I am the son of a Baptist minister and admit that I long ago dismissed Christianity as the most convoluted, indefensible patchwork of complete nonsense perpetrated on mankind in the last 2000 years. I believe this as strongly as you apparently believe in your inherited Jewish God from the magnanimous Jesus (oh, we lucky Gentiles!) I do not say this aggressively or argumentively, but with complete honesty. I know, as you should, that everything in Christianity, from belief in one god (an Egyptian idea–Amun) to the original Sumerian flood story to the Zoroastrian belief in a god of evil (“Satan”) was taken from other sources and has nothing to do with the “chosen people.” You know the Bible is absolutely replete with irreconcilable contradictions; yet, you find it rewarding to engage in apologetics, like this is somehow virtuous–to make up excuses, to reassure less astute people so they might continue to believe a dead Jew is going to make them live forever. Again, not to attack, but out of curiousity, is the money that good? There is no evidence for Christianity (except of the manufactured kind) and it’s hard for me to accept you don’t already know this. Really, why the charade?
You say that you do not say these things agressively or argumentatively, but I get a very strong sense that you have a lot of anger going on here. If you want to have a reasonable conversation with someone, it is probably not good to disrespect that person and accuse them of having dishonest motives. No, the money is not that good. I make no money from doing apologetics. Any money I bring in goes immediately to charitable work. All of it. This is really very disrespectful of you to make this false accusation when you have no evidence. My belief is not a charade, and, again, I feel you are arguing by attacking the person (called a straw man argument) rather than by presenting an actual argument. I am sure you can do better than this. Also, I believe your claim that only “less astute” people will believe in Christianity is a spurious charge. It is really rather ungracious of you to imply that only uneducated and unintelligent people will fall for these bogus arguments for Christianity. Besides, it is simply not true. I will be delighted to put you in touch with some very smart and highly educated people who accept the evidence for Christianity. Disrespecting and putting down your neighbors does not make for a good argument.
Anyway, let me respond. My faith is not a charade. Even if you choose not to accept that evidence, surely you are aware that there is much evidence for Christianity. If not, I suggest you spend a good deal of time reading material at my web site. The scientific accuracy and wisdom of the Bible is impossible to explain unless one allows that the Bible is inspired. If you do not agree, that is fine, but I want to humbly request that you at least be sufficiently open minded to read my book Is There a God? (www.ipibooks.com) If you will be humble enough and open-minded enough, you will see that I have a LOT of reason for belief in God as a scientist. I would add to this the incredible evidence of the inspiration of the Bible contained in the dozens of messianic and other prophecies. The Old Testament tells us that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, raised in Galilee, crucified, betrayed for thirty pieces of silver, die for the sins of the people, ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, come to Jerusalem and to make justification for the sins of the people in about AD 30, etc….. The evidence that Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy is inescapable, at least in my opinion. Again, I want to humbly request that you at least consider the evidence, rather than make the completely unfounded claim that there is no evidence for Christianity. I want to request that you consider reading two books on this topic which I have written. They are Reasons for Belief and From Shadow to Reality (www.ipibooks.com).
The evidence for the claim that Jesus worked miracles is extremely strong. Even the Jewis and Roman historians reported this. The evidence for the resurrection is so strong that I sometimes wonder how people who are aware of the evidence can avoid the conclusion. I have to question that you have really given the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus careful consideration. Again, my book Reasons for Belief is one source among many on this.
As a scientist, with a PhD in chemistry and physics, I am convinced that by far the most reasonable conclusion is that the universe was created (the Big Bang Theory) and that life was created. Some very smart and highly educated people have reached the same conclusion. This is not some sort of superstitious conclusion, but the most reasonable view of the information we have available, at least in my opinion.
You make the claim that the Bible is “replete with irreconcilable contradictions.” I beg to differ with you. This charge is easy to make, but you do not list a single one. Therefore, I cannot give a specific response, although you will find many of these at my web site. I have looked at hundreds of supposed “contradictions” in the Bible and have found the great majority of these to be rather shallow and so easily answered that the one making the accusation has clearly not even considered the possibility. I will admit that some of the claimed contradictions in the Bible are not shallow. Some of these are reasonable questions, but I have investigated literally every one ever presented to me and I am left with a stronger faith than ever by these false claims that the Bible is full of contradictions. If you are serious about this charge, then you ought to present an actual contradiction so that I can respond. Otherwise I will give my generic response that I have not yet seen a single claim of contradiction to hold up to reasonable investigation.
You make one more claim, which is that the ideas in the Bible are stolen from other religions. This is a common claim, but I believe the evidence does not support the claim. I will need you to be more specific in order to really give a good response. Here is what I will do. I get these unfounded claims all the time. We did an entire conference and debate on this subject. I am copying and pasting a version of this accusation which came to the web site just this past week and hope that this one example can serve as an example of my response to this kind of false accusation about Judaism/Christianity.
I am sorry that you feel so much anger toward believers and those who defend Christianity. I can assure you that my faith is real and that it is based on a fantastic amount of evidence. I only hope that you will be willing to investigate the evidence which you seem to assume does not exist.
Copied article below.
This is a harder question than you might think. The fact is that in the Old Testament the idea of heaven and hell is not fully developed. This is an example of what is sometimes called “progressive revelation.” God fully revealed his nature gradually, over time, to his people. There are a number of concepts only introduced, and sometimes not very clearly in the OT, which are fully revealed in the New Testament. For example, God’s intention with regard to divorce is only fully revealed in the New Testament. The idea of grace and the implications of the blood sacrifice system is foreshadowed in the Old Testament, but fully realized in the New. A good example of this principle is the biblical teaching on what happens after we die. The idea of heaven and hell is not established with much specificity in the Old Testament. David talks about Sheol and Abaddon in the Psalms. It is only in the book of Daniel, in the Old Testament, that the idea of a final resurrection is fully revealed. There are many passages in the Old Testament which hint at a Judgement Day, at the afterlife and heaven and hell, but the honest truth, at least as I see it, is that these ideas are suggested but not clearly stated. Of course, in Daniel 12, the final judgement, heaven and hell are described quite clearly.
You are probably aware that the Pharisees and Saducees argued over the nature of the resurrection (Acts 23:5-10). This is because the Saducees only used the first five books (the Pentateuch). If you only read the Pentateuch, you will not find the resurrection ever taught, at least in an unmistakeable way. The Pharisees accepted Daniel as scripture and therefore agreed with Jesus and Paul about the resurrection.
The same can be said about the nature of Hell. The Old Testament clearly reveals Satan and his work, but it only somewhat vaguely tells us about the nature of Hell. David talks about Abaddon, which is the waiting place of those who rebelled against God, and Daniel implies that those who are not righteous will suffer “everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12:2). So we have the doctrine of Hell in the Old Testament, but it is not a major topic. On the other hand, clearly final judgement, heaven and hell are quite thorougly worked out in the New Testament.
Here is where the skeptical, unbelieving scholars step in. They point out that the Greeks had a teaching about an underworld, called Tartarus. I believe it is fair for scholars to say that the Greeks had a more thoroughly worked out idea of the underworld/afterlife than the Jews did in the centuries before Jesus lived. The Greek idea of Tartarus would be very roughly equivalent to the Jewish/OT teaching on Abaddon (the waiting place), not Hell (the place of final judgement). We cannot completely blame the skeptical scholars for proposing that the Jews borrowed their ideas about judgment, Hades and Hell from the Greeks. As a academic theory it is not unreasonable. It is true that the Jewish idea of the afterlife was somewhat vague, that the Greek idea was more well developed and that the New Testament teaching, like the Greek one, is more developed. However, we, as Christians, have a different perspective on this. We understand that “All scripture is inspired by God.” We understand that the Bible writers got their ideas, not from Greek mythology, but by inspiration from God.
I believe that the data we have is more consistent with the belief that the Jewish idea of hell comes from the Old Testament and from direct revelation to Jesus and the apostles, not from Greek mythology. First of all, these scholars greatly exaggerate their case in order to “prove” their point. They are not correct when they say that the Old Testament did not include a doctrine of the afterlife, heaven and hell. Second, the New Testament idea of judgment, heaven and hell is far more similar to the Old Testament version, no matter how vague, than anything in Greek mythology. Both the OT and the NT idea of judgment, heaven and hell is monotheistic, for one thing. Also, the parallels between Daniel and Revelation 21-22 are undeniable. The parallels with the Greek idea of crossing the Styx river is pretty much non-existent. This is just one more case of scholars grasping at straws in an attempt to undermine our confidence in the Scripture. I believe that it is FAR more believable, based on the evidence (not even allowing for what we know–which is that the scriptures are inspired) to believe that Jesus and the apostles got their ideas about the afterlife, both from the Old Testament and from the same God who inspired the writing of Pslams, Daniel etc., than it is to believe that it came from the Greeks. Might the actual vocabulary used to describe the afterlife in the Greek language have come from Greek words. Of course, but obviously Greek speakers would use Greek words for these things, but the ideas did not come from the Greeks.
This brings me to the question of inspiration. The extremely biased perspective of the skeptical unbelieving scholars do not allow them to see the obvious, which is that the Christian idea of the afterlife is much more closely related to the OT than the Greek ideas. Let me add to this the question of inspiration. If we will allow for the idea that Jesus was inspired by God (which is pretty obvious, given his resurrection of Lazarus, walking on water, fulfilling the prophecies, his resurrection and a zillion other things), then the idea that he got his idea of the afterlife from Greek mythology becomes really quite absurd. Seriously, this claim is downright absurd. If we look at the life of Jesus, how can anyone reasonably propose that he got his concept of the afterlife from mythology, when it is quite clear that he had direct access to the Father in heaven?
Of course, in a scholarly setting, such things are generally discounted. In that arena this claim that Paul borrowed his teaching on hell from the Greeks is in play. I will have to admit that there is even some evidence that supports this conclusion. However, I believe even if we ignore the obvious, which is that “All scripture is inspired by God,” it is still far more reasonable to conclude that the church got its idea of the afterlife principally from Jewish sources and borrowed vocabulary, but not ideas from the Greeks.