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.

Christianity and Climate Change

“I read this morning a newsweek article from the 1970s talking about global cooling. It said the science is clear. It is overwhelming. We’re in a major cooling period and it’s going to cause enormous problems worldwide and the solution for all the advocates in the 70’s of global cooling was massive government control of the energy sector of the economy and aspects of our lives. Now, the data proved to be not backing up of that theory. So then, all the advocates of global cooling suddenly shifted to global warming. And they advocated it’s warming and the solution, interesting enough was the exact same solution: government control of the energy sector and every aspect of our lives. But then the data don’t back that up. So, if you notice, the terms have shifted and now it’s climate change. And again, the solution is government control of the energy sector and every aspect of our lives. And when someone keeps proposing the same solution regardless of the problem, you start to think maybe they just like government control of the energy sector and every aspect of our lives.”

When it comes to data, we all have presuppositions to filter through before we decide what the information placed before us means. Some say that global cooling / global warming / climate change is happening, some say it isn’t, and some say it is, but not to any significant degree. People with all the same data are coming up with different theories to what may or may not be happening.

I have my take on this, but my intention in writing this isn’t to sway anyone’s belief one way or the next. All I’m going to do is state what the Christian approach to this is. By that I mean, what does the bible say about climate? My go to verse is Genesis 8:22:

“While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, And cold and heat, And summer and winter, And day and night Shall not cease.”

In context, this verse follows the aftermath of the flood. God promises not to punish the wicked in this way again. In saying that the cold and heat, summer and winter will not cease, He’s practically guaranteeing that the seasons will continue to change. Based on that scripture alone, if global warming climate change is happening, it won’t be so significant that the seasons will cease to change. To be explicitly clear, we don’t have to worry about the climate destroying the earth.

If the climate was going to destroy the earth, why would Jesus tell us the meek would inherit it (Psalm 37:11, Matthew 5:5, Romans 4:13, Isaiah 60:21, etc)? Over and over and over, the word of God confirms for us that God is sovereign over the weather. Let’s not forget, one of the most famous signs that Jesus showed was the calming of the storm. If He is indeed the risen Christ, will the weather not continue to obey Him?

As Christians, we have the responsibility to continue to tend to this garden we’ve been given. The science behind this discussion is important to help us facilitate the means to make the right decisions concerning it. Does it not honor God to seek renewable energy sources, to reduce waste, and to reduce our carbon footprint? Of course, it does! For these reasons, I would not argue with a Christian on this issue no matter where they’re at on the spectrum of ideas. My only concern would be to what degree their belief lies. Either extreme can potentially lead up to some bad decisions. More importantly, they both could lead up to thinking that’s just not biblical, and that’s the most important thing for the Christian.

More from Smarter People
On the Sovereignty of God Over Weather
How Christians View Climate Change
Where is that quote from?
Bill Nye Debates Climate Change

Songs of Ancient Israel

Have you ever wondered what it was like to sing the songs that Jesus sang? What was it like to sing the psalms of David? What did they sound like? What kind of instruments did they use? What was the phrasing like? If you’re passionate about worship and music, these things may intrigue you. From the digging around I’ve done, I’ve found this intrigue is actually common in this age! A lot of people share this same interest!

It’s been fascinating to find that there are artists that still sing songs in Hebrew. I haven’t found anything concrete on the inspiration behind the melodies, unfortunately! A simple search on Youtube will turn up similar performances of different psalms. If you’re interested in singing the songs in English, I’ve found a few projects revolving around that idea too!

There’s an artist known simply as “Shane” that’s setting all the psalms to contemporary worship style music. His endeavor is called “The Psalms Project“. As of this post, he’s put out three albums that span 30 psalms. He’s planning on composing material for all 150 psalms. This ambitious idea is tentatively going to take over two decades should he get the opportunity to finish it. Check out his progress on Spotify!

There are numerous guides out there too. There’s lots of information to be found about Gregorian chants, developing a meter, the history of psalms as worship, so on and so forth. All these things can be found easily by a google or YouTube search. There are some resources on Amazon for the scholarly artists among us as well.

I haven’t checked them out yet, but I’ve heard that the Sons of Korah have done some arrangements of the Psalms too. There’s also some arguments to be heard about exclusive psalmody (worship exclusively through psalms) and inclusive psalmody (including the psalms in worship). Here are a few resources to mull over:

Psalm Singing and Scripture Study
Worship From Genesis to Revelation
Music, Song, and Worship – A Brief Overview
Inclusive Psalmody

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

Cross Politic

What does the bible say about politics? Have you ever wondered what God has to say about the credentials leaders should have? What are his explicit commands to those in authority? What about separation of church and state? What are the implications for a Christian that’s interested or involved in politics? How should we address our leaders that are not Christians? If you’re curious about that, this podcast is for you.

From the website: “CrossPolitic (Christ over politics) mixes the taboo formula of faith, culture, and politics to bring the clarity of the gospel into muddle America. We are a community of Christians who desire to see the Lordship of Christ in every corner of our culture, reigning over every politician, and changing every individual for our good and His glory.”

They’ve also had some notable guests like Walter WilliamsJeff Durbin, Marcus Pittman, Voddie Baucham, and Sye Ten Bruggencate. The subject matter of the episodes takes on a wide variety of issues such as hip-hop, education, apologetics, immigration, race and economics. There’s something for everyone that’s looking to apply the Christian worldview to the political area of life. There are answers to questions the opponents of Christianity might have afforded by this podcast as well.

Also from their site: “Our hosts are pastors, deacons, and filmmakers, who long to see our fallen and broken nation recognize Jesus as our redeemer. Our hosts have interviewed notable presidential candidates (such as Senator Ted Cruz and Dr. Ben Carson), written books, preach the Gospel, make films, and utilize every avenue possible to declare the gospel of our Lord to the whole world.”

You can find all these free resources on their own website, on Facebook, on Itunes, or the Google Store.

 

Streetlights Bible

One of the best things about living in this age is our access to so many different mediums to get our fix of God’s word. We have our traditional bibles, audio bibles, digital bibles on the web, bible apps for our smart phones, and a endless supply of gospel presentations streaming on various websites. It’s an amazing time for Christians to arm themselves with truth so that we can honor God in ways that please Him and effectively love one another. Even if you don’t have time to read or stream, there’s something out there that’ll help hear the words of God.

All that said, dramatic readings of the bible typically aren’t my cup of tea. I normally don’t like the music that accompanies some scenes or I just feel like the inflection of the reader doesn’t match the tone of the passage being read and I just get really distracted. The plain readings literally bore me to sleep, so that doesn’t help me either (I’m not saying those aren’t generally useful, they just don’t work for me). Luckily for me, I found something that I think is a really creative way to share the scriptures.

Streetlights

From the website: “Producing an urban tailored audio Bible with multimedia tools is a monumental task. It requires vocalists, musicians, producers, videographers, writers, and editors working in conjunction to produce the multiple projects Streetlights offers. The result of professional gifts merged with the powerful content of the Word of God is dynamic! You have to listen, watch and engage to truly understand. The driving force behind Streetlights is our passion to see youth with low reading levels and limited knowledge of the Bible engage and learn the Word of God.”

Streetlights is an audio bible read by professional vocalists over hip-hop beats. These aren’t poorly produced tracks voiced over by lazy rappers looking to make a quick buck, either. The tracks are all really high quality. As for the readings, I think they’re really well done. There are even different vocalists for the different characters in the stories being told, which is really helpful when you’re listening and not reading.

Best yet, that’s not all they do. About their mission from the website: “We believe in life-on-life discipleship. Our tools are created as simple studies to help spark Biblical conversations in your discipleship relationships. We see our lessons to serve as a spring board for deeper conversation.”

All the readings are free. The only thing that costs is the discipleship program they offer, which is comprised of 32 lessons. There are 16 Old Testament lessons and 16 New Testament lessons. Their material is available on their website, on Spotify, and on their mobile app. Did I mention this is all free?

As of this writing, they have not yet recorded the whole bible. There’s a good bit to get some conversation started, though. And, for those curious, they read the NLT translation. These guys are also affiliated with Humble Beast! Go give this project a listen. It would make for a great conversation starter among friends.