Ever look up those verses of scripture you see on signs at sporting events? We see John 3:16 prominently displayed on signs behind goalposts. We see Philippians 4:13 on Tim Tebow’s eye-black. Other athletes have tattoos of their favorite scriptures. As Christians, we love seeing those types of conspicuous references. Those passages warm our hearts and give us hope, as they should, because we have a relationship the living God. However, in an atheist’s mindset, those verses don’t paint an accurate picture of the God they envision. They believe that in order to paint an accurate portrait of God, people should paint passages like Isaiah 45:7, Judges 21:21 or Numbers 31:7 on signs instead.
Mark defines the act of cherry-picking as finding a passage of popular, feel-good scripture to provide a broad answer to the tough question(s) he asks or to counter the accusations he makes. Too often, Christians just refer to those popular verses and then attempt to avoid a hard issue. For example, if an atheist professes that God is cruel and unloving and a Christian simply replies with John 3:16, it will not fully suffice. Christians have to tell the entire story behind John 3:16 to validate the answer. To even have a chance to make a case with an atheist, a Christian must have a broad knowledge and wide range of scriptural references that pin-point the hard-hitting issue at hand.
Mark writes, “You can cherry pick out any verses you like in defense. Yet these people have used the same book to persecute women, people of other races, people of other religions, etc.” It is true that even today many ruthless Christians stand on street corners and condemn people and lifestyles. Sadly, some churches have even been classified as hate groups and not unjustly. Atheists do not discount those types of actions as non-Christian. Conversely, they believe those acts are truly representative of what our God condones. Atheists isolate passages anywhere in the Bible as long as they back up their attacks on God. Through study and analysis, though, Christians should be able to find that they do not need to cherry-pick scripture. The lessons and teachings of the Bible withstand even the toughest scrutiny.
The Bible covers thousands of years and many cultures. That, in itself, makes it hard for anyone to comprehend and no one can completely comprehend it. It’s meant to be understood in layers, meaning that it takes at least a couple of readings to begin to comprehend it and each reading reveals more meaning. It is written by human hands but dictated by God. He didn’t make it easy and Christians have made it harder. We have avoided hard parts and leaned on the feel-good verses.
It’s been said that the acronym for the Bible is: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. As a man, I can attest to not always understanding instruction manuals. If I pick up the manual for putting together my weed trimmer and just start reading it, I doubt I will understand it without being hands-on with the task. Often times, I have to read the instructions more than once to understand and those are just a few simple steps. The Bible contains thousands of pages of different forms of instructions and isn’t intended to be grasped simply in excerpts. So, is Mark right? Do we just pick out the verses of love and forgiveness and gloss over the rest because we think the happy verses get us saved?
More to come…