Friday, April 11, 2008

Be Skeptical of the Skeptics

I came across an interesting article on the website of the Skeptic magazine.

www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/08-04-09.html

Now I don't want to make a regular habit of this certainly, but the linked article interested me, and probably will you as well. However, as a Christian, obviously I approach this from a critical perspective. But I admit, I have learned something.

You should be skeptical of the Skeptics.

I'll keep my commentary on this fairly short, by my standards anyway. I only plan to make a few comments, and then write a few words in closing at the end. Please understand one thing, however. Though I attempt to persuade to my perspective, feel free to disagree. I admit to having a minority view.

Quote:

Gold begins his book with a series of chapters detailing the Old Testament’s failure to live up to the Orthodox claim that it is the word of God rather than the writings of men. This begins with the failure of biblical claims to match archaeology. There is, despite exhaustive attempts on the part of biblical archaeologists — many of whom were and are either committed Christians or devout Jews — no evidence of the presence of large numbers of Hebrews in late Bronze Age Egypt (i.e. the Egyptian captivity), nor is there any evidence of either the Exodus or the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites as detailed in the Book of Joshua. Nor is there any evidence of the united monarchy under David and Solomon. Further, while the Bible claims that the army of Sennacherib, King of Assyria, which was besieging Jerusalem, was miraculously annihilated by the angel of the Lord in a single night and that King Hezekiah triumphed over the Assyrians (2 Kings 19:35–37), [1] history and archaeology instead support the Assyrian version of events, that Sennacherib sacked and devastated every city of Judah but Jerusalem, and [2] that Hezekiah paid a huge tribute to the Assyrians just to hang on to Jerusalem and its environs. [emphasis and enumeration mine]

Response:

I cannot comment on the first part concerning the historical evidence as I am neither an archaeologist nor a historian. But rather than responding in my actual state as an amateur "armchair" theologian, I will simply respond to number one above by referencing the Bible itself as a piece of literature. An omission in the article has been made. I do not know whether it is intentional or accidental, but it certainly is an omission worthy of note. Refer to 2 Kings 18:13 for the answer. Does not the Bible itself admit as such? If so, and especially if agreement comes from the very text under discussion in their critical perspective, why not use it? This is at the very least an error of ignoring or failing to research the literature itself.

The second part is easily answered by the same chapter of Scripture. 2 Kings 18:14-16 are the very next verses to note. And this charge is also admitted here, though in a different sense (however, the spiritual error on Hezekiah's part in doing this is beyond the scope of this post). So why not refer to this as well?

Quote:

Gold also details the failure of the biblical claim of divine retribution and the failure of biblical prophecies. [1] A spectacular example of the good being punished, while the bad obviously get off free is to be found at the end of 2 Kings. Manasseh, the evil king of Judah who worshipped other gods, and consulted soothsayers and wizards, enjoyed a long and peaceful reign (692–639 BCE, 53 years), while King Josiah, the greatest among Judah’s reformers was killed in battle when he was only 37. Josiah was only eight when he took the throne. He reigned from 638–609 BCE, a total of 29 years, much of it when he was in his minority. So why did the evil King Manasseh prosper, while the good King Josiah was cut off in his youth? [2] The Bible explains it this way (2 Kings 23:25–26): [emphasis and enumeration mine]

And like unto him there was no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and all his soul, and all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him. Notwithstanding, the LORD turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal.

Response:

Both of these parts suffer from a similar type of very important omission. I believe the persons responsible for the article I quote from above have been careless in the use of their one and only literary source. The answer here is not to be found in the book of 2 Kings, but over in 2 Chronicles which references the same historical events from a different perspective, sometimes giving more information as it does here than what is found in the parallel passage of 2 Kings. Again, these omissions are vital.

Omitted is the fact that Manessah, as evil as he was, repented before the Lord and appears to do so genuinely, according to 2 Chronicles 33:9-19,22-23. Again, please understand this is not necessarily offered as a theological explanation (though it certainly could serve as that for the subject matter of a future blog post), but simply as a reference to the literature itself and its content on a particular subject matter. On this note, it does not matter if you are a Christian, or a Jew, or if you even believe this passage of the Bible at all. But looking at the given literary evidence honestly and objectively should make the omission of the e-Skeptic article readily apparent. The question at this point is not, what do you believe, but, will you honestly admit what the literature says and quote it not only accurately but sufficiently and in context?

Again, concerning Josiah in the second part, I will speak of the final omission (for the scope of this blog post) which must be answered. 2 Chronicles 35:20-25, especially verses 21 and 22, answer this, primarily from a theological perspective, but adequately even from our pure literary perspective. The Bible here, as a piece of literature, asserts that Josiah disobeyed a commandment of the Lord and faced the divine punishment warned in the text and described as destruction. Verse 26 affirms even more firmly than the article (in my opinion) that Josiah was to be considered a very good person, based at least on the authority of the piece of literature in question. These are important points that should not be overlooked or casually dismissed.

If the article had taken just these points alone into consideration, a very different article would have been the result. I cannot say with any authority what quality the resulting article would have when compared to this original, of course. I am not even saying that such corrections to the article need to be requested. I believe they do need to be made, personally, and as I approach the article from an admittedly critical perspective, I must reject its conclusions as well as much of its content, as I have demonstrated above. However, I do not have hope that the article itself will be revised or removed.

Now I have a question for you, the reader. Are you a Christian? Do you claim to believe in Christ and profess His name? Do you care for the things of God and especially His Word? Wonderful, and very good! Remember that ultimately you cannot prove that the Bible is true (which I believe requires the new birth by the Spirit in order to fully believe). However, also remember that God can use you or even me or anyone He chooses to explain and defend His Word, in any situation. His Word is more important than we are. And Christ reigns supreme over us.

If you are not a Christian, may I please refer you to Alpha and Omega Ministries website (with whom I have no affiliation other than financial support and strong endorsement of their materials) at www.aomin.org which has the excellent audio message, "Why I am a Christian". This is a short audio message of less than 30 minutes, and I strongly recommend it. It is a free MP3 download and if you have never heard it, I hope and pray you will listen today and consider carefully what you hear.

Last Edited: 04-Apr-2008 12:56 A.M. Reason: Fix typos and etc. And felt like it.

4 comments:

Luke said...

Byron,
Good work. I seldom venture over "there" at all anymore. It would seem that they are guilty of what we practice at times. Isn't it amazing how we will "overlook" another passage in a reference we cite just so that we can use another passage to bolster an argument? But you have done the necessary work to unveil this flaw and I for one appreciate that. Byron, I thank God for you.

Luke

Byroniac said...

Thank you very much, Luke. God Bless you.

Chris said...

lots of typing my friend. good work!

Byroniac said...

Thanks, Chris. Maybe it'll influence someone positively.