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Introduction to series:
A sermon series based on reasons for rejecting the Christian faith may seem a bit strange coming from a Christian pastor to his Christian congregation. You’d expect this kind of topic at a meeting of the ‘American Atheists Association’ or the ‘Freedom From Religion Foundation’ but not in a church.
But of course, our intention is not to present these arguments against the Christian faith in order to encourage you to reject what you have just confessed in the Nicene Creed. Our intention with this series is twofold: one, to examine and critique the reasons that some have for rejection of the Christian faith. And two, to strengthen our understanding of what we do believe so that we may be good witnesses to others ‘ especially others who have reasons for rejection.
And let’s be honest here. We ourselves may also be included in those ‘others,’ at least from time to time. We believe the faith we have is a gift from God, given through Holy Baptism and the hearing of the gospel. With the help of the Small Catechism, we say, ‘I cannot by my own REASON or senses, believe in my Lord Jesus Christ or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the gospel.’ (Small Catechism ‘ 3rd Article explanation).
But we also believe that this gift of faith can be lost. Which of us haven’t been bothered by at least some of these ‘reasons for rejection’ at one time or another? Peter writes, ‘the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.’ (1Peter 5:8). Sadly, the baptized can and do fall from faith and reject the precious gift of life and salvation that we have been given.
We begin with the first ‘Reason for Rejection,’ ‘the rejection of the bible.’
One of the Sunday School songs that I still remember from my own Sunday School days goes like this:
‘The B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the book for me. I stand alone, on the Word of God, the B-I-B-L-E.’
There is more packed into that little song than I ever realized as a little child. Think about this. Why do you say that God the Father is the creator of heaven and earth? Because the bible says so. Why do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died on the cross and that His death on the cross atoned for the sin of the world? Because the bible says so. Why do you believe that one day, there will be a judgment before God and that believers will enter eternal life and unbelievers enter eternal death? Because the bible says so. We could go on and on. The fact is, the Christian faith ‘stands alone on the Word of God, the B-I-B-L-E.’ The Bible is the foundation upon which the Christian faith is built.
So, if the Bible is not true, if it is simply a collection of stories and fables and myths, you can see how the foundation of the Christian faith crumbles and the whole thing collapses.
There are several reasons for which the bible is rejected but we can’t address them all in the 20 minutes that we have, so we’ll mention others but address just one.
Myths and the Laws of Nature
Maybe you have heard someone say, ‘I don’t believe what the bible says, or everything that the bible says, because the bible is full of myths.’ One dictionary defines a myth as ‘any fictitious story.’ Another defines myth as ‘an unfounded or false notion.’
So why do people say that the Bible contains myths or that the bible is one big mythological story? One of the main reasons is because of the accounts of miracles that it contains; a virgin birth, a man turns water into wine, the same man walks on the water, the same man raised the dead, the same man was crucified, died, buried and rose again on the 3rd day. All of these are miraculous events.
A miracle by definition is an event or episode that defies the laws of nature. According to the ‘laws of nature,’ virgins don’t have babies, water doesn’t turn into wine, men can’t walk on water, and once you’re dead, you don’t come back to life. Since miracles ‘defy the laws of nature,’ and since the ‘laws of nature’ cannot be defied, then, there cannot be any such thing as miracles. They are just myths, stories. And why would anyone base their faith and life on myths?
So, how do we answer a reason for rejection such as this one?
First, lets think about this from a logical point of view. One bible scholar has counted 110 miraculous events in the Old Testament. The four gospels in the New Testament contain accounts of 36 miracles that Jesus did. The book of Acts records several miracles done by the Apostles in the early stages of the Church’s life. Add all that up and what you get is that a lot of the bible is devoted to the reporting of miracles. And every one of these miracles, are recorded in the bible in such a way that they are clearly meant to be taken as fact, not as myth.
So, if miracles are impossible, there’s good reason to reject the bible because the bible says they can and did happen.
First of all, let’s identify a point that both sides in this debate agree upon. Both sides agree that the credibility of the Christian faith depends upon the credibility of the Bible. If the bible is not a credible document, accurate in all that it says, then the whole Christian faith collapses and falls. Both sides agree on this.
But now, lets examine the place where they differ. One side says that miracles cannot happen. The other side says that they can and did happen.
Those who say that miracles cannot happen typically do so because they believe that the ‘laws of nature’ are fixed and cannot be altered. They believe that we live in a closed, mechanistic universe. In a closed, mechanistic universe there is no overriding authority that has the power to alter or interrupt the laws of nature, even just for a moment, for a particular purpose. Or, even if there is a ‘higher power,’ it can’t interfere with the ‘laws of nature’ because that would break the laws and then nothing would work according to the ‘laws of nature.’
So, I think that the first question that I would want to ask is, ‘what do you base your belief about the ‘laws of nature’ on? Where did you get this idea? Is it based on science? And if so, what science book did you get this from? Are the claims that this book makes based on ‘eyewitness testimony,’ which is something that good science demands? Has anyone scientifically proven that the ‘laws of nature’ cannot be altered or overridden, just for a moment or for a particular purpose? Are there any ‘eyewitnesses’ that can testify that the ‘laws of nature’ cannot be broken?
If not, could it be that your science book contains ‘myths’? Or, let’s call them, ‘hypothesis.’ And that if the ‘hypothesis’ are false, then your belief in ‘nature’ and rejection of God would collapses and fall, right? Oh, and by the way, has your science book ever had to have been revised or updated based on new information?
Even from a purely scientific point of view, the biblical claim that the miracles it records are true, is stronger than the counterclaim. Every single miracle recorded in the bible is backed up by firsthand, eyewitness testimony. Joseph gives his eyewitness testimony that Mary is a virgin. All 122 of the disciples witness Jesus walking on the water. Crowds are on hand to witness the water changed to wine in Cana and the resurrection of Lazarus in Bethany. And the bible is very careful to document the credibility of its most famous and important miracle, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. ‘Jesus appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.’ (1 Cor. 15:6).
Peter writes, ‘For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.’ (2 Peter 1:16).
Actually, there is more reason to believe in the validity and truth of the Bible’s record of miracles than to reject it. But the Bible makes it very clear that belief in the miracles that it reports is not its goal. The reason that miracles happen and that the Bible records them, is that we may believe that there is a God. A God who rules over the ‘laws of nature’ and who is willing to alter those ‘laws’ that He Himself created for the particular purpose that we may believe in Him.
John writes this, ‘Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.’ (John 20:30-31).
Other reasons for rejection
There are many other reasons that people reject the bible. Some other are these: ‘the bible conflicts with science, particularly in the way that it describes the creation of the universe and the matter of time,’ ‘the bible is filled with contradictions,’ the bible contains historical inaccuracies.’ A rather emotional reason for rejection of the bible is that ‘the bible is offensive.’ We could have made a whole sermon series out of just the ‘reasons for rejection of the bible.’ Maybe they would be good topics for Adult Bible Study in the future.
Inspiration of Scripture
I do want to take just a few minutes in conclusion to reinforce why we do believe that the Bible is perfectly valid in all that it says and a solid foundation for the Christian faith.
Along with Christians for 20 centuries now, we say that this book that we call ‘the bible,’ which consists of 66 separate books, split up between Old Testament and New Testament, all have one author, and that author is God the Holy Spirit. The Bible has only one author ‘ the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit uses many different human writers, but God is the author of it all.
A man named Paul writes to a man named Timothy saying, ‘All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). We get the word ‘inspiration’ from this verse. ‘Inspiration’ means ‘breathed out by God.’
Peter writes to the Church saying, ‘For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21). God breathed the Holy Spirit into the prophets in the Old Testament and the Apostles in the New Testament, so that the words that they wrote down were the words of God.
The writers of the Old Testament continually remind us that that they are not speaking or writing their word. They say, ‘The Lord has spoken,’ or ‘thus says the Lord,’ or ‘The word of the Lord came to” or ‘hear the word of the Lord.’
In the New Testament, the bible reports that as God had spoken in many and various ways through His prophets of old, ‘now in these last days, God has spoken by His Son.’ (Hebrews 1:1). The Son of God in turn sends out His apostles into all the earth and they speak the word that He has given them to speak. “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16).
Because the Bible is God’s Word, we know that it is infallible and without error and worthy of our complete trust and confidence.
The Bible is a precious gift from God, for the Bible is the way that God reveals Himself to mankind. We can know something about God from creation and nature, but our natural knowledge of God is terribly limited and we can have no knowledge of whether or not God is for us or against us. We can know something about God from our conscience. He has written His law onto us so that we instinctively know that it is wrong to murder and steal and commit adultery. But we cannot begin to know how God will respond when we break His law.
Only the Bible, God’s revelation of Himself to us, are we able to know, not only that God exists, but that He is a loving God, who loves us so much that He will alter the laws of nature for our good, by coming to us through a virgin birth, by dying and rising from the dead for our forgiveness and eternal life.
Another classic Sunday School song is in our hymnal. It goes like this, ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.’