Recently, when I was perusing the shelves at one of my favorite bookstores, I found a book on display called If God Made the Universe, Who Made God?: 130 Arguments for Christian Faith. It’s an anthology of writings from different apologists. The book calls each piece an argument, and some are arguments (albeit bad ones), but a lot of the short pieces are just… bad excuses that apologists have for why it’s okay that their bible and their beliefs don’t make sense.
The book consists of ten sections:
1. Apologetics: Introductory Issues
2. The Existence of God
3. The Scriptures: Their Origin, History, and Accuracy
4. Jesus Christ
6. Science and Faith
8. Heaven, Hell, and the Spiritual Realm
9. Cults and World Religions
Since some of these sections are shorter than others, and I’ve never made an apologetics series longer than five posts, I might condense some sections together. But regardless, for today’s post I read Section One, which contained nineteen “essays”.
The first essay, “What is Apologetics?” by Kenneth D. Bon is a very matter-of-fact definition of what apologetics is. It emphasizes that it is a defense of the faith, and as anyone familiar with 1 Peter 3:15, knows, you’re told to “give a reason for the hope that is within you.” This defensive position makes me question such “attacks” against atheists by apologists, such as “atheists need faith too.” Real apologetics takes the defensive position, as it should, with the burden of proof in any case in which the apologist’s opponent is simply a nonbeliever.
“How Should We Handle Unresolved Questions About the Bible?” by Paul Copan is the first of several essays trying to give justifications about why the bible has contradictions and in many cases, no evidence that the events described actually occurred. Most of it involved how we can’t expect the authors to have written everything perfectly, and the ultimate advice on how to cope is just that we have to live with unresolved answers and may find out sometime in the next life.
Several essays (on various and unrelated topics) later, the topic came back up, this time in “Writing History—Then and Now” by Kirk E. Lowery. His main defense of biblical discrepancies is very remnant of Ken Ham’s style of defending young-earth creationism. Lowery says that there are two definitions of history: what actually happened, and the telling of what happened. He criticizes modern historians who are skeptical about old writings in that it’s nearly impossible to know what objectively happened in the past given the biases of both the author and the reader.
Later on, in an attempt to defend the messiness of the bible’s writers, he says, “They did not have precision . . . in mind when they wrote,” and later still, “The process [of understanding the ancient texts] is similar to watching a film, where one must grant the filmmaker the premise of the film and even suspend belief in how the world should work before the message of the filmmaker can be perceived.” I know that the bible isn’t supposed to be completely clear on the very first try. It is at least from a very different culture and time than what the modern reader is used to, but the meaning of the stories should still come through, and this in no way excuses what should be a divinely inspired book for being riddled with contradictions.
Several of these authors are also really hung up on the idea of self-defeating statements, most notably J. P. Moreland, author of “What are Self-Defeating Statements?” The most common argument I hear in this realm is generally aimed towards nihilists and those who say “Nothing has any meaning,” to which one would respond, “Does your statement that nothing has meaning have meaning or not?” Moreland applies this type of argument to statements that it really doesn’t work with, like “Only what is testable by science can be true,” because the veracity of that statement itself can’t be tested by science. This may or may not be the case, but I think that there is some legitimacy to similar ideas, such as saying that only that which can be measured exists within the world of naturalistic science.
I can understand that in the Christian world, it might be common to see a lot of statements as contradictory when they’re not. It might sound self-defeating to an apologist for an atheist to criticize their morals when we don’t even have divinely prescribed morals, or to work so hard to reduce gun violence when we also allow women to choose to get abortions. I don’t personally think that either of these are contradictory, but they’re topics for another day.
This section of Who Made God? had a lot of other random essays sprinkled throughout, like “What is Divine Revelation?” by Gordon R. Lewis, “Is Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder?” by David A. Horner, and “Why So Many Denominations?” by Charles Draper. So there’s a lot going on in this book that has no rhyme or reason, but maybe there will be more coherence in the next section, “The Existence of God”.