Imagine you are sadly expected to die in a couple of days. You desperately want your young children to precisely understand 1) who you are, 2) your will for their lives, and 3) rules to live by. Fortunately, due to your legal and journalistic background, you are the most precise writer on the face of the Earth. You fully understand what words will unequivocally convey your message to your children to avoid any confusion and disunity among them. What would your message look like?
Would it look anything like the Bible? Or would it instead have a precision even greater than legal and scientific documents? Why would any actual God write in the vague manner found in the Bible? Has the Bible led to more doctrinal unity than have other alleged holy books? Why would any actual God choose to communicate in a way that offers no more doctrinal clarity than do other alleged holy books? Is this not sufficient reason to doubt its divine origin?
There are hundreds of doctrinally diverse denominations who cite the Bible as their source of doctrine.
Consider the following doctrinal issues, many of them central to Christianity.
The Biblical canon | Speaking in tongues | The end times | Masturbation | Prosperity gospel | Liberation theology | Divorce | Salvation by faith alone | Significance of baptism | Female leadership | Homosexuality | Faith healing | An allegorical Genesis | Ecclesiastical authority | Demon possession | The mechanism of atonement | Age of accountability | The nature of Hell | Modern prophecy | Ecumenicalism | Eternal security | Relevance of the Mosaic law | Pacifism | A legitimate marriage | The conditions for answerable prayer | Taking vows
If you were to survey 1,000 Christians, even from the same denomination on these doctrines, what do you think you’d find? Do you think your findings would reflect the degree of unity that would confirm the Bible was written by a powerful and wise God who is fully capable of finding a method of reliably communicating his essence and moral intentions to humans?
Another interesting project would be to isolate two newly converted Christians from the doctrinal opinions of other Christians, and to simply let them read the Bible and extract doctrines as they sincerely understand the passages. What do you think you’ll find? Do you think the Bible has the precision that would allow them to reach doctrinal consensus?
Another interesting dimension is the historical evolution of Biblical doctrines. Simply consider the changing notions concerning demon possession, slavery and the treatment of non-Christians as cultures and science evolved. Would this be possible if the Bible had been written by an actual God who foresaw the diverse contexts the Bible would be read in?
Not only is the Bible missing the clarity and precision we would expect if it were written by a God as his primary source of communicating his essence and moral intentions, but it contains imprecision comparable to other alleged holy books as evidenced by the diverse and often quite polarized doctrinal positions found among Christians today.
Consider the possible ways any actual God could guarantee the reliable communication of his essence and moral intentions. Here are just a few.
- Any actual omnipresent God could simply walk up to each human, and communicate to them face-to-face.
- Any actual omnipresent God could clearly speak, in real time, his will to each human, even if he had to remain invisible for some reason.
- Any actual omnipotent God could construct and maintain a permanent memory of essential doctrines in each individual’s mind.
- Any actual omnipotent God could simply assign angels, either visible or invisible, to audibly relay messages from that God.
- Any actual omnipotent God could simply write a book with such precise language that Christian minds would never discover apparently contradictory passages when disagreeing on a particular doctrine.
- Any actual omnipotent God could write a book in a special language understood by only Christians that would eliminate any honest doctrinal disagreement.
- At minimum, an actual omnipotent God, who is for some reason shy about speaking directly to his followers, could simply arbitrate with a miraculous sign between two disparate doctrinal positions.
You can perhaps think of other ways an actual God could easily make his essence and intentions indisputable.
Any of these methods listed above would ensure there is little or no doctrinal disagreement among Christians. It seems evident that, rather than a clear and reliable means of communicating the doctrines of an actual God, the Bible remains as vague as any one of the many other alleged holy books, each also generating hundreds of doctrinal sects.