I recently saw this picture from Thinking Atheist on a friends wall. My first instinct was to comment on the picture that he had posted, but he has a poor history of actually thinking about things. So, as I figured my comment would make little difference, I decided (perhaps in my own ignorance) to post my response more publicly in hope that someone might actually benefit from my comments.
It is important that accusations such as this one are answered by the Christian community. So, in an effort to answer such an accusation I will address each individual idea and then the overall picture.
- “omnipotent God chooses not to use His power to simply forgive mankind,”
I wonder if we ever care to ask the question why. We see what some things are and what they are not. We see what they could be and ask ourselves why things are the way that they are. Over the centuries, mankind has dedicated philosophy, theology, religion, astronomy, cosmology, biology, zoology, history, sociology and so on to answering the question why. Humanity has an amazing want to answer the question why and, in many studies, we have answered the question at least in part. My first question when examining the above illustration is this: why have supposedly thinking atheists not themselves tried to answer the question why? Yes, I know it seems elementary and many of these self proclaimed thinkers would argue to have tried, but here is the sad reality: If any one person has tried to genuinely understand why certain claims have been made, especially concerning a deity, then he or she simply doesn’t accuse a deity that he or she believes not to exist by not using available power properly. Instead, a thinking person asks why such a being would use the power available to Him to act the way He was recorded to have acted. The first idea reflected in the statement reflects a minor error in the area of problem solving and a contentment with misunderstanding. It reflects as well the reality that the thinking atheist has not thought too deeply about his or her statement and the problems that it poses. He or she simply hopes to surprise and derail the believing community while bolstering morale for people who have made enemies out of the reasonably believing Christian community.
In light of this, we must make clear (at least as clear as possible) why God might act in such a way. I do not claim to be on such a level that I know exactly why God does what He does, but I do try and understand as all people should. Why would God not just forgive mankind without need of a sacrifice (which we will discuss shortly)? Scripture constantly likens the individual’s relationship to God to that of a father and son. When I broke my father’s rules, he punished me and then allowed me to be restored. Now, the obvious punishment for breaking a life-covenant with the God of the universe would have to be death (which God describes in Gen 2 and 3). When man rebelled, that is exactly what he signed up for. If we, God’s children, are to be brought up correctly, why would God just look at us and say, “Oh, everything is okay. I will just let you back into paradise now!” This would be a strike of imperfection against God as a Father and as a just lawgiver. In reality, this question has nothing to do with God’s power and everything to do with His perfect will. A good father punishes His children and an act against life deserves death.
- “…but instead implements a solution which requires that He impregnate a teen girl…”
Let’s think seriously about this statement. God creates life. More than that, God creates mankind. Is it so difficult to think that God, who is (according to scripture) a creator by nature would create more life in order to justify the life He gave in the first place? No. In fact we should expect a creator God to act in such a way: according to His nature. Not to mention, the same God had a commitment to fulfill various prophecies that He inspired according to the Old Testament scriptures (click here to view 10 of these prophecies fulfilled just in Christ’s birth). As to why God would choose to use a teenager for such an accomplishment. God has a track record of using the least significant people according to the popular culture surrounding them. If you don’t believe me, just take a walk through scripture and look at the historical context. Yes, I am challenging the thinking atheist to think. We must also not forget that Mary trusted God and was willing to be instrumental in God’s redemptive work.
- “…in order to give birth to Himself so He can have Himself slaughtered…”
Haha. Jesus was not birthed out of God, hints the entire reason God chose to use Mary. According to Biblical claim, the one God exists in three different persons. We have come to call this idea Trinity. According to John’s Gospel, Jesus always existed and became incarnate through Mary. Again we need to attempt to answer the question, “why?” instead of making senseless and irrational accusations. What kind of God would actually care enough to actually relate to His prized creation? Why would God act this way? Could it possibly be because He actually cares? Jesus inhabited flesh, so that he could live a perfect life (not rebelling against the Father) so that He could die physically (not terminate in His existence) as a substitute for the fleshly death that humanity earned in its rebellion against God. Hmm..
- “…to save human beings from the Hell that He created.”
Hell is something that we do fail to think about isn’t it? I guess, we must revert back to the question why once again. Apparently, thinking atheists will always avoid the question that every other human being seeks to answer. Why did God create Hell? Well a simple reading of scripture (Matthew 25:41) will result in our knowing that Hell was created for Satan and his angels (who first rebelled against God). Would it make any sense at all that God would create something to last forever only to have it destroyed? No. Thus, God would not destroy the soul of a man that He created to be eternal. So, what must He allow if any person chooses not to declare God as his or her king? He must allow them to exist, and the only place other than in the presence of Christ according to scripture is a place called the Lake of Fire. Perhaps this isn’t what we want to hear, but God doesn’t have to act according to what we think should be, and to completely destroy a soul would be to contradict His initial act of creating the soul to be eternal.
- “He then decides to communicate His scheme through conflicting accounts…”
I am still unaware of any account that actually is contradictory to another within scripture. In history, when we find two accounts from two different sources, he have pieced together a plausible line of events from the available information. I would be glad to have a genuine conversation (not malicious) about any apparent contradictions in recorded scripture. Please, ask questions and think about varying accounts of certain events.
- “…penned decades later by anonymous authors…”
Ah yes, but we have eyewitness and second hand accounts dating back to the first century that all corroborate one another. Matthew and John knew Jesus Personally. Mark historically received His information from the Apostle Peter. Luke spoke to many different eyewitnesses and put together a short biography of Jesus’ life. Paul met Jesus face to face but focused more on church administration that the life of Christ. Not to mention, Jesus reportedly fulfilled more than 100,000 prophecies within His lifetime regarding the messiah foretold by Hebrew scripture (that’s the Old Testament). The manuscripts we have have been redacted and compared with other manuscripts world wide. They have been traced back to the original language and to the first century. The documents are reliable and most likely penned by the name that they were branded with. Let me encourage anyone reading this to do a genuine study on Biblical authorship. It is quite interesting. In fact, the only document scholars are not sure about is the letter written to the Hebrews. It could have been written by Paul, Appolos or even Priscilla…
- “…and subjectively handed down by flawed translators…”
By comparing new translations to older and more reliable manuscripts we have found very few differences in the text. Most include the necessities when translating across language barriers. As time progresses, we are currently getting better in our translations because we continue to find older and more reliable manuscripts. The documents we have today are reliable!
- “…who can’t even agree on the interpretation of ‘virgin.'”
I am pretty sure every reasonable person agrees on the interpretation of virgin. Though, the Hebrew word for “young woman” in the Old Testament (Isaiah) or “maiden” translated to the Greek as “Virgin” in the New Testament.
- The overall picture
Once again, the thinking atheist community has succeed in failing to think about and study scripture for what it is. Here are a few words for that community. I pray that one day you will gain the ability to look at a group of texts unbiasedly and genuinely consider the story they behold. If we do not resolve to genuinely consider every claim that is brought before us, then it is unlikely that we will ever step beyond our own preconceptions and discover a true reality. If we intentionally look for contradictions or farces, we will find them even if there are none to find. If we look for truth (questioning everything as the science channel suggests) then we must question ourselves and understand that we could be wrong about something. This means that everything deserves our rational investigation. Please think about what you believe. You may be surprised at what you discover.
As for the believing community. I challenge you to do the same. Religion has been wrong in the past and can still be wrong in some beliefs that it holds. I have a relationship with God. I know He is real and that He cares, but there are areas where I could very well be wrong. I am resolved to discover truth. Such a quest honors the God of truth.