1. The God of the Bible is the most vindictive, hateful, egotistic character in all fiction.
Accusing any god of moral atrocities simply does not warrant the conclusion that a god is a fictional character. That must be argued on other grounds. Hypothetically speaking, If I enjoy hurting and abusing people to accuse me of being vindictive, hateful etc. does nothing to nullify my existence!
In this way a god could be a cosmic bully; but that does nothing to argue against its existence. However, in the context of Christianity, there is far more to this question that needs to be considered. Some apologists (notably Paul Copan and William Craig) defend the biblical violence perpetuated by God via certain considerations and arguments.
In order to be charitable, and intellectually honest, a skeptic would need to consider these arguments. Moreover, other apologists have forwarded their views that not all of the moral atrocities recorded in the Bible were actually commanded by God. For example, Peter Enns, Thom Stark, and Randal Rauser have argued that the conquest of the Canaanites was not actually commanded by God, but that the Israelites used their god, Yahweh, as divine justification for their actions.
2. Which god? Look at all those other silly gods people have invented! Your Christian god is no different!”
This does not warrant one to conclude that the Christian conception of a god is false. Granted the imaginary existence of Apollo once worshiped by the Romans and Greeks it does nothing to disprove the Islamic, Judaic, or Christian conception of God. Such a conclusion needs to be argued on other grounds.
Secondly, the atheist’s claim that my “Christian god is no different!” to, say, Zeus or Horus would need to be backed up & supported. It is no good merely making claims about things.
Thirdly, the atheist believes in the non-existence of God. Considering that I wonder if this atheist has researched all the other allegedly human invented gods in history, and then come to the informed conclusion that God does not exist.
He probably hasn’t, and therefore he would be holding to a double standard. He exempts his own worldview from having to answer the challenge that he forwards to Christians.
For more of my writing on this challenge see here.
3. The Bible is so backwards! It’s nothing but an invention by backward thinking men.
Accusing any religious book of being backwards does nothing to prove that it is false. Instead, this would prove that a reader simply disagrees with what the book presents.
Perhaps one day a presently unknown 15,000 year old holy book will be discovered in some cave in Samoa. This book belonged to cavemen and was allegedly inspired by the god Shuki. This god allegedly instructs humans to live in caves and eat cattle. This would seem “backwards” to us looking through a 21st century lens.
However, it may be that this holy book was really inspired by the one and only true God, Shuki. If Shuki expects us to live in caves, then it would be wise to live in caves. And that Shuki wants us to live in caves (which we’d think is backwards) does nothing to disprove Shuki and his divinely inspired holy book. The same would go for the Book of Mormon, the Koran, and the Bible.
4a. Look at all those contradictions! The Bible can’t be inspired.
If one can successfully demonstrate a contradiction in the biblical texts it is at most an argument against biblical inerrancy, not against Christianity that is grounded upon the resurrection of Jesus. The Bible could be full of contradictions yet still be true, therefore the argument does not follow.
Nick Peters explains:
“We could even for the sake of argument grant contradictions in the Bible and still demonstrate that Jesus rose from the dead. After all, we do believe in a great miracle, [and] God [has] left great evidence. Indeed He did, even if it was through fallible men who made mistakes” (1).
Further, this would also depend on what a Christian means when he says that the Bible is “inspired” by God. Some Christians believe every single word is inspired by God, while others believe the Bible is a product of both God and man.
Even inerrancy itself is split into several views that all view the inspiration of the Bible differently. These views ought to be considered by those claiming that contradictions disprove Christianity or the Bible’s inspiration. I try to put this challenge into some more perspective here.
4b. Look at all those myths in the Bible!
This is another argument against biblical inerrancy and not against the truth of Christianity.
Granted the existence of myth within the Bible, some Christian biblical scholars believe that “myth” does not necessitate falsity. That myth is taken to mean that something is false or unhistorical is a modern idea and not one shared by our ancient authors.
What needs to be considered here is how an ancient biblical author intended for his writing to be read by his audience. For example, Christian Old Testament scholar Peter Enns explains that myth is a genre that God worked through to reveal himself to his people. If that is possible then this challenge doesn’t falsify the Bible, its inspiration, or Christianity itself.
5. Really? You believe in talking donkeys, that a sea was really divided, that a man lived in the belly of a fish, and a virgin birth? Christianity is such nonsense!
Again if these alleged miraculous, historical events can be demonstrated to be unhistorical it is an argument against biblical inerrancy. In that case Christianity would still be true.
Secondly, the Christian might show that his worldview holds to the existence of an all-powerful God. Not only that but this God he believes in created the entire physical universe from nothing. If this is so, then not a single miracle in the Bible is impossible for him.
It’s clearly seen that God’s power is demonstrated throughout the Bible via dramatic miracles; this is part and parcel of Christianity, namely that Christianity’s God can perform miracles through intervening in His creation.
Thirdly, this is testimony to the atheist’s a priori rejection of the supernatural. The atheist places his faith in the hope that no supernatural reality exists for he cannot prove that. Thus, if one a priori rejects the supernatural then of course these dramatic miracles in the Bible would seem absurd. But a Christian needn’t let the atheist’s worldview dictates what is possible on her theistic worldview.
Fourthly, I believe that there is good evidence supporting the existence of the supernatural. If one is open to the supernatural then she may also be open to God’s dramatic miracles as recorded within the Bible.
And finally there is far more analysis that needs to be done. For example, many scholars argue that the book of Jonah was not intended to be a factual historical account like one might find in a historical biography. This is because the author intended on creating a polemical tale, also known as a “fictional story.”
The fictional story is one that is imbued with significant lessons about God, human nature and so on. One scholar explains that “the fictional short story was an established genre among Jewish sacred writings… to say that it is fictional is not to discredit it or deny its status as inspired scripture.
It is simply a matter of recognizing its proper genre, and treating it as such.” If so, then it would be pointless debating about the actual miracle of Jonah being in the belly of a fish. This is because the author didn’t intend for it to be read as literal history.
6. Reading the Bible made me an atheist.
Many believers will note that this is a common claim made by atheists. It is also a claim that one could show doesn’t prove anything. Rejecting the Bible as God’s inspired word needs to be demonstrated on other grounds.
Other than being a non-sequitur, one could also show that it isn’t an argument that the atheist shouldn’t champion about. Why? Simply because many Christians have read the Bible from cover to cover multiple times, and they still remain Christians. Should one use that to argue for the Bible’s inspiration? Probably not. Also see here.
7. Look at how much evil has been done in the name of Christianity! Christianity is such an evil religion.
This is non-sequitur. Many Christians have argued that this argument is weak since what it does is judge a philosophy by its abuse. How a religion, worldview, or philosophy has been interpreted and applied in the lives of followers says nothing about the truth claims of that specific worldview. Again, the truth of a worldview needs to be argued on other grounds.
It would also be a stretch to believe that Christianity is evil. In fact, Christianity has changed the world (both within the 1st century, throughout history, and within our modern era) for the better in many ways that other worldviews, including atheism, haven’t.
Would that somehow mean that Christianity has never been abused or hijacked by radicals or extremists with ill intentions? Of course not. However, it is very easy to show that that does nothing to discredit all the good that it has brought to the world through those who are obedient to Jesus’ message.
8. Science has explained everything! Who needs a god?
Science by definition cannot explain (or empirically verify) certain realities such ethical, aesthetic, metaphysical, philosophical and logical truths. These realities exist outside of the realm that science operates within; they are also unverifiable truths that we believe are all rational to hold to.
For instance, scientist Deborah Haarsma informs us that
“Many questions related to morality, ethics, love and so on, are questions that science simply isn’t equipped to answer on its own. Science can provide some important context, but religious, historical, relational, legal, and other ways of knowing are needed” (2).
Secondly, the belief that science can explain everything is what philosophers of science call scientism; namely the view that science is the only way to learn about the world, and that only through science can reality be explained. This is an irrational view very popular among atheists. I critique this view here.
Thirdly, this claim asserts that science and the Christian God is somehow mutually incompatible. But this is false for a Christian conception of God no more competes with a scientific theory than Henry Ford would compete with the laws of internal combustion of the Ford motor engine. Many believing scientists also would not agree that science and God are incompatible; in fact, many would argue that science strengthens their belief in God.
9. Evolution makes a god irrelevant
Evolution no more makes a god irrelevant than does the theory of general relativity. Why? Simply because scientific theories cannot provide answers on the existence or non-existence of a god.
Secondly there is something known as evolutionism which is a philosophical doctrine atheistic in nature. Evolutionism has been noted to be “a kind of secular religion” where the atheist uses evolutionary theory to speculate about all sorts of philosophical questions such as the existence of God, objective moral values and duties, and purpose.
The point is that evolutionism isn’t evolution and nor should atheists masquerade it as such. The Christian may combat evolutionism on its own philosophical turf. But as far as evolutionary theory goes it doesn’t comment on anything supernatural.
10. Evolution explains why people believe in a god. Belief in a god is simply a by-product of evolution!
This commits what philosophers term the Genetic Fallacy.
For example, it is a fallacy to argue that the manner through which a person inherits a belief somehow nullifies that belief. The fact that a girl is brought up in Syria and is thus indoctrinated into becoming a Muslim says nothing about the truthfulness of the Islamic religion.
The same applies here for this challenge assumes that God could not create his creatures via an evolutionary process. It’s also true that many devout Christians (especially Christians involved in science related fields) believe that evolution was God’s mechanism for creating sentient biological life. If this is true then we should expect that God would endow mankind with knowledge of his existence somewhere within the process.
In fact, I’d turn this challenge on the atheist’s head. The atheist has to have faith that a non-theistic evolutionary process that cares only for survival somehow produced his rational cognitive faculties. If this is true then why should the atheist, or anyone else, trust his beliefs? Evolution doesn’t care for true belief, so why believe that evolution would produce true belief over false belief? (especially if a false belief may assist in the survival of a species).
This line of thinking is known as the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, as proposed and defended by philosopher Alvin Plantinga. Essentially, the argument says that given naturalistic evolution the probabilities are overwhelmingly stacked against our cognitive faculties being reliable. If so then how can the atheist use evolution to not only support his atheism but also combat religion?s
Moreover, the Christian can point out that a non-theistic, naturalistic evolutionary worldview has serious ramifications; consider these words from the atheist biologist William Provine:
“‘Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear … There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end for me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either” (3).
Of course Provine deals far more in philosophy than he does in science. But the point is that the Christian can affirm that he sees no reason to doubt much of his conclusion should a god not exist, and that what produced us and our cognitive faculties were non-rational, physical forces of nature. Essentially the atheist has to sit with a life that is purposelessness (other than the illusory purpose one creates for himself) and hopeless (life stops at the grave).
1. Peters, N. 2012. Is Evolution a problem? Available.
2. Interview with Dr. Deborah Haarsma in: Religion, Science and Society. 2015.
3. Provine, W. 1994. Origins Research. p.9.
This article was originally featured on the website of James Bishop and was used with permission from the author.