My Major Hangups With Christianity

In my study of Christianity, I've come across many things that don't seem to make sense to me. Why, for example, would women go to anoint Jesus' body if he was already covered with 100 pounds of spices and buried? If Jesus and all his disciples were Jewish, why were the gospels written in Greek? Questions such as these plague me, and yet I realize that I may never get satisfactory answers to all of them.

But then, maybe I don't have to. If I could identify the most significant questions that I have, perhaps the answers to those would make the others insignificant. The following sections are for me the "biggies" that hinder my acceptance of Christianity at the most basic level.

I have not seen evidence of a supernatural world

According to the Bible, evidence of God's power was once in abundance. Joshua stopped the sun (Joshua 10:12), God utterly destroys Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24-28), and a donkey talked to his master (Numbers 22:21-30). And yet, today one is told that God "doesn't always answer prayers", "works in mysterious ways", or "works in subtle ways". These sound to me like excuses for the unexplainable way that God does not seem to physically affect our lives. Emily Dickinson said "They say God is everywhere, and yet we always think of Him as somewhat of a recluse."

The Bible says that we should see some miracles. According to James 5:14-15, if a person is sick the elders of the church should pray and anoint him, and God will cure him. Jesus said that true believers of God should be able to drink deadly poison without being hurt and to heal the sick by laying hands upon them. And yet we don't see these things happening. Instead, there is an abundance of "after the fact miracles", where a highly unlikely event happens and someone labels it a miracle.

A central concept in Christianity is the concept of the soul. To Christians it is obvious that we have souls, but I really doubt this. Most of the evidences that people have given me (such as our domination of the earth) are actually a result of our higher intelligence. Scientists have discovered that the brain isn't as mysterious as once thought, and have been able to manipulate the way that people act and the things that they sense through the use of drugs or direct electrical stimulation.

Christianity contradicts science

The account of the flood is one of the few places that the Bible is specific enough to analyze scientifically. Geologically, there is no evidence of the flood. Historically, the Egyptians were writing on papyrus in 3000 b.c., and the Greeks as far back as 1000 b.c., and they have no record of a flood. Where did the water come from and go to? How did Noah and his family take care of all the animals? How fast did the animals get on board the ark? Where was their food stored? How did all the animals fit on the ark? This whole story can not be explained without invoking multiple miracles that are not mentioned in the scripture.

Isochron dating places the age of the earth millions of years older than most Christians believe it to be. Despite the fact that dating methods are well understood and very reliable, Christians continue to argue against an old earth without taking the time to try to understand that which they are arguing against.

Evolution is a fact and a theory. Many of the first discoveries of the field were made by Christians, but since then the worlds of Christianity and science have diverged on this issue. As with dating methods, Christians have passed an a priori judgment against Evolution without really learning what it is. Almost every Scientist who knows the subject well believes it to be true, and there are Christian Scientists who ask other Christians to accept it also. It is my belief that given the choice between a sound theory that contradicts Christianity and a theory that has no scientific merit but does not contradict, Christians would choose the latter.

Few people would say that dinosaurs did not once roam the earth, and yet the Bible, which contains a history of the world, makes no mention of them. It does speak of behemoths (Job 40:15-19), but this reference is surely lacking considering how prevalent they would have been.

Some Tenets of Christianity are self-contradictory

There is a contradiction between the idea that God is all-knowing and the idea that we have free will. This gets complicated, so let me spell is out very carefully.

  1. God knows everything, including the future.
  2. This means that God knows that I am going to Heaven or Hell.
  3. For argument's sake, let's say I'm going to Heaven.
  4. Since God knows this for a fact, there is nothing I can do to change my fate.
Either God can not know the future, or if he (or anyone) does, then I can not change it. Take another example: if a heavy safe were falling to the ground, I could say that I knew that it was going to hit the floor. But if something happens that prevents it from doing so, then I must not have known the future after all.
Consider the idea of God being the ultimate creator of everything. Now because Eve sinned, all humans must accept Jesus' sacrifice to be saved. The machinery of salvation is necessary because God can not be in the presence of sin that has not been atoned for. Apparently God has no control over the redemption of sins, or he would have long ago banished the idea and embraced both the sinful and sinless. Something else must have been responsible for these requirements instead of God.

Christians do not follow everything in the Bible

I know that this can be a thorny issue in light of the clarifications that Jesus makes on the Mosaic law. Even though he says
I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, ... (Matthew 5:18-19)
Jesus does modify the interpretations of the law. In one case, he prevents the stoning of a woman by asking the crowd to confront their own sins. In another he clarifies the meaning of working on the Sabbath. But in many cases Jesus is very careful to not directly contradict the Old Testament law. It seems to me that a direct adherence to the word of the Bible would require the following of all of the laws, not a select few. For who are we to decide which are not suited to this day and age?

People often follow the ten commandments with great rigor, but dismiss the lesser ones. Examples of commonly dismissed laws are: not to eat pork (Leviticus 11:7-8, Deuteronomy 14:8), not to work on the Sabbath (Exodus 31:15), not to divorce (Mark 10:11-12, Malachi 2:16), missionaries of other faiths must be killed (Deuteronomy 13:10), and non-christians should not be allowed in one's home (2 John 1:10-11).

Many Christians do not even know that the latter statements are in the Bible, probably because they are selectively de-emphasized by Christianity. In fact, Christians often criticize Muslims for carrying out the Deuteronomical commandment to kill people who try to turn you from God. I guess I wonder who decided which commandments were to be followed explicitely, and which were not. It seems to me that one would be playing a dangerous game to try to second-guess God.

Christians believe in things not in the Bible

I'm having trouble finding Biblical references to some of the basic Christian beliefs:

Christianity has a muddled early history

Many Christians would like to think that there has never been debate about the beliefs of their religion -- that since it is the truth, all Christians must have always realized that. In fact, the early history of the Church shows that the Church Fathers were not unanimous in their beliefs. I think one good example of this was the Council of Nicaea's convention in 325. At the time, Constantine ordered the Church Fathers to meet and resolve the issue. The resolution was the famous Nicene Creed, which stated that Jesus was God incarnate. Arius was a major dissenter, and a couple of the other Christians regretted their having signed the decree.

There were numerous forgeries of the gospels in the early years of Christianity, such as the "Gospel of Judas Iscariot" and the "Oracles or Sayings of Christ". Some of the debatable works are in the Apocrypha, while others such as the gospels written in the names of John and Peter were rejected by the pious early Christians. Would people have to forge testimonies of someone who really existed? Furthermore, Jesus and all of his disciples were Jewish, and yet the New Testament is believed to have been written in Greek.

Lastly, the early Christian writers show a strange lack of knowledge about Jesus. Paul never mentions the virgin birth, Jesus' parents, Jesus' place of birth, Jesus' area of ministry, "of Nazareth" is never used, any of the miracles Jesus performed, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus' parables, the Lord's Prayer, the Roman trial, the empty tomb, or Jesus' bodily resurrection. Clement (95 a.d.) frequently uses Old Testament examples of faith, people preaching repentance, and people who died through jealousy, when Jesus himself would have been a fine example of such things (Chapters 3-6, 7-8, and 9-12). Likewise, Ignatius gives information about Jesus not found in any of the Gospels (Smyrneans 3:1-2, Ephesians 19:2)

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