Orthodox Christians and Conditional Immortality

I’m teaching a course on Contemporary Religious Movements at Tyndale University College. One of the common beliefs shared by a number of these groups is belief in annihilationism of conditional immortality. The question to be asked is, is belief in annihilation another sign of their heretical belief or is in the category of interest in biblical study and eschatology?

So I asked Chris Date of Rethinking Hell to put together a resource addressing this. The purpose of this video is not to prove that annihilation is true but to demonstrate that there is a place for this belief within orthodox Christianity.

I want to make it clear that I do not identify as an annihilationist, although I am sympathetic to it. I definitely believe that my annihilationist friends are not heretics. I recommend that you pick up Four Views on Hell.

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The Case for Conditional Immortality: A Brief(ish) Summary

The following blog post is a guest post by Graham Ware. This is not Graham’s first guest post for me. As a fellow autism dad, Graham wrote this post for my autism blog.

I know that this is a controversial topic. I’m agnostic myself when it comes to the topic, although I do see good arguments on both sides. I also believe that conditional immortality has a place in orthodox Christianity and is by no means heresy. Some very well respected theologians hold this position. The purpose of this post is not to convince you one way or another. It is here for the purpose of developing our understanding.

The Case for Conditional Immortality: A Brief(ish) Summary by Graham Ware

“There is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). Stephen asked me to write a post on the topic of conditional immortality; that is, the belief that eternal life/immortality is found only in Christ, and so those who do not receive the gift of salvation through grace which is available in Christ will perish/be destroyed (this is sometimes called annihilationism, though the two are slightly different but interrelated notions). I confess that I have nothing original to offer here. The argument has been laid out in essays by brilliant biblical and systematic theologians.[1] What I present here is an attempt to condense what has been written into a short introductory summation of the case for this position.

The beginning and the end of humans

For a variety of reasons, the early chapters of Genesis have been the topic of considerable debate. This is not the place for that conversation. However we interpret that portion of Scripture (literal history, theo-poetic, myth, etc) we are given some important statements about humanity. God formed the man from the dust of the earth, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and he became a living soul (Gen. 2:7; NIV and others translate it as “living being” but “living soul” is probably a better English translation, and the Hebrew nephesh was translated as psyche in the Greek Septuagint). We often assume that the “soul” is the immaterial, and immortal part of our being (as psyche was often depicted in Hellenistic writings) which continues on after our physical body dies (see for e.g. The Westminster Confession, IV.2). Westerners typically think in Hellenistic ways; of a soul and body separated at death, with the soul continuing forever. But this doesn’t really fit the Hebraic view we see in Genesis 2 and elsewhere in the Old and New Testaments. When Paul speaks of our earthly, mortal bodies in 1 Corinthians, he calls them psychikoi, which means something like “soulish”. Our current bodies are soulish, or soul-oriented, or perhaps soul-driven. Believers’ resurrection bodies will be pneumatikoi; that is, Spiritual, of the Holy Spirit, and thus imperishable, immortal (see 1 Cor. 15) because we will be transformed, and our bodies redeemed, by the work of the Spirit. Immortality is not something inherent to the human soul (as in Hellenistic dualism or some other worldviews), and Jesus himself stated God can kill both body and soul in Gehenna (Hell), by which he means the totality of the human being, not the individual parts (Matt. 10:28). God can resurrect a person killed by another, or who dies of natural causes. But can also destroy an entire person. Hell is a place of destruction and death, not torment. We are mortal souls, requiring the work of the Spirit, made available because of the incarnation, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus Christ in order to have immortality. God alone has inherent immortality (1 Tim. 6:15-16), and bestows that immortality to people, through the grace revealed in the Gospel (Rom. 2:7 & 6:23, 2 Tim. 1:8-11, 1 John 5:11-12) and the work of the Spirit to bring about resurrection.

After the introduction of sin in Genesis 3, we read of the removal of Adam and Eve from Eden. God states “’The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever’” (Gen. 3:22). The now fallen humans are cut off from the means of eternal life, lest they live forever in their fallen state and avoid the consequences of sin, namely death, and requires an intervention from God to regain the possibility of everlasting life. In the Fourth Gospel, we see repeated claims from Jesus that he is the means of mankind receiving life. He is the bread of life, the giver of living water, the resurrection and the life, the way, the truth, and the life, because in him was life and that life was the light of humanity. After his resurrection, we read that Jesus breathed on his disciples, giving them the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). This echo of Genesis 2:7 points to the renewal of humanity’s life. Without this Holy Spirit, a person remains psychikoi, or sarxichoi (of the flesh), and destined for death. Then, in the Book of Revelation we see the hope of those in Christ:

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse.” (Rev. 22:1-3a)

The river of the water of life, and the tree of life, emblems of the everlasting life of the Age to Come, are made manifest in the new creation, and accessible to those who overcome through the blood of the Lamb. Immortality is now available to all, for God desires that none should perish (2 Pet. 3:9; cf. 1 Tim. 2:4). But for those who reject the gift of life, there is destruction, perishing, death.[2]

Life and destruction: The biblical contrast

We have often been presented with the Heaven vs. Hell contrast in evangelical churches. The assumption is that all human beings will consciously exist forever and the only question is where they will be; a place of everlasting bliss, or everlasting suffering. But does Scripture ever say that? The language of the New Testament actually presents us with a very different contrast: life or its opposite- that is non-being, not everlasting life of two types. Multiple examples of this life-destruction contrast can be cited to demonstrate this. For example, Paul says that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life” (Rom. 6:23) and he speaks of humanity in two groups, those being saved, and those perishing (1 Cor. 1:18). 1 John 5:11-12 states “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” Jesus speaks of the road which leads to life, and the road that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13-14). James says the only Judge, God, is “able to save and to destroy” (James 4:12). . Revelation 20-22 speaks of those whose names are in the book of life, who have access to the river of the water of life and the tree of life, and others who are subject to “the second death”. Jesus states that eternal life is found in him, without which people perish (John 6). And perhaps the most well-known verse in Scripture, John 3:16, says that those who believe will not perish, but will inherit eternal life. The contrast is life and ceasing to be a living person, perishing, or being destroyed; between those who have life and those who do not. The notion that those outside of Christ continue forever in torment would require that all people have eternal life. But how can they, when that life is found in Christ alone? Instead, the biblical text speaks of the fate of those outside of Christ, who therefore do not have eternal life, using the language of destruction, decay, death and not perpetual suffering. 

The language of destruction is prominent in Scripture. Psalm 37 says the wicked will wither like the grass, and die, and will be destroyed, and ultimately, “the wicked will be no more”. Jesus says that God can “destroy body and soul in Gehenna” (Matt. 10:28). The author of Hebrews says the enemies of God will be consumed (Heb. 10:27). Paul says those who sow according to the sinful nature will reap corruption/decay/destruction (Gal. 6:8). He also states that those who oppose the Gospel will “be punished with eternal destruction from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thess. 1:9), and “they will be destroyed” (Phil. 1:27) and for those who live as enemies of Christ, “their end is destruction” (Phil. 3:19). 2 Peter 3:7 declares “By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgement and destruction of the ungodly.” This language, I believe, should be read to mean just that- those outside of Christ will be reduced non-being, and will be punished with irrevocable and permanent death.

Some have argued that the words translated as “destruction” can be read as “ruin” or “lost”, and this is true in some cases (e.g. the lost coin for example uses a form of the Greek apoleia which usually is translated as perished or destroyed). However, when these terms (apollumi/apoleia, oletheros, phtheiro, katargete) are applied to human beings or have a a subject and object which are not inanimate objects, they almost always convey the sense of perishing or destruction. New Testament Greek scholar and translator R.F. Weymouth wrote, “My mind fails to conceive of a grosser misinterpretation of language than when the five or six strongest words which the Greek tongue possesses signifying ‘destroy’ or ‘destruction,’ are explained to mean an everlasting but wretched existence. To translate black as white is nothing to this.”[3] Almost all modern English translations do not chose to translate these as “ruin” or “lost” in the relevant instances. Even though Paul uses the phrase “eternal destruction” (2 Thess. 1:9), this can hardly mean an unending process, since destruction strongly implies a process which has a very definite end[4], and “eternal ruin” would not make much sense with the following clause “from the presence of the Lord”. Likewise, when Jesus uses the phrase “eternal punishment” in the most often cited verse by defenders of eternal conscious torment (Matt. 25:46), when read in light of Scripture as whole, makes far more sense when understood to mean irreversible death and destruction,[5] or to use the words of Athanasius, being “eternally bereft, even of being” (Athanasius, On the Incarnation, 4.4-6).

Not only Athanasius, but other Church Fathers used the language of non-being, death, and destruction for the wicked and immortality for those would receive it as a gift from God. For example, Ignatius of Antioch wrote “Let us not, therefore, be insensible to His kindness. For were he to repay us according to our deeds, we would cease to be” (Mag. ch. 10). Irenaeus argued that “those who, in this brief temporal life, have shown themselves ungrateful to Him who bestowed it, shall justly not receive from Him length of days for ever and ever.” (Against Heresies, II.34). Justin Martyr wrote “God delays causing the confusion and destruction of the whole world, by which the wicked angels and demons and men shall cease to exist” (Second Apology, 7).

The Lex Talionis: God’s Justice

God’s judgement is just and right. Conditionalists are often accused of trying to soften God’s wrath, or make the notion of judgement more palatable. But conditionalism affirms God’s negative judgement, and the seriousness of non-belief. Non-being/extinction is no small thing. God’s punishment is not malicious, nor undeserved. The consequence of rejecting the gift and life, and the giver, is exclusion from eternal life. Some (perhaps most famously Anselm of Canterbury) have argued that because God’s nature is infinitely holy, and deserving of infinite honour, sin demands an unending punishment. Until every ounce of God’s honour has been satisfied, the punishment will continue to be implemented. Of course this assumes ahead of time that God uses corporeal punishment, even though the picture in Genesis seems to be that of capital punishment.

The other issue is that of the lex talionis, the “eye for an eye” notion of justice, which stipulates that punishment and revenge must not exceed the sin being punished. Throughout the Mosaic Law, punishment for offenses comes in the form of equitable restitution, or in the case of certain sins considered more severe, the death penalty is mandated. There is very little evidence of the infliction of pain as mode of punishment. In one of the places we see that warranted, the extent of corporeal punishment has a very clear limit; in Deut. 25:1-3 we read that floggings are never to exceed 40 lashes. To go above that is to bring shame and disgrace. God’s people, called to reflect God’s own holiness, were told to place firm limits on the use of corporeal punishment, yet we are often led to believe that God himself will unceasingly afflict millions with extreme torments. By the biblical standards of just punishment, this would be unjust. Instead, what we see is humanity cut off from God by their sin- that is cut off from the one who sustains all life (Heb. 1:3). To be permanently and irrevocably cut off from the eternal life in Christ is to perish.

Conclusion

Obviously there is far more to say on the subject, and more biblical texts to unpack. But I think what needs to be left here in this small space is the sense that conditional immortality is not the result of liberal theology (especially since it is present in the Early Church), nor is it an attempt to water down judgement and wrath to become more “seeker-sensitive”. Instead, it is a deeply evangelical, deeply biblical conclusion. It is anchored by the gospel itself; that Christ, through his incarnation, death, and resurrection brings resurrection life, and overcomes sin and death so that humanity may be free from this curse of decay and death, which is the final enemy, which God has promised to destroy (1 Cor. 15:26).

Notes:

[1] Many of these great essays by top notch thinkers (John Stott, John Wenham, Basil Atkinson, Henry Constable, Edward Fudge, Stephen Travis, E. Earle Ellis, Anthony Thiselton, Clark Pinnock, and others) are now available in a helpful volume: Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism. Christopher M. Date, Gregory G. Stump, & Joshua W. Anderson (eds). (Eugene: Cascase, 2014). For a single author book-length treatment, the most known resource is Edward Fudge. The Fire That Consumes (3rd Ed.). (Eugene: Cascade, 2011).

[2] For more on the subject of Hebraic vs. Hellenistic understandings of death, the soul, and life beyond death, see NT Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003).

[3] Quoted in Glenn Peoples, “Introduction to Evangelical Condtionalism” Rethinking Hell, 23.

[4] John Stott writes, “It would seem strange, therefore, if people who are said to suffer destruction are in fact not destroyed; and, as you put it, it is ‘difficult to imagine a perpetually inconclusive process of perishing’.” See Stott “Judgement and Hell”, Rethinking Hell, 51.

[5] See for e.g. R.T. France. The Gospel of Matthew (NICNT). (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 966-7. Further, the use of the adjective eternal with a deverbal noun (in Mt. 25:46 it is kolasin) occurs six times in the New Testament, the five other uses all point to a one time event with an ongoing, permanent result or consequence (e.g. Heb.9:12 where Jesus’ death “once for all” makes possible an “eternal redemption”).

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6 Things You Need to Know About Hell

The purpose of this post is not to argue for a particular theory about hell. I simply want to make some clarifications to help people have a more biblical understanding. Here are six things that you should take into consideration when talking about hell.

1. Sheol

FireThe Hebrew word that is translated as hell in the KJV is sheol. However, sheol is not a place of punishing the wicked as most people think of hell. Sheol is better translated as the grave and it is the place where everyone goes when they die. It is simply the place of the dead.

2. Hades

One of the Greek words that is translated as hell in the New Testament is hades. This word comes from the Greek myths (Hades is the brother of Zeus and Poseidon) and it also means the place of the dead.

3. Gehenna

The other word that is translated as hell is Gehenna. Gehenna is an actual place that still exists today. If someone tells you to go to hell, you can book a flight to Israel and go there. Gehenna in the time of Jesus was a burning garbage dump. In the Old Testament it was place for child sacrifice to pagan gods.

4. Paul

The Apostle Paul never mentions hell (either hades or Gehenna). He does talk about destruction a couple of times but does not discuss the nature of it. Paul, no lightweight preacher, was able to motivate people without the threat of hell. I intend to do a future blog post on why Paul does not speak of hell.

5. Satan

Hell is not the kingdom of Satan. Satan does not rule hell and is not in hell. See this post for more details.

6. Fallen Angels

Although hell is not a place where demons are employed to torment the wicked, hell was designed and planned for Satan and his demons. See Matthew 25:41.

Hopefully these points will help you in your discussions about hell and what it is.

If you want to learn more about hell, I recommend the book, Four Views on Hell. (USA) (Canada)

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What are the Gates of Hell?

One of the most well known verses in the Gospels is this:

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18 ESV)

Protestants often spend their time arguing about the meaning of the rock and why it does not lead to papal authority. That is fine but what about the “gates of hell”?

GatesWhat does Jesus mean by the gates of hell?

Well, that is easy. I have heard many sermons touch on this. It means that the church is so powerful that Satan and his demonic kingdom of hell cannot vanquish it. Jesus is talking about the powers of evil organized and led by the Devil.

Except that is not what the Bible says.

Yes medieval authors enjoyed using their imagination when it came to hell. They put Satan on the throne and discussed how demons would be used to torture the damned. Modern writers continue to work with the theme.

But what does the Bible say?

The Bible does talk about hell as a place of punishment for those who refuse God’s offer of salvation. But where does the Bible suggest that Satan is the ruler of hell? Where does the Bible even suggest that Satan has ever been to hell?

There is only one passage that makes a connection between Satan and hell.

“And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10 ESV)

Satan goes to hell after Jesus returns and punishes Satan and those who served him. As far as I can see, this is the first time that Satan enters hell.

But what about that gate of hell? That kind of sounds like a demonic kingdom.

Hades, the word used for hell in this passage, refers to the place of the dead. Jesus may be echoing Isaiah 38:10 which speaks of the gates of sheol, sheol referring to the grave.

New Testament scholar R.T. France explains that it means the church “will not die, and be shut in by the ‘gates of death’.” (Matthew, TNTC p. 255) Robert Gundry argues that this is a reference to persecution and martyrdom which will not destroy the church. (Matthew, p. 335) Leon Morris even suggests that this could be speaking of death’s inability to prevent Jesus’ resurrection. (Matthew, PNTC, p. 425)

Whatever Jesus means, he is referring to the power of death and not to Satan’s kingdom. Satan is not in hell yet but according to Revelation, when he does go to hell, it won’t be as a king.

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A Loving God and Hell

I heard on a podcast this morning a question about why God didn’t create a world where more or even all people went to heaven. No one is comfortable with the idea of people going to hell. But the question I am interested in is: Does this contradict the idea of God as being loving? Let’s reflect on this through a parable.

Parable of the Grandfather

There once was a grandfather who could read the signs of the times. There was an increase in war, crime, pollution and injustice. This grandfather had many children and from them he had many grandchildren. He was worried about them. Since he was a billionaire, he decided to do something. He bought an island and built a huge house with every comfort imaginable and plenty of room for the entire family. It was protected from the outside wars and even had the technology to take care of the pollution problem. The grandfather was very happy with what he created and he sent out invitations to all his children and grandchildren. It ended up that only one-third of the family accepted his invitation.

What should the grandfather do? What does he want? He wants all his family on the safe island. But does that mean that she should send armed guards to kidnap the rest of the family, force them on the island and prevent them for leaving? Is that what a loving grandfather would do? What this grandfather really wants is for as many of his family who want to be there to live on the island. Having two-thirds of the family there against their wishes would prevent this island from becoming the paradise it was meant to be. If they choose a place of suffering away from the presence of the grandfather, it is their choice and it must be respected. 

What does this have to do with a loving God? Why doesn’t God prevent people from going to hell? The question is: What would it do to heaven if God forced people to go to heaven against their will?

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Annihilationism and Evangelism

I was recently listening to a podcast about annihilationism, that is the belief that the wicked do not suffer for eternity in hell but are simply destroyed.  I am not planning on discussing the merits of this view at the present time.  But it did make me think about another talk I heard about the dangers of believing in annihilationism.  Aside from any biblical interpretation issues (and there is some biblical support, otherwise people like John Stott would never hold to it), there were some practical concerns.  This person suggested that if annihilationism was true that we would have no more Gospel to preach.  After all, if the worst that could happen to us was to be destroyed, why bother becoming a Christian?

Again, I am not interested in discussing here the merits of annihilationism.  What I am concerned about is the nature of the Gospel.  Is the threat of an eternity of suffering really essential to the Gospel?  If annihilationsim was true, would you still want to be a Christian?

From my perspective, annihilation still seems to be pretty severe punishment.  I do not hear criminals willing to risk crimes because the potential sentence is only death and not life at hard labour.  Besides, the alternative to either hell or annihilation is not just existence but rather an eternity of joy, peace, love and the presence of God.  The motivation to become a Christian is not just the avoiding of the bad but the gaining of the good.

How does this affect evangelism?  It should not matter what you believe about the fate of the wicked, all Christians should want to share the good news.  It is not about whether the punishment is severe or not (and it is), it is about what the reward is that we dare not miss.  The Gospel that Jesus preached was that the Kingdom of God was at hand.  Jesus left it fairly vague as to what would happen to the wicked, but he was clear that God’s Kingdom was something amazing, that it was something that we should desire in this life and seek to enjoy for all eternity.  Perhaps the problem with evangelism today is not that people lack fear of hell but rather we are not explaining the nature of the eternal life that is found in Jesus Christ.  If we did, they would see how the pleasures of life without God could never compare.

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Rob Bell and Love Wins

I have decided to jump on the Rob bell bandwagon.  There is a lot of buzz about Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins.  You can watch the promo here.

Despite being someone who appreciates Rob Bell’s ministry, especially his Nooma videos, I will admit some alarm bells went off.  However, I will withhold judgment until I read the book and the comments in their full context.  Still, I will say that Rob Bell is talented at challenging people and saying things in a way that make them rethink why they believe what they believe.

Some people have already jumped to the conclusion that Rob Bell is now a universalist and a heretic.  Challenging thoughts on hell does not make that necessarily true.  Many still think of hell as an eternal torture chamber run by sadistic demons, an idea that is completely unbiblical.

One of the things that really is getting people upset is the questioning of whether Gandhi is in hell.  Is this universalism or salvation by being good or is it questioning people’s confidence that they have a comprehensive list of who is in heaven and who is in hell?  Do any of us know if Gandhi called out to Jesus in his last moments?

Finally, Rob Bell is not the only person who has suggested that heaven will be bigger than many of us assume.  Dallas Willard in his book Knowing Christ Today, advocated the wideness in God’s mercy idea that there are people who are saved without consciously being Christians.

Do not get me wrong, Rob Bell might be a total heretic.  But I suspect that he is trying to do two things: 1) create the current buzz and interest in his book, and 2) get people to actually think through these ideas.  I will read and review the book when it comes out and I will not hesitate to call Bell on any unbiblical assertions.  But I would also like to encourage people to withhold accusations of heresy until the book comes out and we can read what he says in full context.  Finally, I will leave you with this thought.  If they had blogs in the first century, I wonder how many would condemn the Apostle Paul for never speaking of hell.

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Losing His Religion

A fellow blogger recently posted his reasons for walking away from Christianity. The last I checked, there were almost a thousand responses to his post. He obviously struck a nerve with both believers and unbelievers. You see his post here. I do not presume to tell him or anyone else what to believe. However, I do think it is worth responding to his list of 20 reasons, as many of them would be representative of other’s people struggle with faith.  His reasons will be listed in italics and my responses will follow.

God is wrathful, jealous, hateful, and kills nations of people like it is a bodily function. He is certainly not just or “holy” in nature.

The claim that God enjoys killing entire nations is extremely overstated.  What is being referenced here is likely the holy wars described in Joshua.  These are hard passages and not my favorites either.  But a careful reading will show that God’s intention was not for genocide but for Israel’s possession of the land.  The plan was to drive the Canaanites (of which God waited until their evil reached a certain level).  There are numerous examples of grace shown, even to the previous inhabitants of the land.

 
The act of throwing people into infinite torture and punishment for not believing a Jewish guy from 2,000 years ago was God’s son, or unknowingly worshiping the wrong god, is extremely cruel and sadistic.

I understand hell as being defined as absence from God.  The idea of little demons systematically torturing unbelievers is a post-biblical idea.  Our natural tendency is to be separate from God but God has provided a way to be in relationship with God through Jesus (the “Jewish guy”).  Would it not be cruel for God to force his presence upon people who have no desire for him?

 
The statements, “God works in mysterious ways,” or “It will all make sense in heaven,” are little more than irrational cop outs. This God allows horrible atrocities to be committed against innocent men, women and children every day.

I agree that those statements can be cop outs.  Does God allow those atrocities?  God has given us the conscience and the resources to make a heaven on earth.  Before we ask why God allows it, perhaps we should ask why we allow it.
Bloody animal and human sacrifices are illogical demands by a divine god as payment for petty wrong doings. These actions are no different than the rituals of archaic pagan religions. Not to mention the bizarre ritual of symbolically drinking human blood and eating human flesh.

In some ways God was revealing himself in a way that ancients could understand.  In another way, there is a timeless truth here.  We see blood as a symbol of death, the Hebrews saw it as about life.  How ethno-centric to reject their symbolism as illogical.  Also, the early Christians did not see communion as cannibalistic, that was a claim of their critics.
If God loves us and wants us to know and believe in him, why be so completely invisible? What is the purpose of being so illusive to those who believe and worship him?

Since God is spirit and does not have a body, it is natural for him to be invisible.  But he does reveal himself in nature and in experience.  As one who worships and believes in him, I do not find God to be illusive.  He is invisible enough to stretch my faith but real enough to give me hope and confidence.
God never manifests himself or performs miracles as he regularly did for the Israelites in Old Testament stories.

Actually, miracle stories are relatively rare in the Old Testament.  It is mostly Moses, Elijah and Elisha who perform miracles.  If you took all the miracle accounts of the Old Testament and combined them, you would have some Psalms longer than these accounts.  And who says God does not perform miracles today?  Doctors regularly question as to why some terminally sick people suddenly have no illness.  I have experienced a number of smaller miracles in my own life.
Prayers are never answered. Certainly not in the way Jesus described. Prayer has absolutely no affect on the world around us.

I am sorry if that is your experience but it is not mine.  Prayer does not work like sending a wish list to a cosmic Santa Claus.  But prayer does work and I have experienced dramatic answers to prayer.
Jesus did not fulfill major Old Testament prophesies or even fulfill his own promises and predictions.

I would need details as to what was in mind in this statement.  There are many Old Testament prophecies that are fulfilled in Jesus, as well as statements made by Jesus.  This is a very vague criticism.
The authors of much of the Bible are unknown. And of these unknown authors, the men who wrote the gospels likely never even met Jesus considering they were written 40-70 years after his death. A far cry from reliable testimony.

It is very possible that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John did write the Gospels attributed to them.  The accounts reflect earlier oral traditions of the people that did know Jesus.  In oral cultures, those traditions are just as reliable as written records.  In addition, 40-70 (I would say actually 30-60) years is quite reasonable.  Our written accounts of Alexander the Great are 300-400 years after his death.  We do not reject accounts written today about the Woodstock music festival, just because it is forty years later.

 
The Bible is repeatedly contradictory with itself, reality, and the laws of morality. Couldn’t God inspire a less poorly written book?

Again, I would need some examples.  I would disagree that the Bible is contradictory.  There is a consistent story of a God seeking his people and the struggles that go along the way.  As for morality, even in our post-Christian world, much of our morality is still shaped by biblical values.
The Bible is open to interpretation. Everyone interprets it in the way that suits them best or serves their purposes.

I agree that this is true.  But that does not mean that there is no true meaning to the Bible or that it is false.
Throughout history, Christians have justified horrific actions by the Bible and its teaching.

Unfortunately this is true.  That is why I am a follower of Jesus and not the fallible teachings and commands of any group of Christians.
The Bible promotes hate and persecution against women, homosexuals and those who worship other gods or no god at all.

The Bible does no such thing.  The Bible is actually very pro-woman in comparison with its cultural context.  The Bible does not promote hatred toward anyone.  Homosexuality is rejected and pagan worship is criticized.  But notice that Jesus spent much of his time with people who were hated and persecuted by their society.  There is a strong message of love and tolerance while still challenging us on our lifestyles.

 

According to the Bible, nearly 70% percent of the people in the world will burn in hell because they don’t believe Jesus was the son of God.

As I said earlier, should God force people into heaven even they want nothing to do with him?  Should not people have freedom of choice?

 

The only reason I was a Christian was because I was indoctrinated into the religion as a child as a result of the culture and region of the world in which I was born.

Good point.  I struggled with this as I was coming out of atheism.  In fact I put Christianity farther down the list of options because of this very reason.  I ended up becoming a Christian because I was convinced of its truth and not because of any cultural pressure.

 

Christianity has no more rational or factual foundation than any other religion on earth that I openly reject.

I would disagree.  But if you pushed things hard enough, Darwinism and atheism have the same problems.

 

The Christian church is disjointed and can’t even agree with one another.

This can be a problem.  But as a pastor, I work with pastors and churches of many denominations and we have always been able to put aside our differences to work together.

 

Christians are not at all ethically or morally different from non-Christians.

This can be a problem as well.  Thankfully my faith is in Jesus and not in fellow Christians.

 

Today, powerful church leaders steal, lie and molest young children. The church repeatedly attempts to cover up these atrocities, only to reluctantly apologize as a last resort.

The percentage of these events is relatively small and surely is no higher than among non-Christians.  It is still a horrible problem and the full weight of the law and condemnation of the church should be placed upon those who commit such crimes.

 

It is absolutely irrational to continue to believe archaic teaching with the amount of knowledge we’ve gained through science and technology. The Bible reads like a book of primitive folklore, not divinely inspired insight into our true reason for existence.

What examples are you thinking of?  Has science and technology proven that love for God and love for people (as Jesus summarized the Law) are no longer valid?  How would such proof look?  The basics of the Christian faith have not been proven false by science.  Science is not the church’s enemy as all truth is God’s truth.  It is true that the Bible was written in an ancient context and that our interpretation should reflect that, but it is not true that science has proven the Bible to be fundamentally false.

I realize that some people are going to walk away from Christianity.  My responses here are not likely to put a stop to that.  But what I want to demonstrate is that these reasons have responses and that if people are honest, they are not the real reasons for walking away.  They are excuses for something that is happening on a deeper level.  I encourage people to keep an open mind.  Feel free to ask questions, but have a measure of humility in acknowledging that not all of our answers are available in this world.

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