Contradiction: Was There a Sojourn in Egypt or Not?

Peter, one of the regular readers here, pointed my attention to a post that shows a discrepancy in what the Bible claims about Jacob’s descendants spending 400+ years in Egypt. I won’t try to summarize it here — I wouldn’t be able to do it justice. Just check it out for yourself:
https://isthatinthebible.wordpress.com/2017/01/09/the-story-of-ezer-and-elead-and-what-it-means-for-the-exodus/

Which Nativity Story?

Well, it’s that time of year again. Regular church attendees are going to have to share their pews with people who have finally decided to make it out for their second service of the year. Their belief that Jesus bled and died so they can gain eternal salvation might be unshakable, but it apparently isn’t all that motivating, considering how little these believers seem to do in response. Nevertheless, they can at least be counted on to show up for a retelling of Jesus’s miraculous birth.

But what version will they hear? More than likely, they’ll hear a “Hollywood” version of the tale that incorporates the most exciting elements of the two versions that we read about in Matthew and Luke. A quick Google search turned up this one, which illustrates my point perfectly. But what if someone tried to tell the full version? A version that included every detail that both Matthew and Luke provide?
Continue reading “Which Nativity Story?”

God and Football, or: Facts Should Matter

For the past few months, my wife and I have been meeting periodically with some family members to discuss our religious differences. The conversations have been interesting.

When we tried this during our deconversion six years ago, it didn’t go well. Emotions were simply way too high. This time around, we’ve all come to accept the status quo, so there’s less pressure on both sides. The conversations have gotten heated at times, but nothing like they used to. Overall, I feel like they’ve been going pretty well, though I don’t think any positions have been changed, and I don’t expect them to.

Most of you know that my wife and I once believed the Bible was completely inerrant, and this was pretty much the consensus of everyone at our congregation. The Bible’s flaws had a lot to do with our leaving Christianity, and I tend to refer to them any time I’m discussing religion with someone. But these family members have reacted to this in a way that I don’t really understand, and that’s what I want to talk through in this post.
Continue reading “God and Football, or: Facts Should Matter”

Objective Rock Music

electric ladylandMy son is 7 years old right now, and he’s inherited my love of music. Over the last year or two he’s gotten to where he enjoys going to sleep while listening to something. Currently, it’s Jimi Hendrix’s “Gypsy Eyes” on repeat. But he’s also gone through periods where he only wanted “We Will Rock You” or Black Sabbath’s Paranoid album. He loves AC/DC, too. I love all of that music as well, but since I’m an adult, my tastes in music are much more varied. If we’re riding in my truck and an Eagles or Allman Brothers song comes on, my son asks for me to put on some rock music. “This is rock music,” I tell him.

“No, real rock music,” he’ll reply.

It’s cute. But it also brings up an interesting question: what is rock music? Is there an objective standard we can point to?
Continue reading “Objective Rock Music”

Is It Fair to Expect Inerrancy from the Bible When We Don’t Expect It from Other Sources?

In the comment thread of my last post, some of us mentioned that it’s hard for us to understand the point of view of Christians who believe the Bible can be inspired by God, without holding to the doctrine of inerrancy. unkleE left the following comment:

How is it that in everything else in life – whether it be ethics, or politics, relationships, science, history, law, even disbelief – we are willing to make decisions based on non-inerrant evidence and reasoning, but when it is belief in God we require inerrant evidence? I reckon your first thought might be that the stakes are so much higher. But that logic applies to disbelief as well. If we applied that logic, no-one would be an atheist because they didn’t have inerrant knowledge for that conclusion. You would not have any belief either way until you gained inerrant knowledge.

Continue reading “Is It Fair to Expect Inerrancy from the Bible When We Don’t Expect It from Other Sources?”

Letter to a Friend

Several months ago, I received a letter from a childhood friend whom I haven’t heard from in a very long time. She and I were both raised in the same fundamentalist branch of Christianity (Church of Christ), and our parents are still very close. Her preacher recently did a series of sermons on evidences for Christianity, and they impressed her enough that she felt the need to mail me copies of the CDs (14 of them!) as well as an apologetics book, Surveying the Evidence, by Kyle Butt, Wayne Jackson, and Eric Lyons. I immediately wrote her back and thanked her for sending the material. After all, it shows a deep concern for my eternal well-being, and that of my family, so I know it comes from the best possible motives. It’s a caring gesture. In my response to her I promised to read the book and listen to all the CDs.
Continue reading “Letter to a Friend”

The Big Picture

We live in a world where it’s possible to question the very existence of God, even the supernatural altogether. Our world also contains many religions that, more often than not, tend to break out along ethnic and cultural boundaries. Most of these religions claim to be the one true way to win the “game” of life — whether that’s through reaching enlightenment, receiving salvation, etc.

So for the sake of argument, let’s say that there really is a God, and he’s given us one of these religions that we’re supposed to follow. As most of these religions teach, picking the wrong belief system will result in horrible punishment that is likely to last an eternity. I already see lots of problems with this scenario, but let’s ignore those for the moment.

How are we supposed to know which religion is the true one? Continue reading “The Big Picture”

New Book About Hitchens Claims Too Much

Here in Birmingham, there’s a writer and Christian apologist named Larry Taunton who has a new book called The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist. I know. Just the title itself is enough to get your blood boiling.

Taunton actually knew Hitchens personally, as the two engaged in a series of debates. And according to Taunton, this interaction produced an unlikely friendship. In a recent interview (which is definitely worth reading or listening to), Taunton said:

I discovered the public manifestation of Christopher was everything… was everything people thought that he was. He was, at least until 9/11, he was the leftist, sympathetic Marxist, fire-breathing atheist. But something went off in Christopher after 9/11… He broke with the left at a political level and said, look, I can no longer go along the knee-jerk, leftist position that America deserved 9/11 and is responsible for all the evil things in the world.

There’s definitely some truth to the claim that Hitchens’s political views concerning foreign policy underwent some major changes after 9/11. He consistently sided with the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan, though he never considered himself “any kind of conservative” (Anthony, The Guardian, “The Big Showdown”). Of course, his hatred of Islamic terrorism was also one of the major inspirations for his book God is not Great.

But the real problem with Taunton’s book is this:

The whole of my claim in this book is that Christopher was a man of two books, that off stage he was very different and that after his diagnosis with esophageal cancer, a diagnosis that he knew to be a death sentence, Christopher was reevaluating his religious options. Greek Orthodox, no. He was never going to consider that. Roman Catholicism, no. Judaism, perhaps. He was deeply affected late in his life by the discovery that he was Jewish on his mother’s side, something his mother kept secret the entirety of her life.

But Protestantism and Evangelicalism had a kind of appeal to Christopher and he was exploring it. But I think the problem for him was that Christopher had created a kind of prison for himself. If your reputation is built on, just as mine is in the other direction, if your reputation is built on atheism and you have spent so much of your life in discussions like this one and on television and so forth railing against faith, it’s pretty hard to backtrack from that to admit that perhaps you’re wrong.

I actually find this claim downright offensive. And it’s not because I hold Hitchens as being some paradigm of skepticism that would make him impervious to bad ideas. It’s more that this kind of claim is such a tired cliché, and it discredits the memory of someone that Taunton claims was a friend. Hitchens was unequivocal in his derision of religion. To think that he’d express doubts to a sometime debate partner rather than those closest to him seems unlikely. Furthermore, it goes against the character he had exhibited his entire life — that of someone who insists on speaking honestly about his opinions, even when they are at odds with the views of those with whom he’d normally agree.

And if those aren’t good enough reasons to doubt Taunton’s claims, we also have the testimony of Carol Blue, Hitchens’s wife. Not only did Hitchens think he would recover from the pneumonia that ultimately killed him (a symptom of his cancer), but as she said, “God never came up.” And in an interview with Anderson Cooper, Hitchens actually addressed this very scenario:

Taunton claims that his position is based on private conversations he had with Hitchens, so there will probably never be a way to prove or disprove what he says. But his claims run so counter to what those closest to Hitchens have said, and they’re so completely out of character with the man himself, that they’re simply unbelievable. Since Hitchens isn’t here to defend himself, it makes Taunton come across as incredibly opportunistic. To make such unsubstantiated claims is an insult to the memory and legacy of Christopher Hitchens.

To What Extent Should Parents’ Religious Beliefs Affect a Child’s Well-Being?

Mariah Walton was born with a birth defect that could have been fixed rather easily, if her parents had only allowed it (if there’s an ad in the video, it’s worth waiting through it):

I take parents’ rights very seriously, but how many examples of children being harmed by their parents’ belief in faith healing do we need before we step in? And is there any point at which faith healers will acknowledge that they were wrong? Or is it like prayer, where no response simply means the request wasn’t according to God’s will, or the person’s faith wasn’t strong enough? Do they never stop to wonder why life expectancy was so low back when virtually everyone had to rely on faith and superstition to heal the sick?

New Information on Literacy Rates in Ancient Judah

A new study using computer-aided handwriting analysis suggests that literacy rates may have been higher in the ancient Kingdom of Judah than previously thought. The story’s pretty fascinating, and you can read more about it at these links (thanks to SPG and Graham for sending these my way):
http://gizmodo.com/artificial-intelligence-sheds-new-light-on-the-origins-1769736018
http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/new-evidence-on-when-bible-was-written-ancient-shopping-lists/ar-BBrDfep?li=BBnb7Kz&ocid=HPCOMMDHP15

One of the things that always interests me with these kinds of articles is how wide the gulf is that separates the views of modern scholarship from those of your average fundamentalist congregation. Most of the Christians that live in my area still believe that Moses wrote Genesis through Deuteronomy, Joshua wrote Joshua, Samuel wrote Judges and 1 and 2 Samuel, etc. Most of them are completely unaware that the majority of scholars have a radically different view. On the other hand, while scholars are certainly aware of the traditional view of the Bible’s composition, they’re so far beyond it that they don’t even reference it in these kinds of articles. It’s like they’re living in two different dimensions. I’m one of those who’s crossed from one to the other, and it’s almost disorienting to think back on how I used to view the world.