Spiritual Perspectives


THE BEST SKEPTICS HAVE TO OFFER

Gary W. Summers

                When one listens to the boasts of atheists, he may at first feel intimidated by their braggadocio.  All that is needed, however, to calm one’s nerves is to examine their inflated claims.  Charles Eugene, who responded to Michelle Walker’s letter to the editor (see last week’s article) concluded his reply thus: “The Bible is full of errors, contradictions, and absurdities. See for yourself at http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/”.

 

     Okay.  We went to the Web site and took a look.  It contains much more than can be discussed in one article, but one of the categories is called “Absurdities.”  We did not bother to print it, since there are several hundred listed.  Curious as to the comments about the book of Acts, we scrolled down to it and decided to use the first ten of these.  But before we do that, the reader should be prepared to see in these “absurdities” the attitude which Paul discusses in 1 Corinthians 2:11-15:

 

For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.  But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.

 

     Calvinists wrongly apply this passage, saying that without the Holy Spirit within, a person cannot under-stand the Word of God.  Paul did not say that.  He said that the natural man does not receive spiritual things.  Why not?  The answer is that he has no spiritual appetite.  In other words, his life is bound to this world, and spiritual concepts seem like a foreign language. The attitude expressed by “the natural man” (one devoid of spiritual understanding) will be obvious from the very beginning.

 

     “643.  Those who heard the apostles speaking in tongues thought they were drunk. Maybe they were.  2: 13.  Comments like these would not even make good standup comedy.  As is the case with so many other examples in their list of absurdities, they do not explain on what grounds the Scripture is absurd.  Obviously, if God exists and created man, He can cause men to speak in various languages.  Only someone who has no respect for matters holy could be so crude.

 

     “644.  Peter says that their strange behavior (speaking in tongues, etc.) was to be expected since they were living in ‘the last days.’ 2:17  First of all, Peter was not explaining strange behavior, and there is no “etc.”  These remarks are calculated to embellish the situation rather than merely describe it.  Second, Peter was quoting from the prophet Joel, who said these things would occur in “the last days.”  Since the “absurdity” is not explained, we will assume that the skeptic who put this together thinks that 2,000 years is too long a time to qualify for that description.  This is the danger of mocking that concerning which a natural man  lacks understanding.

 

     In the Bible, “the last days” refers not to the end of time (an assumption made by atheists and premillennialists alike)—but to the era of Christianity.  The “former” era was the Law of Moses.  Perhaps some day, when the skeptics can afford to take a break from their haranguing, they might notice that the Bible is divided into two main sections—the Old Testament and the New Testament.  The New Testament focuses on the life of Christ, Who ushers in a new age—“the last days.”  If the world lasts ten thousand more years, we will still be in “the last days.”  A true Bible student lets the Scriptures define its own terminology.    

    

     “645.  Jesus did a little time in hell. 2:31.  The Greek word translated “hell” here is Hades, referring to the realm of the dead, and not Gehenna, referring to eternal torment.  If the skeptic knows the difference, he is just trying to be cute; if he does not, he is a sloppy “scholar.”

 

     “646.  Philip made ‘unclean spirits’ scream as they left the bodies of the people they possessed. 8:7.  First, the statement is not accurate.  Philip did not make the unclean spirits scream; when he cast them out, they chose to cry out with a loud voice.  Second, where is the absurdity?  Does the skeptic have some special ability in dealing with unclean spirits that would render this account foolish and inaccurate? 

 

     “647.  Peter has a dream in which God show [sic] him ‘wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls.’ The voice (God’s?) says, ‘Rise, Peter: kill and eat.’ 10:10-13.  Peter was not dreaming; the text says that “he fell into a trance.”  In Acts 11:5, commenting on this event, Peter adds, “I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object descending like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came to me.”  So, Peter was praying, fell into a trance (not fell asleep and began dreaming), and saw this vision, of which he was a part.  If we can be a part of our dreams, taking action and being acted upon, why cannot the same thing occur in a vision?  There is no absurdity here.

 

     “648.  Peter says that Jesus healed ‘all who were oppressed of the devil.’ (Including Judas?) 10:38.  What Peter says of the Lord is accurate.  How did He heal those oppressed by the devil?  He healed their sicknesses and cast out the demons that possessed them.  Judas, as an apostle, did the same thing—for a time.  When he betrayed Jesus, he was neither physically ill nor possessed by a demon.  He had, however, chosen to exercise his free will and do the devil’s work.  The skeptic is trying to confuse free will with demon possession.  Jesus never came to take away our freedom; if He had, the skeptic would not have been allowed to embarrass himself this way.

 

     Number 649 basically repeats 647.  “650.  Paul meets ‘a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination.’ 16:16.  Okay, and the absurdity is what? 

 

     “651.  The philosophers in Athens considered Paul a ‘babbler’ who worshipped strange gods. 17: 18.  And the reason the skeptic knows this information is—what?—that the Word of God reveals it to him.  So what if they considered Paul a babbler?  It just shows how much akin they were to the skeptic in being devoid of understanding.  Jesus was accused of having a demon.  The accusation consists of mere words—not evidence.  The fact that people often reject Truth does not necessarily reflect on its pro-claimer—frequently the fault lies with those who have chosen to be dull of hearing.  The text does say, however, that “some men joined him and believed” (v. 34).  Hmm.  Not bad for a babbler.  

 

     “652.  Now this is funny. Paul, a guy converted to Christianity because he heard voices, calls the Greeks too darned superstitious—Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! 17:22.  First of all, Paul did not hear voices.  What kind of credibility can be placed in the skeptic when he cannot discern the difference between the singular and the plural?  Acts 9:4 says, “Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice (emph. gws) saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’”  Paul did not hear voices; he heard THE Voice of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

 

     Second, the skeptic is trying to equate Paul with the Son of Sam or some other lunatic who murders people because of strange voices in his head.  Actually, Paul was in favor of putting Christians to death BEFORE he heard the voice; afterward he harmed no one.  The propagator of this Web site shows his prejudice by trying to put the worst possible (not to mention unfair) interpretation on Paul’s conversion.

 

     Third, the atheist ties himself to the King James when it is convenient.  Too superstitious is translated “very religious” in other versions (the NKJ, for example).  Paul’s point was that they had altars to every god they could think of, including one “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD” (Acts 17:23).  Of course, they were wrong in worshipping all of these deities, but they were at least a cut above the skeptic in that they knew that they had not created themselves.  They considered that in their limited knowledge there might be a Superior Being that they did not know—and they were right.  Paul taught them about the One they worshipped without knowing.

 

     Fourth, the Web site has no intent at setting forth an honest appraisal of the Scriptures.  If anything, the one who wrote these alleged “absurdities” is himself absurd.  Could anyone agree that even one of these listed qualifies as absurd, unless motivated by extreme prejudice?

 

Failed Prophecies

 

     Another category the browser notices is “Failed Prophecies.”  Not so many of these are listed, but once again we went to the book of Acts to see what the typical fare might be.  The first three of these we will examine.

 

     “136.  Peter wrongly claims that Dt. 18:18-19 refers to Jesus, saying that those who refuse to follow him (all non-Christians) must be killed. 3:23.” It is difficult to imagine how much more confused someone could be than to make a statement this inaccurate.  This kind of thinking, however, occurs from reading the Bible with a predisposition toward finding errors instead of trying to develop a sense of context.  Any writer’s words can be twisted by some amateur trying to make a point, if he ignores the overall theme of the work and the definitions the author provides.  But the first thing to notice here is that the skeptic fails to mention how Paul wrongly applied the verses in Deuteronomy to Jesus.  The second part of his sentence would be unpleasant (if true), but it does not disprove the prophecy.  

     The words that Peter spoke in Acts 3:22-23 follow:

 

“For Moses truly said to the Fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him shall you hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall come to pass that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’”

 

     Where is the authorization for killing?  Who is to do the killing?  These questions cannot be answered because of the passive construction: those who refuse to hear Jesus shall be utterly destroyed.  Again, we ask, “By whom?”  The text does not authorize Jewish believers to execute their fellow Jews who rejected this Prophet.  Gentile Christians are not told to put to death those who have not obeyed the Gospel.  Nowhere in the New Testament are Christians told to fight and kill those who are not followers of Jesus.  That anyone remotely familiar with the contents of the new covenant could make such a statement is an absurdity. 

 

     God is the one who will destroy the unbeliever from among His people on the Day of Judgment (2 Thess. 1: 8; Rev. 1:9).  He does not desire to consign people to hell, but if they are so hard-hearted as to reject the loving sacrifice He made on the cross, He will not over-rule their free will.  The choice is theirs.

 

     “137.  This verse admits that God’s promise to Abraham was not fulfilled. (See Gen. 12:7, 13:15, 15:18, and 17:8)  7:5.  These verses settle the “controversy  without the need for much additional infor-mation.  In Genesis 12:7 God told Abraham, “To your descendants I will give this land.”  Genesis 15:18 states it the same way.  The other two verses (13:15 and 17:8) have God giving the land to Abraham and his descendants.  In Acts 7:5 Stephen says:

 

“And God gave him no inheritance in it, not even enough to set his foot on. But even when Abraham had no child, He promised to give it to him for a possession, and to his descendants after him.”

 

     Stephen does not contradict anything previously said.  When God made the promise to Abraham concerning land, He was not promising it to him personally.  Even though he says you and your descendants, it is obvious that He means Abraham as the head of the nation that would come from him—not him individually.

 

     Although Abraham lived in the land, he never owned all that God promised.  In Genesis 13:14-15 God told him: “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and west-ward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever.”  Abraham saw what would be his (in the national sense).  God also, however, pointed out that his descendants would be in another land 400 years (Gen. 15:13).  The only point Stephen makes is that Abraham did not personally inherit the land—not even a foot of it, which we (Christians) al-ready knew from reading Genesis.       

    

     Did Abraham’s descendants receive the land?  Yes.  Joshua 21:43 settles that point: “So the Lord gave Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession and dwelt in it.”  The fact that Abraham did not personally receive this possession, which Stephen references, does not mean that his descendants did not receive the promise.  The prophecy was fulfilled.

 

     “138.  Gen. 49:10 says that all of Israel’s kings will be from the tribe of Judah, yet we see in this verse that Israel’s first king was from the tribe of Benjamin. 13:21.  Acts 13:21 simply corroborates what anyone would know from reading Old Testament history (1 Sam. 9-31).  The problem here is with the assertion made regarding Genesis 49:10, which reads:

 

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.

 

     This verse does indeed prophesy about the Christ.  He is the Lawgiver spoken of in this passage.  But where exactly does it say that all the kings will be from Judah?  The scepter would not depart ONCE they obtained it.  But when did God give them the scepter?

 

     The answer is that they received the scepter when God ordained the first king to reign from the tribe of Judah.  David was the first king from that tribe to be anointed (1 Sam. 16:13).  Afterward, the rulership of God’s people remained in the tribe of Judah.  Eighteen more kings reigned until the Babylonian captivity.  During that time and following, Israel had no king—until Jesus became the permanent one.

 

     Before God gave the scepter to the tribe of Judah it was given to Benjamin, and Saul reigned as king.  Later God took it away from him and his tribe and gave it to the house of Judah.

 

     These alleged failed prophecies” have not been well-researched.  They are based on erroneous conclusions that an honest Bible student would not make.  It is a shame that some are so biased against the Scriptures that they cannot give them a fair hearing.  But we are also blessed by their blindness, because they show in a way that could not otherwise be demonstrated how poor are the objections to the inspired Word of God.

 

     These few “absurdities” and “failed prophecies” are a random sampling of what is on this Web site.  The others are pretty much all the same—things taken out of context, misrepresented, or unexplained.  These efforts are the best that the atheist can do, and it shows us how utterly justified we have been to have believed in the first place.  We already had sufficient evidence to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God when we obeyed the Gospel.  All of our study has but confirmed the Truth.  The Bible can withstand the assault of atheism and skepticism—especially when the charges are so ludicrous.  Let us never be ashamed to study and defend the Word of God. 

 

 

*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "Whatever the article name from above is (12/14/04)."

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