I read this post from Anthony Horvath. It is well worth the read, as he covers what atheists should understand before trying to criticize the Bible. I’ve generally found that Bible criticisms stem from a lack of understanding of one or more points that Horvath mentions. Occasionally, however, there are other points that atheists miss. Consistent hermeneutics is one; often they will find a “contradiction” by interpreting one passage one way and interpreting the contradicting passage using a completely different hermeneutic. Progressive revelation is another thing that they fail on regularly. Of the two most misinterpreted passages in the entire Bible, one can be settled by looking at the context:
For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:18-20)
Atheists frequently point to that passage as evidence that the Old Testament Law is still in effect. However, if they’d only read verse 17, they’d find something interesting: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Interesting. Jesus is saying in verse 18 that the Law won’t pass away until it’s accomplished, but he assures us in just the previous sentence that he will do that! Our critics are very careful readers. Yeah, right.
But what I think is the most amazing thing about Horvath’s article is the comment section. In the first comment, he dedicates the post to an atheist reader who doesn’t feel that he needs to read the Bible in order to criticize it. The atheist’s response is very telling:
Indeed I do not need to read the texts of Scientology, the Book of Mormon, the Bible or the ravings of David Koresh to deem them extremely unlikely to be true. Don’t make me break out the “SJ’s Flying Car” analogy…
To which Horvath replies, as I would have, that if you’re going to criticize something, then you ought to give it a read:
No, you don’t need to read them to ‘deem’ them anything. But if you’re going to open your mouth in public to knock them then you should actually know what you’re talking about, first. Why you bother trying to convince people, ie, people like me, that my position is ‘unlikely to be true’ when you don’t know jack about the particulars of the position, is beyond me. There is no way you’d be considered credible. Indeed, you aren’t.
On my shelf: The Book of Mormon, the texts of Scientology, the texts of Christian Science, the JW translation of the Bible, the Satanic Bible, the Koran… to name some that come immediately to mind. Are there things I haven’t researched as much that I have nonetheless formed a general opinion on? Of course. I am a finite creature. But you don’t hear me discoursing on those.
You might want to consider a similar philosophy.
And the atheist replies, “I prefer to have a life.”
This is just sad. I know I’ve said this somewhere before: if you’re going to critique a position, at least know what the proponents of that position are arguing. This is why I don’t critique evolution and why I stay away from church history arguments. I don’t know much about either. If that changes, I might reconsider. Indeed, I plan to immerse myself in church history (particularly early church history) this year. But until then, I’m going to stick to philosophy, which I do know something about.