by David A. Reed COMPLETE BOOK ONLINE
Objections to Christianity
Besides laying out the evidence for the reliability of Bible prophecy and its application to the world situation today, this book will also attempt to deal with the objections that a rational mind might raise. I am hoping to present evidence that will be clear, concise, and compelling, not only to readers who are already believers in Bible prophecy, but also to individuals inquiring into these matters for the first time. I don't wish to limit myself to preaching to the choir.
To Christian Bible believers the message is, "When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your deliverance is drawing near." (Luke 21:28 NIV) Compare the events that are taking place in the world today with the things that Jesus said to watch for as indicators that the time of his return is near. Can you see the predicted events "begin to take place"? Then rejoice, because Christ is coming again!
But, for the person looking into these matters for the first time, the message must include some additional elements. It must include evidence that Bible prophecy has been reliable in the past, and that the things that the Bible said would happen prior to today have been happening as foretold.
Moreover, there are some objections that an inquiring mind may need to deal with before it makes sense even to look at Bible prophecy. I am painfully aware of that, because I myself have a background of deep immersion in scientific atheism, Darwinian evolution, and humanist philosophy. If you read the portion of this book titled "About the Author," you will see that I started out, not as a gullible child indoctrinated to accept the religious beliefs of his parents, but rather as one who viewed Christianity as a strange phenomenon dimly visible on a distant horizon.
How can Bible prophecy be true, if the Bible itself is nothing more than a collection of poetry and imaginary stories written by primitive people to entertain primitive audiences? How can anything having to do with God be worth considering, if mankind has no Creator but instead arose through a series of evolutionary accidents in a pool of chemicals? And, if there really is a God, still, why should anyone look for understanding to the Scriptures of the Jews and the Christians? Why not look to Buddhism or Hinduism for answers about man's future?
Chapters in this book will deal with such issues, for the sake of those who need to answer such questions intelligently before they can give any serious consideration to Bible prophecy.
But there is another issue that I will attempt to address here in this present chapter, and that is the loss of credibility on the part of the Christian church itself.
If Christianity possesses the truth, and has this truth spelled out in the Bible, then why are there so many different "Christian" churches with different denominational names? And why do these differ so widely in beliefs and practices? And why have they often been at each other's throats, quite literally, throughout church history? Why isn't there just a single Christian Church, united in belief and practice?
Another problem is that, in those multitudinous "Christian" churches, one sees things going on that even unchurched unbelievers know should not be there. There are scandals involving wealthy television evangelists living in shameless luxury and sexual immorality. There are scandals involving pedophile Roman Catholic priests.
Politically, the history of the churches and nations of Christendom has been tainted with every sort of sin imaginable, from bloodthirsty Crusades to greedy colonialism. Priests accompanied Spanish conquistadors who converted native peoples at the edge of the sword. And church-going people made up the mobs that lynched blacks in the American south.
Could you imagine Jesus behaving that way? Of course not.
Jesus repeatedly extended the invitation to, 'Come, and follow me,' or 'Come, be my follower.' (Matt. 9:9, 19:21, Mark 2:14, 10:21, Luke 5:27, 9:59, 18:22; John 1:43) Are lynch mobs or pedophiles "following" Jesus? Certainly not. He would not behave that way, so people who do behave that way are not following Christ.
Yet, people who engage in such shameful conduct have often claimed to be Christians, even to be acting in Jesus' name. Jesus knew that this would happen, and he explained why in his 'parable of the weeds':
"Jesus told them another parable: 'The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner's servants came to him and said, "Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?" "An enemy did this," he replied. The servants asked him, "Do you want us to go and pull them up?" "No," he answered, "because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn."'" (Matt. 13:24-30 NIV)
What did Jesus mean by this illustration? We don't need to puzzle over it, because he gave the explanation himself, and his disciple Matthew wrote it down:
"Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, 'Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.' He answered, 'The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.'" (Matt. 13:36-43 NIV)
So, Jesus, "the Son of Man," knew that the church organization he planted would soon be overrun with "weeds," even though he had planted good seed. And it would continue that way until "the end of the age" when he would return and set matters straight. Yes, Christ made it very plain that there would be many claiming to be Christians, but who would be anything but true followers of the Messiah:
"Not everyone saying unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matt. 7:21-23 KJV)
So, there is a difference a between the followers of Jesus Christ and the many organizations and nations that have called themselves "Christian" down through history. Many of the latter have been Christian in name only.
Before departing the earthly scene, Jesus gave his disciples instructions about the church that he would build through them. And together with those instructions and he also gave them serious warnings: "Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod." (Mark 8:15 KJV)
What is this leaven or yeast? The laws God gave to Israel required that they eat unleavened bread during the Passover period, and that they have no yeast in their homes during that time. So, the presence of leaven would be improper and defiling. Leaven in the Church would be something brought in inappropriately, that doesn't belong there. But what impurities did Jesus have in mind when he referred symbolically to the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod?
Jesus explained the first one himself: "Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy." (Luke 12:1 KJV) Hypocrisy does not belong in the Church. And the Pharisees were hypocrites. In his sermon recorded in Matthew chapter 23, Jesus repeatedly called them that: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" (verses 13, 14, 15, 23, 25, 27 and 29 KJV) They were the religious leaders in Jerusalem, when he pronounced doom on the holy city: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold your house is left unto you desolate." (Matt. 23:37-38 KJV)
Yet, despite this strong warning, the Christian community, just like its Jewish predecessor, has found itself riddled with hypocrisy, the leaven of the Pharisees.
What, though, about the leaven of Herod? Unlike the leaven of the Pharisees, Jesus did not explain what he meant by this second type of impurity that the Church needed to guard against.
King Herod was extremely wealthy, and his wealth bought him great influence in the Jewish religious community. He financed the rebuilding of the temple of God in Jerusalem, and the Levitical priests serving at the temple accepted such material assistance as hush money to keep them from speaking out against their wealthy patron's sexual immorality, murderous brutality and other blatant violations of the laws of God. So, the leaven of Herod could refer to improper influence in the church by corrupt rich people who buy themselves a position of prominence and acceptance in the Christian community.
The Bible writer James wrote, "Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?" (James 2:6 NIV) He said that the church was not doing right when it gave a special seat of honor to a rich man while requiring of poor man to sit on the floor. "My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, 'Here's a good seat for you,' but say to the poor man, 'You stand there' or 'Sit on the floor by my feet,' have you not discriminated?" (James 2:1-4 NIV)
So the leaven of Herod could refer to undue influence by the rich in the church.
But, Herod was also a powerful political leader, allied with the Roman empire, who affected the Jewish congregation through his governmental influence. Besides the Pharisees, the party followers of Herod claimed the obedience of a large faction of the Jews. After the Messiah healed a man on the Sabbath, "the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus." (Mark 3:6) Later "the Pharisees and Herodians" conspired together to catch Jesus in a verbal trap over the divisive issue of paying taxes to Caesar. (Mark 12:13)
So, besides the influence of wealthy patrons, the leaven of Herod could refer also to political alliances and political influence in the church -- particularly alliances that lead church leaders into compromise with corrupt politicians.
After Jesus finished his earthly ministry, his faithful apostles fought against the infiltration of the Church by corrupt elements. Paul told the elders of the church in Ephesus, "I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them." (Acts 20:29-30 NIV) This would result in a proliferation of sects claiming to be Christian but teaching distorted doctrine, each group following the teachings of a its own leader.
Paul also wrote that "the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." (2 Timothy 4:3 NIV) This, too, would give rise to denominations with teachings popular among one group or another.
The Apostle Peter added similar warnings: "But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them -- bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. " (2 Peter 2:1-3 NIV)
And so there is plenty of reason to expect that there would be an impostors in the Church and wicked men doing things in the name of Christ. In fact this is what Jesus, too, said would happen: "many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. ... For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect -- if that were possible." (Matthew 24:10, 24 NIV)
Still, down though history there have always been faithful believers who truly belonged to Jesus. Some of these were great preachers who spread revival through the land and stirred whole populations to pick up their Bibles and turn to Christ. Others died in the fire, clutching copies of the Holy Scriptures, while they were branded as heretics and burned at the stake by false 'Christians' in positions of church leadership.
How can you tell true Christians apart from impostors? Jesus said to look at the fruit that they bear: "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." (Matt. 7:15-20 NIV)
So, if Jesus says to false 'Christians' that 'I never knew you,' and 'get away from me!' (Matt. 7:23) it would not be right for us to associate such people with Jesus by accepting their claim to be Christian. Despite the fact that they do things "in his name," we can recognize by their fruits that they are not followers of Jesus.
Paul listed among the perils that he faced "danger from false brothers." (2 Cor. 11:26 NIV) So a distinction must be made between individuals who claim to be Christians or who use the name of Christ and belong to so-called "Christian" organizations, and those who really walk in Jesus' footsteps and belong to him.
So the division of Christendom into many sects, and the existence of false teachers and false "Christian" sects and people doing wicked things in the name of Christ are NOT proof that Bible prophecy is unreliable. Rather, these all prove that what the Bible said would happen did, in fact, come true. Christ and the apostles all warned in advance that such imitation Christians would abound, and they have indeed sprung up everywhere. This is reason, then, to take seriously what the Bible says will yet happen in its other prophetic passages.
Consider this, too, then, as you weigh the additional evidence in the remaining chapters of this book.