Monday, 29 August 2011
A response to Penn on atheism...
I love Penn & Teller! Awesome magicians and a lot of fun! I love Penn's attitude and fondness of Christians in this video but I do think he has a few important things wrong about the Bible...
1. The Bible never says that God approved of the idea of Lot's daughter being 'gang raped'. In fact, God's messengers strike the people with blindness so that Lot and his daughter can get away without anything like that happening (Genesis 19:1-29).
2. Abraham recognised that God is God and he has the right to ask for anything - even the sacrifice of a son. Abraham was willing to obey and God stopped him before the actual sacrifice. He'd been testing Abraham's obedience (Genesis 22:1-19).
3. The 'talking snake' in Genesis is not necessarily literal. The creation account in Genesis is widely held by Christians as allegory. Penn knows this. The distinctive themes of the story are far more important than the literal details.
4. God loves homosexuals. The Bible is clear that the reason God hates sin (including same-sex sex in Leviticus 20:13 and anything else that falls short of what's best for us) is because he loves the people he has made. Christians can get this wrong but it doesn't change God.
5. God loves women. Just because the prevailing cultures seen in Bible were sexist does not mean that God is. God created men and women as equals (Genesis 1:27) and Jesus' love and respect of women in the gospels was extremely anti-cultural (e.g. Luke 7:36-50).
6. God's slavery in the Bible was meant to be good slavery. It was part of his 'welfare state' provision for the poor so that everyone had meaningful work for which they were rewarded. This is why it is 'celebrated' in the Bible. God's slavery was never about mistreating people. Quite the opposite (Deuteronomy 15:12-18)!
7. 'Thou shalt not murder' (Exodus 20:13) is about personal vengeance. Killing in war is seen as something very different from murder (with malice aforethought). This is also reflected in our laws today.
I'll leave it there. Like any piece of historical documentation, the Bible deserves to be read and understood in its proper context.
Penn has done his own investigation and has drawn his conclusions and that's exactly what we all should do. His encouragement of personal investigation of source material is excellent and although the video is thought provoking and helpful to a point, we'd be ignoring real wisdom (including Penn's advice) if we let this short video clip convince us completely.
The other thing is Penn never really mentions Jesus. This is quite strange considering that Christianity (and the Bible too!) is all about him. The best way to understand the Bible is to explore who Jesus was and the evidence for his resurrection etc. If Jesus is God then the rest of the Bible makes a lot more sense (it has too) and if he's not, then it's not worth bothering with.