Answering Skeptics' Challenges #3 - Doesn't God do evil?

Last week’s class was about whether God cares about or ignores evil.  Today’s class deals with the question “Doesn’t God do evil?”   Skeptics look at the Bible and challenge that God actively does evil things.  Richard Dawkins, the famous and infamous atheist Scientist is well known for his oft repeated quote about the God of the Bible. 
“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.“ 
Richard Dawkins has great experience in calling names but he’s very bad at intellectually rigorous and philosophically sound arguments.  As challenging as his complaints sound at first they are quite weak.  Even atheists point out how bad they are.  Atheist philosopher Michael Ruse says that Dawkins’ arguments are so bad that he’s embarrassed to call himself an atheist.  Terry Eagleton, an English literature and cultural theory professor complains that Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are both out of their depth and misrepresenters of the Christian faith:  “they invariably come up with the vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince.  The more they detest religion, the more ill-informed their criticisms of it tend to be.”  Christopher Hitchens vitriol against religion inspired a critic to describe Hitchen’s position as “There is no God, and I hate Him.”  We need to be aware that the more dramatic and verbose the challenges are the more likely they are to be poorly supported and easily defeated.  We just need to learn a bit more about our own faith and think it through.  Let’s get to our next question in the atheist’s video “10 Questions Every Intelligent Christian Must Answer.”
Once again, the maker of this video says the people who are killed are innocent which we’ve already talked about as an error but let’s talk about some context.  The kinds of commands pointed out in this video were limited to those under the Mosaic covenant and given the Levitical laws.  These kinds of restrictions weren’t in effect before that and aren’t today.  Even the Orthodox Jews of today don’t follow the full judgments of these laws.  So, what is happening?  We spoke about this last week, what were the Jews chosen for?  They were chosen to deliver the Messiah to the world.   These Jews were also supposed to be a light to all nations and a demonstration of how great was their God.  It doesn’t seem like God made a very good choice on who he selected, does it?  How odd of God to choose the Jews.  Still, these laws were intended to protect the Jewish people from the idolatry and evil around them and to preserve the genealogical line of Christ.  These people were supposed to be a holy, set-apart nation and the laws were for them, not for the people around them.

I love to use analogies and metaphors so I was trying to think of a similar modern example.  Do baby sitters get charged with a crime if they fall asleep on the job?  No, but soldiers on guard duty in a theatre of battle sure do.  The level of discipline demanded of a military unit is probably the closest example we can come to that the people of Israel were held to.  Disobeying orders is a major sign of rebellion and has to be dealt with harshly to maintain order.  These people had lived for generations with the Egyptians and had to be molded into a very different type of people.  The Levitical laws that even governed the little things like food, clothing, and even the prohibition on trimming their beards seem to serve to separate these peculiar people from all the nations around them that did these things.  Food restrictions kept them from eating with people of other religions.  Clothing restrictions made them obviously different, like the Amish.  

Many of the Levitical laws were ceremonial in nature and also to isolate the Jews from idolatry as I mentioned but others were moral laws like Leviticus 18.  This chapter lays out the unlawful sexual practices that those in Egypt did and now in Canaan.  It is clear in outlawing incest, adultery, homosexuality and bestiality.  It also warns them not to sacrifice any of their children to Molek, a Canaanite idol.  In fact the Israelites were commanded to destroy the Canaanites as they inhabited the land.  They were commanded to kill man, woman, child, and every living thing.  This is often used to accuse God of ordering genocide or ethnic cleansing but this didn’t have anything to do with tribalism, but their idolatry instead.  In fact the people of Israel were threatened with the same punishment at the end of Leviticus 18.
 “Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled.  Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants.  But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the foreigners residing among you must not do any of these detestable things,  for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled.  And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.”
In fact, God did bring destruction to the twelve tribes because of their sins and they were vomited out of the land as well. 
 
What about the destruction of the Canaanites?  Paul Copan’s book “Is God a Moral Monster?” analyzes the view that a lot of the language in the OT about the destruction of the Canaanites is actually hyperbolic, or exaggerated, language.  He explains that when Joshua’s armies said they destroyed every living thing we would later read about more Canaanites in later chapters.  He also makes the case that these commands to destroy the Canaanites was talking about just destroying their civilization by destroying their armed cities and centers of their government, not everyone living in the land, since they keep showing up everywhere.  If he’s right, this certainly may moderate the image of God’s wrath against these people but I’m not very convinced.  We still have other acts of God’s judgment that were more severe like the flood in Noah’s day.  I also ran across another opinion given by Clay Jones, a professor in apologetics at Biola University and he wrote an essay for the Philosophi Christi Journal with an intriguing title: 
"We don’t hate sin, so we don’t understand what happened to the Canaanites”   
You can find this at his site on his resources page, www.clayjones.net. Clay Jones did a lot of research on Canaanite culture and found many disturbing things.  As I mentioned, Lev 18 pointed out that they were committing rape, incest, adultery, homosexuality and bestiality.  All the heterosexual sins produced unwanted babies that they then sacrificed to Molek

Molek was a bull-headed God and they made a hollow bronze sculpture of Molek with his arms outstretched.  They would then build a fire inside the sculpture and get the arms red-hot and then throw the babies into the arms of Molek to be sacrificed.  This is detestable to us but far beyond that to God.

Clay Jones also researched Canaanite poetry that describes their god Baal raping his sister 77 even 88 times while she’s in the form of a young calf.  This is the god that they worship and they write poetry about this?  Imagine how perverted this culture is to come up with a god who can commit rape, incest, adultery and bestiality all in one act!  They also wrote that Baal had sex with his own mother and daughter as well.  The Canaanites therefore emulated Baal, and did the same.  Appalling.
So, was God’ judgment on these people just?  Weren’t there some good people left in the land?  God promised Abraham that his people would return to the land He gave him. “In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”   

The delay was because the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.  God showed mercy to the Canaanites for 400 years.  They even had 40yrs warning when the Israelites were led through the Red Sea and wandered in the desert.  The people of Jericho were very fearful after they heard about that happening but still they did not repent, save Rahab.  Think about how Abraham bargained with God for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.  He pleaded with God to spare the cities if 50 righteous people lived there, even 40, 30, 20, or 10.  God knew that not even 10 people were righteous in that city.  When the angels went to rescue Lot and his family, the people of the city wanted to rape the angels.  Lot and his family still didn’t want to leave and had to be dragged by the hand to leave that city.  That shows something of the corruption that can influence even people who don’t partake of the evil but tolerate it. We also have the example of Jeremiah being told to look for even one righteous person in Jerusalem and he couldn’t find one. We must realize God knows more about human nature than we do.

Why did they have to destroy all living things?  The bestiality of the Canaanites corrupted even the animals.  The Canaanites had laws against having sex with oxen but not against having sex with horses.  Why?  You definitely don’t want a huge oxen hanging around that was accustomed to sex with people.  That would be very dangerous.  Clay Jones also mentioned reading about a Psychologist who had been sexually assaulted by a female gorilla with horrifying results.  Any animal accustomed to human sexual activity is one you don’t want around.  

Why kill women and children?  Let us consider this.  A Canaanite book of dreams said it was a bad omen if a woman has a dream about embracing her husband but that it was a good omen if she dreamt of having sex with various kinds of animals.  This shows how far down the path of perversion this culture has gone.  These women were fully as infected with this culture of perversion as the men.  Let’s also look at the example of Solomon in 1 Kings.
"As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.  He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites.  So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done.   On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites.  He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.” 
Women have a way of getting men to do what they want and this evil is what these women wanted.  The women of Canaan are just as infected with the evil as the men so they were to be killed too.  God knows more about human nature than we do.

Why were the Canaanite children killed?  This is the hardest challenge to deal with.  Clay Jones said he asks his students, “Okay, what ages of kids should be spared?  Under 18?  Under 12?  Under 6?  If you spared just the under 6 kids, then how do you handle them ten years later when they get into teenage rebellion and start challenging the Israelites, “You killed my parents for what reason now?”  “For what?”  These children grow up eventually.  Even 4, 5, and 6 year olds bring their own culture along with them and they were likely to have been sexually molested by them and we understand that most pedophiles were sexually molested themselves and this becomes an ongoing curse.  What about the very young?  We have adopted a son with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and is affected by the neglect and trauma of living with an unfit mother.  He was removed from his mother when he was fifteen months old and we got him about a year and a half later.  He’s very damaged in many ways, intellectually, emotionally, morally, and other ways.  Much of this damage is irreparable short of God’s intervention.  The Canaanites likely did far worse damage to their own babies.  These babies may have been carrying any number of diseases and genetic defects too so God’s judgment in that situation was that they should not be spared and he would sort it all out in eternity.  God knows human nature better than we do.   

God is morally justified in executing judgment on the Canaanites, the unfaithful Jews, and us as well if we are not in Christ.  If Solomon could fall into the sin he did, then we are all capable of doing unimaginable evil.  Clay Jones described us all as Aushwitz-enabled.  Ordinary people can do extraordinary evil.  The Canaanites adults are responsible for the evil that led to the deaths of their children, not God.

Another thing to consider is that the skeptic challenges our sensibilities on a very temporal type question.  Were these people killed ‘before their time’.  Everyone dies and not one of these people would be alive after thousands of years.  What is the point they are trying to make? The skeptic is trying to beat us up with our yardstick of morality, not his own.  I challenged the athiest I spoke with when he brought this up.  I asked him, “If you’re a Darwinian evolutionist then what is wrong with what the Israelites did?  That is survival of the fittest.  Their group was more fit than the Canaanites and took their land to increase their own tribe.  What’s wrong with that on your view?”  He didn’t stay on that challenge after that.

The Christian’s viewpoint should be enlightened by God’s perspective.  Our understanding of God’s judgment on the Canaanites should be tempered in that, without Christ, we are just as deserving of harsh judgment.

D. Martin Lloyd-Jones observed that “Most of our troubles are due to the fact that we’re guilty of a double failure.  We fail on the one hand to realize the depth of sin and on the other hand to realize the greatness, the height, and the glory of our salvation.” 
We make the mistake of minimizing our sin.  I think it was John Piper that observed that no deep, profound thinker ever came to the conclusion that people are intrinsically good.”  No one is good, no not one.  

As regards our salvation, Clay Jones pointed out that the last verse of the book of Revelation before the epilogue that warns of not adding or removing from the book, it says that we shall reign with Christ for ever and ever.  Our time here is very short.  We are being prepared to reign with Christ for ever and ever.  I think everyone would agree that we truly learn more if our experiences are deep and intense.  Suffering is a deep and intense learning experience that has a purpose.

We have this beautiful teaching in 2 Cor 4
"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body  ---  Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory.   
That is the perspective God wants us to have about our suffering and affliction as Christians.  If we have God’s perspective then we should also be praying for the salvation of the lost far more than for the relief of their suffering.  God sent Jonah to Ninevah to demand them to repent, not for their healing and success.  We desire that all of God’s enemies repent but few will do it.  

Let’s now go on to the next question about Slavery in the Bible.  
Why do all intelligent people abhor slavery and want to make it illegal?  Why? Because of Christianity of course.  This atheist is so unaware of history and this subject that he is should educate himself first.  Let me school him a bit.
First, the kind of slavery that existed in Biblical times is not the same as the antebellum Southern style slavery that we think of today.  Unless you were a criminal or prisoner of war then a slave of ancient times was a voluntary position.  It was most often indentured voluntary servanthood to pay debts or to provide a living.  God’s intention was the poverty of His people to be relieved so he demanded debts to be cancelled every 7th and 50th year under the Jubilee laws.
I tried to think of a similar situation today that compares and I wondered if those who volunteer for the military are similar but soldiers today actually give up more rights than the slaves then did. Slaves in those days were more like professional athletes who were under contract and could work for no one else while on the team.  At the end of the contract they could renegotiate or go elsewhere.  Slave masters would be more like a team owner.  Our own country was founded by a lot of indentured servants who came to this country owing the debt of passage to get here and would work for a number of years for their master or sponsor until the debt was paid.  

Slavery was a means for the poor to be provided the necessities of life in a productive fashion.  I could argue that we have things a bit upside-down in our own country where the productive citizens have their money taken from them by force and given to those who are not productive and discouraged from becoming productive in the future.  Welfare is a very perverse system of unproductive slavery that hurts both rich and poor.  First century slavery in the Roman Empire did not provide as much rights as O.T. Israel but was not like Southern slavery.  85 to 90% of Rome’s population were slaves and they were in all kinds of trades.  Slaves could often make more money than a free person.  They could start their own business and make lots of money of their own.  They could purchase their freedom and they had the right to own property.  People under our  welfare system can’t do these things because once they take steps towards independence the rug is pulled out from under them, their home, their food, the complete social safety net.  So, the system they had worked in ways that ours doesn’t and objectively it wasn’t as bad as the video author makes it sound.

Second, Biblical rules would have prevented Southern slavery if those professing to be Christian would have followed them. 
  Ex 21:26-27 commands the release of injured servants.
  Anti-kidnapping laws are found in Ex 21:16, Deut 24:7, and 1 Tim 1:10.  The Ex 21  and Deut 24 passages apply the death penalty for those who’ve kidnapped others. 1 Tim 1 puts slave traders in interesting company that is hard to ignore.  
"We know that the law is good if one uses it properly.  We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers,  for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine  that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me."
Deut 23:15-16 tells the people of Israel to not return runaway slaves to their masters.  Israel’s situation with slaves, was far, far more moral and advanced than the neighboring countries where slaves were treated like our Southern slaves, completely as property.  God’s mandates on slavery pushed for the ideal but recognized the likely actions of His people.

Third, unlike the Greek ideas on slavery where Aristotle argued that slaves were slaves by nature and inferior, the Bible instead stresses the fundamental equality of the nature of all people.  The ante-bellum South appealed more to the arguments of Aristotle than it did the Bible in this regard. 
Joel 2:29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.”

Job 31:15 If I have denied justice to any of my servants, whether male or female, when they had a grievance against me,  what will I do when God confronts me? What will I answer when called to account?  Did not he who made me in the womb make them?  Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?“

This passage in James gives us a solid basis for a high regard for all humanity.  James 3:9 “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.”
 
Even in the issue of salvation, there is equality among those from different backgrounds, different classes, and between the sexes. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”   This was a revolutionary thought to the people of that day where the Elder of a church might even be a slave and his master might be under his leadership in the church.  This seemed revolutionary but seems to fit the concept of progressive revelation through the scriptures.
We also have the perfect example of Christ opposing oppression of all kinds, from all sources, both Roman and religious leaders.  At Jesus’ first occasion to preach in the synagogue after his temptations in the wilderness, he spoke on Isaiah 61.  This was the passage that was scheduled to be read on that day according to their systematic coverage of the scriptures, He said
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.   He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.  He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
So, the Bible does recognize the existence of slavery, moderates the laws and advances the rights of servants, and proclaims the ideals of equality for all.  Still, there are some passages that seem very hard to deal with and we need to look at those challenging passages.

We referred to this passage earlier, Exodus 21:20-21:
And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.”  
This sounds like a light sentence that you kill a servant and you get punished but not punished if he survives a day or two.  The word for punished here in Hebrew always meant the death penalty so this was a serious charge.  Considering that in the surrounding countries there would be no punishment at all for killing your slaves this was a much more moral standard.  If the slave didn’t die right away but maybe a few days later then the master was given the benefit of the doubt that his beating might not be the cause.  The comment ‘for he is his money’ is saying that the natural punishment in mistreating your slave is that you lose the amount of labor you would have received from them because of your mistreatment.   This can be understood better in light of the earlier passage starting in verse 18 about two people who get into a fight,
If people quarrel and one person hits another with a stone or with their fist and the victim does not die but is confined to bed, the one who struck the blow will not be held liable if the other can get up and walk around outside with a staff; however, the guilty party must pay the injured person for any loss of time and see that the victim is completely healed.”  
This reading in the NIV makes it clear that the guilty party has to pay cash to restore the person to wholeness but with a slave they have to take care of them, feed them, let them recuperate, and since he didn’t get the labor out of the slave for that time then that is his loss.  In both cases if the person died some days later the benefit of the doubt goes to the guilty party as far as the death sentence is concerned.

Here’s another challenge.  Does Exodus 21:2-6 command breaking up slave families?
"If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself.  And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.”
This passage uses the example of a man but as Jewish case law it can also be reversed and mean the same for women since a woman servant would be released in their seventh year as well.  In this case, if the man’s tour of duty is finished before his wife, just like couple’s who have commitments with the military that end at different times, then he has several options.  He can find work nearby and wait for his wife and children to finish their obligations, he can earn enough money to buy their freedom, or he can voluntarily decide to make his servant status permanent and provide for his family that way.  The system of slavery in Israel was designed to protect and provide for the poor, not to oppress them.

There are other challenges too but they are resolved in a similar fashion by understanding the context and intent of the laws and not by applying an anachronistic application of our understanding of slavery upon their situation.  In the interest of time, let’s move on to another question from the video.


His attitude here sounds  like, “Whew, gross!  That’s just, like, stupid, like, like, ya know?”  He doesn’t show any attempt to try to understand this issue.  But, to be honest, this challenge did make me think it through and question whether I really understood it either.  I know the significance of the body and the blood in communion but I couldn’t quite piece together why Jesus said to  ‘eat’ his body and ‘drink’ his blood.  The Jews had such an aversion about drinking blood or eating meat with blood in it that I’m sure his disciples were even more shocked than we would be in such a situation.  I sought one opinion on this from Matt Slick who runs CARM.org.  I called his radio show and asked him about it since he has a knack for taking theological issues down off the top shelf and putting them in our reach.  He asked me how sin came into this world, obviously by Adam eating the forbidden fruit.  Adam disobeyed through eating, and in the last Adam, Jesus Christ, we are essentially restored through eating in a way, in that we take in Christ in a symbolic fashion.  Eating and drinking with someone is a way to develop bonds of friendship and relationship and our eating the bread and drinking the wine are symbolic of our restored relationship with God through Christ’s offered blood and body for the redemption of our sins.  You don’t eat with enemies and you don’t acknowledge forgiveness of your sins and restored peace with God if you don’t take communion.  Just as Christ called himself the bread of life, he instituted a symbolic understanding through communion of having Christ in us and us being in Him.  I’m sure there are other deeper theological understandings but I’m satisfied at this time by Matt’s answer.

Is the Crucifixion divine child abuse?
Here’s another challenge that often comes up that I wanted to cover and would have been a better question on the video than the last one.  Atheists often claim that God the Father giving up His only begotten Son on the cross to pay the sins for others is like divine child abuse.  Richard Dawkins makes this claim repeatedly and so do some professing Christians like Brian McLaren who don’t understand what is going on with the doctrine of vicarious atonement, or penal substitution.  In the June class I was asked about a verse in Deuteronomy about people paying the price for their own sins and not for another.  We may understand that someone else can pay a fine for someone else but it does seem like it is unjust for someone to die for someone else’s crimes.  There is a way to answer this reasonable objection.  I used an illustration with the atheist I spoke with at the Salvation Army Thrift Store awhile back.  He said it originated from Josh McDowell.  I’m not surprised where it came from, but I am surprised that the atheist knew that.  The illustration is called the lamp analogy.  If my wife and I go to a friend's home, let's call him Bob.  While I'm talking to Bob I accidentally knock over his desk lamp and break it.  I'm really sorry and ask him to forgive me.  Bob says, "Sure, I forgive you but give me $50 for the lamp."  Has Bob really forgiven me?  Of course not.  What if Bob instead says he forgives me but wants my wife to give him $50.  Has Bob really forgiven me?  Again, of course not.  If Bob forgives me then who pays for the lamp?  Bob, right?  The one doing the forgiving pays the price for offense against them.  
 
This illustration shows that Jesus has to be God in order for him to adequately and justly pay for and forgive our sins so it useful for anyone wanting to demonstrate the divinity of Christ.  It also shows that Justice and Forgiveness, Mercy and Grace, can both be accomplished in one act.  God isn’t winking at sin and ignoring it like Allah is claimed to.  This also puts to the lie the idea that this is divine child abuse, God isn’t punishing another for us, He himself is taking on the punishment.  1 Peter 1:12  says that the Gospel is something that even the Angels long to look into.  It is so beautiful a story, the Gospel, that the Angels are almost consumed with desire to watch what is going on.  Biblical theology has a true beauty to it that only gets more beautiful the more you understand it.

Isn't it unjust for God to send sinners to hell for eternity for a finite number of sins?
Atheists also raise this challenge, that God is evil and unjust to send people to Hell for an eternity, an infinite amount of time when they committed only a finite number of sins.  I’ll offer a couple answers to this quickly.  The amount of punishment for a sin depends on who you sin against.  If you lie to your child nothing will happen to you.  If you lie to your wife, you’ll likely sleep on the couch.  If you lie to the IRS you could get a whopping fine.  If you lie to the FBI you’ll likely go to jail.  You have done the same wrong but you get different punishments depending on who you lie to.  If you lie to an infinite, holy, God then you could earn an infinite punishment.  Now, I can accept that answer but since an atheist doesn’t think so highly of God then it won’t go that far with them.  I like the answer that William Lane Craig gave on this subject the best.  He’ll ask in return, “What makes you think that a sinner’s number of sins are finite?  If the sinner is sent to hell for an eternity and is totally removed from any grace of God that he experiences in this life, then what makes you think he’ll stop sinning?  Wouldn’t the sinner likely be blaspheming and cursing God without end?”  I think that has a better chance of resonating with an atheist, don’t you?  Can the atheist conceive of ever stopping his cursing and blaspheming of God?  I don’t think so.

There are many, many more objections that atheists and skeptics like to bring up, and ones that challenge believers as well.  There are lots of resources to answer these challenges but not even a professional Christian apologist like Greg Koukl or Matt Slick will have answers for every one of them.  You may have to dig for ones that make sense to you.  It is actually quite interesting to hear some new twist on a question make the rounds on various radio shows and on blogs. 

For example, I heard an interesting one that was mentioned on several shows I listen to over just a few weeks.  The question was about how Jesus had said that no one knows the day or the hour of his return, only the Father knows.  Well, the question wasn’t whether this showed that Jesus wasn’t divine because of his lack of knowledge, as the JW’s often claim.  Rather, this question was why wouldn’t the Holy Spirit know the day and the hour of Christ’s return since He wouldn’t have laid aside any divine attributes in the incarnation.  It is an interesting question.   The only answer I heard that sounded credible was from Matt Slick of CARM.org.  

Matt's opinion was that Jesus was using an idiom based on Jewish marriage customs.  Jesus used a lot of marriage parables and illustrations in his teachings.  In a Jewish wedding a young man would get engaged and then go prepare a place his bride by adding on to his father's home.  When he was done with the home, when the wine was ready, when all the food was ready, it still wasn't time for the wedding until the father said so.  The father had the last word.  Jesus said He would go to prepare a place for us when He left and that His Father house had many rooms.  The Church is His bride and He will return to bring us with Him when the Father says it is time.  The knowledge of the day and time of his return is what you might call 'authority' knowledge, not just 'actual' knowledge.  The Son of God and the Holy Spirit have full knowledge of what the Father will declare but it is in His authority to make it known. 

There are many ways to answer the skeptic when they challenge that God does evil.  These challenges are most often inconsistent.  They'll ask where is God when good people suffer at the hands of evil people but then they say God does evil if he removes the evil people like the Canaanites. Which way do they want it? Dr. James White describes this with his statement, "Incosistency is the sign of a failed argument."  We must not be inconsistent in our answers to skeptics either.  We must be knowledgeable in these issues and have sound theology that guides us and not just use what sounds like the best answer available. 
Resources:

 “We Don’t Hate Sin so we don’t understand what happened to the Canaanites.” www.clayjones.net/resources/

Is God a Moral Monster?” by Paul Copan

“The Defender’s Guide for Life’s Toughest Questions”  by Ray Comfort. 
“The Dawkins Letters: Challenging Atheist Myths”  by David Robertson



 
 

 




 
  








 

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