Friday, February 18, 2005

What if Genesis were all wrong?

A lot of people who try to refute Christianity go about it the wrong way. They attack things that are easy enough to attack, but even if their arguments are sound, it leaves Christianity basically in tact.

For example, people attack the Bible. It contradicts itself, it has scientific and historical errors, etc. At best, all these things prove is that the Bible is not the infallible word of God. But that, by itself, is not enough to refute Christianity. It could be that the Bible contains all kinds of errors and yet there is still a God, there's still a difference between right and wrong, God holds us accountable for doing wrong, Jesus is the Christ, Christ died for sins, and he was raised from the dead. If all of those things are true, then Christianity is true, even if the Bible is not infallible. And arguments can be made to support all of these essentials of Christianity without ever assuming the Bible is the inspired word of God.

Take Genesis for example. Usually what happens is a critic will point out that Genesis is inconsistent with science when read at face value. It makes it look like people have only inhabited the earth for 6000 years. Since Genesis is all wrong, there was no original sin, so there was no fall, so there's no need for redemption, so all that stuff about Jesus dying for sin to redeem us is false.

The usual response is to defend Genesis, usually by some reinterpretation. But that's unnecessary. Let's not even so much as suppose Genesis is an allegory, not meant to be taken literally. Let's just suppose it's all wrong and throw it out. Does that destroy Christianity? No, because what's necessary for Christianty to be true can be arrived at without the use of Genesis.

First, is there a difference between right and wrong? Unless you either have no conscience or you think your conscience is deceiving you, you have reason to believe there is a difference between right and wrong.

Second, are you perfect? Have you ever felt the need to apologize to somebody? If we're honest with ourselves, we must admit that we've all done wrong. No matter how much right you do, it can never atone for the wrong. Can you imagine running a stop sign and telling the cop who is writing you a ticket, "But I've always obeyed the traffic laws except for this one time"? If you disobey the civil law, there's a penalty, and if you disobey the moral law, there's a penalty for that, too.

Third, how can we have moral obligations if there's no one imposing them on us? If there's no one enforcing the rules, then there are no rules. We're not obligated to obey a blind and indifferent universe. We can only be obligated to obey a person. If there are moral obligations we have regardless of what we or our culture thinks, then there is some person who transcends humanity and imposes these moral obligations on us and holds us accountable. Sounds like some kind of God to me.

Fourth, there haven't always been people, but there are people now, and they sin. Between then and now, there must have been a first sin. So regadless of whether the Genesis account is accurate or not, there was an original sin, and it seems like everybody afterwards has continued to sin.

What I've enumerated so far is the set-up for Christianity. It's the background philosophical assumptions. It's the whole reason we put our faith in Jesus. We believe God loves us and that he takes no pleasure in the punishment of those he loves, but his just nature requires it. Because of his love for us, God wants to solve our problem. How is he going to do it? Christians believe he did it by Jesus' death on the cross. He atoned for our sins so we wouldn't have to pay the penalty for them ourselves. That satisfied both God's justice and his mercy at the same time.

But, a critic might argue, there are lots of other ways God might've done things. There are sacrifices, or God could've just pardoned us without Jesus dying. There are a dozen paths one might take. And Christians will usually argue that Jesus' death was necessary, but I'm not even going to bother with that. There's no need. Let's just grant, for the sake of argument, that there are other ways God might've done things, because that point is irrelevent. What's more important than how God could have done things is how God did in fact do things.

Christians claim that Christ died for sins and that he was raised from the dead. That's how God fixed our problem. But what reason is there to think it's true? Well, even without the authority of the Bible, historical arguments can be made. One can argue that Jesus of Nazareth did claim to be the Christ, he did intend his death to atone for sins, and he did rise from the dead. If the historical arguments are not too far fetched, then Christians are perfectly within their epistemic rights in believing that Jesus is the Christ, he did die for sins, and he did rise from the dead.

I don't want anybody reading this to get the wrong idea. The purpose of this blog is not to argue for the truth of Christianity. If that were my purpose, I would readily admit that my arguments are woefully inadequate. My point is to show that Christianity could be true even if the Bible is not the authoritative word of God, and more specifically if Genesis is all wrong. Attacking the authority of the Bible, then, is a wrong-headed approach to refuting Christianity. There are more direct ways of doing it. In an earlier blog, I mentioned these few things that are necessary aspects of Christianity. Attack those. If any one of those are false, then Christianity is false.


At 8/20/2012 3:27 PM , Blogger TrinityUnveiled said...

If what you say is true that the Bible contradicts itself, then I might as well throw my Bible away, for if there is one lie, then could there be two lies. And if so, then which ones are the lies, and how many more lies does it contain? There is no sense in reading a bunch of lies.

Therefore, and since I have yet to find any contadictions or lies myself after 35 years of dedicated Bible study, I will believe what I am sure of after all those years and knowing that the Word of God is completely true without a man telling me it is false.

At 8/20/2012 3:30 PM , Blogger Sam said...

First, I didn't say the Bible contradicts itself.

Second, if you applied that some reasoning to anybody who ever told a lie, then you would not be able to function in this world.

Third, if you applied that same standard to all historical documents, you could know nothing whatsoever about history.

Infallibility is not necessary to gain accurate and reliable information from people or documents.

At 2/27/2013 4:19 PM , Blogger Joe Bloggs said...

I read the Bible the first time as a 17 year old kid, scared to death I would happen to die in between forgiven states and would thus end up in eternity for hell. Not so much for not believing, but simply for bad timing (there's so many caveats in the New Testament, avoiding hell is nearly impossible).
The second time I read it (in my 30's) I couldn't get past Genesis (because, well, it is so ridiculous), so I started with the new testament. I couldn't feel any rejoicing when I read the passages about a third of the earth's population being consumed by plagues and fire. No amount of "well at least it's not me" reasoning could make up for the fact that we worshiped a God that couldn't come up with a better way to deal with man's wickedness that to simply wipe out the bad population and keep them cooking for all of eternity. Not even Hitler deserves that.

I decided if I was going to continue in church, ironically, it would be best to avoid the Bible, as the "word of God" was completely unhinging my faith.

I think about God every day. I consider my own mortality almost constantly, if not at the conscious level. I hope and pray that we will someday meet a God of love, not the crazy entity in the Bible that would have his children burning for all of eternity in a lake of fire for having guessed incorrectly when choosing a religion.


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