An Amazon user posted this on the 'christianity forum' on amazon.com. Please take a look at Celsus's argument before going on. The title is "PROOF THAT BIBLE GOD DOES NOT EXIST".
Celsus's argument goes something like this: because the Christian God is traditionally held to be omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent, to prove His lacking of one of these qualities is to destroy the Christian conception of God. I don't think I do any violence to his stance in wording it as such.
His argument proceeds thus: Let us see why the Christian God cannot be omniscient.
1. He allows "erroneous, contradictory, and foolish messages" to "infuse his inspired scriptures". Multiple examples follow.
2. He allows "his perfect Word to be corrupted by forgeries and interpolations." Examples follow.
3. He allows "messianic prophecies presented in the New Testament to be based on misquoted or non-existent Old Testament text." Examples.
4. Jesus makes "false prophecies concerning his second coming." (Lewis's take on this issue makes for irony here.)
5. He (God in general again, not Christ) steals "his main doctrines from pre-existing faiths." An elaboration follows.
Celsus also notes at one point that these arguments are against a literal, Fundamentalist reading of the texts--this is a demographic among which he was apparently once numbered.
Again, I hope you read Celsus's post before this. However, now I go on.
I'm not looking to refute Celsus's examples in the sense that he might think, but I will make a few comments on some of them.
First and with exasperation--at this line of thinking, not at Celsus himself: to look for scientific facts in Old Testament texts is simply to misunderstanding the nature of the text. More on this later.
Matthew 19 does not see Jesus 'recommending self-castration.' The line "let the one who is able to receive this receive it" is harkening back to verses 10 and 11. Please read context. Unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but I hate to see Jesus looking that kind of crazy.
Target audience must be kept in mind with Mark 16.18. Besides, according to the tradition, the apostles suffer some ridiculous things; St. John is even supposed to have survived being boiled in oil, and that's a Hell of a lot more impressive than surviving some poison. The Emperor Claudius did that much (once). If you want to attack some claims, go for wilder ones that are purported as historical, I say.
I'll refrain from going on in this vein, though I could. That's not the sort of discussion I'd want to have.
The real issue I take with Celsus's thought is not overtly stated, but is underlying: there's a misunderstanding of the concept of inspiration. This does not mean that God himself typed the manuscripts (...levity...), but rather that His Spirit guided fallible men in the writing of the scriptures. This is essential.
This misunderstanding may of course be wholly the result of Celsus's conscious aim towards the fundamentalist reader with these arguments; I don't know. If it is not, then let me say this, though it may be too late in the game for Celsus to care much: there's another, larger Christian tradition out there that can answer these questions. The fundamentalist tradition, I'm afraid you're right, simply cannot. When faced with contradictions, the fundamentalist will tell you frankly that they don't exist. When faced with science they will tell you that the Word of God knows better than some men in white coats. The ones really torn over this will immediately advocate ID or quietly lose their faith. All the while, the other traditions can simply look back through the centuries for wisdom: people like Origen (and appropriate name for this conversation) and Augustine were dealing with these issues from the earliest centuries of the church.
Of course the real problem with the literalist's attempts to defend the scripture from this or that 'assailant' is that this is in fact not faith at all. Faith is the "assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Anything more concrete than that is simply the modern-empirical worldview parading itself as the proper way to read the Bible.
These texts are supposed to be the Word of an all-knowing God, yes. (Once we've established this I wonder if we should even continue to speculate; as if we actually understand the term 'omniscient' and how to properly define it.) But they're a variegated bunch of texts--laws, poetry, epistles, apocalyptic literature, biographies, proverbs, and more. They were all written in different times for different purposes. Maybe some political propaganda; some songs... for singing! some maintaining of oral tradition when societies have been scattered or when the years still, unexpectedly, go by; some admonishments to young leaders. Regardless of what some people think or unconsciously take for granted, the end is not that the scriptures are all somehow the same kind of work, to be read in the same kind of way, that way being the proper, modern way of reading supposedly-objective texts.
To judge them in this manner is to hold the texts to a false standard. To remove the human element from their composition is to ignore what they are.
Celsus, in closing I just wanted to say that I'm sorry that you fell victim to a tradition which, for all of its good, reads the scriptures as it does, forcing anyone under its influence to read the scriptures as it does, and which seeks to buoy the claims of the Bible on science and history. These disciplines may be important when the texts make scientific and objective historical claims, but the former I'm not sure ever happens and the latter is done more seldom than most would think. This is all a fine example of why I find the fundamentalist reading so dangerous. Let the text be what it was meant to be; remember what Lewis said a few posts back.
I'm sorry to see that this is the sort of 'faith' that you had to adhere to, Celsus, and I understand why it wouldn't work out for you. I hope that one day you'll (as well as a great many others, non-Christian and Christian alike) be able to reconsider Christianity in a different way, and see that, as the Archbishop of Canterbury put it, "the Lordship of Jesus is not deduced but encountered". Christ, is ultimately and despite all of our demands to touch his wounds, not to be touched, but simply to be called "my Lord and my God!" in faith.
I also need to apologize to Celsus for my sloth in finishing this post. It's amazing how often 'more important' things, like Indiana Jones day or Seinfeld on DVD, will delay you from a task. Sorry about that.