The Walls of the Skeptics: Understanding the De-Converted Part 3

Originally posted to MySpace on:

July 9, 2007

As I’ve made clear in my last couple of journals, I’ve been trying to understand why certain Christians can justify abandoning their faith, especially after they’ve spent many years growing in it. I’ve already learned that Jesus prophesied of an end time apostasy, meaning that before the Anti-Christ can come to power (ushering in the end of time), a large percentage of Christians have to fall away so that faithful opposition against him is minimal. I’ve also come to realize that for such an event to happen, Satan has to work in overdrive to deceive the faithful, and that his range is broad—even the elect (the ministers, apologists, theologians, etc.) can fall into disbelief (through Satan’s deceit). In other words, I shouldn’t be surprised that I’ve lost good friends to Satan’s slithery messages, for any who go seeking unprepared can be caught, like a mouse sniffing for cheese on a mouse trap. In the process, however, I’ve also learned (or have been reminded) that Jesus never stops in His quest to retrieve the fallen (the parable of the Lost Sheep), and that even though many may fall away, any one of them still has a chance to return to truth.

Deceit is such a powerful weapon, and most people understand how to use it; even toddlers find ways to manipulate truth to get what they want. Words spun the right way can knock a foundation of belief right to the ground. It’s Satan’s specialty, a device that’s been in action since his Fall from Grace (he took a third of the angels with him), and perfected in his seduction of man (tempting Eve with knowledge). And for him to achieve such a massive apostasy, he must first use deceitful tactics to attack the very credibility of the thing that can expose him: the Word of God.

Since he knows the Bible’s teachings intimately, he knows how to spin a massive web of lies to trap the faithful.

The areas that manipulate Christians into apostasy (and keep skeptics lingering in doubt) are too numerous to address, but I thought I’d spend the last part of this mini-series addressing at least the issues that brought one friend down and incidentally the same issues that keep many others hanging onto skepticism.

1. Perhaps the biggest charge against the Word of God is its infallibility. Christians are taught that the Bible is error-free. Skeptics stand on the fleshly errors plaguing the humans who wrote it. Both camps lie in total contrast of the other. Both groups think the other is crazy.

Yes, the Bible is written by human hands. But it’s inspired by the Holy Spirit. That alone should be enough to convince Christians of its truth (though skeptics may still remain unconvinced). Anyone who believes in God will understand His perfection and understand that any passage His Spirit confirmed as valid was appropriate for the Bible.

But skeptics need more. Often times they are so consumed by the “contradictions” of the Bible, that they can’t accept its infallibility. Unfortunately, deceived Christians who forget that the Word of God is inspired by God (obviously) are tripped by the same issues. Most of the time they forget that God isn’t human and therefore cannot be compared to by human standards. If the Bible had any passage that was truly in error (despite who physically wrote it), then it wouldn’t have made it into the canon. Simple as that. There are many “Gospels” that never made it into the Bible for this very reason.

And yet, human minds are easily deceived, and therefore can find “contradiction,” even in the Bible.

How is this possible? Easily: problems with perspective.

Most people, skeptics and Christians alike, think that the Bible was written in the same way that most literature and history is written today: immediately, as it happens. However, that’s not how the Bible, or any work of the First Century for that matter was written. The culture of the First Century was an oral one, with stories, historical accounts, and theories passed down as word of mouth for several decades before ever being written down. In today’s culture that might be suicide for a work’s meaning since the world today doesn’t have the attention span to remember anything, much less details, without having something on paper to refer to. But the ancient world didn’t have the distractions that we have today, so the minds of people were more easily focused on words spoken to them, and thus, didn’t need everything written down right away.

As the decades passed, the messages became wider spread, with more people confirming the same story with the same details to each other, thus making the stories impossible to fabricate as they became written. By the time the Gospels were finally etched into parchment, so many people already knew them by heart, and that to misplace even a single idea in those days would’ve been caught and corrected. Thus, by 60 AD, the time that the Gospels were finally written, the Word of God was incorruptible, as too many people could’ve exposed it if something had changed.

And even through the generations, the familiarity of the Word was so great (and the documents so well guarded, just like our Constitution and Declaration of Independence today), that for any man (or church) to change it without someone noticing was impossible.

So how does that brief historical account affect the alleged contradictions found in the Word of God? Well, the answer goes back to the oral tradition. Each writer of the Gospel shared the same story about Christ, but presented it from a different perspective. And each perspective became passed down as another branch to the great story of Christ. Again, the people, though primarily uneducated in math, science, English, etc., were still very attentive, and very keen to notice when four accounts of the same thing taught something different. Since the argument was never raised in those days, then it’s safe to assume that maybe these four writers were telling the same story.

We can look at it another way. Imagine Jesus is standing in the center of a living room preaching the Word of God to a group. You have Matthew standing by the window, Mark standing by the television, Luke somewhere in the kitchen, and John sitting comfortably on the couch. All four hear the same message (even Luke, who doesn’t see a thing, but hears every word), so each presents his story with the same message. But each describes a different detail based on what he sees. For example, Matthew can see the couch clearly (and the facial expressions of everyone sitting on it), but John can’t see it because he’s already sitting on it. John, however, can see the rest of the room from his perspective, where Matthew just sees the couch. Mark can see much of the room, but can’t see the painting on the wall because a large tree blocks it. John can see the painting, and thus has the detail in mind for his account of the event. Mark, on the other hand, may write only about the tree, since his vision is blocked beyond that. Luke doesn’t see any of it, because he’s in the kitchen, but can deduce what’s going on by the responses in people’s voices; plus he can ask the group later for those details he missed personally. And so on and so on.

Anyone with a sense of wisdom can figure out that the message in all four Gospels is exactly the same, as each person heard the same thing, thus proving its infallibility. However, the skeptics are so hell-bent on discrediting it (and why shouldn’t they; it forces them to evaluate who they are and whether their moral fiber is sound enough), that they’ll treat even the slightest differences in perspective (one may see green, while another may be color blind) as the thing that de-threads the validity of the Bible as truth. And it’s a dangerous trick, especially for those who fall for it, but it’s realistically the only thing the devil has in his arsenal. The Word of God can disprove any lie he throws at humanity, and he knows it. His only chance is to attack man’s petty nature. Unfortunately, man doesn’t exercise the sense to resist it.

The petty nature continues into the issues of translation, with original words meaning something different than what words in the same position mean today. But because the translations don’t affect the meanings of the messages (only the details), this shouldn’t even be an argument. There is one specific example that gets most skeptics “a-ha”ing, so I will address it as a separate account in a couple minutes, but for the most part, the translation issues bear no change in meaning, and thus have no cause for argument.

Another criticism brought up by some skeptics deals with the authorship of the Gospels. Some believe that the texts were written by men other than those to whom they’re credited. Again, this is a petty argument, as the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit, so it doesn’t matter by whose hand it’s actually transcribed. But some may find it misleading, so here’s a link to a page that describes the issues of authorship in great detail:

http://www.tektonics.org/ntdocdef/gospdefhub.html

I should warn all readers (especially skeptics) that the dissertation about Gospel authorship on the above page requires the reader to exercise common sense as he or she processes the information. Any attempt to over-analyze or to embrace pettiness, based on the reader’s own limited perspective, may warrant additional doubt in the validity of the text.

2. Now, as I stated a moment ago, there is one specific argument that skeptics raise whenever dealing with the translation issues of the Bible: the word “virgin.”

People today understand what the English word “virgin” means. I hardly have to define it here. So, whenever readers see it used to describe the mother of Jesus, the automatic assumption is that she was “untouched” at the time of conception. And honestly, according to the events in the text, there’s no reason to dispute that.

But skeptics pitch a fit whenever the truth is revealed that the original Greek word first used in the Gospel didn’t mean “virgin,” according to our definition, but “maiden.” All of a sudden there’s this great mob standing at the church gate demanding retribution against the great deception, as this puts the very identity of Jesus in question.

Whoa! Hold your horses there, petty critical types.

First of all, the meaning of the original word isn’t hidden. Anyone who bothers to look will find that the Bible (and its translators) makes no secret to this meaning. My New American Standard Bible footnotes the verse that mentions “virgin” (in the Book of Isaiah) with the words: or maiden right there in plain sight.

No secret here.

Which means, the problem isn’t with the meaning, or its availability to understanding, but with the pettiness of semantics. Anyone who uses common sense will realize that the two differing words don’t actually affect the events or details that define our faith.

Let me break it down further. We know what virgin means. But do we know what maiden means? Traditionally, it refers to an unmarried woman (or girl). In First Century Jewish culture, girls who had sex outside of marriage weren’t brushed aside as inconsequential (or harmless) as they are today. They were stoned to death. Thus, for a girl to even risk such a thing was absurd. Since we know that Mary was a maiden, we have to assume, based on the extreme nature of her culture, that she was also a virgin.

But even if we can’t separate ourselves from the frivolity of our own promiscuous culture, and thus remain tempted to believe that Mary had the nature of a rabbit, we still have to understand one thing: the New Testament makes it clear that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, not by Joseph. There’s no other way to describe or clarify that. It’s right there.

On a similar note, an argument came up that the Jews believed their Messiah would be born of man (like everyone else). Well, yeah: Jesus was born of man, rather than falling out of the sky like Superman. It doesn’t affect his deity any—he was still conceived by the Holy Spirit. All the truths, prophesies, etc. line up.

As I said earlier, there are many ways in which a skeptic can fall into doubt. I cannot possibly address everything. I’m only addressing the specific things that came up in the arguments of those friends who fell away (and the things that most truth-seekers claim as the evidence that drove them from their faith). Obviously, Christians can turn for a number of reasons, as many skeptics can remain in their states of denial for the same reasons, be it human perspective, desire for ungodly living, laziness, etc. But I suppose that also proves Satan’s deep well of resources for snagging our hearts away from the One who loves us.

I’d like for these journals to serve as a source for understanding for those who are teetering on the edge, and for those I care for who have already turned that I desperately want to come back to Jesus, that they may keep their inheritance in Heaven. I understand that it takes more than just my words to convince anyone of such a thing. It takes the Spirit of God to break down the walls of the skeptics, and to retrieve the lost hearts of those who’ve been deceived. I don’t have all the answers, certainly, but then, I’m human so I shouldn’t have to. What matters is that God and His big picture are much greater than I, and much greater than explanation, and that the key to faith is to understand that He’s bigger than us, and to live each day trusting that God has the truth and is able to lead us His way.

Lastly, I don’t want to discourage others from researching the truth, if they feel they should. I just want truth-seekers to be aware of the traps that lie at their feet. The search for truth is a minefield if one embarks without the Holy Spirit or the understanding that Satan has doctrines waiting that are designed to deceive and to kill. In other words, anyone who goes out there without being properly equipped goes with a target on his forehead. Satan is smarter than all of us, understands the workings and the history of this world better than any of us, and is very clever in deceiving us. His hold on the world cannot be complete and his agent of lawlessness (the Anti-Christ) cannot step up until enough Christians have fallen away, so be certain that he’s trying to confuse and destroy us all, that he may finally have his time to rule. I don’t recommend treading those dangerous waters, certainly, as the Bible is truth enough; likewise, good friends of mine were sucked under during their own “quests,” which makes me even more against such an embarking. But for those who think they need to discover more, don’t get caught with your pants down. Forfeiting your soul over a vocabulary word is insane.

–July 9, 2007

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