Posted by Clark Bates
June 26, 2018
About a week ago a celebrity tweeted in response to the recent usage of biblical passages by politicians to support their particular views regarding illegal immigration. The purpose of this week’s article is not to have a political discussion, but to focus on the content of this particular tweet.
I must admit, I initially ignored this tweet and considered it so foolhardy that it was unworthy of even a response. However, the more I dwell on it, this perception of the Bible is one that does tend to pervade many minds in the sphere of social media and it is something that apologists, and especially young Christians will hear. Because of this, I feel it may deserve more attention than I originally thought.
At first blush, it’s clear that there’s a lot of vague accusations and just plain silliness in this post. It stands on the same level as the tired accusation that believing in God is like believing in Santa Clause. That being said, it does have its own level of rhetorical flair that is appealing to many in this actor’s demographic. As a caveat, I’ll also point out that because of the vagueness in the accusations it is difficult to provide an adequate response that covers the claims, but of course this is all part of the rhetoric. By keeping the accusations general and outlandish, the skeptic is able to bolster the point that belief in the Bible is absurd. You’ll find that this tactic is the most common to be employed in social media, and although it comes in many disguises, it is ultimately the same tactic. That being said, let’s attempt to look at the accusations:
“It’s a cool book with some wonderful passages…”
It’s nice of the actor to acknowledge this at the outset, but this is still part of the rhetorical trap being employed. You might say it is the method of giving with one hand right before taking it back with the other. Given the mockery that follows this initial statement, one has to ask which passages the actor feels are “wonderful”? Or even what is meant by their belief that the Bible is a “cool book”? Given this particular actor’s repertoire, it would seem that all the things they use to denigrate the Bible would be the very themes that they would consider “cool”.
But this really isn’t the point. Whenever a skeptic wants to make themselves appear more reasonable than their opponent the tactic begins by extending a feigned “olive branch” to the opposition. The intended reaction is generally to get the audience on their side by appearing to not have any malicious intent. This enables the skeptic to proceed with almost any attack, no matter how outlandish, while maintaining the appearance of superiority.
“…it also has ghost sex & giants & super babies & demons….”
At this point, making any response is really going to rely on speculation, from me. The reason is, I honestly have no idea what they’re talking about, and the actor makes no effort to clarify in any subtweets that I could find (given that there are more than 4,000 responses I may have missed it). For the sake of argument, let’s assume that by “ghost sex” he’s referring to the conception of Jesus in the womb of the virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit (this is the closest I can come to what he might be referring to). If this is the case, then the accusation is actually not that different from the one made by Muslims in response to the Trinity and the virgin birth of Jesus.
For Muslims, the only conceivable way that Mary could become pregnant with a divine child is through sexual reproduction, and the only way for this to be achieved divinely is if God were to have sex with her. This is where actually knowing what the Scripture teaches becomes important.
Let’s take a brief moment and just examine what the narrative in Luke says about Mary’s pregnancy.
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus . . . . And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.
Even a cursory reading of the text precludes any concept of sexual intercourse between Mary and God. The angel states that the Holy Spirit (referred to as the Holy Ghost in older translations, possibly leading to the use of “ghost” in the tweet) will “come upon you”. Before anyone can argue that this phrase is some sort of sexual euphemism, the Greek word used here is ἐπελεύσεται (epeloosetī), which means to overtake or descend upon. In its 10 New Testament appearances it carries no sexual connotation, nor does it do so in the works of Homer, Thucydides, or Euripides. It can be used for the descent of misfortune, illness or blessing. The imagery of the “power of the Most High” overshadowing Mary relates back to the cloud of the Lord overshadowing the tent of meeting in Exodus 40:34-35. Mary is not said to engage in sexual intercourse with a ghost, divine or otherwise, but to be covered in the power of God in the same way that the ark of the covenant would be covered when God was present. Why? Because, like the tent of meeting, God would dwell in Mary.
As far as “giants are concerned, the most famous in the biblical narrative would be Goliath of Gath (1 Sam. 17). While the word “giant” is used in the text, this is, yet again, a moment where the reader should allow the Bible to inform them about what is meant rather than fantasy stories like Game of Thrones or Harry Potter. In the realm of sci-fi/fantasy, something this actor is quite familiar with, a giant is 20 feet tall and something like an ogre. Yet we read in the 1 Sam. 17:4b that the “giant” Goliath was close to either 7 ft. or 9 ft. tall. The difference in possibility comes from a variant in certain Greek renderings of the text and the Hebrew rendering. Regardless of which selection one chooses, you have a height that matches close to current NBA basketball players or that rivaled by the world’s tallest man. Given that the height of biblical “giants” finds itself squarely within the realm of the known world, it hardly becomes comparable to the fantasy world assumed in the tweet.
I’m afraid I have no idea what “super baby” the actor may be referring to. Perhaps someone in the comment section of this post can enlighten me. As such, I can’t comment on this other than to say that the only biblical stories that involve miraculous babies involve their birth. If Jesus is in mind here, there is no mention of “super” deeds performed by him in the biblical narrative. The existence of demons in the biblical narrative follow naturally from a supernatural worldview. The actor’s presupposition to naturalism is what informs this inclusion. It’s not the place of this article to break down the impossibility of maintaining a naturalistic worldview consistently in life, but it should be noted that the majority of people in the world believe in the existence of the supernatural, making a book that includes demons as a reality more in agreement with the known world than this particular tweet.
The Real Issue
For many outside the Christian community, and sadly for many within it, the growing tendency when it comes to relating a biblical story or character in broad terms is to repeat it as we learned it in Sunday School. That is to say, the sanitized, fairy-tale version of the story. However, if we actually read the biblical text, the story becomes completely different. Abel was murdered; Noah watched the world around him die and understandably became a drunk; Abraham was an adulterer and liar; David a murderer; Jesus was betrayed and abandoned by his closest friends; Paul was beaten repeatedly; The stories of men and women in the Bible are filled with real pain and suffering, real loss, real failures, and real experiences. They are not men and women fighting ice monsters on the wings of dragons or elves looking for lost keys.
The job of a Christian apologist is to defend the Christian faith to an unbelieving world and equip the saints to do the same. We do this to strengthen their faith and to provide an avenue by which the Holy Spirit might engage the hearts of men and women. However, we cannot effectively do our job if we do not know and understand the very Bible which informs our belief. I repeatedly hear young apologists ask which books they need to read or study to be effective. May I suggest we all start with the Bible. Know it first. Know it best. Everything else follows after.
84% in the world; https://www.washingtontimes.com/blog/watercooler/2012/dec/23/84-percent-world-population-has-faith-third-are-ch/