Hard Questions About the Bible

Archive for November, 2011

About Hinduism

Does the existence of other religions prove that the Bible is not true?  We talked about Buddhism, now let’s look at Hinduism.  I’ll compare and contrast later.

The following information is from http://www.religionfacts.com/hinduism/overview.htm

The term ‘Hinduism’ includes numerous traditions, which are closely related and share common themes but do not constitute a unified set of beliefs or practices.

Hinduism has no founder or date of origin.  the authors and dates of most Hindu sacred texts are unknown.  Scholars describe modern Hinduism as the product of religious development in India that spans nearly four thousand years.

Hinduism is not a homogeneous, organized system.  Many Hindus are devoted followers of Shiva or Vishnu, whom they regard as the only true god, while others look inward to the divine self.  But most recognize the existence of Brahman, the unifying principe and Supreme Reality behind all that is.

The first sacred writings, which date to about 1200 BC, were primarily concerned with the ritual sacrifices with numerous gods who represented forces of nature.  A more philosophical focus began to develop around 700 BC.

Hindi thought has influenced the West indirectly by way of religious movements like Hare Krishna and New Age.

Next:  About Islam

What About Other Religions? About Buddhism

How is it that Christians believe so strongly in the Bible and people of other religions believe so strongly in what they believe?

Since this blog is about whether or not you should believe in the Bible, I’m going to just ask the simple question, does the existence of other religions prove that the Bible is not true?  I will compare and contrast after looking at the major religions, but let’s start with Buddhism.

The following information is from Buddha Dharma Education Association:  http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/5minbud.htm

Is Buddhism a religion?

Buddhism goes beyond religion and is more of a philosophy or ‘way of life’.  The Buddhist path can be summed up as:

1. To lead a moral life

2. To be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions

3. To develop wisdom and understanding

Who was the Buddha?

Siddhartha Gotama was born into a royal family in Lumbini, now located in Nepal, in 563 BC.  At 29, he realized that wealth and luxury did not guarantee happiness, so he explored the different teachings, religions and philosophies of the day, to find the key to human happiness.  After six years of study and meditiation he finally found ‘the middle path’ and was enlightened.

Was the Buddha a god?

He was not, nor did he claim to be.  He was a man who taught a path to enlightenment from his own experience.

Do Buddhists worship idols?

Buddhists sometimes pay respect to images of the Buddha, not in worship.  Bowing to the statue of Buddha is an expression of gratitude for the teaching.

Next:  About Hinduism

The Bible in a Nutshell

Let’s be honest, the Bible is hard to read.  It’s long, at times hard to understand, and can be boring.  In addition, sometimes it may not seem relevant to today’s world.

I used to think that the Bible was a collection of unrelated stories.  Stories about Moses, David, Joseph, etc. – I thought were just stories or legends.  But I didn’t realize that the Bible actually has a history, and is basically one continuous story about God’s relationship with man.

It starts with Adam and Eve sinning by disobeying God and eating the forbidden fruit.  From Adam’s descendants came the Israelites, whom God chose to fulfill His plan through Jesus Christ to ultimately save man from sin.

To help you understand the Bible, here’s the Bible in a nutshell:

Adam and Eve – Sin enters the world

Noah’s Ark – Men become so sinful that God wipes them all out with a flood, and starts over with Noah’s sons.

Abraham – A descendant of Noah’s son Shem, chosen by God, he became the ancestor of the Jewish and Arab people

Jacob – Abraham’s grandson and the father of the Israelite (Jewish) people

Joseph – Jacob’s son who was sold to slavery in Egypt, but ultimately rose to power and saved his family who went to Egypt

Moses – The Israelites eventually became slaves in Egypt, and Moses delivers them out, receives the Ten Commandments, and points them to the Promised Land.

Joshua –  Conquers and settles in the Promised Land.

Judges – The first rulers of Israel during a period of spiritual ups and downs

Kings – A succession of good kings (David, Solomon) and mostly bad kings, which ultimately leads to exile

Exile – Because of their sin, the Israelites are conquered and exiled to foreign lands

Return – The Israelites are allowed to return and rebuild

Jesus – The prophesied Messiah (Saviour) through the line of David, Jesus conquers the sin begun by Adam and Eve, through His death and resurrection

Paul – Builds the Christian Church, taking the message of Jesus to the Gentiles (Non-Jews)

Revelation – Prophecies about Jesus’ second coming and final judgement

Next:  What About Other Religions?

Top Ten Reasons People Don’t Believe in the Bible

10.  They think the Bible is outdated, or myth or legend

9.  They don’t want to go against their families who don’t believe

8.  They can’t believe some of the fantastic Bible stories

7.  They think the Bible is too restrictive and will spoil their fun

6.  They don’t like people telling them what to do

5.  They wonder why God lets bad things happen

4.  They think Christians are hypocrites, bad people or brainwashed

3.  They have experienced some sort of suffering or abuse

2.  They have anger against someone or God

1.  They haven’t really read it

I will try to talk about some of these reasons in future articles.

Next:  The Bible in a Nutshell

Science and Faith

The Bible says in Hebrews 11:1 that ‘Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (New International Version).  The Bible makes it clear that believers are to have faith, and many times that faith is based on what is not seen.

It’s easy to not believe in the Bible, because you can’t actually see God physically.  But the more you actually read the Bible, ask questions, and hear good Bible-based messages, the stronger your faith can become.

Scientific theories like the Big Bang Theory and the Theory of Evolution require faith too.  Your first clue is the word ‘theory’.  Theory is not the same as fact.  These scientific theories rely heavily on assumptions which haven’t been proven.

Some unproven assumptions:  The universe began with an explosion of energy and matter.  The earth is billions of years old.  Random combinations of energy and matter produced the orbiting planets and life.  Life began from non-life.  (Read my previous articles for discussions about these assumptions)

When you read scientific studies, ask the question, where is the proof, and is the proof conclusive?  If you look closely at claims by evolutionists, you will find that these assumptions have not really been proven.  So belief in the Big Bang Theory and the Theory of Evolution require just as much faith, if not more, than belief in the Bible.

Next: Top Ten Reasons People Don’t Believe in the Bible

Does Science Prove the Bible?

In general, no.  Or putting it another way, people who rely only on observing the natural world would tend to think that science does not prove the Bible.  Scientific laws DO support the Bible (see my previous articles).  But aside from that, how can you believe that the Bible is true?

I believe the Bible is true, not because of indisputable scientific proof, but because of a lot of small proofs.  I discussed some of the reasons I believe the Bible is true in past articles, but let me point out some others.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, found in caves on the north shore of the Dead Sea between 1947 and 1956, and dated to between 3 BC and 70 AD proved that the much of the Bible was accurately translated through the years.

Josephus (37 – 100 AD) was a Jewish historian whose writings confirm many parts of the New Testament, including accounts about Jesus.

There are many archaeological finds that confirm the Bible.  Uncovered tablets, writings and records confirm the existence of people thought to be legends.  You can research this on the internet to get more information.

If you take any ancient city from the Bible and research it, most likely at least some of the information will be credited as coming from the Bible.  An example, I searched ‘Tyre, Lebanon’ in Wikipedia, and it said, “A detailed list of trading partners and merchandise (of Tyre) can be found in the Bible in the Book of Ezekiel 27:1-24”.  In other words, the Bible is considered reliable enough to be a resource for historical information.

Many details in the Bible can be confirmed by history.  The New Testament, for example, takes place against a background of recorded historical people and places, like Caesar Augustus, Pilate, King Herod, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and many others.  If you go to Israel, you can walk the paths that Jesus walked and see many other locations mentioned in the Bible.

Most people of different faiths agree that Jesus is a historical figure who really lived, except that Christians believe he is the Son of God who came to save sinners.

The Bible has an actual historical chronology and a theme, which is all about the relationship between God and man.

The most important proof to Christians is relationship with God and how that changes lives.

Next:  Science and Faith

What About Carbon Dating?

What about all the fossils that are dated as millions of years old?  And rocks and other features of the earth that are billions of years old?  How do they determine the ages of those things?  They use Carbon or Radiometric Dating methods.

Carbon or Radiometric Dating is more of a technical subject, so I’m relying on information from Creationist speaker Bill Morgan, fishdontwalk.com.  For more detailed information, see answersingenesis.org

Carbon dating is used when something is assumed to be younger than 30,000 years.  Radiometric dating, such as Uranium-Lead Dating, is used for rocks and older specimens.

Living organisms have carbon in them. When a plant or animal dies, the radioactive Carbon 14 in it starts to decay.  Scientists attempt to determine the specimen’s age by measuring the Carbon 14 to Carbon 12 ratio.  The less C14, the older the specimen.

There are some problems with this method of dating.

Scientists assume that the specimen had the same amount of C14 as the environment at the time that it died, but they don’t really know the amount of C14 in the environment at that time, and they also don’t know exactly if the specimen had the same amount of C14 as its environment.

They also don’t know the original composition of the specimen when it died, or whether the specimen may have been contaminated.

There is a lot of possibility for error in carbon and radiometric dating.  In past tests, living snails were dated to be 27,000 years old because they lived in water that had low C14.  Pottery was dated in the future because it was contaminated by radiation.  A specimen is very sensitive to contamination, even touching with your hand can contaminate it.

Also, to start with, scientists set an approximate age for a specimen based on how old they believe the specimen should be.  If the test doesn’t agree with their pre-conceived assumption, the result is often discarded.

Next:  Does Science Prove the Bible?

Dinosaurs and Evolution

The Theory of Evolution says that life on earth started with simple organisms that, over time, evolved into animals, then eventually evolved into more complex animals.  Bacteria evolved into higher organisms that eventually became fish, which developed legs and walked on land, branching out to become amphibians, reptiles and mammals.

According to scientists, dinosaurs lived millions of years ago.  According to the U.S. Geological Survey (http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/dinosaurs/extinct.html), they lived on Earth about 165 million years, and became extinct about 65 million years ago.

The USGS article says “The dinosaurs’ long period of dominance certainly makes them unqualified successes in the history of life on Earth”.

This would assume they were very complex animals.

That would make them more complex than many animals living today – definitely more complex than their closest relatives, modern reptiles and birds.

According to the evolution model, simpler animals should have come before, and more complex animals should have come later, so dinosaurs contradict the Theory of Evolution.

Next: What about Carbon Dating?

Why Aren’t Dinosaurs Mentioned in the Bible?

Actually, they are, sort of.

First of all, the term ‘dinosaur’ wasn’t coined until the 1880s, so you wouldn’t find it in the Bible.  But, dinosaurs may be mentioned in the Biblical book of Job.

It is thought that the Book of Job took place between the time of Noah and Moses.  Whatever the time period, it mentions behemoth and leviathan.  (Job 40-41)  The behemoth feeds on grass, and has a tail which ‘sways like a cedar’.  A cedar tree can grow up to 200 feet.  Sounds a lot like an apatosaurus, or similar dinosaur.  The leviathan is described as a fearsome water creature.

Scientists say that dinosaurs lived millions of years ago, before man.  But the Bible says God created man, then the animals.

Dinosaur fossils have been found around the world.  I searched online and found articles about large dinosaur fossil deposits in China and France.  That’s interesting, because Chinese and European culture does have stories and symbols of large reptiles much like dinosaurs, they’re called dragons.  Is it possible that people actually lived among dragons that were really dinosaurs?

I also searched about fossil fuels, and while scientists believe that fossil fuels mainly came from plants and marine life, it is interesting that the largest deposits of oil in the world are in the Middle East, where the Bible says that life originated in the Garden of Eden.

Could dinosaurs have been on Noah’s ark?  The ark was at least 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 3 stories high.  A T-Rex is believed to have been 16 feet tall and 45 feet long, so theoretically, it could have fit.

One last thought about dinosaurs in the Bible.  The Bible doesn’t mention elephants, giraffes, hippos, or other large animals, so it’s not surprising that dinosaurs are not prominently mentioned.  At least it’s something interesting to think about.

Next:  Dinosaurs and Evolution

About Transitional Forms

Scientists and archeologists are always looking for proof of evolution in fossil transitional forms.  A transitional form is one that is between groups of animals, for example, a fish with legs.

I searched on the internet about transitional forms, and found some web sites that indeed claim that there is proof.  They have descriptions of the animals and some have pictures.

When I looked at these, there were a lot of strange looking fish and animals, but when I looked at them closely, I couldn’t find any that were definitive proof of true transitional forms.  They seemed mostly like just extinct animals.  If you want to see for yourself, look at ‘List of Transitional Fossils’  on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_transitional_fossils).

The main evidence evolutionists point to is Archaeopteryx, claiming that it is a transitional form between dinosaurs and birds. University of California Museum of Paleontology (ucmp.berkeley.edu) says that “unlike all living birds, Archaeopteryx had a full set of teeth, a flat sternum, a long bony tail and three claws on the wing”.

Actually, the article later back pedals, saying “living birds, except for flightless birds like the ostrich and kiwi, have a keeled sternum”.  At first the article says that Archaeopteryx has a flat sternum UNLIKE all living birds, then says that flightless living birds DO have a flat sternum.

Hesperornis, an extinct animal known to be a bird, also had teeth.  The ostrich, touraco and hoatzin have claws on their wings.  A long bony tail is not seen in modern birds, but I would say that this is not conclusive proof of a transitional form.

Next: Why Aren’t Dinosaurs Mentioned in the Bible?