I’m doing a series on what I’d like to call “Bible dealbreakers,” reasons why I reject the Bible’s authority and therefore reject Christianity. This is part five of six.
Some of the contradictory statements in the Bible, rather than being about basic facts of the sort I discussed in Thursday’s post, are actually about the supernatural beliefs and divine instructions that define Christianity itself. There’s still the problem of at least half of them having to be wrong by definition, with no reliable way to choose which ones (if any) are right. But there’s another issue: even if I wanted to follow Christianity, I wouldn’t know how to do it! I wouldn’t know which ritual practices are important or which supernatural beliefs are required.
This is, of course, why there are thousands and thousands of Christian denominations. The problem becomes even worse when you consider the many different translations of the Bible, and the variations on which books are included in what order, leading some to criticize the very idea of “the Bible” as a single entity. If I am to believe the Bible, which one? If I am to be a Christian, which kind?
Should a Christian believe that Jesus and God are two manifestations of one and the same entity…
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. Colossians 2:8-10
“I and the Father are one. … If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” John 10:30,37-38
… or that Jesus and God are completely distinct beings?
And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” Mark 10:17-18
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 1 Timothy 2:5-6
Should a Christian believe in a hell where unrepentant sinners are tormented…
Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Matthew 13:40-43
Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. John 5:28-29
… or that simple death is the alternative to heaven…
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:20-23
… or that everyone goes to heaven and there is no alternative?
For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15:21-22
For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. 1 Timothy 4:10
Speaking of the afterlife — let’s assume for the moment that the universalist verses are not the “right” answer. Does a “saved” person get to heaven because of their works, their actions…
For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Matthew 16:27
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. Revelation 20:11-12
(See also John 5:28-29, linked above.)
… or because of their faith in Jesus alone?
And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. …” Mark 16:15-16
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
And either way, it seems relevant to ask, do I even have any choice in the matter of whether I am saved or condemned? So many of these verses contain instructions to people regarding what they should do and what they should believe in order to be saved. But what difference does any of that make if we are to believe the verses which say that our destinies are already decided, totally beyond our control?
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10
The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'” And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. Acts 13:44-48
And that’s just a very small sampling. It’s pretty hard to convince me to convert to your religion — to believe that your god is the one true god, or that your holy book has a monopoly on spiritual truth, etc. — when your religion is so poorly defined. If the sacred text, revealed or inspired by God himself, is so unclear as to be directly contradictory on spiritual matters, I am forced to conclude that nobody has any idea what it means to be a True Christian™ … if there even is such a thing.
And then the Bible appears to teach that I am an atheist because of God’s divine will that I should not believe! I just don’t even know how to continue the conversation, at that point. The logic is so twisted, it gives me a migraine.