The Skeptics Annotated Bible

A Christian turned skeptic set out on the laborious task of showing that the bible is not inerrant, not the word of a loving God, and the reason for faith is largely because people don’t actually read the bible or teach all of it. Here’s a blurb from the author:

“The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible (SAB) attempts to remedy this imbalance. It includes the entire text of the King James Version, but without the pro-Bible propaganda. Instead, passages are highlighted that are an embarrassment to the Bible-believer, and the parts of the Bible that are never read in any Church, Bible study group, or Sunday School class are emphasized. For it is these passages that test the claims of the Bible-believer. The contradictions and false prophecies show that the Bible is not inerrant; the cruelties, injustices, and insults to women, that it is neither good nor just.”

Have a look at the full site here. The author put in quite some time and effort into this project. There’s even a random verse from the bible displayed on the homepage that could be troubling for some believers. Through and through, it’s all pretty elaborate. He divides his arguments up by category, even! To his credit, he even links the Christian response to his website, a response that took seven years to complete. See the rebuttal to SAB here.

In this back and forth, it’s presupposed that truth, rationality, morality, and consistency are all of the utmost importance. What worldview gives the basis to account for any of that? Why is the outcome of examining the bible for errors or atrocities of any relevance? These two authors have all the same information and are coming to differing conclusions. What does this mean about the problem that remains? Who’s being consistent with their worldview in this debate?

 

 

The Outer Darkness

If someone asked the question “how could a loving God send anyone to hell?”, how would you answer? There are lots of presuppositions behind that question. It suggests that God isn’t just in sending people to hell. It suggests that hell isn’t a fit punishment for anyone. It suggests that a God that would subject anyone to such a cruel fate isn’t worthy of our worship. It makes man judge over God.

Another question to ask is this: how could God be a God of justice and mercy if people didn’t go to hell? For the victim of sexual abuse, would heaven be a safe place if the unrepentant rapist was there? For the children, would heaven be a safe place if the child molester was there? Would there be harmony in heaven if members of the KKK held their rallies there? Would heaven be a place where we truly set free of sin if we still had to lock our doors in fear of the thieves, the liars, and murderers?

“And the King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” – Matthew 25:40-41

From this scripture, I’d argue hell isn’t even a place made for us. Alas, it’s a place where the justice of God will be meted out. Scripture also makes it clear what our standing before God is by default. Outside of Christ, we’re described as “haters of God”, “children of wrath”, “having no righteousness of our own”, “dead in sin”, and so on. By our sinful nature, we don’t want God. Why would someone that hates the law of God even want to go to heaven to be with Him for eternity? We don’t.

Not only that, but think about this: we’re made in the image of God. Like God, we have the ability to be rational about our positions. So, think about the law you have set forth in your own home that you’ve been blessed with. Would you allow people into your home if they refused to obey the rules you’ve set forth? What would it take for you to kick someone out of your home?

My advice to anyone with questions about God’s justice is to look at the ground we stand on as part of creation. Outside of God, there is no such thing as justice, morality, or the like. There is only what is. It’s all completely neutral. We’re free to confess these foolish words with our lips, but none of lives as if this is true. I’ll close with words from a man much wiser than myself.

My Reason

What would you say if someone asked you what your reasons were for your faith? I’ve wrestled with this for a long time. I’ve studied apologetics, theology, biology, geology, cosmology, and other subjects to varying degrees so I could come up with an answer. Frustratingly enough, I’ve learned a lot, but I still haven’t been able to clearly articulate the reason for my faith. Just a few days ago, I realized the answer wasn’t in the books. God has already revealed to me what I need to say, I’ve just never thought to say. My answer is this: I know that God exists because He spoke to me directly.

During that time of my life, I was tragedy waiting to happen. I was whirlwind of chasing skirts, poppin’ bottles, and a deeply ingrained rage at what felt like the whole world. Everything seemed so pointless and empty. Brokenness was all around me. Friends betrayed friends, husbands betrayed wives,  mothers betrayed daughters, and so on. Outside of what I could see around me, my thoughts of people are out there dying from starvation, disease epidemics, natural disasters, the list goes on.

In my mind, God was busy dealing with those things. There was no way He had time for me and my little problems in the grand scheme of things. I just hoped I did good enough not to end up in hell when my life was over. In the mean time, it was up to me to find any semblance of joy on this side of life, but it was a futile endeavour. When I got to my worst and stopped caring about whether I lived or died, He spoke directly to me.

I’ll never forget that night. It was Sunday, January 20th, 2013 around 11pm. I was shut up in my room wrestling with the things I’ve personally done that have added to the world’s misery and suffering. Grief was overwhelming me to the point that I could see literal blood on my hands. Deranged is the closest word I can use to describe seeing a manifestation of personal guilt. I thought I was losing my mind, but then He said two powerful and to and to the point things to me.

The first thing He said was simply “Enough”. The blood on my hands vanished, but that only added to my confusion I really thought I was losing it then. Then He said “I have things for you to do”. It was not an option to consider, it was a command. One I could only respond to with a meek “Okay”. From then on, I just sat in silence pondering what I had just experienced and wondering if I really was just crazy.

What does God’s voice sound like? Well, I can’t tell you that. He didn’t speak to me with an audible voice. The words were impressed into my heart. He spoke to the part of me that sincerely believed those moments that I was a good person subjected to a bad world. His words showed me my lack of righteousness, and that’s how I knew it was Him.

He dispelled the illusion I was in and showed me my true self. Shortly after that, He showed me that He was working in me through other people. Someone I hardly knew told me I was different. I had only met this person one other time a year prior, when I was in the midst of my downward spiral. The second time we met the change in me was brought up and I walked away from that encounter realizing that I indeed did feel different.

The despair, anger, paranoia, and everything else was gone. I didn’t feel a gaping hole in my soul begging to be fed with a hedonistic lifestyle anymore. I was healed emotionally, spiritually, and mentally without even being consciously aware of it. He spoke to me and showed His power by changing the things I found pleasure in. The bottles in my cabinets turned into books on my shelf. It’s been a gradual process of change since then.

So, if you ever wonder why I’m so sure, it’s not because of the moral argument, uniformity in nature, the beauty of creation, love, human rights, or anything else a godless worldview has nothing to show a basis for. It’s because He chose to speak to me. All those other things just bolster my personal experience with Him from that night.

At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me,a is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” – John 10:22-30

Christianity and Tarot Cards

tarot-reading

This image via The Inquistr.

An interesting conversation happened on a friend’s Facebook page recently. She was venting about her frustrations of dealing with Christians that don’t understand why tarot readings are a forbidden practice for us. It’s a pagan practice, for sure. I don’t think anyone would argue against that fact. But, in light of scripture, why is this something that’s regarded in such low regard? Before reading this thread, I didn’t know the answer to that question (besides the obvious idolatry).

From the thread:

“Question: “What are tarot cards? Are tarot cards evil?”

Answer: Tarot cards are associated with divination—unlocking the secrets of the future by occult, supernatural means. Divination is strictly prohibited in the Bible.

Tarot cards come in a deck of 78 individual cards. They were developed about 600 years ago for gaming. However, some mystics, psychics, and occultists began to use the cards for divination, and today the cards and the ability to “read” them are seen as elements of fortune-telling. To receive a tarot reading is to attempt to find out things about one’s life or future through the occult.

Usually, the practice of reading tarot cards starts with the questioner cutting the pack of cards or sometimes just touching it. The psychic or card reader then deals out some cards, face down, into a pattern, called a “spread,” on the table. As the cards are overturned, the psychic or reader constructs a narrative based on the cards’ meanings and their position on the table. Obviously, reading tarot cards places a heavy emphasis on fate, “hidden knowledge,” and superstition.

God warned His people, the Israelites, against divination when they were on the verge of entering the Promised Land. He lists divination among such evils as child sacrifice and casting spells in Deuteronomy 18:9–12. Leviticus 19:26 puts is succinctly: “Do not practice divination or seek omens.” Tarot card reading definitely falls within the scope of this prohibition. In some cases, tarot card reading can be guided by demons. In Acts 16, Paul meets a fortune teller, a slave, who earned her masters a lot of money by fortune-telling (verse 16). The Bible attributes her ability to having a demonic spirit, which Paul was able to cast out of her by the name of Jesus Christ (verse 18). The Bible does not mention the tools the slave girl used to tell the future, but, whether tea leaves or dice or lots or cards of some type, the items used in that context brought honor to demonic spirits.

The spiritual dimension of our world is real, and it is not to be taken lightly. The Bible tells us that Satan seeks to destroy us. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Lions are not to be toyed with.

Many people seek out supernatural knowledge about their future because they fear the future. The Bible tells believers not to fear the future; rather, we should trust God, the Source of peace (Isaiah 26:3; Philippians 4:6–7).

Solomon, the wisest person ever, offered this wisdom about knowing the future in Ecclesiastes 7:14:

“When times are good, be happy;
but when times are bad, consider this:
God has made the one
as well as the other.
Therefore, no one can discover
anything about their future.”

And in Ecclesiastes 8:7 he writes this:

“Since no one knows the future,
who can tell someone else what is to come?”

Only God holds the future, and only He truly knows what will happen (Isaiah 46:10).

If you desire to have peace about your future, turn to the Lord Jesus Christ. The future is bright for those who know Him (Romans 8:17).

Recommended Resource: The Kingdom of the Cults, revised and updated edition

To add this, I need to say again that this is a form of idolatry. It’s trusting in man made schemes to tell what our future is and, to some extent, tell us something about who we are and why are the way that we are. God has told us this already plainly from the beginning. Will we ignore His words and trust in tarot spreads instead?

 

Bible Reading Plan

Reading the entire bible can feel like a daunting task. It’s easy to get distracted with commitments to family, work, or our social lives. The busyness of life can prevent us from doing one of the most important things we can do which is to sit down and read the bible. The urgency of the issue can’t be understated. Who is God? How do we know what pleases Him? What does it mean to be a Christian? How can we know that Jesus is the messiah? How do we answer the challenge of skeptics? What is the Holy Spirit’s role in our lives? To answer those questions, we must read the bible.

To successfully complete this endeavor, it’s best to start out with a plan. In my case, it was my New Year’s resolution to do this. I got myself a reading plan that would take me through the bible from the beginning of January to the end of December by date. You can see the plan that I chose to use here. Although that’s the one I used and found helpful (especially when I started getting behind), I’d actually suggest another method of getting through the bible.

I found this website a lot more convenient from a glance. It has different plans that are specific to what you may be looking to accomplish. There are plans for particular books, just the old or new testament, there’s both testaments in a year, there’s both in three months, there’s a plan that ties themes together that are told throughout the bible, and more plans of varying difficulty. There’s even a two year plan for those of us that are really busy or are slow readers. It’s a tool for the young and mature in the faith!

No matter what plan you decide to go with, the important part of all this is to stick to it. You need to know what’s in the bible. You need to know what you believe when you confess Jesus as Lord. One read through isn’t going to give an in depth knowledge of everything, especially not in a one year plan. That is true. There’s not enough time to sit and meditate on the truths of scripture when you’re on a schedule like this. Nevertheless, it’s good to intake it all and be exposed to it. Think of it as a foundation to build on.

After you’re done with your first read through, then you can pick a more thorough reading plan for the book or topic of your choice. Personally, I decided not to go with another rendered plan. I read books of the bible at my own pace, and then I’d either find a podcast, sermon, or website that addresses parts of the text I’m wrestling with (NOT suggesting at all that it’s something everyone can or should do, but it’s been helpful for me).

Besides the two websites I have listed here, there are plenty of other options available. Check out the many bible apps for your smartphone or mobile device of choice. Both Google Play and Itunes have a plethora of them that have plans and reminders included in the software. If you’re a slacker like me, you can use an audio bible while you’re on the go to catch up. Faith comes by hearing, right?!

Once you get into some deep study, then the fun stuff like commentaries, concordances, and journaling come into play. None of those things are necessary as they aren’t biblical practices, but they sure do help with engaging the scriptures.

Moses Needs a GPS

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This picture is pretty trendy on the internet right now. I’ve found myself talking about it in three different groups and on a good friend of mine’s wall on Facebook. With the steam it’s picking up, I thought it would be worth it to throw my two cents in.

I’m going to start with a word that opponents of Christianity hate: context. Let’s consider all the circumstances before making our conclusion. Yes, it’s true that the Israelites were wandering for many, many, MANY years. It should have only taken them maybe a week and a half, or two weeks at most (giving time to rest and taking into account all the children that were there, etc). So, why 40 years instead of 2 weeks?

Were they lost? The short answer is no. The long answer involves the state the Israelites were in as a people, the covenant God made with Abraham, and the conditions upon said covenant that had to take place for it to be fulfilled. The Jews of the day knew what God’s promises were and they even knew where the land was they’d eventually inhabit. Let’s take a closer look at the texts that verify their circumstances.

On the state of the Israelites: The way to the promised land began after the exodus out of Egypt. They could trust the God that brought plagues upon Egypt and freed them of their bondage that promised them a land to claim as their own or they could go back to where they came from. The choice wasn’t a difficult one. See the first fourteen chapters of Exodus for these accounts.

On the covenant made with Abraham: They were being led by God to the land that was promised to them generations before they knew the cruelty of slavery. God told Abraham specifically what land was to be inherited by his descendants. They already knew where they were going. That rules out them being lost.

“Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.” – Genesis 12:1-7

On the conditions to be met: The Israelites were to be people that did things that were right in the eyes of God and to be heralders of justice.

“For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” – Genesis 18:19

They failed to keep their end of the covenant. They made a calf out of gold and worshiped it instead of the true God (Exodus 32), they complained about their provisions and doubted God (Numbers 14:2-3), and tried to usurp Moses from his God appointed position (Numbers 16).

To be concise, the Israelites weren’t allowed to settle into the promised land because of their disobedience. God flat out tells them so.

“The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers. And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” – Deuteronomy 8:1-3

This is reaffirmed in the new testament by the author of Hebrews.

“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.'” – Hebrews 3:7-11


Most importantly, events like this one make a lot more sense when they’re tied to the person of Christ, because He is who they point to anyway. When Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to the wilderness to fast, He faced the same temptations they did. He was hungry, tired, and was enticed by Satan to worship a false God. Jesus was faithful in the trials the Israelites were not. Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days and they were there for 40 years. Obedience made all the difference (Matthew 4).

Bonus: After the Israelites inherited the land of promise, they were actually given the boot out by God for the same reason. The people went astray and left their just ways.

Further Study
Abraham and the Land of Promise