In his two videos, Deconversion—the Bible (part 1 & part 2), a young atheist, Chris, tells us about how his attitude toward God’s word changed forever when he decided to read it cover to cover for the first time at about the age of twenty. In my previous blog I addressed Chris’s problem with Abraham in the book of Genesis. Chris also had problems with the next four books of the Pentateuch, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. I hope to address his concerns over them here.
As Chris left Genesis behind he ran into another problem in Exodus when Moses asked Pharaoh to let God’s people go in Exodus 9. Chris questioned God’s integrity when he hardened Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus 9:12. Why would God punish Pharaoh, if it was God who forced Pharaoh to refuse his demands? It just didn’t make sense. Did Pharaoh have freedom to act or not? Is God playing solitaire or does man really have freewill?
Did you ever notice how complicated life gets when you know you are not supposed to do a thing, but you do it anyway? When one opens up a closed gate and gives oneself permission to do something one never did before, it is never quite the same afterward. A lie told for the first time is easier the second time and easier still the third. Once curiosity is satisfied, desire is strengthened by the experience to continue down a wrong course—like getting drunk, experiencing drugs, stealing etc.
History reveals Pharaoh was an evil man. God not only wanted to set his people free, but he wished to judge Pharaoh and Egypt for national wrongdoing. The first chapter of Romans reveals to us how God shows his wrath. Notice that in Romans 1:18 that God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against men’s unrighteousness. How is this done? It is done by God removing his guiding hand from men and letting them do what they want to do, reaping the fruits of their evil hearts. In Romans 1:21 men’s hearts were darkened as God’s guiding light was removed; in verse-24 God gave them up to uncleanness—to dishonor themselves in the manner in which they dishonored God. In verse-26, because men changed the truth of God’s identity into a lie, God gave men up to err in realizing their own identity. In verse-28, because men didn’t wish to let God show them truth, God gave them over to work out their own truth in every unrighteous, murderous and wicked way men could imagine. In other words, all it takes for God to harden a man’s heart is to remove his guiding influence from him and let that man exercise his own free will however he wishes—and without God, man will not desire the good (cf. Exodus 9:12).
Chris was overwhelmed with the details of the remaining books of the Pentateuch—Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. He didn’t foresee God caring so much for the details. On the other hand, how should one worship the Lord—any old way, perhaps like the nations worshiped their idols? If God wanted Israel to act differently toward him than the nations acted toward their false gods, it had to begin with what kind of worship God would receive and Leviticus showed the Jews how to do that. Numbers was similar in content to Leviticus, but included taking a census of the tribes of Israel, showing that each person was important to God. It also recorded Moses acting as the Savior interceding for the nation when God said he could make a better nation through Moses (Numbers 14:12-20). Finally, Numbers recorded how nations would seek to curse God’s people (Numbers 22-24), but victory would be won in the end over those who taught God’s people to do evil (Numbers 31:16).
Deuteronomy included a record of Israel’s wanderings and the promise of the Prophet who would come and like Moses make a new covenant and Israel would be judged by their response to him (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18-19). Nevertheless, Chris was overwhelmed with the mundane details, disappointed with God’s interest in them. He hoped in the end that perhaps the tedious numbers and meaningless commandments could be used to point to science in some way. It seems he finally gave up on the Old Testament and turned to the New Testament, so we are left to question if, in fact, Christ did finally read the Bible from cover to cover for the first time.
It is not difficult to see that Chris was judging the Bible through the claims of men. He rejected Genesis, because of the claims of what he understood as science, but is rather an interpretation of science by an opposing worldview. It also seems that his complaints about the tedious details in the books of the Law come from his arguments with atheists, because I meet those same arguments whenever I discuss the validity of the Bible with folks who don’t believe in God. Chris’ problem seems to be that he won’t let the Bible speak for itself. Every argument or question he raises seems to come from a critic’s point of view about the Bible; he never allows the Bible to reply to the questions or arguments he raises against it.