Episode 47: Attacks on Christianity, Part 1- The Bible

Peace to Live By Episode 47: Attacks on Christianity, Part 1- The Bible - Daniel Litton
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       In our world today, there are many skeptics—people who just have trouble believing in anything outside of what they can see with their own eyes. And it is true in this great day of science that many want to, or would like to be able to, prove everything about our world. They want to be able to see things in our world and pick them up. They want everything to be tangible and logical. And for some, when they consider things like religion, they tend to make fun of it or be adamantly against it. Some think religion is just a crutch for people to lean on. They just don’t want to believe in something that requires faith, even though really they use faith all the time.

       When it comes to believing in Christianity, many people will attack certain aspects of it, and try to undermine its rock solid foundation. Today, I want to begin a three part series dealing with attacks on Christianity. I will present common arguments—things people tend to say against the faith, and seek to provide some answers to these questions. My goal is to strengthen the beliefs of current Christians, and perhaps help seekers and skeptics to try to better understand answers to questions that may be floating through their minds. It is only natural to have questions—everyone has questions at one point or another. Indeed, I have studied Christianity for years, and I still have questions. Remember too, not every question can be answered. That is a basic thing you have to understand.

       So, for these three weeks, there are three different areas of discussion I want us to focus on. Today, we will focus on attacks on the Bible. Next time, I will consider attacks on the Church—the Christian church. And for the final week, we will look at how seemingly ‘free' thinking goes against Christianity. I think that this final discussion will be particular interesting to younger people. The six arguments I want us to consider today in regard to attacks on the Bible are the following:

1) The books in the Bible were written by men, and therefore, contain errors. This means they are not inspired, and therefore, do not need to be followed.
2) The books of the Bible likely have changed over thousands of years as they were transcribed and recopied over and over.
3) The New Testament was compiled by the decisions of humans and consequently the collection of books may not be God’s true Word.
4) Christianity is based on the beliefs of the Apostles after Jesus, and therefore, has been marred by human opinion.
5) All religions have creation stories, and the Bible is no different. This being the case, the Bible is just following in the tradition of other religions.
6) Stories in the Bible, like the virgin birth of Jesus or Satan’s fall from Heaven, were actually based off of Greek mythology hundreds of years beforehand, and therefore, did not really happen.

So, let us consider these arguments one-by-one, and try to understand good, Biblical answers to them.

1) The books in the Bible were written by men, and therefore, contain errors. This means they are not inspired, and therefore, do not need to be followed.

       This is a common argument that I hear from time to time. Some people want to view the Bible as given solely by man without God’s help because then they can make it equal to the rest of the works of man. If the Bible was just written as the ideas of man, then why do we, as Christians, follow it above any other book? After all, what would make it any more wise or noble than other famous works of man? But thankfully, the Bible was not just written down from men. The Scriptures tell us that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. So, men wrote the Bible as they were inspired by God the Holy Spirit to write it. The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God” in 2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV).

       Now, one might say, “You cannot use the Bible itself to defend the Bible.” But I say, why not? It is true that we have to have ‘faith’ in believing the Bible is God’s Word. If you’re hoping that I can prove to you that the Bible is God’s Word, there is no way for me to ‘prove’ it. I can tell you from my own personal experience, however, that there is power behind it. The Gospel saves people, transforms their lives, and the Word of God can and does ward off Satanic attacks. I can definitely testify to those things. And if you read the Scriptures, you will realize that the words have truth behind them to live a good and righteous life. Remember, Jesus said to God the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17, ESV).

       Nothing in the Bible contradicts good and common sense. What the Bible says is right, is in fact good and moral. In it, God prohibits the right things, and he permits the right things. People want to say the Bible is not scientifically sound, but it is. Some want to say that the Bible is incorrect, or obsolete, in regard to morality, but it isn’t. We haven’t progressed in our culture in regard to this so called ‘sexual freedom,’ but rather we have regressed. God’s Words lead to life, and if followed, produce freedom, righteousness, and down-right good feelings in a person’s life.

       Just because the books of the Bible were written by human authors, and those writers used their own writing styles and experiences, this does not mean the words of the Bible are not inspired by God. This is how God chose to write the Scriptures. For example, the Apostle Peter called some of Paul’s letters, his writings, as ‘Scripture’ in 2 Peter 3:15. God did not chose to write his Word, in most cases, solely from his finger. Just as God can perform miracles directly from himself, so he can write his Word directly from himself. But, usually God performs the work of miracles through the actions of others, and the writing of the Bible was no different. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, God could have just healed people by sending power directly down from Heaven, but rather he chose to work through Jesus’ hands to deliver those healings. In the same way, God used the varying disciples of Jesus to write the New Testament, though he could have just written it himself.

       Jesus clearly believed that the Bible is the Word of God; certainly, every part of it. Remember, he said in Matthew 5:18: “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (ESV). He emphasized the very strokes of the pen in the Hebrew language as significant. And, also recall that he told Satan in the wildness that ““‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4, ESV). This is why we cannot pick and chose what we want to believe from the Bible, but, in order to be correct in our view, must accept all of it as from God. Every word matters.

2) The books of the Bible likely have changed over thousands of years as they were transcribed and recopied over and over.

       This argument is also made from time to time, though, really, if one analyzes it, it is not a very strong argument. The argument goes that the original writings of the Bible must have been different than what we have today. People say that as the Scriptures were copied over and over, that they must have obtained errors or even have been changed. This is a common argument against the Old Testament (specifically, The Torah) from Muslims, for instance.

       You have to understand, though, at the times in the early centuries of which the Bible would have been copied and recopied, that the copiers had great precision as it was a tedious process to copy a text word from word (see Strobel, 2007, pg. 81). Even if a person were to write out a copy of a text today, and try his or her best, odds are the person would transcribe the text very accurately. There might be a very minor mistake every so often, but likely it would be insignificant and would not affect the overall message of what was being transcribed. But even trying your best, you likely would not be as accurate as the transcribers back then.

       Not only was their transcribing accurate back then, but they didn’t use the last copy to make the transcription. Rather, they would use the ‘original’ copies to transcribe each new copy (see Strobel, 2007, pg. 81). This point is very important. This means that copies down the line would not continue to get more and more weak, but rather each newly produced copy would be strong. It’s no different from publishing today. A publisher doesn’t make a copy of a book and then take that copy to make the next copy, but rather the publishers uses the original copy to make new copies.

       Now it is true that we don’t have the original copies of the New Testament or even the Old Testament. But this does not mean that the manuscripts we have today are not accurate. For many old secular works as well, we do not have the original manuscripts. Richard E. Simmons III, in his book titled ‘Reliable Truth,’ has stated the following regarding the Bible manuscripts available to us today: “Scholars who study ancient history will tell you that in order to test the validity of any ancient literary work you have to consider… how many manuscripts exist…. The greater the number of manuscripts would indicate a greater accuracy of the writings in question…. Take Plato for instance…. all we have is 7 manuscripts. And take Aristotle for example. We only have 49 of his manuscripts. And Homer’s Illiad. We have 643 copes of his manuscripts. But when you consider the New Testament, just the New Testament alone, we have 5,300 manuscripts written in the original Greek” (p. 58, 2013).

       Bear in mind, of these 5,300 manuscripts, almost all the differences between them are spelling errors, and about one percent has any possibility of significantly changing what the original text stated (see Strobel, 2007, pp. 85-87). So, that goes to show the extreme accuracy of the Bibles we have today. Of all secular writings, none even comes close to matching this many manuscripts. Most don’t question the validity of secular works, so why are they challenging the validly of the Bible’s accuracy.

3) The New Testament was compiled by the decisions of humans and consequently the collection of books may not be God’s true Word.

       As Christians, we believe that God the Holy Spirit inspired the Words of the Bible, that he guided along the hands of men to write both the Old and New Testaments, as I have previously discussed. The Apostle Peter has told us, “knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20, 21, ESV). So, God definitely guided the writing of the books in the Bible. Now, if God guided the writing of the words on each page, don’t you think that he could have, and would have, guided the different councils in selecting the appropriate books for the New Testament? I mean, after all, this issue takes faith that God is able to control his own Word, and the compiling of it—the gathering together of it—as one Book.

       You need to understand that most of the New Testament was already agreed upon by the early churches. So, there really wasn’t much debate over most of the books to be included—everyone already agreed that they should be included. There were just a select few that were argued over—books like James, 1 & 2 Peter, Hebrews, & Revelation. The Apostle Paul’s works are probably the most disliked by non-Christians. But notice how all of his works were already included, and there was no debate over them. So, people who want to quickly rid the Bible of Paul’s works are going to have a real difficult time because there were no debating over his letters. All of this being the case, I would say to non-Christians that if you have trouble with certain books, just read what the early church totally agreed upon and then see where God leads you. I think you will come to realize, after time, that the whole New Testament is in fact the Word of God. Everything is in agreement and books don’t contradict each other.

4) Christianity is based on the beliefs of the Apostles after Jesus, and therefore, has been marred by human opinion.

       It is correct that to say that the Bible was written by humans—as I’ve been talking about. And it’s also true that Jesus was a human, yet, we as Christians believe he is also God. Now, he has written his own Word beforehand, like with the writing of the Ten Commandments with his own finger. And were not quite sure how people followed the Word of God, his Law, before the Flood of Noah (even though they clearly did, as Job and others show that they did). Most often, God has used humans to write the books of the Bible. Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament. Remember, these were books Jesus cited as Scripture by the way, though, they had been written by a human, Moses. Just as God uses humans to go and share the Gospel with other humans, so he used humans to write out his own Word.

       As the Apostle Peter has told us, and I just quoted part of this a little be ago, he said, “We have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:19-21 ESV). So, these verses show us that the Bible was not “produced by the will of man,” but it was written “by the Holy Spirit” as he guided men to write what he wanted to be written. Again, it requires faith, belief in God, that his Word is really his Word.

5) All religions have creation stories, and the Bible is no different. This being the case, the Bible is just following in the tradition of other religions.

       Over the years, I have heard this argument. Often times people will bring up the Native Americans, and talk about their creation stories. They’ll say that these stories were written, or put on a cave wall, before Genesis was written. I would say, though, even if they were it would not matter. We really don’t know for sure the exact date at which the first two chapters of Genesis were written; it could have been before all the other stories and just handed down to Moses. We know we have them by approximately 1,500 B.C.

       Even if Native Americans or whatever early tribe which spawned from Adam and Eve had come up with a creation story before Genesis 1 and 2 were written, it still is nothing like the creation story we find in Genesis. The Genesis account is a very methodical and logically reasonable account of the creation, of which there is nothing mystical or hard to believe about it. There is no allegory, and that is key because most other creation stories contain allegory. And besides, remember behind any other form of religion there is a demon. That’s what the Bible says (see 1 Corinthians 10:18-22). And therefore, it would only make sense, if a story does seem to be similar in some aspects, for the demon to try to copy, or imitate, the real thing.

6) Stories in the Bible, like the virgin birth of Jesus or Satan’s fall from Heaven, were actually based off of Greek mythology hundreds of years beforehand, and therefore, did not really happen.

       For those who have studied Greek Mythology, and I’m sure many of you have, you will realize, very quickly, that there really isn’t much presented that is exact, or even similar, to what we read in the Bible. One has to remember that the Bible presents the virgin birth and Satan’s fall as literal, historical, actual things that happened. Greek Mythology presents its stories as just that—stories. It is not trying to say these events ‘actually’ happened (that is, in a historical context; see Strobel, 2007, pg. 179), hence the name ‘myth’-ology (though many did believe they happened: see Acts 19 for instance).

       Let me pull up a foundational text against this argument from the Apostle Peter. He said in 2 Peter 1:16, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (ESV). Notice how Peter clearly challenges anyone who would say that Jesus’ coming or even miracles were lies, myths, or just good stories. Note how he points to the fact that he, and the other Apostles and disciples with him, were “eyewitnesses” to Jesus himself. That is so key and pivotal. That’s one of the best reasons to argue Christianity to be true—the fact that Jesus’ disciples saw him do everything, and saw him after he rose from the dead, and all died martyrs deaths (except for perhaps John). People don’t die from lies unless they are crazy people or have been brainwashed. Eyewitness are not brainwashed, though, as an aside, Muslim terrorists clearly are. They have never seen anything with their own eyes, and yet, they die for lies.

Conclusion

       In conclusion today, I hope the information I have presented here today has been beneficial to Christians and strengthened their faith in the Bible. I also hope the information has been beneficial to those who do not believe in God, or have not committed their lives to God. If you’re not a believer in Christianity, a believer in Jesus Christ, let me tell you that I want to thank you for considering these questions today. You’re in the right place—that is, seeking for answers to things that are going through your mind. Surely, we all have questions, and we all seek to find answers, and it is good of you to consider these things I talked about today. Maybe you have a friend or family member who is a Christian, and this person has sparked your interest in Christianity. I would tell you, don’t give up! Keep looking for your answers.

       And it may even be the case that there is someone out there who has decided he or she does want to believe in Christianity, to believe in the Bible. Maybe you have decided that you do want to believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Well, in just a moment, I’m going to give you that opportunity to that decision. It’s such an important and life-changing choice to follow Jesus. It’s not something that messes up your life, or turns your life into a rigorous list of dos and don’ts. That’s not what Christianity is. Believing in Jesus means you get to experience true life, which starts today. It is true that life comes from Jesus, as he is the source for all life. Nothing was made outside of his will and control, and he has the whole world in his hands—every part of it. You can be safe in his care today, and really have nothing to worry about.

       You see, as all of us humans are separated from God from the moment we are born, God decided he wanted to be in a personal relationship with each one of us. But because of sin—because we are all born with a sin nature, sin in our hearts—God had to send his only Son Jesus into the world to die on the cross. His death provided a perfect substitute payment for our sins against God and others. By counting on his death on the cross, we are then declared not guilty for all of our wrongs in this life. Jesus makes us right with God. And Jesus rose from the dead, gaining victory over Satan and death so that we can live a true life. Jesus’ blood shed for us takes away our sin. But we must accept him as Savior and Lord to be counted righteous before God. Then for those of us who are made perfect before God, we never again have to worry about facing God’s wrath against us in Hell because of the bad choices we made.

       If you would like to accept Jesus today as your personal Lord and Savior, then I want you to follow my lead in this simple prayer:

       God today my eyes have been opened. I now understand what Jesus has accomplished for me on the cross, and I would like to accept his sacrifice on my behalf for my sins. I do believe that Jesus really existed, that he rose from the dead, and is with you in Heaven today. I give my life to you today because I really believe I can trust you. So, I am trusting you with my life. Please Father, start to change me, my thoughts and actions, and make me become more like Jesus. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

-Daniel Litton

References

Simmons III, Richard E. (2013). Reliable Truth. Union Hill Publishing: United States of America.

Strobel, Lee. (2007). The Case for the Real Jesus. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI.