Why Should We Bother Defending the Bible Against Atheists?
The argument for Christianity and the Bible is a cumulative one, adding up to the conclusion that Christianity is true and atheism false.
A friendly and fair-minded atheist asked me some good questions underneath one of my blog articles. It became an excellent opportunity to explain the wider goals and motivations of apologetics. In defending the Bible over against atheists (who love to endlessly contend that the Bible is habitually contradictory and immoral), I am writing for:
Christians — for their existing faith to be strengthened by seeing the weakness of opposing arguments and the strength of our own;
Christians who are wavering in their faith (who would be adversely affected by the material I refute) and perhaps considering leaving or becoming an atheist — to be strengthened by seeing the weakness of opposing arguments;
those wondering about the doctrines of biblical inspiration and infallibility;
fair-minded, honest atheists — to show that these atrocious arguments are embarrassing for atheists to put out, and ought to be rebuked from within their own community;
the atheist who actually thinks these are unanswerable arguments;
the atheist who might be on the fence and is considering forsaking atheism;
atheists or anyone else who think that Christian theology is held only by gullible, infantile ignoramuses who hate science and reason;
anyone who thinks that Christianity is fundamentally irrational and opposed to reasonable explanation or defense;
the sake of truth itself (i.e., what I, to the best of my ability, have come to believe is truth);
the sake of open and honest discussion between opposing viewpoints, believing that dialogue is a means to obtain truth.
I write these things to give Catholics support for their beliefs. But I’m also offering support for things where Protestants, Orthodox and Catholics are in full agreement. I don’t argue about Catholic distinctives when defending Christianity against atheist attacks — I don’t consider it appropriate or prudent — unless they hit upon a specifically Catholic belief.
Nothing in my replies to atheists should cause the slightest pause for any traditional Christian. In fact, I could have written virtually all of them when I was an evangelical Protestant between 1977-1990.
I also write these replies to convince non-Christian theists that Christianity is true (in an indirect, roundabout sense), but it’s not my direct goal.
I seek to “defeat the defeaters,” as Alvin Plantinga often says. Any specific effort along these lines is not defending the entire Bible, let alone all of Christianity (or more specifically, Catholicism). It’s simply showing that the particular objections I am dealing with fall flat and achieve nothing whatsoever. It’s a “reactive” enterprise. I show how suchobjections fail.
I’m not claiming the entire Bible can’t be proven false (though I do believe that). It’s showing how some particulararguments are a bunch of hot air and are irrational. It’s meant to give folks pause who are mightily impressed by these ludicrous pseudo-“arguments.” Then there are hundreds of other possible arguments and objections to address — most of which I have dealt with, in more than 3,200 articles on my blog, and in 50 books. The argument for Christianity and the Bible is a cumulative one, consisting of scores and scores of individual arguments, adding up to the conclusion that Christianity is true and atheism false.
People are convinced by an accumulation of considerations, which they feel all point in one direction — the truth of the Bible or of Christianity. If I make them curious here and persuade them of anything, then they will be game for future attempts at persuasion — all the way up to a possible conversion to Christianity or Catholicism specifically, or to a serious doubting of atheism, or a strengthening of a weak or wavering Christian faith. It’s all good. It’s what I was put on this earth to do (what we call a “calling” or “vocation”).
I use reason as that common ground that both sides accept. I never say, “Accept x, y or z simply because Christians or the popes or Christian tradition says so.” I say, “Accept it because it appears by virtue of reason to be true,” or “it may be true, given the weakness of opposing arguments,” or “it appears to be more plausible than atheist alternatives.”
Such articles can strengthen existing faith, and provide support in reason for faith, so it can be held more boldly and confidently, and more efficiently and successfully shared with others. Christians are under attack from all directions. There is a need for certain folks in our community to help support the faithful through efforts like this and many others of a different nature (such as social service or prayer, etc.).
I find these atheist “objections” generally pathetically and pitifully weak. Nevertheless, they more often than not purport to be academic or semi-academic. Most of them would be laughed off of the stage of any truly academic setting. I’m not an academic or scholar myself. But I do claim to engage in semi-academic lay apologetic endeavors for the “thinking man.” And I have held my own in dialogue with many scholars.
My atheist friend was kind enough to commend my reply and he stated:
“I’m still looking for evidence that any supernatural realm of any kind exists before I wrestle with the details. Picking apart Christianity as a way to support my position would be pointless, because there’s always another tradition or faith to knock down, and another, and another.”
Unfortunately, many atheists online are constantly engaged in this very thing — “picking apart Christianity.” They take it upon themselves to critique the Bible and views obtained therefrom day in and day out: frequently casually assuming that they know how to properly interpret the Bible, and that they know how to do so better than the vast majority of Christians.
But they don’t know how to interpret the Bible — trust me, as one who has debated them many scores of times — and are almost always vastly less informed than Christians in how to do biblical hermeneutics and exegesis.