Why do people doubt Jesus and/or the Bible?

Denial. Jn 20:24-25 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Based on the definition given earlier and the various things scripture has to say about doubt, I would say that the reason for doubting the Good News of Jesus Christ can be summed up as refusal to accept the historical account of the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Christ as fact and trust it to be accurate.

Unknown or dubious source. 1 Thess 5:24 but test everything; hold fast what is good. There is nothing wrong with taking steps to verify the source of a message. Be sure God is speaking. If you find it is in fact God speaking, then you have no excuse for not obeying.

Insufficient data. Jn 8:14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. At some point things have to be taken on faith. However, if you simply don’t have enough information, how can you make a good decision? The modern church is riddled with “easy believism” theology. Many flocks are not being fed the spiritual nutrients needed to grow strong and stand firm. If the Gospel were presented in its complete and raw form, some would find Christ who were not convinced by the simple messages. On the other hand, some of the simple message lovers would be shown for who they are.

Fear. Lk 22:60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. It is natural to fear the unknown. Throughout scripture we are chastened to fear the Lord. That isn’t quite the same as fearing a snake or a spider. Fearing God is like fearing your father’s belt — it is more like respect. In this case, Peter was afraid for his life. He forgot the promises of Jesus and reacted out of fear rather than faith. Peter forgot the words of David in Ps 118:6 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?

Ignorance. Lk 23:34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. Sometimes we are so bound up in our own little world we ignore the reality around us. I call this “blissful ignorance.” Some people just don’t want to know so they refuse to accept anything which challenges what they think they know. The guards casting lots were eye witnesses of God’s power.  The signs were right before them, yet they ignored them.

Difficulty. Mt 19:21-22 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. This young man made an informed decision to do what he thought was easiest.

Strangeness. Isaiah 28:21 For the Lord will rise up as on Mount Perazim; as in the Valley of Gibeon he will be roused; to do his deed—strange is his deed! and to work his work—alien is his work! God is a mystery. He does things we can’t fathom. Some just can’t grasp the Gospel because it’s too foreign to the worldly things they do understand.

Competing beliefs. 2 Jn 1:7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Many would dilute or modify the Good News of Jesus Christ. The world itself offers a great many things (temptations) to also serve as distractions. Satan uses every means at his disposal to try and keep us from obedience.

Bad Examples. 1 Tim 4:12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. It is no wonder we aren’t successful in communicating the Good News when we don’t give an example of its value to the world.

This post is an excerpt (Question 6.11) from my book Ask James one.

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About Lance Ponder

Christian author of "Ask James one"; public speaker; husband and father. Available to speak on Creation and the Gospel.
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15 Responses to Why do people doubt Jesus and/or the Bible?

  1. Jerry Hill says:

    Wonderful Post! And perfect timing! I posted the link to it in a comment on JerusalemHill@Revelife today.

  2. Eclipse Now says:

    I’d say many reject Christianity because of groups like Answers in Genesis. Why are we pressing the scientific concerns of 4000 years later over the actual concerns of the original passage, which was to offer a theological commentary and polemic against the Enuma Elish? Too many engineers read Genesis 1 as a construction manual when it is anything but. It’s like reading Shakespeare for a theory of modern medicine, or Cormac McCarthy for insight into how to paint. You can’t get the right answers if you’re asking the wrong questions of the wrong genre!

    But fortunately for the credibility of the gospel theistic evolutionists are spreading, and my good friend Dr John Dickson has published “The Genre of Genesis” at ISCAST. (Christians in Science and Technology).

    One question creationists often do not ask is how have Christians through the ages read Genesis BEFORE Charles Darwin? Was a metaphorical / allegorical approach to Genesis just an embarrassed reaction to the developments of evolutionary theory, or where their church fathers or early Jews who also read Genesis allegorically? Now that’s an interesting section John Dickson explores!

    http://www.iscast.org/journal/articlespage/Dickson_J_2008-03_Genesis_Of_Everything

    • Lance Ponder says:

      Eclipse…

      You are welcome to your opinions, but since you decided to share them here then I’ll have to say I disagree. Since you read this site with some regularity I think you know where i stand on the issue of creationism. AiG is one of the few voices out there supporting Genesis as it written. It takes an effort to twist Genesis to read anything other than what it says. Theistic evolution requires just that. I realize it is a popular idea, but it is a compromise of the authority of scripture to the philosophy of man. There is no convincing scientific proof that the earth is any older than the bible indicates and a great deal of hard observational science that supports the biblical proposition that the earth is young. Compromise all you want, but as for me, I’ll stand on the authority of scripture over the philosophy of naturalists every day of the week.

  3. Eclipse Now says:

    ///There is no convincing scientific proof that the earth is any older than the bible indicates///

    How about the speed of light? If God made the universe 6000 years ago, then we wouldn’t be able to see across our quadrant of our own galaxy let alone 13 billion light years across, because we’d only just now be getting the light from stars 6000 years away.

    What about the decay of various radioactive particles at a certain given speed?

    Or do you believe in “God the trickster” who makes things appear old to test our faith? That proposition is more like the Indian god Coyote than the character of the God I read about in the bible.

    This is a difficult conversation for me because I’m not a scientist. But I personally know a variety of Christians who are scientists in the peer reviewed areas of everything from astrophysics to evolutionary biology who *all* say AiG are a bunch of un-peer-reviewed hacks who embarrass the church. Now we end up in a situation where 47% of Americans doubt the science of evolution and as a result also doubt climate change (because of the old earth implications — and because of their “Left-wing” conspiracy beliefs).

    So you could probably run rings around me scientifically by making outrageous claims that real scientists could knock down in moments.

    I guess all I’m asking is that you read my friend John’s paper. I find it convincing. And if it’s true, it ironically means you’re standing on outdated dogma’s of old science and completely missing what the Word of God actually says in early Genesis. I know from personal experience that reading it as a construction manual was only confusing and dry. It did not sing of meaning to me, but was just a bunch of arbitrary and confusing events of what God did when.

    But when it opened up as a creative narrative about how wonderful God made the universe it all made sense. When I dropped the engineering mentality and looked at it as a poet, it all made sense. When I saw the first 3 days as the creation of the ‘forms’ and the next 3 as the filling of the forms, it all made sense. THEN I could understand why god made ‘night and day’ on day 1 but only filled it with the ‘form’ of the sun and moon and stars on day 4 — it was a poetic form describing how God put the lights up in the heavens, the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea and us humans on land. Everything is in the right place and doing what it is meant to.

    Read John’s paper. The stuff about the pre-Jesus Jew Philo is especially interesting. He read early Genesis metaphorically because he had trouble with the idea of God taking 6 days to make everything! The God he believed in is infinitely powerful and could have whipped up the whole universe in nano-seconds. So he thought it was an allegory, and this was over 1800 years before Charles Darwin! (So much for this just being a reaction to Darwinism!)

    As a historian, his organization the Centre for Public Christianity, which received a letter of congratulations from our Prime Minister when it opened, has written an article documenting the spread of fundamentalist Creationism across the globe. Thinking Christians who value good history and the proper use of hermeneutics find this disturbing.
    http://www.publicchristianity.org/creationism1.html

    • Lance Ponder says:

      Speed of light was a problem for me for years, then I learned more about relativity. Big Bang theory assumes the universe is unbounded and centerless, however that requires a fourth dimension in space-time. We only observe 3. If our universe is in fact 3 dimensional, then we’re near the center. If the universe expanded, and relativity proves it has and probably still is, and if we are near the center, then the answer is gravitational time dilation.

      Radioactive decay rates are reliable in the present, however extrapolating backward in time requires several variables which are unknowable. Even geologists do not use radioactive decay dating methods as reliable dating methods.

      No, God is not a trickster. Romans 1 shows us that Creation is our proof of a Creator and anyone who wants to believe otherwise is deluded.

      The issues of creation and climate change seem to me unrelated. Perhaps you could explain why they are tied together.

      Of course they think of AiG as hacks. AiG stands on the authority of scripture, at least that’s their claim. Many people who wear the label “Christian” do not stand on the authority of scripture.

      Old science? What an odd phrase. The scientific method is an unchanging as scripture, as are natural laws like gravity and entropy. Old, perhaps, but your statement seems to imply no longer valid. I don’t get it. But, I’ll follow the link as soon as I get some spare time. I promise. Even though I think I know what I’ll read, I’ll do my best not to be judgmental. ~_*

  4. Eclipse Now says:

    Speed of light was a problem for me for years, then I learned more about relativity. Big Bang theory assumes the universe is unbounded and centerless, however that requires a fourth dimension in space-time. We only observe 3. If our universe is in fact 3 dimensional, then we’re near the center. If the universe expanded, and relativity proves it has and probably still is, and if we are near the center, then the answer is gravitational time dilation.

    Gravitational time dilation only occurs near large objects, and to have any *real* effect would have to occur in the vicinity of super-massive black holes like the black holes at the centre of our galaxy. One could, in theory, sit in a spaceship rotating the black hole and watch the universe away from the effect range of the black hole age at about twice the rate you were ageing, but that’s about the best you get for mass-related time distortion as far as I know.

    The mass of the earth only slows us down by several thousands of a second each day and that’s compared to our satellites.

    So I’m not sure what you are trying to argue here? Maybe I have misunderstood, but it seems like special pleading to me.

    Either god created the distant galaxies with 13 billion years of light already streaming directly into our telescopes and he’s Coyote, or else Genesis is about something else. I’ve changed my mind on many biblical issues when exposed to more on ancient concerns, language issues, and contextual understandings. A profoundly alienated and threatened modern church should not feel they are exempt from asking if we have over-reacted by getting all defensive and ‘literalistic’ on early Genesis, and this is of course what John discusses in his paper.

    When you get a chance, I recommend printing it out in a nice large font, sitting in your favourite chair with a pen and a cup of your favourite brew, and really enjoying the read. Then I’d google up the Enuma Elish, and do the same with that. Nothing like sitting in your favourite lounge or chair away from the computer for a good read!

    • Lance Ponder says:

      I have written previously here on this subject at some length. Most of my information is based on the work of Dr. Russell Humphreys and his book, Starlight and Time. To get the whole context I recommend reading my blogs Creative Science chapters 9 to 12, though chapter 12 covers gravitational time dilation in the greatest depth.

      https://divinelogos.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/creative-science-9-cosmic-organization/
      https://divinelogos.wordpress.com/2011/02/18/creative-science-10-cosmic-evidence/
      https://divinelogos.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/creative-science-11-big-bang-mystery-cult/
      https://divinelogos.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/creative-science-12-white-hole-cosmology-and-other-creationist-theories/

      But if you’re like me and you don’t much like to go chasing links to get answers, here’s the super short version: The universe started out as essentially a big ball of water all in one place. It had rotational force and gravitational forces began acting on it immediately. The force of gravity ignited fusion activity resulting in light. Day 1. The bible indicates that the second day God stretched it out (firmament). This fits nicely with relativity and expanding space. The earth as we know it probably came into being about this time. Meanwhile time dilation was working overtime as the white hole effect of expanding space sent the stuff which we now see as stars and galactic clusters far out. Time would seem to go much faster out there than here, near the center of the universe. The light from the stars did not take billions of years to reach us, but from our perspective it appears that it did because of time dilation. Earth is near the center of the universal gravity well. While the effect is tiny today, it would have been incredible during those first Creative days. As our planet was becoming a sphere and the mechanics of our local solar system were being put into place, plant life was being generated (Day 3) and dry land was separated from oceans. By the 4th day the event horizon of the white hole event collapsed across our planet and the rest of our solar system was put into final place and visible to us. The fifth and sixth days God used to create the rest of the biology. By the seventh day Creation was complete. From earth’s perspective, it took 6 days. God could have done it in two hours or two years or two billion, but scripture says it took six days. The real question is not how God did it, but do we believe what He revealed? Do you?

  5. Eclipse Now says:

    There are so many circular arguments here I hardly know where to begin, but here’s one.

    Your “Doctor’s” assumptions about how to read Genesis 1 mean that he is constrained in what he can allow and can’t allow in the physics. So he just asserts a line like this without any evidence!

    Earth is near the center of the universal gravity well.

    Well, from his perspective that makes sense, right? But the Christian astrophysicist I’ve asked this very question of assured me that according to the peer reviewed science we just peer reviewed really know where the center of the universe is. Imagine a bunch of dots on a balloon. Now inflate the balloon. Every dot moves away from every other dot at roughly the same speed, so that if you lived on any dot on the balloon it looked like you are in the center and everywhere else was moving away from you.

    Apart from that, I get no sense from my brief reading of the science that there is no evidence that we are near the centre of any time dilation effect.

    Lance, it just sounds to me like you’re in a highly paranoid culture, a corner of Christianity full of fear that the whole worldview is about to be disproved if we happen to accept science. But as John Dickson shows, there were Christians and Jews that approached Genesis 1 symbolically before Charles Darwin even thought of evolution.

    Trying to read it as a construction manual just amuses me. There are other creation accounts in the bible, maybe 6 in all, that contradict Genesis 1 in parts — IF we were to read this as a construction manual of how God did it.

  6. Lance Ponder says:

    //Your “Doctor’s” assumptions about how to read Genesis 1 mean that he is constrained in what he can allow and can’t allow in the physics. So he just asserts a line like this without any evidence! //

    Evolutionists are likewise constrained by their belief systems. Creationists admit it. 200+ years ago the notion that the earth could be older than 6000 was laughable. The weight of society’s beliefs did not make that position true any more than the weight of society today disbelieving it makes it false. Truth (in the absolute sense) is independent of belief.

    No, scripture is not a manual on how to build a universe. That is not its purpose. To thus say it has no value in answering practical questions about creation and nature is nonsense. It does give a complete if only general account of the original creation process. It is more enough to understand. If it is true, then observational science will not be able to disprove and should generally support it. It does. If it is false, the scientific method should be able to falsify various specific claims. This has never been conclusively done.

    Regarding your balloon quote… From where we are the universe appears isotropic. The only logical possible reasons for this are either that we are at the center of a bounded (limited) universe or the universe has a fourth space-time dimension thus we can only see to the event horizon of the third dimension. At the risk of repeating myself, the fourth dimension has a philosophical appeal for those who seek to apply the Copernicus Principle to say we are nowhere in particular in a 4-D universe in a purely material (natural) reality, yet the 4D idea is unproven at best, just as dark matter and the Oort cloud are purely theoretical. If we are really only 3D, as observation suggests, then we are in fact near the center of a limited but expanding universe, though not near the center of our own galaxy nor even of our own solar system.

    We are all seeking explanations. Scripture offers explanations that include purpose. Philosophers of science offer their own explanations, generally without purpose apart from their own materialistic agenda. Either set of beliefs will establish the foundational view through which we peer into these questions. Creationists state they believe scripture is the starting point or foundation for their view. Materialists deny the authority of scripture and believe in human philosophy. Which is the true authority – man or God?

  7. Eclipse Now says:

    1. 4th Dimension? *Never* heard of it being necessary to justify the simple observation that we see ourselves in an expanding universe, and we could be anywhere in that universe — centre, edge, whatever.

    2. It’s the creationist need to explain 13 billion light-years of the passage of light that FORCES creationists to position us in the middle of the universe and rely on an unproved agglomeration of early ‘water’ to force time dilation. A Christian astrophysicist I know, Dr Lewis Jones, does not have a metaphysical axe to grind or ‘ism’ to force over the data. He’s not an atheist needing the data to do this or a creationist needing the data to do that. He’s free to go either way. He looked at the empirical evidence and came up with the balloon analogy I gave above. He says that is where the empirical evidence takes us, and never once mentioned a 4th dimension straw-man that you’re trying to force on astro-physics. I suggest reading REAL science not straw-man creationism which I have found over the years to be full of laughable suggestions (when I have bothered to read them, and took them to my scientist friends).

    3. The ‘waters’ of the universe are forced by your “Doctor” to explain time dilation. But if you read Dr John Dickson’s work, you’d know that MOST creation myths started with water. I suggest you read the Enuma Elish.

    When the sky above was not named,
    And the earth beneath did not yet bear a name,
    And the primeval Apsû, who begat them,
    And chaos, Tiamat, the mother of them both,
    Their waters were mingled together,
    And no field was formed, no marsh was to be seen;
    When of the gods none had been called into being.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enuma_Elish

    The story goes on to have Tiamat cut in 2 after a long war (and a lot of boring heavenly gossip in the heavenly court that preceded that war), and half of her body becomes water and half becomes land. In other words, Genesis 1 is a stark contrast where there simply IS no war and no ‘god’ being cut in half to become the land and the sea. There is no war between a sea-god and land-god either, as in other myths. Our God just speaks, and the waters are divided! That’s theological heresy to the ancient world. That’s a revolution!

    But creationists quietly miss all this as they waste their lives writing trash sci-fi about 4th dimensions and water-universes causing time-dilation to explain away 13 billion light-years of history.

    We are all seeking explanations. Scripture offers explanations that include purpose. Philosophers of science offer their own explanations, generally without purpose apart from their own materialistic agenda. Either set of beliefs will establish the foundational view through which we peer into these questions. Creationists state they believe scripture is the starting point or foundation for their view. Materialists deny the authority of scripture and believe in human philosophy. Which is the true authority – man or God?

    False dichotomy! It’s like saying “Do I read the toaster as a computer manual, which is the true authority — toaster or computer?” I can’t help you if you’re purposely reading the wrong thing to answer the wrong questions.

    Basically, as a lay-person watching from the outside in to both the theological arguments and creationist ‘science’ arguments, I’m vastly more persuaded by the “polemic against ancient heresies” approach of Dr Dickson. It’s a creative narrative explaining that God just did it. God set up the universe the way we see it today. God made the stars to serve us, they are not gods that we sacrifice our babies to! God set the waters where they are with the power of his command, not as a result of warring gods fighting it out. God brings order out of chaos. These are the theological processes through which we are to understand early Genesis.

    Genesis answers why, science answers how.
    Genesis explains meanings and purposes, science explains mechanisms and processes.

    The theology of suffering gets a little complex once we allow evolution, but I’ve heard a number of interesting responses. JI Packer has one that basically says we evolved to a certain point and then God “woke us up” to his presence. We probably had the potential to live forever as we walked in the garden with God — which was what the imagery of the tree of life was all about. Nothing could have hurt us if we were in right relationship with the living God! Not earthquake or asteroid or hurricane or virus! But then we sinned, and the natural processes of ageing and genetic disease and death took over again. From dust we are made, and to dust we return. It all fits.

    Try this talk by Packer. It’s brilliant.

    http://www.sydneyanglicans.net/media/audio/creation_evolution_problems/

    We must humbly submit to what the bible does teach us, what it doesn’t, and where we try to integrate science and theology understand that there are only models. I find Packer’s model far more convincing an explanation of the world than the many creationist assumptions and straw-men that completely misrepresent what the peer-reviewed science actually says! A straw-man is NEVER a good way to start a debate, as it immediately cuts to the credibility of the arguer.

    • Lance Ponder says:

      //We must humbly submit to what the bible does teach us//

      Had you stopped here we’d be in total agreement. 🙂 The rest of our discussions are really red herrings. Either the bible is authoritative as the word of God, or it is not. That’s what is really at stake. If the bible is wrong, it isn’t true and can’t be trusted. If God did not tell us the truth about past creation, why should we for a moment think we have any hope in an eternal future?

      //…the many creationist assumptions and straw-men that completely misrepresent what the peer-reviewed science actually says! A straw-man is NEVER a good way to start a debate, as it immediately cuts to the credibility of the arguer.//

      Gravitational time dilation is one of several theories which could explain distant starlight. I just happen to find it most likely – thus the one I support most strongly – among the several based on my own physics background. Big Bang theory doesn’t even explain distant starlight because it has a series of its own light travel time problems.

      As to the straw man you keep referring to, I didn’t invent the 4D notion and neither did Dr. Humphreys. That was the work of Einstein.

  8. Eclipse Now says:

    Hi Lance,
    I raised your Source’s 4th dimension straw-man with some contacts online, and this was the reply. Most of the writing is my contact, but the quote in the middle is my question.

    *****
    For a three dimensional analogy, imagine an infinitely large loaf of raisin bread. As the loaf bakes and the bread rises, all raisins get further apart from each other. Pick any one raisin, and it would see itself as standing still while all other raisins were receding, and the farther away the raisin was to begin with, the faster it is receding.

    Remember, when we discuss the Big Bang, we are not referring to an explosion “into” anything. There is no reference frame outside of which you can see the explosion. In fact, explosion and bang are not accurate descriptors, and were originally applied by detractors of the theory in order to show its (to them) absurdity. The term has stuck because it is catchy, but the Big Bang is not an explosion of any kind.

    So is my creationist friend right when he says Astrophysics relies on a 4th dimension to try and suggest that the universe is expanding generally — everywhere — and not just expanding away from the Earth which again becomes the centre of the universe (and the magical time-dilation effect which explains away 13 billion light years). This sounds to my humanitarian / arts / non-technical ears like a new form of the old Copernican debate.

    Absolutely not. Again, your friend is so wrong, and so clearly has no clue what he was talking about, that I would doubt any assertion he were to make. Time is a dimension, whether he likes it or not. The Big Bang does not rely on there being four dimensions, it would apply if there were 11, 3, or any number. There is no evidence whatsoever to support the notion that the Earth, or any other point, is the center of the Universe. His notion of gravitational time dilation is quite ridiculous due to the inverse square law.

  9. Eclipse Now says:

    Check this… only 2:30

    • Lance Ponder says:

      Very good video. It describes the Big Bang belief in a centerless (unbounded) universe perfectly, almost exactly the same way Dr Humphreys writes about the big bang theory. The balloon analogy, which Dr Humphreys also uses to illustrate the very same point, is only a general approximation useful for explaining in layman terms a concept that requires an additional dimension of space-time. If the universe were truly infinite in three dimensions, there would be infinite galaxies out there, but there aren’t. A real infinite universe in 3D is mathematically impossible, although it is theoretically possible in 4D. The 4D thing isn’t something Dr Humphrey’s made up. It is one of three possible shapes the universe can have according to Einstein’s general relativity. Big Bang theory calculations are all based on the Einstein variable that supposes curved 4-D space. The balloon illustrates this, although the astronomer in the film did not go into that kind of detail. You can read it yourself in Einstein’s Annus Mirabilis which includes his entire set of papers (from 1905 and later additions including his cosmological constant work of 1917). If I recall correctly, it was the paper on the cosmological constant where you’ll find this information.

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