FAQ: Errors in the Bible, Freewill and the Problem of Evil

FAQ: Errors in the Bible, Freewill and the Problem of Evil March 18, 2016

This week a new friend wrote me about his own deconversion, and he asked me a few questions that I thought I should share for the benefit of any other readers thinking about the same things. After I’m done answering, I’d like to hear more suggestions from you:

I’m wondering if there are any resources you would point me to to help me with where I am in [my] journey. I’d like to have a well thought out and specific resources that shows where there are clear an inarguable inconsistencies/impossibilities in the Scripture. It is easy enough to say there is no proof of a global flood, but people like Ken Ham will be quick to refute that claim. It is easy enough to say that there has been no evidence of a massive exodus from Egypt by the Hebrew people, but people can say that just because you haven’t found it….it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

I don’t need people telling me that there are inconsistencies within the 4 gospels. Show me the specific examples of the inconsistencies. I thought maybe that you would know of a resource, and might be willing to share it with me.

My usual go-to’s are that the Exodus itself is actually a pretty glaring problem. If the Bible is inerrant, then 600,000 men (plus wives and multiple children, bringing their numbers closer to 2-3 million people) should have left a substantial amount evidence of their 400 year presence in Egypt and their 40 year occupation of the Arabian wilderness AND their forceful takeover of the Canaanite region. As it stands, we have nothing at all.

Historians are virtually unanimous in their conclusion that the Hebrew people did not exist as a discernible ethnic group prior to their gradual emergence within Canaanite culture around the 13th-12th centuries BCE. In fact, at that time Egypt only had 3 million people total, so a loss of an additional 3 million from among their population would have left a bit of a mark, you know? As it is, we have no evidence of a large group of Hebrews living in Egypt ever. Nor are there any remains of any kind in the wilderness, and even if we dig down 200-300 years before their emergence in Canaan, we find no evidence of a forceful takeover even remotely resembling what the Bible says took place. You remember that wall in Jericho? Well it wasn’t even fortified at the time they were to have invaded it. I could go on and on like this, but it doesn’t change the mind of a person committed to believing in inerrancy.

You can’t have 3 million people living in a region for four decades (much less forty decades!) without at least leaving behind something…anything. But we have dug and dug, hundreds of years down below the point where they should have lived, and they’re just. not. there. A simple perusal of Wikipedia’s fairly well-documented post on the Exodus story will point you to a number of resources about that history. Not that it will make any difference, but I like to bring this one up because it is THE most essential story of the OT—the salvific event for the covenant people of God in that part of the Bible—and to me it parallels the same problems we have in the NT. A central event for which we have no corroborating external evidence.

Except the Exodus story isn’t like a story about a singular peasant rabbi who fell in with a group of insurrectionists in ancient rural Palestine and got himself killed. That happened all the time back then, and the powers that were had no reason to keep records of such things. So in the case of the existence of a guy named Jesus, the absence of evidence isn’t necessarily the evidence of absence. But 3 million Hebrews leaving no trace of their presence? That’s a MUCH taller tale.

I’ll have to think some more about the resources question. Bart Ehrman comes to mind, as does Hector Avalos. They’re both biblical scholars who pick apart the historicity of the Bible. As for a one-stop online source, that will take some digging.

Oh, and maybe you’ve seen my post about the ideological problems with inerrancy. But in case you haven’t, here that is:

Read:The Absurdity of Inerrancy.”

What do you think? What other suggestions would you make? Do you know any good one-stop locations online for a digestible list of biblical inconsistencies and inerrancies?

Thanks for the reply. I am familiar with Bart Ehrman’s work as I have heard him speak on inerrancy on a couple of podcasts…The Absurdity of Inerrancy article was the first article that I read. I loved the article, but also loved the comments below. The comment by Kerri Shotts was particularly thought-provoking and meaningful.

The things that I tend to question more about the Bible are more philosophical issues as opposed to things that we can not or have not yet proven. For example, we are told that God knew before the foundation of the world that he would send his son, Jesus, to be the propitiation for our sins. He knew that before Adam and Eve were even created. But don’t you think he would want to make it at least a bit difficult for them to actually commit original sin? If all it took was for them to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, why did he place them in the very same garden as that one tree?

Here’s another one for you: How could Adam and Eve have known that it would be bad to disobey if they couldn’t understand what “bad” meant without eating of the tree? And yeah, there’s the whole problem of a sovereign God putting the tree there in the first place. Almost seems as if this whole thing was a setup. And the Bible makes no bones about God intentionally directing people’s hearts, influencing them whichever way he wants. It says he “hardened Pharaoh’s heart,” which is a no-no for most modern evangelicals.

Speaking of free will, here’s another conundrum: After God made angels, which are way cooler than fragile human beings, IMO, why didn’t he just stop there and have them obey him forever? The answer, we are told, is that God didn’t want “automata” who didn’t have the ability to choose to obey. He wanted a love relationship, we are told, which required free will.

But if angels don’t have free will, then how did one of them rebel? In fact, how did up to a third of them (according to traditional folklore) rebel, if they don’t have free will? Either God MADE them rebel (which means he’s to blame for everything that went bad after that) or else they were free to choose to disobey. But if they’re free to disobey, then can’t they repent if they choose to? Were they free at first to rebel but not free to come back to God now? When a child asks if it’s okay to pray for the devil to have a change of heart, she is told that it’s not going happen. But why not? Are the angels free or not free? And what was all that nonsense about needing freedom in order to have love, again?

It all falls apart the moment you start thinking really hard about it, doesn’t it?

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How about you? Are there any burning questions you’d like to see discussed on this blog?

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