To, “An Atheist User said this…” A Kind Response

An atheist user of ________.net said this:

“Ironic thing; The Bible has no credibility whatsoever, it’s nothing but a useless piece of text used to spread mass ignorance amongst the world.

Mal. 3:6. For I am the Lord; I change not. Num. 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent. (Ezek. 24:14; James 1:17)
Ex. 32:14. And the Lord repented of the evil which he had thought to do unto his people. (Gen. 6:6; Jonah 3:10; Sam. 2:30-31; II Kings 20:1-6; Num. 16:20-35)

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. (Luke 2:14; Acts 10:36)
Matt. 10:34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth, I came not to send peace, but a sword. (Matt. 10:35-37; Luke 22:36)

Matt. 5:22 Whosoever shall say Thou fool, shall be in danger of hellfire.
Matt. 23:17 (Jesus said) Ye fools and blind.

*cough.. bipolar much?… cough*”

BookTalk-Logo-SMALL-Color-FilteredLess than twenty-four hours after a national radio interview regarding On Our origins was uploaded to the world wide web, one of my students emailed me a post directed against our shared beliefs (listen to interview here). The atheist’s attack, which I was asked to respond to, (above) said some things I most certainly take issue with.
There are many views of the Bible throughout Christianity. Some say the Bible contains the Word of God, others that it is the Word of God. Some view it as error-free. Others feel the need to sift through it to discover the heart of what God intended in differing portions. Regardless of how we approach it, the Bible is a significant part of the foundation of Christian faith. Through the Bible, God reveals Himself, His Son, His Spirit and makes His love known to humanity.
One need read no further than the previous sentence to see that I have a very high regard for the Bible. It bothers me when others call me ignorant because of my belief. It also bothers me when someone says disparaging things about my God.
But instead of reacting with angst and hate, I’d rather use this as an opportunity to reflect on a few things:
1. How Christians should treat those who don’t agree with them.
2. The importance of making a positive case for the Bible and God of the Bible.
3. Framing attacks on faith as opportunities for witness and building understanding.
It would be too easy for me to react to those with whom I disagree sarcastically. We have been raised in a culture that teaches if you think you are right, go ahead and treat others with contempt. This isn’t how we are called to witness.
I’ve heard Christians reference Jesus overturning tables in the Temple and speaking tersely to the Pharisees as justification for being less than charitable to those with whom they disagree. In my tradition, there are too many who fancy themselves to be Martin Luther, adopt his tenor and tone, but fail to love people as he most certainly loved his. I wish that there were more who embodied Christ’s love and followed in Luther’s faithful proclamation; but too often Christians who speak in a disrespectful manner come off to outsiders as self-justified hypocrites.
I Peter 3:15 is often quoted in our circles, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” But this is only a portion of the verse. The verse ends, “yet do it with gentleness and respect.” Unfortunately, many have good reason to take offense at the Church because Peter’s admonition is oft only half-heartedly followed.
The same sentiments that can make us react with hate can tempt us to defend our faith in a way that is negative instead of positive. In other words, too often our goal is simply to prove the other person wrong. The Gospel is much better served when Christians teach what is right about our faith.
The meta-narrative of the Bible tells the story of a loving Heavenly Father that fills His creation and people with life. Instead of reacting to someone by trying to disprove evolution, why not tell the story of creation? Then one is free to explore topics as diverse as cosmology, geology and biology in a way that describes the inter-connectedness of all forms of light and life instead of arguing about scientific minutia.
A positive case for Christian morality can be made by simple reference to the greatest commandments of Christ in Matthew 22. God’s law always encourages people to put others first by serving them and meeting their needs. Society needs citizens who put others first. Instead of arguing over a neutral basis of human morality, why not explore the selfless and sacrificial nature of God’s love that brings honor, respect and value to all life? Instead of berating and belittling our outspoken critics, why not exalt people who exemplify the Christian ethos such as Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol?
Kent and Nancy are the medical workers who contracted Ebola. They literally put their lives on the line to bring healing to others. Now that they have contracted Ebola, they have been infected with the disease they came to help cure.
This gives us a timely and powerful picture of what Jesus did for all. When Christ took human flesh upon Himself, He was “infected” with sin and died on the cross. But through His death and resurrection we have now been healed. Their actions embody Christ’s love and the Christian ethos.
We pray for Dr. Brantly’s healing. We commend him for taking such risks for the sake of others. Nobody can deny his courage, love and sacrifice. When defending the faith, we should focus our attention on what’s praiseworthy to make a positive case for faith.
Only after we show people the respect they deserve will they listen. We must teach in a way that doesn’t seek only to prove someone wrong. We must show them how life, love and reason resound throughout the scriptures and how scriptural principles work in real life.
The best witness is seasoned with love and respect. It’s salted with wisdom that comes from knowing God in His Word. With this recipe we can begin to debunk much of the ignorance in the world that passes as understanding.
The same atheist who blasted the Bible as riddled with contradictions only knew the Bible well enough to copy-and-paste the same contradictions that have been bouncing around the internet since its inception. Were he to examine the scriptures with an open mind, he may begin to understand that God and His love don’t have to change in order to make sense of most of his supposed contradictions. It is his ignorance that is on display, not God’s purportedly bi-polar nature.
Here are some of the passages that supposedly contradict each other from the post:
Mal. 3:6. For I am the Lord; I change not. Num. 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent. (Ezek. 24:14; James 1:17)
Ex. 32:14. And the Lord repented of the evil which he had thought to do unto his people. (Gen. 6:6; Jonah 3:10; Sam. 2:30-31; II Kings 20:1-6; Num. 16:20-35)
In citing these scriptures, the skeptic fails to acknowledge the context of each passage. They are drawn from diverse passages with entirely different circumstances. To rebuff this misuse of scripture, one can use the illustration of a parent who on one day disciplines her child and on the next may commend the same child.
Does a loving parent “change” every time she tells her child something different? The same mother who loves her child may on one day tell her child to clean his room because it’s a mess. The very next day, this same parent may tell her child they don’t need to clean their room because it is already clean.
I suppose this mother has somehow changed? I think not. The parent has said contradicting things on different days because the condition of the room changed.
The atheist also took issue with Jesus telling the disciples He didn’t come to earth to bring peace to the world but a sword in Matthew 10:34, whilst telling the same disciples in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you…” Christ has brought peace to earth by waging war against sin, satan and the world. These oppose God’s way of life and love.
In a fallen world, where good and bad are realities, peace only comes through conflict. This battle climaxed when Christ insisted on doing what was right and good to the point that it literally cost Him His own life on the cross. When Christians follow their Lord, they bring peace through conflict.
Christians daily battle against sin, temptation and evil at work in the world. Fighting disease (like Brantly and Writebol) brings peace in the form of healing. Battling dysfunction in families (counselors and Christian therapists) restores relationships. When people fail to resist evil, life dissolves into chaos. When we fight for what’s right, Christ’s love at work in the world through faith brings us peace.
Another supposed contradiction is found in Matthew’s gospel. Matt. 5:22, “Whosoever shall say, ‘Thou fool,’ shall be in danger of hellfire.” Matt. 23:17, (Jesus said) “Ye fools and blind.” Here, we do well to consider who is right to sit in the judgment seat and why.
In Matthew five, Jesus warns his listeners that words spoken in hate are murder. In anger, it is easy to condemn someone, but fallible human beings don’t have the authority to judge each other. This judgment is God’s prerogative.
In Matthew 23, Jesus (who is God) condemns those who presumptuously sit in judgment over others. He is right to condemn those who sin because they are trying to sit in God’s seat of judgment. When Christ judges, He is exercising the right He has been given by His Father. So again, there is no contradiction here.
When an atheist seeks to condemn God, they judge a god they have imagined. Their god is far less than the God of the Bible. We have nothing to fear in their attacks.
A well-educated Christian may have nothing to fear in their attacks, but many others aren’t equipped to deal with them. We, therefore, are called to meet them where they are. Christians do well to exemplify Christ by speaking the truth with gentleness and respect. In this way, even if others don’t hear a word we say, they will see Christ in how we react to them.

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