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Is the Bible an Immoral Book?

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Gabbin' with God
I have heard the cynically misanthropic opinion that, without the Bible as a moral compass, people would show no restraint against murder, theft and mayhem. The surest way to disabuse yourself of this pernicious falsehood is to read the Bible itself.
—Richard Dawkins[1]

Creation Ministries International, being under some rhetorical assault from atheist vloggers on YouTube, has responded by commissioning an article from theological whiz-kid Lita Cosner,[note 1] entitled Is the Bible an Immoral Book?.

There has been a wave of atheist YouTube videos attacking the morality of the Bible, arguing that not only is it not original in its good moral teachings, but that it also advocates some moral atrocities such as murder and slavery.Ms. Cosner is referring to several specific videos, which she attempts to refute blow by blow later in the article. However, she does not provide any links to these videos, which would lead one to suspect that she is either (1) quoting selectively from them, or (2) making a straw man out of the arguments therein presented.

First, it must be noted that the atheist has no logical ground for saying that anything is "good" or "bad", other than his own personal preferences. Evolution is based on the survival of the fittest at the expense of the "unfit". How can any ethics be based on "nature, red in tooth and claw"? Even Richard Dawkins claims that he's a passionate Darwinian when it comes to biology, but passionately anti-Darwinian when it comes to ethics.This is total bullshit, of course; by these tokens creationists have no "logical ground" for saying that anything is "good" or "bad" other than God's own personal preferences — which mostly turn out, in practice, to be their own personal preferences.

The claim that the atheist has no reason to call something good or bad except for their own personal preferences excludes the possibility of basing such things on the preferences of many humans at once. It also, through its negative implications, begs the question as to whether human preferences are indeed the correct 'ground' for morality. Some philosophers, including atheists Sam Harris and Richard Carrier, have argued that this is the only correct ground for any true morality.

However, let us assume that this assessment is correct. Insofar as the atheists' arguments are directed at Christians, and insofar as Christians claim that killing, genocide, slavery, etc. are "bad" according to Christian standards, it can thus be concluded that the Bible's numerous endorsements of these practices are "bad" according to the same standards.

Evolution is not based on "survival of the fittest." The idea has been thoroughly falsified — we now know that "survival of the fit enough for one's environment long enough to reproduce" is what's happening, and even if it hadn't been falsified, "survival of the fittest" was not Darwin's idea but Herbert Spencer's, and not part of the scientific theory of evolution — instead, it's part of the pseudoscience of social darwinism.

Even if none of that were true, the author is fallaciously discussing atheism and evolution as if they were intrinsically related, and fails to understand even evolution in the sense that humans are social species and survival in the evolutionary sense is something that populations do, and not just individuals.

If asked, the majority of people would say that they would rather live in places where people didn't murder each other or steal from each other. When asked they often cite their preferences as Western countries such as those in Western Europe or American, Canada etc. These perceived more "moral" countries have many principles that can be traced back to their Christian heritage that underpinned their governments and society in general. Of course, this is being eroded quickly. But "Theft and murder are wrong" doesn't follow from a choice of preferences, any more than the preference "I like chocolate" makes eating a consistent supply of chocolate into a human right or beneficial for someone. See more about the foundation for ethics at Bomb-building vs. the biblical foundation.There is a great deal of cherry picking going on there, on multiple levels.

Firstly, there are a number of countries in which murder and theft are not rife that are not at all Christian. Japan, for example, is highly irreligious and for tradition has a mixture of Shinto and Buddhism; its murder rate is a fraction of the U.S.'s. Singapore, similarly, has a very low murder rate, but is a religious smorgasbord. Further counterexamples are Taiwan, South Korea, India, and (in recent years) Turkey.[2]

Secondly, there are a number of countries with a Christian heritage in which these things are a problem. Mexico, with its Spanish Catholic heritage, is currently a hot-spot for bandits, drug wars, etc. Russia also had a heavily Christian heritage (Moscow claimed to be the "Third Rome" after the fall of Constantinople, a source of national pride), yet still managed to have such a rotten government as to lend a measure of popular support to the February and October Revolutions — and, since the fall of Communism, has a government which has become increasingly rotten even as it marched closer in step with the church. Armenia, the very first country to become Christian, which survived a 70-year-long communist occupation with its population still 97% Christian, is not at the top of the hypothetical list of desirable countries. Greece, one of the most religious countries in Europe, and so thoroughly Christian that Hellenic pagan rites were outlawed there until 2006,[3] has recently been rocked by riots and various other tensions to a much greater degree than its more secular counterparts elsewhere in Europe.

Thirdly, the models of government practiced in many of the model "Christian" countries owe more to classical Greco-Roman philosophy than to the Bible, as even Jonathan Edwards, the fire-and-brimstone preacher of "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" fame, acknowledged in one of his sermons:[4]

There were some nations who excelled in other knowledge, as the Greeks and Romans. They excelled in policy, and in the form of their civil government. They had wise political rulers. They had excellent laws for regulating their civil state, many of which have been imitated, as a pattern, by many Christian nations ever since.

Furthermore, criticisms of the Bible's morality assume that humans have correct moral reasoning. But this can be easily disproved. Many times in history, humans in various societies have assented to things which we know to be horrific. For instance, in Nazi Germany, most people either thought that Jews were non-persons, or assented to the idea through inaction. Millions of people were killed as a result, but the people involved were, by and large, no better or worse than the average person today. At about the same time, eugenics was widespread in America, with great support from the intellectual elites, resulting in 60,000 Americans sterilized against their will (see America's evolutionists: Hitler's inspiration?). Psychological experiments reveal that the majority of people are willing to subject another person to pain and even danger if a sufficient authority commands them to do so, or sometimes if a large enough reward is offered. (See this discussion on the Milgram experiment in The Basis of a Christian Worldview).Beside the obvious instance of Godwin in action, one would think that, if the atheists who criticize the Bible's morality assume that "humans have correct moral reasoning," they would not be concluding that the Bible, being a tome of human authorship containing the result of such "moral reasoning," is in moral error.

Even if we concede the point that the Bible may have been the word of God, if someone justifies any action using the Bible, then it follows that their justification is, at least to them, indistinguishable from "biblical moral reasoning". We are not saying that this should be "the" biblical moral reasoning, but the reliability of the reader should be a factor as well. Now, since it is the human being who makes such justification, we should define "correct" moral reasoning before the goalposts are moved.

Further to this, Cosner conveniently overlooks the facts that Hitler was a baptised Christian who never renounced his faith, instituted a state religion called Positive Christianity, and his plan to deal with the Jews was almost play-by-play exactly what Martin Luther (the father of Protestant Christianity, the same Protestant Christianity that defines Creationism) wrote about in books with titles like "On The Jews And Their Lies".

What Cosner refers to in Milgram's experiment is what are called demand characteristics,Wikipedia where participants in an experiment modify their behaviour in line with what they believe the experimenter wants from them. But again, Cosner conveniently overlooks the fact that in passages such as 1 Samuel 15 and Numbers 31, God demanded the Israelites to kill people and kidnap prepubescent girls after their parents and siblings were murdered.

So even if Cosner wants to argue atheists are immoral because they don't get their morality from her god, the morality she would rather you follow allows for babies to be murdered (which goes against the anti-abortion narrative) and girls to be kidnapped upon the decree of one particular authority figure — the ultimate in demand characteristics!

Misunderstanding the Old Testament[edit]

But now on to the particulars. The first Youtube video we'll discuss tries to criticize some Old Testament laws by envisioning a dictator who institutes four laws that are meant to be analogous to the OT laws (explained in detail below). But this comparison is flawed. First, it fails to realize that the Old Testament Law is largely made up of case law—that is, it presents examples, but gives some leeway for judges to decide individual cases. The Mishnah (codification of oral traditions) reveals the flexibility that the Jews understood the Law to have (see for example the discussion on Deut. 22:13–21 in this answer to a philosophy/religion professor on biblical exegesis and the problem of evil). For instance, they didn't understand "eye for eye" to mandate literally gouging out eyes and knocking out teeth—they instead understood it to teach the general principle of proportional punishment. It was actually a limitation of private vendettas, so a huge advance over other law codes that might command "life for eye".N.B.: The Mishnah is part of the Talmud, which was scorned by Christians for centuries upon centuries as a blasphemous Jewish invention, and even made illegal for Christians to read. The authors of the Old Testament probably picked up that "huge advance" of "eye for eye" from the Code of Hammurabi while they were cooling their heels in Babylon. Modern scholars believe that the Old Testament was started during the Babylonian exilic period and finished during the Persian period. Of course, the Bible wins if the tradition is true that the Torah was created prior to the creation of the world.

Furthermore, as pointed out in the above linked article, Deuteronomy is a suzerain-vassal treaty between God and Israel. Those who are not signatories to this treaty are not bound to many of the conditions which were specific for that time, and designed to prepare the Messianic People for the coming Messiah. See Is eating shellfish still an abomination? and A brief history of the Jews.Really? And the fiefdom is Judea/Israel, out of the entire planet? Boy, it's surprising that they are not pissed since day 1 against other vassals of God, who has fiefdoms in Europe, Asia, Americas, etc. which have vastly more natural resources in their respective regions and they don't have to pay any respect to the Abrahamic God back then.

Was Sabbath-keeping serious?[edit]

The first law is a parody on Sabbath-keeping. Sabbath-keeping only applied to Israel and other signatories to the Sinaitic Covenant (i.e. converts to Judaism), including the Deuteronomic Treaty.On the contrary, Numbers 15:30 (which is cited below as an example of this sort of Old Testament law) says, "But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or foreigner, blasphemes the LORD and must be cut off from the people of Israel."

This was a commandment that signified Israel's departure from their life of slavery in Egypt (where they got no day of rest), and also showed respect for God as their Sovereign, in stopping their work just as He stopped His after the six days of Creation. The man who was picking up sticks on the Sabbath was not ignorant of the reasons behind this law, nor the penalty involved for breaking it. By gathering sticks, he was essentially saying, "I reject Yahweh's Lordship, and I want to return to the way of life I had in Egypt." This was treason, which in almost all law codes throughout history has been a capital crime.Most definitions of "treason" today do not cover gathering sticks on the day which the Government closes for the week, even if one is thinking blasphemous thoughts while doing it. For Cosner to be correct in asserting that the gathering of sticks is treason, the gathering of sticks must be either the act of being a covert agent for another country, or an attempt to overthrow the head of state. Given that the gathering of sticks is not spying, Cosner must think that gathering sticks represents a threat to God's sovereignty. Does Cosner really think God is so insecure as to be threatened by a guy collecting firewood?

Another element of case law is relevant here: Ancient Near East (ANE) law codes many times specified the most severe penalty for a transgression, assuming lesser ones, giving the judges leeway to decide which penalty was most appropriate. It is not reasonable to assume that all, or even most, cases of Sabbath-breaking were punished with the death penalty, only that this was an option when the case was particularly flagrant and serious—as in the Numbers 15 case, which was essentially treason.Ms. Cosner is referring to an account of a man stoned to death for gathering sticks on the Sabbath (Numbers 15:32-37). No such details are given there about the case, just that the man was found gathering sticks and brought before Moses. Moses got on the bat-phone to God, who commanded that the man should be stoned, which he was. But again, the fact that Cosner is referencing ANE culture to defend her theology, instead of the other way around, lends credence to the fact that the Bible is not original.

The upper limit reflects both the seriousness and deterrent. A good modern-day example might be if someone made a threat against the leader of a nation—even casual threats are treated (appropriately) with serious investigation and penalties, even if it was "only" a comment made in jest on a social network, for example.The only problem with that is that attacking the leader of any polity damages that polity due to damaging its power structure by threatening its leaders, while in this case, the only reason working on the Sabbath threatens the "authority of YHWH" is because the Mosaic law forbade it. Similarly, if masturbation were prohibited in the Mosaic Law, CMI would justify the death penalty for it as well. Oh, wait….. But Cosner's argument that execution was merely the maximum punishment allowed is shot down by the fact that God states multiple times in the OT that Sabbath violaters are to be cut off from their people, which means that execution was not merely the maximum punishment allowed - it was the only punishment allowed.

Is God a homicidal maniac?[edit]

The second is based on a false premise: that God routinely orders killing, and for arbitrary reasons. In fact, God's orders for killing are comparatively rare in the Old Testament, and non-existent in the New.In the Bible, God's orders to kill decrease in proportion to the number of figures in positions of power willing to carry out the deed. Hence, in the early books where the Israelites have independent kingdoms and armies, one finds the orders to Joshua in Joshua 8 to wipe out thirty-one kingdoms and kill every living resident (including all their livestock, their babies, etc) and the sign-off on Josiah's campaign (2 Kings 22-23) to carry out a mass slaughter of heretical priests, while in the New Testament where the Romans are firmly in control, there are no such orders. As to the "arbitrariness" of God's kill orders, let the reader be reminded of the golden-calf incident in Exodus 32. In Exodus 32:10, God gets extremely angry with the Israelites and wants to wipe the lot of them out; but Moses talks him out of it.

But one fundamental principle is overlooked by the atheists: God as the Creator of life has the right to take it. Humans are not, therefore can take life only if delegated this duty by the One who owns life. Failure to understand the Creator/Creature distinction underlies a lot of atheistic fallacies, so it's important for Christians to understand it.Ms. Cosner is absolutely correct here, and this is unfortunately a point that is often under-emphasized by atheists in debate. It goes back to the point raised earlier about "personal preferences": in the Christian worldview, murder is not absolutely wrong, but is only wrong because God says it is. God has only to make an exception, and what is wrong becomes right, and vice versa. Hence, as we see through the pages of history, people wishing to commit atrocities need only grab a handy prophet of God and get him to sign off, and they are free to do whatever they like. This points clearly in the direction that these 'acts' are of one's own will, with the idea that 'if it's for God, I'm okay.' Also, God seems to enjoy killing babies, or at least not allowing the 'miracle of birth' to happen successfully, given that an easy majority of all pregnancies miscarry.

Furthermore God has sentenced all of us to death, first as descendants of Adam (see Romans 5:12 21: Paul's view of literal Adam), and secondly because we deserve it for our sin, and He even took on human nature to suffer this penalty on our behalf (see The Incarnation: Why did God become Man?)Despite Ms. Cosner's denials above, sentencing the entire human race to death for being "descendants of Adam" appears both arbitrary and continuing (with several "executions" occurring every secondWikipedia).

There are two relevant scenarios here: the first is in the course of the conquest of the holy land where they were commanded to go into the land and kill the inhabitants. But the Bible teaches that the people had lost their right to the land because of centuries of sin (remember, he told Abraham that the people in the land hadn't committed enough sin to be driven out—"the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete" (Genesis 15:16)). Remember that Israel itself was exiled when the nation failed to keep the covenant God made with them as a condition for their inhabiting the land.So, it is perfectly all right to perform a mass slaughter so long as the victims of said slaughter have "lost their right" to their country. Got it. How these people can keep a straight face when decrying the Holocaust is beyond us.

The second case is laws where the death penalty is applied. The case of a woman showing insufficient evidence of virginity is brought out as if every woman who was even suspected was stoned. But again, this is the most severe allowable punishment—the wronged husband would have the right to accept lesser punishments. And he would be seriously shamed and face economic consequences if he were proved to be dishonest. Furthermore, the rabbinic commentary on the law shows that if there were any plausible reason why the woman would not show evidence of virginity even though she was innocent, they accepted that. See On the tokens of virginity : A contextual approach for more details.The argument against these laws is more in terms of what could happen: a woman could be stoned to death. Similarly, the creationists would have us believe, atheism is deficient because the lack of an "objective basis for morality" means that atheists could commit murder.

The video claims that God orders the murder of children for their father's sins, but this can only be deduced by ignoring genre. The Isaiah 14 example is an example of an imprecatory passage—it's typical of literature of that period, and is hardly indicative of their intent to destroy Babylon (it wasn't Israel, but Assyria, that destroyed the old Babylonian empire). And the passages that talk about people eating their children are describing circumstances that will come about due to their rebellion—God is not actively causing or advocating it.When it comes to God killing children for their fathers' sins, Isaiah 14 is not generally the first example that springs to mind; Exodus 12 is. This chapter contains the story of the Passover, in which God killed every single first-born child in Egypt, including the son of the Pharaoh who would not turn the Israelites loose, because God prevented him from turning them loose. Whether or not infidels are not counted as murders, or whether Ms. Cosner's attempted justifications of this act in the next section hold water, it is a part of the Bible. This would also seem to contradict the literalist notion that the Bible is infallible, because if Isaiah 14 is an example of an imprecatory passage, i.e. "it's typical of literature of that period," wouldn't that mean that the Bible is not timeless and infallible, but rather the work of fallible human authors?

Does God force people to sin, then punish them for it?[edit]

The third law basically claims that God can make people sin, and then He kills them for it. This is not the case in any of the examples he actually brings out.In this case, the maker of this video is not very well up on his theology. The idea that "God can make people sin, and then He kills them for it" is an exact description of the doctrine of double predestination first explicitly codified by John Calvin. Being an Arminian, Ms. Cosner is understandably not very enthusiastic about this particular doctrineWikipedia, but pretending that atheists just plucked it out of the air is rather dishonest.

God is said to harden Pharaoh's heart, but in an equal number of places he hardens his own heart, so there is at minimum a level of cooperation—and it is simply a reinforcement that God is involved throughout. God wasn't doing to Pharaoh anything that he wasn't already doing himself. It could also be said that Pharaoh is being punished for his crimes against the Jewish people—namely attempted genocide by killing the baby boys. This is even more serious on a spiritual level, since the Messiah was to be born from the Jewish people.Uh, right; it would appear that Pharaoh had access to an unlimited supply of frogs, locusts, etc., etc., so that God was just giving him tit-for-tat with the Ten Plagues. That's if he is not already pissed at God for all the floods at the Nile. [note 2]

The case of David's census is another case where God is said to act unjustly by inciting David to sin, then punishing not just him, but the whole nation, for it. But God not only permits censuses in Israel, but commands them (Exodus 30), so David's sin could not be in the mere fact that he carried out a census. Rather, it is probably that he didn't require every male counted to pay a half-shekel ransom. It could be noted that this would not be the first time that David had ignored the Torah's instructions regarding an otherwise-permissible action with disastrous consequences (2 Samuel 6). We answered similar charges in God is a liar?If this is the case, one might justifiably ask why Exodus doesn't make that clear.

What about Jesus?[edit]

The narrator claims that Jesus is evil for endorsing the law for killing the person who curses his father and mother—and then brings out the laughably ridiculous assertion that this would include the person with Tourette's Syndrome who couldn't help it.[CMI 1] First, we must understand the law that Jesus is citing. It's not talking about someone who says in a fit of rage "I wish you were dead!" but someone who undertakes a more serious rejection of their parents, saying in effect, "I am no longer your child, I deny any obligation to support you in your old age, and I wish you nothing but harm." In an era before widespread charity (brought about by a Christian worldview), or government welfare, people could only rely on their children to support them when they were no longer able to work—it would be tantamount to the death penalty for the parents in their old age, so the death penalty is applied to the person who, in effect, wishes it on their parents.She's right—we do actually have to understand this verse clearly. The laws regarding cursing one's parents are "And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death" (Exodus 21:17) and "For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him" (Leviticus 20:9). Ms. Cosner somehow strongly understands this law to mean that only really spiteful, disobedient, ill-wishing children will be killed, when the Bible scripture clearly holds no exceptions to the law, which is fairly established to not be permitted (Jephthah sticks to the literal version of his promise to God, for example, and Exodus's killing for breaking the Sabbath is not an exception in any way). If this kind of 'God didn't actually mean that exactly' idea was actually used, then it could be applied anywhere in the Bible, which would allow for loads of excuses on God's behalf, such as "No, God didn't actually mean that" (not to mention that any hypothetical / subjective interpretation would probably be just as valid as a completely contradictory one). This would defeat the literal Bible argument entirely, which is something Ms. Cosner stands for if she believes Jesus to actually defend anything in Leviticus. As a side note, "before widespread charity (brought about by a Christian worldview)" is an incredibly arrogant viewpoint—charity has existed in all (or most?) societies regardless of their religion or whether they've had contact with the Christian worldview.

This explanation makes perfect sense in the context of Jesus' citation of the law (which is further support that He believed in the divine inspiration of the Old Testament), because he is dealing with a situation where the Pharisees' tradition of "Korban" makes it possible for a person to do exactly this—withhold essential support from his parents, provided that he do it with a "religious" motivation.But what is abominable when the Pharisees do it is just fine when Jesus does it, as shown in Luke 14:26:
If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

Furthermore, as we have previously pointed out about this passage, violations would not just endanger parents but the whole society:
While this sounds rather harsh for squeamish modern thoughts, ancient societies were always one step away from anarchy. It was especially serious for Ancient Israel, because this is the people from whom the Messiah would come. Rebellion against parents would threaten the entire social order, so God dealt with it very strongly in the Old Testament. The penalty of being stoned to death was imposed because cursing one's parents and ignoring their authority was considered a serious offense before God, the same as murder or adultery. Just the threat of this penalty was probably enough to curb rebellion, unlike the way that rebellion of youth is encouraged and celebrated today.
Which would, of course, explain why today's rebellion-ridden societies are extremely peaceful compared with the old ones with their loads of filial piety.

The narrator also accuses Jesus of immorality in his statement in Luke 9:61–62, where he seemingly refuses to let someone say goodbye to his parents before he follows Jesus. In fact, this is not so much a refusal as a warning that once someone follows Him, his loyalties can't be divided between Jesus and his family.The passages in Luke 9 are rather weak compared to the far more explicit formulation in Luke 14:26, which is completely ignored by Ms. Cosner.

Cruelty to animals and trees?[edit]

The narrator waxes eloquent about God's murder of millions of animals in the global flood of Noah's day—despite the fact that he believes in neither God nor a global flood. To have any ground for moral outrage, he would need to be a vegetarian, and express similar horror at anyone eating a hamburger. Here, the creation foundation is again essential: the Bible teaches that man is distinct from animals in being made in God's image.Um, what of the millions of people who were said to have been drowned in the Deluge? It would be very surprising if the maker of the video had mentioned the animals, but not the people. Besides, what did the animals do to merit death in the Flood?

Perhaps even more ridiculous is his condemnation of Jesus for cursing the fig tree because it didn't have fruit—especially since it wasn't the season for fruit. But this simply shows gross ignorance of the Bible, and of fig trees, for that matter. It is extremely unusual for a fig tree to have leaves but no fruit—Jesus wasn't expecting to find mature fruit, but the tree should have had immature fruit that was nonetheless edible. In short, the fig tree gave every indication that it should have fruit, but had none—Jesus' curse of the fig tree serves as a caution to people who give indication that they should have spiritual fruit—professing Christians—but have none.Atheists do tend toward hyper-literal interpretations of the Bible. However, the proper rebuttal to the arguments involving some of these verses — viz., to "say that they are merely symbolic" — is decisively rejected by Ms. Cosner in the next section, since creationists find symbolic interpretations unpalatable to their rather rigid mind-set.

If the narrator has anything made of wood or paper in his house, he has grounds for outrage, because multiple trees have then died for his comfort. If it is acceptable for a tree to be killed to make a desk or a chair for him to use, then surely it is permissible for Jesus to curse a tree as part of an object lesson. But once again, absurdities from evolutionists know no bounds: some have even called for plant rights.One seriously doubts that the people who call for "plant rights" give a toss about the evolution vs. creationism debate.

Broken clocks: bad Christian rationalizations[edit]

The video is right regarding one thing—there are some bad rationalizations that Christians use for hard passages in the Bible. One is to say that they are merely symbolic, but that doesn't solve the problem—never mind that the Bible never presents the passages in question as anything other than historical narrative. Nor does it do any good to separate the Old Testament from the New and claim that the Old Testament God was mean and angry, but Jesus is meek and gentile and nice, so there's no problem anymore. First, the Old Testament frequently portrays God as long-suffering, merciful and kind; and second, Jesus had some pretty severe words and actions too, and frequently taught on Hell. And of course, Jesus endorsed the OT with sayings like "Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35)—see The Authority of Scripture; and this endorsement extended to the passages most attacked by skeptics, as shown above (cursing parents) and in Jesus Christ on the infallibility of Scripture. Rather, the answer is to understand the Bible in its historical context, on its own terms.A rather interesting misspelling of "gentle" as "gentile." A Freudian slip, perhaps? "Understanding the Bible in its historical context" is rather at odds with the claims made by AiG and other fundamentalist organizations that objective morality can only come from Yahweh.

Jesus: not original and not moral?[edit]

Another video making the rounds argues that Jesus' "moral contributions are not original, and his original contributions are not moral." The first, well-worn argument is that the "Principle of Reciprocity" predates Christianity by millennia and is found in practically every religious tradition, so Christianity cannot claim the Golden Rule as uniquely a teaching of Jesus. But the positive command "do unto others as you would have them to unto you" is a real moral advance over negative commands to the effect of "don't do to others what you would not want done to you." The former encompasses the latter but adds a new element that the other didn't have. We see this in current American law which has only the preferred doctrine of the skeptics—it's called non-feasance:
For example, if a bystander sees a stranger drowning and does not attempt a rescue, he cannot be liable for nonfeasance because he had no preexisting relationship with the drowning person. The bystander would not be liable for the drowning even if a rescue would have posed no risk to him.
In the negative commands, it can be put as "If you don't want to be (not saved) when you are in trouble, don't (not save) them." That's hardly in line with nonfeasance once the quantifiers are chosen properly.

Jesus' command is clearly far superior: since we would like to be rescued from drowning, we have a Christian obligation to rescue a drowning person if we can.Note that Ms. Cosner has neglected to prove that the earlier variations on the Golden Rule are of this "negative" form; American law is irrelevant to this question, as it does not predate the New Testament. In fact this page cites Leviticus 19:18 as the origins of the golden rule. However, it is doubtful that Creation Ministries International would accept this. Their comments on positive formulation vs negative formulation seem to indicate that they would only accept the exact wording attributed to Jesus predating Jesus as evidence of the idea being older then Jesus.

The narrator makes the "generous" concession that as a general rule, it's okay, but we wouldn't want a sado-masochist following the rule. This, however, is taking something that's meant as a general principle and giving it a highly unlikely interpretation in a very narrow specific context—not to mention that such aberrations as sado-masochism were unknown in the ancient world.Wishful thinking; the ancient Greeks engaged in quite a bit of hanky-panky, just for starters.

It is unreasonable to expect Jesus to make tangential exceptions based on conditions that don't even exist in His time.If one can take the conditions of the times into account in such matters, one might consider re-evaluating the Bible's proscriptions against homosexuality (largely designed to deal with pederasty and prostitution at pagan temples). But does CMI do this? No; they devote a very large portion of their Statement of Faith to decrying the evils of homosexuality.

Furthermore, even under its own terms, this can be refuted. A masochist desires pleasure, even though his warped means of achieving this is suffering pain. So his application of the Golden Rule principle is to cause pleasure to others, not pain, since pain causes displeasure in most.The first link that should have been established was whether the masochist understands that "pain causes displeasure in most". Though, to be fair, you would probably have a hard time finding any person, masochist or otherwise, who doesn't know this already.

The video claims that Jesus made three new ethical contributions, all of which are deeply flawed. First, it is claimed that Matthew 5:39: "But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also" is immoral, because non-resistance to evil allows evil to flourish. But it must be noted that this is only addressing personal interactions, involving offense to oneself. This is shown by the fact that most people are right-handed, so that a slap on the opponent's right cheek can only be a back-handed slap, a great insult and challenge in that culture. This is not saying that one should stand by without intervening on behalf of people who are unable to defend themselves, and it has never been understood that way. Rather, it is saying that in personal actions, we are to be ready to endure a second blow, rather than retaliate in kind. This would be honorable behavior in the ancient world, and the violent person would be shamed.All of this discussion of cultural context greatly undermines the argument that the Bible is a suitable guide for mankind for all eternity.

Furthermore, commands to individuals must be distinguished from commands to those with the duty of keeping order, broadly called the "civil magistrate". For example, Jesus commended a centurion for his great faith (Matthew 8), and the first Gentile convert was the centurion Cornelius (Acts 10); neither were told that they had to resign from the military. 

The second "atrocity" ascribed to Jesus is His claimed ability to forgive sins. The narrator claims this is a blank check for all sorts of evil behavior, since Jesus can simply forgive, meaning there are no consequences.True, the forgiveness of sins is not generally regarded as carte blanche to commit them; yet a person who continually sins and continually repents is still said to be able to get into heaven.

But first, it's never claimed that God's forgiveness takes away earthly consequences. A murderer can receive forgiveness in Christ, but is still expected to serve out his prison term or accept execution (as per the repentant thief on the cross (Luke 23:41), or Paul if he had committed a capital crime (Acts 25:11); indeed, one way that he shows he has truly accepted Christ is his acceptance of the earthly consequence of his actions.It takes a real stretch to make those verses fit the thesis; one verse recounts a thief saying he is getting his just deserts, another recounts Paul saying he will not contest a death sentence if he has done anything "worthy of death."

This is not surprising, given that Ms. Cosner's view stands in stark contrast to one of the bedrock doctrines of Christianity, that one can only be properly forgiven by God if one also forgives one's fellow men. This idea made its way into the Lord's Prayer: "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." It is made even more explicit in Matthew 18:34-35:

And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

And second, the Bible has some pretty severe warnings for people who would presume on God's grace and use it as a license to sin (Romans 6:1). Finally, the Bible also emphasizes the importance of being right with other people as well as with God, so someone who has wronged another person would need to seek out forgiveness and restitution where possible.So it is neither sola fide nor cleansing through purgatory. That's a lot of people labelled as heretics.

The third "ethically questionable" teaching is that one should love one's neighbors as oneself. The narrator claims that this is an injunction to love indiscriminately, and "brutalizes the notion of love." But even the most casual reflection on the notion of love reveals that there are different types of love appropriate for different relationships. A man may love his wife, his children, his best friend, and his dog, but to do so in different ways. The love that Jesus is commanding His followers to have for their neighbor is a desire for their well-being—this does not necessarily involve an excess of emotion. The example He gives of loving one's neighbor is that of the Samaritan who helps the Jew, a hostile stranger, when he is in need. Rather, it is the skeptical understanding of love that brutalizes it—reducing it to a feeling rather than will and action.The translation of many Greek words into "love"Wikipedia in the text of the Bible has been a source of much confusion, allowing evangelists to equate agape with the other kinds of love to bait the suckers, but when it comes time to pony up with some love themselves, emphasize the distinction.

"Jesus should have taught us about antibiotics"[edit]

The narrator goes on to make the claim that if Jesus was truly God, He should have taught us about things like antibiotics, painkillers, and other things that would provide an immediate improvement to the quality of life. On the surface, this may seem persuasive. But Jesus came with a much more important and eternal mission, and His righteous life and sacrificial death made it possible for us to be saved from much worse things than temporal sickness and pain. If one accepts that Jesus actually died and suffered the punishment for sin in our place, to argue that He did not do enough becomes unforgivably arrogant and ungrateful.Jesus did not need to teach anything about painkillers; the Greco-Roman civilization of his time already had one, opium. This was not something on which the Christians looked very kindly People[note 3] from Christian nations sold it to (mostly) uncivilized foreigners for massive profit by building unsuspecting addicts, all the way until mid-19 century. Afterwards, the church officials and missionaries in China tried to dissociate themselves from the bad aspects by promoting very negatively regarding the opium trade.

It is also said that Jesus should have overturned His culture's view of sexuality, women's roles, and other social issues. This ignores the fact that during His earthly life and ministry, He was regarded as a peasant itinerate Jewish preacher. He had no social standing by which to proclaim any of that, even if He would have approved of it (and there is much in Scripture to indicate that He wouldn't).Huh? The views espoused by Jesus did run contrary to and overturn many existing cultural views of his time. Sinners were complete social pariahs at that time, but Jesus advocated for their reconciliation with society. He (or St. Paul, depending on who you askWikipedia) also did much in the way of lessening the distinction between Jews and Gentiles.

Furthermore, advances in science were made possible by the Christian world view, and were stillborn in cultures like Greece and China, which the narrator presumably prefers. Atheism and evolution have contributed nothing to science; note that one of the discoverers of penicillin, Ernst Chain, was an Orthodox Jew who was scathing of Darwinian evolution. See also The biblical roots of modern science and Does medicine need evolution?Let us see if we are reading this correctly. "Advances in science" were "stillborn" in "Greece." The country that gave us astronomy, mathematics, and medicine as we know them today, and also provided the scholars who kicked off the Renaissance, failed to produce advances in science. Now we really have heard it all. Not only has evolution made "contributions" to science, it is science, and its contributions throughout the discipline have been widespread (specifically in the area of taxonomy, in which the creationists have little to offer besides baraminology). Atheism has had only an indirect influence on science, but if the personal religions of scientists are to be taken into account, as they are here in the case of Dr. Chain, very large numbers of scientists are atheists.

It is easy to blame God for things that are the result of man's sin and selfishness. For instance, the narrator claims that God should keep people from dying of starvation. But the world already produces more than enough food to feed every person alive—it is bureaucracies and corrupt governments that result in food not reaching the starving. It is not fair to expect God to clean up every human mess. In a world where humans hadn't rebelled against God, there wouldn't be any starvation, disease, etc., so it's our fault because every person who ever lived (except Jesus, the perfect Last Adam) has rebelled against the Creator.It is, presumably, too much to suggest that God just blast the bureaucracies and corrupt governments right out of existence. >Poof!< Problem solved. Or is it that God can make such a big mess that he himself cannot clean it up?

Many people ask why God doesn't do something about death and suffering, if He really is a God of love. But He has; He sent Jesus Christ to die in our place to save us from eternal death and suffering. Temporary suffering, even intense suffering, can be beneficial in an eternal perspective if it leads someone to Jesus, saving them from eternal separation and suffering in Hell.Let's rephrase that a bit so that it is more clear: God encourages temporary (by God's time scale) suffering on infidels and heretics so they will align to the author's religious doctrine and thus be "saved" from the hell God himself created. Is this really good, or just?

Biblically-illiterate criticisms of Christianity don't hold water[edit]

There are literally thousands of such videos and articles on the Internet ascribing various atrocities to God and the Bible. But not one of them is based on sound scholarship and an understanding of the Bible in its context. When one examines what Scripture actually says and how it has actually been understood traditionally, it is clear that the atheists are either ignorant of the Bible, or are deliberately distorting its teachings to try to score points against Christianity.An irony meter just exploded somewhere. Also, what the "scripture actually says" is very heavily debated among Christians themselves, thus the massive number of Christian denominations in America alone. Of course, considering how many people interpret scripture and claim to have know what is "traditional" and what isn't (and how it can never actually be proved, as all the people back then are dead), makes Ms. Sound Scholarship's claims very empty.

See also[edit]

CMI footnotes[edit]

  1. The Law, and the entirety of Scripture, in fact, is written with the presupposition that it applies to people who are capable of making rational decisions. Someone who is not capable of rational action is not culpable for his actions in that sphere.


  1. She has a bachelor's degree in Biblical Studies from the Oklahoma Wesleyan University, a Holiness/Arminian outfit run by a Methodist splinter-sect. It shows.
  2. Oh right. The only flood ever was on a global scale
  3. Technically speaking there is no clear linkage between these traders and Christianity, but all except the US has some denomination of Christianity as a state religion.