Recently I “bumped into” someone on Facebook that I haven’t spoken with since I was an evangelical Christian about 13 years ago. His name is John and he was my college Sunday school teacher, so he was surprised to learn that I no longer believe the Bible is the word of god.
I was explaining to someone that for me to take Christian morality seriously, they need to prove the Bible was written by god. For example, why should I believe homosexuality is a sin if the Bible was written by mere men? First they need to prove god wrote it.
Anyway, John piped in with a pretty standard reply: “Consider such discoveries as the Dead Sea Scrolls which are known to predate the time of Christ by at least 100 years. These scrolls contain the book of Isaiah which includes Isaiah 53 which contains wonderful prophecies of Christ Jesus which could not have been added after his death.”
I laughed out loud when I saw this argument. That was his proof that the Bible was written by a god? Isaiah 53? Whoever authored the gospels would have had a chance to read the Old Testament first and make their story fit with any prophecies therein. Thus, anything in the New Testament that “fulfills” Old Testament prophecies doesn’t count. Even if it were a real prophecy, all it would prove is that whoever wrote Isaiah had psychic powers, not that the book was written by the creator of the universe.
I told him as much, so he started citing other prophecies such as Ezekiel 37:21-22 which supposedly predicts the formation of Israel in 1948. What an amazing example of confirmation bias! When Ezekiel was written, Israel was divided into two nations, both of which had been conquered by foreigners. So it’s not surprising that someone, longing for Israel’s glory days, declared that one day Israel would be made whole again (even broken clocks are right twice a day). Notice how verse 22 predicts Israel would have a king (today Israel has a president), and that the king would be David (who had been dead for 400 years). Not a very good prophecy. And certainly not evidence that the Bible was written by an all-knowing god.
If God was speaking through Ezekiel, why couldn’t he be more specific so we would know it wasn’t just a coincidence? For example, he could have described the many events that led to Israel’s reformation in 1948, or he could have at least said what year it would happen. Now that would be impressive! But nope. Nothing specific at all. Just vague predictions that could be interpreted to mean all sorts of things. Just like horoscopes.
I made some of these points to John, so he switched to scare tactics by saying, “Your fast approaching death with no promise of tomorrow is an immediate danger very much like approaching a dangerous cliff in the dark with no way of knowing how close you are to the edge.” So I ended the conversation and politely said goodnight. I refuse to converse with terrorists.
That encounter gave me a lot to think about it. I’ve learned a lot in the last 13 years, but apparently John hasn’t learned anything. In all that time, he never questioned these prophecies or bothered to read any non-Christian books on the subject. He has chosen to remain ignorant of any knowledge outside his self-imposed Christian box, and because of that he embarrassed himself by using two prophecies that have been thoroughly debunked. I actually felt sorry for him because he probably thinks he knows a lot about the Bible, but he’s just a victim of the Dunning-Kruger effect.
The conversation also left me feeling a bit angry. John and I went to the same church for two years and he knew I was very passionate about my faith. He saw me on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, at Monday night outreach, and even at Wednesday evening services. I often spoke to him about Christian books I was reading, and a couple times he let me teach the college Sunday school class.
After all that, does he really think I never considered two of the most commonly cited prophecies in the Bible? Does he really think I abandoned my faith so casually that I didn’t even bother to look at the arguments in favor of it first? That I just went ahead and jumped ship without thinking it through? The idea is insulting because my deconversion was a long and painful process as I desperately searched for actual evidence that the Bible was divinely inspired. But the more I learned about the Bible, the more it appeared to have been written by fallible men.
In fact, the last Christian book I read before losing my faith was Christian Apologetics by Norman Geisler. This always surprises Christians, but it never surprises atheists. If you’re a Christian looking to reinforce your beliefs, books like this will do nicely. But if you’re a Christian looking for truth, books like this will shatter your beliefs when you realize how weak even the best arguments for them are.
I guess John wouldn’t understand that. Like millions of others, he’s living in a Christian box and has never made any real attempt to think outside of it. It’s sad because there’s so much to see out here! I’m so glad I refused to settle for easy answers and kept searching for truth. If I had stayed in my Christian box, I might have learned more about the tenets of Christianity, but I would have remained as ignorant as ever.