Tough Questions for the Christian Church
by James Buckner
Through years of participation in the life and culture of evangelical Christianity, a number of "difficult to understand" issues came to my attention. The approach to these problems endorsed by evangelical Christian leaders is for thoughtful Christians to accept the "difficulties" as inscrutable but nevertheless true, and to endeavor to strengthen one's faith in other areas where "difficulties" are not a hindrance. I acquiesced to this approach while I lived my busy life, until such time as I should be able to search out the solid answers that evangelical theologians had undoubtedly derived from their more thorough and sophisticated study of scripture.
After years of studying the Bible as an individual and in groups, listening to sermons, attending Christian conferences, leading a small group Bible study, reading evangelicalism's best apologists, and even preaching from the pulpit once, I was dismayed to discover that the church cannot answer the tough questions about Christianity. And I was heartbroken when I finally recognized, quite contrary to my own wish, that the cumulative force of the so-called "difficulties" thoroughly and unquestionably discredits Christianity.
Anticipating that many Christians will not accept my conclusion, and that they will urge me to come back to church and continue "searching," because of Jesus' promise that those who search will find, I have listed some questions the church must answer if it hopes to regain my attention.
The questions that follow have been organized loosely into categories to aid in referencing them. Many questions could legitimately be placed in other categories. Their current placement reflects my own judgment of where the weight of the questions carries the most force.
The list is not exhaustive. There are innumerable serious issues with Christianity laid out in the existing body of skeptical literature. The list that follows is a sampling from a variety of sources. Not a few were independently discovered by myself before I learned of the existence of serious skeptical literature, a few are original with myself, and a few actually come from Christian sources.
Some biblical references are given, but all are not. I am assuming that any Christian knowledgeable enough to address these questions intelligently will not have trouble finding the biblical passages at issue. In addition, some questions assume a general familiarity with certain biblical and extra-biblical subjects which are not practical to reference because the relevant knowledge is widely dispersed through a large body of literature; for unreferenced items, a Christian who does not understand the issue probably is not well-read enough to attempt an answer.
Problems with the Integrity of the Bible
1. Why does the evangelical church say there are no contradictions in the Bible when they are plainly there for anyone to see? (These are too numerous even to list a representative sample here. There are many books and monographs on this topic in the skeptical literature.1)
2. Why does the Old Testament teach that there is no hell, while the New Testament teaches that there is? The idea of "progressive revelation" does not explain the conflicts in the biblical texts.
3. Why does most of the Old Testament teach that there is no afterlife (see Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, for example), while later Old Testament writings and the New Testament do?
4. Why does the church say that God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), when many biblical passages flatly contradict this?2
5. Was God known by the name Yahweh prior to Moses (Exodus 6:3), or was he not (Genesis 4:26, 5:29, 9:24, 22:14, 27:20, 27:27, 28:20-21)?
6. Which "Ten Commandments" are the Ten Commandments - the ones listed at Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, or the ones listed at Exodus 34? Only the list at Exodus 34 is explicitly called the "Ten Commandments" in the biblical text.
7. Was the Law given by Yahweh perfect (Psalm 19:7), or wasn't it (Hebrews 8:6-8)?
8. Why can't the six accounts of the resurrection be reconciled?3 Paul says that without the resurrection, the Christian faith is in vain (1 Cor 15:14). How could the biblical accounts possibly disagree on such an important narrative?
9. Why were the disciples surprised by Jesus' resurrection after Jesus had told them repeatedly to expect it?4 An angel even reminded the women that Jesus had told them of his impending resurrection (Luke 24:6-7). How is it that the women remembered his words (Luke 24:8), but the disciples didn't (John 20:9, Luke 24:12)? Even Jesus's enemies remembered that he had foretold that he would rise again (Matthew 27:63).
Biblical Ambiguities and Omissions
1. Why is the Bible unclear about how to be saved? Is there anything more important that the Bible could communicate? Why is it ambiguous and contradictory on this subject?
2. Why does Jesus teach salvation by works in the synoptic gospels, but John portrays him teaching salvation by faith?
3. Why does John not teach in his gospel that it is necessary to repent of our sins, since he states that his gospel was written specifically for the purpose of showing people how to be saved (John 20:31)?
4. Why is the nature and practice of the two sacraments - baptism and the Lord's Supper - left ambiguous in the Bible, and a cause of discord among churches?
5. Why is the book of Revelation incomprehensible if it is really "not sealed" (Rev 22:10)? Why are the prophecies in the book of Daniel actually easier to understand, if they are sealed (Daniel 12:9)?
6. Why doesn't the Bible provide unambiguous answers for major divisive doctrines like efficacy of baptism, paedobaptism, mode of adult baptism, soteriology, Christology, trinitarianism, satanology, angelology, nature of the afterlife, eschatology, fundamentals of the faith, the standing of Jewish believers in relation to the Law, the standing of Gentile believers in relation to the Law?
Misinterpretation of Scripture by New Testament Figures
1. Why did the writers of the New Testament feel free to misquote and misinterpret the Old Testament and conflate verses?5
2. Why did the gospel writers use the Septuagint, an inferior translation of the Old Testament?6 Did the Holy Spirit fail to inspire them with the more accurate Hebrew text, the one accepted today?
3. Why did Matthew and Peter take Old Testament passages out of context to make them into prophecies, when they were never indicated to be prophetic by the Old Testament author (Acts 1:20 versus Psalm 69:25, for example)?
4. Why did Mark misreference an Old Testament prophet (Mark 1:2)?7 How can we rely on Mark to explain Old Testament prophecies to us if he is even mistaken about the source?
5. Why does Jude quote the non-canonical Book of Enoch as prophecy (Jude 14-15)? Did the Holy Spirit fail to inspire Jude with the fact that the Book of Enoch would not be accepted into the canon?
6. Why does Matthew quote a non-existent Old Testament prophecy (Matthew 2:23)? Was he using non-canonical writings, too?
7. Why does Matthew attribute a quote about the potter's field to Jeremiah, when Jeremiah has no such passage, and the closest one in the Old Testament is Zechariah (Matt 27:9-10; Zechariah 11:12)?
8. Why doesn't Paul ever quote Jesus from the gospel accounts, or show that he knew anything at all about Jesus's teachings and life as portrayed in the gospels?
9. Why is no single hermeneutic adequate for interpretation of scripture?
Why were the New Testament authors so free and loose in their hermeneutics? How could it be that the meanings of some words and phrases have been lost? How could it be that some cultural references have been lost? How can it be that many books and passages admit of multiple interpretations? Doesn't God want us to understand his Word enough to protect the knowledge of its referents and use unambiguous diction and phraseology?
Failed Biblical Promises
1. Why doesn't prayer work, when the Bible promises that it will (John 14:14, for example)?
2. Why aren't Christians doing greater works than Jesus did, since he himself said they would (John 14:12)? The context is clearly referring to miracles.
1. Why have no prophecies been demonstrated to have been fulfilled? Why are many Old Testament prophecies too vague to be tested? Why are many Old Testament prophecies "yet to be" fulfilled? Why has it been impossible to demonstrate that the Old Testament prophecies were written prior to the events forecasted?
2. Why wasn't Tyre destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar as prophesied by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 26)? When it was destroyed by Alexander the Great, why didn't it remain desolate as prophesied by Ezekiel?8
3. How can it be that Isaiah prophesied a temporary destruction of Tyre, while Ezekiel prophesied a permanent destruction (Ezekiel 26:14,21; 27:36; 28:19 versus Isaiah 23:13-18)?
4. Why wasn't there a 40-year period in Egypt's history when the whole land was devoid of people and animals, as prophesied by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 29:11-12)?
5. Why is so much of New Testament prophecy incomprehensible? Why produce a prophecy at all if it cannot be understood?
Problems with Miracles
1. Why haven't any of the miracles recorded in the Bible been independently confirmed?
2. Why don't verifiable miracles happen today? What better way is there to convince people of the Christian message, and isn't that the commission given to the church by Jesus?
3. Why don't evangelical Christians accept miracle stories recorded in ancient non-biblical works? Isn't it the case that evangelical Christians have decided a priori to accept biblical miracles and reject all others? Aren't the apologists' "objective standards" for accepting or rejecting extra-biblical miracles post hoc?
Origin and Transmission of the Scriptures
1. Why is the authorship of most books of the Bible disputed? Why do many books of the Bible have no statement of authorship? Why are some books in the canon pseudepigraphical (lie about authorship)?
2. Why did the early church not revere the scriptures as Christians do today, so that they added interpolations and made emendations?
3. Why hasn't the Bible been transmitted to us in perfect condition if it is so important and if God had his supernatural hand in it? Why did both Israel and the church add interpolations, emend, and conflate the texts?
1. Why is the Mosaic injunction against false prophets ignored in the canon? Deuteronomy 18:20-22 should disqualify Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Jonah, Jesus, and Paul.
2. Why is the canon disputed by the church? Is God content to let uninspired writings falsely be proclaimed as his Word? Furthermore, how do we know the canon is complete?
3. Why has no one been able to describe a consistent objective basis for establishing the canon? Why was the canon established by vote instead of on objective principles? Why was the canon not directly revealed by God?
4. Why is so much of New Testament doctrine revealed through the use of occasional letters instead of in systematic books written, authorized, and canonized specifically to define Christian doctrine? Why didn't God deliver these himself, as he did the Law to Moses? Maybe this explains why the Old Testament Law has more clarity than the New Testament doctrines. Why did God leave the writing of systematic theologies to modern, uninspired writers, who cannot agree with one another?
1. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, why did God lie about what the outcome would be (Genesis 2:17),9 while the serpent told the truth (Genesis 3:5,22)?
2. Why are women treated as chattel and inferior to men throughout the Bible?10
3. Why is the Old Testament and most of the New Testament addressed only to free men, and not to women or slaves? Does God deal only with free males?11
4. Why does the Bible condone slavery?12
5. Why does Yahweh command genocide,13 including the killing of infants? Why does he command that all women who have "known a man" be slaughtered, but the soldiers are to keep the young virgins for their own use (Numbers 31:14-18)? Why does the Bible portray Yahweh as worse than Hitler (Deuteronomy 20:16-17)? Isn't it blasphemous to call the Bible "God's Word," when it libels him so?
6. Why doesn't the Bible condemn polygamy? Is it not really a sin? In fact, the Bible seems to condone polygamy through examples of God blessing polygamists and by its explicit statements regarding David.
7. Why wasn't Lot condemned for giving his daughters to be abused by the men of Sodom (Genesis 19:8)? The Bible actually calls him righteous (2 Peter 2:7)!
8. How can Christians say that the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion is based on Judeo-Christian ethics when Deuteronomy 13:6-10 and 17:2-7 flatly contradict this?
9. How can being mauled by a bear possibly be a just punishment for name-calling (2 Kings 2:23-24)? Doesn't this contradict God's own edict of "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth?"
10. Why is faith - believing something for which there is no evidence - a virtue?
11. Why is rational skepticism a vice? If Christianity is true, won't the truth hold up under scrutiny? Shouldn't the church welcome and promote rational skepticism as a way of confirming and spreading the faith when people see that it fails to undermine Christianity? Why isn't skeptical literature studied and refuted in Sunday School classes?
1. Why do Moses, Ezra, Jesus, and Paul all disagree on marriage and divorce? Moses allowed divorce, Jesus disallowed it and also allowed it, Paul allowed it, and Ezra actually commanded it to appease God (Ezra 10). How is an honest Christian supposed to know what to do in this area?
2. Why does the New Testament teach by example that major decisions should be decided by lot (in Acts chapter 1 when Matthias is chosen)?
3. Why doesn't the Bible provide unambiguous guidance for major divisive issues like abortion, divorce, war, church discipline, lending and borrowing money, etc.? Doesn't God want the church to be united? Doesn't God want individual Christians to know how they should live?
Conflicts with Science
1. Why does the Bible teach that the sky is a solid dome of transparent material with water above it?14 (The water poured through the "windows of heaven" to cause Noah's flood, and then presumably poured off the edge of the disk-shaped earth into the abyss.)
2. Why does the Bible teach that goats will have striped offspring if they see stripes when they drink at the watering trough, when this has been discredited by modern genetics?
3. Why does the Bible record scientifically impossible events as factual?
For example, the creation narrative, Noah's deluge, a solid dome over the sky, Earth supported by a foundation. Why has the evangelical church produced "Creation Science" explanations that are complete nonsense? Why is it that none of the more rational reconciliations of science and the Bible survives scrutiny?
4. How can it be that Psalm 16 and Romans 1 teach that the creation is a reliable means of knowing God ("natural theology"), but the scientific study of biological and geological origins contradicts the creation narrative in Genesis? Why does "natural theology" contradict "revealed theology" (the Bible)? Is the creation bearing false witness? Is the Bible bearing false witness?
1. Where is the justice in punishing us for Adam's sin? The Bible itself says that children will not be punished for the parents' sins (Deuteronomy 24:16). Furthermore, if God really created Adam not knowing either good or evil (Genesis 3:22), how could such a harsh and enduring punishment as death for Adam and all his descendants possibly be just? Our secular courts are more just than God when they show mercy on people who cannot distinguish between right and wrong, such as children and the mentally handicapped. And why isn't this doctrine of original sin found anywhere in the Bible except in Paul's writings?
2. Where is the justice in punishing Jesus for our sins? If our courts of law were to accept the punishment of someone else in the place of the criminal, we would not say that justice has been done, but that injustice has been added to injustice. Would the church have me believe that two wrongs make a right?
3. How can sacrificing Jesus on behalf of the sinner atone for another's sin? This would be like killing my child to reconcile for the misbehavior of my neighbor's child. I have the capacity simply to forgive and forget without demanding compensation for small offenses. Why can't God do this? Does he simply want blood?
4. Why pray? If it changes God's mind then he is not sovereign. If it does not change God's mind then it is superfluous.
5. How can the doctrine of the Trinity possibly be true? Any attempt to make sense of it leads to contradictions. If it is so important, why isn't it clearly taught in the Bible? Why shouldn't an objective student of the doctrine conclude that it was created by the church to hide biblical inconsistencies about the nature of Christ behind a shroud of mystery?
6. Why is God concerned about humans at all? We are less than a speck in the universe. Christianity has the hallmarks of being a religion made by humans for humans.
7. Why have all the rational arguments for the existence of God been successfully refuted? If God exists, is it unreasonable to suppose that there would be at least one irrefutable proof of his existence?
8. Why haven't the existing proofs of God's non-existence been refuted? Surely believers, who have the advantage of an indwelling Holy Spirit with an "infinite mind," cannot be stumped by "finite minds" of unbelievers working within the confining limitations of reason, can they?
9. Why is it that some teachings are conveniently tautological (i.e., circular)? For example, you must pray the will of God in order for prayer to be answered; you must believe the Bible in order to understand the Bible; and the Bible is the Word of God, therefore it is true.
10. How exactly does "loving God and enjoying him forever" give meaning to life? Any satisfying secular activity can give meaning to life. Why does the Christian assume that a metaphysical meaning for life is necessary? Isn't it the Christian who imposes meaninglessness on this present life, declaring that meaning depends for its existence on the life to come? And if Christians did not believe they will live forever, would they continue to love and serve God? Isn't it really eternal life that the Christian loves, and not God? If purpose in this present life is really derived from loving and serving God, then what sense does it make for Christians to make meaning dependent upon a future life?
11. Where is objective, verifiable evidence that a soul or spirit exists and survives the body after death? Why does the Old Testament deny such an idea until the later writings, which show the influence of Greek ideas? The idea of "progressive revelation" does not explain this.
Intractable Theological Problems
1. How could Adam and Eve ever have sinned if God had actually created them perfect, even if they did have free will? If God created them imperfect, how could a perfect omnipotent being create anything imperfect?
2. How can evil exist in the world if God is simultaneously good, omnipotent, and loving? Why is it that no theodicy stands up under rational scrutiny?
3. Why does the church say God did not create evil, when he himself claims that he did in Isaiah 45:7, Lamentations 3:38, and Amos 3:6?15
4. Why does God expressly take credit for creating disabilities (Exodus 4:11)? If these are God's doing, then why does the evangelical church insist that disabilities are the result of the fall, or of Satan's work?
5. Why would a loving, omnipotent, benevolent god cause people to believe falsehoods so that he can condemn them (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12)?
6. Why is the Bible inconsistent on major theological issues such as the nature and existence of an afterlife, the efficacy of works of the Law with regard to salvation, and the distinction between soul and spirit?
7. Why does the evangelical church speak of absolute values when the Bible teaches situational ethics?16
8. Why is it not possible to formulate a systematic theology that agrees with the Bible in all points? Roman Catholic theology introduces unbiblical and irrational ideas; Calvinistic reformed theology stumbles at the existence of evil; covenantal theology muddles the biblical distinctions between Israel and the church; dispensational theology is too hopelessly complex to be credible because every major inconsistency is explained away by spuriously introducing a new "dispensation;" and Arminianism destroys the sovereignty of God.
9. Why doesn't the Bible itself present its own "revealed" systematic theology. Doesn't God want us to have a consistent and complete framework of theology to support right decision making and teaching others?
Blemishes on the Church
Unbiblical and Inconsistent Practices of the Church
1. Why does the church worship on Sunday, when the seventh day was established forever? There is no biblical support for Sunday worship; it is a tradition of the Catholic Church which Protestants accept.
2. Why do many evangelical churches deny that baptism is essential for salvation, when the New Testament clearly teaches that it is?17
3. Why do some churches object to wine since the Bible indicates that it is a gift from God (Psalm 104:14-15)?18 How can they continue to object even when they acknowledge that Jesus turned water into wine? Is this anything more than a holdover from prohibition? In fact, the Bible promotes drunkenness in Proverbs 31:6-7.
4. Why does the modern evangelical church embrace the extra-biblical doctrines of "having a personal relationship with Christ," having a "quiet time," "journaling," and the necessity of belonging to an "accountability group?" Doesn't the church understand its own religion? Why is it caught up in pop-religion? If these are not really doctrines of the church, then why is there social pressure to conform?
5. Why does the church teach tithing for Christians, when it is only commanded of Old Testament Israel? Why didn't Paul teach tithing to the New Testament church when he had the opportunity to (2 Corinthians 9)?
6. Why do some churches ignore controversial teachings in the Bible, such as speaking in tongues, baptism for the dead, the requirement for women to wear head coverings and to remain silent, the identification of the "sons of God" in Genesis 6, the necessity of poverty in order to follow Jesus (Luke 14:33), etc? Doesn't the Holy Spirit reveal the true meaning of these passages to believers? If so, why do sincere believers come to opposite conclusions on their own, and why aren't they able to come to agreement when they dialog with each other? Surely, Jesus is with them to guide them when two or three are gathered together in his name, isn't he, even if they misapprehended the Spirit's guidance when they were on their own?
7. Why must Christians resort to divination (looking for "guidance," looking for "doors of circumstance to open or close," etc.) if the Holy Spirit dwells within them? What is the benefit of an indwelling Holy Spirit if it doesn't manifest itself in day-to-day living, and it has to be coaxed into revealing God's will in major decisions?
8. Why do Christians pray about whether to marry someone, when Paul says that if they want to get married they should just do it (1 Corinthians 7)?
9. Why does the evangelical church rail against one-world government, since they say it is God's plan as revealed in Revelation? How can they justify speaking and acting against God's revealed plan?
The Headless Church
1. Why is the evangelical church subject to the same social movements as the rest of society? If the church is headed by the living Christ, shouldn't the institution be a steady keel in a stormy sea?
2. Why does the church trail rather than lead in social reforms? (For example: the rise of capitalism, rise of the scientific method and critical thinking, abolition of slavery, eradication of Nazism, women's suffrage, civil rights of African Americans after the abolition of slavery.) And why does the church dishonestly claim leadership in these reforms after the fact?
3. Why are the church's day-to-day practices guided by cultural norms rather than by the perfect, absolute, unchangeable norms of God and the Bible? For example, why do churches separate children from their families and age-grade them like the schools, why does the church propagate self-help ideology when the message of the Bible is dependence upon God, why does the church accept and participate in competition where it has rejected it in the past,19 why has the service of women in the church been addressed only after secular culture has addressed women's issues, why does the style of music in the church and church architecture follow cultural patterns instead of defining cultural patterns?
4. Why doesn't the church understand Jesus's teachings? Why are most preachers afraid to preach straight through a gospel from beginning to end?
Why do they skip over Jesus's "difficult" sayings and the enigmatic passages?
Character of the Church
1. Why has the church done so little good and so much harm in 2000 years, while science has demonstrated remarkable progress in only 500 years? Why is the period when the church dominated western history universally referred to as the Dark Ages, while the period of breaking away from church dogma is called the Enlightenment?
2. Why are the Crusades and the Inquisition and other church-sponsored atrocities politely ignored in many church education programs, leaving church members to learn of these in other venues, or, more likely, to remain ignorant of the heritage of the institution to which they belong and contribute.
3. Why does the church conceal and ignore and misrepresent legitimate criticisms and critics? If Christianity is undoubtedly true, why doesn't the church demonstrate it by refuting the whole body of skeptical literature in Sunday School classes? The church isn't trying to hide something is it? How can the church possibly maintain credibility when it is so blatantly partisan on the side of dogma, and obviously not dispassionately seeking truth wherever the evidence may lead.
4. Why do so many members of the church dismiss the veracity of unbelief without even giving it a fair hearing, especially in light of biblical condemnations of this behavior, such as "He who answers before listening - that is his folly and his shame," (Proverbs 18:13, NIV), and "The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him," (Proverbs 18:17, NIV), for example.
Problems with Jesus's Credentials and Character
1. Why are many Old Testament prophecies about Jesus referenced in the New Testament taken out of context, not being messianic prophecies at all?20 Why would Jesus's disciples, and Jesus himself in Matthew 4:13-16, misrepresent the Old Testament text? Surely the Son of God would not allow a disciple to persist in distorted understanding of the scriptures, nor teach a synagogue class an unjustified misinterpretation of scripture?
2. Why doesn't Jesus fit the real, clearly identifiable, messianic prophesies of the Old Testament? Why do the gospel writers ignore these prophecies? Why does the church condemn first century Jews for rejecting Jesus as the Messiah, when he clearly does not fulfill the Old Testament prophecies of Messiah? Why must we wait until Jesus' second coming to see the clearest prophecies fulfilled?
3. Why do the two genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke disagree? If someone is declared to be the son of God, surely his credentials must be impeccable, mustn't they? Two variant genealogies cast suspicion on the true origin of this man, don't they?
4. Why does the genealogy in Matthew 1 show that Jesus descended through a cursed line?21 Jeconiah (Jehoiachin) and his father Jehoiakim were both cursed by God himself, who said that neither of these men would have any descendent on the throne of David. How could Jesus possibly be the Messiah, destined to rule forever on the throne of David, if he descended through either of these men?
5. If the genealogy in Luke is that of Mary and not Joseph, then why does it list Joseph in the line rather than Mary? Why is no other genealogy of a woman recorded anywhere else in scripture? And if this is Mary's genealogy, then Jesus descended through Nathan, not Solomon, making the prophecies in 2 Samuel 7:12-16 and 1 Chronicles 22:10 false.
6. If, using the genealogy in Luke, Jesus's claim to descent from David, of the tribe of Judah, is through Mary rather than Joseph then how can it be that Mary's cousin, Elizabeth, was descended from the house of Aaron, of the tribe of Levi (Luke 1:5)?
7. Why does Jesus misquote the Old Testament?22
8. Why does Jesus refer to the writings of Moses (Mark 12:26), when it is clear that Moses could not possibly have written the Pentateuch?23 Surely the son of God would know more about the Word of God than anyone else, wouldn't he?
9. How can it be that Jesus contradicts the Old Testament (1 Samuel 21-22), saying that Abiathar gave David the showbread instead of Ahimelech, and saying that David had men with him, when he was actually alone (Mark 2:25-26)? Does the church expect me to rely upon the teachings of a "son of God" who is demonstrably mistaken about what God's Word says?
10. Why does Jesus quote a non-existent verse of Old Testament scripture (John 7:38)? Is it possible that he considered other non-canonical writings also to be God's Word?
11. Why would Jesus deliberately obscure the gospel by speaking in parables so that people would not understand, turn, and be forgiven (Mark 4:11-12)? Did he not come that all men might be saved?
12. Why was Jesus in the tomb for only two and a half days at the most, when he said he would be there three days and three nights (Matthew 12:40)?
Surely the son of God would say precisely what he means, wouldn't he?
13. Why would Jesus prophesy that his kingdom would come in glory before some of those listening to him died, but the kingdom still has not come (Matt 16:18, Matt 10:23, Mark 9:1, Luke 21:31-32)? Surely the son of God could not have spoken a false prophecy, could he?
14. Why did Jesus say his followers must hate their families? Surely, when the son of God said "hate" he meant "hate," didn't he? Why would the son of God confuse us by using hyperbole? How could the examples of Luke 9:59-62, even if allegorical, be hyperbole anyway? Jesus clearly called a man to the irresponsible, disrespectful action of leaving his father, implying that he was not even to attend his funeral, and he called another to leave his family without even saying farewell or letting them know he was deserting them.
15. Why was Jesus disrespectful of his mother?24 In John 2:4, Jesus uses the same words with his mother that demons use when they meet Jesus.25 Surely the son of God knew that Mary had the blessing of the Father, didn't he, not to mention that the son of God would never be rude?
16. Why did Jesus lie to his brothers about going to Jerusalem (John 7:8-10)?26 Did God the Father send a lying spirit, as he did in 1 Kings? Like Father, like Son?
17. Why did Jesus, by his own admission, break the Sabbath law (John 5:16-18)?27 This puts the lie to the Christian idea that the perfect Jesus fulfilled the whole Law, and therefore was a suitable unblemished sacrifice for our sins.
18. Why did Jesus say the ruler's daughter was not dead? (Matt 9:18-25; Luke 8:41-56) Either Jesus lied, or he performed no miracle, but the context clearly shows that it was understood to be a miracle.
Evolution of Religion by Naturalistic Social Processes
1. If Christian theology and the church have a supernatural origin in an omnipotent God, then why has theology and the church evolved through naturalistic social processes over time?
2. Why does theology change from the beginning of the Bible to the end? Why are the later writings influenced by Greek thought (for example, immortality)? Why is there such a large theological gap between the Old and New Testaments? The changes are not explainable by the idea of "progressive revelation," or by any systematic theology.
3. Why was the doctrine of the Trinity unknown to the church until the fourth century? Why was the doctrine established by vote instead of by revelation? Why was the membership of the voting council loaded with Athanasians? Why was belief in this then-new doctrine made a condition for membership in the church? Why were Arians exiled and executed?
4. Why is Jesus so similar to the other 15 suffering saviors of mythology? Why don't Christians believe any of the other virgin births and savior stories recorded in ancient literature? How is it that the ritual of Christian communion existed in the prior pagan ceremonies of eating the body and drinking the blood of their gods? How is it that the Christian ritual of baptism also existed in the prior pagan cults? Weren't the very defining doctrines of Christianity actually assimilated from the endemic pagan cults? Likewise, why are Easter, Christmas, the Lenten season, rogation days, and others, derived from pagan holidays. Didn't Christianity have any legitimate calendar of commemorations of its own?
5. How did liberal churches come to exist? If they are inclined to believe, why did they not continue to believe the "fundamentals?" Could it be because the fundamentals have insurmountable problems that discredit them?
1. Why hasn't the church answered any of these questions in the 23 years I have been a part of it?
2. Why hasn't the church answered any of these questions in 2000 years?
I can only conclude that it is because the church has no answers.
(c) Copyright 1997, James Buckner. Permission is hereby given to reproduce and distribute this material in whole or in part in any medium, on condition that the reproductions not be sold for any form of consideration, and on condition that the author is duly cited as the source.
1 See, for example, the works of Thomas Paine, Robert Ingersoll, Joseph Wheless, Dennis McKinsey, Farrell Till, and others. Many of these writings can be found on the Secular Web at www.infidels.org.
2 Genesis 11:9; Exodus 14:24 and 23:27; Deuteronomy 7:23 and 28:20,28; Joshua 10:10.
3 Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20-21, Acts 1:3-12, 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.
4 Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:17-19, Mark 9:31, 10:34, Luke 9:22, 18:33.
5 Matthew 3:3 versus Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 12:17-21 versus Isaiah 42:1-4; Matthew 13:35 versus Psalm 78:1-3; Acts 2:16-21 versus Joel 2:28-32; Acts 7:43 versus Amos 5:25-27; Romans 3:4 versus Psalm 51:4; Romans 9:33 versus Isaiah 28:16 and 8:14; Romans 10:6-8 versus Deuteronomy 30:12-14; Romans 11:9-10 versus Psalm 69:22-23; Romans 11:26-27 versus Isaiah 59:20-21; 1
1 Corinthians 3:20 versus Psalm 94:11; 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 versus Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14.
6 Matthew 3:3; Luke 4:17-21; Acts 7:43; Acts 15:17; Romans 10:11.
7 This misreference is found in the critical text, but not in the Textus Receptus, illustrating that the early church was willing to emend the holy scriptures to remove difficulties.
8 Ezekiel 26:14, 27:36, 28:19; Wallace B. Fleming, The History of Tyre, Columbia University Press, 1915, p. 64.
9 Some modern translations soften Yahweh's statement that Adam would die "in that day," and so disguise the problem.
10 The evidence is too overwhelming to cite even a representative portion of the relevant scriptures, but a few of the more explicit examples are 1 Corinthians 11:3,9; 1 Timothy 2:12-14. A good source of additional information on this topic is the Freedom From Religion Foundation, PO Box 750, Madison, Wisconsin 53701.
11 The fact that God dealt with Israel during their slavery does not weaken the force of this question. Israel's slavery was a temporary condition designed to underline Israel's dependence on Yahweh. Yahweh began to deal with Israel when he was a free man.
12 See, for example, Exodus 21:20-21, Deuteronomy 15:17, Leviticus 25:44-46, Ephesians 6:5-7, 1 Timothy 6:1, Colossians 3:22, Titus 2:9, 1 Peter 2:18,21.
13 Number 21:34-35, Joshua 10:40, 1 Samuel 15:3,18, Jeremiah 50:21 for example.
14 Paul H. Seely, "The Firmament and the Water Above: Part I: The Meaning of raqiaà in Gen 1:6-8," Westminster Theological Journal 53:241-261 (Fall 1991), and "...Part II: The Meaning of "The Water above the Firmament" in Gen 1:6-8," 94:47-63 (1992).
15 Despite the renderings in the modern translations, this is the same Hebrew word translated "evil" in numerous other passages. However, even with the modern renderings, how can the Christian explain God's taking credit for "calamity" (NASB) or "woe" (NRSV) or "disaster" (NIV)?
16 David's eating the showbread, for example, and Jesus's Golden Rule.
17 Mark 16:16; Acts 2:28; Acts 2:41; Acts 22:10 + Acts 9:6 + Acts 22:16; 2 Corinthians 5:17 + Romans 6:3-6
18 See also, for example, Jeremiah 13:12, Joel 2:19, Deuteronomy 14:25-26, Isaiah 25:6, Deuteronomy 7:13.
19 The ancient Olympics were outlawed by the church through direct governmental influence, and the modern Olympics were not revived until the church lost its hold on secular government.
20 Matthew 3:3 versus Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 4:13-16 versus Isaiah 9:1-2; John 19:36 versus Psalm 34:20; John 19:37 versus Zechariah 12:10.
21 Matthew 1:11-12 + Jeremiah 22:28-30 and 1 Chronicles 3:16 + Jeremiah 36:30 versus Luke 1:32.
22 Matthew 4:10 versus Deuteronomy 6:13; Matthew 11:10 versus Malachi 3:1; Matthew 21:16 versus Psalm 8:2; Luke 4:17-21 versus Isaiah 61:1-2.
23 This is firmly established by pentateuchal anachronisms detailed in numerous critical sources.
24 Matthew 12:46-50, Mark 3:31-35, Luke 8:19-21, John 2:4.
25 Compare John 2:4 with Matthew 8:29, Mark 5:7, Luke 4:34, and Luke 8:28 in literal translation
26 The "yet" inserted in some modern translations is not found in the earliest extant manuscripts. This is an example of modern emendation of holy scripture. The more honest translations, like the King James Version, print "yet" in italics, indicating that the word has been added in translation. The New American Standard Bible does not insert the word, remaining true to the critical Greek text. But the New International Version inserts "yet" in normal typeset, relegating the explanation of its dubious character to a footnote, where many uncritical readers will miss it.
27 The point of this reference is that Jesus plainly said that he was working, in violation of the Sabbath law. If he was not really working, then he lied.