A while back, my good friend Tony Vance sent me an article and asked for my feedback. After reading only the title, “Why Are You Still A Christian, After Reading This? (Thorough)”, I answered: because Jesus. With a little prodding, (and some late night facepalming), I worked through Ben Alonzo’s piece, and jotted down some responses to his work.
(Note: this post follows the format of the original for consistency purposes. I’ve done my best to articulate the summary of the section while focusing on the response. However, having both posts open to compare may be beneficial.)
Shake Your Faith: The Truth
In this section, Ben points out he was a hardcore Christian “until I started questioning what was actually in the Bible.” My first response to Mr. Alonzo, “Just how ‘hardcore’ were you if Bible study wasn’t even a part of your Christianity?” Choosing Jesus was a hard decision for me. In fact, just yesterday I shared with some close friends that I believe being a faithful Christian is the hardest job in the world. Bill Hybels in his book, “Courageous Leadership”, recounts a speech he gave to a group of Harvard business students. One student asked how church leadership had anything to do with secular success.
“You are the best and brightest this world has to offer. You are going to do great things and make the best widgets and gizmos ever known. But the church is charged with changing the world.”
Mr. Alonzo, taking the time to study the Bible is admirable and I hope this letter will encourage you to do so again; but basing your arguments against the Bible with those of a shaky understanding (at best) is a good way to an insufficient response. Here are a few other (bad) reasons to defect from Christianity:
- Basing Christianity on Christians
- Interpreting easy Bible passages with difficult ones
- Misapplying scientific *claims*
- Asserting knowledge where only opinion exists
- Finding more truth in comedic memes than historic documents
God and Mass Abortions
This section is a compilation of about 10 verses in the Bible where God apparently condones abortion. The problem with this section is, quite simply, they are all snippets of a bigger story.
One of my favorite movies is C. S. Lewis’ “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe”. Lewis was quite clear that he was creating a fantasy world to help folks understand the Christian worldview, particularly at a time when the whole world was at war (1950). In his book, he uses a lion named Aslan to depict Jesus. Before we are introduced to Aslan, all we have are stories offered by those who have met him. One such story comes from the Beavers. As the Beavers talk of his power and his strength, their listeners began to assess Aslan’s worth. At one point they even wonder if they want to meet this strange king who might kill them.
Travelers: Is he safe?
Mr. Beaver (in shock): Safe!? Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he is good.
As I read through instance after instance of cherry-picking Bible verses that, I suspect, were only found by Googling ‘abortion bible’, I kept coming back to Mr. Beaver. The God of the Old Testament, if taken only through an impersonal lens, seems terrifying. I repeat, Mr. Alonzo: Just how hardcore were you in knowing God? The reason I ask is because you only appear to share His actions but never His motives. Let me show you the bigger picture.
From the original: “The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.” (Hosea 13:16)
- Hosea 1 – Introduction to a man (Hosea) and a woman whom he loves…a prostitute
- Hosea 2 – Recognizing that Hosea loving someone who can never love him back is symbolic of God loving people who will not love him
- Hosea 3 – Hosea (like God) chooses to continue to love the cheating spouse
- Hosea 4-10 – Let me show you all the ways humanity and prostitutes are the same, forsaking the love in front of you for your own selfish passion
- Hosea 11-12 – But God’s love endures
- Hosea 13 (the chapter in question) – God’s chosen people elect to refuse God’s love. They seek their own will and bring upon themselves pain, suffering, and (yes) death of children.
- Hosea 14 – But God is still patient and waiting for you to be done chasing your own ways. When you are done acting as a prostitute, “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely” (God, Hosea 14:4); “People will dwell again in his shade; they will flourish like grain” (Hosea 14:7).
Mr. Alonzo, in your “thorough study of the Bible,” were you ever aware of the overall context or thematic threads shaping its underlying message? Mr. Alonzo, would you consider reading through the Bible with me? I’d love to investigate some of these hard questions with you.
God murdered the world
I’m skipping this section because it follows the same pattern of the previous section. I’m still a Christian even after reading Hosea, I’m still a Christian after reading Genesis, I will still be a Christian after reading Revelation…when God shows he still loves us and nothing we do will stop that.
God of the Bible is Satan
Wait, what? Oh, I see what you did there. You hijacked ‘God creates all things’ to say ‘God created evil’ and therefore not worthy of worship. Here’s another story to help piece together the problem with this:
Hitler. Jew killer. Exorcised his power by showing no mercy and killing thousands. The Jews (rightfully) tried to resist, escape, rise up, flee, seek help, all of the above. They could try anything they wanted except one thing: they could never pretend Hitler didn’t exist. Closing their eyes and pretending life existed without Hitler in it would be naïve.
The same is true of God. Perhaps he is an evil tyrant—the creator of evil. That doesn’t actually affect his existence. Mr. Alonzo, what makes your particular point here so poor is your penchant for cherry-picking Scripture to shape your ideas. Imagine only remembering George Washington as a sub-par combat officer or Abe Lincoln as a slave owner; those views don’t begin to depict their interactions with history or the motive behind their actions. Because, as we are shown clearly in Scripture, God loved the world so much, he gave his Son to pay what we couldn’t so we could live a life we would never have without his grace.
There are some really powerful restoration stories in the Bible—too bad those weren’t ever mentioned.
(NOTE: The next section is just a continuation of all the times God is depicted negatively, I’m skipping it as I feel it’s been adequately covered)
“When you look at the entire Bible, not just the good/warm feeling parts, you conclude … This God helps Christians win a football game or find their keys, while ignoring starving children, cancer, wars, suffering, and every single other serious issue in life. I had an honest problem with that. Do you?”
Where does the Bible indicate God manipulates football games in favor of Christianity? Which verse clearly teaches this? Does Tim Tebow know?
I’m still a Christian after reading this.
“What’s in the Bible doesn’t even matter…there’s no evidence to back it up.” ACL Author Misty Callahan has some great resources on this:
Mr. Alonzo, what specifically did you study before you decided to leave Christianity? I genuinely am curious.
I will address the remainder of “Why Are You Still A Christian, After Reading This? (Thorough)” in my next post, but it’s clear from the outset Mr. Alonzo has not found objections to Christianity. Rather, he has found a more appealing worldview. He claims there are problems with the Bible but never thoroughly examines any of them. He claims God cares more about football games and lost keys than he does orphans and widows—a view that simply does not hold any weight.
So, Tony, upon further review: I have not left Christianity because of Mr. Alonzo’s post. I am still a Christian, because Jesus.