Fighting Back

Wednesday, December 8th, 2004

This is my response to How to Fight the Religious Right by Brian Elroy McKinley. I suggest reading that first, then going through both his article and my rebuttal side-by-side.


Abortion

The argument about Psalm 139:13-16 is stupid. Yes, David was a king, but he was also human; to infer from this that God creates all human life in the womb is perfectly reasonable.

The argument about Jeremiah 1:4-10 is reasonable - this passage is irrelevant to the abortion issue.

In Exodus 21:22-25, there's apparently a discrepency between manuscripts, which the NIV mentions with a footnote; assuming it's actually talking about a miscarriage, consider the difference between murder and manslaughter - this passage is specifically referring to an accident, not a deliberate act. Abortion is a deliberate act.


Alcohol

Correct. See Proverbs 31:6-7, which is even better when taken out of context.


Homosexuality

Mostly correct; it's a sin, but not mentioned as often as some other sins (perhaps because it wasn't as much of a problem at the time?). As for Lot's virgin daughters, I interpret this somewhat differently - Lot was offering to make a sacrifice so that God's angels could go unharmed. I'm not saying what he was offering was a great thing to offer, but it was somewhat more reasonable in that culture than in ours (McKinley mentions other examples of virgin girls being sold into marriage by their fathers).

As for the bit about eating pork: in Acts 15, there's a debate about whether Gentiles who become believers must be circumcised according to Jewish custom (see Genesis 17). The final decision was basically that you can be Christian without being Jewish. Therefore, Christians are also not bound by other Jewish laws, such as the prohibition from eating pork. Jesus spells this out in more detail in Matthew 15. See also Genesis 9:3.


Pornography, Extramarital Sex

Correct, as far as I know, although there may be more on these topics that McKinley didn't mention. That's not to say all pornography is perfectly OK - there are other issues associated. I don't feel qualified to really discuss this issue thoroughly.

See the above comment about Levitical law.


Smoking

Correct, but I would stress 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 again. Personally I think it's disgusting.


God Said It

Correct - the Scriptures are inspired and infallible, but copies and translations are not, and the original scrolls have been lost. I mentioned a discrepancy between manuscripts (or perhaps simply between translations of the same word) in Exodus 21:22 which significantly changes the meaning of the passage; the NIV has many similar footnotes. Of course the vast majority of these discrepencies do not change the meaning of the text in any significant way, but some do here and there.


Jesus Is The Only Way

I fail to see the point McKinley is trying to make here. A rose by any other name? See John 14:6.


Hate The Sin

Mostly correct; see Matthew 7:1-6.


The Bible Is Error-Free

As I said, copies, translations, and especially interpretations are not infallible. Also, keep in mind that language evolves over time - Leviticus 11:19 mentions the bat is a kind of bird, when we know that to be false by the modern scientific definition of “bird”. That doesn't mean the Bible is wrong, it just means that the meaning of the word “bird” has changed over time to no longer include bats.

A teacher in Guatemala recently told me that her school usually can't use standardized tests from other Spanish-speaking countries, because the meanings of various words are so different between countries. I'm sure the Hebrew language has changed a lot in the last few thousand years, and it may not always be possible to figure out exactly what was meant by the original text.

I'm not sure what to make of Exodus 32:14; I'll have to raise that issue with people who know more about the subject than I.


You Can't Understand The Bible

I agree, that sounds like a cop-out. I don't agree that the cited examples qualify as “adding to the Bible” as per Revelation 22:18; for example, claiming smoking is a sin is usually based on an interpretation (whether correct or not) of 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 etc. Misinterpreting isn't adding.


Speaking In Tongues

Yeah, that's weird.


You Must Be Baptized

Correct, baptism is a public declaration of a personal choice already made; that choice is the issue, not the declaration. Similarly, you can be married without a wedding ceremony. It's still a good idea, for the same reasons.


Catholics Are Pagans

I don't really see how asking Mary to pray for us - or asking Mary anything - isn't praying to Mary.

In Matthew 6 and Luke 11, Jesus clearly explained how we should pray and even gave an example. Note that the Lord's Prayer was an example of how to pray, not something to be recited verbatim. Anyway, the Bible says we are to pray directly to God the Father, not through Mary or any other intermediary.

Answers To My Catholic Friends by Thomas Heinze is an excellent book explaining what's wrong with Roman Catholicism.


Evolution Contradicts the Bible

Correct. Scientific research is being done on a theory of origins that is consistent with the Bible:

I included the last one because it's the only site I've been able to find that doesn't approach the topic from a religious perspective, although the guy who runs it has a somewhat unusual sense of humor, which tends to make him sound like he's nuts.


Liberals Are Anti-God

I voted for Kerry.


Christians Are Being Persecuted

We are, but I'll agree that homosexuals are as well. To what extent varies greatly between communities.


The Media Is a Tool Of Satan

I completely agree that Satan can use many tools, including the Bible - just as I believe that God can use sin for His purposes.


Satan Has Blinded You

Of course Satan blinds people to the truth - including many who call themselves Christians.


The End Is Near

See Matthew 24:36-37, Mark 13:32-33.


WWJD

Excellent points.


Conclusion

Although Mr. McKinley and I obviously disagree on several of these issues, I definitely appreciate that he is using Scripture as the basis of reasoned arguments, and I encourage others to do the same, regardless of which side they're arguing for. It's a pleasant change from the blind irrational bashing I usually encounter!