Christian Guidance: “How to respond to Bible skeptics who challenge our faith”

bible skeptics
Yes, there really is a “Skeptics Annotated Bible”. It is a very harsh criticism of the Bible written by Steve Wells over a 20 year period. I’ll give you the link at the bottom of the posting.

If you are a Christian who has found this posting via google, I should perhaps advise up-front, that this is a skeptics reply to an Article within Christian Post. So the story here is that the title caught my eye and being the curious individual that I am, I thought I’d take a quick peek.

The article (containing the almost mandatory picture of Richard Dawkins) within the Life section of Christian Today is not too long but does warrant a review because it presents rather a lot of mythology regarding disbelief.

It starts …

It doesn’t take much to encounter a Bible skeptic today. Although studies show that the atheist population of the world is only anywhere between 2 to 13 percent, the community seems to make a whole lot of noise for such a small group.

He got that number by googling “Number of atheists in the world”, the Wikipedia article that comes back yields that number. The problem is that it is just not that simple, because while the 1st sentence within that Wikipedia article does state that the number of atheists are .. “anywhere from 2% to 13% of the world’s population“, … before you get to a full stop, it does go on to explain … “whereas people without a religion comprise anywhere from 10% to 22% of the world’s population“. Remember, his article is about “Bible Skeptics” and is not just those who would associate with the label “atheist”. In other words, there is actually rather a lot of “noise” (if I may perhaps borrow the authors term) because it is not, as he claims, a small group. In the US the number of nones, the folks I would feel that fall into his “Bible skeptics” category has ballooned and is rapidly growing.

So within his next sentence he then writes …

Most Christians admit to feeling burdened by arguments, attacks and insults thrown by tactless agnostics who use mediums like social media, websites, public events and even face-to-face interactions to malign believers of the faith.

Sigh! … more myths. How does he know any of this? I suspect, (I have no data), that most religious people do not have such feelings because they just ignore it all and carry on doing what they do almost oblivious to alternative beliefs or non-belief arguments.

Next up is …

But it’s important to note that not all Bible skeptics are like this. Only a fragment of the population find it in them to maliciously attack Christians verbally, though it’s hard to know what size they are.

When it comes to terms like “maliciously attack“, I think he might actually mean “presents rather embarrassing questions that can’t be answered”, and as for “what size they are”, I suspect most are somewhere between 5-6 foot tall. (:-) ) I will accept that there are people who are indeed obnoxious, but non-belief has no monopoly on that category of human, quite a few believers have proven themselves to be quite exceptionally good at that as they strive to establish a monopoly in being obnoxious.

So he moves on to offer this guidance …

While responding and fighting for your beliefs seems to be the most obvious way to respond, this can actually cause more trouble than remedies and should actually be avoided or kept at a minimum. But doesn’t the Bible say in 1 Peter 3:14 that we should always be prepared “…to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…?” Well, yes and no.

I think he is trying to say … “The bible tells you to always be ready with a response, but you should not believe it and should not do what it says”. It does lead me to wonder about his list of other verses that should be ignored, and it is also highly ironic that his suggested response to bible skeptics is to in essence be a bible skeptic. In other words, he is suggesting that you use reason and common sense and to ignore what the bible says you should do, so hey we agree.

Many of the Bible skeptics we encounter nowadays, especially online, are also Internet trolls who are on a mission to get on the nerves of Christians.They aren’t looking for “defense” and “reason.” They are looking for a way to ruin your day, and you would be doing yourself and your faith a great disservice by giving them that pleasure.

“many” … ??

I’m curious to understand how he defines the term “Internet troll” or quantifies “many”. It is of course common to find in almost every Internet context people popping up with inflammatory stuff, and so what can I say except “welcome to the Internet”. This is in no way something that is exclusive to belief, but rather is what goes on almost universally within every nuance of discussion on every conceivable topic.

So his first bit of guidance is this …

The best rule of thumb in deciding whether to respond to a Bible skeptic’s queries about God and His Word is the level of relationship and trust you have with the person. In the context of a relationship, there are no intentions to malign and defame.

Translation: If they are prepared to accept anything and everything you say without any criticism, then engage because you have a potential convert, otherwise don’t bother.

He then observes …

Bible skeptics are skeptics for a reason, and majority of the time, it has nothing to do with facts. Many of these people stand by their beliefs based on emotions, bad experiences and violent repercussions. It would be great to understand the person’s frame of reference, but when unaware of the details, we are left with the decision to move in unconditional and compassionate regard that there is a reason for the rage and hostility.

That may in fact be correct to some degree, people do indeed operate at an emotional level. However, he might like to perhaps seriously consider that the emotional response is one that is often motivated by the religious obsession with dictating to others and interfering in human lives with unreasonable demands for others to conform to their beliefs. If they did not behave like that (and not all do), then they would not encounter such a response. I do however take issue with the claim that skeptics are skeptical regardless of the facts, and would argue that skeptics generally tend to be well-versed with good solid robust facts, but perhaps we are not using the term skeptic the same way and he simply means anybody who does not agree with his specific understanding of the bible is a “skeptic”, and if correct, then that would include many other variations of Christian and non-christian belief.

His closing pitch is the usual saccharine coated bible quote that sounds great, but …

One of Paul’s instructions in Titus 3:1-2 says, “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” Remember always that love is the motivation of our faith — love for God which overflows as love for others, even the Bible skeptic. Nothing proves a hateful comment about a “magic fairy in heaven” wrong more than an act of kindness and compassion.

There is much to unpack within the above and disassemble. For example the claim that Paul wrote this letter is disputed, because in all probability he did not and it is a 2nd century forgery (there are good reasons for reaching that conclusion), but let’s put that to one side for now. Regarding the supposedly “hateful comment”, regarding a “magic fairy in heaven”  it is actually quite a funny way of summing up a Christian claim. If the belief that you can ask (pray) a supernatural entity in a heaven for things, and potentially have them happen by “magic” is not what is claimed then he does need to address that, so in what way exactly is this wholly factual satirical description “hateful” if it is indeed exactly the claim being made by the religious. What perhaps upsets is that the non-religious don’t play the religious game and instead of deploying religious terms, they strip away that language and pull back the curtain.

His final suggestion of deploying “kindness and compassion” is of course to be applauded and encouraged, but I would add that it is not something that is exclusive to the religious but instead is something that all humans, regardless of their specific beliefs or non-belief can and do practise. If indeed a specific belief manifested it in abundance then that would attract quite a bit of attention, but generally it has not worked out like that … ever.

Skeptics Annotated Bible

I did promise you the link within the caption under the image above, and so here it is along with a bit of background. RationalWiki explains …

The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible is a harsh criticism of the Bible written by Steve Wells.[1] Wells spent some 20 years researching the BibleQur’an, and Book of Mormon to generate his Skeptic’s Annotated Bible. It analyses the King James Version of the Bible and is particularly useful against King James only-fundamentalists. Steve Wells analyzes a variety of issues that non-Christians and thinking Christians often find untenable with the more common presentation of the Bible as literal truth, and of the Bible and God as “good and peaceful.” As with other annotations, it provides ongoing commentary about what passages mean, what their context is, and why they are there.

In other words, if you truly believe that the bible is never wrong about anything, then you really really do not want to go anywhere near this because you will find it that it will greatly upset you. However, if you can indeed come to terms with it not being divine perfection, then regardless of your stance (belief or non-belief), you might potentially find it to be interesting.

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