Answers for the Skeptic

October 26, 2017

While reading a biography, I came across the following views of a young skeptic.

You ask me my religious views: you know, I think, that I beleive [sic] in no religion. There is absolutely no proof for any of them, and from a philosophical standpoint Christianity is not even the best. All religions, that is, all mythologies to give them their proper name are merely man’s own invention—Christ as much as Loki. Primitive man found himself surrounded by all sorts of terrible things he didn’t understand—thunder, pestilence, snakes etc.: what more natural than to suppose that these were animated by evil spirits trying to torture him. These he kept off by cringing to them, singing songs and making sacrifices etc. Gradually from being mere nature-spirits these supposed being[ s] were elevated into more elaborate ideas, such as the old gods: and when man became more refined he pretended that these spirits were good as well as powerful.*

What do you think? Is this a likely candidate to come to belief in God? Will this skeptic ever be convinced of the death, burial, and resurrection? If you are thinking to yourself that this is a hopeless case, let me reveal the young skeptic’s identity — C.S. Lewis.

Lewis loved intellectual argument, not the belligerent kind of harsh words, but the logical type. He eventually saw the weaknesses of the case for skepticism and came to see the case for Christianity. It was not a quick process in his life. From self-proclaimed atheist at age 15, he did not come to believe in Jesus Christ until age 32. First, he had moved from naturalism to idealism, and then from idealism to theism, and from theism to confessing Jesus Christ.

We shouldn’t be afraid of the skeptic’s questions. Good answers exist, and we don’t have to have all the answers when confronted. It is perfectly acceptable to ask for time to think about something. We also can’t expect a skeptic to move from naturalism to belief in Jesus Christ in one bounding leap. (It may be possible but not always likely.) It will be more like moving the football down the field one play at a time. We can also overload people with information. It is better to answer things in their time and simply make progress.

Lewis in the above quote assumes the evolution of religions. This makes religions simply a human phenomenon. Anthropologists had proposed an evolutionary progression. The first stage was mana, a word found in Melanesia in the South Pacific, which means a general awareness of a spiritual force. Next came animism, then polytheism, followed by henotheism (worship of one god, although there may be more), and finally monotheism. The evolutionary model, however, cannot be shown to have actually happened. Further ethnographic studies have led some to propose an original monotheism that led to de-evolution. This would fit with the picture in the early chapters of Genesis.

Let’s share the good news with everyone. You never know who will be a truth seeker. Let’s remember that there are answers for the skeptic.

*The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings, p. 56

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Barriers to Bible Reading

October 5, 2017

The American Bible Society did a poll in 2013 where they found that 88 percent of respondents own a Bible, 80 percent think it is sacred, 61 percent wished they read it more, and the average household had 4.4 Bibles.

Lifeway did a survey to find out how much of the Bible people had read. Clearly from the pie chart, 53% have read very little of the Bible.

How much bible read

Biblica, the Bible society which owns the copyright of the NIV, did a survey to find out why Bible reading is down. They discovered three barriers to Bible reading. People read the Bible in fragments, a-historically, and in isolation.

In fragments means that people are reading verses rather than reading the larger units of thought: sentences, paragraphs, and books. Chapter and verse divisions did not come from the authors of the biblical books. Chapter divisions date from about the 13th century and verse divisions from the 16th century. My advice to readers is to ignore them in reading. Yes, they are helpful for finding things, but they do not show units of thought and sometimes arbitrarily break up units of thought.

My advice to beginning readers is to read a book of the Bible all the way through. I always suggest beginning with the gospels, then Acts and the epistles. In the Old Testament, reading through the historical narratives is of first importance: Genesis through Esther.

A-historical reading means the reader does not know where the book fits in history. Each book of the Bible is a piece of a larger story, and we need to know where it fits in this larger story. A Bible dictionary or study Bible may help you with this historical context. Good reading always involves asking and answering the reporter’s questions: who, what, when, where, and why?

Finally, people struggle with reading because they are reading in isolation. I read the Bible in the context of being a part of a church family. Enlist someone to start a reading plan with you, so that you have mutual support. Use a Bible class as an opportunity to read your Bible outside of class so that you are ready for the class discussion. The community of believers is the place to receive encouragement to read our Bibles.