By Dennis Diehl
When I was kid, I loved to ask my minister questions about things that, to my young mind, made no sense when I read them in the Bible or more likely heard them in Sunday school. His answers were always rather bland and not a little aloof since, after all, he was the pastor and I was just a kid.
I remember asking about how humans and dinosaurs could coexist. After all, they had to be a part of the creation story, even though not mentioned specifically. Or why would dinosaurs be taken on the ark, only to go extinct such a short time after? And how do you cage a T-Rex or fit a Brontosaurus on such a boat, much less a pair of all sorts?
I got a lot of looks but very few answers. As the years went by, I concluded that none of it was either possible or even addressed in the Bible. I realized humans and dinosaurs had nothing in common (unless you live in the SE USA) and the pastor was either ignorant, deliberately deceptive or hung up somewhere in between himself, not knowing what to say to a kid. I honestly think I would have appreciated knowing what I suspect he knew, that being the story of Noah was fiction and I didn't have to worry about dinosaurs or polar bears for tha matter on the ark. It never happened.
I remember asking why the Bible, a book which had to know better since it was written by God himself, said Joshua raised his hands and the "sun stopped for the space of about a day," when clearly it would be the earth that stopped rotating? I asked him how oceans would not slop out of their basins in such a scenario and drown the whole world? I asked him if humans would not be cast into space by such a sudden stop of the entire planet? I even asked if this really happened, why did no one else on the whole planet notice it, or write about it? I got that dumb look again.
I asked what about all those in history and even now who have never heard of Jesus. He said they all are saved in their ignorance, though another minister I asked said they all go to hell of some sort. So depending on who you ask, the ignorant either get an automatic free pass for their trouble or go to hell, having no awareness of what they did to deserve that! Hmmmm. Something ain't right here!
I did respond by asking him why then we should send missionaries and put the ignorant at risk, when if we just leave them alone, they can make it in their ignorance of never having heard the only name under heaven by which a man can be saved. I got the look again.
I went to a Christian college to study these things. Boy if you think I had questions as a kid!
"Why did God not like Cain's vegetable sacrifice but loved Abel's cooked meat?" Answer...Vegetarians are weak Christians.
"Who was Cain afraid would kill him when God put him out of the Garden for killing Abel? There were mom, dad, bro and himself on the whole planet at the time." Answer...He must have known his sisters were going to have kids with dad, no not that. He was speculating. Cain wasn't thinking very clearly that day.
"Why would God stop the whole earth for a day so Israelites could finish a genocide against the enemy?" I mean, I can see stopping it so there is more time to hug, or feed the hungry, or plant the crops, but more time to kill? Dumb story. Answer...God hates sin and had to kill the bastards, he just needed more time than he planned on."
"How come the horses in the Exodus die twice in the Ten Plagues and still survive for Pharoah to mount a final attack against the Israelites, and then die again." Answer...Where do you get this stuff?
"Why, no matter what, is it always the human's fault and God never gets any blame for not making good on his promises?" Answer...It's a mystery. Have faith. God's ways are not your ways.
"Why does the Apostle Paul, who writes most of the New Testament, NEVER quote Jesus, tell a story of his life or death, discuss a miracle or teaching?" Answer...Where do you get this stuff?
"Why does neither Mark nor John know anything about Jesus birth, while Matthew and Luke do but tell contradictory stories?" Answer...Because the Gospels are like four people who see a car wreck...
"Why does Paul only say Jesus was born of a woman like everyone else?" Answer...Paul was concerned about the risen Jesus, not the earthly one. He was too busy to check up on the details.
"Did Paul ever spend five minutes with the real human Jesus?" Answer..well no, but Paul's Jesus is the risen Jesus, it doesn't matter.
"Isn't it strange the man who writes most of the New Testament and tells us all how to live, think and believe about Jesus, never met him, while the Twelve who did, vanish into thin air and write nothing/" Answer...You ain't from around these parts are you boy.
"How come Jesus never wrote anything himself while alive, but then writes perfect Greek after he is dead in the form of the Book of Revelation?" Answer....He finished his PHD in Heaven.
"If Herod killed all the little children under two to get at Jesus, who escaped, can we not say the little children had to die for Jesus before he died for them?" Answer...No we can't, sheesh.
"How come Herod couldn't follow the Star of Bethlehem himself to find Jesus, but sent others to report back when they found him?" Answer...He was busy.
"How could Mary leave town after being warned of Herod's intentions and never tell the women in the town, their kids were about to be butchered?" Answer...she was under oath not to tell the Angel story.
"Do you think Mary thought, 'I know something you don't know,' as she left town?" Answer...you're sick.
"How could Jesus family flee to Egypt sometime during the first two years in one story but go home to Nazareth quietly after 40 days in the other?" Answer...It's a miracle.
"How come in Mark 3 Mary and his brothers came to get Jesus and take him home because they thought he was "mad" which I assume means insane. Did Mary forget who he was and how he got here?" Answer...shut up.
"How come Matthew uses the Old Testament to weave a story of Jesus, where every quote he uses has absolutely nothing to do with the point he is making about Jesus birth?" Answer...While we might flunk you for such methods, we give Matthew an A, because, well, he's Matthew. Bible guys get to do and say things you're not allowed to.
"If Jesus was asked 'who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?', would that not imply the man had sinned before his birth, perhaps in a previous life, if his blindness at birth was some kind of punishment? I mean, the blindness was from birth, so the sin had to be before that." Answer...Ummm.., no. Whatever the answer, it's definitely not that one.
"So is it just me, or are these good questions to ask about the text and theology of the Bible?" Answer...It's just you. While we might be marginally informed ourselves, we are very piously convicted of our answers. The wisdom of man, and this would be you in this case, is foolishness with God. You're fired and have a nice day.
And so it goes. If you want to make a pastor, elder or deacon turn white with fear or red with anger, just ask a Bible question based on the actual text or what today we would simple know as common sense. Depending on his denomination, education, candor and personal spiritual confidence, he will react accordingly. Most pastors I know are sincere, but ill informed or duplistic and well informed, not willing to risk all for what they clearly also see is a problem with the "inerrant" text of the Bible. Kinda sad actually, but when it comes to matters of the spirit, it is important to keep asking those questions about a book that purports to have the key to everything and the only right way for a human to think. It's important to ask questions of all such books and ideas. Let's face it, take away the zealots and fundamentalists from Judaism, Islam and Christianity, and the planet might actually find some peace. Killing the messenger for bringing the message some don't want to hear, is however, still the preferred way to handle such things all too often.
Dennis is a former Pastor of 26 years and still has lots of questions left :)
Dennis Diehl is a former pastor of 26 years, who outgrew the literalism of Fundamentalism. He writes about Pastoral and Church abuse and is available to speak on such topics or be helpful to any church suffering under abusive religion or pastors.
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Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)