How Do You Solve a Problem Like the Bible?

Is the Bible the greatest story ever told, or is it responsible for more bloodshed and oppression than any other book in history? Is it a love story, or is it sexist, homophobic, and pro-slavery? Is it the infallible word of God, or just another man-made myth?

It's complicated. In his brand-new book called "Scripture and the Skeptic," Maybe God host Eric Huffman explores these questions and more about the Bible, and he reaches some surprising conclusions. Dr. Jo Vitale joins Eric on this episode of Maybe God to respond to some of the toughest Bible questions submitted by Maybe God listeners.

Is the Bible the greatest story ever told, or is it responsible for more bloodshed and oppression than any other book in history?

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Eric Huffman:
Attention Maybe God listeners. If you have elementary school aged children who loves Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy you might want to make sure they're not around to hear this episode. The last thing we'd want to do is to give them any reason to doubt their mommy and daddy. Okay, you've been warned now enjoy the episode.
Mama Huffman:
Hello.
Eric Huffman:
Hey, mama.
Mama Huffman:
Hey, what you doing?
Eric Huffman:
I'm recording a podcast episode with you.
Mama Huffman:
Okay.
Eric Huffman:
You're my special guest. I got the picture of dad shooting squirrels from the back porch.
Mama Huffman:
Exciting times in the village.
Eric Huffman:
Exciting times up in Arkansas. I thought y'all were gun control people.
Mama Huffman:
Well we do have a BB gun.
Eric Huffman:
Oh it's just BBs, that's good.
Mama Huffman:
Yeah it's a BB gun.
Eric Huffman:
What are the squirrels doing?
Mama Huffman:
Well we've got bird feeders, which we'd love to watch the birds. But the squirrels come and try to get the bird feed and scare the birds away. So we're trying to keep the squirrels off the deck, if that all make sense.
Eric Huffman:
It does unless the birds are watching y'all shoot the squirrels. So mama, I got to ask you something, what did you think of my book?
Mama Huffman:
Well I've not read the whole thing, but I've read part of it.
Eric Huffman:
Have you?
Mama Huffman:
And I like it. Yeah.
Eric Huffman:
How far'd you get into?
Mama Huffman:
Probably almost halfway. You took some dramatic liberties but it's all right. I figure most authors do that.
Eric Huffman:
That's what I do. So I will say although I might have taken some dramatic liberties, the tooth fairy was the first domino to fall in my supernatural sort of smorgasbord of Gods and Goddesses and myths. And then it was the Easter Bunny and then it was Santa Claus and before long it was Jesus at some point, but I got him back.
Mama Huffman:
Yeah, yeah.
Eric Huffman:
So the last time I had you on the podcast dad was very complimentary of me as a son, as a young man and then I asked you to share what it was like to raise me. And you said "Well, you weren't very good in school. You didn't you didn't really love to do schoolwork. Lucky for you, you were good at tests." But basically, mom, what I got is that I was not always good at finishing what I started. Is that fair?
Mama Huffman:
Yes, I would think that's a fair assessment, I think you finished stuff you just kind of took the long way around, for you put it off, procrastinate.
Eric Huffman:
Yeah I've always had a little bit of a procrastination problem.
Mama Huffman:
Yes, something else was more fun. You might do the fun stuff first.
Eric Huffman:
Well, mama. I finished this project I wrote a book about the bible, 54,000 words. I actually finished something that I started. I just wanted you to be proud of me.
Mama Huffman:
Well and it's your second book that you finished. How about that.
Eric Huffman:
It is, it is. That's right. You're a sweet mama. And thanks for reading half my book. Now you should really work on finish what you started, you know it.
Mama Huffman:
Yes, I will. I will work on that, I promise.
Eric Huffman:
I've heard it's important to finish tasks that you begin.
Mama Huffman:
Yeah.
Eric Huffman:
Today on Maybe God, some say it's the greatest story ever told. The infallible word of God. Others believe it incites sexism, homophobia and even slavery. It has inspired billions of people for thousands of years, but the God ordained atrocities found on its pages are unmistakable. How do you solve a problem like the bible?
(MGP THEME)
Eric Huffman:
Growing up in Red Lake, Texas was as close to perfect as a childhood can be. My whole life centered around the church, the school, and the baseball field. Two documents comprise the foundation of life and Red Lake, the United States Constitution and the bible, as far as I knew they were one and the same. We didn't just think the bible was true, we knew it. No questions asked and no doubt about it.
Eric Huffman:
My upbringing instilled in me all kinds of assumptions, most of which were good. But these assumptions led to me growing up sheltered and naïve. I assumed that I could believe everything that my church, my pastors, and my parents ever told me. That's why finding out the truth about the tooth fairy felt like knocking over that first domino. Because then I found out about the Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus and magicians.
Eric Huffman:
Then one of my Sunday school teachers cheated on his wife and got divorced. And then I went off to college and for the first time in my life, I heard people asking really hard questions about the Bible. Questions I'd never thought to ask, questions I couldn't answer. And for the next 13 years I doubted just about everything, including the Bible. It's been 20 years since I de-converted from my Bible Belt religion. And today I'm sitting here in Houston holding a new book that just came out.
Eric Huffman:
The author claims that the Bible is perfect and true. He insists that the Bible is actually the Word of God, and that even the ugliest parts about slavery and misogyny are in there for a reason. He talks about the Bible, much like my pastors back in Red Lake used to. Here's the crazy part. It's my name on the cover, and my picture on the back sleeve. I'm the author of this book called Scripture and the Skeptic. And I still can't wrap my head around the fact that I've written a book in defense of the Bible's perfection.
Eric Huffman:
I want to make something clear. Coming to Jesus in 2013 didn't require me to leave my skepticism behind. I continue to question everything today. I'm still a skeptic. I understand the skeptic's dilemma where the Bible is concerned. That's why I wrote this book for people like me. And skeptics like Jonathan from Atlanta, Georgia.
Eric Huffman:
Hey, Jonathan, this is Eric Huffman with the Maybe God podcast.
Jonathan:
Hey.
Eric Huffman:
How you doing, man?
Jonathan:
I'm doing well. How are you? You guys have your weather [crosstalk 00:06:36].
Eric Huffman:
While scrolling through his Instagram feed one day, Jonathan came across a survey that the Maybe God team posted all over social media. We were asking people to share their doubts with us about the Bible, as well as some of the ways that the Bible has disappointed them or broken their hearts. As soon as I read Jonathan's answers, I knew that I'd found a fellow skeptic. He grew up in rural Illinois, the oldest of seven kids, including two biological sisters, and four adopted brothers.
Jonathan:
I was raised as a Christian, at a church that my grandfather pastored. Family's always been really heavily involved in church. We were Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, sometimes we'd have revivals and go all week, every day. And all my friends were at church. So it was really a part of everything.
Eric Huffman:
So would you say that you were, as a child as a teenager, were you on fire for the Lord, at that point in your life?
Jonathan:
Oh, yeah. I mean, it's not an exaggeration to say that Jesus was my best friend. As a kid kind of showed a natural inclination towards the Bible and towards the gospel. I actually preached my first sermon when I was 11.
Eric Huffman:
Wow.
Jonathan:
I say first, because I did several more after that.
Eric Huffman:
In addition to preaching sermons at church and helping his parents raise his younger siblings at home, Jonathan excelled in school.
Jonathan:
It's the interesting thing of being somebody who's incredibly curious, and a pretty smart kid who is relating to a body of believers that doesn't really have an interest in intellectual pursuits like that. I mean, we were rural, a lot of the congregation was kind of poor. And we were very much an experience kind of church. And in some ways, my intellectual pursuits sort of ran a different track than the experiential, spiritual things.
Eric Huffman:
When was the first time you remember feeling obvious disconnect between who you were and who the church wanted you to be?
Jonathan:
Man, that's a great question. Some of the conflict between our world and the outside world was obvious. In other ways, it was much more subtle, or even just sort of implied. We held very strongly to scriptures like the passage that says "Be in the world, but not of it." So we were very particular about things like movies, and music and entertainment. We were obviously teetotalers. But I think as far as beliefs go, it was in college when I met an Old Testament professor, and he believed in evolution.
Jonathan:
And that was the first time where it wasn't just somebody has a different belief, and they're just wrong. It was somebody has a different belief. They have a good reason for having that belief. And they can argue for why that makes sense to them in light of Scripture. And I think that was the first time where I felt a disconnect between what I'd grown up believing and this sort of new information being presented to me.
Eric Huffman:
This is where I really relate to Jonathan. Some Maybe God listeners might remember that my faith began to unravel when I was in college. During my junior year, my New Testament 101 Professor, Dr. Otto was passionate about dismantling core Christian beliefs. His favorite pastime was demonstrating all the ways that Christians were wrong about the Bible. So a full 17 years after I graduated, and went back to that campus to talk with Dr. Otto, for a season two episode called Can Faith and Doubt Coexist?
Eric Huffman:
How are you doing, man?
Dr. Otto:
Hi, how are you?
Eric Huffman:
It's good to see you. Been to long.
Dr. Otto:
Yeah, it's been a long time.
Eric Huffman:
How have you been?
Eric Huffman:
This is how he described me when we sat down in his office two years ago.
Dr. Otto:
I remember a very young man, who seemed to initially think he had it all figured out in terms of faith. And you had what I'd call a pie cross faith, which was it was something easily made but easily broken. And when the pieces started falling apart, I noticed you scrambling, and the scrambling is what I remember. You looking for a way to put it back together again.
Eric Huffman:
Do you see that a lot with students?
Dr. Otto:
Oh all the time, yeah.
Eric Huffman:
I always got the sense that Dr. Otto really enjoyed watching his students scramble to piece their broken pie crust faith back together. I suppose that's part of his job. But when a trusted professor, the chair of the religion department, no less, lacks objectivity and offers a decidedly pessimistic view of Christianity and the Bible, things can get out of hand. Dr. Otto's approach with Christian students involved gaining our admiration and respect, before dropping the hammer on us by insisting that any intelligent person who looks at the Bible we'll see that...
Dr. Otto:
... It's absurd. And it's not until you really learn the absurdity of the Christian faith, that you can make a leap to a different form of understanding that's informed. It's critical thinking. It's not taking things blindly. And it's wrestling with the absurdity. Because it is absurd. I mean...
Eric Huffman:
Say more. What do you mean about that?
Dr. Otto:
Well, if you think about a Jewish peasant, over 2,000 years ago, pissed off some Romans, was crucified, and rose from the dead Three days later, continued teaching and mentally ascended to heaven. Well, that doesn't happen very often. And it's rather absurd to make that claim, unless you have something that you can rely upon to back it up.
Eric Huffman:
I chose to believe Dr. Otto, that the Bible is absurd, and that Christianity is a fool's errand. Not only did I abandon the faith of my childhood, I took a sledgehammer to the foundation on which I'd been raised. When I came to the conclusion that Jesus was basically just another lie in a long line of others that I'd been told, going all the way back to the Tooth Fairy, that's when I stopped being a skeptic who seeks answers. And I became a cynic who doesn't believe the answers exist in the first place. And my heart grew so resentful toward anybody who claimed to have any answers, but especially to work Christians. I asked Jonathan, if he struggled with the same resentment.
Jonathan:
As I started to encounter more and more reasonable beliefs, and belief systems, that were outside of what I was raised in, and also were completely foreign to me, because I wasn't even aware of them. I think there were times where I certainly felt resentment towards having been closed off. Also with things related to friends who'd seen movies that I hadn't seen, or... I mean, I joked with my friends in college that I was discovering all this great music a decade after they were.
Eric Huffman:
You became a Nirvana fan in 2009.
Jonathan:
Right, exactly. That's exactly right.
Eric Huffman:
Another thing that causes young Christians to grow resentful toward their churches, is how Christians often treat issues like sex and dating. When you're a Christian teenager, there's such a vast disconnect between what the world is telling you and what the church is telling you. And then of course, there's the issue of what your body is telling you, which tends to side with the world more than the church, which as Jonathan will tell, you present a dilemma for young believers.
Jonathan:
I will be 28 next month. And so I was raised kind of right in the peak of the purity culture movement. We did a program called True Love Waits in my youth group in high school. And then that culminated in a church service where we all signed a pledge to remain abstinent until marriage and we received purity rings from our parents. And so I actually didn't date at all until college. And in college, there was a lot of tension for me between desires I was having and the beliefs that I had. I very strongly felt a lot of guilt and shame about having sexual desires for girls at school and knowing that I was taught that was wrong and sinful.
Eric Huffman:
Yeah, I have these vivid memories of, in my teenage years, as boys do, I would have thoughts, impure thought about girls at night. And wake up in the morning to an empty house, like the family had gone out for doughnuts or something. And I was convinced... You can tell me what I was convinced of right?
Jonathan:
That you'd been left behind.
Eric Huffman:
Exactly, yeah, the fear, the dread, if you haven't lived that you have no idea what it's like to think you've been left behind in the Rapture. So the rapture is this idea that before the apocalypse, the end of the world, Jesus is going to call all the Christians in the world up to heaven with him. And billions of people will instantly disappear from the earth. When you're a kid, and you're raised with this idea in your head, your imagination can play some really cruel tricks on you at times, as Jonathan found out when he was just 11 years old.
Jonathan:
I woke up one morning, and nobody was in the house. It was a Saturday, and I looked outside, and I couldn't see anybody. And, of course, I started panicking. And I don't know if you had this, but there was like a person that you would call, you'd be like, "All right, if they answer the phone, the rapture hasn't happened, because there's no way they got left behind." So I called my grandma, and she didn't pick up.
Eric Huffman:
Oh, no.
Jonathan:
And I ran out into the yard crying, and like collapsed on my knees. And then I hear a voice behind me go "Jonathan." And turned around and my family was all outside. But they were in the section of the house where there weren't any windows.
Eric Huffman:
The trauma man, the trauma is real.
Jonathan:
Yeah.
Eric Huffman:
While, it's true that kids like Jonathan and I have to deal with a little trauma at times there are also plenty of positives about growing up in a tight knit Christian community.
Jonathan:
That resentment kind of went away when I realized it's not like they were lying to me. They were telling me the things they truly believed were real, even with the sexual stuff. So I think the things that I still value now are things like stand beside your principles, no matter what. Hold on to your convictions. I appreciate that my family was very close. They're still very close. And I was one of the only of my friend group who wasn't the product of divorce. And a lot of the church things I did were fun. So there's a lot of that I look back on much more fondly now.
Eric Huffman:
Dr. Jo Vitale is a PhD from Oxford University, and a renowned international speaker. She's been featured on several podcasts, and she posts one of her own called Ask Away, where she consistently demonstrates the reasons why I consider her to be one of the most brilliant Christian apologists in the world. As an academic, her mind works on another level, but she always speaks clearly without wasting any words. Like Jonathan and I, Jo is a skeptic from the south. But unlike us, she's not from the Bible Belt.
Jo Vitale:
I'm from the south of England. So I grew up in an extremely secular context. I did grow up in a Christian home, actually, my dad is also a pastor. And I spent a lot of time in the church, but I was always the really weird, odd person out. I mean, I was maybe the only Christian in my year in high school.
Eric Huffman:
The only one.
Jo Vitale:
Yeah, so I guess the good thing about that situation that is, you have to decide really early if you're in or not, because you can't just kind of swim along in the culture of Christianity, it's not there, you've got to go against the flow really early. So you've got to decide is this worth the cost? Because this is really costly, socially, at least. And so I would say, I came to know Jesus pretty early in my young teens and just had an amazing encounter with the love of God that really transformed my life.
Eric Huffman:
One summer, when Jo was 13 years old, her parents sent her to church camp. Now, if you've never been to church camp, just imagine all the enthusiasm of band camp or cheerleading camp, mixed with all the hormones of adolescence, and then add a good amount of religious fanaticism and just a pinch of shame. And you've got church camp.
Jo Vitale:
All these people who seem to be having these encounters with God, and I was judging them so much. I was like, "Look at these overly emotional, dramatic people who I think they just want attention. There's nothing real in this." And then God just completely humbled me.
Eric Huffman:
Jo was listening to a missionary speaking about people who didn't know Jesus.
Jo Vitale:
And I remember sitting there being like, "I do not care. I just don't care about these people." And I remember praying "Ord, I think I'm supposed to care about this, but my heart is like a rock in my chest." But I prayed this stupidly dangerous prayer of saying, "Would you teach me how to love people, because that's something I didn't seem to have." and I thought, maybe that'd be like a gentle process and the next thing I knew I was bawling my eyes out on the floor because I couldn't even stand up I was so overcome.
Jo Vitale:
And I just felt the heaviness of this profound grief that I've never known before or since. Honestly, it just felt like God just give me the smallest glimpse of his heart for people and how much it devastates him that people are hurting and lost, and they don't know that he loves them. And then God just started bringing to mind just the faces of people all over the world. And just I felt like he was asking me, "Will you love this person, will you love them. And what are you willing to give up to love them." And I just then felt flooded with love and kind of like a head to toe pins and needles, a very warm experience. I don't really know how to describe it. But this just overwhelming feeling of just being profoundly and deeply loved for nothing that I had done to deserve it. Because God put that love in me and gave me a heart to love others. And I think that's where, within me began that real desire to share that with other people.
Eric Huffman:
In her late teens, Jo found that the more she told people about Jesus, the more that Christian men in her life would tell her...
Jo Vitale:
That's not what women do. You're supposed to support a man who tells people about Jesus, but you yourself, this idea that you might be called, particularly to speak about him. That's a problem.
Eric Huffman:
Yeah.
Jo Vitale:
So I was getting quite a lot of that. And they were telling me "And that's what the Bible says." And I was saying, "What do you mean, that's what the Bible says." So that was [crosstalk 00:21:23].
Eric Huffman:
At various points in the Bible, there does appear to be a double standard for men and women. First of all, the Bible is written almost entirely by men. In the Old Testament, only men could be priests. In one part of the New Testament, the apostle Paul wrote, "I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man." As Jo began to dig deeper for answers to tough questions regarding women in Scripture, she grew increasingly concerned about the God she might discover if she peeked behind the curtain.
Jo Vitale:
Kind of like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, that I would pull back the veil. And behind there would just be this little old man, and it was all just a big fake. And so I was frightened to keep digging into scriptures. Like "Lord will I even find you there, will I even find that you're good. Do you exist at all?" So I ran the other way for a while, but you can't outrun doubts, they will overtake you.
Jo Vitale:
And so eventually, when it became clear for me was when I started running back and saying, "Okay, I'm going to bring you my questions, and not be afraid to ask you the hard questions and work through this with you, rather than trying to do it without you. Because this isn't getting me anywhere." And that was when I think I really learned that God is so much bigger than my questions. And actually that questions can be an act of worship rather than something that undermines your faith.
Jo Vitale:
I think Christians are often made to feel like if I'm struggling here, I just need to bury it, that God will be offended that I have questions about him. But I think, well when someone asks me a question about myself, even if it's a hard question I love it. Because it makes me feel like they want to know me. And isn't God the same. So when I realized he welcomed my questions, and he wasn't threatened by them, that was like this huge sigh of relief for me. And gradually he built back my faith. Some things look different but actually it was an amazing thing to realize, often the very texts I found the hardest, the ones I was most scared of when I dug into them, came to be the ones that I loved the most sometimes.
Eric Huffman:
Instead of running from her fears about God and the Bible, Jo has made it her life's work to explore these ancient texts and find out what was really going on in context. Her doctoral dissertation at Oxford was on the subject of women in the Old Testament. And she's devoted her entire career to this topic, which makes her the best person I can think of to offer clarity on some of the horrific stories surrounding women in the Bible.
Jo Vitale:
Once I realized, okay, the Bible isn't about perfect people, it's actually a story of epic mess ups, one after the other. And the point there isn't to commend the way people are behaving, but actually, it's to show the beauty of God's response to people even in our mess. And so I could deal with the hard stories, because I sort of thought, "Well, actually, that's probably a good thing because my life and reality is so broken, if the Bible didn't contain brokenness, how could even relate to me?" I mean, how is the fairy tale going to help anyone?
Eric Huffman:
You're right.
Jo Vitale:
That had nothing to say to my hurts and my pains and my anger and the injustice I saw in the world.
Eric Huffman:
So when you're reading the Bible, you're going to come across some awful stories about evil people doing truly terrible things, and often to women. But saying you hate the Bible, because men can be evil is like saying you hate Harry Potter because Voldemort is evil. I mean, you'd be right. Voldemort is bad, but it's not his story. It's Harry's story, just like the Bible isn't any one man's story, it's the story about God. Once we get over the shock of the atrocities in the Bible, then we have to deal with some of the Old Testament laws and regulations that can seem confusing at best, if not sexist. Like the rule that a new mother is considered more unclean when she gives birth to a daughter than she is when she gives birth to a son.
Jo Vitale:
I think those were harder for me because my thinking would be well, these have come from God. So what do I do with some of those that just seem either straight up weird or just offensive and sexist and oppressive. And I think one question I started to ask, which really helped me to reframe my understanding was, what is being protected by these laws? That flipped the whole thing for me, because some of the hardest laws, even if it seems strange for my 21st century perspective, this is actually more often than not about protecting something sacred.
Jo Vitale:
And actually, the ones that bothered me the most were more often than not about protecting the very women that I thought were being oppressed. And partly, it was coming to realize I'm projecting from my cultural perspective back onto a very ancient culture. And I'm assuming things work the same. I mean, you talk about this in your book, I thought you said it very well. It is chronological snobbery, sort of thinking that now we're in this timeframe that we know best and back then they just had no clue what they were doing. But you're judging a different culture.
Eric Huffman:
One issue that applies here is the widespread ancient practice of a man offering a bride price to his wife's father, in exchange for her hand in marriage.
Jo Vitale:
This idea of like, you purchase a wife as if she's like, a possession or something, and that sounds bad, doesn't it? It's like, "Oh, you're buying a woman. This is appalling." But then you get into it and you realize no actually, this is about the opposite. This is about honoring women because a bride price is basically it's the opposite of the dowry system in India today, where the bride's family pay money to the groom's family. It's about saying you're worth something. And I'm so committed to this process that I'm going to put my money where my mouth is and say, "Okay, we're going to take this really seriously." And hey, what was done with the bride price? Well, the money was set aside. So if anything ever happened to the women, because they were so vulnerable in that culture, say her husband dies, and she can't survive or be supported that money was set aside for her provision, and protection.
Jo Vitale:
So far from this being about "Oh, let's just buy women instead." It's actually about honor this women show how much she's worth and safeguard her life. And time and time again, those are the things you see that well, men are willing to treat women in horrendous ways God steps in time and time again to say, "Absolutely not, absolutely not." That's what I see when I read these texts in the Bible so it's tremendously encouraging.
Eric Huffman:
Great, so we can feel a little less queasy about the Old Testament writings. But what do we do about the Apostle Paul, whose writings are the reason that those Christian men told Jo that she should keep quiet? By putting Paul's writings in context, Jo thinks Paul's teachings are actually great news for women like her. And women like my wife and co-pastor, Giovanna. Women who believe they've been called by God to speak up and lead the church in some way.
Jo Vitale:
In the context of the New Testament Church, amazing things that being said about women. That husbands, not only does a wife's body belongs to you, but your body belongs to her. Yes, women submit to your husbands, which was a no brainer at that point. But husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. I mean, hello, which one of those is harder? Like, it's such a beautiful, kind of like mutuality of submission and surrender to one another. And I think that's true of marriage. I also think it's true within the church, we have Paul yes, talking about like, women be fine in the church in 1 Corinthians 14, but then it's like, gosh, hop back to 1 Corinthians 11. And he's saying women are praying and prophesying. And I'm like, hello what are they doing, doing that. He expects them to be speaking? So clearly, this isn't this blanket ban on women speaking.
Eric Huffman:
I can understand why Paul presents such a problem for people who believe in gender equality. But as Jo said, even Paul empowered women to pray and prophesy in his churches. And beyond Paul, there are other times in Scripture when God clearly appoints and ordains female leadership, such as in the Old Testament book of Judges, where God appointed a woman named Deborah to lead all of Israel, both the women and the men.
Eric Huffman:
For me, in the end, it really comes down to Jesus. How did Jesus treat the women in his life? In the last chapter of my book, I quoted the great Dorothy Sayers who once wrote, "Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the cradle and last at the cross. They had never known a man like this man, a prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized, who never made jokes about them, who took their questions and their arguments seriously, who never urged them to be feminine, or jeered at them for being female, who had no ax to grind, and no uneasy male dignity to defend, who took them as he found them, and was completely un-self conscious." People on both the left and the right seem to believe that feminism is antithetical to a biblical worldview. So to wrap up our conversation about women, I asked Jo if she considers herself a feminist.
Jo Vitale:
Yeah, great question. Gosh, that term is loaded in the states in a way it just isn't in England. So nowadays, I don't really use the term feminist so much, because I actually think everything I want to say that's good about feminism, in terms of equality and value already is encapsulated in, to my mind in the phrase, Christian. So I just go with that, because I think that's what Jesus stands up for. And when you look at how God just made us for each other in the first place, actually, you see this stunning picture of equality and complementarity, but not in a negative way.
Jo Vitale:
When God makes the woman in Genesis 2 and it says... I think the King James translates it as a suitable helper or help mate or something like that. Suitable is such an unsuitable word. Because actually, when you really get down to the Hebrew, there, this idea of helper sounds so offensive, isn't it, just sort of like the lovely assistant in a magician's show or something. But actually, helper, that word is used of God throughout the Old Testament, so it's not actually intended to be a demeaning word.
Jo Vitale:
And then the qualifying word that comes with it is [foreign language 00:31:10], in Hebrew, but in English, that just means a counterpart. It's kind of like a mirror image, that's implying you're equal but opposite. There's this beautiful equality, as if you're standing in front of each other totally equal, but you're also different. And I love that, that as Christians we get to celebrate that we are different, men and women are not the same and we don't need to erase all of that.
Jo Vitale:
But different doesn't mean unequal or have less value or secondary to God, it absolutely doesn't mean that. So if you strip that away for feminism, what are you left with? You're left with survival of the fittest, and every man for himself. I mean naturalism is not a good foundation of a worldview, if you're a feminist, because you're not the strongest. If you just come down to pure biology, that's a losing situation for women. So if you want to ground equality, where are you going to ground it? There's just a such a sad irony there to me that the very people who are fighting for equality don't recognize that the foundation of the equality that they long for is given to them right on the first pages of the Bible.
Eric Huffman:
Jo Vitale and Jonathan, our skeptic, who wrote to us from Atlanta, have a lot in common. They're both naturally skeptical, and both took an intellectual or academic approach to resolving their doubts about the Bible. After Jonathan encountered professors in college who challenged his faith, like the one who offered a biblical defense of evolution, he started reading every book that he could get his hands on, which led him to wrestle with some really new perspectives on Christianity. That curiosity led Jonathan to enroll in seminary to pursue his Master's degree in the hopes of one day becoming a professor of theology.
Jonathan:
When I announced to my family that I was going to seminary, my grandmother pulled me aside and said, "I'm really worried about you going to seminary, because they'll take your faith away from you." Which is-
Eric Huffman:
Can I tell you what my grandmother said?
Jonathan:
Sure.
Eric Huffman:
My grandmother said, "Don't let them open your mind too much your brains will fall out."
Jonathan:
Right, right. Yeah. And so, which is hilarious to think about, because the seminary I went to on the whole is one of the most conservative seminaries, I'm sure, around. Very much along the lines of solidly evangelical Christian beliefs. I managed to meet a professor there who was a little more outside of the traditional path, theologically, and the very first semester I took a class on hermeneutics, and discovered that it was possible that the Bible wasn't perfect.
Jonathan:
Also, one of my best friends had gone through a crisis of faith, and told me, "I just want you to know, you're one of my best friends. I'm an atheist now." So on top of having these sort of new ways of understanding my faith opened up by seminary, I was also reading things about Christianity and atheism, trying to figure out how I could save my friend. The difficult part for me was that some of the atheists I started studying were making good points.
Jonathan:
So that period of time where I was studying my masters of divinity, I think we're just, ideologically tumultuous. It was very much sort of constant shifting, moving, changing. I remember that one of the difficulties I had was that while my intellectual beliefs were being challenged and reformed, I'd really lost touch with the experience side of my faith. Which was while I was growing up, kind of the whole thing.
Eric Huffman:
Yeah.
Jonathan:
And I distinctly remember, I think, at a really low point, there was a night where I was laying on my couch and I was crying, and I was begging for God to respond. Because it had been so long since I had heard, felt or seen anything like what I'd grown up with. That I was just feeling kind of desperate for a sense of connection to the divine and nothing happened.
Eric Huffman:
I'm curious what it was like with your family at this point in your journey as the foundations are sort of trembling beneath your feet? Were you able to talk to them about what you were really experiencing?
Jonathan:
To some degree, although I wasn't very good at articulating some of it, I started going to therapy to process through kind of what all of this was doing to me emotionally. And I remember distinctly a conversation where the first time I said to my mom, that I didn't know if I believed anymore. And I told her that and she said, "We love you as Jonathan our son, not because you're Jonathan the Christian."
Eric Huffman:
Wow, good for her.
Jonathan:
And I'm incredibly lucky because so many people who come from the kind of background I did, their family has abandoned them.
Eric Huffman:
Yep.
Jonathan:
And my family hasn't done that.
Eric Huffman:
About three years ago, while he was still in seminary, Jonathan says his faith became too weak to carry the weight of his questions.
Jonathan:
And I think it was February of 2020, I finally decided that I didn't believe anymore. And have spent the last, I guess, a year now as solidly atheistic.
Eric Huffman:
When Jonathan answered our questionnaire, he told us that these days, he doubts just about every claim made by the Bible.
Jonathan:
So first of all, I shouldn't have said that. So it's one of those moments where I think in the moment, I'm like, being really pithy and wanting to be a little bit impetuous.
Eric Huffman:
Okay.
Jonathan:
I think I would say that I have strong skepticism towards any of the supernatural claims the bible makes. And particularly the central claims about the divinity of Jesus. And because I think one of the things that people tend to miss, is that the questions, is Christianity true and does God exist are two completely different questions.
Eric Huffman:
Yes, absolutely.
Jonathan:
I think for me the question that ultimately sort of broke the camel's back, I got to a point where I couldn't believe in the resurrection anymore. I was like, I can keep calling myself a Christian, who doubts the resurrection. But it seems like if there's any one belief that might be the take it or leave it belief for Christianity, it might be that Jesus came back from the dead.
Eric Huffman:
Yeah, yeah, man, your story resonates with me. And I really value everything you had to say today. And that is why I wrote the book. That's why I wrote Scripture and the Skeptic is exactly because of the reason you've articulated here and for people exactly in the frame of mind that you're in. Because these struggles you've lifted up are entirely valid, entirely reasonable, and understandable.
Jonathan:
I appreciate you giving me the chance to share it.
Eric Huffman:
While talking to Jonathan, I really felt like my job was to listen and not to try and fight him or prove him wrong. Because when I was 28 years old, and full of resentment and bitterness toward Christians, nobody could have talked me out of what I believed, much less some evangelical pastor. That's not to say there's no hope for people like Jonathan, because I still believe there's a chance that one day, he might come full circle and find himself back in love with Jesus again. But if that happens, he's going to have to get there, without any coercion or manipulation from others.
Eric Huffman:
He needs Christians right now who will listen to him and love him well, without patronizing or condescending him. We have to remember that salvation is God's work, not ours, and the God I find in Scripture, and will never give up on people like Jonathan.
Eric Huffman:
While speaking with Jo, I asked her to help me answer some of the questions that Jonathan and other Maybe God listeners have raised about the Bible, starting with Jesus's miracles, especially the resurrection.
Jo Vitale:
I think that's a big stumbling block for people, isn't it? That's what it comes down to when people have that question of is the Bible fact or fiction, or can we take it seriously as a historical document? I guess the point here I would want to make is actually, that's one of the things that really verifies the truth of who Jesus is. In fact, I mean, the whole reason I'm a Christian comes down to the resurrection, which is the ultimate miracle in a way. And Christians aren't stupid in the sense that we just think, "Hey, miracles are just sort of normal." The whole point of a miracle is it's actually breaking the natural law. It's doing something so unexpected, that it points to something beyond.
Jo Vitale:
That's why in John's Gospel, they're not called miracles. They're called signs. So it's not like Christians are saying "Hey, like no big deal." You had to swallow the miracles hole. It's more like saying, "Hey, like I realized this is making a radical claim." But the thing that marked Jesus is different wasn't just his incredible teaching, it wasn't just the love with which he treated people. But actually he backed up the outrageous claims that he made. And whoa, did Jesus make outrageous claims. I mean, he doesn't just... You can't just lump him in the category of a great moral teacher when he goes around basically being like, "Before Abraham was I am. I have the power to forgive sins. No one comes to the Father except through me."
Jo Vitale:
Honestly, like this guy is either delusional or he's a fraud, or he is who he says he is. But how do we believe he is who he claimed to be? Well, it's because his miracles backed up the unbelievable claims that he made about himself. It's crazy, really, to think, "Okay, well, like 2000 years later, you're saying we can still look into the evidence for the resurrection and find something compelling there?" I realize that is a crazy thing to say but yes.
Eric Huffman:
Yeah, absolutely.
Jo Vitale:
I actually think the evidence for the resurrection is really remarkable. You have this guy who goes around preaching and everyone's following him, and then he dies. And that should be the end of the movement, that should be done and dusted, it's game over. But then suddenly, historically, what you then have immediately afterwards is this eruption of the Christian faith across the ancient world. And so something happened to take Christians from the end of this movement, this persecuted a tiny group of people to this radical movement of people willing to be martyred for the things that they saw. And I think that's key.
Jo Vitale:
These people didn't just know Jesus 100 years later, but actually, they saw him with their own eyes. And they were convinced not only was he a good teacher, but he was God. And they were willing to lay down their lives him.
Eric Huffman:
Sure.
Jo Vitale:
But actually, would just encourage you if that's your question, to go away and read about the resurrection, because I think it's stunning. And I guess my point there would be if God truly did raise us from the dead, that validates who he claimed to be. And if he is the Son of God, the rest of the miracles aren't surprising.
Eric Huffman:
It's been interesting to see how in recent years, the questions people are asking about the Bible have been changing. I've noticed a massive culture shift. People are asking fewer questions now about miracles, and more questions about morality and the goodness of God. Jo said she's picked up on the same trend in her work.
Jo Vitale:
10 to 15 years ago, there used to be more questions about truth. Is it true? Is the Bible reliable? How do we know that Jesus really lived? How do we know he rose from the dead? And those questions are still important, but I don't think that's where people start anymore. I think now, the questions are really much more about his God good. I think people won't even ask the question of truth until they're first confident that it would be good for them.
Jo Vitale:
Pascal actually, a sort of Old French philosopher. He once said that First, you must show people that it's beautiful. And then they'll be interested in the question of whether it's true. And I think that's really where people's hearts are at today, actually, that people don't see Christianity as beautiful. They actually see it as hate speech, as harmful, as damaging, particularly when it comes to any marginalized group really, are there questions around is Christianity racist? Is it bigoted? Is it anti LGBTQI? Is it anti-women? Basically, it's a question of, does God love me and my friends.
Jo Vitale:
And that encourages me, actually. A lot of people get stressed out by the younger generation, because they're scared of how passionate they are about justice. And it feels very threatening. I think that's amazing. To me that's what it means to be after God's own heart because God is passionate about justice.
Eric Huffman:
One of the questions we asked on social media was, is there something in the Bible that you wish wasn't there? And almost all the answers we received dealt with issues relating to God's character and morality. One man responded, "Removing the passages where God commands or commits genocide would be nice. And while we're at it, taking out the passages that condone sexism, racism, homophobia, and slavery would be what I call a good start." More than anything today, people seem to be questioning if they can be in a relationship with a God who does evil things in the Bible. So I asked Jo to chime in.
Jo Vitale:
This one's a hard one, just because it's such a general question. When actually every text that you're referring to you need to do the hard work of actually looking at what is the context of this particular passage, what was going on in this situation, because they'll be different responses depending on whichever example you're talking about. But as a general principle, the thing that helped me when I was working through this, was actually when something really awful happened. And one of my best friends was raped, and just watching her go through the horror of that, and the way she began to just hate herself and blame herself and not eat and just bounce from one relationship to another because she just couldn't cope with intimacy anymore. Just so much hurt in her life.
Jo Vitale:
And it's very hard to describe how angry I was that this had happened to her, but also how angry I was that the guy who did this to her got away with it. And I think that was the first time when something clicked for me. I mean, the Bible has this word, wrath, and that sounds so antiquated and terrible, doesn't it? The word wrath. But actually, wrath doesn't mean like you're flying off the handle in a fit of rage. Wrath is like God's uncompromising, unrelenting hatred towards evil in all of its forms. It's God's hatred of when people treat each other in appalling ways. And that's what I was experiencing at that point in my life. I was experiencing wrath.
Jo Vitale:
And actually that was a righteous anger. I wasn't crazy to feel that way. There wasn't something wrong with me feeling that way, I felt that way because I loved her and that's what you do when you love somebody and something terrible happens to them. The irony here is that today we live in a culture where we are so passionate about justice and for wrongs to be put to write and we want people who do want to be held accountable. And yet when we come to the Old Testament and we see people being held accountable for injustice we get mad at God for doing the very thing that we want him to do today.
Jo Vitale:
And in fact the complaint of the Israelites was not that God stepped in and did these things it was that he took such a long time to do it. They suffered the most grievous and horrendous wrongs from other nations for 400 years, is one of the descriptions were given about the appalling way that they're being treated and what they have to undergo, is they themselves were slaves. But God takes his time because he's a God who's slow to anger but abounding in love. I think our problem is sometimes we don't understand how what is taking places justice and sometimes we think we're confused about maybe what was going on at the time. How appalling the treatment was, why certain things are a big deal, because to us they're not a big deal in our culture.
Jo Vitale:
It's interesting to me that we live in a culture today where if you steal a TV you go to praise them but if you commit adultery and break up someone's marriage that's not a crime. There isn't a punishment for that. The Old Testament values things differently, it values people far more than property, that's why adultery is a capital offense in the Old Testament because marriage is so sacred and people are so sacred and relationships are so sacred. And so that's something to be protected. So it seems backwards very often the things that we see going on in the Old Testament is because we haven't understood what's been protected, we haven't understood the heart of God that is so for people that judgment is not the opposite of love, but actually it's the expression of love. When someone you love is wronged your heart cries out for justice.
Jo Vitale:
And if we're made that way how much more so is God. And the more I've come to see the injustice in the world the more I feel actually how could I possibly worship a God who doesn't stand up for evil, he just kind of sweeps it away under some divine cosmic carpet and says "Hey no big deal. No big deal that that happened to you, no big deal that you were raped, no big deal that you were treated in this racist way, no big deal that your father did that to you." That's not the God of the bible who says this matters, this matters profoundly and justice has to be served. And yet, and yet, we'd be in so much trouble if that was where he ended but that's not where it ends and that's where Jesus comes in isn't it. And that's the beauty of the gospel that Jesus says it matters so much the ways that you've abused and demeaned and wronged each other that there has to be a consequence, and it's serious, it's death. But I love you so much, so, so much that I'm not going to let you take that on yourselves.
Jo Vitale:
Because rather than coming in and judging you for this I'm actually stepping in and taking it on myself. And then Jesus, what does Jesus do? He looks down on the cross on those who are killing any prays over them, "Father, forgive them. They know not what they do." That is the ultimate heart of God, he's committed to justice but boy does he do everything he can to show us mercy. And that is not just the new test an idea that's all the way through the Old Testament. God is a God who is slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness.
Eric Huffman:
This is where bible skeptics will want to tap the brakes and say "Excuse me, do you really expect me to believe that God demonstrates a consistent ethic of love throughout the whole bible?" Most of us have gotten the impression that Old Testament God and New Testament God have completely different temperaments and tactics. One example of this would be the litany of laws that God required his people to follow in the Old Testament. But in the New Testament he seems to say that it's okay for Christians not to follow those same laws that he wants required. One question that several Maybe God listeners asked has to do with God's apparent inconsistency here. They asked "If the bible is 100% true why aren't Christians required to follow all the laws in the Old Testament?"
Jo Vitale:
I guess the short answer would be, because Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament law? That doesn't mean that he just said "Hey, no big deal, those weren't important." Jesus actually honors the Old Testament law. He says "I haven't come to abolish them. But he does say I've come to fulfill them." And the point that being in the ancient context where it's just so wildly different that God is basically trying to help people just to survive.
Jo Vitale:
Most of the laws in the Old Testament are case law, they're like provisional laws. What that basically means is gosh I wish this wasn't all such a horrible terrible mess but because it is, because of choices that I know you're going to make, I'm trying to limit the damage to help you guys to survive and to love each other. I mean I have a one year old I'm right now I just spend all day yelling "No throwing." Around the house. I'm like "Don't throw, don't throw." And later in life when he's older enough to understand it, there will be more nuance to that. Throwing can be great in the right context. But right now it is a mess. And I have a four month old, who's often in the line of fire. So I'm just trying to protect my four month old by being like "No throwing." But that's just me trying to have some provisional laws to say, "I'm trying to keep my children alive at this point." But there'll come a point-
Eric Huffman:
We'll explain why it's important later.
Jo Vitale:
Right, yeah. One day he will understand that... And kind of in the way the Old Testament's like that, the people of God are in a certain place, in a certain point in history. It's incredibly culturally messy. God is saying, "This is what it is right now. I'm kind of coming down to your level to give you laws to help you live." But they come with a sell by date. They're appropriate for this time, but they're not a forever law.
Jo Vitale:
It says in the prophet Ezekiel and Jeremiah, "One day, I'm going to write a new law on your hearts." And I'm not going to give you like laws written on stone, but hearts of flesh, and you will be my people and I'm going to be your God, there's going to be this new intimacy, and that comes with Jesus, who fulfills the law. He says, "You don't need to do all these things anymore to fulfill the covenant, to get close to God. God has come to you, I'm right here, I'm in your midst. I am going to go all the way to the cross and lay down my life for you to fulfill that law, so that you don't have to live under that anymore so that you have access to me, you have freedom."
Eric Huffman:
Sure. And I think that for the casual observer of Christianity, what really sticks out is like we're letting all these other laws go, we're saying it's okay to eat bacon now, but all that sexual stuff, you still have to follow.
Jo Vitale:
Right, right.
Eric Huffman:
And they feel like we're picking and choosing while we're telling people not to pick and choose. I don't know what this says about the Maybe God listenership but most of the questions we got had to do with sex. One question that we got from a listener said, "So why is sex actually against God's plan if it's between people in a committed respectful relationship?" So this listener is talking about premarital or extramarital sex.
Jo Vitale:
Really great question. And I think often our struggle is because we look at the Bible and what we see is that list of don'ts and we're like, "Man, this is just like a mood killer." That's [inaudible 00:52:06] my life. But actually, gosh, God's vision for sex is so the opposite. Like it's so beautiful and outrageously life giving and good. But again, I think it's coming back to that thing of if something is so good, you put parameters around it to protect it.
Jo Vitale:
We think very individualistically, don't we. So it's easy to point to one example or another in our lives and go, "But what is so wrong with that? That seems pretty good." But when you look at the whole, when I look at the world today, and how hurt. So many people are so hurt because of sex and the way it's been used in their lives by the things they've done. And also the things that have been done to them, like profoundly, profoundly hurt.
Jo Vitale:
When you look at abuse statistics, you just go on and on. But when I look at that, I think okay, it makes sense that if something is beautiful and good, and it's actually a gift from God, but precisely because it's so meaningful, because it's the most intimate thing you can actually do with another human person, that has the potential to cause so much hurt when it's used wrongly. I mean, I always think it's such a brilliant line in the movie, Vanilla Sky, if anybody remembers that far back.
Eric Huffman:
I love that movie. No one else does.
Jo Vitale:
Yeah. But Cameron Diaz, I can't remember the character's name is but Cameron Diaz says in this super intense scene, because they've been sleeping together. Now he's ditched her and, she says, that "Don't you know when you sleep with somebody that your body makes a promise, whether you mean it to or not." And I always thought that says it all, like the strongest phrase for love we have in our human language is, "I love you." What is the physical equivalent of that in our physical language, it's sex. That's as close as you can get to somebody.
Jo Vitale:
And so even in the most committed relationships, outside the context of permanent monogamy and faithfulness, just has the potential to cause so much hurt to people. Because whether you mean to or not, you feel so light at the end, because your body is making this promise. And basically, the meaning that got put into sex, all of me for all of you, always. This is a covenant promise. And that's what we see in Genesis, right at the beginning that God says, "A man will leave his family and go to his wife and they will cleave together, and they'll be one flesh."
Jo Vitale:
And this idea of one flesh is intended to say, "Hey, there's something so profound that happens in this. This is coming together that is more than just the physical act." Which I think is where we get caught up, because for us today, sex basically, for many people is kind of like a casual hello. It's become so meaningless in our culture. But actually God says, "No, I put meaning into this, this symbolically says something about how I relate to you." The way that Christ and the church relate, he's the bridegroom, the church is his bride. There's something very significant about sex that's most a model that in human relationships in a very deep way that says something about the love of God and the commitment and the faithfulness of God and that's put into us as human beings. And that's a beautiful thing, but that's something worth protecting.
Eric Huffman:
Our listeners didn't only want to know about sex in the Bible. Some of you asked questions about the reliability of scripture as we have it today. One listener asked whether we can know that the bible's true intended meaning wasn't lost in translation over the years.
Jo Vitale:
Oh, that's just a wonderful question and I think it comes back to that analogy which I think again, Eric you use in your book about the idea of a game of telephone. Things get passed on so much, they changed, how do we know we've got the real thing. Well the great thing about that is the massive amount of ancient manuscript evidence that we actually have, which is astonishing. I mean, the bible particularly the New Testament, but also the Old Testament is just the most well documented piece of writing in the world. I mean it's incredible how well it's been preserved.
Jo Vitale:
And what I love about the text is that in the places where there might be some question of what is the word that's being used here or there might be a questionable interpretation, the bible doesn't hide that actually are the manuscripts, there'll be a little note in the bible that you're reading it'll say "Or it could read this." Christians will say that God inspired the original meaning, but we're not saying that the text itself as the ones that we have today are completely perfect.
Jo Vitale:
There's an openness to that and yet it is incredible that with all these manuscripts we have a New Testament say that's 98% proven and reliable across all of them, even with all the different manuscripts they say the same thing. And where the differences are they're not theological they tend to be like a typo or you know an extra number added here or there, or something like that. But it's not actually anything that changes the real meaning of what's being said. But the bible is honest about it, like you get to the end of the Gospel of Mark and you have a couple of different endings there. And it says "Well this manuscript ended here and this one has this extra paragraph." So there isn't like a cover up happening here.
Eric Huffman:
Yeah it's all out there that's one of my favorite things about the bible that I only discovered when I came back to it. Was realizing that bible scholars and people that are like our modern day scribes have done the best that they could to be honest about some of the things we we're not sure about with scripture. No one's trying to cover anything up, we're really doing the best we can to honor the author's original intent.
Jo Vitale:
And there are plenty of scholars who are doing that work all the time to help us understand and get better, and get our translations better and as we learn more and uncover more to know what words really do mean.
Eric Huffman:
Yeah, I remember stumbling across the passage, I believe it's Song of Songs where the speaker says "I'm black but beautiful."
Jo Vitale:
Yeah.
Eric Huffman:
And that's how it was translated in my bible when I was young and I just thought "Wow, that sounds really like a racist thing to say." I'm black but I'm beautiful but then I remember coming across further scholarship and even, nowadays in most study bibles it'll say "Hey the same word for but in Hebrew is and. This could just as easily say I'm black and beautiful." Which is a totally different thing.
Jo Vitale:
Totally different thing.
Eric Huffman:
And it's very important that we know that those possibilities are there. At the end of our conversation I asked Jo what she would say to someone who's feeling discouraged and who might be thinking about walking away from the bible?
Jo Vitale:
These days we hear a lot of deconversion stories I think about people who walk away. But often they're walking away from something they think they found about God that isn't good. But often they're not walking away to anything. And the part of the problem that I saw was that if I walk away from Jesus, I actually don't see... Not only do I not see anything better, I don't see anything near as good. I don't see another way of making sense of life. I don't see anything else that can justify why we're here, that we have any kind of meaning or purpose. The things I actually care about like justice, I actually don't think you can undergird them without Christianity because human beings don't have worth and value and there isn't morality and love isn't real anyway, we're just DNA propagating machines. So that didn't sound like a very attractive worldview. Either in fact it sounded a lot worse. So yeah I thought "You know what, I think I need to hang in here and try and make sense of this because Jesus still looks beautiful to me even if I don't understand these texts."
Eric Huffman:
With just 10 words Jo articulated the cry of my heart. "Jesus still looks beautiful to me even if I don't understand." In February of 2013 I was still walking in bitterness. I was prideful cynical and sarcastic. But as I explored the holy land for the first time I stood in Capernaum, that ancient village which served as Jesus's headquarters in the first century. And I was faced with some facts that I'd never considered all at once.
Eric Huffman:
Fact number one, Jesus was not just some made up myth, he was a real Jewish rabbi who walked the earth and taught the people with parables and teachings that are found in the gospels. Fact number two, Jesus built a huge Following during his lifetime, a multitude of disciples, most of whom were his personal friends and family members. The evidence for this fact is overwhelming. And fact, number three, after he died by crucifixion, Jesus's followers, his Jewish friends and family, worshiped him, prayed to him, called him their God, and gave their lives to tell the world about him.
Eric Huffman:
For devout first century Jews like them, worshiping a mere man would have been unthinkable, worshiping a dead man would have been insane. But the evidence is everywhere that they were worshiping Jesus in the first half of the first century. And they were inviting everyone else in the Roman Empire to do the same, even though their faith in Jesus was getting them killed. So these three facts collided as I stood on the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee. And for the first time in my life, I had to confess that in all those years, I'd spent being snarky and dismissive toward Bible believing Christians I really had no idea what I was talking about.
Eric Huffman:
And I felt like I had no choice but to confess that all things considered, the Bible's claims about Jesus are actually less absurd than Dr. Otto's claims against him. And I fell to my knees, on some rocks near the shore. And after 13 years of fighting it, I surrendered my life to Jesus. And every day since then, has been this beautiful journey with God. It hasn't always been easy, whenever I come across something in the Bible that I can't understand. But I remember, Jesus still looks beautiful to me, even if I don't understand. Or when I witness Christians behaving in ways that would cause Jesus to turn over in his tomb if it wasn't empty, Jesus still looks beautiful to me, even if I don't understand. Or when the world goes mad, and nothing makes sense. Jesus still looks beautiful to me, even if I don't understand.
Eric Huffman:
Wherever you are in your journey of faith, I pray that one day, by the grace of God, you'll arrive at a place where you can look at yourself and at other people, and at a world gone mad and even at the Bible and say, Jesus still looks beautiful to me. Even if I don't understand.
Eric Huffman:
If you found this conversation intriguing. Don't let it end with this episode. I wrote Scripture and the Skeptic for people like you. So I'd love for you to get your copy on Amazon or wherever you buy books. And if this episode has raised some questions, or some thoughts that you'd like to share with the Maybe God team, please email us at producers@MaybeGodpod.com, we'd love to hear from you. Thank you so much for listening to Maybe God.
Julie Mirlicourtois:
This episode of Maybe God was produced by Julie Mirlicourtois, Andrea Gentle and Eric and Geovanna Huffman. Our talented editors are Jude Leek and Justin Mayer and our social media guru is Kat Brough. For more information about Maybe God and to connect with us online, head to MaybeGodpod.com today.

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