40 Answers to 40 Problems With Christianity

This is a response to the article, "40 Problems with Christianity," by Michael Runyan. His article is riddled with problems, which we will examine here.

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.

Table of Contents

  1. Relative Time
  2. Lack of Gradation
  3. Barbaric Punishment
  4. Hitler, Ted Bundy, and Bill Gates
  5. Evil Nature of God
  6. Transfer of Punishment
  7. Belief versus Actions
  8. Infant Death
  9. Beginning of Life
  10. Miracles
  11. Failure to Return
  12. Delayed Documentation

^ 1. Relative Time

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.

  1. The idea that God will give people another chance after they die to accept his grace is unbiblical.
  2. The analogy is bad to begin with.
    1. People are not rewarded for their personal achievement because they have a sinful nature that cannot earn anything good from God.
    2. The Bible teaches that not only will every person strike out, but also that every human will only strike out, and never "improve," so God's punishment is just.
  3. To say that "the time difference between the trial period and the punishment/reward period is drastically out of sync" is simply an opinion, and is ultimately irrelevant. If God decided that the "trial period" is an appropriate amount of time to determine the "punishment/reward period," then this amount of time would be appropriate. It would be irrelevant to say that we don't like God's decision.

Important Foundational Statement

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.

^ 2. Lack of Gradation

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.

  1. Yes, purgatory is unbiblical.
  2. There are actually gradations in heaven and hell in that some people will be more rewarded than others, and some people will experience harsher punishment than others. Heaven is still unending joy and hell is still unending punishment, but to say there is absolutely no gradation is simply false.
  3. Again, this argument is simply an opinion, and ultimately irrelevant. If God has decided that faith in Jesus is the only pathway to heaven, and that everyone without faith will experience hell, then it's irrelevant to say that we don't like God's decision.
  4. It is simply not unfair that God blesses some people more than others. See "Important Foundational Statement" in Point #1 above.

^ 3. Barbaric Punishment

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:

Matthew 5:28-29:
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.

Matthew 13:41-42:
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.

Mark 9:45-46:
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.

  1. Yes, the Bible unapologetically teaches hell.
  2. Hitler did not "punish" Jews for something they did wrong. He murdered them without justification, which is evil.
  3. Labeling people as "good, well-accomplished, and generous" is not accurate. If the author is going to argue against the Bible, then he must accurately represent what the Bible teaches, which he does not. From the perspective of the Bible, people who appear "good, well-accomplished, and generous" from the outside are still evil because their motivations for their actions are not to glorify God.
  4. The statement that God will send people to hell "for the crime of not believing in something for which no credible evidence exists" assumes an arbitrary definition of "evidence" that is unjustified. The Bible teaches there is evidence for God in the universe He has created, but in any case, this evidence is not enough to save anyone. Regarding the justice of God punishing people with hell, see "Important Foundational Statement" in Point #1 above.

^ 4. Hitler, Ted Bundy, and Bill Gates

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.

  1. There are many false "conversions." Confessing one's sins and making a decision to accept Jesus one time does not mean a person has been regenerated by God, which results in a completely transformed heart that truly desires to obey, serve, and worship God. Deathbed conversions, such as those mentioned above, do not allow us to see if these people have been truly regenerated by God. We can certainly hope, and indeed we should, because every genuine conversion should be a joyous occasion, but we have no guarantee.
  2. From the Bible's perspective, although Bill Gates has done things that appear good from an external and worldly perspective, He is still a sinner who fully deserves hell for rejecting and refusing to obey His creator.
  3. The worse a sinner is, the more glorified God is in (genuinely) saving that sinner, because this demonstrates the greatness of God's grace and His transforming power.
  4. The Jews who were murdered, if they did not have faith in Jesus, were also sinners who deserved hell. Regarding the fairness of this, see "Important Foundational Statement" in Point #1.

^ 5. Evil Nature of God

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.

  1. The Bible does not apologize for the supposed "atrocities" in the Old Testament. Christians, and Jesus, believe God commanded these things, and was not at all wrong to command these things.
  2. Justified killings are not murder.
  3. The killings were justified because God commanded them. God was just in commanding the killing of entire nations in the Old Testament because everyone in these nations was a sinner, and every sinner deserves punishment and death. Sometimes God punishes people with death earlier than when they naturally die, and sometimes God punishes people when they naturally die.
  4. If you still think it was unfair or unjust for God to command the killing of nations in the Old Testament, see "Important Foundational Statement" in Point #1 above.

^ 6. Transfer of Punishment

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.

  1. The fatal problem with the analogy is there there is no other person who can legitimately die in a murderer's place. All humans have their own sins that they must pay for themselves, and no human is righteous enough to cover the sins of another person.
  2. The difference with Jesus is that Jesus is both God and perfect, which means He is the only one who is able to die and pay for the sins of sinners.

^ 7. Belief versus Actions

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?

  1. People who believe they can do bad deeds and simply be forgiven because of "faith" likely do not have genuine "faith" and are not saved. Genuine faith results in a desire to obey God, not to take advantage of the system of salvation, who nobody can do.
  2. If we were judged based upon our good and bad deeds, then all of us would be punished with hell, because all of us have failed and fallen short of God's holy moral standard.

^ 8. Infant Death

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.

  1. The biblical position is probably that we simply do not know what happens to infants who die, but we trust God to be wise and just in what He has decided to do regarding the fate of infants who die.
  2. It is wrong for demented parents to murder their children.
  3. We have no right to murder humans because we think this will be better for them.

^ 9. Beginning of Life

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.

  1. Life begins at conception. An egg that is fertilized is a distinct human being with distinct human DNA. What was written above will be copied here: The biblical position is probably that we simply do not know what happens to infants (or the unborn) who die, but we trust God to be wise and just in what He has decided to do regarding the fate of infants (or the unborn) who die.
  2. Point #1 makes the second half of this author's argument irrelevant.

^ 10. Miracles

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.

  1. Everything here that is said about the Romans is purely speculative and not at all conclusive. Perhaps there were no Roman spies who witnessed these miracles, and perhaps the Romans simply did not believe that these miracles occurred.
  2. There is good reason to trust that the miracles recorded in the Gospel accounts actually occurred for various reasons:
    1. The authors were willing to die horrible deaths regarding what they wrote, so there would have been no reason to lie, and then die for something they knew was a lie.
    2. The authors recorded much embarrassing information in the Gospels, which they would not have included if they were lying in their narratives.
    3. Jesus' miracles were done in public, with plenty of eyewitnesses, and there are no writings in which an eyewitness says these miracles did not happen.

^ 11. Failure to Return

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.

  1. Both Harris and this author are very confused here.
  2. The Jews and Jesus' followers thought Jesus came to establish a physical kingdom, but Jesus revealed that He actually came to establish a spiritual kingdom with His death and resurrection.
  3. The optimism among Jesus' followers persisted because 1) they finally truly understood the purpose of Jesus' coming, and 2) they understood that Jesus would eventually come, not necessarily in their lifetime.
  4. The assertion, "Anything written in the Bible to suggest that they did is probably a result of later editing by some of Paul's followers" is completely unjustified.
  5. "Such a belief would have been an exceptional departure from the Jewish faith" - Jesus shattered a lot of what the Jews thought the Old Testament taught, revealing what it actually teaches.

^ 12. Delayed Documentation

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?.

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