Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Monday, January 21, 2008

Twenty Ways to Answer A Fool (Pts 18 & 19)

Is the Bible a reliable guide to Christ's teachings and is the basic text riddled with contradictions?

I am coming down to my final two posts responding to Chaz Bufe, Christ-hating, blues guitar picker and his article 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity. I put points 18 and 19 together because they have a similar challenge to the integrity and veracity of the scriptures. Rather than reproducing the two points in whole, they can be read here and here.

One of the more amusing chuckles I receive from biblio-critics and the general critics of Christianity is how these individuals who loathe the Bible, God, and Jesus, are also at the same time allegedly some of the most "learned" scholars on the subjects they despise. According to the religious-biblio-skeptic, God is suppose to be a myth and the Bible is an old, unreliable guide to anything relevant in our modern world, so you would think the skeptic wouldn't bother wasting time immersing himself in biblical theology and the original languages. I expect blues guitar festivals to be Chaz's field of expertise. However, when the subjects of textual criticism, what the Bible teaches, and the historicity of the biblical record is raised, our atheist reveals he is also a "well rounded" expert. If you even attempt to defend the Bible as reliable against him, he'll show how you're an idiot.

For example, under point 18, Chaz throws out all of these factoids about the NT gospels not being a reliable guide to Christ's teaching. Chaz writes, "These texts [meaning the gospel narratives] have been amended, translated, and re-translated so often that it's extremely difficult to gauge the accuracy of current editions." Oh really? Since when did this amateur guitar player learn all there was to know about the ancient Hebrew and Greek languages and the various translations developed from them? I take it by his comment he has examined all the current editions, which I think he means current, modern day translations, to contrast and compare to say older translations, like for instance the Latin Vulgate, Wycliffe's translation, Tyndale's, etc.? And I am sure he can provide a large mass of examples, too?

Of course a guy like Chaz would never allow his claim to be honestly scrutinized. The fact is, the real textual critics of the world, which are many, even if they come from a non-evangelical background, all agree that the vast amounts of textual evidence we have for the NT alone is remarkably consistent in its content. This is in spite of the textual variants, translations, and editions produced over the centuries. When the store house of just the NT manuscripts alone are compared together with what we hold now in our hands as scripture, the message remains unaltered. It's the same. The record of Christ's life and teaching has not been lost or tampered with and it is most certainly reliable.

Only psuedo-intellectual cranks like the Jesus Seminar folks Chaz appeals to as his authority are the ones who deny the factuality of the textual evidence as it testifies to the over all integrity of the NT. That is because they all have as a driving presupposition a deep seated pathology against God and the Christian faith. These folks are dishonest with the facts and have an agenda to promote.

A more current day example is Bart Ehrman, NT professor at the university of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In recent days he is appealed to by atheists like Christopher Hitchens as a reliable critic of the NT text because he graduated from Princeton and is considered the "heir" of NT textual scholar, Bruce Metzger. In nearly all of his written publications and lectures, Ehrman retells the story of how he was once a born-again evangelical who affirmed the inerrancy and infallibility of scripture. He had an interest to really knowing the Bible and attended Moody Bible Institute in pursuit of that goal. It was not until he began his post-graduate studies in NT textual criticism, however, that he "saw the light." He realized he had been misled by his evangelical pastors and friends about the veracity of the NT text and thus he was driven to become a shrieking apostate. He even recounts how during his days at Moody Bible Institute none of his teachers provided any solid defense of the Bible in light of the overwhelming textual evidence against infallibility and inerrancy. But I happen to know individuals who attended Moody at exactly the same time Ehrman did and they tell me he is lying. One particularly reliable person who attended Moody the same time Ehrman did, told me he had the same questions Ehrman claims he had about the biblical text. Contrary to Ehrman's assertion, the NT professors did an outstanding job of dealing with the so-called over-whelming evidence against inerrancy and infallibility.

So there is certainly something else at work here other than textual evidence. Textual evidence doesn't cause a person to lie against his schooling and twist around the historical interpretation of the manuscripts so as to mis-represent what they really tell us about the formation of the NT. This is a moral problem not at all related to evidence.

Then moving on to Chaz's next point, the claim is that the Bible is riddled with contradictions. Out of all of the criticisms a Christian will hear from skeptics, pretty much all of them start with the assertion that the Bible cannot be believed because it is full of contradictions. Chaz even lists three to prove his point.

I remember that many of my conversations I had regarding "contradictions" in scripture took place after dinner during the holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas while watching football. Usually it was with a snooty relative, like a curmudgeonly older cousin you only see during the holidays. As a young believer I would quickly become discombobulated with the examples of "contradictions," and my attempt to throw out some simplistic response never really satisfied the person. The encounter would cause me to do some studying, but when I thought I had a better answer, at the next holiday get together the person would have an entirely different set of "contradictions" to rub in my face.

I have since developed a better approach when dealing with these sorts of challenges to the biblical text.

One of the first things I learned is that critics like Chaz place an absurd literary standard of perfection upon the Bible. The standard is so ridiculously outside the realm of reality that no written historical document could comply, let alone the Bible. So when someone tells me the Bible is full of contradictions, I will ask the person to define for me what he means by "contradiction." The number of times I have asked for a definition, the person is taken aback, because no Christian had before ever thought to ask the person to define his criteria for "contradiction." The normal, everyday understanding of a contradiction is when two propositions are contrary to one another and produce opposite conclusions. In logical terms, "A" cannot be "A" and "non-A" in the exact same way at the same time.

The critic's understanding of "contradiction" rarely falls under the everyday working definition. That is clearly demonstrated when he pulls examples from two separate contexts, perhaps even being written by two different biblical authors writing to separate readers during different time periods. Chaz does exactly this when he compares a passage in Genesis, then Exodus, and then John, as well as Genesis and James and declares how they "contradict" each other. The closest he comes to giving an honest comparison is with quoting Jeremiah, but he compares passages that are 14 chapters apart with out any consideration of who the prophet was speaking to and why, and quotations from Jesus as recorded by John, but again, the examples are three chapters apart and Jesus is addressing two entirely different audiences.

Once I have the critic explain to me what he means by "contradiction," I then ask the person to show me the one hands down, undeniable contradiction he thinks utterly demonstrates the Bible is is error. The reason I ask for the ultimate contradiction is because in debates with skeptics on this subject, the person will toss out an alleged contradiction, and when you provide an answer to it, the person has already moved on to the next one on his list. Asking for the ultimate example cuts past having to put out a bunch of little fires.

Yet, even with this modified approach I always keep in mind the fact that a hardened biblio-skeptic like Chaz is not looking for answers. He is an unbeliever merely wanting to make a mockery of the Christian and the Bible, as well as continue in his rebellion against God. With a skeptic like Chaz, it truly is not a matter of whether there are answers to his criticisms. It is a matter of whether or not he will submit himself to God's authority as revealed in scripture. He is operating with an unregenerate mind; one that is darkened in sin and has no interest in the truth, and what truth he is given, he will reject, suppressing the truth by explaining it away with some clever argument he devises. Hence, the Bible in the mind of the unregenerate sinner will never be a "reliable" guide to Christ's teaching and no one will ever satisfactory answer his list of "contradictions."

Next up: The final post!



Blogger Highland Host said...

"These texts [meaning the gospel narratives] have been amended, translated, and re-translated so often that it's extremely difficult to gauge the accuracy of current editions."

I don't know if he meant it, but it certainly sounds to me like Chaz thinks that the Bible has been translated into one language and then into a third FROM THE FIRST TRANSLATION. Sorry, even the Roman Catholics have stopped doing that now! Since Tyndale English translations have been from a careful scholarly edition of the Greek or Hebrew texts. This silly idea keeps cropping up among sceptics (Dan Brown uses it). It's still wrong.

1:17 AM, January 22, 2008  
Blogger thomas4881 said...

It's the vain logic of the world. Darkened hearts got nothing better than "no it's wrong". They even lie to themself. That is God's wrath at work on them and all those who do evil. God's wrath is more revealing that God is revealing great truth to them and they reject the truth. In this God is and will be glorified.

10:16 PM, January 27, 2008  

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