Note: This post is still in progress. Check back regularly for additions and updates.
This post is a comprehensive response to the article, "40 Problems with Christianity," by "Michael Runyan.
The article is full of logical fallacies and problems, which we will examine here.
It makes no sense that the relatively short life we live on this planet, at most 100 years and perhaps as brief as a few minutes, would be used by a God to determine our ultimate destiny, one that will last trillions and trillions of years and beyond. This would be like compensating a baseball player for his entire career based on how he performs in his first major league at bat. If he hits a home run, he would receive a high salary, but if he strikes out, he will get only minimum wage throughout his career no matter how well he plays thereafter. The time difference between the trial period and the punishment/reward period is drastically out of sync.
Some Christians say that God will give people another chance after they die to accept his grace, but if that is true, then why be so concerned about the unsaved in this life? And if you get a second chance after you die, you will obviously know that Christianity is true, making the decision to believe not a matter of faith, but of fact. This makes no sense, and it would render the core theology of Christianity meaningless.
This author seems to assume an Arminian interpretation of the Bible, which teaches that salvation is the result of a free-will decision to have faith in Jesus.
However, the Bible actually teaches the much-less-popular Calvinist interpretation, which teaches that God unconditionally elects, or chooses, whom He will save, apart from anything good or bad that He foresees in anyone.
This is not unfair, simply because people whom God does not choose for salvation fully deserve the hell they are punished with, since they are guilty of sin that deserves hell. That they are unable to turn away from their sin is irrelevant—if they love their sin and are guilty of sin, then they deserve their punishment.
For a defense of Calvinism, check out Calvinism: A Comprehensive Guide and Defense.
I am certain that this author would have even more problems with this view of Christianity, but one foundational problem with this author's arguments is that many of them are merely unjustified, arbitrary opinions. He essentially says, "Christianity can't be true because this would be unfair."
However, he has an arbitrary definition of "unfair" that is merely his opinion, or in other words, he simply does not like something, and it could easily be argued that another definition of "fairness" results in absolutely no problem for Christianity. If we define "fairness" the way the Bible defines "fairness," which is simply whatever God does, since God is the ultimately standard of morality and there is no higher standard of "fairness" that God must submit to, then this author's accusations of Christianity being "unfair" are simply worthless.
Of course, whatever God does cannot contradict with His moral character, but it can be easily argued that God does not in fact do anything that contradicts His moral character, which we will explain more as we progress through this terribly reasoned article.
Finally, everything written above would be meaningless if the Bible were not true. The Bible is true by necessity because every other worldview reduces to absurdity and skepticism, which is impossible. The Bible provides the necessary prerequisites for rationality, the laws of logic, mathematics, and morality. For a fuller explanation, check out Greg Bahnsen Debates Atheist Gordon Stein - Highlights.
Christianity proposes that only one of two fates awaits humans after they die — an extremely attractive invitation into Heaven or a miserable, dreadful sentence to Hell. Given the complexities and varieties of human experience, offering only two judgments is absurd.
People are born into many different circumstances, some with Bible-believing Christian parents and others with Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, or atheistic parents. Some were born during the Middle Ages when sectarian belief was ubiquitous versus the societies today which are much more secular. Some lived before the era of Christianity. Some were born with damaged mental capabilities. To shoehorn all of these people into a two-tiered judgment system is irrational.
Some Catholics believe in “purgatory” where souls can be purified before they are allowed to enter Heaven. This would seem to alleviate the problem somewhat if it weren’t for the fact that it is completely made up without any basis in the Bible. However, it would also make the choices you make in this life much less meaningful if you could compensate for any shortcomings with a visit to purgatory. No matter how long the layover there, it would be infinitesimally short compared to the eternity that awaits in Heaven.
Jesus mentions Hell or some derivative thereof many times in the gospels and hints that most people will end up suffering there (wide is the path of destruction). Here are some of the scriptures addressing Hell:
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell.
A belief in Hell is unavoidable if one is to believe in Jesus. If Hell doesn’t exist, then why would God have allowed it to be so prominently addressed in the Bible? This brings about an interesting comparison. Hitler sent Jews to the concentration camps and gas chambers for no reason other than their ethnic identity. This was a temporal punishment; it sometimes lasted only a few days. God, on the other hand, is prepared to send good, well-accomplished, and generous people to a place of everlasting punishment and torture for the crime of not believing in something for which no credible evidence exists. The God of the Bible is, in effect, worse than Hitler.
Related to the previous point, Christianity can be understood to endorse a spectacularly cruel and senseless outcome of how certain people are judged. All one has to assume is that Hitler, a Catholic by birth, understood the gravity of his sins and confessed them to Jesus before committing suicide. According to Christian doctrine, this simple act was sufficient for him to have all of his sins forgiven and to be welcomed into Heaven. On the other hand, the 6,000,000 Jews that he had murdered, and who by default failed to accept Christ, were sent to Hell. This is beyond unjust and irrational; it is unthinkable.
Similarly, Ted Bundy, a confirmed murderer of over 30 young women, confessed his sins before his execution and, according to Christian doctrine, was sent directly to Heaven.
On the other hand, Bill Gates, an atheist who has lived a virtuous life and has donated more than $27,000,000,000 to global health, development, and education will be sent to Hell. This irrational and senseless result is entirely consistent with the dogma of conventional Christianity.
Christians have tried to sidestep the evil deeds that God allegedly commits in the Old Testament by claiming that the New Testament overrides and replaces the Old Testament, based on the idea that Jesus supplied mankind with a new covenant. This is somewhat understandable, but what cannot be denied is that Jesus himself was a student of the Old Testament, firmly believed in it, and warned that it was not to be ignored or discarded.
Given the Christian belief that Jesus was God, then in order for Christianity to be true, Jesus/God must have performed the evil deeds as documented in the Old Testament. Otherwise Jesus would have corrected the scriptures and explained that God the Father (or He Himself?) did not commit those atrocities. To repeat, according to Christians, Jesus was God, and he was physically on Earth teaching from the Old Testament. If the scriptures were wrong in their portrayal of God, Jesus would have emphatically announced this fact to his followers and whoever else would listen.
The following is taken from Steve Wells‘ Drunk with Blood: God’s Killings in the Bible, listing 158 killing events for which God was either directly or indirectly responsible. A partial list is shown below for effect, but one in particular deserves a focused look, 1 Samuel 15:3
Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.
Jesus did nothing to defend or denounce this scripture, and apparently it was consistent with his concept of God the Father.
The case can be made that God killed or authorized the killings of up to 25,000,000 people. This is the God that Jesus looked up to and of whom he was allegedly an integral part. That is to say: Jesus himself was an accessory to these massacres. Therefore, Christianity cannot extract itself from these atrocities; it must own them and admit that their God is in fact a serial, genocidal, infanticidal, filicidal, and pestilential murderer.
Christians believe that Jesus died for their sins and received the punishment that they would otherwise deserve. At its root, this is unethical. It would be as if in a court of law, a murderer sentenced to death finds another person willing to die in his place, and the murderer is then set free. Why would we accept God’s plan of salvation while categorically not using a similar rationale in our own judicial system? Well, because it is ill-advised, and it leads to the next problem.
Christianity credits what you believe far above what you do. This idea has caused much misery and suffering over the course of the past two millennia. The notion that what you believe can erase your bad deeds is a very attractive idea to someone who wants to take liberties with the lives and property of other people. And this is exactly what happened during the scourges of the Inquisition and other atrocities committed by Christians. How different would the world be if Christianity instead declared that your ultimate reward is based on your actions, what you do, how you conduct your life, how much you help others, etc. instead of offering this exceptionally generous “Get Out of Jail Free” card? What if it said all of the good you do is balanced against the bad, and you would be judged based on that comparison?
Most Christians believe that people who die at a young age are given a free pass to Heaven. This is a comforting thought, but it makes for some peculiar considerations. It would seem to suggest that dying at a young age, before encountering the age of accountability, would be the best and safest way to leave Earth. This would guarantee a place in Heaven without having to take a risk of living a potentially failed life in the sight of God. Some demented parents have exploited this idea as an excuse to murder their children.
Many Christians believe that life begins at conception and an entire anti-abortion industry has been built around this concept. But it presents a problem. Does a fertilized egg that fails to implant in the uterus go to Heaven? This seems a bit absurd, but it is important to consider in the context of Christian dogma. If one assumes this is not the case, then it becomes very difficult to identify when a developing fetus becomes eternal in the eyes of God. Is it at the moment of birth, such that a baby that dies just before delivery is denied Heaven? There is no non-arbitrary way to solve this problem.
Many Christians accept at face value that Jesus’ miracles as described in the Bible were true historical events. However, these alleged miracles occurred in Roman-occupied lands, and the Romans had spies that attended large gatherings of Jews to detect any whispers of insurrection. News of these miraculous events, especially feeding thousands with only five loaves of bread and two fish (Matthew 14:13-21
), would have spread rapidly all around the empire and eventually to the Roman emperor. It is hard to imagine that the Romans would not have investigated these extraordinary phenomena, documented it in their written accounts, and perhaps have tried to determine if Jesus or his methods could be used to solve some of the problems of the empire. The lack of Roman documentation of the miracles makes their historicity highly suspect.
Biblical historians are quite clear on this matter. Early Christians — notably Jesus, Paul, the disciples, and other followers — were all convinced that the End Times were near and that Jesus himself would return to Earth within the generation of some of the people who were currently alive. The Bible claims that Jesus made the following comment in Matthew 16:28
“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
This could refer to Jesus' resurrection and subsequent exaltation and ascension, which occurred during many of their lifetimes.
Jesus also advised against going to court against someone who steals something and also told people not to store up stocks or reserves for the future. Clearly, he also thought the end was very near.
These were just general principles for living. We shouldn't hoard material possessions during our lifetime because they will disappear when we die. Instead, we should store up spiritual treasures.
For the same reason, Paul advised followers not to marry. In the passage below, he obviously believes that some of the people he is talking to will still be alive for the Second Coming:
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4: 16-18
The obvious fact is that the Second Coming was not in fact forthcoming or even close to being near. The 2,000-year delay is a strong piece of evidence that Christianity is a failed religion.
Paul is simply referring to the fact that Jesus said that nobody knows when Jesus will return, and therefore we should always be ready. The phrase "we who are alive" is a reminder to all Christians of all times that Jesus can return at any time and that Christians should always be ready for this.
The following quotation from Stephen L. Harris, Professor Emeritus of Humanities and Religious Studies at California State University — Sacramento, completes this point with a devastating argument. Remember that Jesus was a Jew who had no intention to deviate from the Hebrew scriptures:
“Jesus did not accomplish what Israel’s prophets said the Messiah was commissioned to do: He did not deliver the covenant people from their Gentile enemies, reassemble those scattered in the Diaspora, restore the Davidic kingdom, or establish universal peace… Instead of freeing Jews from oppressors and thereby fulfilling God’s ancient promises — for land, nationhood, kingship, and blessing — Jesus died a “shameful” death, defeated by the very political powers the Messiah was prophesied to overcome. Indeed, the Hebrew prophets did not foresee that Israel’s savior would be executed as a common criminal by Gentiles, making Jesus’ crucifixion a “stumbling block” to scripturally literate Jews…”
Jesus’ immediate followers, mostly his 12 disciples, probably did not immediately identify this failure, because after Jesus’ body was likely stolen and concealed, a rumor spread that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead. A sense of optimism overcame their grief about his execution and renewed some hope that he was a true messiah. If they had known then that there was to be no return in the near or long-term future, they likely would have abandoned any further activity. Despite this resurgence in their faith, they never agreed with Paul’s concept of Jesus as being divine. Anything written in the Bible to suggest that they did is probably a result of later editing by some of Paul’s followers. Such a belief would have been an exceptional departure from the Jewish faith.
The accounts of Jesus’ life in the gospels were written well after the events allegedly occurred. The crucifixion of Jesus is believed to have occurred around 30 AD. The best estimates date the gospels as follows:
Mark: AD 68-73
Matthew: AD 70-100
Luke: AD 80-100
John: AD 90-110
The time lag between the events and the documentation was long enough for exaggeration and myths to contaminate the historical account. It would be similar if a person today wrote a biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. just by talking to people who heard something about him from their now-deceased ancestors.
Runyan's argument here is absolutely absurd. Martin Luther King, Jr. died in 1968. It is now 2019, and King's daughter, Bernice King, is still alive.
The gap between King's death and today is 51 years, and the gap between Jesus' death and AD 90 is 57 years. Even assuming the dates Runyan provides (and we will argue later for earlier dates for the gospels), writing a biography of King or Jesus would simply involve talking to people who were eyewitnesses of their lives, which would provide very accurate and reliable accounts of their lives.
Furthermore, Runyan's statement, "The best estimates date the gospels as follows," is also a complete lie. There are very strong arguments for earlier dates for the gospels.
For a fuller response, check out When Were the Gospels Written?.