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Bible's Bad Fruits a Cheap Shot

By Roger Kennett
Posted on: 4/24/2002

All correspondence received by Skeptic Friends Network or its staff becomes the property of Skeptic Friends Network, and may be printed without the consent of the author.

The first of numerous misunderstandings of an SFN article, but Tommy and his correspodent quickly move off to other subjects.


Re: SFN Article “The Bible’s Bad Fruits

To:   Tommy Huxley
From: Roger Kennett
Date: Unknown

I read your article on slowing of light with great interest. It is
amazing that people peddle such misquotes of scientific evidence to
their own warped end. Clearly, however proposals that light must be
slowing down based on these historical estimates are out to decieve
and misguide people and I found your article most helpful. Creationism
that tries to disguise itself as science when it is clearly not is
pathetic and quite sad. It worries me that in Australia (QLD) that
some of this madness is given time in "science" classes at school.

However, when I read your "Bible's Bad Fruits," I was alarmed to see
you using almost the same strategies. It seems that you are implying
that the bible is encouraging the "bad fruits" you list -- surely that
is the point of the article. Yet even a vaguely scholarly read of the
text shows that you have grossly misrepresented the thrust of very
many of the passages quoted. In many cases, the historical passages
are merely recording history and many others need a far more careful
treatment by looking at the whole context -- the author, the main
themes, the purpose, the literary sytle, etc.

Conclusion:

You have stooped to the same cheap, rhetorical nonsense that you
rightly accuse Creationists of. You have cheaped scholarly literature
study in exactly the same way that Creationsists have cheapened
scientific study. This is a pity, since you also compromise your
intellectual integrity and the value of your other writings which I
have enjoyed.


To:   Roger Kennett
From: Tommy Huxley
Date: Unknown
First, I want to thank you for your response to my essays. Believe it or not, none of my opinions are rock solid. I often tell my detractors that if they find any mistakes in my articles, I will gladly make all the appropriate corrections and give credit to those who point them out.

I’m also glad that you agree with me that the speed of light isn’t slowing down. And I’m pleased that you recognize how some Christians deceive others when they should be the ones that stand for the truth.

But I’m not typecasting all creationists. Individuals like Hugh Ross, Walter Bradley, Fred Hereen, Alan Hayward, Phillip Johnson and others often draw misguided conclusions about certain scientific evidences, but I’ve never seen them twist the facts on purpose.

I’ve noticed that “young-Earth” creationists are most inclined to lie because they’ve placed themselves on a wobbly foundation. If you insist that the universe is only six to ten thousand years old, you’re not just attacking evolution — you’re assailing all the natural sciences, which is insane. Today’s scientific discoveries routinely crush their defenses. It must be tough to remain a diehard young-Earth loyalist against the onslaught of all the opposing scientific data.

And finally, I want to respond to your critique of our “Bad Fruits” page.

First, Dawn and I didn’t intend that this page be taken as seriously as our scientific rebuttals. We’re just poking fun at the stupid caricatures promoted by the Institute for Creation Research. Despite their appeals to scientific respectability, the ICR spouts purely religious propaganda. And I stress the word “religious” over “scriptural,” because the ICR often invents unbiblical fictions as scripture. And our “Bad Fruit” examples demonstrate that their strategy can blow up in their faces.

But let me respond to something that you said in particular:
Yet even a vaguely scholarly read of the text shows that you have grossly misrepresented the thrust of very many of the passages quoted. In many cases, the historical passages are merely recording history and many others need a far more careful treatment by looking at the whole context — the author, the main themes, the purpose, the literary style, etc.
I’ve attended fundamentalist churches almost all my life, and I’m familiar with the art and science of Biblical hermeneutics. I know that many of the examples we quote are historical accounts that the Bible merely narrates without editorial comment. And I’m also aware that the Bible consists of prose, poetry, history and allegory, and you must discern what passages to take literally or symbolically.

But we also sprinkled in a few examples of Yahweh ordering the killing of innocents. And your response is typical of what other Christians tell us — that we “twist Biblical passages out of context that emphasize broader, fundamental truths.”

But the Bible is crystal clear in the most uncomfortable spots.

For example, there’s a story in Numbers 25 where some Israeli men indulge in “sexual immorality with Moabite women” who invite them to participate in Baal worship. God responds by sending a plague to kill 24,000 Israelites, and then orders Moses to “Treat the Midianites as enemies and kill them” (Numbers 25:17) because they persuaded Israel to participate in sacrilege. Following God’s command, Israel destroys the entire male population of Midian without losing a single soldier in combat. (Numbers 31:7-12) After burning their cities to the ground, they take all the women and children captive.

The Bible isn’t clear about why God punished Midian in the first place. Earlier, it says that the Moabites seduced Israel. In The Defender’s Study Bible, Henry Morris claims that “the Midianites participated with the Moabites in the seduction of Israel into fornication and idolatry,” but he’s just speculating. The only mention of Midian in this entire story is when an Israeli man sneaks a Midianite woman into his tent “in front of the children of Israel.” Then Phinehas, Aaron’s grandson, seizes a spear and impales them both (25:6-8) inciting God to tell Moses to destroy Midian (25:17).

Now consider the fate of the captured women and children. After seeing their husbands and fathers slain, they’re no-doubt terrified. Then Moses gives the following order: “Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.” (Numbers 31:17-18) So the boys (including toddlers and infants) are yanked away from their mothers and slaughtered. And the Israelites then kill every woman who isn’t a virgin, too, which obviously includes pregnant mothers.

Is this story literally true? If so, what kind of “context” do we attribute it to? As a father of a three-year-old son, I find it painful to imagine that a merciful God could order an army to kill defenseless boys. But how else can I interpret that chapter? Do you have a better “context” to clarify this event?

And what’s this story’s moral lesson? Obviously, you could say that God punishes those who participate in idolatry, or who lure the righteous into idolatry. But we also learn that God punishes children for the sins of their parents, although he explicitly ordered Israel not to do this in Deuteronomy 24:16, 2nd Kings 14:6, 2nd Chronicles 25:4, and Ezekiel 18:20.

Is God capricious about following his own decrees?

And this story presents other problems. After killing the women and boys, 32,000 virgin women are spared. Then, God tells Moses to divide the spoils of the war and give thirty-two of these virgins to Eleazar the Priest as a tribute or “heave offering” to the LORD (Numbers 31:40-41). Were these virgins sacrificed to Yahweh? Many Christians claim that God never accepted human sacrifice because God strictly forbid such practices in Leviticus 18:21, 20:2-5, and Deuteronomy 12:31. But what else would Eleazar the Priest do with thirty-two virgins given as a tribute to the LORD? And when we compare Ezekiel 20:25-26 with Exodus 13:2 and Numbers 18:15, what are we to believe?

And finally, the Bible tells us that the Israelites:
1. Destroyed all of the Midianite men (Numbers 31:7)
2. Slew all their kings (31:8)
3. Seized all their cattle, flocks, women and children (31:9)
4. Burned down all their cities and camps (31:10)
5. Took all their captives, spoil and plunder (31:11)
6. Slew all their boys and women, except for 32,000 virgins that they divided among themselves or gave as a tribute to the LORD (31:17-18).
By now, you’d assume that Midian didn’t have a digit left standing. But wait! Israel went to war with Midian again in Judges 6, 7 and 8. How can that be? In Judges 7:12, the Bible says that Midian’s army (with Amalek) were as thick as locusts and that “their camels could no more be counted than sand on the seashore.”

In a footnote, my NIV Life Application Bible says this about Judges chapter six:
Years earlier the Israelites, while still wandering in the desert, battled the Midianites and almost totally destroyed them (Numbers 31:1-20). Because of their failure to completely destroy them, however, the tribe repopulated. Here they were once again oppressing Israel.
What? Israel completely destroyed Midian. How could they return in an army as thick as locusts, with enough camels as sands on the seashore? Curiously, the Defender’s Study Bible overlooks the whole contradiction.

I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to type such a long response. And I agree that critiquing the Bible in no way refutes young-Earth creation science or bears on the creation/evolution debate at all.

I only wanted to explain why we included the “Bible’s Bad Fruits” page. I also want to stress that Dawn and I don’t stoop to “rhetorical tricks.” Airing the Bible’s dirty laundry doesn’t twist scripture out of context. We’re just drawing attention to its shortcomings.

Again, thanks again for responding!



To:   Tommy Huxley
From: Roger Kennett
Date: Unknown

A very thoughtful and considered response -- thank you. Firstly, yes I
agree that some of your "bad fruits" were relevant, that does not then
permit others which are not -- BUT i take your clarification about the
context of the article -- that the poor and ill thoughout slur (the
photograph) probably does require humour as a response, so I accept
what you are saying about the weight of the page, although I still
feel that in parts it is misleading.

Yes, I do struggle myself (2 young girls) with the descriptions of
what God ordered in the old testament.

I do not pretend to have the answers. However, it is one thing to say
that I find accounts of history and what God did repugnant, quite
another to say therefore they are not true. Can we discount history
that is not comfortable? Or is the issue more for you, how can I
accept that God is a loving God when he ordered/demanded those
things?

If (just suppose) that God is God (and all that means), then who are
we to stand in judgement? No, I am not meaning that we "switch off"
our intellect and sense of morality -- quite the opposite... IF God is
God then from where did we get our sense of morality and our
intelligence?

My dog must get very confused. She knows that I love her and feed her
and walk her and care for her. But every now and again I take her to
her "hell" -- the vet. She is so terrified she urinates in fear as we
get nearer. THEN, when we get there, I hold her down and let her
"satan" cause her great pain. Often I also cause her pain as well,
helping the vet vaccinate her or stitch her up. (ps -- I use "hell"
and "satan" in a purely Holywood way with NO intended religious
overtones.)

The point might seem purile, but if my dog has to take some things
like that on "faith" that I do really still care for her (she hasn't
heard of killer-T cells) how much more would I need to take some
things that God does on face value? God proved his love for me when
Jesus was executed for me on the cross. If that is history (i.e. true)
then the rest (the Old Testament horrors that I do not understand) is
no longer a problem. I can ask God why? Like Abraham, I can argue with
God ("If there is just one righteous man in the city..."). I can say
to my father, "God I find this hard to read and hard to understand why
you did this", but I can do all this from the security of the
relationship I have with Him because I know he loves me more than I
can ever know.

So it all rests on whether I believe that Jesus died for me. If he did
then I can "happily" (or with a great personal struggle -- but you
know what I mean) take some difficult things at face value. If he did
not, then yes, those passages would be enormously hard for me to deal
with.

So I would say, if you are really seeking an answer to whether a
loving God can possibly be consistent with those passages, then first
decide about Jesus. (That is my advice, not any spiritual law.) But
God does promise that if you are looking for the answers, he will
answer you. I pray that God will do that -- because if He doesn't
tell you then there is no way of knowing. (If he does -- shoot me an
email :) )


To:   Roger Kennett
From: Tommy Huxley
Date: Unknown
Thank you for your thoughtful and considerate response, which is more than I get from most critics.

The most refreshing thing about your letter is your honest puzzlement over the Bible’s more unpleasant stories. When I point out Old Testament horrors to other Christians, I usually get one of two responses.

The first response is often an attempt to warp reality. For example, I called a Christian radio program two years ago to ask the host why God ordered King Saul to kill all the children of Amalek in direct violation of his previous commands not to punish children for the sins of their fathers. The program host claimed that God didn’t actually order these children’s deaths. Instead, he claimed these children were merely victims of a casual, unintended “consequence” of their parent’s sin.

When I pointed out that Yahweh told King Saul to attack the Amalekites and to “put to death men and women, children and infants,” (1 Samuel 15:3), the host denied that God ordered their deaths. Instead, he claimed that God was graciously warning Amalek about their children’s imminent fate.

I couldn’t believe my ears! I had expected a more shrewd, disingenuous response, not an outright lie. If you read the story yourself, God punishes an entire nation for a 450-year-old offense, and God specifically orders Saul to slaughter their children, too, for that offense. The radio host of the Bible Answer Man Show indulges in pure cognitive dissonance.

The second response I usually get is the brash absolution that God is God, and he can do whatever he wants. For example, Henry Morris defends the passage in Deuteronomy 20:16-17 where Yahweh orders Moses to destroy six nations and “save alive nothing that breathes.” In his commentary in The Defender’s Study Bible, Morris asserts:
This commandment, repeated through Moses and Joshua in various ways and times during the exodus and conquest, has been the object of tremendous criticism by enemies of Biblical theism. Such critics have charged God with sadistic cruelty. The LORD, of course, does not need to defend His actions. Whatever He does is right by definition.
This response kills critical thinking faculties and appeals to the very thing that Christian fundamentalists hate most — moral relativism. If God is perfect, then he should be consistent. And if God violates his own laws while inviting his followers to do likewise, then how can we trust his authority?

You almost dance around this yourself when you say that, “If… God is God… then who are we to stand in judgment?” But you also acknowledge that you “struggle… with the descriptions of what God ordered in the Old Testament,” and that you don’t “pretend to have the answers.” You also trust that accepting Christ’s offer of salvation will smooth over the horrors that you don’t understand.

That’s a perfect example of compartmentalization, and during my days as a Christian fundamentalist, I did this, too. Whenever I read portions of scripture that didn’t make sense, I rationalized my doubts by trusting in a perfect God. And the more trust I placed in him, the more sense I’d make out of the Old Testament. But over time, my doubts gradually reached the point where I believed the Bible was more human than divine, and said more about its authors than about God’s divine nature. For example, the Bible says that Israel is God’s chosen people. Yet all the Old Testament authors that make this claim are Jews. Isn’t that a conflict of interest? Would any scribe claim that another tribe, not his own, embodied God’s chosen?

And like most Christians, you try to stress God’s New Testament promises of eternal salvation over his Old Testament judgments, but the two are awkwardly linked. If Jesus is God, than Jesus ordered the genocide of Israel’s enemies as well as Yahweh.

And there’s a story in 2 Kings 19:35 (repeated in Isaiah 37:36) where an “Angel of the LORD” kills 185,000 Assyrian soldiers, and many fundamentalists claim that this particular angel is Christ himself. In his Defender’s Study Bible, Henry Morris says:
The phrase ’the angel of the LORD’ commonly applies to a theophany, God Himself (in the person of the pre-incarnate Christ) manifesting Himself in this capacity. He who is the giver of all life can surely take it away.
But if Jesus killed more people in that one event than all the people that died in Hiroshima, this Old Testament story undermines his later appeal to “turn the other cheek.”

Granted, I don’t think anything I’ve told you will change what you believe. But that’s not my intention, either. Biblical criticism can’t disprove God’s existence. I only have a problem with Christian fundamentalists who insist that the Bible is a perfect, inerrant historical account. The Bible is actually its own worst enemy in that regard.

Basically, I just want you to read the Bible with a more open mind and question the authenticity of some of its passages. Again, since fallible humans wrote the Bible, it logically follows that the Bible itself is fallible. If you consider that thought, you won’t get struck by lightning. And once you clear that hurdle, the Bible becomes more interesting to dissect.

On a final note, I read your analogy about taking your dog to the vet with some interest. You should try taking a cat to the vet. My two cats hate the car trip to and from the vet even more than the vet himself. Cats are anxious, high-strung animals that hate cars. Don’t get one unless you can tolerate a neurotic companion.



To:   Tommy Huxley
From: Roger Kennett
Date: Unknown

This is a most interesting an engaging discussion for me but feel free
to end it if you are getting sick of the emails.

Hmmm. What about the recent tidal wave? Thousands of people lost their
lives. I believe in a God who is in control (since he created the
whole shebang out of nothing, that is not unreasonable - but I believe
it mostly because God reveals this to me).

So, if God is in control then there is little difference between this
and past slaughters ordered by God. If he is soverign, then this is
also under his order. There might be little difference perhaps by God
using people instead of water but the more I consider this I think
the difference is minimal.

No, I strongly reject the idea of a "different god" across the
testaments. So did Jesus. I believe that Jesus is better understood
against the backdrop of the Old Testament with all its blood.

So, what do we make of God then? It again comes to who we believe God
to be. We can't, by wishing for a politically correct God either
change Him or "believe" Him out of existance. The question; "So, what
do we make of God then?" is itself off the beam. God is. God is who he
is. We can hope to understand nothing of God save that he reveal
Himself to us. This is what he did over the 4,000 years or so of the
Bible. In comes into sharpest focus in the person of Jesus (but you
know all this). But the point is, ultimately our knowledge of God is
just what He reveals to us. And no, I don't believe that we are
outsmarting God by pointing to things we see as inconsistent.

I guess what I am saying is that God is far greater than I. So (if it
is true that this god exists) I should expect many things that God
does that make no sense to me. If you told me about a God who I could
totally understand and make judgements about all his motives and all
his actions I would be very suspicious! Especially if you tried to
tell me that your god made the universe! That was the point of the dog
story.

I am not making excuses for God here, but excuses for my inability to
explain or understand his actions. I don't believe that Job really
understood why God was allowing those things to happen to him. All he
was called to do was trust that God would be faithful to him and that
God was working everything for good. Even at the end of the story I
still have questions (why did the family have to die, etc.) but I am
called to do just what Job was called to do... trust in God.

I guess in the end it revolves around how "big" your god is. If you
allow him to be big enough to have created matter out of nothing (I
could go on here) then He must be big enough to extend beyond what I
understand. This could leave me as an agnostic (I think they're the
ones who say you cannot know god) except for the fact that God HAS
revealed himself to us. He says this is most clearly in the person of
Jesus. So, when I am confused about God I look to Jesus for
clarification. Where I see cruel murder, I look to Jesus hanging on
the cross in the place of all who ask him for help; when I see
inconsistency, I look to a Jesus whose teaching blew away the
orthodoxy with it's truth; and when I am scared by the God I read
about, I allow Jesus to enfold me in his love.

Thanks for the opportunity to work through these issues, and I shall
consider further your comments about the Bible. I guess I would say
that if God is God and He (Jesus) did not attack innacuracies in the
OT (rather he defended it and used it to show who he was) then I have
to accept that it is His word, however hard I find it to be. I shall
think further. My children are losing the plot and want to be put to
bed so I shall go.

Remember, I shall stop replying as soon as you are sick of me!


To:   Roger Kennett
From: Tommy Huxley
Date: Unknown
I don’t mind our conversations, although I sometimes worry that we drift off the subject. Especially me! I noticed that my responses are getting longer and longer and tend to ramble. I hope you can endure it.

In all our correspondence, I pointed out many discrepancies in the Bible that I thought clearly proved that it was fallible and suspect as a sacred text. You never challenged any of my specific examples. Instead, you dodged these discrepancies and argued instead for a Christian faith that could accommodate all these problems without trying to explain them away. But I’m not faulting you for that. In fact, I’m relieved!

Before I go further, I’ll digress a bit and say that all of us who contribute articles and essays to the Skeptic Friends Network don’t share any common ideologies. We range from hardcore atheists who think all Christians are goofballs to soft agnostics like myself who merely lost their faith because of persistent, unresolved doubts. Perhaps Australian evangelicals like you have a more tempered view of the Bible than American fundamentalists, especially here in the South where the Bible is revered like a sacred idol. Christian conservatives here believe the Bible is 100% accurate in every atom of its detail. And if you express any uncertainty about its authority, you’re in for a stern rebuke.

For example, read this portion of Henry Morris’ Introduction to his Defender’s Study Bible:
The written Word of God, with its glorious message of creation, redemption and eternal life with God, has always been under attack by the secular world and the unseen hosts of darkness who control it. Yet, out of the ungodly world, year after year, God chooses some to follow Him…

The Bible is indeed the very Word of the living God. Its histories are authentic, its science is accurate and far in advance of its time, its practical wisdom for daily living is unexcelled, and its insights into the human heart are profoundly perfect for every need. Furthermore, its own internal structures, as well as the claims of its authors, provide endless evidences of its divine inspiration to all who study it with an open mind and heart…

The Bible does have the answer; its gospel can be defended; and it is hoped that this
Defender’s Study Bible will prove of significant help in this great cause to those who use it. Its annotations seek to explain the Bible’s difficult passages, resolve its alleged contradictions, point out the evidences of its divine origin, confirm its historical accuracy, note its remarkable anticipations of modern science, demonstrate its fulfilled prophecies, and in general remove any doubts about its inerrancy, its authority and its ability to meet every human need.
In other words, Morris declares that believing in God isn’t enough. On the contrary, you must possess a certainty of conviction that the Bible is literally perfect, immaculate, and flawless in all its science and history before you can call yourself a “Christian.”

Now I don’t want to give you the impression that all our fundamentalists here demand lockstep conformity. They freely disagree over issues regarding sacraments and end-times prophecy, but when it comes to Biblical apologetics, there’s a knee-jerk tendency here to resolve every scriptural contradiction, no matter how great. Of course, that’s impossible, and I’ve heard many tortured explanations that require gratuitous mental gymnastics. And when Henry Morris says that the Bible’s “science is accurate and far in advance of its time,” I can only shake my head with incredulity. There isn’t one dust speck of credible scientific testimony in the entire Bible, and Morris bases this claim on some absurd proof texts.

Here are some examples:
Bible: “Out of whose womb came the ice? And the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?” (Job 38:29)

Morris: “This unusual picture of a sheet of ice slowly coming forward as if emerging from a womb may well refer to the ice sheet of the great Ice Age that covered the northern latitudes for many centuries following the Flood.”

Bible: “And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors.” (Job 38:10)

Morris: “After the Flood, great topographic changes confined the waters in great ocean basins, from which they can never escape.”

Bible: “Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee, Here we are?” (Job 38:35)

Morris: “One of the most remarkable discoveries of modern engineering science is that electrical currents may be used, such as radio and television, to transmit information with ’lightning’ speed!”
See what I mean? Morris’ Bible includes hundreds more examples of such bizarre scientific and scriptural couplings. If anybody tells you that they’ve found scientific corroboration in the Bible, pay close attention to the passages they’re citing. Chances are, they’re the inventions of an irrational mind.

If you’re wondering why I quote Henry Morris so extensively, it’s because he’s the founder and past President of the Institute for Creation Research, and almost single-handedly ushered young-Earth flood geology into the Protestant mainstream. And his influence extends far beyond the U.S. borders. I know for a fact that he has a big following in your country, too.

This leads into some questions I have for you. Originally, you responded to two items on our web site — our “Bible’ Bad Fruits” page, and my expose of how young-Earthers misrepresent the scientific data to prove that the speed of light is slowing down, allowing for a 6,000-year-old universe (which, by the say, the Bible doesn’t support).

In your first letter, you agreed that the speed of light wasn’t slowing down. I’m just curious:
1. Where do you stand on the creation/evolution debate?

2. Do you accept standard the geologic findings for the age of the Earth?

3. Can your religious faith accommodate the idea that humans originated from hominids?

4. How do you interpret the Garden of Eden story? Do you believe that it’s a literal historical account, or do you think it might be an allegory?
I’m interested in your reply!



To:   Tommy Huxley
From: Roger Kennett
Date: Unknown

Some confessions: First, I haven't responded to the details in your
last email because I haven't found the time yet for the detailed
reading of the passages and some research. I shall do this soon, but I
suspect that I will be unable to "answer" in a way that is
satisfactory.

Some answers:
1. Where do you stand on the creation/evolution debate?
I HATE the whole idea that there is some sort of debate worth having! I see absolutely no overlap or contradiction. There are many areas of Einstein's General Relativity theory that are uncomfortable to many physicists including Einstein himself. Do I have impassioned debates about this? Do I read web pages where religious groups try and tackle these possible gaps as some sort of "proof" that science is all one big conspiracy? No! So why "evolution"? Like any scientific theory there are many aspects of empirical evidence it does not rest easily with. The apparent "punctuated equilibrium" we see in the fossil record does not sit well with mechanisms that seem to better predict a constant and gradual change. So what? Like any decent scientific theory it is an approximation, a model for what is happening that is the best we have got. So, why evolution? I think it comes to the "God of the gaps" mistake. The idea that God is what we can't explain. Like the planets orbits around the Sun. Why the circular model didn't quite fit, Copernicus (I think it was him - not totally sure) suggested that God must give them a little "kick" every 100 years or so. So, falsely believing that explanation excludes God, some people grasp onto "creation" as the "last great battle ground for God". I am deeply sorry about this. It has created more confusion in the last 100 years than any misconception about God. (I am digressing again...) Jesus turned water into wine. Big deal, "we" turn water into wine every season. I can explain (and so could the Jews) the process of grape growth when watered to fermentation to wine making. People do all that, don't they? It is explained! Jesus' miracle showed us that in fact it is God. We could no more produce wine on Mars (without stealing things from Earth) that live perfect lives! A wonderfully done operation by a master surgeon on a cadaver will never heal. We think healing is explained, but Jesus showed that it really is God at work in this. So, I refute strongly the idea of "Cosmic Spakfilla" and thus see no need to feel threatened by scientific theories. The flip side is the people who have fled to "evolution" as an escape from having to face God. They falsely believe since we can "explain" the world we have no need of God. There are so many flaws in this argument that is another email. So, if we are to correct misguided Christians who cling to God of the gaps, we also need to correct atheists (or agnostics) who seek refuge from spiritual challenges and questions in science. In no way does the bible pretend to be a scientific journal. That doesn't mean it is scientifically flawed either. Our letters have said nothing about the latest football victories or our domestic disgrace over WIK (wittling away aboriginal land rights) or our inaction over East Timor. Why not? Because those things are not relevant to our messages. That doesn't mean that our conversation is historically or politically inaccurate, just that it is not relevant to the message. The overwhelming message in the bible is that God did it. Full stop. How... well that's a wonderfully exciting thing for people who are interested to pursue.
2. Do you accept standard the geologic findings for the age of the Earth?
As the best theory that fits current evidence. I wouldn't make posters about them and paste them in my bedroom. I would be a fool to think that they would change a little in even my lifetime, all scientific theories change somewhat over time (some more than others, some very little). But yes, I have questions, but not an argument that seeks to reveal some great "conspiracy".
3. Can your religious faith accommodate the idea that humans originated from hominids?
Why not? Who am I to limit God? The Bible was interested in the fact that God made me as surely as I paint a picture. Now, I might choose to do that by setting millions of bits of RAM on or off in my computer then have it control the heating and squirting of tiny dots of inks that together create the "painting". A dot of ink might believe that it was JUST the inkjet squirting it that made the picture - which would be as about as believable as saying that I am purely a product of this or that process. The processes may well be accurately described, but they do not exclude a creator. God made me. I was NOT descended from monkeys in the sense that that defines who made me. I may well have evolved from monkeys as the path the creator choose to fashion me. (Genetic evidence, along with many other disciplines make this very probable indeed.) I find the possibilities of the ways I was created fascinating, not a threat to the fact that God made me. I do not find anything in God's revealed Word to force me to discount hominid descent as a possible process used by God.
4. How do you interpret the Garden of Eden story? Do you believe that it's a literal historical account, or do you think it might be an allegory?
Well, this is a bit like the main message this email. There is truth other than literal. "The sheep on a thousand hills belong to God" This is true. It doesn't mean that some of the sheep in New Zealand (where we have exceeded 1000 hills) belong to some other creator! (I am not tackling your examples of biblical contradictions here, yet.) Genesis is 100% true. It says, "God made the world, it was good. Our desire to BE God and reject his authority set in place the corruption we see on the world today". This is true. There are (as you I think have said somewhere) two accounts in Genesis. The language and style of each suggests strongly a different cultural/literary heritage. There is also a possibility that one was adapted from creation accounts that were around at the time of the telling of the story. When I try and explain electricity to my year 8 classes, we do simulations, act out being electrons and play around with circuits based on the inaccurate idea that electrons are particles in the sense that year 8 understand particles. Yet there is truth in what we do. I am trying to explain something far beyond their (and my) experience by explaining it in terms of what they already have experience of. This is what science and learning is all about. As they progress, their understanding will develop and change, but what they learn in year 8 is not wrong but forms the basis for their development. I defend this strongly as a method, I am not being misleading, but seeking to help them develop some understanding of something totally outside the realm of their experience. It would be arrogant in the extreme to suggest that God could, even now with what we know, could actually explain to us the way he formed quarks, the fundamental forces, etc and how these lead to the elements, etc. Even in this day and age it would be totally beyond us - and irrelevant to the message of Genesis! Yes, Genesis is true. Being in part a simplification does NOT lessen its truth. It had to be, and still has to be, simplified from the total picture (science does this all the time) Extrapolating from a simplification is foolish (I think that is what you already agree) but in no way does the foolishness of others subtract from the inherent truth in the Genesis account. God made the whole shebang! Some questions for you: 1. Why has some unresolved questions lead you away from a faith in God and Jesus as God incarnate? Surely a religion that answered all the peripheral questions about God would be suspicious in the extreme. 2. What would God have to reveal of Himself to you to satisfy your dissatisfaction? 3. Do you believe that the accounts of Jesus are historically accurate and that he lived, was crucified and rose again? 4. How are your kids? Mine are totally adorable (some of the time). Megan just turned 2 and Amy has just turned 4. Amy is going through the painful - I know everything - stage. Yesterday she was riding her bike with me and chose ignore my command to stop. She was nearly hit by a car. (There's an illustration there somewhere!! :) ). You may have guessed I am a secondary science teacher in a school in a small regional centre in Victoria. I love my job and the relationships with the students in our school are excellent. I have more students I regard as friends who tell me about their weekends, etc. than ones I find difficult. I feel very lucky in this regard.


To:   Roger Kennett
From: Tommy Huxley
Date: Unknown
Sorry it has taken me so long to respond to your last e-mail, but I’ve been busy. So, I’ll start by responding to some of your points and then answer your four specific questions.
Some confessions. First, I haven’t responded to the details in your last email because I haven’t found the time yet for the detailed reading of the passages and some research. I shall do this soon, but I suspect that I will be unable to “answer” in a way that is satisfactory.
I encourage you to research those passages, not to refute me, but to become more familiar with the Bible’s uglier side. Most Sunday school teachers won’t discuss these passages at all, unless it’s with a wary, defensive tone, so you’ll have to do the homework yourself.

You can buy Christian books that attempt to resolve some of these difficulties, but their explanations are often preposterous! I’ll provide you examples in another e-mail.

As for your wordy responses accommodating the Bible with modern science, you do a much, MUCH better job than most American fundamentalists. And I agree with you that Genesis can be literally true about the authorship of creation without having to reconcile all the untidy details.

Now, to your specific questions:
1. Why has some unresolved questions lead you away from a faith in God and Jesus as God incarnate? Surely a religion that answered all the peripheral questions about God would be suspicious in the extreme.
I don’t expect God to explain everything to me, but I need more tangible proof than “believe, and he’ll speak to your heart.” And that’s not because I don’t have a heart. ;-)

I often hear people tell stories about how God “told them” something, or “laid a message on their heart,” but later, those same people turned out to be wrong. For example, I’ve heard women claim that they prayed, fasted, and sought God’s guidance before agreeing to marry someone, only to divorce their spouse two years later. Does that mean God’s dispensing bad advice? Or do people get wrong ideas in their head that they falsely attribute to God?

What God does really sound like when he talks “to your heart?” If God really “talked” to Christians, then their decisions should be perfect. Otherwise, God doesn’t know what he’s “saying.”

I recently saw a biography of Carl Sagan on television, and the narrator told a story that, in the days before his death, someone asked Carl if he believed in God. Sagan reportedly answered, “I don’t want to believe. I want to know.” I agree with Carl, and with the disciple Thomas (who also would’ve made a good scientist). I need unambiguous proof before I believe.
2. What would God have to reveal of Himself to you to satisfy your dissatisfaction?
At a minimum, he could appear in the flesh and talk to me, audibly. If God has unlimited power, that’s not an unreasonable request! According to the Bible, he used to do this routinely. Why would he stop now?

Read the laws he dictated to Moses. As a lawgiver, God never stopped talking! And some of the laws he imparted sound suspiciously ungodlike. Here’s one peculiar example:
If you come across a bird’s nest beside the road, either in a tree or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on the young or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young. You may take the young, but be sure to let the mother go, so that it may go well with you and you may have a long life. (Deuteronomy 22:6-7)
Would an omniscient creator of the universe really say that? Do you really believe that you’ll have good luck and “a long life” if you take a mother bird’s offspring, but let her go? Or, is that an ancient Jewish superstition?

And why would God show so much concern for a mother bird when, just fourteen verses later, he declares that a bride who lies about her virginity must be stoned to death at the door of her father’s house? If anybody came to my door with the intent to kill my daughter, they’d have to kill me first!
3. Do you believe that the accounts of Jesus are historically accurate and that he lived, was crucified and rose again?
This is something you can only accept on faith because the historical accuracy of Jesus’ life is debatable. And I don’t say that just to be contrary. I’ll break this question down into parts, although you might accuse me of hairsplitting.

But let me start here: Do I believe that Jesus was a real man, or a fictional literary character?

I believe that Jesus was a real man that died by crucifixion.

Now, do I believe that the Gospels accurately record his life and death?

I suspect these stories weave fact and fiction with embellishment. Of the four Gospels, Mark was written first, between 55 and 65 AD, about thirty years after Jesus died. Since the other Gospels quote all but thirty-one verses of Mark, his account was the original draft that the others built on.

How do we record history today compared to Biblical times? Today, news reporters have access to cameras, videotapes, audiotapes, wireless telephones, and satellite communications. Yet they still make mistakes in their reporting and regularly print retractions to correct their errors.

The four Gospel writers never had that advantage, yet they quote Jesus at length, word for word, reciting entire sermons! Is that possible? Jesus lived at a time when tape recorders didn’t exist, and spoke to a mostly illiterate audience.

And since Jesus’ words were preserved by word of mouth for over thirty years before the Gospel writers wrote them down, how likely is it that they quoted Jesus verbatim? Especially since Jesus spoke Aramaic, while the Gospel writers translated his conversations into Koine Greek!

We must also take into account the authors’ biases and personal convictions that influenced their narratives. After all, these writings served a religious purpose. The author of John, for example, said that he wrote his account to convince others “to believe,” and repeated that twice.

Furthermore, we don’t have any original autographs, only hand-written copies whose source is uncertain. What’s the likelihood that scribes with sincere religious convictions revised and corrected the manuscripts for spiritual purposes?

And although many people claim that the four Gospels show surprising agreement, they just as frequently contradict one another. But more than that, Matthew records momentous events that the other Gospel writers ignore entirely.

For example, Matthew says that King Herod ordered his soldiers to kill all the boys less than three years old in Bethlehem and its surrounding towns. None of the other Gospel writers mention that atrocity, and no archaeological records during that period mention it, either. More likely, Matthew embellished this account by retelling a story that parallels the infant Moses’ escape from Pharaoh.

And after Jesus died on the cross, Matthew says, “When Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” (Matthew 27:50-53)

That event wouldn’t go unnoticed! But none of the other Gospel writers mention an earthquake, tombs bursting open, or people rising from the dead to enter Jerusalem. If that story were true, it’d be unforgettable, yet the other Gospel writers act like they never heard of it. Why? Is it possible that Matthew added a fictional embellishment to underscore the significance of Jesus’ death?

Although many people claim that Jesus’ life fulfilled Old Testament prophecies, I’ve noticed that many of the alleged prophecies weren’t prophetic at all unless the Gospel writers said they were prophetic. If you read the passages they cite, the excerpts themselves are nebulous and nonspecific. Most of the time, the authors cut and paste Psalmist quotes into Jesus’ mouth before exclaiming, “This was done in accordance to fulfill the Scriptures!” (Matthew 2:15, 17, 23, Matthew 13:14, 35, Matthew 26:54, 56, Matthew 27:9, 35, Mark 15:27, Luke 18:31, 22:37, 24:44, and John 19:24, 28, 36)

Some fundamentalists get around all this by saying that the Gospel writers were guided by Divine Inspiration, as though they were clerks taking supernatural dictation. But I don’t take that explanation seriously.

So to answer your question, I think the historical accounts of Jesus are largely accurate with fictional embellishments that served an evangelical purpose.
4. How are your kids?
I have a three-year-old son and a one-year-old daughter, and they’re both very dear to me. I could not live without either of them. Since my wife is a die-hard fundamentalist, both of my children attend church. And I’m glad they attend! Their religious education is important.

About one of your daughters, you said:
Yesterday she was riding her bike with me and chose ignore my command to stop. She was nearly hit by a car. (There’s an illustration there somewhere!! :)
When my son was two years old, he got behind the wheel of a pickup truck, put it into gear, and drove it down a steep mountainside, crashed into a tree, and then rolled the truck into a ditch, totaling the vehicle. Yet, his most serious injury was a chipped baby tooth!

In some ways, you could say that his survival was miraculous, but I’m not comfortable with that explanation. Why would God preserve the life of my son when I’m anything but a good and faithful servant? And why would God allow tragedy to strike families whose religious convictions are much stronger than mine? There’s a terrible inconsistency here, but I’m grateful that my son survived.

My wife knows about my religious skepticism, but she won’t discuss that subject with me at all. She shuts down when I attempt to talk to her about it because it’s too painful for her to listen. She prays fervently that I’ll have a miraculous change of heart.

Also, she doesn’t know that I contribute articles and essays to the SFN. If she found out, she certainly wouldn’t be happy about it!
You may have guessed I am a secondary science teacher in a school in a small regional centre in Victoria. I love my job and the relationships with the students in our school are excellent. I have more students I regard as friends who tell me about their weekends, etc…
If you have two small children, teach school, visit with your students on weekends, and grade homework assignments at night, where do you find the time to talk to me?



To:   Tommy Huxley
From: Roger Kennett
Date: Unknown

I think I was misleading... I don't regularly visit my students on
weekends (although that has happened this year). But the biggest
reason for the time is that I am - WAS - on holidays, which have now
finished with a bang. This is the first night this week (Thur) when I
have finished school/uni/cell group committments before 10pm. So,
sorry, for the lengthy delay in writing.

But there is another reason. I have answered this email many many
times already - in my head. There is so much to say that finding the
wisdom to say the best things is not easy and now when I sit to write
it has all deserted me.

God has never spoken to me in a definable way. I, like you, wonder
what people mean when they are so certain that God has "lead" them in
some direction although I don't doubt that it is possible and many
times He may have (and many times He hasn't). Yes, I think people get
ideas into their heads that they attribute to God - I know that I
have. When I think back to one particular time I can see now how I
used God to justify my selfish insecurity and genuinely hurt someone
else in the process. The fact that there are counterfiet diamonds
doesn't tell me that real and valuable gems are a myth, it just
cautions me to study the thing carefully before getting out the credit
card! However, somehow I am certain that God loves me. Never heard a
voice, never seen a vision. Can't explain the experiential knowing but
know it could be explained away easily as psychological yet I believ
 it isn't. No help to you there I'm afraid.

You say that the evidence about Jesus is debatable, implying that it
is a little weak. I have to take issue here. There are many pathetic
books around but also some very sound ones that address this. I would
go so far as to say that really, if you want to argue that the
historicity of the New testament is in doubt the you are at odds with
most Christian and non-Christian scholars of New Testament history and
times. If it was "imbelishment" why did the fakers die often painful
deaths and maintain the "lie" to the very end? There are many many
pointers which point either way, but the weight of the ones that point
to a genuine history and actual truth far far outweigh the others.

But, I know that nothing I can say or argue will change your position.
For all that we have discussed, it could be taken as revealing a
soverign God far beyond our comprehension choosing to reveal something
of Himself to us OR a chance collection of things that have another
interpretation. Personally, I believe that your position is the most
difficult to maintain, but I recognise that we can both look at the
same things and our interpretation depends on our initial world view.
For instance, I see the Old Testament and its horrors as God actually
revealing some critical things to us about consequences the full
meaning of it are naturally going to be beyond me (since I am finite
and God is infinite). You see the same things as pointing to it all
being untrue because it does not fit your image of God, thus probably
folklore and fairy tale.

You see unexplainable things in the Bible as proof that God is not the
author and the Bible thus failable, I see some unexplainable things as
a natural consequence of what would happen if GOD actually started
revealing himself to little old me.

So, argument will not (very likely) change one's world view, and one's
world view seems to be the difference in how we interpret things.
Although I will say something here, and that is as a scientist, I need
to let evidence shape my mental "views" of the nature of things. So,
what God reveals to me should shape my view of God - not what I
expect/wish/imagine him to be filtering which parts of the revelation
I will "accept". I feel at times, that you are only ready to accept
God when He fits your expectations - a "politically correct God."

However, I have got a little personal here - sorry about that. It
seems that maybe Christians in your life have tried to be far too
dogmatic. Given the impression that all is answerable about God and
that they have it all "in hand." I have had Christians tell me all
sorts of crock over the years. I wonder if as you grew up you started
seeing cracks in the things that they said were "absolute" and thus
you chucked the whole lot out.

So, I don't know what God is doing in many things in the world. I just
don't know many things. Will my dog, whom I love, "go to heaven?" I
don't know. (And many other questions.) But I do know this: being a
Christian is about a relationship, not a concrete and rule-bound
"world view". I trust God because of my relationship with Him, not
because He has told me everything. I know that Jesus came, lived and
died so that somehow I might be forgiven. How that works - I can quote
some jargon words, but I really don't know. I just trust that God will
be true to His word. Yes, the historicity of the NT is a foundation
that I return to when plagued with questions and doubts - I can't in
all intellectual integrity come to any other conclusion than that
Jesus did live and die for me.

You mentioned video recordings or events would be nice and to actually
touch where the nails had been. When Lazarus was raised from the dead
many people say the event ate with Lazarus afterwoods. Some of them
believed who Jesus was, many just brought forward their plans to kill
him. The Pharisees did not doubt the evidence of their eyes, they had
no choice, but still rejected Jesus. Look at the miracles, at almost
every one there were people who rejected Jesus as God despite what
they saw.

Just imagine for a sec that God is God. If He appeared to you in even
a tiny fraction of his entire presence, you would melt away in the
sense that you would be so overpowered you would have no choice but to
fall to your knees. Perhaps, just perhaps, God wants you to respond to
Him of your own free will - not because you have been over powered.
Perhaps, just perhaps, God comes to you through totally verbose and
ineffectual people such as me so that can CAN reject Him is you want.
See, maybe, just maybe, God loves and respects you enough to want you
to make a decision to enter a relationship - friendship only if you
want - not because you are swamped. Maybe I haven't heard a voice or
seen a vision so I can discount God if I choose to...

Anyway, I have rabitted along far too long and I am sorry if I have
phrased things poorly or offended you. I trust that your family is
well (no withstanding freak car accidents) and say "hi" to your wife
for me.


To:   Roger Kennett
From: Tommy Huxley
Date: Unknown
I’ve noticed that you place a lot of emphasis on your personal, subjective, relationship you claim to have with a supernatural Christ. And like most Christians, you claim that your life-changing conversion verifies Jesus’ physical reality. But religious devotion by itself doesn’t confirm Jesus’ day-to-day existence. Even competing religions have adherents that die for their faith, which I’ll elaborate on later.

But let me respond to some of your specific points:
I am sorry if I have phrased things poorly or offended you…
You do a good job explaining your views, and you haven’t offended me at all. On the contrary, I’m surprised that I haven’t offended you by now. Most Christians express hostility when I question the Bible’s veracity. That’s why I prefer an online instead of face-to-face discussion, because I hate to get people worked-up into an ugly frenzy. Whenever I voice my doubts to my wife, she starts sobbing, so I’ve given that up.
I have answered this email many, many times already — in my head. There is so much to say that finding wisdom to say the best things is not easy and now when I sit to write it has all deserted me.
I often think about our correspondence, too. But I notice that you rarely respond to my specific examples. Don’t loose ends ever intrude on your faith?
Just imagine for a sec that God is God. If He appeared to you in even a tiny fraction of his entire presence, you would melt away in the sense that you would be so overpowered you would have no choice but to fall to your knees.
Believe it or not, that’s what I’ve wanted all along! No mysterious, intuitive “whispers” to my heart, or suffering through everyone else’s blissful, happy-faced testimony. I just want God to materialize before me and thunder, “I AM WHAT I AM, TOM! I AM HE WHO MADE YOU!”

Again, that’s not an unreasonable or unprecedented request. Why can’t I have a Road to Damascus experience, too?
Perhaps, just perhaps, God wants you to respond to Him of your own free will.
If he appeared before me, physically, I’d still have the choice whether or not to reject him, so it’s not an argument over free will. It’s about affirmation.
The Pharisees did not doubt the evidence of their eyes, they had no choice, but still rejected Jesus. Look at the miracles, at almost every one there were people who rejected Jesus as God despite what they saw.
We don’t have independent evidence to corroborate these miracles! If Jesus really performed the public miracles attributed to him, he would’ve terrified his dissenters. That’s why I think they’re after-the-fact embellishments.

For example, if some police officers in your town went to arrest someone, and they saw their fugitive magically replace somebody’s hacked-off ear, I think they’d stop dead cold. But in Luke, the Roman soldiers arresting Jesus don’t even blink at this marvel. I guess to them, this sensation was all in a day’s work. (And while all four Gospels mention the hacked-off ear, only Luke claims that Jesus healed it. Why? Isn’t that peculiar?)
You say that the evidence about Jesus is debatable, implying that it is a little weak. I have to take issue here. There are many pathetic books around but also some very sound ones that address this. I would go so far as to say that really, if you want to argue that the historicity of the New Testament is in doubt the you are at odds with most Christian and non-Christian scholars of New Testament history and times. If it was “embellishment” why did the fakers die often painful deaths and maintain the “lie” to the very end? There are many, many pointers which point either way, but the weight of the ones that point to a genuine history and actual truth far, far outweigh the others.
I’ve heard many Christians claim that Jesus’ resurrection is factual, overwhelming, and irrefutable. But when you ask for specific evidence, they point to the Gospels themselves, which can’t be validated independently. Some argue that archaeology supports the Bible because archaeologists often find ancient, buried cities whose existence is only previously recorded in scripture. But does the fact of their existence substantiate the miracle stories attributed to them?

For example, Joseph Smith claims that he found the Book of Mormon buried in Palmyra, New York. And Palmyra is a real city! Does that, in turn, validate Joseph Smith’s claim that the Angel Moroni took him to the spot where he unearthed the sacred scriptures, and translated the hieroglyphics with the help of paranormal “seer stones” before the angel took them away? Even Christians scoff at that!

Also, you repeat something that many Christians tell me — that Jesus’ divine nature has to exist because so many people died for Him. But your bias ignores nonchristian religious martyrs. Look at Mormons, Tibetan Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus. They all have a well-documented history of martyrdom. But does that bolster their theological claims? What about cults like the Branch Davidians, the People’s Temple of Guyana, Aum Shinrikyo, the Order of the Solar Temple, and Heaven’s Gate? Many of these followers died in defense of their faith, too. Does their martyrdom vindicate their claims?

The German government is even persecuting the Church of Scientology in an effort to run it out of the country! But I have no sympathy for a church that’s trying to “clear” the world by extorting huge financial debts from all its followers (who themselves demonstrate a bent for “martyrdom” at the hands of their own leaders). Scientology deserves its lumps.
I just don’t know many things. Will my dog, whom I love, “go to heaven?” I don’t know.
I think it was Mark Twain who said, “Heaven won’t be heaven if my dog ain’t there to greet me.” I’ve always felt the same way about my cats.
It seems that maybe Christians in your life have tried to be far too dogmatic. Given the impression that all is answerable about God and that they have it all “in hand.” I have had christians tell me all sorts of crock over the years. I wonder if as you grew up you started seeing cracks in the things that they said were “absolute” and thus you chucked the whole lot out.
Talk about crock! When I was a child, my Sunday school teachers and pastors assured me that the Rapture of the Church could occur any day, certainly before the year 1980. They’d hold the Bible with one hand and a newspaper in the other, and connect specific current events (in the 1970’s) to particular passages in Scripture with a one-to-one correspondence. Of course that was absurd, and some Christian ministers on television still do this today. Look at Hal Lindsey, Peter and Paul LaLonde, and Jack Van Impe. Their exegesis looks so foolish.

Granted, not all Christians do this, but that experience rid my belief in end-times eschatology. I still remember lying awake in bed at night, fearing that God would take my whole family away in the blink of an eye while leaving me alone to face The Beast of Revelation. It was pretty traumatic.
I feel at times, that you are only ready to accept God when He fits your expectations — a “politically correct God.”
Me? Politically correct? On the contrary, my belief in God isn’t predicated on his behavior. I don’t even presume that he has to be nice, just consistent.
But, I know that nothing I can say or argue will change your position.
You bring up a good point. I hope you never assumed all along that I was trying to “convert” you to an agnostic or atheistic position, either. That’s not my intent. Like I said before, Biblical criticism can’t disprove God’s existence.

I only want to shake fundamentalists from their uncritical complacency. Whenever creationists propose outrageous “scientific” explanations to reconcile stories about the Garden of Eden, Noah’s Flood, giant Nephilim, Joshua’s long day, pre-flood rainbows, or Leviathans in Job, Psalms and Isaiah (that, in reality, are seven-headed sea monsters from Canaanite myth), I go berserk. For instance, do you literally believe that Balaam’s donkey complained to her master in Hebrew for beating her over the head? Did she really say, “What have I done to thee that thou hast smitten me these three times? Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden since I was thine unto this day? Have I at all been accustomed to do to thee thus? Nay!” (Numbers 22:28, 30)

Notice that Balaam isn’t even startled to hear a talking donkey! Instead of shouting, “Oh my gosh! You can talk!” he instead blurts out, “You made a fool of me! If I had a sword, I’d kill you right now!” When you read passages like that, do you just nonchalantly say to yourself, “Ho hum. Isn’t God clever?” Or do you EVER, like me, think, “Hmmm. Isn’t that a bit farfetched?”

You’ll probably respond, “If God is omnipotent, he can surely make a donkey talk!” but that misses the point. The whole story is built on an unlikely premise. And if you’re a creationist, you’ll probably argue how modern zoology permits a donkey’s teeth, larynx, and tongue to articulate human speech.

I’m only trying to convince you not to take the whole Bible for granted. Much of its history violates common sense, and even some fundamentalists acknowledge that. For example, a recent issue of Christianity Today (September 7, 1998) had a cover story titled, “Did the Exodus Never Happen?” and tried to argue that some bits of archaeological evidence corroborate the story of Israel’s flight from Egypt.

But later in that article, those same scholars suggest that the various census figures numbering Israel were probably exaggerated. (If you take them literally, at least 2.5 million Israelites fled Egypt and wandered the desert for forty years, which is unlikely.) But instead of acknowledging the Bible’s hyperbole, they instead recommend that we accept the census figures as an “interpretive account,” whatever the hell that means. I think they’re euphemistically trying to say, “Don’t believe Moses’ numbers.”

Please! I’m not trying to convince you to reject your personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I only want you to think more critically about the Bible.
Say “hi” to your wife for me.
I would, but then I’d have to launch into a long explanation about who you are, and in the end, it’d only make matters worse. ;-)


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