Answering “Questions Christians Can’t Answer” #28 Trusting the Bible?

“Pertness and ignorance may ask a question in three lines, which it will cost learning and ingenuity thirty pages to answer. When this is done, the same question shall be triumphantly asked again the next year, as if nothing had ever been written upon the subject. “

-George Horne

This article continues a series examining R.E. Pucket’s article “Top 50 Questions Christians Can’t Answer“.

Pucket was a Christian for much of his life. However, as he began to expand his reading and investigate arguments against faith, he became convinced that faith was irrational. This impression was strengthened by the fact that Christians with which he interacted largely told him that he should believe for belief’s sake, and that faith trumped rationality.

Pucket now spends a significant amount of time interacting with born again Christians who he feels are trying to convert him and win his soul. He rebuffs these attempts by presenting arguments that seem to stymie these Christians who in turn make vague appeals to “God’s Plan” and blind faith.

In his article, “Top 50 Questions Christians Can’t Answer” on Yahoo voices, Pucket lists out some of the arguments he has found that Christians seem to have no rational, logical answers for, and invites the readers to inspect their faith in light of these questions. Says Pucket:

“Don’t get me wrong, they will have an answer for them. You will find, however, that their answers have no basis in verifiable fact or evidence whatsoever, and will be largely based in their blind faith forsaking all reason.”

This series of articles will examine all fifty of Pucket’s questions, five per article, and offer responses to these questions.

One of the important things that the Pucket list teaches is the danger of dogmatism. If a system of belief stands or falls on every minute doctrine or teaching within the system, then disarming one of these causes the whole thing to fall.Christianity has undergone inspection by hosts of intelligent and thoughtful people over its 2000-year history. Some, like Pucket, have come to the conclusion that it was untenable. Many more have explored different ways of thinking about and applying Christian ideas that do not involve abandoning the system. The very fact that Christianity is a system of thought that allows individual thinkers to explore it, rather than to blindly embrace it, at least suggests that it is not a system of intellectual tyranny.

This author suggests that many of things about Christians popularly believe may be found faulty without the entire system being destroyed. For Christianity to be untrue, it would have to be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that either humans do not require some sort of salvation from evil and suffering, or that no such salvation has been provided.

The answers provided to the questions in this series may not always be punchy rejoinders, magic bullets, or truth bombs. They may be far from convincing to a skeptic; however they do show that Christianity is at the very least internally consistent and existentially plausible.

A variety of the Christian views that Pucket attacks in these questions are held by a very specific sect of Christian believers, and by no means characterize the whole of Christian views. The questions also occasionally make broad statements which either mischaracterize Biblical teachings, or are backed up with no supporting evidence. Where these mistakes are made, the responses are largely aimed at correcting these mischaracterizations. This is not to say that the attack has no merit, but the attack would need to be re-worked to fit a proper representation of that belief.

Finally, it is worth noting that the questions are sometimes phrased in highly emotive or sarcastic forms. These articles will attempt to respond to the fundamental objection being raised, rather than the tone in which they are presented, however the questions themselves will be presented in their original form.

How can we trust a Bible that has changed over time?


28 – If God’s word is supposed to be the accurate word of God himself, how are we supposed to trust it enough to model our lives after it 100% when hundreds of books were excluded from the original text throughout so many translations and revisions? 

The 27 books that form the New Testament also happen to be the earliest Christian writings still in existence, meaning that, of all the letters in circulation that early, only those 27 were considered important enough to be copied and passed on. Any other books that contended for a spot in the New Testament were written centuries later.
Throughout the New Testament, the authors confirm one another as scriptural. Peter, in his second epistles, confirms Paul’s teachings as scripture:

2 Peter 3:15-16
English Standard Version (ESV)
15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

Paul confirms Luke’s writings to be scripture in two accounts: In 1 Timothy 5:17-18, Paul quotes Luke 10:7 and refers to it as “scripture.” In 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 Paul says “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you,” and then goes on to quote Luke 22:19-20. Note that Paul introduces his quotation as “from the Lord.” The passages assume that the audience is familiar with and accepts the scriptural authority of the cited text.
Luke, in turn, uses the gospels of Matthew and Mark as source material for his Gospel, copying a number of passages verbatim from these Gospels.
Thus the New Testament support for each other’s documents goes something like this:
Peter confirms Paul’s epistles, Paul confirms Luke’s, and Luke confirms Matthew and Mark.
This alone indicates the majority of the New Testament documents, including three of the four gospels, Acts, and all of Paul’s epistles.
In his book Our Legacy (2001), Dr. John Hannah says that during the “Church Father” period (the early second century) there was general agreement on doctrines. While they cited as many as 19 out of the 27 currently accepted New Testament books in the available writings of the time period, they lived in an age of vast illiteracy, and so the oral tradition was held as equally authoritative to scripture.
The next period of the Church that Hannah describes he calls the age of “The Apologists” (late second and third century) During this time overt hostility toward Christianity from the culture and governing powers was on the rise. Worse, disagreements and challenges were coming from within the Church itself.
These challenges forced the Church leaders of the time to have to define what their source of authority was so that they could address the many conflicting opinions regarding doctrine and beliefs. In defining their authority, the oral tradition became marginalized largely because the Gnostic sect was claiming a different oral tradition to support their views. Church Fathers began to look to the writings of the Apostles as alone being authoritative and the idea of a canon of scripture began to emerge.
The apocryphal documents that might possibly have competed for a spot in the canon did not appear on the scene until the late second century. Once again, it is more than just coincidence that the earliest documents were accepted and the later documents were rejected.
The cannons of the day varied. The entire Old Testament, and all 27 books of the currently accepted New Testament were held as sacred in one or another of the churches, but few if any had access to all of them.
While the Gospels and all of Paul’s epistles were accepted universally, there was some dispute over a few books like Jude and Hebrews. However, even if all of the books that were disputed at the time were removed, the core doctrines of the Gospel are still affirmed by the remaining.
The Muratorian Fragment is a document that lists and provides an introduction to a number of New Testament documents. While the earliest copy of this fragment currently in existence is from the 7th or 8th century, the original can be dated as early as 180 AD. This fragment lists 22 of the 27 New Testament books (the four Gospels, Acts, all 13 epistles of Paul, Jude, 1 John, 2 John, arguably 3rd John, and Revelation).
In his article on early Christian writings, Michael Kruger (2013) states that early Christians did frequently reference non-canonical works, but stresses that, as a whole, they did not reference them as scriptural or authoritative; merely helpful or illuminating.
The canon of scripture was never actually determined in an official capacity. At best, it was increasingly recognized by churches for having been what it always was. In many ways, the formation of the canon was never officiated by any human or group of people. It just happened.
Even Bart Ehrman, who has authored a number of books attempting to discredit the New Testament, admits this when he says:

“The canon of the New Testament was ratified by widespread consensus rather than by official proclamation” (Ehrman, Lost Christianities (2005), p. 231)

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