Killing Faith: Deconstructionist Christians

Is proving the Bible really doing the work of God?

Filed under Natural History, Religion

Skeptoid #12
December 07, 2006
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Today we're going to take a leap of faith into a soft cushion, to see what happens when proven knowledge makes faith irrelevant.

There is a profound contradiction rising in the world of religion. Proponents of various religious dogma such as Creationism, Noah's Flood, and Revelations have taken a disturbing turn. They are crippling their own religion by attempting to do scientific research in an effort to prove their religious claims, thus directly attacking their religion's central pillar: faith.

Abraham is regarded as the father of faith among most of the world's people, including Muslims, Christians, and Jews. He earned this title through demonstrating the mightiest act of all: being willing to sacrifice his own son Isaac, indeed with the dagger poised above his head ready to fall. Isaac was saved when God sent an angel at the last second to put a stop to it, who told Abraham that he'd proven his faith. It was an act that very few among us could have duplicated; I certainly wouldn't have done it. For this reason, Abraham is rightly exalted. It was truly an act of heroic faith.

Consider this question: If Abraham had known that God would intervene at the last second to spare Isaac, would his act have been as heroic?

Theological tradition tells us no, it would not have. The reason the Abraham story is important is that it's the supreme demonstration of faith. Abraham raised his dagger fully intending to kill his beloved Isaac, all for his faith in God. He felt every ounce of the unimaginable anguish. Could you have brought the dagger down and plunged it into your own child? Achieving this level of faith is the essential goal of all Christians, and for that matter, it is for Muslims and Jews as well. Faith is the absolute pillar of religion.

Now let's turn the clock forward a few thousand years and see where the faithful are today. Surprisingly, I see a lot of them doing the equivalent of asking questions before raising the dagger. Questions like "Can you please prove to me that the angel's going to intervene?" Can you show me the scientific evidence that proves Intelligent Design? Can you please prove to me that Moses parted the Red Sea?

The Associates for Biblical Research (abr.christiananswers.net) publishes a quarterly PDF document called "Bible & Spade". It's all about archaeological projects throughout the middle east that they say supports the Biblical record. The current issue offers evidence from Egypt on the location of the Exodus crossing of the Red Sea. They have an exhaustive mission statement page, in which they state and restate their belief that the Bible is absolutely and literally a correct and true historical document. It is "infallible, inerrant and authoritative". Their purpose also includes "Edifying the Christian Church by encouraging a deeper knowledge of, greater appreciation for, and stronger faith in the Bible through knowledge and correct interpretation of the findings from archaeology and science." In short, they are all about proving the Bible is true through archaeology. They call this "encouraging stronger faith in the Bible". Encouraging faith through proof. They want to force us to believe it.

Maybe my dictionary is out of date, but faith and proof are oil and water. Faith needs no proof, and in the presence of proof, faith becomes irrelevant. Faith means to believe without proof; indeed, it means to believe in spite of evidence to the contrary. Where is the heroic faith in believing in something that's proven right before your eyes? That's hardly a demonstration worthy of Abraham. To seek to marginalize the element of faith by showing supporting evidence, is to seek to undermine the whole basis of the religion.

We see the same thing happening in any of the numerous groups seeking to find Noah's Ark on Mt. Ararat in Turkey. On some of their web sites you'll find tremendous amounts of information about how a wooden ark could have survived 6000 odd years, how it could get so high on the mountain when there's not enough water on the planet to do it, exactly where it's located in the satellite photographs, exactly how two of every animal could fit on one ark, what its dimensions are and where and how it was built, and so forth. But nowhere did I find an explanation of why it's important that it be found. To my way of thinking, even if you're of the mindset that Noah's flood was simply a literal account of an incident and not a meaningful allegory, then allowing it to be found, thus proving the story, would be more likely to be on Satan's agenda than on God's. Why would God want to marginalize faith? I can think of every reason why Satan would want to do this, but not God.

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Is proving the Bible really doing the work of God?

Abraham's faith did not need the crutch of supporting scientific evidence that God is real, nor would he have made much of an impression upon God if he'd had such. I challenge Christians who are true believers to stick with their faith, and to hold their faith to be (if I may borrow the terms) "infallible, inerrant, and authoritative". Or, if you want to use what science tells us instead, then admit that you're no longer keeping your faith in the infallibity of the Bible. You cannot do both. A true Christian must question their fellow believers who attempt to erode faith through the application of science to scripture. If faith is not enough to support religion on its own, then faith has already been killed.

Follow me on Twitter @BrianDunning.

Brian Dunning

© 2006 Skeptoid Media, Inc. Copyright information

References & Further Reading

Anonymous. The Bible (King James Version). Various: Various, 2006. Genesis Chapter 22.

Corbin, B.J. The Explorers Of Ararat: And the Search for Noah's Ark. Online: Great Commission Illustrated (GCI) Books, 2009. 73-108.

Hoitenga, D.J., Jr. Faith and Reason from Plato to Plantinga: an Introduction to Reformed Epistemology. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991.

Moberly, R. W. L. The Bible, Theology, and Faith. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Rosenberg, David. Abraham: the first historical biography. New York: Basic Books, 2006. 40-45.

Shorto, R. Descartes' Bones: a Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason. New York: Doubleday, 2008.

Reference this article:
Dunning, B. "Killing Faith: Deconstructionist Christians." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, Inc., 7 Dec 2006. Web. 19 Apr 2014. <http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4012>

Discuss!

10 most recent comments | Show all 257 comments

In my opinion the problems & shortcomings experienced by many Faithful seekers of knowledge stem from how their institutions inform their research.
A scientist will take a theory & test it to exhaustion.Only when he/she is satisfied of it's validity will he/she put forward a conclusion to his peers.
regretably fundamentalists are expected to work the other way round by starting with an "undeniable " conclusion and then humoured by their mother church in their "search for truth" so long as they do not rock the Ark

BTW why is it mother church, and not father ?

hopefultom, Bolton, GB
May 31, 2012 12:29pm

Phi: that was only true of one car. The Morgan reverse trike was a lovely piece of work and didn't fall over. It, however, had length problems--a 4 wheeled car the same size had much more capacity, and for the same capacity was much smaller.

Paul, Canberra
July 21, 2012 5:15pm

I think the more important question is why a supposed loving and merciful God would ask anyone to perform infanticide. Why wouldn't an all-knowing god already know the extent of Abraham's faith? The believers don't seem to care that none of it makes sense. It scares them to think about it too much ... they're afraid they'll go to hell. Another one of the cruel tricks by the merciful god-father. (Not to mention disease, hurricanes, sunami's, famine, etc.)
Good grief people! Try to remember that you have brains.

Mimi McMouth, Anaconda, MT
November 19, 2012 6:45pm

The marginalization of faith can be temporary, both individually and culturally. Need, and convenience sway thoughts regarding faith.

bedlamb, Armpit, NV
November 30, 2012 6:04pm

Why did this happen?

"On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (quoted from the gospel according to John 20:19-29)

anotherworldview, Peoria, IL
April 06, 2013 8:31pm

a) its a story
b) its writen far after the event (probaly well after 120CE).
c) Its written by someone who has it all wrong compared to the earlier stories (thats why its a non synoptic gospel).
d) The gospel is written well away from the region.

Why did the person who wrote this have an anti jewish bent when its not reflected elsewhere?

Maybe if you got a decent tranlation and read each gospel side by side along with history you would find that the gospels and "john" are stories to fit a purpose, make a narrative of what was concatenated from many events.

I.E, look it up. The bible is not a magazine for someone to cut and paste their favorite cherrypicks from

be my guest, see you in a few years.

Mountain Denier, sin city, Oz
August 01, 2013 1:27am

The Final debunking of the Christian Religion

Find it here:
http://www.unintimidatedpress.com/christianity.htm

Tina, Knysna
August 09, 2013 6:47am

"Abraham is regarded as the father of faith among most of the world's people, including Muslims, Christians, and Jews. He earned this title through demonstrating the mightiest act of all: being willing to sacrifice his own son Isaac.....Isaac was saved when God sent an angel at the last second to put a stop to it, who told Abraham that he'd proven his faith. It was an act that very few among us could have duplicated; I certainly wouldn't have done it......"

I wouldn't either.
That little incident is just one of the things that tell me everything I need to know about "the bible", and religion in general.

If some "god" came along and told me to sacrifice my son, I wouldn't call it "God" - I'd call it "Adolf" or "David Suzuki".

Ron, Calgary Alberta Canada
October 14, 2013 1:05pm

Have you noticed when you look at some Bible passages that you could see that there could be different alternate passages? The Bible passages were from old texts that were written in one language and translates to others, and who knows if a lot of those translations were even correct? Then there is the fact that if one scribe copies the text, he could skip parts or change, add, or remove what they like or don't like. The Bible was written by men, not something that fell from Heaven.

Brian's right. . .faith is believing something to be true without needing proof, and searching for the proof and evidence means that it isn't believed it's just known.

Maria, Decorah, Ia
January 01, 2014 12:58pm

It is generally acknowledged that there is overlap between the notion of "faith" and the notion of "trust": having faith in someone amounts to having trust in that person. Is trust something that is both resistant to and destroyed by "proof"? No, it is not. In fact, we tend to recognize that trust is the sort of thing that REQUIRES evidence: trust is built over time. Yes, it requires an element of risk, of underdetermination by the evidence. Still, having reasons for trust do not make trust impossible. Looking for reasons to trust will not destroy trust. To the extent that faith and trust overlap, the same things could [likely] be said of faith. The way faith is characterized in this podcast smacks of fideism--which is defective in the first place. Yes, there are fideists out there; but they're wrong because they misconstrue the basic nature of faith, not merely because they choose to have faith.

Philip, The F-Bomb
March 12, 2014 2:28pm

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