By Eric Chabot
Who says atheists are not evangelistic? This billboard from a recent evangelistic effort by atheists attempts to show why no rational person could possibly believe the Bible is an authoritative guide to living for today.
The problem with this is that the sign shows what is lacking in the complaints by village atheists. First, there is something we call Biblical hermeneutics which is the art and science of biblical interpretation. Do atheists really want to take the time to understand and learn about how to interpret the Bible? Probably not. What are the consequences when atheists don’t take the time to learn some of the basics of hermeneutics?
Sadly, this makes atheists look superficial and nothing more than a reactionary movement with little substance. But why use the word “superficial?” Because the sign quotes a verse totally out of context and then proceeds to have a picture of a slave. Then they accuse Christians of adhering to Bronze Age Myths. What else could be more superficial? Furthermore, signs like the one above make them look like they just want to present a distortion of the Christian faith which is not backed up by proper research. Now like I said, if they don’t care, then so be it. But they will continually embarrass themselves by doing this. And to say they are the champions of reason without truly investigating this issue is rather pathetic. Don’t get me wrong. I have friends who are atheists. I do care deeply about them. So for those that are interested in doing some proper research on the topic of slavery and the Bible see Does The Old Testament Endorse Slavery? here and Why Is the New Testament Silent on Slavery — or Is It? here and Glen Miller’s article called Does the Bible Condone Slavery? here. To see an overview of some of the basics of hermeneutics, see this article by New Testament scholar Craig Keener.
Also, I wonder if any atheists know that it was Christians who historians credit with being the primary force behind ending international slave trade. Two-thirds of the members of the American abolition society in 1835 were Christian ministers. Wilberforce, Charles Finney, William Lloyd Garrison, Edward Beecher, and Theodore Dwight Weld all battled to abolish slavery. John Gregg Fee, the evangelical founder of Berea College in Kentucky called out to God in prayer on his knees and said “Lord, if needs be, make me an Abolitionist” (Gary Haugen, Good News About Injustice, pg 62-63). See more here:
This billboard issue also reminds me of these comments made by Alister McGrath in his book Why God Won’t Go Away: Is The New Atheism Running On Empty? He says:
“I’d just finished giving a lecture in London in early 2010. A young man came up afterward and asked me to sign a copy of my textbook Christian Theology: An Introduction. I asked him what had led him to study theology. He told me that he’d read Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion a year or so earlier and it seemed so unfair and one-sided that he felt he needed to hear the other side. So he started going to church. After a while, he found he could not sustain his faith in the parody when confronted with the real thing. He converted to Christianity – joyfully and decisively. “Without Dawkins,” he told me, “I would never have given God a second thought.”
I hope and pray we see more people like this young man in the future.