2) Are OT laws arbitrary, offensive & silly?

Making Sense of Old Testament Laws (Part 2 of 2) Why do Christians follow some OT laws & not others?

Check out the new GFTM book on Amazon

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Morally Schizophrenic: Moral Outrage in a Land With No Moral Compass

**Can you be good without God? Are morals objective truths or personal opinions? Are skeptics morally schizophrenic?**

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Can you do good without God? Certainly. Can you define good without God? No.

Let me explain…

I’ve written about what is often called the moral argument before on GFTM blog (see here, here, and here), but it’s such an important argument that arises so often I decided it would benefit us to look at it one more time. (Note: I’d usually break a long post like this into several posts, but I think it’s best to keep the whole argument together in one place.)

Basically, it goes like this: a skeptic (atheist, agnostic, relativist, post-modernist, naturalist, etc.) criticizes Christianity for something, which – more likely than not – is a moral claim. For example:

  • The God of the Bible is cruel and violent.
  • Christians are intolerant.
  • Believing in a Creator God stifles science and human flourishing.
  • The apostle Paul was sexist and homophobic.
  • Christianity makes people closed-minded.
  • Christianity led to witch hunts and burnings.
  • Believing Christianity is the only true religion is arrogant.

The list can go on (I’m sure you thought of a few yourself), but what I want you to see is this: all of these are moral statements of one form or another. The one making the statement is making a moral claim, which means proclaiming something to be morally “good” or “bad.”

Some of the statements above may not seem like moral statements,  but often the one saying it is implying one. For example, at its core “Believing in a Creator God stifles science and human flourishing” is saying, “Human flourishing and the study of science are morally good, so Christianity is morally bad.” Likewise, the statement “Christianity led to witch hunts and burnings” may be a statement of fact, but again, often someone is also implying that witch hunts and burnings are bad.

At the base of these statement, there are questions that must be addressed: Why are witch hunts and burnings morally bad? Why is human flourishing morally good? The answers to these questions may seem so obvious we take them for granted, but are they really self-evident truths?

Even these following statements about moral statements are making moral claims:

  • No one has the right to make absolute, objective moral claims.
  • You don’t have the right to morally judge anyone.

Those who say such things are actually making moral claims!

And they’re also making self-refuting statements.

And that’s the point: When people make moral claims, and yet their worldview doesn’t provide any foundation for their moral claims, they have defeated themselves. Thus, often they become morally schizophrenic.

 

BY WHAT STANDARD?

Pick any of the moral criticisms from the above list (or elsewhere). For example, perhaps someone accuses the Bible of promoting slavery. Now, I don’t believe this is true (and I will address this in a future GFTM series), but I can respond in two ways:

(1) I could walk through the Bible with him or her and give the historical and theological information needed for understanding the difficult passages of the Bible that deal with slavery.

(2) I could ask a single question: “By what standard?”

In other words: “You’re making a moral claim that slavery is wrong. According to what standard are you saying that? Before we even discuss the Bible, explain to me, according to your understanding of the world (your worldview), why slavery is wrong?”

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Yes, but the question is: Why?

GOOD WITHOUT GOD?

Now, the question of why slavery is wrong seems so basic to us today that it seems like a silly question. But think about it: Can you explain why slavery is wrong? Or are your moral stances simply something you assume? Again, to be clear, we all know slavery is wrong, but why? Follow your train of thought – follow the path of your logic backwards – to the foundation of your beliefs. What is your moral stance standing upon?

To better understand this, ask yourself:

  • What do I believe about humankind?
  • Where did we come from?
  • Are we going anywhere?
  • What makes our purpose important beyond personal preference? (In other words, what makes our purpose real?)

Now, can you explain why slavery is wrong?

Is it wrong because owning a person is wrong? Well, why is that wrong? Do humans have inherent rights? Do you hold “that all men are created equal… with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”? Do you believe this simply because our forefathers believed this or for another reason? Do you believe it because you were taught this in school, on TV, or by your peers? Is this really “self-evident” to your worldview? Where do “rights” even come from?

I’ve heard this slogan many times from skeptics: Good without God. In other words, one does not need to believe in God to be morally good. I agree 100%.

But the question is NOT whether skeptics CAN do good. They certainly can (by social standards anyway)! The question is WHY do they do good – and how do they even know what good is? What compels a skeptic to do good?

So, here it is:

  • If there is no God, there is no objective morality. (By “objective” I mean a standard of morality that exists outside of yourself.)
  • If there is no objective morality, all moral claims are only personal preferences and opinions.
  • If all moral claims are only personal preferences and opinions of an individual, then all moral claims can be dismissed by other individuals on the grounds that this is only their opinion.

Only a source that exists outside ourselves can account for a universal, objective moral code. (In fact, only an intelligent, immaterial source can account for an immaterial moral code.) And without an objective moral law, all moral claims can be responded to as follows: So? Why should I care?

If morality is strictly personal preferences and opinions, then why does anyone else have to care about the moral claims you make? If there is no God, all moral claims we make are smoke in the breeze. With no absolute foundation, they float away into nothingness. In fact, they are nothingness. And, then, morals are free to change like fads. What is immoral one day (like eating a baby for fun) can become morally fashionable the next. Without God, a moral claim is a nonsensical statement. Without an unchanging standard outside ourselves, your moral claims have no roots.

Before we continue, let me be clear about what I am NOT saying. In fact, every time I explain this, someone misunderstands me or jumps to a hasty conclusion without hearing me out (or maybe I’m just really bad at explaining it) and accuses me of saying that skeptics have no morals. So, let me say this in all caps. In fact, I’ll even underline it and put it in bold so it doesn’t get overlooked:

I AM CONFIRMING, WITHOUT A DOUBT, THAT SKEPTICS HAVE MORALS! BUT WHAT I AM SAYING IS THAT THEY DO NOT HAVE A FOUNDATION FOR MORALS. THUS, THEY CANNOT MAKE ANY MORAL CLAIM… (WITH ANY CONVICTION ANYWAY).

You might not like what I said above, but I hope at least you understand me accurately.

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K. Chesterton wrote, “[T]he new rebel is a skeptic, and will not entirely trust anything. … And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it . . . The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, [the skeptic] is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.”

Skeptics have to borrow their morals from doctrines and dogmas based on human rights which are in turn contingent upon human value. The skeptic does this without reason. He prefers to think of himself and certain other persons as valuable, but human beings have no intrinsic moral worth if the skeptics’ worldview is taken to its logical end. Therefore, the claims of the rapist are equal to the claims of the judge and the claims of the nicest atheist are equal to the claims of the most tyrannical dictator.

 

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Morality is found in the eternal, unchanging nature of God. We don’t deem something “good” simply because God said so, nor because the Bible says so. In other words, adultery can’t be bad one day and good the next because God changes his mind. Goodness is grounded in God’s unchanging nature; goodness is defined by God’s very character. Good is not good because God says it is so (though he does); good is good because God is good. God is the eternal, unchanging standard of good.

Everyone, including hardcore skeptics, have morals because they have an innate sense of morality, and everyone, including hardcore atheists, have an innate sense of morality because they’re made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). A mindless, directionless force cannot give us the innate sense of morality we all have.

Romans 2:14–15 tells us,

“For when Gentiles [nonbelievers] who do not have the Law [of God] do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.”

Yet, though we’re made in God’s image, we suppress his innate moral law because we love our sin.

Romans 1:20-25 tells us,

“For his [God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and … they exchanged the truth about God for a lie…”

As Tolstoy said, “If God does not exist, everything is permitted.”

 

MORALLY SCHIZOPHRENIC

The skeptic cannot stay consistent with his moral claims, because he’s morally schizophrenic. He’s made in the image of God and has God’s moral law inside him, but he also loves his sin and wants to be his own god, so he also attempts to suppress God’s moral law. On one hand, he says morals are personal opinions, but on the other hand he declares vehemently his moral outrage and he wants us all to listen and agree. On one hand, he overlooks the murder of human life in the womb, but then expresses outrage at the murder of an infant. He declares mutual consent is the only sexual moral rule, yet he’s disgusted by incest by consenting adults. He believes we’re only biological machines evolved to pass on our genes, yet he is morally appalled by rape.

Sometimes skeptics accuse Christians of only being “good” because they fear God’s wrath. First, those who understand the gospel of Jesus Christ know we’re saved not by our own actions, but by the work of Christ. Thus, we don’t fear eternal condemnation, and we don’t (and can’t) earn salvation. Since we are saved by faith in Christ and God’s grace alone, there’s nothing more we can earn with our “good” actions (Ephesians 2:3-9; Romans 6:23, 11:6). Since our salvation is not based on our own works, but the work of Christ, we are secure in our salvation.

Secondly, those who understand the God of the Bible have a proper fear of him, but this isn’t the primary reason we obey his moral law. We obey God because he loved us when we were in rebellion against him and dead in our sins. God became a man and was tortured and killed to free us from sin so we can spend eternity with him. Love of Christ compels a Christian much, much more than fear. “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

If there is a God, there are universal, objective morals. If not, all morals are subjective – based on personal feelings, tastes, or opinions. There is no such thing as how things “ought” to be. Without God, it just is what it is.

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EVOLVING MORALS

If naturalistic, materialistic, atheistic evolution is all there is then we have to face this fact: A mindless, directionless force does not and cannot create meaning or morals, nor can it explain our innate sense of morality.

If naturalistic, materialistic, atheistic evolution is all there is, there is no larger meaning than survival. If atheistic evolution is all there is, eat, drink, and be merry because this is as good as it gets. If atheistic evolution is all there is, then life is directionless, random, and pointless. If atheistic evolution is all there is, then – at best – life’s goal is to pass on our genes. And why should we even care about passing on our genes? We’re only here a short time – maybe about 90 years if we’re lucky. What’s it matter if my genes live on after me or not?

In other words, when you give your spouse a Valentine’s Day card, be sure to explain that you only care for him or her because you need him or her to pass on your genes, and the “love” you feel is just an illusion of the chemicals firing off in your brain (and loins). When you tuck in your kids at night, tell them something similar.

An atheistic evolutionist can make all the moral claims he wants, but when you get down to it all he’s giving are the personal preferences that are programmed into the meat computer we call his brain.

“Sexism is wrong,” he shouts.

Who cares. We’re random, happy accidents with only 90 years to live. I got better things to worry about.

“Since we’re here for only a short time, we should allow everyone to make the most of it.”

Why? I’m only looking out for one person: me.

“That guy is a scumbag. He has four kids to different women, and he doesn’t pay any child support.”

Good for him. He’s passing on his genes and enjoying life. That guy has it figured out.

 

FINDING MEANING IN MEANINGLESSNESS

In the past, when I’ve pointed this out to skeptics, I’ve had a few say something like, “I make my own meaning.” But this itself is a meaningless statement. How can you make meaning in a world devoid of meaning? A person’s self-made meaning only extends as far as that person’s self-delusion; don’t expect anyone else to buy into your personal “meaning.” (And if life really is meaningless, then the only way to be happy is to ignore the truth. So is truth the enemy of happiness?)

Everyone’s favorite atheist, Richard Dawkins has said, “There is something infantile in the presumption that somebody else has a responsibility to give your life meaning and point… The truly adult view, by contrast, is that our life is as meaningful, as full and as wonderful as we choose to make it.”

But that same man also wrote, “The universe we observe has … no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference … DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.”

Mr. Dawkins, sir, you speak so beautifully you can lull a water buffalo to sleep, but you’re a moral schizophrenic. You worldview cannot stand.

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Or, take a moment to watch this 2-minute “Big Think” Youtube video by atheist physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss where he says human life is “more insignificant than we can possibly imagine,” “an accident in a remote corner of the universe,” and he even reminds us of the imminent death of all life in the universe. But then he goes on to explain how this makes humans “more precious” and we should find meaning in life, including in art and music. To be honest, I laughed aloud when I first watched this video.

With Krauss’s atheistic worldview, he can fairly say: Life is meaningless, so enjoy the time you have. No problem there; no inconsistency. But he can’t say: Life is meaningless, so live meaningfully. Do you see the schizophrenia? (Plus, he’s confusing pleasure with meaning. Something can be pleasurable and completely meaningless.)

Krauss — a naturalistic atheist who publicly mocks belief in God — even goes on to use the term “spiritually uplifting”! The image-of-God that is intrinsic in Krauss’s very identity cannot be suppressed. We are designed for worship — and if not God, we’ll worship something else. We see Krauss’s schizophrenic worldview in full-on parade in this 2-minute video.

No meaning = No human value = No morals.

No human value = No meaning = No morals.

No morals = No meaning = No human value.

 

NICE STORY, BRO

Skeptics have attempted to explain morals in a number of naturalistic ways without an absolute, immaterial, unchanging Law-giver. But without an objective moral code with a foundation in unchanging truth, all moral claims crumble under personal preference.

Social Construct – Morals are defined by society.

So, when Nazi Germany proclaimed that it was good to kill Jews, was this morally good because “society” decided this? If the South had won the American Civil War, would slavery be morally good? Was Martin Luther King Jr. immoral for standing up against a racist society? In fact, who decides what part of society defines morals? Does might make right? Does majority rule? Has the majority ever been morally wrong? (Yes!)

Ultimately, saying morals are a social construct still confirms the view that morals are subjective. And if morals are subjective, why do we have to follow them? Peer pressure?

Human Flourishing – Morals Promote Human Advancement

I’ve heard skeptics respond that doing something immoral like, say, eating a baby would doom the human race. But Jonathan Swift’s infamous (satirical) essay A Modest Proposal lays out a compelling argument about how eating babies would actually benefit society. So, who should I believe? Further, if I eat just one baby and no more, will it doom the human race? Absolutely not. Would it be morally wrong still?

Aristotle argued that it was the slave’s nature to be a slave, and thus, it was to the benefit of both society and the slave for the slave to remain a slave. And in ancient Rome, the poor often benefited greatly by selling themselves into slavery. Does this then mean owning a person like property can be morally good?

Also, notice the underlining assumption of this view: human flourishing is good. Why is human flourishing the ultimate good? If we’re just meat machines here by happy accident, what’s it matter if we flourish or not? (But more about that below.)

Good Feelings – Being good is a reward within itself; it makes me feel good.

What if raping others makes someone feel good? Does that make rape for that person morally good? I’m pretty sure most serial killers found pleasure in their work. In other words, what if being “bad” makes me feel “good.” What if what makes someone feel good is stomping on another’s face when she’s grinning after doing something “good”? And again, who defines what is “good”?

Beware of any action justified solely on subjective, personal feelings. And while we’re being morally subjective, let me just ask, Who cares how you feel?

Doing good makes you feel good because you were created in the image of God to honor him.

Evolution – Morals have evolved to help the human species survive.

First, nice story. I’d like to see that proven. Secondly, evolution is based on survival of the fittest. It has no room for niceness. Are you telling me evolution suddenly became a peace-loving hippy?

Christians aren’t going to argue against the idea that working together is better, but without the unchanging moral law of God – again – why should I care? I’m only on this planet for a short time; if ruining other’s lives makes mine better, I’m going to do it. Who can tell me I’m wrong?

You may say some behavior is “best” for everyone – “best” for human flourishing. But how can you be sure? As stated above, Jonathan Swift made a compelling argument on how eating babies, something universally seen as reprehensible, could actually help society. And again, who cares? Who says human flourishing is the ultimate moral good? What if I prefer self-flourishing? Or what if I’m a radical environmentalist and I believe the health of the planet is the greatest good, so humans need to “flourish” less? Or what if passing on my genes most effectively is by destroying a rival society? Survival of the fittest, baby

Philosopher William Lane Craig concludes in his book On Guard, “…if our moral beliefs have been shaped by evolution, then we can’t have any confidence in them because evolution aims, not at truth, but at survival. Our moral beliefs will be selected for their survival value, not for their truth.”

For the Kids – I’m morally good to make the world a better place for my children.

Now, maybe this can make some sense to an atheistic evolutionist because in that worldview passing on your genes may be the only “meaningful” thing someone can do, and making the world a “better” (“better” = “safer”) place will increase the chances of those kids surviving to pass on your genes. But, once again, who cares? If morals are subjective, I can choose not to care for my offspring, and who is anyone to judge me? Making the world a better place is a lot of work and so is raising kids. What if I think it’ll be much easier to pass on my genes if I just impregnate as many women as possible? That seems like a good way to live for many men. Are they wrong? Not according to all worldviews.

 

STABBING BABIES

I once had a hostile skeptic come after me on Twitter. His moral outrage at Christianity was clear, but when I asked him to explain upon what standard he was basing these moral claims, he huffed and hollered but never gave me an answer.

We continued for a while, and for every moral condemnation he made against Christianity, I again asked him why I should listen to anything he had to say if he couldn’t even tell me how he judges anything morally. At closest to explaining, he said it was “complicated.” So, I said I would make it easy for him: “Tell me why it’s wrong to stab a baby.” Yes, this was a bit harsh, but he wasn’t pulling any punches with me either. Again, he hooted and hollered, but he never answered my question despite my persistence.

And that’s the problem. Skeptics can shout all they want about injustice or human rights or bigotry, but they’re not standing on anything. They’re floating up in the air, their legs flailing around, toes pointed, trying to find some ground to stand on, but they have nothing.

Occasionally, you hear of a person who claims to have been a Christian who “lost their faith” because of the evil in the world. Ironically, one of the surest signs that there is a God is the universal outrage we see at evil. If there’s no God, there’s no evil. If there’s no God, it just is what it is.

(Thanks to Jordan Karausky for his feedback, insight, and additions to this article.)

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Related GFTM articles on the moral argument:

Random, Meaningless Morals

Atheists have Morals! (And So Do the Rest of Us)

The Walking Dead & God’s Innate Moral Law

Even More Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels: Can Apologetics Get Any More Sexy?

*Are there Undesigned Coincidences between the Gospels & ancient writings outside of the Bible? How can minor details in the Gospels show the reliability of the Gospels? Are you sexy enough to handle this?*

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Series intro: What’s an Undesigned Coincidence?

Where key, major details remain the same when two or more authors write about the same historic event, we find minor details may be added or left out. An “undesigned coincidence” is when one account provides details, but another account written about the same incident by a different author gives more insight into those details. We see “undesigned coincidences” when we have two or more independently investigated accounts of the same event, and we find undesigned coincidences throughout the Gospels of the New Testament.

It’s highly unlikely that such complimentary minor details would be deliberately falsified, and the assurance that they’re based on authentic events is extremely high. In other words, when multiple people retell a true story, they may include minor details without an explanation of those details and others telling the same story may unintentionally fill in those missing pieces. Such non-deliberate cohesion smacks of authenticity.

Read PART 1: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels: It Don’t Sound Sexy, But Oh Man It Is

Read PART 2: More Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels: Bringing Sexy Apologetics Back

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Yes, by now you’ve probably figured out that I’ve been shamelessly placing “sexy” in every title of this series to catch people’s attention (with a healthy dose of irony). Here are more examples of Undesigned Coincidences:

 

Fixin’ to Fix Some Fish Nets

18 Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 21 Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. (Matthew 4:18-22)

 

OK, one big question immediately comes to mind when reading this passage: Why were these fishermen so quick to follow Jesus? I mean, would you give up your livelihood and abandon your family simply because some dude tells you to follow him?

Well, we find the answer not in Matthew, but in the much longer account in the Gospel of Luke:

 

5 Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; 2 and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. 3 And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat.

4 When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; 7 so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink.

8 But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” 11 When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him. (Luke 5:1-11)

 

So, the reason the fishermen are so quick to follow Jesus in Matthew is because this is not the first time they’ve seen him! In fact, they’d witnessed Jesus teach and perform a miracle before he told them to follow him. No wonder they followed him so quickly in Matthew’s Gospel!

Where Matthew gives us more details of the actual moment of the calling of the fishermen, Luke gives a longer account (which includes the miracle before the calling) but then he simply summarizes or condenses – shortens or telescopes – the events after the miracle by simply telling us the fishermen left everything and followed Jesus. Where Matthew chose to emphasize the actual calling, Luke chose to emphasize the miracle. (Learn more about telescoping in another GFTM article.)

 

Furthermore, notice Matthew uses the word “immediately” twice. Both pairs of brothers — Peter and Andrew and James and John — followed Jesus “immediately” when called to follow. But Luke does NOT tell us they followed Jesus “immediately” after returning to the land, meaning some time could’ve passed between the two events.

Only when we look at Matthew and Luke together can we conclude that some time had actually passed between the return to the shore after the miraculous catch and when the fishermen left with Jesus. How long exactly? We can’t say – but not a lot of time, because we’re told in Matthew’s Gospel that James and John were fixing the torn nets.

And, Yes! That is another Undesigned Coincidence between Luke’s and Matthew’s account of the calling of Peter and the other fishermen:

Matthew tells us in 4:21 that James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were “mending their nets.” Why? The detail is fleshed out in Luke. Luke 5:6 tells us during the miraculous catch, “… they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break.”

Perhaps the sons of Zebedee would’ve been more annoyed with Jesus for damaging their nets if he hadn’t done so by performing a miracle.

Christmas_Donkey

External Undesigned Coincidences

Up to this point in this series, we’ve been looking at examples of Internal Undesigned Coincidences — “internal” meaning within the Bible.

To end this series (for now), we’ll look at External Undesigned Coincidences — meaning collaborations between details in the Gospels with information outside of the Bible.

 

Runnin’ from Archelaus

In the Gospel of Matthew, in the birth narrative of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, having been warned in a dream, flee with the newborn Jesus to Egypt from the wrath of Herod the Great. Then Matthew tells us this:

 

19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, 20 “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.” 21 So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, 23 and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: “He shall be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:19-23)

 

So, who is Archelaus? And why was Joseph so afraid of him? Matthew doesn’t give us one clue, nor does the rest of the Bible!

But we learn about Archelaus from outside the Bible, in another piece of ancient writing. We learn about Archelaus in the writings of Josephus, a first-century Jewish historian (37-100 AD). Archelaus is Herod Archelaus, the son of Herod the Great, who became ethnarch of Judea for a short period after the death of his father.

Due to growing tension between the Romans, the Jews, and the Jew’s Roman-appointed Herodian rulers (who were seen as half-breeds and traitors by the Jews), Josephus reports that Herod Archelaus slaughtered 3,000 Jews at the Temple during the Passover to quell a possible uprising.

So, why were Joseph and Mary afraid of Archelaus? Ancient historian Jospehus gives us the obvious answer in his work Antiquities of the Jews. Thus, Joseph and his family fled from Archelaus to Nazareth in Galilee, a place outside of the territory of Archelaus’s reign.

Herod the Great?

Herod the Great…?

Likewise, many rulers (including kings, governors, etc.) mentioned in the New Testament are also mentioned by Josephus, including Pontius Pilate, Herod the Great, Herod Agrippa, and Antonius Felix. Josephus also wrote about John the Baptist, Jesus’ brother James, and Jesus himself. (Read this GFTM article to learn more about what Josephus said about Jesus.)

In fact, 84 facts in the last 16 chapters of the Book of Acts alone have been confirmed by historical and archaeological evidence outside of the Bible, and in the Gospel of Luke, 11 historically proven leaders appear in the first 3 chapters alone. New archeological discoveries have continually supported the reliability of the biblical record, including the discovery of Jacob’s Well, a building inscription of the name Pontius Pilate, and an ossuary containing the bones of Caiaphas, the high priest who helped orchestrate the crucifixion of Jesus.

Josephus...?

Josephus…?

Related GFTM articles:

Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels: It Don’t Sound Sexy, But Oh Man It Is

More Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels: Bringing Sexy Apologetics Back

Is the Bible Any More Accurate than Other Religious Texts?

Is There Evidence of Jesus’ Existence (Outside the Bible)?

The Joy & Angst of Four Gospels – Part 4 – The Gospels as Ancient Biography & History & “Narrative Creativity”

Books by GFTM:

Searching the Bible for Mother God: Examining the Teachings of the World Mission Society Church of God