Is God (If He Exists) Worthy of Worship?
[Introduction - In a written discussion several years ago with a Mr. Keller (a Lutheran of the fundamentalist persuasion), I had referred to God as a “vicious Warlord.” Mr. Keller, being the devout Christian that he is, attempted to set me straight by sending me a copy of a section of Lee Strobel’s “A Case For Faith” which dealt with the subject of God’s cruelty, or lack thereof. This section was presented in the form of an interview with Christian apologist, Norman Geisler. In this interview, Geisler was responding in the negative to the premise that “God Isn't Worthy Of Worship If He Kills Innocent Children.” (Yes, as only an obsequious Bible believer might be expected to react, he was defending the position that God is worthy of worship, in spite of the fact He kills innocence children.) Unfortunately, I no longer have any of Mr. Keller’s letters which were rather disorganized and largely hand written. I have also been unable to find an Internet link to Geisler’s commentary. At any rate, what follows (after a brief discussion of Luke 19:27) is my response to Mr. Keller regarding Geisler’s treatment of the subject. Quotations from Geisler are shown in bold text. Web links have been added where appropriate and additional comments not in the original letter are in brackets.]
Dear Mr. Keller,
The “Insight” article you sent me dealing with Luke 19:27 completely ignores the point I was making in my letter of 10/27/01, i.e., that this parable admonishes Jesus’ followers to round up those who reject his teachings and execute them. It is difficult to see how this unambiguous call for vengeance differs substantially from an Islamic Jihad. After all, isn’t that what the Islamic terrorists were doing when they attacked the World Trade Center? Weren’t they dutifully executing infidels who refused to accept the teachings of Mohammed? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right? Wasn’t what Hitler did to the Jews during the Holocaust in keeping with Jesus’ mandate in Luke 19:27? If not, why not?
“Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator; by defending myself against the Jew, I am doing the Lord’s work.” – Adolph Hitler
The article says that the “parable explains what Christ expects of His followers while He is gone.” A straightforward reading of the parable leads one to the inescapable conclusion that one of the things Jesus expects his followers to do is murder nonbelievers until he “does come back again.” How many non-Christians have you bagged so far?
In response to my accusation that Yahweh was a vicious Warlord, you sent me a copy of Lee Strobel’s interview with Norman Geisler. In my letter of 10/27/01, I said that I would not comment on any more information you might send me until you dealt with some of the biblical contradictions and inconsistencies I had brought to your attention. Well, I have changed my mind. The material presented in Strobel’s interview is just too tempting to pass up.
Although I had heard of Geisler, I was not familiar with any of his writings. A search of the Internet yielded a plethora of Christian sites gushing with praise for his masterful defense of biblical inerrancy. Amongst this morass of apologetic doublespeak, I also found some sites that were not nearly so complimentary. In fact, an entire debate between Geisler and Farrell Till dealing with the purported resurrection of Jesus is available at the Internet Infidels’ Library of Modern Documents. (See here.) Anyone who contends Geisler came out ahead on that debate does not understand the principles of logical argumentation. Till’s comments on Geisler’s ineptitude during the debate are also enclosed. (See the enclosed, “Norman Geisler pretends to ‘debate’ Farrell Till”.) If this debate is any indication, Geisler is far from being the persuasive apologist he is reputed to be. Maybe he just had a bad hair day.
These critical comments notwithstanding, I decided to plow through your reprint to determine for myself whether Strobel was as critical a journalist as he claimed to be and whether Geisler is as formidable a defender of the faith as his fawning admirers say he is. In what follows, quotations from Geisler’s statements are indicated in bold type.
Page 116 –
Have you ever stopped to wonder, if the Bible is an absolutely essential guide to salvation inspired by an omniscient and omnipotent God, why it is so confusing that a Christian bookstore full of apologetics must be written in an attempt to explain what it says? Why is an 841-page Encyclopedia required to attempt to explain away all the problems that plague a book that supposedly originated from a perfect being? Wouldn’t you think that, if a God had anything to do with an instruction manual dealing with something as important as salvation, a simple pamphlet might be all that would be required to clear up any minor discrepancies? And why, after forests-worth of paper and untold tank trucks of ink have been expended to produce these apologetics, there are still over 1,500 different Christian sects, cults, and denominations in North America alone that still can’t come to an agreement on what it says? The truth is, if the Bible is what its adherents claim it is, it shouldn’t require someone with a doctorate in religious studies, like Geisler, to struggle to make some sense out of it.
With regard to Thomas Paine’s “Age of Reason”, Geisler says, “First of all, I’d say too bad he didn’t have a Bible.” First of all, I’d say too bad Geisler, who presumably had a Bible, lacked Paine’s ability to read exactly what it says and clearly discern its shortcomings.
Page – 117
“Secondly, I think that Paine is just factually wrong. The Bible doesn’t have any cruel and torturous executions that God commanded.”
For Geisler to make a categorical statement like this, he must (1) be working with a Bible that is missing the Old Testament, (2) have a serious reading disability, or (3) not understand the meaning of the word “torturous.” [Torturous – Of, relating to, or causing severe physical or mental pain, agony.]
Isn’t it the loving, compassionate, and merciful God of the Bible who commanded the floodwaters to inundate the entire earth drowning all but eight people? Have you ever come close to drowning? I have, and I can tell you from personal experience that it fits the definition of mental torture perfectly. Just imagine all the humans and animals trampling one another underfoot trying desperately to stay ahead of the advancing waves. If that doesn’t paint a picture of agony, I don’t know what does. An omnipotent creator could have caused all the people who displeased him to simply disappear, as in POOF, thus sparing all the other innocent creatures from the torment of drowning. Why would a loving, compassionate, and merciful God choose instead to subject them all to the trauma of suffocation under water? And why would a perfect God create imperfect beings, knowing from the beginning He would eventually find it necessary to drown their descendants in a flood? You have yet to address these basic questions.
And isn’t it the loving, compassionate, and merciful God of the Bible who sanctioned execution by stoning for such crimes as breaking the Sabbath, committing adultery, being a rebellious son, and being a non-virginal bride? (The test for virginity was conducted by looking for blood on the bedclothes after intercourse. If there was no blood, the bride was assumed to have been a non-virgin. Didn’t God know that some women are born without hymens or that some have rudimentary hymens that do not produce blood when they are broken? Didn’t God know that some women rupture their hymens in accidents that are unrelated to sex acts? If God did know these things, then why would He enact such severe punishment based on such unreliable evidence? If He did not know, then how could He be omniscient? Think of all the innocent women who were unfairly executed because of this ill-conceived law.)
Death by stoning was the harshest form of execution. After a kangaroo court in which only two witnesses were required for conviction, the clothes were removed from the condemned person and he/she was lead to the “High Place.” This “High Place” had a height that could be as low as that of two men. Although people were generally shorter in those days, let’s assume that this would represent a height of about twelve feet. To start the execution, the first witness pushed the condemned by the loins off the “High Place.” In most cases a fall from this height would not kill the individual. It might break an ankle or an arm or it might rupture some internal organ, but it would most likely not kill them outright. If the condemned tried to turn over on his/her back, the witness turned him/her face up so that he/she was forced to see what was coming next. To continue the proceedings, the second witness would then throw a stone down on the condemned in an attempt to finish him/her off. One can only speculate how easy it would be for someone standing at the “High Place” to inflict a fatal injury with a large stone aimed at a moving target that was writhing in pain some twelve feet below. It is likely that, in a significant number of cases, the stone only resulted in further peripheral, but non-fatal, injury to the condemned. In the event that the condemned did not die at this point, the mob joined in to repeat the act until death occurred. (Second witness about to throw the stone – “Shut up with that moaning and groaning down there already. Just because you have a bone sticking out of your leg is no reason to act like such a wimp. See, now you can bleed. Too bad you couldn’t you do that on our wedding night? Now turn over and hold still while I take aim. Steady. Steady. Now didn’t I tell you to hold still? With all that wiggling around I only managed a glancing blow to your chest. What’s that? I can’t make out what you’re yelling with all that blood gurgling from your mouth. Okay, it’s time for the rest of you fun seekers to take your best shots in the name of our merciful Yahweh.”)
The two most prevalent methods of execution in the Old Testament were stoning and burning. I think you can agree that neither one would have been a picnic for the condemned. More humane methods of execution such as beheading and hanging were practiced, but only to a limited extent. Why, if God were loving, compassionate, and merciful, would He favor some of the most prolonged and painful methods for ending a person’s life? Such behavior would be better attributed to that of a sadist. The Bible is filled with tales of violence supposedly conducted by or sanctioned by God. Some examples are given in the enclosed, “Violence and the Biblical God” and “Gratuitous Evil and the God of the Bible.” [The latter article is not available on the Web.] Anyone who can read these enclosures and proclaim with a straight face that “God is love,” has no true concept of what love is all about.
Only a certifiable Bible addict could be impressed with Geisler’s sophomoric word-count exercise. He counts words like “mercy” and “love” with the assumption that the number of times they occur directly reflects the context of the Bible. That is like counting all the times the word “great” appears in “Mein Kamf” and assuming that Hitler was a great man. According to his count, the word love appears 322 times in the Bible. According to my count using the RSV, the word “death” occurs 358 times and the word “evil” occurs 547 times. Does this mean that the Bible is more concerned about death and evil than it is about love? According to Geisler’s methodology, it does. Even if there were some value to Geisler’s exercise, he applies it incorrectly. For example, he says that “love” occurs about equally in each testament. From that he concludes that there is the same emphasis on love in both of them. Unfortunately for him, the Old Testament is about three times longer than the New Testament, so the emphasis is far from being equal in both of them.
Geisler says, “…the Old Testament talks very little about eternal punishment, but the New Testament does.” Like a good little stooge, Strobel then asks, “There’s no evolution in God’s character, then?” Geisler answers, “That’s right.” Well, which is it? Does God’s character evolve from one that is relatively unconcerned about eternal punishment to one that emphasizes it? Or is there no such evolution? Geisler can’t have it both ways.
Geisler’s attempted rationalization of God’s fondness for genocide is one of the most pathetic examples of Christian apologetics I have ever had the misfortune to read. Strobel only highlights a fraction of the God-mandated killing in the Bible, and Geisler does not even address all of that. Apparently most Christians, after reading Geisler’s self-serving pabulum, come away with the blissful feeling that all the problematic portrayals of God’s nastiness have been satisfactorily explained away. I assume you are one of them, or you wouldn’t have sent this information to me. A careful reading of the Bible shows that he has explained nothing. All he has done is raise questions about his ability to understand what the Bible actually says.
“…his [God’s] character is also merciful. Listen: if anyone wants to escape, he will let them.”
This is a faith-based assertion that is only true if what the Bible says about salvation is true. Since there is no sound evidence to show what the Bible says about salvation is true, there is no reason to believe that the assertion is true. If it were true, then those that escape will presumably have to spend eternity in heaven with this warmongering God. No thanks.
Geisler focuses attention on the issue of the Israelite’s supposed conquest of the Amalekites. In an attempt to justify the genocidal slaughter of these people, Geisler dreams up a number of simplistic rationalizations. These are rationalizations that could only appeal to those who would grasp any straw to clear their consciences about worshiping such a monstrosity of a God. In considering this topic, it should be kept in mind that warfare in biblical times was not a pretty site. The most common weapons were swords and spears. A substantial number of combatants and innocent victims were not killed outright on the battlefield. Many of the injured suffered for days from their wounds before succumbing to them in a pile of broken bodies. And many suffered the prolonged agony of infections that occurred as a result of their wounds. Women (some of whom would have been pregnant), children, the elderly, and the infirm were all fair game in these spectacles of gore. And the loving, compassionate, and merciful God of the Bible orchestrated the whole miserable affair.
“…they [the Amalekites] were far from innocent.” “…they were utterly and totally depraved.”
This is the old ruse of demonizing enemies to justify atrocities committed against them. If I were Strobel, I would have asked Geisler to provide scriptural evidence that the Amalekites of Saul’s time were “utterly and totally depraved.” I sincerely doubt that he could find any scriptures that would back up such a claim. In the Bible, the only reason given for God ordering Saul to destroy the Amalekites was the attack on Israel made by the Amalekite’s ancestors 450 years earlier. (1 Sam. 15:2-3) If you can find any other reason specified in the Bible, I would like to know about it. This practice, of course, violates the biblical prohibition against punishing individuals for the sins of their predecessors. (Ezek. 18:20 and Deut. 24:16) Doesn’t God understand his own rules? [Apparently not, see Exod. 34:7 and 20:5; Isa. 14:21; 1 Sam 2:27-36; and 2 Sam 21:1-9]
What evidence is there that the Amalekites were any more “depraved” than the Israelites? According to the Bible, the Israelite’s morality left a lot to be desired. From the time they were delivered out of Egypt, their lapses of morality were of great concern to Yahweh. In the book of Judges, Yahweh was constantly punishing them with foreign domination because of their iniquities. Finally after dealing with the immorality of these ungrateful subjects for much of their history, Yahweh finally permanently destroyed the nation of Israel. These were his “chosen” people, yet problems with idolatry and even human sacrifices were commonplace among them. (Ps. 106:37-38; Ezek. 16:20-21; 2 Kgs17:17) One could make a convincing argument that God made the wrong choice. Certainly, there is nothing to indicate that the Amalekites were any more deserving of slaughter than were the Israelites.
Do you personally think it is morally justified to exterminate an entire nation, including women (some pregnant), children, babies, the elderly, and the infirm, for something its ancestors had done 450 years before?
“The Israelites were the chosen people through which God would bring salvation to the entire world through Jesus Christ.”
You mean God could not figure out how to introduce a future messiah without inducing one depraved tribe of desert nomads to commit total genocide against another equally depraved tribe of desert nomads? What kind of impotent and/or unimaginative God is that? Why would an omnipotent God need anyone to do his dirty work for him?
“Had some hardcore remnant survived, they might have resumed their aggression against the Israelites and God’s plan.”
Apparently they did survive. Although the Amalekites had already all been utterly destroyed by Saul, they again mysteriously reappeared so that David could make a living by conducting guerilla raids against them. (1 Sam. 27:8) And after David had utterly destroyed them again (“saved neither man nor woman alive”; v:11), they rematerialized to seek further revenge. (1 Sam. 30:1-20) If these hyperbolic accounts can be believed, then Saul’s genocidal campaign against the Amalekites did not accomplish what God intended it to, i.e., the prevention of a surviving “remnant”. Therefore, Geisler’s argument cannot be used to justify the Israelites barbaric behavior. Not only that, with the Amalekites’ incredible staying power, you wonder why God didn’t pick them instead of the Israelites as his chosen people. How much trust can we put in any of these accounts when the same people are said to have been “utterly” destroyed two times but return to fight again? Why is it that people only believe fairytales such as these when they are told in the Bible?
“They wanted to wipe every last one of the Israelites off the face of the earth.”
Who could blame them if they did develop such an attitude? According to the Bible, the Amalekite homeland was invaded by a horde of some 2 to 3 million Israelites (600,000 soldiers) on their trek to the so-called Promised Land. Who could fault the Amalekites for trying to fend off such an invasion? Against an army of 600,000, who could criticize them for employing guerilla tactics to save their country?
Assuming that “reprehensible” attacks were actually conducted by the Amalekites in defense of their territory, these attacks would have occurred some 450 years before God’s edict for Saul to destroy what remained of them. To my knowledge, there is only one place in the Bible (1 Sam. 30:1-20) where there is a description of a raid by the Amelekites who were contemporary to Saul. And this was most likely undertaken in response to David’s preemptory raid on them. So again, with this argument, Geisler is attempting to justify the complete extermination of a group of people because of an attitude their ancestors might have had centuries before.
“…he [God] used Israel as his instrument of judgment.”
Why subject the Israelites, or anyone else for that matter, to the atrocities of war in order to eliminate the competition? Presumably, God could have simply caused objectionable people to painlessly disappear. Instead, He always seems to prefer to make people suffer. The biblical war stories sound suspiciously like they originated from tribal chieftains who were trying to justify the barbarism of their warriors by pretending that they were acting on behalf of their God. Unfortunately, as evidenced by the events of September 11, some people still make good use of this excuse.
“…we’re all born in sin.”
This is another faith-based assertion for which any evidence, other than religious dogma, is totally lacking. Inherited sin is a biblical concept effectively co-opted by the Judeo-Christian theocracy for the purpose of ensuring that there is a continuous supply of obsequious parishioners available to top off the collection plates. According to Christian dogma, sin is like a congenital disease that can only be treated with a large dose of Jesus. But why, pray tell, do we all suffer from this malady? The answer, of course, comes from the tall tales told in the Old Testament, a highly condensed version of which follows:
God placed a tree of knowledge of good and evil conspicuously in the middle of the Garden of Eden. Then He instructed Adam (whom He had created by blowing into a pile of dust) not to mess with the fruit of this tree. God then ripped a rib out of Adam while he was asleep and used it to manufacture Eve. Along came a talking snake (Yes, boys and girls, a real live talking snake!) that persuaded Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. Adam was subsequently beguiled by Eve into partaking of this verboten delicacy. All of a sudden they realized they didn’t have any clothes on. (How out of it were these people?) Now it happened that God was strolling in the garden and couldn’t figure out where Adam and Eve had gone. (Strange isn’t it that an omniscient God would not know what had happened and where they were hiding.) But when He did find them and recognized what had happened, He had a holy hissy fit. The first thing Adam did was to pass the buck to Eve by blaming her for tempting him. Eve, as might be expected, passed the buck on to the loquacious serpent. By now God’s knickers were really in a twist. First He commanded the snake to walk on its belly and eat dust. (What was the snake walking on before? And when was the last time anyone saw a snake eating dust?) Then God cursed Eve with the pain of childbirth and relegated her to a subservient position to Adam. God was extremely worried about these original sinners getting their hands on the tree of life. Therefore, He banished them to a life of toil outside the garden. - From Genesis Chapters 2 & 3.
What’s wrong with this story? How about a talking snake and a puzzled God for starters? Or
how about trees whose fruit can confer knowledge and life? Or how about an omniscient God who didn’t appear to have a clue about what was going to happen when He created the tree, Adam, and his mate? Or how about the fact that Adam and Eve could not have known what they were doing was wrong because they did not possess the knowledge of good and evil until after they ate the fruit? After all, they didn’t even know they were naked or that there was anything wrong with being naked prior to eating the fruit. Or how about the fact that the whole childish scenario appears to have been dreamed up to explain to a tribe of credulous, superstitious, pre-scientific desert nomads why it is okay for them to treat women as second-class citizens, why people must work for a living, and why life is full of trials and tribulations? Or how about the fact it has all the earmarks of a myth that attempts to rationalize the fact that a perfect God did not provide a perfect world for us to live in because He was pissed about the transgressions of our ancestors? (How typical of this God to punish people for the wrongdoings of their predecessors.)
The story is analogous to a situation in which a father places some candy in the center of the room on the floor, brings his two-year-old infant into the room, and then instructs the child to not touch the candy. The father then retreats to another room in the house and waits for the inevitable to happen. The child eats some of the candy, the father returns to discover what has happened, and then he throws the kid out of the house. Eventually the child grows to an adult, marries, and has children of his own. Grandpa then puts a curse on his grandchildren (and all of their offspring) because their father couldn’t resist the candy on the floor when he was a baby. Is this the kind of behavior we would find admirable in a human being? Of course not. And it is even less admirable in a God.
Christians continue to perpetuate the Genesis myth that we are all born with the scourge of original sin. Of course they must perpetuate this myth because without the concept of original sin, there is no need for a savior and the whole religion goes down the tubes. What a racket. First con people into thinking that they have inherited the guilt of a pair of fictitious ancestors who ate the fruit of a nonexistent tree in an imaginary garden after being tempted by a make believe talking snake. Then sell them a quack remedy (Jesus) to cure them from the sentence of death that their loving, compassionate, and merciful God will otherwise impose on them for the disobedience of their ancestors. And when I say sell, I mean sell. Religion is big business. Not only can your average pulpit-pounding hayseed make a decent living at it, but also fat cats like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Billy Graham have made out like bandits – not to mention the incredible wealth of the mega-churches and religious conglomerates like the Catholic and Mormon Churches. With so many gullible “sheeple” who are so eager to part with their hard-earned money in hopes of finding a cure for the finality of death, it is no wonder that so many opportunistic snake-oil salesmen are attracted to this line of business. It is the best medical scam ever devised by man – and it is legal. The beauty of it is the customer only becomes eligible for a refund for false advertising after they are dead. What a racket indeed.
“God created life and he has the right to take it.”
It seems to me that, if a perfect God were to create life, He would want to create it in such a form and with such attributes that He would not eventually have to cause it any suffering. Why would an omniscient, omni-beneficent, and omnipotent God create anything that He would someday have to painfully destroy? If a loving, compassionate, and merciful God did create life and has the right to take it, why does He seem to enjoy inflicting so much pain and anguish in the process?
“If you can create life, then you can have the right to take it.”
That will make all those parents, like Andrea Yates, who murder their children feel a lot better. Yates claims to have been doing God’s will when she drowned her five children. Certainly that would not be inconsistent with His character to request such a thing. Perhaps Geisler will mount a campaign to commute the sentences of those who commit such crimes.
Page – 120
Now we come to the good part where grandpa Geisler, forced by his commitment to biblical literalism, must attempt to justify the Israelite massacre of babies and children. In my opinion, the answers he gives to this conundrum are some of the most “depraved” and “thoroughly evil” I have ever heard. If Geisler had not presented these arguments in the context of biblical apologetics, he would most likely be categorized as a mentally deranged child abuser. It’s amazing what lunacy you can get away with in Christian circles when you are defending the psychotic behavior of the biblical God.
“In that thoroughly evil and violent and depraved culture, there was no hope for those children.”
As indicated above, there is no scriptural support for the argument that the Amalekite society at the time of Saul was any more depraved than the Israelites. However, assuming that this vacuous argument is supportable, does that mean that because of the depraved culture of the Nazi regime, we would have been justified in exterminating all their children? Perhaps this is something we should do in Afghanistan. [or Iraq] Yahweh would no doubt give it a big thumbs up. Do you really think that children are that incorrigible? What happened to free will? Or is that something you Christians only preach when it serves your purposes and ignore when it gets in the way?
What would have prevented the Israelites from adopting the children of the Amalekites and indoctrinating them in their own religion? There are ample precedents in the Bible for rearing captives as Yahweh-fearing Jews, and Moses even made specific provisions for such an outcome. (Deut. 21:10-14) Taking this more humane approach would have violated no biblical fiats. But Yahweh, true to form, favored a more gruesome solution.
“According to the Bible, every child who dies before the age of accountability goes to heaven to spend eternity in the presence of God.”
In spite of Geisler’s attempt to sidestep the abortion issue, his statement still represents the best justification for terminating pregnancies one could ever hope to invent. If what Geisler says is true, then every fetus that is aborted will be guaranteed a place in heaven. However, if fetuses are allowed to develop into adults, some of them will surely wind up in hell. If God truly desires for everyone to make it to heaven, then it behooves us to abort as many as we can. It is difficult to imagine how God could judge an abortion doctor harshly for ensuring that every fetus he dealt with made it to heaven.
What about little children who are seriously ill? If Geisler is correct, then withholding medical attention from them would be the proper thing to do. There is a good chance that a number of those children who can be saved from an early death by medical intervention will ultimately grow up, die, and find themselves in hell. Whereas, if we withhold medical treatment, all those who die young from their disease will automatically go to heaven. In this case we are not taking a life. We are simply standing aside and letting God call the shots. Based on Geisler’s statement above, it is difficult to see why this would not be the proper course of action. What do you think? Should we close down all the children’s hospitals?
“There’s a considerable amount of other scriptural support for this position as well.”
Instead of rolling over and playing dead, Strobel should have asked him to cite some examples. According to the LCMS website, “Since there is no evidence from Scripture to support this concept [age of accountability], however, such arguments carry no theological weight.” I also found a statement at that site indicating that infant baptism is “necessary and effectual to salvation.” So there you have it. Your church has just destroyed Geisler’s most compelling excuse for massacring little children. And you actually highlighted most of it as if you thought it was a viable argument. Well, which is it? Do you accept the teachings of your church or those of grandpa Geisler? You can’t have it both ways. If you accept Geisler, then you must deal with such things as abortion and the withholding medical treatment from children as discussed above. But if you accept the position of your church, you must dismiss as worthless Geisler’s primary justification for the Israelites murdering children. If you choose the latter, then Geisler’s argument is even less persuasive – if that is possible.
“[Abortion is] contrary to the teachings of the Bible.”
Pleas give citations from the Bible that specifically deal with abortion. If you are going to use “thou shalt not kill” as an example, then you will have to explain why it didn’t pertain to the pregnant Amalekite women.
Page – 121
“In that culture [Amalekite culture], there was no hope; today, there’s hope.”
Again, there is no scriptural support for this statement at the time when Saul’s slaughter of the Amalekites was said to have taken place. One of the justifications commonly cited by apologists for the massacre in 1 Sam 15, is that the Amalekites, some 400 years earlier, blockaded the entry of the Israelites into the promised land. ( Num. 14:45) But this excuse does not carry any weight because God had already decreed that the Israelites would not be allowed into this area because of fear of rebellion. (Num. 13:32-33, 14:1-23) How could the Amalekites be blamed for blocking access to an area God had already put off limits to the Israelites? Someone needs to sit down and read the whole Bible to Geisler sometime.
“You have to remember that these people were given plenty of opportunity to change their ways and to avoid all of this.”
There is nothing in the scriptures to indicate that they had not changed their ways. Remember, they were supposedly being punished for something their ancestors had done centuries earlier. Besides, in what ways were they supposed to change? Were they supposed to stop defending their homeland from invasion by barbarians who thought God was on their side? Should we allow the al-Qaeda to take over our country because they claim Allah has ordered them to do so? Don’t you understand that virtually all nations at that time (and some even now) justified their military conquests on the desires of their Gods?
“God’s nature demanded that he deal with their willful evil.”
If God’s nature demands such a response, then why did (does) He create evil in the first place? (Isa 45:7 and 54:16; Lam.3:37-38; Col.1:16; Jer.18:11; 1 Sam. 16:14; and Amos 3:6) If He had not created it, He would not have to deal with it.
“So here’s the point: whoever has repented, God has been willing to save. That’s important to remember.”
It is even more important to remember that children before the age of accountability, babies, fetuses, and people with mental diseases do not have the ability and/or mental maturity to repent in any meaningful way. So how, exactly, does this caveat cover these individuals? According to some parts of the Bible, the same fate befalls the wicked and righteous alike. (Job 9:22; Eccles. 7:15; and Ezek. 21:3) If that is true, what advantage is there to repenting?
“…God’s primary desire was to drive these evil people out of the land that they already knew had been promised for a long time to Israel.”
This is one of the more asinine statements Geisler made in the entire interview. So, if an invading army tells you that their God has promised them that they can take over your country, you are supposed to bow down in submission? Come on. The Amalekites believed that their Gods had promised them their land long before the Israelites ever showed up on the scene. And they no doubt thought that their Gods wanted them to boot the marauding Israelites out of the country. The Amalekites did not pay any attention to promises that were said to have been made by Yahweh because they didn’t believe in Yahweh. Who is Geisler trying to appeal to here with such puerile rhetoric? The kindergarten set? (Sadly he is appealing to the average biblical inerrantist like you – and it works!)
Page – 122
“And consider this: most of the women and children would have fled in advance before the actual fighting began…”
And consider this: they would have fled on brief notice into a hostile desert where most of them would have died of starvation and exposure while the battle raged. They didn’t exactly have a Hilton Hotel to check into, now did they? And what would they have come back to? Most likely a devastated homeland where survival would have been equally problematic. Besides, if God thought it was so darn important to utterly annihilate the Amalekites, why would He have allowed any of them to escape unharmed into the desert? I thought Geisler’s justification for the genocidal campaign was the absolute necessity of snuffing out every last one of them because there was not even any hope for the children. One thing Geisler cannot be accused of is consistency.
“…whenever they [the Israelites] went into an enemy city they were to first make the people an offer of peace.”
Unfortunately Geisler forgot to mention that, if the Amalekites accepted the terms of that peace offer, they would be subjugated into a life of slavery. (Deut. 21:10-11 for an example) So the Amalekites could either put their lives on the line to fight for their country or they could willingly submit to the ignominy of slavery. Sounds like the Amalekites made the most praiseworthy choice to me – to stand and fight to protect their homeland.
And how did Strobel respond to all this apologetic hogwash? Just like he had been programmed to respond – “I had to admit that these insights shed new light on the situation…” Give me a break. All these insights shed light on is Geisler’s inability to think outside the Christian apologetic box and on Strobel’s inability to ask intelligent, probing questions. How anyone can read this trumped-up “interview” and still claim Strobel is an objective journalist engaged in a serious critique of the Bible is beyond comprehension. Strobel is as good a dummy as any ventriloquist could ever hope to find.
“He’s [God’s] not capricious, he’s not arbitrary…”
Really? According to my Bible, God is most certainly capricious and arbitrary. For example: He prohibits adultery (Exod. 20:14) and then instructs Hosea to marry a harlot (Hos. 1:2). He says don’t lend money with interest (Lev. 25:37 and Ps. 15:1,5) and He says do lend money with interest (Matt. 25:27and Luke 19:23-27). He enjoins making vows (Num. 30:2) and then forbids them (Matt. 5:33-37). He says it’s okay to divorce and remarry (Deut. 24:1-5) and then says it’s not okay (Mark 10:2-12). He inspired David to take a census (2 Sam. 24:1) and then claims David sinned for doing so (2 Sam. 24:10-17). He repents (Gen. 6:6-7; Amos. 7:3; Jonah 3:10; etc.) He does not repent (Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; Mal. 3:6; etc.) He sometimes says children shall not suffer for the sins of their parents (Deut. 24:16 and Ezek. 18:19-20) and sometimes says that they shall (Exod. 20:5, 34:7; Num. 14:18; Deut. 5:9; and Isa. 14:21-22). He arbitrarily preferred Abel’s offering to that of Cain (Gen. 4:4-5). He arbitrarily decides who will have disabilities and who will not (Exod. 4:11). He arbitrarily determined that castrates couldn’t enter His house (Deut. 23:1). He has mercy on (and hardens the hearts of) those whom he pleases (Rom. 9:15-18). Geisler must be reading a different Bible than I am.
“His nature demands that he deal with corrupt people who stubbornly and willfully persist in their evil.”
Like they say, “It takes one to know one.”
Page – 123
Geisler’s attempt to explain why a loving, compassionate, and merciful God would, under any circumstance, order bears to maul children to death is a real work of apologetic art. Can you imagine what a gruesome scene this would have been with two bears ripping forty-two screaming, panic-stricken children to shreds? We are beginning to get a picture of what really turns God on.
“Scholars have established that the original Hebrew is best translated ‘young men.’”
Translation – Because 2 Kings 2:23-24 is such a disgusting and blatant example of God throwing a temper tantrum, biblical apologists have decided they need to rephrase it using language that makes it easier for the “sheeple” to swallow. The fact is, the Hebrew words used in 2 Kings 2:23-24 to denote little children are “qatan” (which Strong’s Concordance defines as diminutive) and “na’ar” (which Strong defines as boy or girl from the age of infancy to adolescence). Because the modifier “qatan” precedes “na’ar”, it is clear that the intention of the author was to convey the understanding that little children were involved in this ghastly scenario. Anyone who attempts to twist this wording to mean “young men” is being dishonest and anything but a scholar.
“As best we can tell, this was a violent mob of dangerous teenagers, comparable to a modern street gang.”
Talk about desperation hermeneutics. All the passages say is that some little children teased a man about his bald head. And now Geisler has elevated it to the level of a full-blown gang assault. Is there no end to which apologists will go to excuse their God for His maniacal behavior?
“So they were assailing Elisha – a man of dignity and authority as a prophet of God – as a detestable and despicable outcast.”
Talk about a vivid imagination. If one is allowed to make up blue-sky scenarios like this, they can explain away anything. Perhaps Geisler could get a job making up stories to fill in all the embarrassing voids in the Bible. Come to think of it, that is his job, isn’t it?
Page – 124
“…the disastrous fall of Samaria would have been avoided had the people repented after the bear attack.”
Wait a minute! Didn’t Geisler attempt to justify this bloodbath on the premise that it was necessary as a “preemptory strike to put fear into the hearts of anyone else who would do this…” and because it was God’s way of “bringing his people back to himself." Well guess what, it didn’t work. Samaria fell anyway. Why would an omniscient and omni-beneficent God subject children to death by bear attack when He should have known in advance that it would not have the intended effect? Sounds like a pitiful waste of young lives for such an abortive plan.
No matter how you cut it, God commanded two bears to eviscerate forty-two children for no other reason given in the Bible than that they teased Elisha about his lack of hair. Couldn’t God have made his point by having Elisha miraculously grow a magnificent head of radiant white hair right before the children’s eyes. If He had done so, most of them would probably have run away in terror. But we must remember that the God of the Bible likes the sight of dripping blood (Exod. 29). What better way to create a bloody mess than having a bunch of children clawed and chewed to death by bears? God must have gone into throes of ecstasy over that horrific scene.
“The Hebrew that was used to describe them indicates they were most likely between the ages of twelve and thirty. In fact, one of the same Hebrew words is used elsewhere to describe men in the army.”
Will Geisler stop at nothing in an attempt to whitewash the God-mandated cruelties of the Bible? As discussed above, in verse 23 where the description of these children is first given, the Hebrew word for boys and girls (“na’ar”) is preceded by the modifier “qatan”. According to Strong’s Concordance, “qatan” is used 101 times in the Bible to mean: small (33), little (19), youngest (15), younger (14), least (10), less (3), lesser (2), little one (2), smallest (1), small things (1), and young (1). An honest reading of this verse leads to the inescapable conclusion that it is referring to little children. The word in verse 24 that is used to refer to these same children is “yeled”. It is used 89 times in the Bible, and 77 times it means child (72), young ones (3), or boy (2). Considered in context with verse 23, it is clear that little children were supposed to have been involved in this fiasco. Presumably, because Geisler has found “yeled” translated as “men in the army” in some feel-good version of the Bible, he pretends that this interpretation can be applied indiscriminately to the bear episode as well. Not only does this ignore the common usage of “yeled” in the Bible, but it also ignores the clear description of these individuals in verse 23 as being little children. And Geisler has the gall to call himself an honest Bible scholar? And you have the naiveté to believe it?
2 Kings 2:23-24 says that 42 little children were torn to pieces by two bears at God’s behest only because they teased an old man about his baldness. In an attempt to make this grizzly scene (no pun intended) more palatable for the true believers, Geisler mistranslates certain embarrassing words and invents fictional scenarios that are nowhere to be found in the Bible. In spite of his best efforts, the fact remains that those were youngsters who were purported to have been the objects of Yahweh’s unremitting wrath on that fateful day. Remember this stunning example of God’s brutality the next time you sing, “Jesus Loves the Little Children”.
So how does Strobel respond to Geisler’s blatant spin doctoring? He remarks, “By now, Geisler’s answers had deflated much of the case against God’s character by bringing some balance and context to understanding apparent intent in these controversial episodes.” You know, if this interview weren’t billed as an authentic search for biblical understanding, it could easily be mistaken for some kind of Saturday Night Live comedy sketch. Geisler did not bring balance. He brought overt bias. And he did not bring context. He created imaginary contexts where none existed and ignored the existing context when it did not say what he wanted it to say. Strobel’s poorly developed case against God’s character was flabby and full of holes to begin. No wonder Geisler found it so easy to deflate.
Page – 125
“In fact, we’re told that God originally created animals and human beings to be herbivorous.”
If that is the case, then why did he create animals like tigers, wolves, killer whales, sharks, etc. with teeth that are specialized for tearing and eating flesh and bones? How could these animals have been effective grazers? And why do they have digestive systems that prevent them from surviving on plant material alone? Did these animals originally start out with teeth and digestive systems that permitted them to live on a strict diet of plants? Did they then evolve into the strictly meat-eating animals we see today? That’s a tremendous amount of evolution to have occurred in 6,000 years, isn’t it? Oh well, if it says it in the Bible, I guess we have no choice but to accept it as the truth.
Page – 126
“There were fundamental genetic changes; we see, for instance, how life spans rapidly decreased after the Fall.”
Geisler had better stay away from genetics and stick with something he understands – like making excuses for the grossness and inadequacies of the Bible. The fact is we do not see life spans rapidly decreasing after the so-called Fall. Archeological evidence shows that the overall trend has been toward an increasing life expectancy in humans since the dawn of recorded history. There is not a shred of evidence to support the biblical fairy tale that people lived to be many hundreds of years of age at any time in human history. In fact there is a preponderance of data to show that life spans were considerably shorter in biblical times than they are now. At this time, life expectancy in much of the industrialized world is the highest it has ever been. And you can thank modern nutritional and medical science, not the Bible, for that. (If you have any scientific evidence to support the biblical claim that people once lived to be many hundreds of years of age, I would like to know about it.)
“The manner in which these animals were killed was quite humane.”
I’d like to see Geisler standing on an alter with his throat slit wide open, bleeding to death and say that with a straight face. The most humane way to kill sacrificial animals would have been to stun them with a blow to the head before making a fatal cut. But Yahweh could not hear of that, could he? Got to have the heart pumping away or there is not enough blood. And we all know how He likes blood.
Or can all that sacrificing and ritualistic bloodletting actually be attributed to the simple fact that the priests enjoyed the taste of a good steak If people were naive enough to think that animal sacrifice absolved them of their sins, why not take advantage of the situation, encourage the practice, and ensure themselves of a steady supply of free burgers. While they were at it, they made sure they got only the choicest cuts from the finest livestock (Exod. 12:5 and Lev. 1:10, 22:19-25). It’s almost as good a racket as the priesthood has going for it today.
If this was such a humane, uplifting practice mandated by God, one wonders why so many of the prophets objected to it (Jer. 7:21-22; Hos. 8:13; and Isa. 66:3-4). According to the Bible, the prophets and the priests had a serious difference of opinion regarding this primitive ritual. The prophets were undoubtedly miffed because they weren’t getting a piece of the action.
“As far as animals are concerned…the Bible clearly forbids their abuse.”
That is unless you consider slitting their throats while they are still alive and letting them slowly bleed to death as being abuse.
Page – 127
CAN THE BIBLE BE TRUSTED?
Yes, it can be trusted. It can be trusted to cure insomnia if one starts reading the genealogies in the Old Testament. It can be trusted to induce nausea in humanists when they read about the plethora of God-inspired atrocities. It can be trusted to induce laughter in scientists when they read the accounts of the creation, the flood, and other pseudoscientific nonsense. It can be trusted to incite violence in some individuals who are looking for an excuse to mistreat their fellow human beings (think Inquisition, Crusades, witch hunts, etc.). And it can be trusted to delude some people into thinking that they are going to live forever in paradise while others, who do not share their beliefs, are going to roast for eternity in Hades.
Strobel says. “Although I had never thoroughly studied its contents, I was quick to reject the Bible…” It is obvious that he has not thoroughly studied its contents. If he had, he would not have been so overwhelmed by Geisler’s inane apologetics.
Page – 128
“I could talk about the Bible’s unity…”
So could I. In fact, I think I will. Strobel relates in “The Case For Christ” that the early church had several documents that described the life of Jesus. However, several of them were contradictory to the storyline that Jesus was the perfect Son of God. For instance, one of them talked about him being married. So how did the church deal with this dilemma? Why they simply threw out whatever did not agree with the myth they were fabricating. What a convenient way to achieve some degree of unity, simply pick and choose among all the conflicting sources of information, and select those that most closely adhere to the official party line. What’s amazing is that, even after this careful selection process, the Bible is still riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions. [See here, here, and here.]
Regarding the gospels, every faction had his or her favorites. The various factions, with headquarters in Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Caesaria, Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Carthage, all had their own ideas about what was or should be scripture. There was a great deal of disagreement among them, and a lot of politics was involved in the selection process. No one knows precisely who wrote the gospels, when they wrote them, or where. There was not a single, distinct copy of any of the gospels until some 150 years after Jesus’ death. The first standardized version of the Bible, produced by Jerome, did not appear until approximately 400 years after Jesus’ death. Jerome picked the list drawn up by Augustine (the Western Church) while the list prepared by Eusebius gave rise to the Eastern Church.
An excerpt from Marshall Gauvin’s “Did Jesus Really Live” (available in the Historical Documents at the Internet Infidels’ website) offers further insight into the gospel formation.
But while the Gospels were written several generations too late to be of authority, the original documents, such as they were, were not preserved. The Gospels that were written in the second century no longer exist. They have been lost or destroyed. The oldest Gospels that we have are supposed to be copies of copies of copies that were made from those Gospels. We do not know who made these copies; we do not know when they were made; nor do we know whether they were honestly made. Between the earliest Gospels and the oldest existing manuscripts of the New Testament, there is a blank gulf of three hundred years. It is, therefore, impossible to say what the original Gospels contained.
There were many Gospels in circulation in the early centuries, and a large number of them were forgeries. Among these were the "Gospel of Paul," the Gospel of Bartholomew," the "Gospel of Judas Iscariot," the "Gospel of the Egyptians," the "Gospel or Recollections of Peter," the "Oracles or Sayings of Christ," and scores of other pious productions, a collection of which may still be read in "The Apocryphal New Testament." Obscure men wrote Gospels and attached the names of prominent Christian characters to them, to give them the appearance of importance. Works were forged in the names of the apostles, and even in the name of Christ. The greatest Christian teachers taught that it was a virtue to deceive and lie for the glory of the faith. Dean Milman, the standard Christian historian, says: "Pious fraud was admitted and avowed." The Rev. Dr. Giles writes: "There can be no doubt that great numbers of books were then written with no other view than to deceive." Professor Robertson Smith says: "There was an enormous floating mass of spurious literature created to suit party views." The early church was flooded with spurious religious writings. From this mass of literature, our Gospels were selected by priests and called the inspired word of God. Were these Gospels also forged? There is no certainty that they were not.
“This points to the existence of the divine Mind that the writers claimed inspired them.”
No, what this points to is the existence of a conspiracy of power-hungry politically savvy priests who arbitrarily hand picked a list of forged and redacted documents in an attempt to lend some credence to the Christian belief system. A divine Mind is nowhere evident in the process. The only minds involved were those of conniving humans.
“And there’s the Bible’s transforming power…”
And there’s the Koran’s transforming power. And there’s the Bhagvad-Gita’s transforming power. And there’s the Book of Mormon’s transforming power. And there’s the transforming power of the sacred texts of Buddha. Etc. etc. etc. Transforming power is not unique to Christianity. Look at the testimonials at the Scientology website sometime if you want to see transforming power. For some people it is the threat of damnation and promise of eternal bliss in an imaginary afterlife that keeps them walking the straight and narrow in this life. Many, if not most, people are unable to deal with the vicissitudes of life and the finality of death unless they delude themselves into thinking some kind of supernatural fairy Godfather (or mother) is looking after their best interests. It is this false, but reassuring, worldview that religion provides. But you can’t use the “Bible’s transforming power” to specifically substantiate the case for Christianity because this “transforming power” is associated with many other religions and belief systems as well. Some of us do not require a spiritual security blanket to enjoy life and lead a decent productive one, but we are definitely in the minority.
“While Islam was spread by the sword, early Christianity spread by the Spirit…”
The enclosure, “Victims of the Christian Faith,” shows just how ill-founded this statement is. If you read this reprint, you will find that the path of Christian advancement has been littered with the bloody corpses of those who dared to stand in the way. When the Christian Crusaders conquered Jerusalem in 1099, more than 60,000 victims (Jewish and Muslim men, women, and children) were slaughtered by the invaders. The respected Muslim general, Saladin, retook the city in 1187 and eventually signed a peace treaty with King Richard. Under the terms of this treaty, Christians were allowed possession of the Holy Sepulcher and the right of pilgrimage there. During Saladin’s taking of Jerusalem, there was no pillaging and no slaughter of non-combatants. Saladin answered King Richard’s cruelty by showing mercy to his own Christian captives. Christians were allowed to depart freely and to take with them all their property, with a grace period of 40 days. Christians have nothing to be proud of as far as their history of conquest is concerned, and you would think Geisler would know better than to try to make a positive issue out of it. But then, so long as the “sheeple” don’t bother to check his facts, I guess he can get away with it.
“I believe the most convincing evidence falls into two categories, however. First, there’s archaeological confirmation…”
No one disputes the fact that the Bible (especially the Old Testament) records some reliable places and events. So do James Michener’s fictional novels and so does the Iliad. But the fact that the Bible contains some accurate information about places and events does not mean, therefore, that the entire Bible is an accurate representation of history. The same holds true for Michener’s novels and the Iliad. Strobel even acknowledges this caveat when he states, “Even if archaeology does confirm that the Bible is historically accurate, that doesn’t mean it’s divinely authoritative.” In one of his more lucid moments, Geisler answered, “Correct”.
Despite the instances in which history is described correctly, there are several key historical events recorded in the Bible that appear to be in error. (See the enclosed, “Archaeology and Biblical Accuracy” by Farrell Till.) For example, there is good evidence that Joshua’s purported conquests of Ai and Jericho and the Exodus out of Egypt never happened. The relatively new book, “The Bible Unearthed”, lays out convincing evidence that the Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land of Canaan in a military campaign, and did not pass it on to the twelve tribes of Israel. This book even presents evidence which suggests that the united kingdom of David and Solomon was at most a two-bit tribal kingdom. Furthermore, there is not a reputable scientific organization in the world that agrees a worldwide flood as described in Genesis ever took place. On the contrary, there is compelling geologic evidence that demonstrates it simply did not happen. [See here.]
Page – 129
“As the great archaeologist William F. Albright declared, ‘There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of the Old Testament tradition.”
Since I didn’t have the footnotes to this section, I could not determine the date of Albright’s declaration. My guess is, it was made some time ago. You see Albright’s methodology involved trying to prove the truth of the Bible. Now there is a new generation of archaeologists that is taking a more objective approach. They are more interested in discovering the truth, whether it agrees with the Bible or not. In commenting on Albright’s career, one of these new-generation archaeologists, William Dever, has this to say, “…time has revealed many flaws in Albright’s fundamental methodology. I would argue that most of his particular approaches would be considered invalid today…” and “The fact is that ‘Biblical archaeology’ of the classic Albright-Wright style is dead, either as a serious intellectual enterprise, or as an effective force in American academic or religious life.” I wouldn’t put too much stock in Albright if I were Geisler. Much of his earlier work has now been discredited.
If archaeology is one of the two most “convincing evidences” for the trustworthy nature of the Bible, I’d say Geisler is in big trouble. The archaeological errors mentioned above provide convincing evidence that critical portions of the Bible were untrustworthy fictional accounts.
Page – 131
“…the universe had a beginning, therefore it had a beginner…”
Not necessarily. According to the theory advanced by Steven Hawking, arguably one of the most brilliant astrophysicists in the world today, quantum gravity existed prior to the Big Bang. Therefore, the universe did not have a beginning in the classical sense. It just always existed and always will. According to his theory, the universe is self-contained, having no boundary or edge. It would, therefore, have neither a beginning nor an end. If Geisler wants to argue with Hawking about the validity of his theory, he had better bone up on his physics and quantum mechanics.
Virtual particles are created spontaneously all the time in the quantum vacuum of space. Normally, matter and anti-matter particles are produced which quickly annihilate one another. But studies have shown that the decay of matter and anti-matter isn’t always symmetrical. This same symmetry breaking process could have occurred soon after the Big Bang resulting in the excess of matter that we observe today.
In the first case, since the universe is eternal, there is no need for a “beginner” to begin anything. The same is true for the second case, since the matter of the universe is created spontaneously out of the emptiness of space. If there is no supernatural beginner then there is nothing to cause the miracles in the Bible. (Using the assumption that God performed the miracle of creation to prove that God performed miracles is a tautology.) By the way, what began the beginner? If the beginner does not have to have a creator, then why does the universe have to have one?
“First, the Bible is miraculously confirmed by the fulfillment of predictive prophecies.”
It looks like Geisler has another big problem. I’ll wait until you address the issues raised in Farrell Till’s “Prophecies: Imaginary and Unfulfilled” which I sent to you with my letter of 10/27/01 before I comment further on this dubious claim.
Page – 135
CONFIRMATION BY MIRACLES
Despite Geisler’s protestations to the contrary, this entire section is a classic example of circular reasoning, i.e., using the Bible to prove itself. He is arguing that, since the Bible says miracles were performed, that proves miracles were performed. Only someone ignorant of the rules of logical argumentation would be impressed by such sophomoric tactics. Obviously that includes Strobel since his reaction was, “That would seem a pretty good case…” Why am I not surprised?
Page – 137
COPING WITH CONTRADICTIONS
I will save my comments on this section until you have coped with the contradictions I have previously called to your attention. If you want more, I’ll be glad to send them your way. [Again see here, here, and here.]
Page – 139
WHY IS IT HARD TO BELIEVE?
Why is it hard for you to believe in Islam or Hinduism or Mormonism or any of the other
religions of the world? If you can figure that out, then you will know why I find it so hard to believe in Christianity. I don’t find it hard to believe something when it is supported by solid evidence. But I do find it difficult to believe something based on flimsy evidence just because it will make me feel all warm and fuzzy.
Christians are stuck with the ill-tempered God of the Old Testament because their fabricated messianic prophecies are grounded in that document. It would be much easier for them to portray their God as a halfway decent deity if they could just discard the Old Testament from the rest of the Bible. Unfortunately, they cannot do that and still maintain the illusion of prophecy fulfillment. So their only recourse is to attempt to whitewash, misrepresent, and gloss over all those glaring examples of God’s despicable behavior. Apologists like Geisler have even figured out how to make a career out of it.
I honestly feel sorry for anyone like Geisler who must twist themselves into apologetic knots in an attempt to rationalize Godly behavior that would be readily recognized as psychopathic in his fellow human beings. Certainly genocide and slavery were acceptable in the past, and many ancient tribes attributed their barbaric behavior to the dictates of their God(s). But times have changed, and such primitive behavior is no longer condoned by modern systems of justice. Unfortunately, since the Christian God is claimed to be timeless, consistent, and perfect, Geisler must now try to convince us that the atrocities He committed in the past were all good and proper. It is sad to see a grown man pervert the standards of moral decency and prostitute himself so willingly for the glorification of a child-killing God. Nonetheless, I suspect that, if this murderous behavior were attributed to some God other than the God of the Bible, he would be first in line to condemn it.
Strobel bills himself as an objective journalist who is approaching Geisler from the perspective of a skeptical atheist. Anyone who buys that bill of goods needs to have his baloney detector recalibrated. It should be obvious to all those who have not been hypnotized by faith that this is a con job from the very start. While Strobel asks some valid and pointed questions, he is much too eager to embrace Geisler’s shallow, self-serving answers, and much too reluctant to critically evaluate those answers in any meaningful way. Like you, all Strobel seems to require is an answer - any answer. The quality, applicability, and accuracy of the answer appear to be unimportant to him. Any lame response, regardless how farfetched it might be, leaves him smugly content that the objection has been successfully overruled and that the Christian myth has been vindicated.
If Strobel was really once the skeptical nonbeliever he claimed to be, he was a mighty poor excuse for one. His lack of critical thinking skills is enough to give atheists a bad name.
Geisler (ventriloquist) and Strobel (dummy) make a fantastic puppet act. First Geisler pulls Strobel’s strings causing him to mouth a rather well-articulated objection to Christian belief. Geisler then responds with some cockamamie apologetic that only a brainwashed believer could swallow. Then Geisler manipulates the strings causing Strobel to express his amazement at his master’s clarity of thought. Finally, Geisler yanks the strings so that Strobel bows in submission and hastily moves on to the next topic without questioning Geisler’s answer. This charade is then repeated ad nauseum for the rest of the so-called interview. What is most amazing to me is that, after having written to you a number of times expressing my opinions on the subject, you still thought that I might be seduced by Geisler’s banal rhetoric. You sadly underestimate the power of critical thought.
I almost fell out of my chair when I read your suggestion that I should fly to visit Geisler. From what I have seen of his work, I wouldn’t waste my time walking across the room to ask him the time of day. It is doubtful I would get a straight answer. Besides, I have a natural aversion to being in the vicinity of anyone who worships a baby-killing God.
The coup de grass was your recommendation that I actually pay for his time. As if a con artist like Geisler (who has millions of fundies paying handsomely for his pleasing platitudes) needs any coin from a nonbeliever like me. Sorry, but I don’t contribute to his racket. As far as I am concerned, his time isn’t worth a plug nickel. .
I must tell you that reading Geisler’s grotesque rationalizations for God’s participation in the wanton murders of pregnant women, children, babies, etc. made me sick to my stomach. How anyone could force himself to worship and make excuses for such a sadistic megalomaniac is beyond my comprehension. One thing’s for certain. We humanists have a radically different definition of love, compassion, and mercy than you fundamentalist Christians do.
With reference to your letter of 12/21/02, I am returning McDowell’s book to you so that you can use it to brainwash your friend. Another fundamentalist Christian, with whom I was corresponding several years ago, sent me “Evidence Demands a Verdict” to bolster his arguments for the “perfection” of the Bible. At that time I diligently read the book and prepared a critique. Unfortunately, I am now unable to locate it. However, subsequent to my rather amateurish effort, a comprehensive, point-by-point critique became available on the Internet. (See “The Jury is In” by Jeffery Lowder in the Library of Modern Documents at the Internet Infidels’ website.) This rebuttal is much too lengthy for me to copy for you. If you want to learn why some serious students of the Bible think McDowell’s work falls far short of the mark, you will have to visit the site and read it for yourself. I did manage to find a couple of brief commentaries that accurately reflect my assessment of the book. (See the enclosed, “A Critique of Evidence that Demands a Verdict” and “Comments on ‘Evidence that Demands a Verdict’”.) Lowder has also reviewed McDowell’s latest tome. (See the enclosed, “Evidence that Demands a Refund (2001)”.) From Lowder’s comments, it is apparent that very little new ground has been plowed, and I see no reason to waste my time on it. My verdict, based on my reading of his original version, is that McDowell is guilty of pious fraud and sloppy research techniques.
You say, “It [the salvation fable] is not fiction.” “It is God’s truth.” “I believe wholeheartedly that…” You have a serious problem of confusing gung ho belief with truth. Adherents of other religions wholeheartedly believe that their dogma represents the truth. Does that automatically make it so? I am sure that you would agree that it does not. Just because a person sincerely believes something does not mean it is true. Many people are prone to hold mistaken beliefs, e.g., astrology, water witching, poltergeists, psychic predictions, crystal power, etc. Without solid evidence to support those beliefs and with a preponderance of evidence to refute them, the rational thing to do is to assume that they are untrue. The same holds for you passionately held religious beliefs like yours.
You say, “I too, was typically looking for ‘loopholes’ to show the Bible to be wrong.” What do you mean, “I too”? What are you implying here? That I am purposely searching for problems with the Bible because I don’t want to believe in it? Can’t you get it through your head that I have been studying the Bible in an honest and objective manner so that I can attempt to get at the truth regarding who wrote it, why they wrote it, what it is that they actually had to say, and what part it should play in my life? Nothing would have made me happier than to discover that the Bible is completely free of holes (loop or otherwise). Hanging out with a real live God in some celestial paradise for eternity doesn’t sound like a half-bad idea. However, after seriously examining how the Bible was constructed and what it has to say, I came to the realization that the gaping holes were just too numerous to ignore and I would have to give up on that childish fantasy. You are welcome to believe whatever you want. But I draw the line at believing in something without good evidence simply because it warms the cockles of my heart.
You say, “God is more concerned about the condition of the heart than the intellect.” Spoken like a true Lutheran.
Reason is the devil’s bride, a beautiful whore, and God’s worst enemy. Whoever wants to be a Christian should tear the eyes out of reason. Tread her underfoot. Throw dung in her face. You must part with reason and kill her, or you will not get into the kingdom of heaven. - a composite quote from Martin Luther
Ah yes, got to keep those curious little “sheeple” from using their brains. After all, too much honest inquiry and they might discover that the whole thing is a money-grubbing racket and a fraud. Appeal to their emotions and forbid rational thought to keep them pouring their money into the collection plate. Use the old mushroom approach: pile on the manure and keep them in the dark. If society had adopted Luther’s attitude toward critical thought, we would still be living in the Dark Ages.
McDowell attempts to deal with the discrepancies in the biblical creation account by claiming that Gen. 1 and Gen. 2 were simply two different complementary stories describing the same event. The problem with this hermeneutic is that these stories have several elements in common that don’t agree with one another. (See the material that I have sent you previously on this subject.) McDowell uses Kitchen in an attempt to nullify the contradiction relating to the order of creation as described in these two chapters. He arbitrarily changes “former” to “had formed” in verse 2:19 to solve this dilemma. However, as discussed in the enclosed, “Two Flood Stories” by Joseph Alward, when this verse is read in proper context, the change that Kitchen made is not warranted, and the contradiction still stands.
Regarding biblical prophecies, McDowell does nothing to seriously address the objections raised by Farrell Till in “Prophecies: Imaginary and Unfulfilled”. I await you comments on this topic.
You compare my unbelief to a rare disease that must be cured by a visit to a prominent physician. Then you suggest three quacks whom I should seek out for treatment. With that kind of recommendation, I’m not sure you really have my best interest at heart. If either of us should take the cure, it would be you. I recommend a good course in critical thinking to start you on the road to recovery from your religious addiction.
In closing, let me make it absolutely clear that, until you address the Easter challenge and the five contradictions in my last letter, I will not engage in any further correspondence with you – I mean it this time. The resurrection is a core tenet of Christianity without which, as you admit, there is no valid foundation to your beliefs. If the resurrection actually occurred, if you are a believing and trusting Christian to whom the truth has been revealed, and if the Bible is God’s vehicle for describing this momentous occurrence to humanity, you should have no trouble developing a detailed and coherent sequence of events. In case you have misplaced my earlier challenges, let me give it to you one more time.
Please begin at Easter morning and read to the end of each book – begin at Matt. 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20-21. Also read Acts 1:3-12 and 1Cor. 15:3-8. Then, without adding a single detail not contained (or omitting one that is contained) in these accounts, write a single, harmonious, chronological narrative of the events between the resurrection and the ascension; paying particular attention to what happened first, second, etc.; who said what to whom and when; and where these things happened.
Please, do not send me any more pamphlets, books, tapes, etc. until you personally address these issues. I will ignore them if you do. What I am asking you to do should be very easy for you to accomplish if everything you tell me about the Bible is true. Do not send me some canned apologetics from one of your professional spin doctors. You admit that you are not a highly educated apologist. And I admit that I am not a highly educated critic. However, you should not have to be a highly educated apologist to do what I am requesting of you. Please sit down, open your Bible, and read the passages indicated above. Then write the narrative on your own in your own words. Don’t go running off looking for professional assistance for a task that, if the Bible is the consistent and inerrant word of God, should be easily accomplished by any reasonably intelligent person who reads it. “Make it a total effort”. And while you are involved in this project, think hard about the quality and reliability of the evidence on which the very essence of Christian theology is based.
To be honest about it, I find the verses in question to be inconsistent and contradictory. To me, they appear to paint a very confusing picture that raises daunting questions about whether the Bible is the product of an omnipotent and omniscient God and whether the resurrection actually occurred. If you can present reasonable explanations for these troubling discrepancies, then I will be forced to reconsider my position as a nonbeliever. However, if you are unable to do so, then I will continue to consider my skepticism to be justified on the grounds that the resurrection cannot be properly substantiated by anything written in the Bible. And if you can’t produce a harmonious account of an event as quintessential as the resurrection from pertinent verses in the Bible, then I see no reason to continue our dialogue about the “truth” of Christianity. (Now don’t tell me that I must simply take it on faith. If that were the case, then paid propagandists like Geisler could not make a living hawking “evidences” and “proofs” because there would be no need for them.)
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