Greetings Brother. I pray the Lord continues to bless you and the works you have undertaken.
A month or two ago I posed a biblical question on a forum which quickly turned into a small argument over the Bible's validity with another individual. I have known him to be an extreme liberal and unbeliever. The following is a copy of the responses.
Me: If you discovered something in the Bible that directly conflicted with a common practice (or oversight) where you worship, what would you do about it?
Him: Follow your heart and not your head.
Me: Seeing as how faith based upon feeling and not evidence is hollow and seeing as how to make a decision of such gravity in dependant of rational, logical arguments and reasoning you would make yourself to be by definition irrational, and seeing as how the Bible uses the terms "mind" and "heart" quite interchangeably, I really think you are mocking the question. Which is your perfect right.
Him: Well, I'm probably not the best person to answer this question, mainly because I don't consider the Bible to be the be all, end all source for anything. It is just a book, written by Man, that has been reinterpreted several times, often with the changes made in each new interpretation not based on truth, but rather on the agenda of the person dictating said change. The King James version is one of the worst offenders of this. There is a verse in there I believe which now reads: "Thou shall not suffer a witch to live" or something along those lines. It originally read" "Thou shall not suffer a POISONER to live." It was changed, because Christianity felt that Paganism was a threat, not because God dictated it.
I think rather than a book written and rewritten by men that have been moldering corpses for decades; a person should use their gut (heart, conscious, whatever you want to call it) as their guide in everything they do in life.
Will this opinion be popular with the Bible-thumping crowd? Of course not, but it is, after all, an opinion! So I am not trying to mock anything; I am being as honest as I can. People tend to over think things in life, when your heart more often than not has the right answer.
Me: I am much affirmed that nothing short of the Judgment Day itself could dissuade you from your positions, as such, I will not attempt to do so here, but rather my aim will be to respond to the suppositions you have made.
Yes, a great many translations today are little more than man-made doctrine pamphlets, and yes, many go along with them blindly. But their ignorance does not preclude the Bible's validity. There are panels of critical analysts who take their work dare I say much more seriously than most peer review found in scientific journals today. Greater Christians than I have committed their lives to this endeavor and I would invite the curious to take a look at web sites like apologeticspress.org accordingly.
Witchcraft, paganism, and the use of mind-altering drugs are very much interrelated and a survey of Hebrew and Greek lexicons can bear that out very easily. The change you speak of could be found out in like manner, however it is unnecessary. Witchcraft by its definition goes against God's firm word that He is the only true and living God. The elimination of opposing ideologies therefore is well within the confines of Old Testament Bible logic. This provided no justification for the witch hunts that have taken place after New Testament revelations, however, because it is clear that the Old Testament is no longer binding, being replaced by a system of Grace (Hebrews 8, Romans 7).
Lastly, I would ask, why did you go to college? Was it because your heart told you to do so? I recall a great many times you telling me how you longed to attend the writing club meetings (your passion) but could not because of your accounting class. Why did you put your accounting class ahead of what your heart wanted? I would chance it is because of logical deduction. You would not chance your financial future to the whims of your gut because you know that would be illogical. Therefore to suppose that the way to secure the safety of one's soul should be attained through impulse and gut feelings would be to suggest it is a matter of less importance than it claims to be. And if that’s not mockery, I don't know what is.
Him: One more note: The original definition of the word "witch" was WISE WOMAN. Seriously. But the new religion coming into power at that time (Christianity) wanted to be the ONLY religion in town. So elements of any other religion had to be made less attractive. One way to do that is to redefine words like "Witch". Like it or not, Paganism outdates Christianity. The Pagans were around first. I think people can be accepting of all faiths. Why not? Well, because the Bible tells you so. THAT is my problem with the Bible. In my faith, I am accepting of all faiths, including Christianity. I just don't buy all the stuff the Bible says. Bottom line: faith is ALL about gut feelings and not cognitive process. I try not to mock one's faith; I have no problem mocking the Bible. I hope you see the distinction!
I thought that in a reply I might list other commonly used words whose "original meanings" have little to nothing to do with their usage today and point out that the point of translation is not necessarily staying true to etymological roots but rather to utilize the commonly understood meaning of a word. As my knowledge of the translation process of older texts is limited, I was hoping you might have something I can add. As per his "anti-anti" argument, I was just going to point out that accepting multiple faiths with conflicting doctrines by default demonstrates an unbelief in the absolute validity of any of them and thus renders the faith meaningless.
I know this argument is in vain. And yet, whenever he keeps coming back with another slander to God's Word. I do not know how I can just not answer it back and leave the supposition unopposed. Any and all advice you might give me will be greatly appreciated. I pray I am approaching things correctly, but am afraid (as always) that in my youth and inexperience I am overlooking an underlying flaw in efforts.
"Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes" (Proverbs 24:4-5).
At first, the two proverbs seem contradictory. The first states that when you are arguing with a fool, not to get caught up in making the same mistakes he does; otherwise, you will be just as foolish as he is. The second states to use a person's foolishness against him to keep him from getting too prideful.
The man you are debating is a fool in God's sight. "The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God."" (Psalms 14:1). Because he has rejected the clear fact that God exists (Romans 1:18-22), we already know that his reasoning is unsound. What you have to be careful to avoid is to not follow him into the errors of logic that he is making.
Let me illustrate this. When my children were younger, they would sometimes bring me a math problem they couldn't answer. They would show me their work and ask me what they did wrong. If I tried analyzing their work, I would have a hard time finding the flaw because there is a natural tendency to follow the paths already shown. Instead I would insist that they bring me their math book and then starting on a clean piece of paper I would begin working the problem. Often it wouldn't be long before the child would say, "Oh, I see what I did wrong."
This man is arguing that the Bible changed, and his "proof" is the changes in translations into English over a 400 year period. He didn't prove the Bible changed. He proved that the English language changed. The word being translated from the Hebrew is still the same Hebrew word. Because of this, his argument that the Bible changed because Christians couldn't stand pagans is without foundation. The Bible hasn't changed. English has changed, and it isn't because of Christianity's rejection of paganism. Making this flawed reason clear will help everyone who comes later to see who is the fool, even if you are unable to convince the person to change his viewpoint.
His last argument is based on the original meaning of "witch" in English. It is the wrong language to be debating because the Bible wasn't written in English. It was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. One should be concerned as to what the Hebrew word was and what current English word or phrase most closely contains the same meaning as the original Hebrew word. Thus, again his basic line of reasoning is flawed. Actually, even his point is in error, see the Etymology of the Word Witch.
It is worth pointing out his flawed reasoning, but it isn't worth entering a debate over the changing meaning of English words. To do so just makes you follow the same flawed foundation.
He gives you a great opening line: "In my faith, I am accepting of all faiths, including Christianity." As you noted that means he believes in contradictions. It is equivalent to saying, "In my math system 1+1 can equal anything you want it to be."
When he says paganism predates Christianity, that is true in general since Christianity started with Christ. What is false is the implication that paganism was the first religion. From the Bible we know that belief in the one God came first; though, he would never accept that point. But we do have an avenue open to us: which pagan belief? Paganism is a broad category of a wide variety of beliefs. Most modern paganism is just that, modern. So which pagan beliefs does he hold? Probably none because he has no true belief. He is unable to take a position and say that this must be true, else he would contradict another pagan belief. By illustrating his inability to take a stand on any point shows the illogic of his position.
Now, one final point. "If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen" (I Peter 4:11). Apolgetics Press is a good resource, but it is a creation of man. If you "prove" your points by citing Apologetics Press, you give glory to men, not God. Use resources like Apologetics Press to learn how to reason and to see points you might have overlooked, but make your arguments from the word of God.
For instance, he claims faith is feelings without thought. I would respond that he well illustrates a person who makes claims without thought. Christianity's definition of faith is different than his. "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). The simple definition of faith is belief or trust. It is the examining of evidence to form a belief in what is not yet seen or only hoped to be real. When a Christian says he has faith that God exists, he isn't describing a gut feeling. He is saying that though he hasn't seen God directly, all the evidence points to the fact that God exists and therefore he trusts in that conclusion.
Unlike this person's gut feelings, the Bible teaches, ""Present your case," says the LORD. "Bring forth your strong reasons," says the King of Jacob. Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; Let them show the former things, what they were, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare to us things to come. Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; yes, do good or do evil, that we may be dismayed and see it together. Indeed you are nothing, and your work is nothing; he who chooses you is an abomination"" (Isaiah 41:21-24). If his pagan beliefs are true, then provide evidence that we might formulate a belief. Can the pagans predict the future? No. Can they accurately tell us about the past, things we didn't know? No. Can they cause anything to happen which doesn't naturally happen? No. Then what kind of religion is that?
The Bible does make statements which are constantly being challenged. It is amusing to watch favored theory, one after the other topple over time. Somehow historians who contradict the Bible eventually get proven wrong and the Bible repeatedly gets proven right. The Bible is known to be written over a 1,500 year time period. It records numerous statements about the future that always came accurately to pass. Name any work of man with that track record.
Consider how Jesus handled the Jews in Matthew 22. With each question answered, he proved that the questioner's stance was foolish and then taught the truth. By the end, "no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore" (Matthew 22:46). You and I will never do nearly as well as the Lord, but we can follow His example in how to answer those who question truth.