Note: Edited with additional comments July 22, 2009.
Here is something I’ve been stewing over the last couple weeks as the God question, and my response to it, has apparently stirred the waters enough to compel quite a number of folks to pen their own stories and their reasons for belief to me. They all can be read as you scroll down to the bottom of the above link.
The question is this: What would compel me, specifically, and others, I would dare say, to be more inclined to believe the claims of the Bible. To begin, Dan Barker, a former pastor and sold-out Christian, in his book, “Godless,” used a telling quote from Mark Twain in chapter 13 of his book:
It ain’t those parts of the bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.
Ain’t it the truth! From Barker, briefly, here are a few points:
Should we kill? Exodus 20:13 of the Ten Commandments says no (So does Leviticus 24:17), while Exodus 32:27; 1 Samuel 6:19; 1 Samuel 15:2, 3, 7, 8; Numbers 15:36; Hosea 13:16 recounted where either the Lord or the people of Israel ordered or ordered to put folks to the sword or “dasheth thy little ones upon the stones,” and in many cases, many, many folks.
Does God change his mind? Nay: Malachi 3:6, Numbers 23:19, Ezekial 24:14, James 1:17 versus the Yays, Exodus 32:14, Jonah 3:10, Genesis 18: 23-33, where God changes his mind about how many of the righteous are required before he will destroy the city. God bargained with Abraham from 50 to 10. Notes Barker: “An omniscient God must have known that he was playing with Abraham’s hopes for mercy — he (God) destroyed the city anyway.”
Is God good or evil? Yes: Psalm 145:9, Deuteronomy 32:4; Nay: Isaiah 45:7, Jeremiah 18:11
When was Jesus born? Matthew 2:1 says that it was before 4 B.C.E.: “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king …” (Herod died in 4 B.C.E., as Barker notes); versus, Luke 2:1-4, which suggests after 6 C.E. For more on this point, see this link.
When was Jesus crucified? Mark 15:25 versus John 19:14-15. Notes Barker, “It is an ad hoc defense to claim that there are two methods of reckoning time here. It has never been shown that this is the case.”
How many animals on the ark? Genesis 6:19 versus Genesis 7:2.
I could go on, but you get the picture. One commentator to my earlier post said that once I seriously investigated the Bible and asked for God’s guidance, that these and other “contradictions” (He put it in quotes) would be reconciled. Very well and invite that day, but as of now, there are serious questions. I said at the beginning that I had been thinking of a way that God could have possibly saved folks like me, who are bothered by contradictory details, a lot of trouble. And here it is:
A GOD-AUTHORED BIBLE, FOR REAL THIS TIME
How about this? God created the entire cosmos in six days, correct? If so, this request should have been a piece of cake. For God to make a better case for himself, he should simply have authored the entire Bible himself, not through human vessels, but literally before he created anything. In that expanse before creation that was filled only by himself, he could have easily created out of thin air a pen and notepad. He could have easily penned the Bible as he would have written it in 200-plus translations, including Greek, ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin, French, German, Old English, modern English, Spanish, Swedish, Mandarin, Russian, Japanese, Yiddish, etc. For later generations, he could have easily created a computer and created for modern people any number of cassette tapes, 8-tracks, CDs, Blu-ray discs or any other medium of communication that would have been invented in the future containing either audio of “his word” or text documents of his word. Or one step further: Why bother with inventing anything to then physically go about the tedious routine of writing? Since he’s God, he could have simply spoken the entire thing into existence right then and there off the top of his head.
Since he is omniscient, he could have easily given us accurate, non-contradictory accounts of every single event in history up until a certain period in which he deemed fit, including spot-on, non-contradictory accounts of every event mentioned in the Bible. He could deliver this “true” account to mankind, at, say, 40 A.D. after Christ’s crucifixion and then deliver the same account to each generation hence so that every generation would have the current word from God. And since he is also all-powerful, he could have also made darn-well sure that the accounts he authored would not be corrupted, edited, changed, or restructured by the church.
Now, if we had such an account today that contained zero, not one, self-contradiction (and this would be possible for an omniscient, all-powerful god), I confess that I would be more inclined to believe. But as it stands, how could God, who was supposedly attempting to deliver the most important message humankind will ever hear in its existence, let his word pass into human hands? The first word that we have of the current canon is from Athanasius, the Bishop of Alexandria, Egypt in 367 C.E., as it appears today:
By the time of Athanasius, or shortly before, the church had reached an informal consensus about most of the writings to be included in the ‘New’ Testament. — Roy W. Hoover, “How the Canon Was Formed”
So, the structure of the current Bible that we have is far from God-breathed in so much that it was physically authored by men and arranged by men. Believers will obviously say it was inspired by God. But this does us no good. If a fellow named Luke, a true believer, composed a book today and called it God’s 21st Century Epistle and in its pages claimed that it was the inspired word from God for modern man, would we not question its authenticity? Then why do we not question the authenticity of books written thousands of years ago by folks supposedly from Bronze Age Mesopotamia?
And further, who were these folks that had the authority to decide which books made it in and which books were heresy? Who gave them that authority? Again, I could claim the same authority to again arrange them as I was inspired by God, or author a new one, but many would be quick to call foul (Thomas Jefferson, not necessarily on God’s authority, did something similar, which came to be called the Jefferson Bible). Thus, the current Bible could have been improved with an actual, true to life, word from God. If it were so important that we believe, either in him or in Christ, or both, shouldn’t he have given us more? I envision such a statement as a possible preface to a truly God-authored Bible compiled, not by men, but by God himself. To begin, it would read:
My sons and daughters,
These are my words, the history of man, my instructions for living your lives and my prophecies concerning the end times. Do not edit, rearrange, redact or in anyway alter these words. These are the words from the Lord your God in which you must keep for all times.
But we don’t have such a record, do we? We have the Bible which is unquestionably flawed, and I’ve proven that point repeatably, and can go even further. Again, if we had a document straight from God with zero snafus, for real, I would be less inclined to poise any questions about its validity. To add something here: Even if we had such a book, the need for faith would not be erased. Even if God physically and literally intervened in human affairs today, this would still not erase the need for faith. We see this in numerous places in the Bible, where men saw wondrous things with their own eyes, and once the miracle was complete, fell back into doubt. The Israelites had vast reasons to believe, didn’t they? But they continually fell back into idol worship. So, I don’t believe this request would have been too much to ask, but this isn’t the document in front of us.