March 29, 2010

Content, Contradictions, and Cookies

The very idea of the Bible as a reliable source of information on virtually any topic is controversial.  After all, nothing induces more visceral and irrational reactions in people than the subjects of religion and politics.  But I try to steer clear of politics because these days the political landscape has become the intellectual equivalent of a college football rivalry.  And as for religion – specifically the topic of the Judeo-Christian Bible, irrationality occupies both ends of a polarized spectrum.

Fortunately, I am not religious.  So although I tend toward the idea that the Bible is reliable, I attempt to make my points with logic and rational thought (this blog being a macrocosms of those thoughts), and hopefully many of the irrational thoughts on both sides will be addressed to some degree as this blog progresses.

Nevertheless, I do want to use this post to address a few of the most common irrational objections to the Bible by relating the essence of some past conversations that I have had with rationality-challenged people.

If men wrote it, I don’t believe it! (Except when I do)

The first (and perhaps silliest) one I will tackle is the argument that the Bible cannot be trusted because it was “written by men”.  It goes something like this:

Irrational Idiot: “How can you believe the Bible is true?  It was written by men!”

Me: “Your high school math book was also written by men.  Do you not believe math is true?”

Irrational Idiot:  “That’s different!  I can show that the contents of my math book are true without relying on the contents of the book itself.  Plus I’ve experienced the truth of mathematics”

Me:  “I can show the exact same things about the Bible.  In fact I have this nifty little blog where I do just that.  But if you’re relying on personal experience for truth, then what about your history books?  They were also written by men.  Do you not believe that any history occurred before you were alive to experience it?”

Irrational Idiot: “ Well history…um… its documented, and history books are on a different level of reliability because…uh, because…”

Me:  “Yeah.  Why don’t you go outside and play now?”

Our entire system of education and intellectual pursuit is based on information and truth gathered from reliable sources and relayed from one set of human beings to another.  The idea of rejecting the Bible on this basis while accepting other information sources on the same basis is utterly hypocritical.  And as my last post showed, the supernatural origin of the information in the Bible is demonstrable.

Age discrimination

Equally silly are those who dismiss the Bible because of its age:

Irrational Idiot: “You can’t trust the Bible because its ancient!  It was written over two thousand years ago by primitives!  We know so much more now.”

Me:  “If that’s the case, then why do you trust anything you know now?  People who live two thousand years from now will have the same argument about us.  And two thousand years after that, what those people know could be dismissed for the same reason.  By your logic, no one can ever know anything for sure because people in the future will always know more.”

Irrational Idiot: “uh…”

Me:  “Here, have a cookie.  Then later you can take a nice long nap!”

Irrational Idiot: “Cookies and a nap?  Wheeeeeeeeeee!!”

In all seriousness, the crux of the “age” critiques often comes down to the idea that the Bible is not accurate because it has changed over the centuries as it’s been copied, or has been deliberately altered by men.  However, the Hebrew transcription methodology along with recent discoveries like the Dead Sea Scrolls show that the Bible has remained QUITE accurate over the centuries.  Listen to the related podcast for more details.

On the contrary!

Another common objection is that the Bible is unreliable because it contains contradictions.  This one is so common that its veracity is taken for granted. Yet, it’s difficult to find anyone who claims, “Everybody knows the Bible is full of contradictions” and can actually name some contradictions.  But this, like many other modern axioms is just an excuse to be intellectually lazy.

Of course if the Bible really is full of contradictions, then that would be very problematic because we know that contradictions cannot exist so the First Cause could not be the originator of such an information source.

There are plenty of books and websites on alleged contradictions in the Bible, and there are plenty of books and websites that refute these contradictions. (here is a website that presents both)  For the most part, what look to be contradictions in the Bible are actually CONFLICTS –  errors the readers makes in context, language, vernacular, culture, assumptions, and/or translation.  The good news is that unlike contradictions, conflicts can be resolved.  Here is an example that includes all the conflicts mentioned above:

He loves me, He loves me not

The Bible says that God is love (1 John 4:8), and that He loves everyone (John 3:16), but the Bible also says that God hates:

“As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated” – Romans 9:13.

This looks like a contradiction, but it isn’t for several reasons.  First, “love” and “hate” are not contradictory terms.  In our vernacular, hate is antithetical to love, but even that concept is rendered suspect by the commonly referred to idea of the love/hate relationship.  The verse would only be contradictory if it said that God did not love Esau.  Furthermore, the word translated “hate” in the verse is the Greek work “miseo”, which means to “love less”.  So the verse actually says that God loved Jacob, but He loved Esau less.  And since the Bible never claims that God loves everyone equally, there is no contradiction.

Of course I’m not being exhaustive in my defense of the Bible in this post because I don’t have the space, and as you can probably tell from the tone of this post, I have very little patience for dealing with superficial arguments.  But as I said, this blog will progressively serve as my proof points.

Now I’ve postulated that the First Cause gave us an information source that gives us more detailed information about Him.  But this begs a more fundamental question: Why would God want to give humanity this information?  Stay tuned…

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