Proof #5: Read the Bible

December 13, 2007 at 5:01 am 12 comments

Marshall Brain on reading the Bible:

Ask yourself this simple question: Why, when you read the Bible, are you not left in awe? Why doesn’t a book written by an omniscient being leave you with a sense of wonder and amazement? If you are reading a book written by the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving creator of the universe, wouldn’t you expect to be stunned by the brilliance, the clarity and the wisdom of the author? Would you not expect each new page to intoxicate you with its incredible prose and its spectacular insight? Wouldn’t you expect the author to tell us things that scientists have not been able to discover yet?

First of all, reading the Bible does leave me with a sense of awe. I am stunned by the simple brilliance with which the Bible presents its insights into human nature. I would certainly not expect the Bible to reveal things that science has not discovered for the simple reason that the Bible is a revelation of God, not of the earth. The theme throughout this book is that God is the center of everything, and worthy of worship and devotion. Atheists, however, assume a man-centered, humanistic view of the earth.

That view will never reconcile with the view the Bible presents, and therefore I can understand the difficulty they have with certain Bible passages.

The first passage often concerning atheists is Leviticus 20:1-13, then Exodus 20:2-21. Why? Confusion over which parts of the Old Testament still apply, why slavery is condoned, and why owners are allowed to beat their slaves. Also, it seems that the penalty for adultery and disobedience of parents is pretty steep.

Jesus has settled for us which parts of the Old Testament still apply. He said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Mat 5:17).

In the Sermon on the Mount (Mat ch. 5-7), Jesus expounded the Law, making following the letter of the Law much more difficult than His listeners imagined. Murder became not just the physical act of ending another human being’s life, but simply being angry with them as well (5:22). Merely looking at woman in a lustful fantasy is the same as adultery (5:28). Jesus forbade divorce (5:31-32), a practice allowed by Moses and continued to that day. Jesus commands us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (5:44). He demanded perfection in all of this from us (5:48).

Jesus’ own brother affirmed for us the importance of keeping the law. James wrote

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does. [Jms 1:22-25]

James also recognized the difficulties presented by the Law. He wrote that “. . . whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (2:10). As Paul asked the Galatians, “Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (Gal 3:3)

Paul answered for us how we are really to attain righteousness in God’s sight.

So, does that mean that the Old Testament is moot and now we only live by the New Testament?

Jesus said that “until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Mat 5:18). We are still bound by the Law, Jesus has made this very clear.

Paul went on to say this about the Law and God’s promise. We are free of the Law. James famously states, however, that “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (Jms 2:26).

Are, maybe, both of them right? Could we not obey the spirit of the Law without getting bogged down in the letter of it? Is that not a compromise that both Paul and James could live with, while still understanding the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:18? (see 2 Cor 3:6)

Living right, living by God’s standard, is outlined for us in the Old Testament. The New Testament states our salvation comes from faith in Jesus. The Old Testament now becomes our guide for living right by God’s standard. Good works are not what save us; they should flow naturally from our desire to live according to God’s Word.

Now, what about other passages that concern atheists, such as condoning slavery?

Glenn Miller from Christian Think Tank has answered the issue of slavery in the Old Testament times very well here, offering a comparison to our Western paradigm. In summary, “slavery” in the Old Testament is similar to an indentured servitude. Yes, the slave is property; so beatings are allowed as punishment. That was not outside of cultural norms of the day. What was outside the norms was calling it murder if the slave died as a result of the beatings. No one else cared enough to have that rule.

What is the difference if the slave dies a few days later versus immediately after? Well, in today’s world of modern forensics, we can actually prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone died as a result of a beating sustained months prior to the date of death. We’re looking at this passage from that point of view, through our modern eyeglasses. But, 4000 years ago, when this was written, no one would be able to tell with certainty that a beating that occurred a few days prior to the death was the actual cause of death or not. Understanding that, ask yourself if we would want to punish a person if we couldn’t be for certain that they were the criminal. Of course not!

The “slave” was usually a poor person who owed a rich person money. Instead of paying the rich person that money, that person offered himself as a worker for no salary until the debt was paid. This system existed in lieu of bankruptcy laws and debt collection agencies.

However, there should not be any poor among the Israelites (Deut 15:4). Therefore, invoking the laws our skeptical friends harp on would be the exception, not the rule!

It does not surprise me that the beating regulations are continuously harped upon by skeptics, since it makes Christians all over look bad. It also does not surprise me that one particular regulation is never cited by skeptics, because it is outside of the cultural norms of that day (for both slavery and indentured servitude). In fact, citing this regulation with the understanding that slavery was indentured servitude and was offered in payment of a debt completely destroys this charge against God’s word.

The passage in question:

At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts. This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel the loan he has made to his fellow Israelite. He shall not require payment from his fellow Israelite or brother, because the LORD’s time for canceling debts has been proclaimed. You may require payment from a foreigner, but you must cancel any debt your brother owes you. [Deut 15:1-3, emphasis added]

And:

If one of your countrymen becomes poor among you and sells himself to you, do not make him work as a slave. He is to be treated as a hired worker or a temporary resident among you; he is to work for you until the Year of Jubilee. Then he and his children are to be released, and he will go back to his own clan and to the property of his forefathers. Because the Israelites are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt, they must not be sold as slaves. Do not rule over them ruthlessly, but fear your God. [Deut 15:39-43, emphasis added]

Granted, this applies only to the Jewish people. Foreigners were a different animal altogether, and could be sold as slaves, treated as slaves, made slaves for life, and were not released in the Year of Jubilee. Until the apostle Paul gave the command that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).

Now we may apply the spirit of the passages freely to all. The Law itself still exists; it is the distinctions have passed away. And, since all of our sins will be forgiven by God if we seek true repentance (1 Jn 1:9), we need not obey anything by compulsion. We obey by choice the Laws contained in the Bible.

Under this new covenant, we are not granted the same enforcement power that the Jews had in Deuteronomy and Leviticus (Rom 12:19). This means that the penalties, steep as they are, are the sole domain of God. We exist to love and encourage our fellow man to obey the Law of God; we are not allowed to enforce that Law ourselves. This fact alone should render objections to the steep penalties obsolete.

Jesus made it clear that we are not allowed to pick and choose which rules we obey. God is now considered the only enforcer of the penalties since Jesus has made His intervention on behalf of humankind. This doesn’t mean that the Old Testament is irrelevant; it means that we are no longer compelled to obey it and that we have no ability to enforce the Law it contains. As followers of Christ, we choose to obey the spirit of each command and trust God, the Perfect Judge, to punish sinners as He sees appropriate. Since that could mean eternity in Hell, it is our duty from Christ Himself to preach His gospel to the world so that none will have to suffer that terrible fate (Mk 16:15; 2Pet 3:9).

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Entry filed under: Bible.

Proof #4: Think About Science Proof #6: Ponder God’s Plan

12 Comments

  • 1. Samuel Skinner  |  February 1, 2008 at 6:50 am

    Once again not a proof of god’s existance, just a rationalization. I’m curious though- why did god consider Jewish lives more valuable than all others? Isn’t that an example of the spirit contradicting itself.

    As for awe and the natural world- one it should awe everyone (obvious not happening) and two the natural world, if created, should reflect its creator (old roman arguement). After all when a man makes something it gives us insight into him, while god, infinitely more powerful, will not be constrained and will have his will and his personality (not sure if an all powerful would have a personality) inscribed in reality. That and medical knowledge would have been a great proof. Not to mention useful.

  • 2. Luke  |  June 13, 2008 at 5:59 am

    The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: Jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser, a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.
    -Richard Dawkins

    I agree with Dawkins there. When I read the Bible, I am left feeling nauseous. If you want me to go through all the ” shall be put to death” stuff that God says throughout the Bible, I will. One example is when someone (I forget the name) merely touches the ark of the covenant to prevent it from falling to the ground and God kills him on the spot. And let’s not forget the flood where God kills EVERYONE but a few people. Babies and all.
    Oh yeah, and then there’s Jesus himself promoting death in Luke 19:27: “But Those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.” That’s right. Jesus is saying “If you don’t want me to reign over you, then I’ll have you brought to me and killed while I watch.” That Jesus guy sure is loving, isn’t he?

    And I hate when people say “The old testament was fulfilled, and we don’t have to worry about it, or the OT doesn’t apply anymore.” The fact of the matter is that God said and did all of this stuff in the first place. What a great, loving being that God dude is. Just remember that the Gods act like the people who created them.

    And another thing about the Bible. The ancient Egyptians kept detailed records of their culture and history in tombs, in temples, and on pottery. Archaeologist experts have found absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Hebrew Jews lived as slaves in Egypt or of their exodus from Egypt. Also, not one shred of archaeological evidence exists for the existence of moses, nor the others in the main cast of Hebrew characters in the Bible.

    So not only am I nauseous when I read the Bible, but I’m left with more unanswered questions than answers. Not to mention not being able to believe it and trust it as proof of or evidence of a God and even of historical accuracy.

  • 3. White  |  July 1, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    Luke luke… ‘The God if the old Testament is the most unpleasant of all fiction…’ first of all, you’re saying the Bible is fiction -.- ANYWAY, you might think He’s jealous. but try calling someone else ‘Dad’ and rejecting your own dad, ooh suddenly if He’s unhappy its ‘ok’ huh.

  • 4. White  |  July 1, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    Well, maybe when you find evidence (real ones) that proofs that Hebrews are NOT slaves, then you comment again 😛

  • 5. Luke  |  July 7, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Luke luke… ‘The God if the old Testament is the most unpleasant of all fiction…’ first of all, you’re saying the Bible is fiction
    –Yes, the Bible is a great work of fiction except for very few historical references.

    ANYWAY, you might think He’s jealous. but try calling someone else ‘Dad’ and rejecting your own dad, ooh suddenly if He’s unhappy its ‘ok’ huh.
    –This statement is totally irrelevant as well as another horrible strawman. Why does God care if anyone rejects him? 2/3 of Earth rejects him over other Gods. To him, they’re just more people that are going to hell.

    Well, maybe when you find evidence (real ones) that proofs that Hebrews are NOT slaves, then you comment again
    –ROFL. So the only evidence of the Exodus and Hebrew Jews being slaves in Egypt is in the Bible? That is pretty laughable considering the Bible is so historically inaccurate in many many cases and hardly considered as legit history. If the main cast of people in the Bible, Hebrew Jews being slaves in Egypt, and the Exodus are so important, then why are they NOT mentioned ANYWHERE in secular history or other writings? As far as the real historical record goes, none of the main people in the Bible exist like Abraham, Moses, Noah, or King David. If you want conclusive proof of these events happening, and the existence of the people in the Bible, then you have to search OUTSIDE of Bible in the reality we call Earth.
    –So I’ll ask you: Where’s YOUR real proof that Hebrew Jews were slaves in Egypt? Where’s your proof that there was an Exodus of these Hebrew Jews from Egypt? Where’s your proof that anyone in the Bible even existed? Surely if these events were so important, there’d at least be REAL evidence for it outside of the one and only book that mentions these things and people. And yet you wonder why anyone would consider the Bible as fiction.

  • 6. White  |  July 8, 2008 at 5:34 am

    That just goes to show how unreliable science is right? -.- The ‘reliable sources’ i read says that the Bible is archeaogically accurate in every sense, but the ‘reliable sources’ you read says otherwise. What to believe? lol

    So what if i could prove there’s an exodus? You’re gonna say ‘That doesn’t prove god exists’ lol

    Oh and the ‘daddy’ thing is not an argument -.- God is heavenly Father. the only tangible father we have is out own daddy ^^ so really, try it on your own dad, and obviously he would be unhappy -.- my dad’s reaction might be even worse than God’s

  • 7. luke  |  July 8, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    The ‘reliable sources’ i read says that the Bible is archeaogically accurate in every sense, but the ‘reliable sources’ you read says otherwise. What to believe?
    —Your “reliable sources” are obviously blatantly lying. If not, then they’re hiding whatever it is that they “found,” because not even the Egyptians recorded Hebrew Jews being slaves or their Exodus. The story of the expulsion of the Hyksos is easily the closest parallel we have from either the Egyptian record or the archaeological record to the story of the Exodus as recorded in the Bible. There are problems, though. Besides the Exodus story line, the biggest problem is the dates: the Bible places the Exodus at about 1200 B.C.E., yet the story of the Hyksos culminates in 1570 B.C.E. It is quite likely that the story of the Hyksos is the story that eventually, through generations of revisionistic retelling, became the myth of the Exodus — another example of history being rewritten to flatter the storytellers rather than to record the unvarnished truth.

    http://www.bidstrup.com/bible.htm

    Oh and the ‘daddy’ thing is not an argument -.- God is heavenly Father. the only tangible father we have is out own daddy ^^ so really, try it on your own dad, and obviously he would be unhappy -.- my dad’s reaction might be even worse than God’s.
    –Yes, I know the “daddy” thing is not an argument. It’s nothing more than pointless dribble and a pathetic strawman that bears absolutely no meaning or value of anything that remotely establishes any kind of intelligent, valid point of whatever you’re trying to make here. Everyone is different. Test your mother. Test your grandparents or an aunt or an uncle in whatever way your talking about and you’ll come up with different results from each one. Some will be happy to oblige from your little “test,” while others won’t.

  • 8. White  |  July 10, 2008 at 4:17 am

    Well what if the exodus left no record behind? i dunno how that is possible, but it can be that the records were deleted out of shame of the Egyptians as they wanna seem strong or powerful or wadever… or that the records simply were not found. Yet. i can go go on rambling about stuff you won’t believe, but then again, i have to say that your source of science is weird.

    Stuff saying the Bible is right is ‘blatantly lying’. And yours is ‘the truth’. Well. Hmm. Ok…. lol

    I just heard a ‘reliable source’ saying that butter is healthier than margarine. Right.

    The daddy thing was just to explain to you why God doesn’t want us to test Him. Test any dad. i’m quite sure nearly all would be angry.

  • 9. Luke  |  July 10, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Well what if the exodus left no record behind? i dunno how that is possible
    –Neither do I if it’s supposed to be such an important historical event. Unless of course it’s complete fiction, which would make complete sense for many reasons.

    it can be that the records were deleted out of shame of the Egyptians as they wanna seem strong or powerful or wadever…
    —Or that the Hebrews wanted to seem strong and powerful and devised and exaggerated some wild fantastical fairy tale. People tend to do that to glorify themselves, their people, their Gods, and their cultures.

    or that the records simply were not found.
    –Or that there aren’t any records to be found because they don’t exist anywhere but in the Bible.

  • 10. Mark  |  July 10, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    How, exactly, would slaves walking around in a desert leave a record?

  • 11. Luke  |  July 16, 2008 at 11:49 am

    How, exactly, would slaves walking around in a desert leave a record?
    –Archaeological evidence like physical remains of bodies or supplies. With 40,000 people wandering around in the desert for so long, people were bound to die by starvation or thirst and leave their belongings behind. There would have been other writings as well by either secular historians or maybe some carvings like the Egyptians. Instead, there is this one scroll with the Exodus story on it with no other conclusive evidence of the same story left behind anywhere else in the area by other writings or archaeological evidence supporting it.

  • 12. Anti-Devil  |  July 28, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    Luke,u think they are dinosaurs?I walked past a park today,how does it leave a record?Archaelogical evidence like physical remains of bodies or supplies?


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