“Objections to Christian particularism arise from a worldview that emerges from the metanarrative of Scripture being rejected in part or entirely. Contemporary objections both within Christianity and outside are therefore conditioned by the way people understand the story of the world, the corresponding ideas about what is and is not fair…”
“How can a good and loving God,” they (skeptics) ask, “who is sovereign and providential and therefore ultimately responsible for the dissemination and application of the Gospel, be the cause of such unjust and unreasonable condemnation?” How can people be judged on the basis of something they don’t know? What kind of “good news” tells a story with such a bad ending for the tribes of Papua New Guinea and the bush people of Africa who have never even heard the story in the first place?” It just isn’t fair.
Jesus (“God”) excuses no one who fails to believe in him as their Lord and Savior, even though they may have never heard of him. Why do conservative Lutherans and other conservative (western) Christians believe this. Answer: The story of “The Fall”. This ancient creation story is found in the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament of the Christian Bible) in which Yahweh, the Judeo-Christian god, creates the universe, the earth, and everything on earth including human beings. The universe is perfect. Human beings are perfect. However, Yahweh gives human beings a free will, the ability to reason; the ability to make choices—the ability to disobey him! They are not robots.
Yahweh makes human beings the masters of his creation. They live care-free lives frolicking with lions, tigers, and bears. But Yahweh has one very important rule for them. They are not allowed to eat from Yahweh’s special fruit tree which he has placed in the middle of their garden home.
One day as one of the humans is passing by Yahweh’s fruit tree, a talking snake convinces her to take and eat one of Yahweh’s forbidden fruit. She then convinces the other human being (her husband, Adam) to also eat the forbidden fruit. Yahweh, who knows everything, confronts the two with their crime. He is angry. Very angry. This wicked crime must be punished. So for the crime of disobeying Yahweh’s command and eating his special fruit, Yahweh mete’s out the following punishment:
- Hard labor, for life.
- Execution (death) at the end of the long years of hard labor.
- Eternal torture, in some fashion, of both the body and the soul (conscience), in a special place of torture/torment, called Hell.
(Western) Christians, Roman Catholics and Protestants, believe that the guilt for this fruit-eating crime, and its punishment, has been passed down from mother to child, to every human being who has ever lived on planet earth.
The fifth chapter of Making the Case for Christianity is authored by Dr. John Bombaro, pastor of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA, a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) congregation. Dr. Bombaro received a Masters in Theology from the University of Edinburgh and a PhD in Theology from the University of London. He is a Lecturer in the Theology and Religious Studies Department of the University of San Diego. He is an editorial advisor for the publication, Modern Reformation.
Dr. Bombaro is my former pastor. Dr. Bombaro was my catechism instructor.
Dr. Bombaro opens the chapter with an assault on Oxford university professor and outspoken, prominent atheist, Richard Dawkins. He points to this quote from one of Dawkin’s books, “New Testament theology adds a new injustice to [the Old Testament depiction of God], topped off by a new sadomasochism whose viciousness even the Old Testament barely exceeds…God [Yahweh] incarnated himself as a man, Jesus, in order that he should be tortured and executed in atonement for the hereditary sin of Adam.”
Dr. Bombaro then says this about Professor Dawkins and other atheists on page 118, “…for atheists like Dawkins since there is no God and religion is make-believe anyway, Christianity is unfair and hateful to most, even to Jesus himself and, therefore, is rightly ridiculed and condemned and should be outlawed from public discourse.”
Wow. I have never heard or read that atheist Richard Dawkins has called for a legal ban regarding the discussion of Christianity in public. Dr. Bombaro gives no source/reference for this alleged statement. He should have. I think he is exaggerating. Most agnostics/atheists I know strongly defend the principle of free speech—for everyone. Let’s all refrain from making unfounded, inflammatory statements that do nothing but incite fear, bigotry, and hatred.
Dr. Bombaro continues on page 120, “Dawkins’ appraisement of Christianity comports with the fairness doctrine’s [the concept that the “good news of God” can be embraced (or at least tolerated), so long as it does not come with corresponding bad news from God, or anyone else for that matter] boundaries for the socially acceptable. At the heart of this increasingly prevalent worldview is the intellectual commitment to the Kantian Divide, the unscalable wall between the phenomenal and noumenal, the real and the unreal, the natural and the “supernatural”.
Dr. Bombaro goes on to give a detailed discussion about how God (Yahweh) is the King of the universe. And Yahweh is not a token, constitutional monarch. Yahweh is an absolute sovereign. He is the law. There is no constitution or Bill of Rights that even he must abide by. No. What Yahweh decrees is right is right and what Yahweh derees is wrong is wrong. There is no process of appeal for an “unfair” ruling. What Yahweh decrees as “fair” is what is fair. Dawkins and other atheists can cry “unfair” all they want. Yahweh could care less about their “fairness doctrine”.
Nice. We have a modern term for this kind of ruler—dictator.
So why do Christians view Yahweh’s dictatorial system as fair? As just? As good? Well, because they believe that Yahweh is the essence of fairness, of justice, and of goodness. Yahweh can do no wrong. It is impossible.
Does anyone see the cognitive dissonance here?
Imagine if there were a dictator today who condemned people to decades of hard labor, followed by eventual execution, and then magically had the power to torture that person’s body and conscience (soul) forever and ever after their death? Would any Christian deem this system of justice as fair, as just, as good?
No. Of course not.
But it is perfectly fine when it comes to Yahweh. How is that?
As a former Christian myself I believe this cognitive dissonance is due to psychological conditioning, beginning as small children. If you grow up in a culture that believes that wives who “step out of line” deserve a good beating by their husbands, and you grow up in a home where the wife is regularly beaten for any infraction, not matter how trivial, the children in that household will grow up believing that it is entirely fair, just, and good for husbands to beat their wives. The home and the culture provide positive feedback that wife-beating is an acceptable behavior.
And I believe that that is what has happened with conservative Christians. They have grown up in a culture in which the story of “Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit eating” is part of that culture. They have grown up in homes where they have been taught that Adam and Eve deserved their punishment for eating forbidden fruit. And, these children have grown up believing that it is fair, just, and good for Yahweh to hold THEM guilty for this ancient act of our first ancestors.
If this story is true, we humans have no choice but to kneel at the feet of Yahweh in total submission. He is all powerful. “Resistance is futile”. But that doesn’t prohibit us from using our brains, and my brain tells me that if Yahweh is real, and if Yahweh behaves as Dr. Bombaro and other Christians say he behaves, then Yahweh is evil. Really evil. He is as evil and immoral, if not more evil, than any earthly dictator has ever been. Earthly dictators can torture you and kill you. Yahweh is not satisfied with that. He tortures you, in some painful fashion, for eternity, after you are dead.
I believe that Dr. Bombaro is accurate in his assessment of the worldview of most non-theists (agnostics and atheists). We prefer a world with no superstitions. We can tolerate those faiths/superstitions that teach “nice” gods who do good things to and for people. It is the “bad” gods who cause humans to compartmentalize and label each other as the “just” and the “wicked” with which we have serious issues.
And let’s be clear about this point: The overwhelming majority of non-theists with whom I am acquainted do not believe that the supernatural (noumenal) is impossible. We simply believe that the supernatural is improbable. We believe that there is insufficient good evidence to justify believing in the existence of invisible beings, flying around the universe, performing magic tricks that defy the laws of nature.
Now, Dr. Bombaro might retort, “But we have proven the existence of God (Yahweh) in the first chapter of this book!” No, you did not, Dr. Bombaro! The Christian author of chapter one, Joshua Pagan, gave a reasonable argument for the view that the universe began due to the intelligent design of a Creator, but Mr. Pagan gave zero evidence that this Creator was the ancient Judeo-Christian god, Yahweh. Zero. And as far as the issue of a Creator is concerned, readers should note that although the overwhelming majority of scientists believe that the universe started with a “Big Bang” (that the universe did have a finite beginning), there is no consensus as to what or who caused that big bang/beginning. Mr. Pagan is a theologian. As far as I can tell, he does not have an advanced degree in any field of science. Yes, there are some scientists who would agree with Mr. Pagan that a Creator is the best explanation of the evidence, but Stephen Hawkings and many other very brilliant scientists can give very good arguments for why a Big Bang can occur without a Creator.
The issue of the origin of the universe is unsettled. The Christian authors of this book cannot say that they have proven the existence of a Creator. And they most definitely have not proven the existence of Yahweh.
So where does that leave us? Christians are going to insist that a supernatural world exists, ruled by their god, Yahweh, and we skeptics are going to say that a supernatural world may exist, but is unproven, and therefore Yahweh warrants no more consideration than the existence of Zeus, Jupiter, Lord Krishna, Allah, or any other alleged supernatural being.
Christians can appeal to faith, but non-theists consider faith without good evidence “blind superstition” and will not take Christians seriously. We consider such “faith” naïve.
So that is why some Christians, such as Dr. Bombaro and his co-authors feel the need to provide “objective evidence” (they pledged in the foreword of this book to provide this objective evidence) for their belief that you and I are going to face eternal, “unspeakable” punishment for our “sins” and for the sins of our ancient, forbidden-fruit-eating ancestors, in a terrible place called Hell, …all based on a Bronze Age, middle eastern creation story!
Yet they have not provided any evidence for the existence of their god, Yahweh. They have appealed to four, two thousand year old, non-eyewitness documents (non-eyewitness as per the scholarly consensus, as previously demonstrated) that allege all kinds of fantastical supernatural events including the ghost-impregnation of a virgin and water walking, and, have then attempted to use these very questionable and therefore unreliable documents to prove that in circa 30 AD, a dead man walked out of his grave, appeared to friends and family, and later levitated (ascended) into outer space!
But, now, here is the rub, folks!
If Dr. Bombaro were a fundamentalist, he would hand-wave away my objections and confidently state that the Bible is always right and that scientists, scholars, and other intellectuals who question the historicity of this ancient creation story be damned. He would state that we can always trust the Bible. He would state that we can trust that the Bible is historically accurate in all statements of fact. And therefore, we can believe as unquestioned historical fact that God punished all mankind due to Adam and Eve’s original sin of forbidden fruit eating in the Garden of Eden and unless we submit to Jesus, we will perish!
But Dr. Bombaro doesn’t do that. Although social respectability is unimportant to Christian fundamentalists, not so with Dr. Bombaro and other moderate Christians like him. This type of Christian is very proud of his or her educated status and very diligent about maintaining theological positions consistent with up-to-date science.
For instance, as a former member of Dr. Bombaro’s church and having sat through Dr. Bombaro’s catechism classes, I can tell you that Dr. Bombaro does not believe in a literal Six-Day Creation, even though, the Bible clearly defines what a “day” entailed in the act of Creation. Quoting from the LCMS’s Concordia Edition of the Bible, the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, “and there was evening and there was morning, the first day” and in subsequent verses: “and there was evening and morning…the second/third/fourth/fifth/sixth day”. You can’t get much clearer than that, folks! So how does Dr. Bombaro come to believe that the earth and the universe developed over billions of years? Answer: Scientific evidence proves it without a reasonable doubt to anyone with a high school education! So instead of admitting that the Bible (Yahweh) made a mistake, Dr. Bombaro chooses to not read this portion of the text literally; he has convinced himself that somewhere between evening and morning….God slipped in a couple billion years!
Dr. Bombaro also believes in Darwinian Evolution and the Natural Selection of Species. He believes that all life forms evolved over millions of years from lower life forms. He believes that humans and the great apes have a common ape-like ancestor. How do I know? He taught these facts…in my catechism classes in his church.
So how does the evolution of species from lower life forms harmonize with the rest of the Genesis Creation story? Not well, folks! Not well. You see, in order to harmonize the Bible with modern science, moderate Christians like Dr. Bombaro are forced to twist themselves, and the Bible, into a pretzel to maintain the illusion that this ancient book, written by primitive peoples without the benefit of modern science, accurately described events in ancient history— allegedly full of talking/walking snakes, talking donkeys, talking bushes, and other supernatural phenomena. In other words, the parts of the Bible that overwhelming scientific evidence has proven false is deemed “non-literal” or metaphorical, but those parts of the Bible that either have not yet or cannot be proven false by science, such as ghosts impregnating virgins and the transmission of original sin, are taught as absolute fact.
Dr. Bombaro has crossed out page after page in his Bible as non-literal fiction, yet asks me to believe, and taught my little children in his church, that it is absolute fact that unless each one of us gets down on our knees and submits to Jesus (a man who died 20 centuries ago) as our eternal Lord and Master, we will all suffer “unspeakable” torment in Yahweh’s torture pit…all because our ancient ancestors ate some of his damn fruit!
Dr. Bombaro blames my loss of faith (deconversion) on my fundamentalist upbringing in the Baptist denomination. I don’t think so. I credit my loss of faith/deconversion to my LCMS pastor, who opened my eyes, in LCMS Lutheran catechism class, to the fact that the Bible is loaded with unbelievable, science-defying claims and errors.
I just found a few more unbelievable claims and errors than he did.