Evidences of Faith

Attack of the Atheists

I am not reporting any news when I write that atheists do not believe the Bible. Atheists, of course, consider themselves too intelligent and sophisticated to believe in God. If you have read this feature before, you know that Evidences is dedicated to providing examples of the hard evidence God has provided for us to analyze with our rational minds, and conclude that He is, and that He inspired the writers of scripture. So, if it is reasonable to believe in God and the Bible, on what grounds do the atheists assert the opposite? For one thing, they claim that the Bible is riddled with contradictions. Of course, if this is so, then there is reason to doubt its inspiration. Therefore, let us ask the question, "Does the Bible contradict itself?"

In order to answer this question, we will let the atheists have a crack at showing some contradictions. The following passages are cited on an "American Atheist" website as an example of a biblical contradiction:

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Exodus 20:8)

One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. (Romans 14:5)

It should be evident that, if God has ordained a specific day as holy, then it would not fall under the category of Romans chapter 14. For example, such things as birthdays and secular holidays would fall under the category of "days" in Romans 14, because God has not spoken for or against them. On the other hand, any thinking person will realize that I cannot do something which is described by God as sinful, and try to justify it on the basis of Romans 14 by saying "It doesn't matter what day it is!", or, "I was just observing the day!" No, we are not even close to a contradiction here. If the atheists wanted a contradiction to the Sabbath ordinance of Exodus 20:8, they should have gone for this:

So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. (Colossians 2:16,17)

Now that sounds like a contradiction! Of course, the answer to whether it really is a contradiction, is found a few verses earlier, where Paul tells us that the Law of Moses was nailed to Jesus' cross (Colossians 2:11-14). Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament law and prophets, and established a new covenant in His own blood (Hebrews 10:1-10, et al.). That being the case, we are not terribly surprised if some of the specific rules of the old covenant are different from what we find under the new. No, we don't celebrate the Sabbath today, because it was a provision under the Law of Moses, and not of the new covenant. This is the same reason we no longer sacrifice animals or burn incense. So then, there is no contradiction here.

Let us look at another example of supposed contradictions:

...the earth abides forever. (Ecclesistes 1:4)

...the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. (II Peter 3:10)

At least this time it sounds like a contradiction. In this present case, it will help us to look at the context of the phrase cited in Ecclesiastes:

What profit has a man from all his labor
In which he toils under the sun?
One generation passes away, and another generation comes;
But the earth abides forever.
The sun also rises, and the sun goes down,
And hastens to the place where it arose...
That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.
(Ecclesiastes 1:3-9)

You will note that this passage is poetry. You may recall learning in grammar school that poetry is often full of figurative language, and that we need to be careful about taking it too literally. You have heard the phrase, "poetic license". As it happens, the bulk of the book of Ecclesiastes is written with the perspective of one who dwells under the sun: that is to say, it is written from a man-centered, rather than God-centered, perspective. The lesson of the book is that when we look at the course of things in this earth without taking God's plans into account, everything appears empty and useless:

I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind. (1:14)

And, from an earth-bound perspective, the earth certainly appears to last forever! So, in the context in which it appears, this expression should not surprise us.

 Moreover, it is appropriate to note that the Hebrew word rendered "forever" in Ecclesiastes 1:4 simply means "of long duration", and not "eternity". The same word is used of the Law of Moses in such passages as Exodus 31:16-17, Leviticus 24:8, and Numbers 18:19 - and we have already noted that the Law of Moses did have an end. So, even if we take the passage in Ecclesiastes literally, we still have no contradiction with II Peter 3:10. The earth will come to an end, at a time appointed by God.

So far, then, the atheists are 0 for 2. Let us look at another "contradiction":

"For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." (Genesis 32:30)

No one has seen God at any time. (John 1:18)

Here again, we simply need to look at the context of the passage cited. The passage in Genesis is a familiar one. It is the record of God - or perhaps an angel of God - appearing to Jacob and wrestling with him. If you look in your Bible, you will see that what Jacob saw was a man. God appeared to Jacob in the form of a man, just as He did to Abraham in Genesis 18:1-2. Jacob did not see God on this occasion, because God is not flesh but spirit (John 4:24). Jacob saw a manifestation of or from God. The fact that Jacob, in his excitement, shouted that he had seen God, does not make it so. The Bible does not tell us that Jacob was correct in saying this; it merely records the fact that he said it. And, the Bible consistently describes the shortcomings of its characters, along with their strengths. But let me ask you to put yourself in Jacob's shoes for a moment. Imagine that God appeared to you in some form, and spent the night with you, and then blessed you before He left. Would you not be emotionally charged? Would you not likely come out with some excited comments? Would it be out of line to suppose that you might say something which, though not literally true, described how you felt? Once again, we need to lift the sentence out of its context, and misrepresent its intent, in order to get a contradiction.

These examples are typical of the "contradictions" found in scripture. They clearly show how desperate the unbelievers become in their attempts to disprove God's word. (The expression "grasping at straws" comes to mind.) In order to make an apparent contradiction, they need to lift two unrelated passages out of their respective contexts, and put them side by side. And, all we need to do to take the contradiction away, is to put the passages back in their original contexts, and understand their intended meaning. Once again, we see that in spite of the innumerable attacks against it, the Bible stands firm.

e-mail this author at jimrobson@tp.net

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