1. Why does the evangelical church say there are no contradictions in the Bible when they are plainly there for anyone to see?
-Christians say this because this is what the Bible says about itself. Though I'm sure there are more reasons, this is the most basic answer.
4. Why does the church say that God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), when many biblical passages flatly contradict this?
-There is a difference between God having the character of confusion (as discussed in Corinthians) and using confusion unto His ends (Genesis & exodus). Plus, as this "contradiction" crosses the Greek-Hebrew translation barrier, there may be more of an answer (that I don't know) found within the root Greek and Hebrew words to "confusion".
7. Was the Law given by Yahweh perfect (Psalm 19:7), or wasn't it (Hebrews 8:6-8)?
-The law is perfect. However, it cannot save people. The term "faultless", I believe, refers to the limitation that no person can attain salvation via the law. Note, however, that this limitation rests on humanity, not on the law.
Biblical Ambiguities and Omissions
1. Why is the Bible unclear about how to be saved? Is there anything more important that the Bible could communicate? Why is it ambiguous and contradictory on this subject?
-Actually, the Bible is very clear on this subject. Romans 3:23 says that each person has sinned. Romans 6:23 says that every person that sins is condemned to death (eternally in Hell). Romans 5:8 says that Jesus Christ died for us so that whoever puts their faith in Him shall be saved (Romans 10: 13). John 3:16 reiterates this and says that whoever believes in Jesus Christ will have eternal life.
The issue that the New Testament seems to be inconsistent on the requirements for salvation. While some passages, such as those you quoted, claim that all that is required is to simply believe in Jesus, other passages claim different things. James, for example, claims that both faith and works are required for salvation (James 2:24), a view that is shared by Jesus in some New Testament passages (see Mark 10:17 and following). Still other passages claim that baptism is essential for salvation (Acts 2:38 and I Peter 3:21).
4. Why is the nature and practice of the two sacraments - baptism and the Lord's Supper - left ambiguous in the Bible, and a cause of discord among churches?
-I can't give a complete answer to this. However, since these 2 sacraments are symbolic in nature and not necessary for salvation (a good example is the thief on the cross in Luke 23: 39-43), I'm not sure this is really a major issue (nor one that should cause someone to reject Biblical Christianity).
6. Why doesn't the Bible provide unambiguous answers for major divisive doctrines like efficacy of baptism, paedobaptism, mode of adult baptism, soteriology, Christology, trinitarianism, satanology, angelology, nature of the afterlife, eschatology, fundamentals of the faith, the standing of Jewish believers in relation to the Law, the standing of Gentile believers in relation to the Law?
-The Bible provides sufficient answers to what humanity needs for life.
I might ask why the Bible doesn't provide information on quantum physics or the theory of relativity. But (I think), most people don't need to know these things. And since they aren't discussed in the Bible, they apparently aren't necessary for our time on earth. Personally, I'd like some questions answered, but I know that these will have to wait till heaven.
4. Why did Mark misreference an Old Testament prophet (Mark 1:2)?7 How can we rely on Mark to explain Old Testament prophecies to us if he is even mistaken about the source?
-When quoting more than one author, it was common in those times to attribute the entire quote to the more famous of the two authors. So when Mark quotes from both Malachi (vs.2) and Isaiah (vs.3), he only gives credit to Isaiah. Thus, there is no misreference.
By the way, this is not a tough question to answer. I learned the answer to this "problem" (which my liberal religious studies professor showed me) in a Bible study on the radio. No offense, but I think a little more diligent research may have prevented some of these "tough questions" that seem to have stumbled you so badly.
Randel Helms has this to say about Mark 1:2 -
The opening verses of Mark show clearly their origin in a pre-Markan account rather than in Peter's memory:
In the prophet Isaiah it stands written: "Here is my herald whom I send on ahead of you, and he will prepare your way. A voice crying aloud in the wilderness, 'Prepare a way for the Lord; clear a straight path for him'" (Mark 1:2-3)
Mark is writing from an already-composed source rather than with a copy of Isaiah open in front of him; for he is apparently unaware that much of what he is quoting is not from Isaiah at all, but is in fact a merging of the first nine words of the Septuagint Greek version of Exodus 23:20 with a paraphrase of Hebrew Malachi 3:1, that is in turn joined with a paraphrase of Septuagint Isaiah 40:3. ("Who wrote the Gospels?")
The fact that the later Gospel writers, who used Mark as a source, regarded this as a mistake is evident by the fact they changed the words of John the Baptist to conform to Isaiah. (Matthew 3:3 and Luke 3:4-6).
7. Why does Matthew attribute a quote about the potter's field to Jeremiah, when Jeremiah has no such passage, and the closest one in the Old Testament is Zechariah (Matt 27:9-10; Zechariah 11:12)?
-Again, as in question 4, the author is quoting from 2 sources--one from Zechariah and one from Jeremiah. He, thus, attributes, the entire quote only to them more famous author.
The problem is that he is not quoting from Jeremiah at all. Matthew 27:9-10 comes from Zechariah, lock, stock and barrel. Although Jeremiah mentions a potter in Jeremiah 18, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the quote in Matthew 27.
Failed Biblical Promises
1. Why doesn't prayer work, when the Bible promises that it will (John 14:14, for example)?
-It does work. However, prayer is not the mere asking God for this or that. [God is not the universal butler who responds to the whimsical beck & call of fallen man (if He were, there would be a problem)]. Prayer is asking God for things in accordance with His will. People who pray outside of God's will, need to ask themselves, if they are really praying in Biblical sense.
Problems with Miracles
1. Why haven't any of the miracles recorded in the Bible been independently confirmed?
-I'm not sure. Have you really done enough research to say there's nothing out there? However, I think the most important miracle--that of Jesus Christ's resurrection has some independent confirmation:
a. Matthew 28:15 tells of a story being circulated among the Jews "explaining away" the resurrection. I'm sure a careful checking of Jewish records, authorities, or rabbinic literature might confirm this. If Jewish records point to the same story as recorded in the Bible, we must conclude that something strange (perhaps supernatural) has happened since this cover-story is clearly fallacious. (Roman guards are professionals that don't fall asleep; the disciples can't move a several ton rock sealing the tomb; disciples can't move the rock without waking the guards; sleeping guards don't know what happens while they sleep, etc.).
b. If Jesus was not resurrected, why didn't the Jewish authorities of that time produce the real dead Jesus?
c. If Jesus was not resurrected, there should be adequate writings and records that dispute the testimony of the 500+ witnesses who saw Jesus after He died. Five hundred is a lot of people, and 500 people don't make up the same story or have the same hallucination!
d. Though I'm not 100% certain, I think there is a Roman record marking the execution of Jesus.
If the resurrection really did occur, something spectacular has happened in history, and every person must seriously consider the natural repercussions of it. Most importantly, everyone must come to grips with the claims Christ made about heaven, hell, sin, and salvation.
See this page for a refutation of the Resurrection.
Origin and Transmission of the Scriptures
1. Why is the authorship of most books of the Bible disputed? Why do many books of the Bible have no statement of authorship? Why are some books in the canon pseudepigraphical (lie about authorship)?
-Most of the authorship is disputed by liberal theologians. No doubt these are the ones also perpetrating the idea of pseudoepigraphy. I don't think their arguments are any more convincing then conservative theologians who say that there are no disputes. I guess it comes down to who you read and what you want to believe before you start researching.
2. Why did the early church not revere the scriptures as Christians do today, so that they added interpolations and made emendations?
-Where is your evidence for this claim? Actually, the Christians of that time had immense (and probably equal) respect for the Scriptures--I think Jesus' and Paul's and Peter's (among others) reference and arguing from the Scriptures shows this.
The Christian tampering with the Scriptures is evident from the large number of variant readings in the New Testament text. While most of these are obviously scribal mistakes, there are a few which seem to have been deliberately inserted. As an example, a number of later New Testament manuscripts change Mark 1:2 to read "As it is written in the prophets..." in order to get around the problem stated above, i.e. that Mark was not just quoting Isaiah.
I John 5:7 is a perfect example of a Christian interpolation made to support a later Church doctrine (in this case the Trinity). The verse has no early Greek manuscript support at all, and almost all newer English versions have dropped it.
3. Why hasn't the Bible been transmitted to us in perfect condition if it is so important and if God had his supernatural hand in it?
-Some argue that the Bible is perfect and has been perfectly transmitted.
There are literally hundred of thousands of textual variations between various copies of the Hebrew and Greek scriptures. In some cases, such as the book of Jeremiah, there are two very different versions of the entire book in existence, and there is no way to tell which is supposed to be authentic.
1. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, why did God lie about what the outcome would be (Genesis 2:17), while the serpent told the truth (Genesis 3:5,22)?
-This is a serious misreading. [Forgive me, I mean no offense, but this type of question shows either ignorance or a lack of true effort on finding the truth. I suggest more time, prayer, and diligence in finding answers.] God did not lie about death, and we see this in two ways. In Genesis 3:19, God says "for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." Plus, we see by our own experience and in Hebrews 9:27 that all men die. Contrastly, Satan lied twice. Obviously man dies, so Satan lied in Genesis 3:4. Second, Satan says that man will become as gods (or God) in Genesis 3:5. Since this did not happen either, Satan lied.
God said "...in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Adam lived nine-hundred plus years after eating the forbidden fruit.
2. Why are women treated as chattel and inferior to men throughout the Bible?
-This question, as well, should be more diligently researched since even I know the answer. Considering the cultural standard of the day, the Bible has actually lifted women from a place of inferiority to equality. Jesus talked to the woman at the well (not culturally acceptable); Jesus forgave the adulterous woman; Jesus taught men and women (Mary, who sat at His feet); Jesus condemned the Jewish idea of divorce (which allowed only men to divorce their wives for any reason); Paul says that women should (indeed must) learn in I Timothy 2:11; the testimony of women (for Christ's resurrection) is recorded in the Gospels (uncultural since women's testimony wasn't valid by Jewish law). There are probably more examples that I just don't know now.
If being "treated as chattel and inferior" refers to the passages in I Timothy 2 and Ephesians 5 where women are told to submit to their husbands, the answer is simple. Submission in no way degrades the person who submits. The most perfect example of this is Jesus Christ. In His death on the cross, God the Son (Jesus) completely submitted Himself to God the Father. Yet such submission in no way denigrated His deity or dignity.
The same is true for submissive wives where godly submission in no way transgresses the equality between woman and man.
10. Why is faith - believing something for which there is no evidence - a virtue?
-You're right that believing nothing is foolish. But the quality inherent to godly faith is not "that you are believing in nothing", but "that you are trusting in someone who is worthy of that trust". Godly faith is a virtue because of who you trust (God).
I remind you, also, that in the post-modern era, with no absolutes, the question of "why is faith a virtue?" must be followed by "why is murder wrong?", "why is kindness to a fellow man good?", "what's wrong with rape?", etc.. For the Christian, it is sufficient that God commends faith (and addresses those other issues as well).
11. Why is rational skepticism a vice? If Christianity is true, won't the truth hold up under scrutiny? Shouldn't the church welcome and promote rational skepticism as a way of confirming and spreading the faith when people see that it fails to undermine Christianity? Why isn't skeptical literature studied and refuted in Sunday School classes?
-Where in the Bible does it say that rational skepticism is a vice? It seems that the example of the Bereans in Acts 17 and Paul's advice in II Timothy 2:15 (among other incidents), give Biblical command and precedent to think and question things.
Jesus said to Thomas "...blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." This implies that blind faith is a virtue, and Thomas' skeptical approach is less than virtuous. Where do you think the phrase "doubting Thomas" comes from?
And, the truth of the Bible has held up to scrutiny. Forgive me again, but your scrutiny of the Bible doesn't seem very complete, fair, or thorough. I think more work on your part would vindicate the Bible of what it says. Till you yourself experience that, the only arguments I can show you are: what I have experienced (the Bible is true) and what the Bible says about itself (it is true, eg. II Timothy 3:15).
I think churches are careful about what sort of "skeptical literature" or rational skepticism they allow since many sources are incomplete or biased (as I think this document demonstrates). Plus, the duty of the church is more to teach what the Bible says rather than what other people think or say (because the words of God are more important than the words of man).
Churches discourage their members from skeptical literature for the very simple reason that they tend to lead to apostasy. If the truth of the Christian faith were so self-evident, there would be no need at all for such a discouragement. For example, how many Christian apologetic sites do you know of that contain links to specific rebuttals of their articles?
Arguments, philosophies, and questions will all disappear with time, but God's words "shall not pass away". All this is not to say that some churches don't use "skeptical literature", but why not teach just the Bible?
2. Why does the New Testament teach by example that major decisions should be decided by lot (in Acts chapter 1 when Matthias is chosen)?
-Again, more research (in even a study Bible) would answer this question. The casting of lots was a God-approved method of discerning God's will in OT times. This practice stops, however, with the coming of the Holy Spirit. Note, the proximity of these things in Acts:
Chapter 1 --use of lots
Chapter 2 --coming of the Holy Spirit
after Chapter 2 --no more mention of lots
3. Why doesn't the Bible provide unambiguous guidance for major divisive issues like abortion, divorce, war, church discipline, lending and borrowing money, etc.? Doesn't God want the church to be united? Doesn't God want individual Christians to know how they should live?
-The Bible does address these issues either by principle or direct command. And indeed God does want us to know how to live, hence the verse (II Timothy 3:15): All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
-abortion--do not kill- Exodus 20:13
life starts at conception- Psalm 51:5, Luke 1:41
-divorce --Matthew 5:31-32
-church discipline --of elders- I Timothy 5:19-20
--of members- Matthew 18:15-17, I Timothy 2:20
Conflicts with science
4. How can it be that Psalm 16 and Romans 1 teach that the creation is a reliable means of knowing God ("natural theology"), but the scientific study of biological and geological origins contradicts the creation narrative in Genesis?
-Some advice on evolution:
-Science has got problems with its basic tenets (assumptions), credibility, and findings. Be very careful about simply accepting what the scientific community feeds you (if you don't, you'll be guilty of your own non-rational skepticism).
-Likewise be careful about the creation science stuff.
-Do some more reading on the philosophical and scientific problems with evolution.
-I think you may find that the scientific position on evolution is not quite as undamageable as you think, and that it is still (without any detriment to your mind) possible to believe in a literal creation.
The scientific position on evolution is now an established fact. That all life is descended from a common source is a fact supported by multiple lines of evidence, from paleontology to genetics. See this page for more information.
6. Why is God concerned about humans at all? We are less than a speck in the universe. Christianity has the hallmarks of being a religion made by humans for humans.
-One must wonder just how fair you are being with remarks like this.
Unbiblical and Inconsistent Practices of the Church
1. Why does the church worship on Sunday, when the seventh day was established forever? There is no biblical support for Sunday worship; it is a tradition of the Catholic Church which Protestants accept.
-I believe Romans 14:5-6 makes this question irrelevant. I hope that people who call themselves Christians worship God everyday--not just Sunday!
4. Why does the modern evangelical church embrace the extra-biblical doctrines of "having a personal relationship with Christ," having a "quiet time," "journaling," and the necessity of belonging to an "accountability group?" Doesn't the church understand its own religion? Why is it caught up in pop-religion? If these are not really doctrines of the church, then why is there social pressure to conform?
-"A personal relationship with Christ" means accepting Christ by faith which is entirely Biblical. This phrase is used probably to distinguish true Christians from those who are simply religious (eg. those who go to church but have no personal relationship).
Quiet time, journaling, and accountability groups are not required for salvation. I contend with any church that says otherwise (and I find it hard to believe that conservative evangelicals would). For undue social pressure you feel, I suggest the following which may be true for you.
Social pressure may be the result of incorrect church practices which though not endorsed, may be still occur because Christians are sinful. Social pressure may not be social pressure at all--it may the Holy Spirit's conviction for you to do something. Social pressure may be due to a weakness in yourself that feels a need to conform, but not something problematic with the church.
Being caught up in pop-religion is unbiblical. There are many within and without evangelicalism that are condemning this. I'm sorry you were involved in a church that hasn't realized its unbiblical practices.
5. Why does the church teach tithing for Christians, when it is only commanded of Old Testament Israel? Why didn't Paul teach tithing to the New Testament church when he had the opportunity to (2 Corinthians 9)?
-Tithing is optional. There is no NT Biblical requirement to do as such (you're right). If your church has taught otherwise, they are wrong.
3. Why are the church's day-to-day practices guided by cultural norms rather than by the perfect, absolute, unchangeable norms of God and the Bible? For example, why do churches separate children from their families and age-grade them like the schools, why does the church propagate self-help ideology when the message of the Bible is dependence upon God, why does the church accept and participate in competition where it has rejected it in the past, why has the service of women in the church been addressed only after secular culture has addressed women's issues, why does the style of music in the church and church architecture follow cultural patterns instead of defining cultural patterns?
-Many argue (and apparently you have not heard them), that such practices by the church are unbiblical. You should look around and find out what more conservative people say.
Character of the Church
1. Why has the church done so little good and so much harm in 2000 years, while science has demonstrated remarkable progress in only 500 years? Why is the period when the church dominated western history universally referred to as the Dark Ages, while the period of breaking away from church dogma is called the Enlightenment?
-I think your arguments stem from a secular world view of the church rather than an objective study and critique of actual history.
1. Why hasn't the church answered any of these questions in the 23 years I have been a part of it?
-You haven't searched hard enough, despite claims to the contrary.
2. Why hasn't the church answered any of these questions in 2000 years?
-It has, but you haven't looked for it or refused to see it.
Of course, none of this is written by jest, insult, or bitterness. Honestly, your questions are good (any many Christians and non-Christians have them). But, from these questions, you show an obvious lack of effort to search for the truth. I am always available to talk on these issues (though I don't have all the answers) or on how you can be saved (yes, it's still possible).
to Tough Questions