Sunday, September 8, 2013

Atheism, its Annotated Bible, and Logical Incoherence

It is becoming increasingly common for atheists to refer us Christians to the Skeptics Annotated Bible (SAB). It presents many verses which we cannot understand completely – verses that seem to defy understanding. Here are the first three from the Book of Genesis:

  • God creates light and separates light from darkness, and day from night, on the first day. Yet he didn't make the light producing objects (the sun and the stars) until the fourth day (1:14-19). And how could there be "the evening and the morning" on the first day if there was no sun to mark them? 1:3-5

  • God spends one-sixth of his entire creative effort (the second day) working on a solid firmament. This strange structure, which God calls heaven, is intended to separate the higher waters from the lower waters. 1:6-8

  • Plants are made on the third day before there was a sun to drive their photosynthetic processes (1:14-19). 1:11

Admittedly, I cannot provide an exhaustive understanding of these perplexities, and so I won’t even try. Instead, I think that it is more important to expose the faulty logic hiding behind the charges of the SAB. It goes something like this:

    1. Many of the Bible’s verses are not fully amenable to our understanding.

    1. Therefore, the Bible is mistaken and cannot be God’s words.

Admittedly, #1 is correct. The problem is with #2, which does not follow logically from #1. Simply because we cannot fully understand the Bible doesn’t mean that it isn’t God’s Word. In fact, if the Bible is God’s Word, we shouldn’t be surprised that some of it transcends our understanding. The Bible itself warns us that we only understand it in part. Why then should we reject it when we find that we can’t understand it completely – the very thing it claims!

To use an analogy, it would be pure folly for a first-grader to reject his math teacher because he fails to understand her lesson. To bring this principle closer to home, dismissing the Bible for SAB reasons would be like dismissing science because of its many perplexing findings and its failure to exhaustively define/comprehend even the basics – time, space, laws, mathematics, and matter.

Furthermore, many of the sub-atomic findings of science even seem to overthrow the very basics of science – cause and effect. Nevertheless, we do not reject science. Instead, we reject our limited understanding of science. We do not reject what is known by virtue of what is unknown! However, the SAB is not as gracious when it comes to its appraisal of the Bible.

Here is another reason why we should not dismiss the Bible, merely because it states some perplexing things. As with science, the Bible has already contributed so much to life and understanding that it would be foolishness to dismiss it. Besides, as is the case with science, it has been validated in many ways. Here are some of the ways:

1.      The Witness of the Spirit and Personal Experience
2.      Changed Lives and Societies
3.      External Confirmation
4.      Miracles
5.      Fulfilled Prophecies
6.      Internal Consistency
7.      The Other-Worldly Nature of Scripture

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