Set for the Defense
Paul was “set for the defense of the gospel” (Philippians 1:21) which implies the necessity to defend (1) the existence of God, (2) the credibility of the Bible, and (3) the Deity of Christ. We are to “be ready always to give an answer . . . [for] a reason of the hope” in us (1 Peter 3:15) and “know how you ought to answer every man” (Colossians 4:6). These texts imply a ready defense and a serious and studied defense against all opponents.
Our society is no different from the society in which children of God have lived over the centuries. Repeatedly, attacks have been made upon the existence of God, the inspiration of the Bible, and the Deity of Jesus. Sinful and rebellious men continue to attack the threefold evidence of Divinity. They commandeer the use of the media, tabloids, journals, writings, etc. The attacks of our post-modern society are militant, irrational, and without substance. The more bizarre their attacks, the more notoriety they garner. Their claims are greatly exaggerated and cannot be proven.
Atheism is growing especially the ever-popular militant atheism. The 2004 Pluralism Project of Harvard University reports that 40 million Americans have no religious affiliation. This is 15% of the population and an increase of 10% since 1990. While this is not to suggest that 40 million Americans are atheistic, it does suggest a fertile ground for the militant atheism. Likewise, it presents a challenge to Christians in defense for the existence of God, the credibility of the Bible, and the Deity of Jesus.
Attacks on the Existence of God
Christopher Hitchens, a militant atheist, in an interesting article has written, “All religion and all churches are equally demented in their belief in divine intervention, divine intercession, or even the existence of the divine in the first place” (“Bush’s Secularist Triumph,” Slate.com, November 9, 2004). In 2007, Hitchens wrote a book entitled, God Is Not Great. With the subtitle being How Religion Poisons Everything you understand the force of Hitchens’ above comment and attack.
Richard Dawkins, another militant atheist, wrote, “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, megalomaniac, sadomasochistic, capriously malevolent bully” (The God Delusion 51). With such a description of God, who would want His friendship? Thankfully, God Jehovah is not as Dawkins has described Him.
Hitchens, Dawkins, and other militant atheists remind me of Pharaoh who said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice” (Exodus 5:1) and of David who wrote, “The fool has said in his heart there is no God” (Psalm 14:1).
Attacks on God’s Word—the Bible
If you are unfamiliar with the writings of Bart Ehrman, please become familiar with them. Professor Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Ehrman was trained by Bruce M. Metzger. He has edited or written twenty-four books, and has written various scholarly articles and book reviews. His books have been translated into twenty-seven languages. Professor Ehrman understands the origin of the Bible to be the result of human fallibility and church politics. One such book is his 2005 writing, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. The book is a clear attack on the credibility of the Bible as God’s Word. This book was a bestseller for nine weeks on the New York Times. In the book he admits, “I could no longer believe in God, or even know if he exists” (258). Is Professor Ehrman, an atheist or an agnostic? He cannot be both! Consider the following:
Occasionally I see a bumper sticker that reads: “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.” My response is always, What if God didn’t say it? What if the book you take as giving you God’s words instead contains human words. . . . What if you have to figure out how to live and what to believe on our own, without setting up the Bible as a false idol—or an oracle that gives us a direct line of communication with the Almighty? There are clear reasons for thinking that, in fact, the Bible is not this kind of inerrant guide to our lives: among other things, as I’ve been pointing out, in many places we (as scholars, or just regular readers) don’t even know what the original words of the Bible actually were. (13-14)
Professor Ehrman is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, Wheaton College, and Princeton Theological Seminary. For the most part these educational institutions embrace a conservative faith. Ehrman’s graduate work was combined with his atheistic objection to God concerning the question of pain and suffering. In 2008, Professor Ehrman wrote, God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question—Why We Suffer. His main argument is an old argument, “If there is an all-powerful and loving God in this world, why is there so much excruciating pain and unspeakable suffering?” (1). In reality, Professor Ehrman’s solution is if he were God, he would be more rational, thoughtful, and compassionate than God and there would be no suffering. This answer does not explain why we suffer, if there is value in suffering, and the source of suffering. The professor’s book has offered no solution to the problem of suffering.
Attack on the Deity of Jesus
A number of serious writers—some atheistic and some religious—always have attacked the Deity of Jesus. A popular writer is John Dominic Crossan, the professor of Biblical Studies at DePaul University in Chicago. He is considered by some as a leading expert in the field of the historical Jesus. Professor Crossan serves as a member of the elitist Jesus Seminar who determined the authenticity of the sayings of Jesus by the use of colored beads. Those attending the Jesus Seminar have added The Gospel of Thomas to the four inspired Gospels and presently are studying to add or subtract other books to the New Testament. Crossan argues that Jesus is not divine, but the son of a peasant woman, was married, and did not rise from the dead, but whose body the dogs dug up!
We need a strong, vigorous, and rational defense for the existence of God, the credibility of the Bible, and the Deity of Jesus. There can be no stability in our society without this threefold evidence of the Divinity. Faith based on the evidences for the Divine gives hope, stability, and salvation to man.