The lovely system of tubes that we have grown to know as “The Internet” is a fascinating place, filled with a wealth of information. It would be hard to get along without it these days, but that doesn’t mean that everything that passes through these tubes is worthwhile.
So, in an attempt to update this blog more frequently and give whoever reads this a glimpse into the dark underbelly of the Web, I am going to introduce something I like to call “Absurd Site of the Week”.
My good friend Tim is apparently a fan of finding absurd sites as well, and he pointed me over to the interesting (and poorly designed) site godvsthebible.com. From seeing the URL, I knew it would be different, but little did I know just how different.
If your initial reaction from skimming the home page of the site is that the author is probably obsessed with deism, you wouldn’t be alone. In fact, you’d be right, as explicit references to deism are scattered throughout the site. The banner contains a photo and quote from Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine’s “The Age of Reason” is quoted at length, and the first “chapter” in his E-book (which I discovered, to my horror, can be purchased in book form as well) is titled “A Self-Evident Truth” from Jefferson’s famous quote. [Consequently, all this chapter did for me was to show that, in fact, all theological arguments are not created equal, which brings me to my next point...]
Straw men vs. mainstream Christianity
This is what I think the real title of the site ought to be. There are several key points that the author (John Armstrong, for future reference) makes that I think illustrate this quite well:
- In the beginning of the aforementioned chapter one, Armstrong asks the question “If we are to believe that the Creator also wrote a book (such as the Bible) shouldn’t we expect this book to contain an accurate understanding of how Creation operates?” I think this is a fair question, but wait a second – God wrote the Bible? Who actually believes this? Certainly not inerrantists; even the most conservative adherents to this theological stance are willing to admit that the people who wrote down the Bible were humans like Moses and Paul. If we charitably grant that Armstrong is saying that God provided the inspiration the Bible, then I can agree to it, but it provides problems for his next point: that “errors” in the Bible show that it could not have possibly been authored by God. This is of course a gross distortion of inerrancy as well and one that I personally reject (but that is a topic for another time).
- In this same section, Armstrong partakes in one of the most insidious of practices: quoting out of context with the use of an ellipse. (See here for such another example.) Here Armstrong misquotes Malachi 2:3 as an example of the God of Scripture being “an obnoxious ill-mannered brat” – the reader is of course free to read the passage and see if Armstrong does it justice.
- Armstrong pulls something that I honestly could not have expected: he claims not just that the Bible is not the revealed Word of God but that it cannot be because of what revelation means. I almost did a double take. He cites the Webster’s definition as “God’s disclosure or manifestation to a man of himself and his will”, which I don’t have a problem with. He then says that “hearsay” is inadmissable as revelation because “God is no longer speaking” and “[w]e’re under no obligation to believe such a message.” Without going into detail as to why I think this is patently absurd, I will note that an additional definition is “something that contains such disclosure, as the Bible” (emphasis mine). In other words, secondhand evidence can count as revelation, despite Armstrong’s claims to the contrary.
Much of the rest of the “book” is the same way, taking positions primarily that Armstrong himself concocts from his reading of the Bible (with few exceptions, like quoting the fictional fundamentalist church Landover Baptist on the Bible’s claim that unicorns existed, despite the fact that even Isaac Asimov rejected this notion) or that are not the mainstream views of Scripture. He also repeats objections that have been repeated far too often as it is, quoting Brian Flemming, creator of the DVD The God Who Wasn’t There, and propagating the Jesus-myth throughout.
After digging through pages and pages of the same old objections (with no substantial rebuttals to existing apologetics, mainly hand-waving), we get a setup for the grand finale; Armstrong touches on the deism of the Founding Fathers in chapter 11. But wait, I thought the site was about how Bible isn’t a good representation of God? That’s the premise, yes, but Armstrong seems to have an ulterior motive. The payoff comes in chapter 14: deism is formally presented as a worldview and juxtaposed against other competing systems like atheism, agnosticism, and pantheism (and Intelligent Design? Huh?).
This is of course not to say that Armstrong doesn’t ask some important questions, but it seems that he is doing his own sort of picking and choosing in his own beliefs (the very thing that he criticizes Christians for in differentiating between literal and metaphorical readings of specific passages). The problem is that these objections are not new, and Armstrong does them little justice. If you want a good chuckle, check it out, but I wouldn’t drop what you’re doing for it.