“Dear Ed, sorry youʼve become an Agnostic”
[Featuring Edʼs Reply and Short List Of Questions He Would Like Answered, Before Relinquishing His Agnosticism]
by Edward T. Babinski
Professor Pattle Pak Toe Pun (Progressive Old-Earth Creationist, apologist, and professor at Wheaton College—the college from which Billy Graham graduated) wrote: Dear Ed, I am sorry that youʼve become an agnostic.
Ed: I thought it worth mentioning to you, since a book that you wrote provided a bit of assistance in my decision to leave young-earth creationism. About feeling “sorry” that I have become an agnostic, thatʼs a common reaction from Christians I have known. However, have you considered how you might feel if someone wrote you, “I am sorry you remained a Christian, is there anything I can do?” *smile*
I appreciate your work and what you have done, providing scientific and theological information that questions the young-earth interpretation of the Bible and science. I have contacted many old-earth Christians over the years such as Wonderly, Newman, Hayward, and rejoiced that they are not paranoid about geologists, cosmologists, and physicists round the world all being deluded or lying like the devil—as young-earth creationists assume.
Pat: Science is only giving us a vague picture of God. The bible ultimately is the only way claimed by Christians for knowing God. I became a Christians through existential encounter with God which was later verified in the Bible.
Ed: I had experiences too. But those experiences were questioned after I studied the Bible more deeply.
Pat: If there is anything I can do to make you consider God again, please let me know.
Ed: If you wish to do something, hereʼs the short list:
Show me that the Bible contains more “science” than “mythological notions” about the cosmos:
Show me how atonement works, i.e., scapegoats and scapebirds (the latter of which were believed to be able to remove or perhaps atone for mold, mildew and leprosy according to the Old Testament). I donʼt see a connection between a human or animal bleeding, and God forgetting about the sins of the people who bled the animal or brought it to the priests to be bled. Nor do I see why they believed that “the life was in the blood” rather than the brain. Nor why the scape goat wasnʼt bled at all, but was slapped on the its rump and driven into the desert, carrying the sins of the people into the wilderness. The scape bird also remained alive when it allegedly carried off mildew and leprosy. See: Biblical Superstition
It also strikes me as odd that Jesus died on Passover since the Passover lamb was not sacrificed for sin. This brings me to further “typological” questions…
Show me that various Old Testament prophecies cited by the Gospel authors were more than just “typologically” fulfilled.
When I first began recognizing that taking the “prophecies” literally wasnʼt working, I had to keep standing back and squinting my eyes more and more to “see” how “fulfilled” the prophecies were, “typologically” speaking, but by then I was standing outside the faith.
How can the imprecatory (or, curse my enemy) psalms be considered holy?
What about some of those bloody Old Testament penalties for breaking various questionable commandments? I find it difficult to believe that any “god” enjoyed hearing imprecatory psalms sung to him, or that any sane “god” would have commanded some of the things Yahweh allegedly commanded “his people” to do, along with the subsequent penalties described.
Prove to me that if “God” did every destructive thing that the Bible says “God” did or commanded, why such actions or commands wouldnʼt stain even a devilʼs character. Iʼm taking about drowning everything in which was the breath of life, destroying cities with everything in them that breathed, sending plagues and famines and armies to kill everything and everyone, including children and pregnant women, and finally “casting” people into a lake of fire whose smoke rises forever and ever. If a devil did all of those things imagine what weʼd think of that devil.
Why do highly intelligent scholars admit their uncertainties concerning whether certain letters labeled “Paul, Peter and Jude” are authentic; and uncertain about who wrote the Gospels, and how they are related (i.e., literary redaction hypotheses); and also uncertain about what the historical Jesus, said, did, or believed about himself and his mission? Even James D. G. Dunn and N. T. Wright admit various uncertainties. Yet so many Christians donʼt seem to have a clue what scholars are taking about and never seem half as uncertain about anything they believe.
Also, if the “Letter of Jude” was not written by Jude, but by an anonymous Christian in the name of Jude (as scholars suspect), and that letter cites a passage from the “Book of Enoch,” and even says that the passage was a “prophecy” by “Enoch, the seventh from Adam,” which is very doubtful indeed; then we have two anonymous people writing in the names of other people, a doubly dubious letter that became part of Christianityʼs “inspired canonical Bible,” and that is simply too much uncertainty for me to swallow.
Why hasnʼt N.T. Wrightʼs book on the resurrection of Jesus converted highly intelligent fellow Anglicans? Why hasnʼt Wright even faced up to the most telling criticisms and reviews of his arguments? Also, why does Paul say that “flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” and the “stomach shall be destroyed;” but decades after Paul—in the Gospels of Luke and John—Jesus is described as striving to convince people that he had “flesh and bone” and “eats” fish? Somethingʼs fishy.
I have met many compassionate people of different beliefs and faiths, and read many wonderful things in books other than the Bible, including books about the experiences of Christian monks who have fellowshiped with priests and monks of other religions. Dom Bede Griffiths, C. S. Lewisʼs lifelong friend comes to mind in this respect, because Griffiths set up a Christian-Hindu ashram in India and fellowshiped with people of other faiths for many decades and wrote about it in his books. I have also read about the history of Deism, and of Unitarian Christianity, and about famous Unitarian Christians who helped found the institution of modern nursing (Florence Nightingale) and the American Red Cross (Clara Barton). I have also read about the history and contributions of freethinking individuals both Christians and non-Christians throughout history. I have read about the debates between Castellio and John Calvin on the subject of “heresy/heretics;” and I have read the new book, Freethinkers : A History of American Secularism by Susan Jacoby that details the contributions of freethinkers to American society from the days of the Founding Fathers to today. So I am past fearing “hell for unbelievers,” or, fearing what might happen to the world if everyone believed in evolution.
And speaking of Adamʼs “fall” and sin “growing more abundant” (Paulʼs letter to Romans) in the world, I ran across a book by Lawrence H. Keeley, called, War Before Civilization (Oxford University Press; 1996), in which Keeley cites archeological evidence to argue that human beings used to kill each other more often in the past than today, percentage-wise.
Keeleyʼs charts of relative mobilization rates and casualty rates among tribes and modern nations are fascinating. He suggests that the terrible Twentieth Century wars would have had a death-rate twenty times higher “if the worldʼs population were still organized into bands, tribes, and chiefdoms”: the typical tribal combat casualty rate of .5 percent per year, during the course of the century would translate to “more than 2 billion war deaths.” See: War Before Civilization
Keeley also pointed out that a higher percentage of the populace of Europe was killed in the 17th century (during religious-related warfare, when everybody was a creationist and believer in the Apostleʼs Creed) than during World War 2.
I also read elsewhere that evidence of cannibalism in the human past continues to surface in ancient archeological digs and even has been discovered inside human genes.
So if you take the long view, and agree with Keeley (though I have read criticisms of his conclusions), deaths due to intertribal warfare and murder were more prominent in the past than in the present, i.e., percentage-wise per total population. So if Adam fell, it appears he may have fallen upward not downward over the centuries.
I have a host of specific questions related to the cosmos and biology:
There is also the history of the Christian church, a history of schisms and conflicts too numerous to mention. History proves that Christians fall just as blindly into the same dirty ditches dug by their alpha male primate leaders as all other human groups in religion and politics.
Religion is undoubtedly addictive. Having “final answers” is sort of like getting hooked on heroin. In fact some drug addicts claim they beat the drugs by getting hooked on Jesus and Bible reading/memorization. However you donʼt hear about addicts for whom the Jesus cure ultimately fails, since bad press is never shouted from the rooftops. Instead you hear about the few for whom it worked out great. To think otherwise or to entertain doubt is simply to be blinded by the devil.
Christianity also mutates to fit the society itʼs in. In America, Christianity is just as secular and kitschy as American society in general, with Christian t-shirts, books, records, stadium-filled rallies, Christian theme parks, and apologetics cruises, not to mention bestselling books about promises of growing rich (Prayer of Jabez), as well as Christians voting to support the military industrial establishment with increasing funds while Jesus warned that “All who take up the sword shall die by the sword.” Jim Wallis, the Christian editor of Sojournerʼs magazine and author of Godʼs Politics, asks, “How did the faith of Jesus come to be known as pro-rich, pro-American and pro-war?” See also the book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience by Ron Sider who details further evidence of Christian worldliness. Sider has admits, “Poll after poll by Gallup and Barna show that evangelicals live just like the world… Evangelical Christians and born-again Christians get divorced just as often, if not a little more, than the general population. And Barna has discovered that 90 percent of the born-again Christians who are divorced got divorced after they accepted Christ [The Barna Group, The Barna Update, ‘Born Again Adults Less Likely to Co-Habit, Just As Likely to Divorce,’ August 6, 2001, http://www.barna.org]… Or take the issue of racism. A Gallup study discovered that when they asked the question. ‘Do you object if a black neighbor moves in next door?’ the least prejudiced were Catholics and non-evangelicals. The next group, in terms of prejudice, was mainline Protestants. Evangelicals and Southern Baptists were the worst.” [Ron Sider speaking in Christianity Today, April, 2005, Vol. 49 Issue 4, “The Evangelical Scandal”]
Meanwhile in the Southern Hemisphere, Christianity of a most conservative and unintellectual sort is growing fast via promises of miracles, etc.
Those are some of the questions I have pondered and that have led me to question what I formerly believed.