Question: Major news outlets recently quoted GQ magazine as having listed the Bible among books that you “don’t have to read.” They called it one of the most overrated books of all time: “It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned.” How can a Christian respond to an unbeliever who feels the same way?
There is a range of options for responding which includes:
- defend the Bible
- critique the attack
- engage the attack’s basis
- explore the attacker’s background
Defend the Bible
Our first impulse is to say, “That’s not true! Here, I’ll show you.” We then set about to show how Scripture’s apparent discrepancies are not contradictory. Or, we argue that repetition is a function of Hebrew literary style. Or, we show how commanded genocide is consistent with God’s love, and so on.
Key books that help deal with apparent discrepancies are:
- Gleason Archer’s Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties
- John W. Haley’s Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible
- Walter Kaiser’s Hard Sayings of the Bible
Critique the Attack
A second option is to critique the attack. For example, “What are some examples of the contradictions and foolish or ill-intentioned texts in Scripture? How do you know these things are contradictions, foolish, or ill-intentioned?”
If they can give examples, then apply option one above. Don’t let red herrings like “everybody knows this” or vacuous claims like “there are so many, I don’t know where to start” sidetrack you. Insist on evidence.
Since there are plenty of contrary evaluations, you can ask, “How do you explain that some of the brightest minds of western civilization (Isaac Newton, Immanuel Kant, C.S. Lewis) characterize the Scriptures as without literary peer? A helpful resource along this line is What if the Bible Had Never Been Written? by Kennedy and Newcombe.
Engage the Attack’s Basis
A third approach is to engage the attack’s basis. Ask, “Have you read the Scriptures? If so, what part did you read and what did you expect to find when you read it? Did you know the Bible is a collection of books and not a single book?”
The questions and expectations you bring to a text often determine what you hear or don’t hear it saying. Whether they have read the Scriptures or not, you can offer your personal testimony.
You’ve read the Scriptures many times and, hopefully, have encountered things in the text that raised questions for you. But, every time you investigated them, they turn out to have a reasonable explanation. i.e., you haven’t found evidence of what they are claiming.
It’s hard to dispute your testimony without hard evidence. Josh McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict and Fee and Stuart’s books How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth and How to Read the Bible Book by Book address this angle.
These first three methods may help strengthen the faith of weak believers, but they rarely convert attackers into believers.
Explore the Attacker’s Background
The fourth angle seeks to show attackers love by exploring their background. Step around the attack and demonstrate you care more about them as a person than you do about proving them wrong about the Scriptures.
You might say, “That’s interesting. Have you been hurt or offended by someone who claimed to be a Christian? Has someone wronged you and justified their actions by appeals to the Bible?”
It’s very common for animosity toward Scripture to be rooted in hurtful experiences associated with the Bible or church—for example, the use of the Scriptures to sanction the crusades or to sanction physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
In cases like this, we should be quick to express our grief at their hurt, affirm abuse is always wrong, and make clear that such wrongdoers were misusing the Scriptures. Hopefully, this approach opens the door to sharing what the Scriptures teach about loving others as ourselves. A person who is obeying the Scriptures will treat others with respect and pursue justice for the victims of injustice.
The fact that people abuse prescription drugs doesn’t justify banning prescription medicines. And, the misuse of the Scriptures doesn’t justify abandoning their proper use. Questioning Evangelism and Corner Conversations by Randy Newman will help you work on this angle.
Originally posted in the Ministry Library of God’s Bible School & College.