Responding to “10 Myths About God”

Responding to “10 Myths About God” September 7, 2018

Credo House, an Oklahoma coffee shop and Christian ministry, made a video series “10 Myths about God,” which rejects ten Christian myths. I like rejecting myths about God, so let’s run through them and search for common ground.

Myth 1: Christianity is blind faith. We’re told that it’s a myth that Christianity is not warranted or reasoned.

No, Christianity doesn’t ask you to check your brain at the door. Remember that Jesus told us to love him with our heart, soul, and mind. In Isaiah, God says, “Let us reason together.” (I’ll use blue for the myth, green for the correction by the video, and black for my own comments.)

I will use reason to evaluate the remarkable claims of Christianity regardless, but it’s nice to see that the guys are on board. Things go a little off the rails when one of the hosts lampoons the idea of blind faith with this example: “It would be like someone telling you, ‘2 + 2 = 5; I know it doesn’t make any sense . . . but just have faith.’”

Which is precisely what Pastor Peter LaRuffa recently said in 2014: “If somewhere within the Bible, I were to find a passage that said 2 + 2 = 5, I wouldn’t question what I’m reading in the Bible. I would believe it, accept it as true, and then do my best to work it out and understand it.” As with Poe’s Law, you may not be able to make up a nutty Christian view that someone doesn’t embrace.

Another claim made in this first video is that God doesn’t do things in hiding. However, that’s not quite what Jesus said:

I praise you, Father . . . because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children (Matthew 11:25).

The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, “though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand” (Luke 8:10).

Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (John 20:29).

Paul also speaks of hidden mysteries:

We declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. (1 Corinthians 2:7).

The message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known (Romans 16:25–6).

Finally, I’ll take exception to the comparison made between God and one’s spouse, that a spouse would welcome your wanting to learn more, and the same is true of God. But God is dramatically unlike a spouse on so many other critical points (a spouse reliably responds when you talk to them, clearly exists, doesn’t kill people) that there’s little reason to trust that he’s like a spouse on this point.

Myth 2: The Bible is a magic book. Don’t flip open the Bible, select a verse at random, and expect it to tell your fortune like a crystal ball.

Rejecting this practice sounds like good advice, but I wonder then why the first generation of disciples didn’t follow it when picking a new twelfth disciple after the death of Judas. To select between two candidates, “They cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias” (Acts 1:26).

Our hosts describe this wrong thinking: “It’s like God’s just wanting to send us tweets.” But I’d be surprised if these guys don’t infer God indirectly nudging them through everyday events—a beautiful sunset, say, or a random thought, or an accident.

We’re told that the Bible has dual authorship: it’s “fully from God and fully from Man.” But in what way is it fully from God? Is it protected from error? No, copies are full of errors, some deliberate, and our best guesses at the originals of some books contradict other books (more).

They say, “[The Bible] is not difficult to understand, but it does take work.” If by “understand,” you mean that there’s a single, consistent message available to the patient scholar, then explain the 45,000 denominations and the fact that Christian sects aren’t converging (more here, here, and here).

This is yet another example where the Bible could do supernatural show that it is more than just another ancient book, but no. Apologists assure us that it’s authored by God, and yet supernatural authorship is no more apparent than with the holy books of the Hindus or Muslims.

Myth 3: God wants us healthy and wealthy. God is like our biological father, and it’s natural to imagine that God wants the best for us and shows his anger when bad things happen.

Apparently, though, these “God is like a spouse/father/judge/whatever” analogies are like Play-Doh that can be shaped to support the apologetic argument of the moment. This time, God is not like a loving father who wants us to prosper and to instruct us plainly. No, God’s love must be inferred through life’s difficulties.

Remember how God allowed Satan to ruin Job’s life (Satan was God’s prosecuting attorney at this part of the story). Or how Paul imagined Jesus saying, “My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:8–10). Or the caution, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you” (1 Peter 4:12). God is apparently a tough-love kind of father.

But as with most arguments built on Bible verses, two can play that game. For starters, remember that Job was wealthy before God’s little project, and God made him doubly so afterwards. So then the message from this story apparently is that God may test you, but if he does he’ll make it worth your while afterwards.

And preachers of the prosperity gospel use the very same Bible to make clear that God does want you healthy and wealthy.

No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (Mark 10:29–30).

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse . . . and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it (Malachi 3:10).

You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it (John 14:14).

Our hosts tell us that God loves us dearly but will (for his own good reasons) put us through hard times, up to and including the death of our children.

This reminds me of a podcast from this same organization where they wrestled with the problem of a father who had lost his 20-ish son. Because the son was not “saved,” not only had the father lost a son, but his own theology put his son in torment in hell!

And Christians wonder what atheists could possibly find troublesome about Christianity. . . .

The final insult from this video is the idea that living with pain and suffering makes us love God even more. Then what’s the difference between the Christian and a battered spouse? I mean, besides the fact that the abusing spouse actually exists?

To be continued.

We are the pure and chosen few
And all the rest are damned
There’s room enough in hell for you.
We don’t want heaven crammed.
— wisdom from the Plymouth Brethren,
as told by Christopher Hitchens

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(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 11/24/14.)

Photo credit: Boston Public Library

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Cozmo the Magician

    “a spouse reliably responds when you talk to them, clearly exists, doesn’t kill people” you obviously never met my ex… /snark

    • Bob Jase

      My ex only stabbed me once. It musta been love.

      No snark, true.

    • Greg G.

      you obviously never met my ex…

      I am not sure. Is she driving a broom these days?

  • ThaneOfDrones

    the comparison made between God and one’s spouse, that a spouse would welcome your wanting to learn more

    “Honey, I’d like to learn more. About sex. With other people.

  • If someone tells me 2+2=5 they need to prove it. Period. None of this faith business will work for me.

    • Anthrotheist

      I’ll give it a shot.
      2 + 2 means two groups with two items each, so there are four items total. However, you can’t count those items together without the two groups becoming a single group (which can’t be disregarded from the problem), so when you include the necessary group as an item then you have five objects total.

      It could work if you treat it as a categorical problem instead of a strictly arithmetic one.

      • Damian Byrne

        Still doesn’t work. This group of two berries, added to this group of two berries, means I have four berries total. If we were to use categories as you suggest, then shouldn’t it be this group of two berries, added to this group of two berries, plus the two groups, meaning we now have six?

        In other words, is a group of two berries the same thing as the two berries themselves? If I put two berries on a table, do I see anything other than the two berries? Is the group of two berries a thing separate from the two berries?

        • epicurus

          Vile disbeliever! You live in darkness!

        • Michael Neville

          Will there be wailing and gnashing of teeth?

        • epicurus

          Ok, my lame attempt, but here goes an aquatic reply – whaling and smashing of reefs.

        • Greg G.

          I was hoping for Waylon and Willie and the boys.

        • Anthrotheist

          No, it definitely doesn’t work in this case. Conflating categories and details isn’t useful for anything really.

          But there are cases where math isn’t as straight-forward as we are taught to think. For instance, 2+2 could equal 2 quite reasonably, considering only the groupings (and disregarding the discrete units). Another funny examples is, which is the greater difference, between 1 and 2, or between 95 and 100? Arithmetically, the latter is the greater difference (5), but logarithmically, the former is the greater difference (double). That would be silly trivia, if it weren’t for the fact that humans almost invariably think more naturally in logarithms than in procedural number lines (link).

        • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

          euclid got it right when he said “unit is that by virtue of which each of the things that exist is called one.” (elements, book VII, definition 1).

      • epicurus

        Now you’ve got the idea. You’d have no problem defending Biblical inerrancy. I hear Norman Geisler is hiring.

      • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

        |*|*| + |*|*| = |*|*|*|*|*|, the | are the items and the * are the gaps between those items. you get a new gap if you concatenate/add the two groups.

        i found this simple interpretation of 2+2=5 in a talk by timothy gowers: link (“does mathematics need a philosophy?”).

  • Bob Jase

    “Remember that Jesus told us to love him with our heart, soul, and mind. In Isaiah, God says, “Let us reason together.”

    No, that would be the author of Isiah saying that, not Jesus.

    “that a spouse would welcome your wanting to learn more, and the same is true of God.”

    This the same god who supposedly kicked Adam & Eve out of Eden for eating from the Tree of Knowledge?

    “God is like our biological father, and it’s natural to imagine that God wants the best for us”

    Like birth defects, disease, parasites famine, natural (you know acts of god) disasters?

    https://youtu.be/rwc3_KKRCcQ

  • adhoc

    “…God wants the best for us and shows his anger when bad things happen.”

    I don’t think anger would be a reaction of an omnipotent being. “How dare those creatures do what I knew they were going to do when I made them!” I don’t understand why an omnipotent being would give a shit about anything, except their own death…and if it could kill itself, would it be omnipotent?

    • Greg G.

      and if it could kill itself, would it be omnipotent?

      Would it be omnipotent if it couldn’t?

    • eric

      I don’t think anger would be a reaction of an omnipotent being.

      Nor angry punishment the reaction of a perfectly merciful being who has perfect self-control.

  • im-skeptical

    Jesus told us to love him with our heart, soul, and mind
    – Of course, if you listen to what Christians actually say about faith, they will tell you that you have to accept belief first in your heart – then understanding will follow. In other words, it will never make sense to those who don’t believe. Once you have swallowed the kool-aid, then you can believe anything, and it all seems to make sense.

  • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

    Remember how God allowed Satan to ruin Job’s life (Satan was God’s prosecuting attorney at this part of the story).

    My biological father never made a bet with his drinking buddy and let him ruin my life.

    • Benjamin Muller

      Then clearly he didn’t love you like bible god loves you.

      • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

        Thank the Spaghetti Monster!

  • eric

    Remember how God allowed Satan to ruin Job’s life (Satan was God’s prosecuting attorney at this part of the story).

    “At this point in the story?” Does Satan have some magical time travel ability, to go from “merely doin’ my job” in Job to “muhahahaha! evil!” in Genesis? I understand that the “prosecutor” interpretation fits Job well, and has historical chops, especially amongst Jewish scholars. However, it’s a serious problem for Christians because it makes God, not humans or Satan, ultimately responsible for the fall. It means it was his idea to tempt us, and his choice to send the ultimate tempter to convince us. And his omniscience means he also knew what would happen.

    Or how Paul imagined Jesus saying, “My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:8–10). Or the caution, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you” (1 Peter 4:12).

    To paraphrase Kirk, what does God need with a test? He omniscience-ly knows what the result is going to be, and has the omnipotence to make testing unnecessary.

    • Carol Lynn

      but, but Free Will™… humans might choose differently. God knows they won’t but they could so they have to be given the opportunity to do… er… exactly what god knows they will do.

      My brain hurts.

  • RichardSRussell

    GOD = Giant Obsessive Delusion

  • Benjamin Muller

    For me, hearing/reading stuff like this:
    “[The Bible] is not difficult to understand, but it does take work.”

    It really isn’t difficult – We’re all created by God. We’re all pieces of human debris who deserve to burn in hell forever. We all have a choice… subjugate ourselves to their religious beliefs, or burn forever.

    Oh and god hates homosexuals and women should be baby factories and make the stupid mediocrities masquerading as “men” in Christianity sandwiches. Also women should shut up when the men are talking.

    No work required, this is the core message condensed for easy understanding.

  • Damian Byrne

    “”Our hosts describe this wrong thinking: “It’s like God’s just wanting to send us tweets.” “”

    Clearly these people have never watched Gods Not Dead…

  • Jim Jones

    Definition:

    “God is the ego projection of the self styled believer in the supposed being — with added super powers”.

    It’s impossible to attribute any effect from such a ‘god’ outside of its effect on the self described follower so it is irrelevant to everyone else.

  • Michael Neville

    Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse . . . and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it (Malachi 3:10)

    Ample proof that Malachi was written by priests.

    • Otto

      “Malachai! He wants you too, Malachai. He wants you too!”