Hey, Calvary Fremont –
Is Reading the Bible the Fastest Way to Lose Faith?
I went with some young people from our church to a Christian-Atheist dialogue at Westgate Church in San Jose this last Friday evening. The topic was: Is Reading the Bible the Fastest Way to Lose Faith? Professor Mary Jo Sharp, assistant professor of apologetics at Houston Baptist University, dialogued with Michael Wiseman, former Christian and now atheist. The discussion was moderated by Dan Kimball, director of the ReGeneration Project, a ministry of Western Seminary. Mary Jo was an atheist who became a Christian by reading the Bible whereas Michael Wiseman was a Christian who became an atheist by reading the Bible. It was an interesting set-up.
The dialogue began with each of them taking about 15 minutes to describe their journey from atheism to Christianity and then from Christianity to atheism. Michael read off a list of concerns that cast the Bible as pro-slavery, pro-violence, sexist, racist, homo-phobic, etc. If you’re familiar with the literature, this is standard fare.
My first observation will, no doubt, draw the ire of some of you. I don’t know how committed either of them were to their beginning positions. What I mean is, I don’t know if Mary Jo was a died-in-the-wool, intellectually convinced atheist – or if she was just a product of her upbringing. And for Michael, I don’t if he was a died-in-the-wool, intellectually convinced Christian with a fiery passion for Christ or if he was a cultural believer due to his heritage. Either way – they have journeyed to a place to which they are intellectually and passionately committed.
After they told their respective stories, they began to dialogue with one another. The majority of Michael’s criticisms of the Bible had to do with the Monster God who kills children, robs people of free will, and who is Self-centered and narcissistic. Dr. Sharp exposed his undisciplined methodology, demonstrated his faulty reasoning, and pointed out his flawed premises. (Yes, of course I’m biased.)
To be honest, I had said to a couple of men in the church that I sure hope the event was rigged so that the Christian would win! I would hate for hundreds of people to stumble out of the event with their faith shaken and undermined! But I had no need to worry about this. Dr. Mary Jo Sharp lived up to her last name – she wasn’t dull! I was also very proud of those in attendance – predominantly, if not exclusively – Christian. There was no hissing or booing, no catcalling or disrespect shown toward Mr. Wiseman.
It’s a good thing to know that while people are questioning their faith, and looking with suspicion at the Church and the Bible that there are ways to respond that don’t just appeal to “Because God says so.” There is an intellectual, theological, and philosophical rigor in the Church that can take a stand against the toughest critics of faith and hold its own. If you are in the process of reexamining your faith, I urge you not to do so alone. Meet with your pastor, a professor, or someone whom you trust and work through these things. It’s too easy to hear the list of objections voiced by Mr. Wiseman and go, “Yeah, yeah – that’s right,” and then go and uncritically embrace that position.
Reading the Bible isn’t the fastest way to lose your faith unless you want to lose your faith. Reading the Bible is the fastest way to know the mind of God and to realize in the depths of your soul what it means to walk with God. In Genesis 1:3, God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” The creation of light was a work of God, and that work of God depended upon the Word of God. God’s Word releases the work of His Spirit. Where there is no Word of God there is no work of God. May there be much Word in your life. May God’s Word flow to you and rise up in you. May the work of God in you and through you be formed, nurtured, and released.
Be blessed and stay healthy and follow Jesus! Pastor Tim