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The Bible is Dead; Long Live the Bible

20 Apr

Colleges and universities are supposed to be places of enlightenment and growth–growth of the whole person.  However, the moral-free campus environment, coupled with the abject spiritual poverty and outright ridicule of things Christian, is enough to see the real threat our own children face in schools of higher learning.  There is a war over “faith” that many of our own children face.

Students are subject to ridicule, and fear standing up, or else their grades may be affected. Standing for truth and absolutes is difficult today, but not impossible.  Every generation has some challenges. One of these challenges is found in the following.  A recent Chronicle of Higher Education issue contained a piece titled:  “The Bible is Dead; Long live the Bible.”

The Chronicle Review published the piece from a book written by a professor at Case Western Reserve University, Timothy Beal.  In his recent book titled, The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book, Timothy Beal questions the integrity and veracity of the Bible. Take note: “Did no one notice all the glaring discrepancies? Could all those many, many people involved in the development of biblical literature and the canon of Scriptures have been so blind, so stupid?” Just what exactly where they blinded to, so stupid, regarding?

Beal writes: “The Bible can atheist any book under the table on some pages.  It presumes faith in God, yet it also often gives voice to the most profound and menacing doubts about the security of that faith.  The Bible is not a book of answers, but a library of questions. How rare such places have become in a society addicted to quick fixes, executive summaries, and idiot’s guides. The canon of the Bible is that kind of place.”

Apparently, placing trust in the Bible as God’s Word and a guide for life equates to being blind, or stupid. Yet, with that assumption on my part, Beal leaves unaddressed that the major questions of life are indeed answered in the Scriptures. These include the purpose and meaning of life, love, marriage, children, as well as life after death–and a host of others.  Yes, there are questions, but unlike other religions, there are very direct assurances in the Scriptures, based on Jesus Christ.

The author attempts to argue that “There is no faith without doubt.  Doubt is faith’s other side, its dark night. People of faith know the reasons to doubt their faith more deeply and more personally than any outside critic ever can.” Notice the appeal to Eastern religion here? What Beal does not address is the relationship aspects that are clearly developed in the Scripture. He dichotomizes faith and doubt, as if opposite sides of the same coin.

Faith, like doubt, has to be placed in or on someone or something. Doubting one’s faith, as a thing owned, is very different from doubting the One into Whom faith is placed.  If one doubts his or her own faith, then no wonder there are issues. Such a faith is merely human and emerges from a psychological base, not a spiritual, or relational one.  If a person can doubt his faith, can he have faith in his doubt?  Now that raises some very interesting questions.  I think the reader sees the point.

Beal tries to cozy up to the Bible, but his best efforts fall short. Having rejected the authoritativeness of the Scriptures, he then writes:  “Scriptures have a tendency to exceed the boundaries of orthodoxy and resist closure.  The Bible keeps reopening theological cans of worms.  It resists its own impoverishment by univocality.  In so doing, it fails to give answers, leaving readers biblically ungrounded.”

By stating there is no univocality, Beal strikes at the heart of the Bible as God’s Word.  After all, if the Bible is God’s Word, then there is a vocality to which we ought to listen. The Bible claims that “all Scripture is inspired by God . . . ” That sounds quite univocal to me!

The author stresses a supposed inadequacy of the written text. One can only question whether he is open to books written by one man, such as the Book of Mormon, or the Qur’an, or other religious books, in terms of their univocality?

He seems open to quoting Buddha and others to make his points, hence an appeal to truth through the avenue of human faith in self. Here is another area where Beal sorely misses the point.  The Bible is inspired by one voice, written through the voices and styles of many, and points to One and only One Person, overall.  Faith is unidirectionally. Faith is placed in Jesus Christ, who is the “way, the truth, and the life.” No one comes to the Father, except through Him, according the Scriptures. (John 14:6) But if the Scriptures are not God’s Word, then even these attributed words of Jesus are suspect.

As people, moreover as believers, we can place our faith in doubt, or we can doubt our faith.  Whatever the case, both miss the mark.  Faith in the Person of Jesus Christ and his exclusive claims as God comprise the object of faith placement.  Show me more univocality than Christ’s exclusivity, and that’s where I would doubt that faith as merely human.  God in the flesh is quite exclusive.  Dead men’s bones in tombs make their religious claims neither true, nor exclusive.

In closing, one does not need Kant, Buddha, or even Dostoyevsky to make a point about faith. If a person does not believe the Bible to be God’s Word, then what it says about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, life, death, and many things in-between are also suspect. Either faith in self exists, or faith in God exists. Having faith in faith is mere gimmickry. It is from God’s Word where we derive our moral compasses and absolute truth. Faith and doubt are not truth. Faith in truth does not make it so.

Truth changes not, in the face of the worst doubt, or extreme faith.  What else is unchanging in this world, regardless of views that attack the Scripture?  It is Jesus Christ. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and yes, forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)  Did not the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus answer the ultimate questions of life?

Timothy Beal. “The Bible is Dead; Long Live the Bible.” The Chronicle Review. April 22, 2011, B6-8.

What About Goodness?

16 Sep

Much has been said these days about a lot of things, complete with negative tones, rancor, and personal attack of character.  From the political to the theological, naysayers line up to cast the stones of judgment at one person or another, or one belief or another.  Beliefs also receive vicious attacks, and ad hominem statements are made to assassinate the character of persons–regardless their station in life.  Claims of “What are you a racist?,” or “You are intolerant!,” dot the media landscape.  But it is all a ploy to taunt and accuse.

It has been stated by more than a few people that “there cannot be a God, because of all the poor people in America and the world.”  We are given free will to elect people, then we blame God for our choices.  As evidence, naysayers use suffering, illness, and death as their justifications of non-belief.  What did God do to deserve these negatives?  It is actually the accusation through question as to what He did NOT do, that is at issue.  “Some God you have there.  Look what He allowed to happen.”  I’d rather look at what He did NOT allow happen . . . But I see their point. It’s easy to use negative things if a person is negatively predisposed.

Atheists are an interesting bunch.  They claim not to believe in an objective good or evil.  They claim that man makes his own good and evil, define it as such, and that the fittest win out.  The main argument atheists use is that if there is a God then He allows innocent people to suffer and die.  Assume that God does allow this.  Hasn’t the atheist then just made a value judgment that God is not good, and that life–the real good–has been snatched?  That sounds like a belief system to me. 

Let us examine the following arguments:

  • There is too much “evil” in the world for there to be a God.
  • Suffering and death of innocents proves there is no God.
  • There is no such thing as good or evil, outside of what humans define.

Evil in the World.  I was recently talking to a nontheist who argued that he did not believe in goodness or evil.  I asked him whether child molestation, or murder were evils.  He said they were crimes.  I responded, they are not crimes if a person is not caught.  What do you call them if a person is not caught, and still molesting?  If there is no evil, then not getting caught means WHAT?  I had many other questions to ask, but let him off the hook.

Another person, a supposed agnostic, stated his “disbelief” in good and evil.  I pointed out that a person first has to believe, so that he can disbelieve.  There was no response.  In fact, he and others do what is typical once the cozy belief system they claim does not exist is truly exposed for what is really is.  They distract by calling names and it is fun to watch them attack ad hominem.  They lose all credibility at that point.  Personal attacks are atheists’ white flags. 

There is evil in the world, for every generation has committed the same crimes in all lands, among all people groups, and collusion is not a possibility.  Who instructed all the so-called “criminals” throughout all the ages to commit such acts?  One’s belief that evil does not exist does not make it so.  Neither does one’s belief in evil make it a reality.  But the evidence of common sense and data from around the world and its history prove that either man is evil by nature, or that he is “good” by nature, and just commits actions defined as evil.  Either way, one or the other validates good or evil–by nature or by action, either contrary to, or in line with his nature.  Another option is that man is neutral, and only affected by social conditions.  What social conditions?  Human ARE the social creatures affecting others.  How can someone affect another in a neutral way, and have a neutrally murderous act committed?  If this was the case, we would not need places for society’s criminals.  John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Hobbes, Baron de Montesquieu–and even Alexis de Tocqueville realized the need for government to protect societies. 

Evil is as real as love is real.  Goodness is as real as longsuffering and persistence are real.  One can believe away love all he wants.  But disbelieving love’s existence does little to cease others’ love for us.  Just ask our parents why they still love us when we rebel.  Anger and hatred exist as much as forgiveness and restoration.  Abstracts become real in humans.  Absent action, love still does not cease to exist.

Suffering and Death.  Negatives validate negative statements and affirm disbelief.  Belief is placed in self-fulfilling negatives.  It is enough to counter this with the fact that healthy people, babies being born, surgeries and doctors, medicine, miraculously unexplained cures, and technology are positives.  Weighing them out, if there is one ounce of good over evil, by mankind’s definitions, then there is a God.  Validation of no God because of suffering and death?  Then one must be fair in validating the existence of God with obvious healing and life.   There cannot be God and NO God at the same time. 

If an atheist “believes in disbelieving” for negative reasons, then he should not decry the theist for “not believing in belief” of atheism, with positives for God’s existence.  Personally, I believe atheists do not exist.  None of them have proven that they are atheists, so they don’t exist. 

Is death a good thing, or a bad thing?  I’ve never seen an Atheist Medical Center, or the Agnostic Secular Surgery Lab, etc., etc.  Yet, atheists have no problem going to doctors who might have faith and strong belief that saving life is good.  The implicit reality in so doing is that the person’s life is intrinsically good, and that suffering and evil are to be avoided–whether he admits it or not.  Think about it.  The ultimate proof that God does NOT exist, to the atheist, is suffering,disease, and dying.  Yet, no one I know is willing to validate God’s nonexistence personally by dying to bolster the evidence for someone else to say the same thing about suffering and death. 

I find it interesting how an atheist has no problem being treated in a Catholic hospital, or Seventh Day Adventist hospital.  Enough said about that.  I am glad they receive treatment.  Based on that statement, I now ask, “Is life good?”  The only conclusion I can draw is that regardless the posture, an atheist has the “belief” that life is good and worth saving.

Neither Good Nor Evil.  Human definitions do not define away good or evil.  Belief does not do away with good or evil.  These have existed long before we have, and will be here long after we are gone.  Human intellect can become reprobate and the result is evil thoughts.  Beliefs can be evil.  White supremacy beliefs are evil.  Evil thoughts may lead to evil actions.  Yet, these do not place “goodness” in the realm of the non-existent.  Before we existed, humans were here.  After we die, humans will be here.  It’s only while we are here that we say this or that does not exist.  This proclamation is unable to prove or disprove anything, before us or after us.  For those areas, we need to look elsewhere, outside our own experiences. 

In order to state universally that good and evil do not exist, one would have to be both good and evil, then realize that “poof they no longer exist,” in order to know that absence means nonexistence.  One would have to know objectively for all humans, just exactly the same good and evil, in order to trust the knowledge and that he is not misreading what is claimed as nonexistent. 

It is honest to state one’s disbelief in good and evil.  But such disbelief is conjecture and opinion, and not proof–absent clear and decisive evidence that “belief” in and of itself is enough for proof.  This would be ludicrous, for all I would have to do is say that “I disbelieve that child molestation is evil,” and by my belief, any actions of such would become neutralized–neither good nor evil.  We all know better than that.

In the many years I have debated atheists, I have yet come across any evidence they have presented that proves God does not exist and that good and evil are only humanly defined.  It is not incumbent upon one that exists to prove so.  If an atheist could prove there was no god, and his options were only one–killing himself–I wonder how many would choose that action?

When it comes to the vast majority of atheists, accusations with questions marks are the weapon of choice.  For example, “You don’t believe in that fairy tale God-thing, do you?”  Negative statements with question-marked accusations are not questions. 

To sum up, (1) Any atheist who claims not to believe in good and evil is not to be “believed.”  (2) Goodness in the world is evidence that there is a God, if the atheists’ accusations of suffering and death prove His non-existence.  One cannot have it both ways. 

Just a few thoughts for the evening.  Thanks for reading.

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