Yesterday, a facebook acquaintance asked me for help understanding a common misconception about the Bible. He said that one of his friends wanted to know how anyone could believe the Bible when it contains such outrageous claims like the claim that the earth is resting on pillars instead of being a globe suspended in space. Here is the answer that I gave:
The Bible does not say that the earth rests on pillars. There are only three verses which speak of the pillars of the earth, and all three are using figurative language to refer to leaders among men. This is the same figure of speech that Paul used in Galatians 2:9 where he spoke of Peter, James and John being pillars in the church.
I recently spent several days engaged in a facebook debate with a Catholic, and in the process, I was challenged to re-think my view of the relationship between faith and works in James chapter two. Catholic theologians claim that James 2 teaches the necessity of adding good works to our faith in order to obtain final salvation. The typical response to this claim is to argue that James is only speaking of good works as an evidence of our salvation and not as the means of our salvation. The greatest challenge to this argument is found in the use of the word “justified” in verses 21 and 24. Here is my solution to this challenge:
The idea that the lost will suffer eternal punishment has often been questioned by Christians who doubt that a God of mercy would condone such cruelty. Instead, they often come up with other ideas about the punishment of the lost such as the idea that they will simply be annihilated or that they will only suffer for a period of time before being given another opportunity to turn to God. There are several logical problems with attempting to reconcile either of these views to the accounts of Scripture, but in order to see that, we must actually know what the Scripture says about the punishment of the lost. Unfortunately, I have discovered that very few Christians have ever actually studied this aspect of God’s Word.
According to Genesis 11, Abraham was born approximately 250 years after the flood. However, the accounts which are recorded in chapters 10 through 25 of the book of Genesis seem to describe a region that is heavily populated. There are dozens of cities or nations mentioned by name in these accounts, and many of them are described as having their own cultures, governments and infrastructures. I have had several skeptics point out to me that it is not possible for a population to increase from just 8 individuals to a size large enough to support so many separate cultures. In fact, at the current average growth rate of 1.14%, there would only have been 136 people on earth at the time that Abraham was born. That’s certainly not enough to account for all the cities mentioned in these chapters of Genesis, and this is often cited as evidence against the biblical account.
The solution to this contradiction involves two simple observations of the record given in the book of Genesis. First, the generations close to the flood had longer lifespans than we do today. And second, these generations had higher birth rates than we do today. When we combine these two observations, we can easily see the possibility that the population at the time of Abraham would be significantly higher than just 136 individuals, but the Bible actually gives us enough information to make some very reasonable estimates of just how much larger.
One of the questions that skeptics often ask about the Gospel is “Where are all the prophecies about the Messiah rising from the dead?” This question comes from I Corinthians 15:3-4 where we read:
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
In my previous Bible Contradiction article, I explained the difference the hour of day at which John says that Jesus’ trial before Pilate ended and the hour at which Mark says that He was crucified, but there is another aspect of the timing of the crucifixion which is often claimed to be contradictory. According to several atheist websites including the Skeptics Annotated Bible, John’s account says that Jesus died before the Passover meal while Mark’s account places Jesus’ death after the Passover meal. It is claimed by these sites that these two accounts do not agree and must therefore be false. However, this apparent disagreement disappears once we understand what actually takes place during the Passover.
The crucifixion of Christ is the pivotal event of Scripture, but it is recounted to us from four different perspectives. This occasionally gives rise to statements which seem to be contradictory. When we come across these statements, it is important to consider the varying perspectives of the authors before jumping to the conclusion that there is a contradiction. Most of these differences of perspective are included in the Skeptics Annotated Bible list of contradictions, and today, I would like to use one of the most difficult of those supposed contradictions to demonstrate how easily they can be resolved if we view the gospels as four eyewitness accounts each given from a different point of view.
Earlier this week, I was asked to write a response to a contradiction that atheist Kenny Wyland lists as the “craziest biblical contradiction ever.” Scott Burgener mentioned this same contradiction as being the “watershed moment” that led to his rejection of Christianity, and it is also included as number 434 in the Skeptics Annotated Bible “List of Contradictions” as well as in Jim Merritt’s “List of Bible Contradictions” on infidels.org. So what is this contradiction which has attracted the attention of so many atheists? It is the very important question of whether it was God or Satan who tempted David to take a census of the nation of Israel.
In my previous Bible Contradiction article, I provided a solution to a contradiction that the Skeptics Annotated Bible (SAB) listed as having no Christian response. That’s not to say that I was the first Christian to solve this particular contradiction. They simply hadn’t linked to any response yet in the SAB list. So, after I posted my solution, I sent Steve Wells, the administrator of the SAB page, a tweet informing him of a new Christian response to that contradiction, and Steve was kind enough to add a link to my solution at the bottom of that page on the SAB.
One of the things that really bothers me as a Christian is seeing other Christians attempt to explain away the troubling passages of Scripture. This past Saturday, I had the privilege of hearing Paul Copan speak about his book Is God a Moral Monster. I’ve been very slowly reading through Mr. Copan’s book for some time now, so I was looking forward to the opportunity to hear this particular presentation. My hope was that hearing him in person would alleviate some of the concerns that I had developed while reading his book. Unfortunately, that hope did not come to fruition.
One of the greatest concerns that I have for Mr. Copan’s thesis is his apparent lack of consideration for the context of some of his proof texts. A good example of this flaw can be found on page 171 where Mr. Copan uses the accounts of the Anakim to prove his claim that Joshua was using “ancient Near Eastern hyperbole” whenever he spoke of utterly destroying some particular foe. Here is the quote from that section of Mr. Copan’s book which I find to be so troubling:
"Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning." (Proverbs 9:9)