Faith-killing questions from the trenches, and answers
- “There is no scientific evidence whatsoever of any miracles ever actually occurring.”
- “The Jesus story just is an accumulation of myths of legendary people, all rolled into one über nice guy.”
- “Science and faith are incompatible ways of thinking. Separate realms that should be kept separate.”
- “The history of science is the story of one religious superstition after another being eradicated by reason and logic.”
- “The Bible is a translation of a translation of tales cobbled together by Constantine in 300AD.”
- “St. Paul invented Christianity by making a nice rabbi named Jesus into a god.”
- “Evolution disproves God.”
- “In their arrogant superiority, Christians think everybody else is going to burn in hell for all eternity.”
- “The Bible is riddled with contradictions and therefore cannot be the perfect word of God.”
- “More people have been killed in the name of religion than any other cause in the history of the world.”
This story starts with my brother Bryan, a tough-questions seminary student. He got a Masters degree in theology at a very conservative seminary where they work them real good, and he toed the line and he learned all the stuff that he’s supposed to learn, and he moved to China.
He’s in China for a couple of years and he basically turned into an agnostic and came within spitting distance of becoming an atheist, which really shook me up.
Bryan is a very smart guy, and one of the questions that he asked was this.
He goes, “Okay, Perry, I’ve been to seminary. I know Greek, I know Hebrew, I know Aramaic, and when I read the New Testament I do not see any reason whatsoever from the text why we should not have miracles today. So where are they?
And I’m like, “Uh…let me ask my sales manager and get back to you.” I hate it when people ask ‘elephant in the room’ questions.
Now, if you’ve been in any strand of Christianity for any length of time, you will encounter miracle stories. For example, “We prayed for my sister Debbie and she had cancer, and all of a sudden she didn’t have cancer anymore.”
Every now and then, I don’t care where you are in Christianity, you will hear those. I’ve heard a few of them, but I was in very short supply of such stories and I hadn’t thought about it much. I had always been taught that those miracles went away and they either don’t exist anymore, or at least never happen “on command.”
And Bryan’s cutting to the chase; he’s like, “Well, I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t.” And I knew he was right. So what’s the deal? Let’s start in on this.
I went looking and I’ll teII you that one interesting book that I found along the way was by Richard Casdorph, who is a medical doctor. He wrote a book in the 1970s called Real Miracles. This is an older version of the book. It’s called, The Miracles – A Medical Doctor Says Yes to Miracles.
What this guy did was there was this lady back in the 1970s named Catherine Kuhlman and she would do these healing services. He followed her around and he documented what happened to these people. He documented the “before” and the “after” and he did so with X-rays, medical reports, letters from doctors, all of that kind of stuff. This book is 10 case studies. I’ll tell you what some of the chapter names are:
- Malignant Brain Tumor
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Atherosclerotic Heart Disease
- Carcinoma of the Kidney
- Mixed Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis
And he goes through, one by one, with X-rays, doctor’s reports and everything and says, “This guy had this before and it’s gone now. Here’s the X-ray, here’s the letter from the doctor, and there it is.” This is not by any means the only such book, but they exist.
Another example of this is God and The Sun at Fatima. Catholics will know what Fatima is (probably most Protestants won’t) but I think back somewhere around 1913, just before World War I, some children were playing and they had a vision of the Virgin Mary. She said that something really amazing is going to happen here at this certain date and they told everybody. Everybody showed up and they all saw it.
This book is by Stanley Jaki, who is a physicist and a Catholic priest and a science historian. He goes into 360 pages of interviewing people and documenting all this. This is as close as you can get to a scientific investigation of a miracle.
Another book that I ran across that I found real interesting that isn’t really about miracles but is about the metaphysical world is called Margins of Reality, by Robert Jahn and Brenda Dunne.
They worked at the Princeton University Engineering Anomalies Research Lab. The lab was closed in 2007, but for almost 30 years there was a lab at Princeton and they would investigate paranormal phenomena. And they proved to five 9’s of statistical confidence (that’s almost six Sigma) that people could deflect falling objects by concentrating. They proved that they could send and receive telepathic messages.
Now, most of the scientific community does not know what to do with this stuff. It freaks them out, but it’s there. This is a fascinating book. So I started investigating this, and I also started looking for personal experiences.
A couple of years ago I was in India with my friend, Jeremy. He has spent a lot of time doing healing and practicing Biblical healing. We were at a little church service and Jeremy goes up to the pastor and says, “Tell these people that if they want healing prayer at the end of the service, I’ll pray for them.” So the pastor tells all the people and everyone was like, “Well, okay, I’ll go over there!”
Jeremy was like, “Perry, Perry, come over here and help me!” I’d never done this before. There was a woman whose whole left arm was paralyzed. She had had brain surgery a year and a half before. She had an indentation in her head from the surgery. She had been having seizures ever since the surgery and she had no feeling in her left arm. She wanted us to pray for her.
So Jeremy’s like, “Okay, Perry, start praising God, start praying for this lady!”
I’m like, “Okay, me Robin, you Batman, I’ll do whatever you tell me to do,” and we started praying. He would poke her on the hand – “Can you feel that?”
“No, can’t feel that.”
He’d pray some more and ask, “Can you feel that?”
“I’m starting to feel something!” So he would pray some more and at the end of 20 minutes, all the feeling was back in her left arm. She was so excited, she didn’t know what to do with herself.
A guy came in with a broken wrist, holding it like that; by the end, he was jumping up and down, he was so excited.
There was another lady who had a severe shoulder injury and she couldn’t move her shoulder past about here. I put my arm on her shoulder and I could feel this crunching going on in her shoulder and we prayed for her for about 30 minutes. The crunching was all gone and she was moving her shoulder and she was all excited.
Then I go home and I’m like, “I wonder if this actually stuck. I wonder if it did.” So I emailed this guy and I asked him, “How are these people doing, anyway?”
He said, “In the glorious name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Mr. Perry Marshall, I am so excited to tell you, they are telling everybody they can’t wait for you to come back!”
I said, “Wow, this is great!”
Now, I’ve got to cover 10 of these things in 50 minutes, which is kind of insane, so I don’t have time to go any more. The church that I attend, a Vineyard Church, we practice this.
I of all people know what it’s like to sit here and pray for someone and go, “I feel really stupid! What if this doesn’t work?” You know, sometimes there’s no obvious result, but sometimes there is. You know what? It’s less risky than going to the emergency room.
I have a few friends who actually go to the emergency room every Tuesday night and they pray for people, and trippy stuff happens sometimes. If you want to read some more of these stories, go here. You can read the whole India story in more detail.
This brings up another thing. You know a lot of the people talk about Christians living by faith. Well, I totally understand and agree with that, but I also think that as you mature as a Christian, you live more and more by experience. That faith leads to results which gives you experience, and there’s kind of an upwards spiral and it’s not just like, “Well, you know, life is miserable, but by and by in the sky, someday God’s going to make the world a better place.”
No, it can be now. I think the Kingdom of God is now. I think a lot of Christians kind of have this, “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to the higher gifts, and I guess the question that I’d like to raise for people that want to take that approach is, well, if we took the New Testament and took all of the miracle stories out, what would we have left?
I think my brother was right. I don’t see any place in this book that says these miracles are supposed to stop. There’s a little challenge for you on that.
Note: For more information on documented healing events, see my extensive article on miracles which includes videos of live healings taking place, links to mainstream media coverage and recent reports in scientific journals. Read and watch here.
Let me expand on that a little bit. People say, “The God and the Jesus that Christians worship today are actually amalgams formed out of ancient pagan gods. The idea of a virgin birth, a burial in a rock tomb, a resurrection after three days, eating a body, drinking blood, had nothing to do with Jesus.
“All those things were already in other myths and legends before that, so they just took them all and they kind of rolled them into these Jesus stories. So Christianity is a snowball that rolled over a dozen pagan religions and as the snowball grew, it freely attached pagan rituals in order to be more palatable to converts.”
By the way, I got this verbatim from an email that a guy sent me, so I just went and fished one up, and there you go. This is a very common thing. Well, I would like to reduce this to a question, so let’s look at the logical question behind the question.
I think the question is this:
“If a myth precedes a fact, does that make the fact a myth? Does it logically follow?”
Well, let’s take 9/11 as an example. On 9/11/01, as we all know, two planes flew into the Twin Towers. The Last Jihad by Joel Rosenberg, on the first page puts readers into the cockpit of a hijacked jet, on a kamikaze mission into an American city, but it was written nine months before 9/11.
Does that make 9/11 a myth? Or how about Debt of Honor by Tom Clancy. 1996 – a Japanese 747 crashes into the Capitol, killing most of the top functionaries in the U.S. government.
Or here’s a good one – The Lone Gunman TV series. The pilot episode was about an attempt to crash an airliner into the World Trade Center. It was a government conspiracy to increase defense spending by making it look like a terrorist attack. It aired in March 2001.
So the next time someone tells you that Jesus was a myth, ask them this question: “Name one other resurrection story that stuck. Just one.” I don’t know of any. I think there’s a reason for that.
3. “Science and faith are incompatible ways of thinking. They are separate realms that should be kept separate.”
I’ll tell you a little story. Back in the early 20th century there was a great deal of optimism in the mathematical profession that we were closing in on a theory of everything. What mathematicians were looking for was a set of constructions that made all of the propositions of mathematics form a nice, tidy, complete circle.
Let me explain what I mean by this. How many of you took high school geometry and it was stuff like, “This triangle has three equal sides; therefore, it is an Equilateral triangle.” And then you do all these proofs and you work all this logic from it.
Well, if you take that high school geometry book, there are always four or five things that the book starts with as premises that everybody knows are true but no mathematician has ever been able to prove are true.
For example, “We know this is true, no one has ever been able to prove it. We know it’s true because it works and it’s all consistent, but we can’t prove it.” And they were like, “Someday we’re gonna prove it!”
Well, in 1931 a guy named Kurt Gödel proved that it would never happen. And actually, I think that Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem is just as important as Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Most people have never heard of it, but let me explain what his Incompleteness Theorem says.
This is the kindergarten version. It says, “Anything you can draw a circle around requires something on the outside to explain it, which you cannot prove.” This applies to everything. It applies to a bicycle; if you build a bicycle, the fact that it’s there relies on something outside of the bicycle.
It’s true of a geometry book, a software program, the English language, or the universe. Gödel’s Theorem was a crushing blow to mathematicians. It was as if they realized, “You mean, we’re never going to make everything flow into a perfect circle?” No. Can’t be done.
Actually, the universe is like an MC Escher painting where you climb up the steps and all of a sudden you’re at the bottom again. There’s a book called Gödel Escher Bach, which takes Gödel’s Theorem, Escher’s paintings, and Bach’s music and shows how they’re all basically the same.
For instance, in Bach’s music the notes escalate and they go up and up and somehow all of a sudden it starts with bass notes again and you didn’t even notice. What does this have to do with the question, “Science and faith are incompatible ways of thinking”?
Gödel’s Theorem says that you cannot do science without faith; it’s impossible. You start with a fact – “I know this because of this, and I know this because of this,” you always go back to some fact that you can’t prove.
Now, what does science do? Science says, “If I drop this cup from my hand onto the ground, it’s going to fall every time. Only past experience shows that to be true. I cannot prove that it’s going to fall again. I always have to rely on some assumption that I can’t prove in science.”
One little extra thing I want to throw in here; the statement that, “Science and faith are incompatible ways of thinking, separate ways of thinking that should be kept separate,” is that a scientific statement?
No, it’s a philosophical statement.
Even a statement about keeping science and philosophy separate requires philosophy. And the statement itself presumes that philosophy gets to say something about science.
That’s exactly what Gödel was talking about.
I’ve written a much more thorough treatment of Gödel’s Incompleteness theorem here: http://www.cosmicfingerprints.com/blog/incompleteness/
I want you to think about something:
Where did science come from?
If you study the history of science, you’ll find out that it got started in Greece and didn’t go anywhere. It got started in Rome and it fizzled out and didn’t go anywhere. It got started in ancient Egypt and in China – didn’t really go anywhere there either. It got started in Islam, and every time in those places, it stalled.
Why did it succeed in Europe after failing everywhere else? We all know it launched there and took off like a rocket.
Here’s why I think it happened. In the Apocrypha, the part of the Bible that the Catholics read and the Protestants don’t, Wisdom of Solomon 11:21 says:
“Thou hast ordered all things in weight and number and measure.”
I submit to you that this verse is where science started. That all things are weigh-able, measurable and countable. That there’s a systematic explanation for what goes on in the universe. So far as I know, no one else in the ancient world made a more definite statement about science than Solomon did right here.
Western Christianity believed that the universe was governed by fixed, discoverable laws, and that’s what gave birth to science. The reason that science succeeded in the West and failed in all those other places was that in all those other places, there was no theological basis to believe this.
If you believe that it rained today because Zeus is in a snit with Apollo, how are you going to come up with a systematic explanation that doesn’t invoke some kind of arbitrary, whimsical source?
Christian theology believed that God could create the world and then on the seventh day that He could rest and the universe would continue to do what He told it to do. Therefore, the great scientists viewed the study of science as a way of studying the mind of God.
I would rewrite the question to say this: “The history of science is a story of faith in a harmonious universe being rewarded in weight, number, and measure.”
1,000 years ago you couldn’t take that for granted. Now we all take it for granted, because we figured it out.
5. “The Bible is a translation of a translation of tales cobbled together by Constantine in 300 AD.”
People make a lot out of this. Constantine got everybody together and they hammered out what they agreed was going to be the Bible. “You know, we just don’t buy these books, we’re going to keep them.” A lot of people have this idea that this is when the Bible that we have today came to exist.
I want to show you a book that will correct that notion. This is called Faith of the Early Fathers by Jurgens. I have to mention here that this is another Catholic book. I was raised Protestant. I was a preacher’s kid. We were uber-studious Protestants. We took ourselves real seriously. Some of you know what I’m talking about – “Oh, that kind…starchy!”
We thought that Catholics were bad people. You know, “Go tell them how bad they are!” Well, then I grew up and my brother-in-law, Alan, studies church history. He gets a Ph.D. in church history at Iowa State, not some conservative place.
He went to Iowa State because they had the biggest and best library he could find on church history.
It turned out that most of his professors were atheists. To get a dissertation pushed through these guys was a Herculean task. But he and I would talk about theological stuff, and it was kind of funny because every time I would raise some theological question, he would always say something like, “Well, yeah, the first people to probe that question in detail were the monks in Western Italy in 800 AD and what they said was…” and he’d go off on something.
Anything you could come up with, someone had already thought about it and written about 1,200 books on it. I thought Christianity started all over again with Martin Luther after this burned-out period…oh, come on! Heavens, no.
So this is a Catholic book. I have great respect for Catholics and Catholic theologians and all that. I know somebody will probably want to get in a fist fight about that with me at the end, but I’m telling you anyway.
This book is a collection of all of the earliest writings, and actually there’s three of them. I just brought the first one. It starts at about 80 AD and it’s letters from all these guys that ran churches. Letters from pastors to their congregations, and letters to disciples from their mentors, and it ends somewhere around St. Hilaire of Poitier and St. Cyril of Jerusalem. I don’t know what year this was, probably about 400-500 AD, and it starts at 80.
It goes in order, so you can read 80 AD and then you can read 110 AD and then you can read 125 AD and 300 AD and so forth. In every chapter there are footnotes of the Bible verses they’re quoting. It’s exactly the same.
Pastor Bill Hybels at Willow Creek could use this to preach a sermon out of any page in this book and it would be just fine. It would be scriptural and it would be original Christianity, no different than we have today. Most of these early letters sound an awful lot like the New Testament letters that Paul wrote.
Anyone that tells you that Christianity started in 300 AD is just as ridiculous as saying it started in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door.
Obviously, the book that I just talked to you about does speak to that, because you can go all the way back to 80 AD and you have a whole body of literature that’s already telling a consistent story.
What’s usually said is that Paul wrote his letters in 40-50 AD and the Gospels were written in 60 – 90 AD and that’s too long. All of these myths would have accrued, so yes, Jesus was probably just this radical guy and he had these radical teachings and then they wanted him to be God and so they made the story about Him being God, and the people were so desperate and oppressed by the Romans that they found it believable – well, let’s do a comparison.
Paul Tibbetts was the pilot of the Enola Gay, which was the plane that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima in 1945. He wrote a book in 1998, shortly before he died, called Return of the Enola Gay. How many years after 1945 is that? Fifty-three years after the bomb was dropped.
I found this book at my father-in-law’s house because he’s into World War II. You go over there and he always has The History Channel on. I started thumbing through this book, and the reason Tibbetts wrote the book was to correct revisionist history.
Revisionist history said, “If we had just been a little nicer to the Japanese, we should have just gone over there and talked to them, and they would’ve…”
Tibbetts is saying, “No! Let’s get this straight.” He goes into extensive detail about the political situation and all this stuff that was going on behind the scenes. He tells what it was like to get in that plane, what it was like to let the bomb loose and go into a 135 degree angle and feel the shock wave from the bomb and the brilliant flash of light and think, “Oh my word, what did I just do?” and all that.
Now, does anybody doubt that his autobiography tells you more or less accurately what happened? Is anybody going to reasonably doubt that he doesn’t remember what happened, 53 years later? I don’t think so!
So if Jesus died in 33, what’s 53 years out from 33 – isn’t that 86? That’s like getting to the outside limit of when they said the Gospels were written.
Is there any reason to think that the Gospels were any less reliable?
Considering there are four of them and considering they don’t all perfectly line up or quote everybody verbatim the same way, they don’t all tell stories the same way – four independent accounts – can anyone reasonably think that the Gospels are any less reliable than his story? I don’t think so.
And if you compare it to other things in history, a lot of those things were written even further after the fact than that. I would like to point to the consistency of early teachings about Jesus and raise the question: Why do substantially different teachings about Jesus only appear after 150-200 years? Isn’t that kind of what you would expect?
That’s a good one. I like that one. I have a question for you. Who knows what that is? DOS – how many of you have used DOS somewhere in your early childhood? This is a screenshot of DOS 3.0, 3.3, which is about 1985. You all remember DOS:
C:> dir /w
C:> format c:
When you tried to format the hard drive, did it say “Are you sure?” I don’t remember. Early versions did.
Now here we have Windows XP with Internet Explorer, which is about 2005. Let me ask you a question: let’s say that DOS never got modified by the guys in Redmond, Washington and it evolved into Windows XP all by itself.
Imagine that DOS adapted, that it had a capability built in to where it would sense that it needed an Internet connection and it needed a web browser and it needed Outlook, and that it needed a mouse and updates and antivirus software. And let’s say that it would rearrange its code and then test different versions with some version of natural selection until the pieces started to work.
Did that happen? No. If DOS had actually evolved all by itself, off without any exterior tampering, tinkering or code writing from any software engineers, and it had just done that, would you be more or less impressed with the person who wrote the first DOS program?
You would go, “How did you do that?” You could go to China and for $2 you can buy a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of Windows. All those versions, especially the ones in China, they don’t have the little 3D thing on them. It’s grey and it has Magic Marker on it ‘Windows XP’.
Now, the copies of copies of copies of copies, they all had mutations, didn’t they? And the marketplace had a chance to select them. Does anyone know of copies of Windows that were better because of the mutations?
Now, I just tried to apply the usual theory of evolution to DOS and everybody got a chuckle out of it. First of all, everything that evolves that we have any experience with, evolves because of some ability to do so or some kind of design or something acting upon it.
At the very least, if we’re going to even imagine that DOS could have evolved into Windows XP, we have to imagine that it has some kind of special program inside that’s ready and willing to rearrange all the pieces.
You know what? I am totally open to the possibility that God planted a cell in the ocean and that cell had some kind of magnificent program that could eventually evolve into everything that’s on Planet Earth. I am open to that.
And if that happened, then God is even more impressive than the version of God that says, “Well, OK, now we need apes, so let’s put an ape there, and now we need people, so let’s put a person there..”
I’m not trying to get into some debate about Genesis 1; this is simply an engineering argument. If evolution is true, then God is even more impressive than they thought God was before anyone thought of evolution!
8. “In their arrogant superiority, Christians think everybody else is going to burn in hell for all eternity.”
Let’s get the most riling questions out on the table. I want to point some scriptures out to you. Little things are kind of tucked in there that are easy to miss.
John 15:22 – Jesus says, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin.” Hmm, that’s interesting.
Luke 11:30 – Jesus said, “The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom and now one greater than Solomon is here.”
Let’s look at this again. “The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them” – so what does this tell you about judgment? This isn’t like some cowering guy staring at God, getting pounded; this is anybody who has anything to say about what he knew, didn’t know, did and what he did not do, and what they did perhaps in a comparable situation.
Let’s look at this one. Matthew 11:21 – “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.”
Well? That’s a statement about two people, now, isn’t it? “Tyre and Sidon would have believed if they had Me.” Do you think that gets taken into consideration? I think so.
Acts 17:29 – Paul refers to idol worship and he says, “In the past, God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent.”
Now, this always comes up, somebody always says, “Well, what about the guy in Africa that never heard about Jesus?” They’re like, “I have to get this guy figured out before I decide if I’m going to go for this Jesus thing. I’m not sure if this is fair. I think this is all a setup. What about all these people?”
Here’s my concern: If you’re that guy, I’m not real worried about him. Not that the missionaries shouldn’t go talk to him and all that. In the Great Commission – “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” – God told us to do that for a reason.
This is just my opinion, but I suspect that guy in Africa, he has no missionary, Bible, or anything, I think if he looks up in the sky and goes, “Somebody made all this, whoever You are, I’d like to know you,” I think God can respect that prayer.
What I’m concerned about is that guy will rise up in the judgment and testify against the guy who used him as an excuse. If you look at all of these verses, the theme is, “Hey, guys, you knew an awful lot. What did you do with it?”
“If Tyre and Sidon had seen what you have seen, they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes.” The people he was talking to saw a lot. They saw the dead raised, they saw the blind see.
9. “The Bible is riddled with contradictions and therefore cannot be the perfect word of God.”
I’m going to take an interesting approach with this. I brought with me three different versions of the Bible. I’ve got a King James New Testament, a New Living Translation Bible and a New American Standard. I could have brought an NIV, but all you guys probably have one, because that’s kind of the popular Bible translation.
Do they all read the same? No.
I had to sign this thing before I came that I understood that Willow Creek has a doctrinal statement. One of the things in the thing that I had to sign was that I understand that Willow Creek says that the scriptures are inerrant in their original writings. That’s a very common thing that you’ll find in the Protestant church, that scriptures are inerrant in their original writings.
Do we have the originals? No. What we have are thousands of Greek manuscripts and there are slight differences with some of them. You could make a whole little tree of this copying error and that. You could put it all together and we could open all three of these Bibles up to John 5 or Ezekiel 34 or Revelation 12 or any book and we could read them side by side.
And rather than getting 12 decimal places of precision, I think what we get is more like there’s an outer edge on one side or the other on how you can interpret something, and then there’s something sort of in the middle.
Maybe the King James seems to be here and maybe the NIV seems to be here, and maybe the Catholic Bible seems to be here. But they’re all kind of within this range of variation. So there’s some wiggle room, not like 12 decimals of precision, but more like maybe two.
No matter what Bible you read, did Jesus rise from the dead in all of them? Is adultery a sin in all of them? Is it not all right to lie, cheat, and steal in all of them? Is there a debate between predestination and free will in all of them? Yes.
I had this realization one day; “Hey, wait a minute! I don’t have to sit here and nitpick every last verse that some skeptic wants to pick a fight with me about and make me explain everything that doesn’t quite seem to fit together, because you know what? This is like a puzzle that you’re trying to put together and some of the edges are fuzzy and I can’t put it perfectly together. And that’s all right.”
I was emailing back and forth with an atheist and he’s quibbling about the different tomb stories of the Resurrection. I don’t think they contradict each other, but in order to make them fit, you have to make a couple of assumptions before they fit.
He’s trying to duke it out and I said, “I don’t feel like defending the idea that the Bible is infallible. I’ll just say for today that I have four stories that were pretty close! So what do you think?”
He didn’t know what to do.
I said, “Well, Jesus died on the cross, you are a sinner, God created the world, 12 disciples went out and preached. The story’s pretty clear. How many of these little nit picky things from the New Testament that you brought up because you found them on some website do you have to get all straight before you get the big picture here?”
Try this on for size; the Bible is the word of God with a lower case w. But if we’re going to use a capital W, what is the Word of God? Jesus! Jesus is the Word of God. The Bible is the written testimony, inspired by the Holy Spirit, testifying to the Word of God. There’s a verse that says, “No one can confess Jesus Christ is Lord apart from the Holy Spirit.”
Let’s not put the Bible above the Holy Spirit.
You realize if you want to sort out all those puzzle pieces, you need the Holy Spirit to help you do it. And a person who does not have the Holy Spirit is not even going to be willing to do that. That’s why they’re arguing with you.
So when I get in these debates, I say, “Let’s just assume that this is like any other piece of history. Someone wrote it down as best they could, and here we have it. Let’s make a judgment from what’s in front of us. So what do you think?”
Did they just make all this up? Like perhaps, Jesus didn’t really die; they pried him off the cross and he was almost dead and then he was in the tomb, and people in the Middle East had these clever ways of reviving almost dead people and then he popped out. He looked so good, he looked like Superman, and everybody said, “Wow! You’re the Son of God!” Yeah, that’s what happened! Sure, that’s what happened!
Guys that are pulled off crosses when they’re almost dead always inspire people three days later to like change the world! That’s what happened!
Sorry, I’m getting a little sidetracked… here’s a fun one:
Let me show you a book, called The Black Book of Communism. How many of you think this is cheery? Oh, yeah, if you’re feeling a little too good today, just read this one. This book documents the genocide of 160 million people in the 20th century alone – mostly by atheist governments.
Remember the Cultural Revolution under Chairman Mao? Well, that was a great period in China’s history, wasn’t it? How about Stalin? Oh boy, Stalin loved children. Yep, that guy just loved puppy dogs and children. He was such a nice man. 160 million people! Do you realize that’s more people than all the religious wars of the whole history of the world put together?
Some people say, “Well, it was just a coincidence that they were atheists.” All right, well, you can believe whatever you want to believe, but there does seem to be a correlation. Let’s recognize the question behind the question.
First of all, I don’t think you can overstate just how dangerous a worldview atheism actually is. I’m sure there are atheists here, and I’m glad that you’re here and you’re welcome.
When my brother slid into his faith crisis, I wanted to argue with him and he wouldn’t; and I’m not sure that would have been the healthiest thing if we had argued. I think it was probably a good idea that he declined, but I was ready to go. In truth, he was dragging me with him. I was scared because he was raising all kinds of questions.
I started going to Willow Creek 15 years ago and I started leading Seeker Small Groups. Those groups are where people who do not necessarily believe the Bible or Christianity get together at a table, and so every other Sunday for a couple of years I got seekers in there pummeling me with questions, and I thought I’d heard everything. Well, when Bryan and the Internet came along, I had no longer seen everything!
It was intense. Bryan was asking all kinds of penetrating questions and I was going to all these websites and it was like walking into machine gun fire. One of the things that I did was decide that I had to duke this out. So I started this website, www.CoffeehouseTheology.com, and it has emails that you can sign up for and see what it’s all about, if you like. If people replied to the emails, the emails came back to me.
The reason I did that was that I wanted to know if enough people came through the website and sent me emails, if Christianity cannot stand up to the test, I was going to find out! I decided that I was going to take everyone on and I was going to see if someone can punch a hole in this thing. And there were some scary moments. I was like, “Oh my goodness, these are big questions!”
I probably answered 10,000 emails during the last 6 years. There have been a LOT of people and a lot of conversations. The first thing I’ll tell you is that nobody’s punched a hole in Christianity. I think it stands up very well. If you have a question, there’s a book or website or something that has a good answer to it.
Here’s the other thing; nobody comes out swinging like the new breed of atheist like followers of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and all of those guys. These guys are furious! People talk about Muslims being extreme? Well, I get emails from a lot of Muslims and none of them come out swinging like the atheists do. They’re angry. And Richard Dawkins says things like, “Teaching your children that there is a God who would reward or punish you, people that do that are worse than child molesters.” That’s what he says.
It’s a war. What’s the track record? 160 million dead people. Now, this is not a battle of guns, because the pen is mightier than the sword. This is a battle of the pen. This is a battle of truth and belief systems. I think Christians have a moral obligation to know what’s going on, because if you don’t know what’s going on, you’ll get picked off by a skeptic.
The reason we have science today is because Christianity said there is a logical rational universe that was designed by an intelligent Creator. And the reason we have democracy is because Paul said, “There is neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek, slave nor free; all are equal in Christ Jesus.”
The most cherished Western values come from Christianity. Don’t surrender them to someone who has an axe to grind.