As noted in my previous article, I will be detailing important points from each chapter of Lee Strobel’s book, The Case for Faith, in subsequent articles. These articles, by nature, are going to be a bit longer, so I’d grab a snack and some coffee or tea and get ready for some mental exercise!
OBJECTION #4: God Isn’t Worthy of Worship If He Kills Innocent Children
Lee Strobel continues his search for answers to eight of the most emotional objections to Christianity in his fifth interview and fourth chapter of The Case for Faith with Norman L. Geisler, PH.D. Upon sitting down with Dr. Geisler, Strobel cuts right to the chase, quoting Thomas Paine in The Age of Reason: “Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the work of a demon, than the word of God.” Dr Geisler immediately counter argues that Paine was confusing what the Bible records and what the Bible approves. He cites Satan’s lies and David’s adultery as brief, accessible examples. He then continues, “I think that Paine is just factually wrong. The Bible doesn’t have any cruel and torturous executions that God commanded.” Dr. Geisler also points out that although the God of the Old Testament is often portrayed as cruel, the Old Testament talks “very little about eternal punishment, but the New Testament does.” Thus, the fact that God is unchangeable (Malachi 3:6 ; Hebrews 13:8) is established.
Strobel then persists, confronting Dr. Geisler regarding God’s order to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 7 “to ‘totally destroy’ the Canaanites and six other nations and to ‘show them no mercy.'” Strobel also brings up God’s order of the execution of every Egyptian newborn, his flooding the world in the days of Noah, and several other pressing examples. Dr. Geisler responds that God’s character is holy, and he must punish sin and rebellion. On the contrary, God is also merciful; He will let anyone escape who wants to.
Regarding God’s command to Israel to attack and destroy the Amalekites, Dr. Geisler explains that these people were “utterly and totally depraved. Their mission was to destroy Israel…to commit genocide. The Israelites were the chosen people through whom God would bring salvation to the entire world through Jesus Christ…The destruction of their nation was necessitated by the gravity of their sin.” Strobel vehemently questions the death of the innocent children of this “utterly and totally depraved” people. Dr. Geisler refers to Psalm 51, which states that we are all born into sin, thus not one person is truly innocent. He then continues, “God created life and he has the right to take it.” Just because something is wrong for humans does not necessarily mean it is wrong for God. Dr. Geisler even goes so far as to call the death of these children an act of mercy because “according to the Bible, every child who dies before the age of accountability (Isaiah 7:16) goes to heaven to spend eternity in the presence of God.” Ultimately, Dr. Geisler concludes that had these children lived, there would have been no hope for them to be reconciled to God due to the condition of the depraved culture in which they were raised.
Similarly, Dr. Geisler also refers to Joshua 6 which talks about the destruction of Jericho and the Canaanites. He points out that the pattern is the same as that of the story of the Amalekites, in that “this was a thoroughly evil culture…they were into brutality, cruelty, incest, bestiality, cultic prostitution, even child sacrifice by fire. They were an aggressive culture that wanted to annihilate the Israelites.” He emphasizes that God’s purpose was to obliterate the corrupt nation because of the inherently evil structure; His aim was not to destroy repentant people.
In other examples brought up by Strobel, Dr. Greiser points out the importance of accurate biblical interpretation as well as avoiding plucking verses out of context when engaging in apologetics.
CAN THE BIBLE BE TRUSTED?
As this part of the chapter unfolds, Strobel indicates that Dr. Geisler’s assessment of God’s character is based solely on biblical narrative. Strobel questions, “Everything hinges on whether the Bible is true. What’s your basis for believing it is?” Dr. Geisler references first the Bible’s unity: “…sixty-six books written in different literary styles by perhaps forty different authors with diverse backgrounds over fifteen hundred years, and yet the Bible amazingly unfolds one continuous drama with one central message.” He then gives the Bible’s transforming power as evidence that the Bible is true: “…from the beginning, it has renewed people; given them hope, courage, purpose, wisdom, guidance, and power; and formed an anchor for their lives.” However, Dr. Geisler believes the most convincing evidence resides in two categories: 1. archaeology, and 2. divine origin.
Reason #1: Confirmation by Archaeology
Dr. Geisler asserts that thousands of finds in the Middle East support biblical record. He cites discoveries confirming corroboration of King David, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the temple of Solomon, and biblical claim that the world at one time had a single language. Strobel replies with, “Even if archaeology does confirm that the Bible is historically accurate, that doesn’t mean it’s divinely authoritative.” Dr. Geisler concedes, “Correct. The only reason why anyone should accept the Bible as divinely authoritative is because it has miraculous confirmation.”
Reason #2: Evidence of Divine Origin
Dr. Geisler begins this point by referencing the divine origin of the universe, which Strobel points out was already covered in Chapter 2 of The Case for Faith. Dr. Geisler responds, “Ah, good. What people often forget is that if [the] first verse [of the Bible] is true, not only are miracles possible, but miracles are actual, because the biggest miracle has already happened–making something out of nothing.” He then says that there are two ways in which the Bible has been miraculously confirmed: 1. fulfillment of predictive prophecies, and 2. miracles performed by those “purported to be speaking for God”.
Confirmation by Prophecies:
Many prophecies in the Bible are very precise, not vague like others’ predictions, were written hundreds of years in advance, and have come to fruition. “So here you have incredible predictions that were literally fulfilled in the life of one man, even though he had no control over most of them…The Bible is the only book that’s supernaturally confirmed this way.”
Confirmation by Miracles:
Dr. Geisler asserts, “In the Bible–which, remember, we’ve seen is historically reliable–we have prophets who were challenged but who then performed miracles to establish their credentials.” He cites well-known examples of miracles performed by Moses and Elijah. He then follows up by saying that even Jesus said “‘Don’t believe me unless I do miracles of God.’ And then he did them.”
MORE CHOICE MORSELS FROM THE FOURTH CHAPTER INCLUDE:
- The Bible not only claims to be the Word of God but proves to be the Word of God.
- Sometimes critics assume that a partial report is a false report; unfortunately, this is a common mistake.
- “God is not going to force anyone into the fold. Love never works coercively. It only works persuasively.”
Do you know someone struggling with moral objections to Christianity? Maybe you were that person at one time? Maybe you still are? Let me know your thoughts below! And thanks for reading!
*Stay tuned for objection #5 later this month!