Often I see criticisms of the Bible that take the form: “The Bible records X … X is immoral … therefore, the Bible is evil!” The vast majority of these sort of complaints can be dismissed immediately, because they ignore the fact that the Bible does not approve of all it records. Geisler explains it this way:
It is a mistake to assume that everything contained in the Bible is commended by the Bible. The whole Bible is true (see John 17:17), but it records some lies, for example, Satan’s (see Gen. 3:4; John 8:44) and Rahab’s (see Josh. 2:4). Inspiration encompasses the Bible fully in the sense that it records accurately and truthfully even the lies and errors of sinful beings. The truth of Scripture is found in what the Bible reveals, not in everything it records. Unless this distinction is held, it may be incorrectly concluded that the Bible teaches immorality because it narrates David’s sin (see 2 Sam. 11:4), that it promotes polygamy because it records Solomon’s (see 1 Kings 11:3), or that it affirms atheism because it quotes the fool as saying “there is no God” (Ps. 14:1, NASB). (Norman Geisler, When Critics Ask)
Easy example: The Bible records Jesus’ crucifixion but it does not approve of it, even though God used this obscene and immoral act for His ultimate good.
A Buddhist koan is “a story, dialog, question, or statement in the history and lore of Chan (Zen) Buddhism, generally containing aspects that are inaccessible to rational understanding, yet that may be accessible to intuition”. One of the most famous koans is this one, as explained by Lisa and Bart Simpson:
Lisa: If a tree falls in the woods and no one’s around, does it make a sound?
Bart: Absolutely! [makes sound of a tree falling]
Lisa: But Bart, how can sound exist if there’s no one there to hear it.
Bart: Wooooooo… (thanks SNPP)
(The picture to the right is of Bart ‘solving’ another popular koan, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”)
Now, with all due respect to Lisa, I think the “tree falling” koan is rationally solvable. The answer is yes, there is sound … but there is no perception of the sound. The sound itself (a “series of pressure waves”) is the result of the tree falling; our perception of it is when it enters our ear and we interpret it by the process of hearing. Could there be sound in our ear without the sound waves? No, because THAT is the ‘sound’. Here’s an example: If someone slaps me, and I feel pain, the pain itself is not the slap, the pain is only the perception of the slap. The slap would still exist even if I didn’t feel the pain, for example, if I were on pain-inhibiting medication.
Furthermore, the idea that a someone must be present at an event when it occurs for it to truly have happened is ridiculous. We know trees do not (under normal circumstances) fall silently to the ground when they fall; therefore if we find evidence that the tree has fallen, we can conclude that it made a sound. Direct observation is not the only way that we can reasonably know that something is true. For example, we know historical truth by examining the historical evidence. We cannot directly observe, say, Abraham Lincoln being shot, or Columbus “discovering” North America, or even Jesus rising from the dead, but we can still be reasonably certain these historical events occurred by studying the available evidence.
There’s a legend/parable that has been floating around the Internet for quite some time involving a professor and a piece of chalk. Below I have modified it to suggest a different point than the original (I may have heard the story told this way somewhere, but if so I have long since forgetten where):
The professor stood at the front of the packed auditorium on the first day of class. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out and held up an ordinary piece of chalk. “If any of you believe in God,” he said, “stand up!” In the last 10 years, no one had ever stood to meet the professor’s challenge, even though there were many God-believers in the audience in each of those 10 years. They feared the professor’s intimidating reputation and classroom presence. But on this day, a young man stood up. The professor and the nearly 300 students in the room turned and stared in disbelief. The student calmly walked to the front of the classroom and stood beside the teacher.
Clearly angered, but able to keep himself under control, the professor spoke softly but resolutely. “You are a fool. If God existed, he could stop this piece of chalk from hitting the ground and breaking. Such a simple task to prove that he is God, and yet he can’t do it.” The professor held out the chalk and dropped it. The chalk spun in the air as it fell. It hit the ground, rolled a few feet, and stopped when it bumped into the young student’s shoe.
Saying nothing, the student picked up the chalk, studied it for a moment, and then turned to the rapt audience. “Excuse me miss,” he said, turning his gaze towards a young girl in the front row, “could you come up to the front for a moment please?” Clearly embarrassed, but intrigued nonetheless, the girl got up and joined the young man at the front of the room. Really starting to lose his patience, the professor exclaimed angrily, “What’s going on here!?”
“This will just take a moment, sir.” came the reply from the young man. To the young girl, he said “Please hold out this chalk and drop it.” Shrugging her shoulders, the young girl accepted the chalk from the young man’s hand, held it out in front of her, right in front of the young man, and dropped it. Again it fell to the floor, just as it did before. “What,” said the professor, “are you trying to prove here?”
“We’ve just demonstrated,” replied the young man. “that by your logic, I have just proven that I don’t exist. I had the ability to catch the chalk and prevent it from hitting the floor. But I chose not to. Your logic is faulty because it assumes that what God can do, He will do. Your demonstration proves only that God is not an impersonal force, and that God is also not some sort of subservient deity that serves our every whim. If God is a personal entity, He could choose to intervene or not, as His own will dictated.”
Knowing he’d been beaten at his own game, the professor asked the student to “stop wasting the class’s time” and told them to go back to their seats. Not wanting to point out that it was the professor that brought up the subject in the first place, the young man and young lady sat back down. The professor’s lecture was somewhat more tentative than usual that day.
I’m not trying to use this story to prove that God exists; it is only meant as a refutation of a supposed argument against God’s existence. The moral of the story? If God is a personal entity, although He could do anything (by that I mean anything that is not logically contradictory or against His nature), there is not necessarily anything in our world that He must do. God is not some sort of cosmic puppet; He is the omnipotent creator of the universe. The ultimate decision is our own: we all must choose either to follow or to flee God. Which do you choose today?
The full article appears in the Calgary Sun:
Maybe if Artur Pawlowski had been holding a flag of the outlawed terrorist organization Hezbollah, Calgary Police would have left him alone … Pawlowski, 33, who has been helping the homeless for years, gave up his lucrative home-building business last year to start up The Street Church full-time … Because Pawlowski has been threatened so often by drug dealers angry their clients often turn away from drugs as a result of his message of hope and help, he started videotaping every outing. Wednesday’s was no different … On Monday, Pawlowski and his brother went to the park, talked with tarot card readers and other practisers of “sorcery” to tell them the Bible condemns such practices. Video shows they remained calm but the vendors became agitated. Event organizers called police and Pawlowski and his brother David were asked not to talk to the vendors again. They agreed and left. On Wednesday, when they returned to pray, they stayed far away from the vendors. Organizers called police anyway. The video shows Pawlowski standing on the public sidewalk with his hands in his pockets. He asks a burly police officer in a calm voice, “Why are you harassing me? What did I do wrong?” The police officer responds with: “I’m going to arrest you for obstruction.” At that, Pawlowski is handcuffed and made to walk backwards to the police cruiser where he was frisked … He was also charged with trespassing and disturbing the peace. He spent one night in jail and is to appear in court on Sept. 7 … The video clearly shows six police officers attending to the calm Pawlowski. (Licia Corbella, Calgary Sun)
Seems excessive, don’t you think? Had they not been videotaping that day, things might’ve gone even worse for him.
(Note: The image above is a stock photo
taken by “soundgroov
“, and is does not depict the man who was jailed.)