Christian Responses: Authority and Authenticity of the Bible

Authority and authenticity of the Bible:

The Jewish historian Josephus as well as the secular Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius all bear record of the person of Jesus. The Talmud and the Koran both attest to the person of Jesus. Historian Gary Habermas, has detailed 39 ancient sources outside of the bible that provide further corroboration for more than 100 facts about Jesus life, teachings, death and resurrection.

The Bible is replete with evidence of the supernatural elements that were testable, and also of God’s pervading involvement with history past, present and future. In no other religion were the authors of the scriptures supernaturally confirmed with miracles. And no other religion than Christianity has a Savior that was foretold with unbelievable precision. Even the most liberal critics admit that the prophetic books were completed some 400 years before Christ, and the book of Daniel by about 167 B.C. The Old Testament contains scores of prophecies about the coming of the Messiah.

Professor Peter Stoner, along with 600 students, calculated the mathematical probability of just 8 New Testament prophecies being fulfilled in any one person at one chance in a hundred million billion. No other book (religious or otherwise) offers anything that can compare with these supernatural predictions.

Barton Payne’s Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy list 191 on them, while Oxford scholar Alfred Edersheim cites 400. Major predictions about the Messiah, all of which were fulfilled in Jesus, was that he would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), of the seed of Abraham (Gen 12:1-3; 22:18), of the tribe of Judah (Gen 49:10), of the house of David (II Sam 7:12-16), in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2); He would be heralded by the Lord’s messenger (Isaiah 40:3); He would cleanse the temple (Malachi 3:1); He would be “cut off” 483 years after the declaration to reconstruct Jerusalem in 444 B.C. (Daniel 9:24-27); He would be rejected (Psalm 118:22); He would have his hands and feet pierced (Psalm 22:16); He would be pierced in His side (Zechariah 12:10); He would rise from the dead (Psalm 16:10); He would ascend into Heaven (Psalm 68:18); and He would sit down at the right hand of God (Psalm 110:1).


There are over 25,000 pieces of archeology supporting the bible including:
Biblical sites, cities, empires, artifacts, weapons, raw material and more on record which have been located and verified using the scriptures as a guide. In fact many biblical cites still exist today.

Archaeology has corroborated the essential reliability of the New Testament. Time after time, when incidental details of the New Testament can be checked out, they emerge as being accurate. For instance, John 5:1-15 describes how Jesus healed an invalid by the pool at Bethesda, which John describes as having 5 porticoes. And recently the pool was excavated and scientists discovered 5 porticoes or colonnaded porches just as John described.

Luke, who wrote one-quarter of the New Testament, has been found to be a scrupulously accurate historian, even in the smallest details. One archeologist carefully studied Luke’s references to 32 countries, 54 cities, and 9 islands, finding not a single error. “The general consensus of both liberal and conservative scholars is that Luke is very accurate as an historian,” said archeologist John McRay. The authorship of Matthew and Mark was affirmed by Papias in 125 A.D. Then Irenaeus confirmed this in 180 A.D.

The New Testament also features letters by the apostle Paul that are dated as early as A.D. 49. His high Christology – that Jesus is God and the Lord of Heaven and Earth – does not evolve through his various writings and thus “must have been largely completed before he began his great missionary journeys…that is, by A.D. 48,” stated J. P. Moreland, Professor at the Talbot School of Theology.

Archaeologists have uncovered more than 5000 ancient New Testament Greek manuscripts, with fragments dating back as early as the 2nd century. Counting Latin Vulgate manuscripts and others, the total is 24,000 manuscripts in existence. Next to the New Testament, the greatest manuscript evidence for any other ancient work is for Homer’s Iliad, of which there are fewer than 650 copies that come a full thousand years after the original writing.

Not only is 100% of all the major truth and the vast majority of minor truth of Scripture preserved in the manuscripts we have (and in the translations based on them), but more than 99% of the original text can be reconstructed from the manuscripts we posses. The reason is twofold: (1) we have thousands of manuscripts, and (2) we have early manuscripts. The proximity to the original text and the multiplicity of the manuscripts enable textual scholars to accurately reconstruct the original text with more than 99% accuracy. Renowned Greek scholar Sir Frederic Kenyon affirmed that all manuscripts agree on the essential correctness of 99% of the verses in the New Testament. Another noted Greek scholar, A.T. Robertson, said the real concerns of textual criticism is on “a thousandth part of the entire text” making the New Testament 99.9 percent pure.


Strictly speaking the gospels are anonymous. However, the uniform testimony of the early church was that Matthew, the tax collector and 1 of the 12 disciples, was the author of the first Gospel in the New testament: John Mark, a companion of the disciple Peter, wrote the Gospel we call Mark; and Luke, known as Paul’s “beloved physician,” wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. And there are no known competitors for these 3 gospels. While the name of the author of the fourth Gospel isn’t in doubt – it is certainly John – there was a question concerning whether this was John the apostle or a different John. Professor Craig Bloomberg stated that he is convinced that “a substantial majority of the material goes back to the apostle,” although someone closely associated with John may have acted as an editor, “putting the last verses into shape and potentially creating the stylistic uniformity of the entire document.” In any event, he emphasized, “the Gospel is obviously based on eyewitness material, as are the other 3 Gospels.”

Significantly, there is no evidence from the first century that the authorship of the Gospels was ever in doubt. In fact, if authorship was going to be invented, certainly names of prominent apostles such as Peter or James would have been used in an attempt to bolster credibility rather than to attribute the Gospels to Mark and Luke, who weren’t even among the 12 disciples, and Matthew, who was formerly a hated tax collector.

In reality, far from being contradictory, the Gospels are clearly complementary. Throughout the centuries, countless bible scholars have attested to the fact. Had all the Gospels writers said the same thing in the exact same way, they could have been legitimately questioned on the grounds of collusion. Paul’s writings in Galatians, where he describes meeting with the apostles in Jerusalem and confirming that his message of Christ’s deity was correct, coupled with an extremely early creed about the resurrection found in 1 Corinthians 15, demonstrate that belief in a divine, risen Jesus was in existence within just a few years after his death.

“In no other case is the interval of time between the composition of the book and the date of the earliest manuscripts so short as in that of the New Testament.” ~ Sir Frederic Kenyon, former director of the British Museum and author of The Palaeography of Greek Papyri.

Former atheist skeptic Lee Strobel subjected the Gospels to 8 tests they might face in a court of law – the intention test, the character test, the consistency test, the bias test, the cover-up test, the corroboration test and the adverse witness test – to determine whether they could be considered trustworthy. His verdict was that their essential reliability is beyond serious doubt. As an example, just because the Gospels take a different perspective in describing events does not mean the are irreconcilable. Matthew say there was one angel at Jesus tomb, while John say there were two. Matthew did not say there was only one. John was providing more detail by saying there were two.

After studying the consistency amount the four Gospels, Simon Greenleaf of Harvard Law School, the 19th centuries greatest expert on legal evidence, concluded: “There is enough of a discrepancy to show that there could have been no previous concert among them and at the same time such substantial agreement as to show that they all were independent narrators of the same great transaction.”

Even the once-doubting Sir Lionel Luckhoo, identified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most successful attorney in the world, concluded after an exhaustive analysis of the evidence for Christ’s resurrection, “I say unequivocally that the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leave absolutely no room for doubt.”

Christian Responses: Archaeology and History Attest to the Reliability of the Bible

Archaeology and History Attest to the Reliability of the Bible

By Richard M. Fales, Ph.D.

No other ancient book is questioned or maligned like the Bible. Critics looking for the flyspeck in the masterpiece allege that there was a long span between the time the events in the New Testament occurred and when they were recorded. They claim another gap exists archaeologically between the earliest copies made and the autographs of the New Testament. In reality, the alleged spaces and socalled gaps exist only in the minds of the critics. Manuscript Evidence.

Aristotle’s Ode to Poetics was written between 384 and 322 B.C. The earliest copy of this work dates A.D. 1100, and there are only forty-nine extant manuscripts. The gap between the original writing and the earliest copy is 1,400 years. There are only seven extant manuscripts of Plato’s Tetralogies, written 427–347 B.C. The earliest copy is A.D. 900—a gap of over 1,200 years. What about the New Testament? Jesus was crucified in A.D. 30. The New Testament was written between A.D. 48 and 95. The oldest manuscripts date to the last quarter of the first century, and the second oldest A.D. 125. This gives us a narrow gap of thirty-five to forty years from the originals written by the apostles. From the early centuries, we have some 5,300 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. Altogether, including Syriac, Latin, Coptic, and Aramaic, we have a whopping 24,633 texts of the ancient New Testament to confirm the wording of the Scriptures. So the bottom line is, there was no great period between the events of the New Testament and the New Testament writings. Nor is there a great time lapse between the original writings and the oldest copies.

With the great body of manuscript evidence, it can be proved, beyond a doubt, that the New Testament says exactly the same things today as it originally did nearly 2,000 years ago. Corroborating Writings. Critics also charge that there are no ancient writings about Jesus outside the New Testament. This is another ridiculous claim. Writings confirming His birth, ministry, death, and resurrection include Flavius Josephus (A.D. 93), the Babylonian Talmud (A.D. 70–200), Pliny the Younger’s letter to the Emperor Trajan (approx. A.D. 100), the Annals of Tacitus (A.D. 115–117), Mara Bar Serapion (sometime after A.D. 73), and Suetonius’ Life of Claudius and Life of Nero (A.D. 120).

Another point of contention arises when Bible critics have knowingly or unknowingly misled people by implying that Old and New Testament books were either excluded from or added into the canon of Scripture at the great ecumenical councils of A.D. 336, 382, 397, and 419. In fact, one result of these gatherings was to confirm the Church’s belief that the books already in the Bible were divinely inspired. Therefore, the Church, at these meetings, neither added to nor took away from the books of the Bible. At that time, the thirty-nine Old Testament books had already been accepted, and the New Testament, as it was written, simply grew up with the ancient Church. Each document, being accepted as it was penned in the first century, was then passed on to Christians of the next century. So, this foolishness about the Roman Emperor Constantine dropping books from the Bible is simply uneducated rumor.

Fulfilled Prophecies
Prophecies from the Old and New Testaments that have been fulfilled also add credibility to the Bible. The Scriptures predicted the rise and fall of great empires like Greece and Rome (Daniel 2:39, 40), and foretold the destruction of cities like Tyre and Sidon (Isaiah 23). Tyre’s demise is recorded by ancient historians, who tell how Alexander the Great lay siege to the city for seven months. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had failed in a 13-year attempt to capture the seacoast city and completely destroy its inhabitants. During the siege of 573 B.C., much of the population of Tyre moved to its new island home approximately half a mile from the land city. Here it remained surrounded by walls as high as 150 feet until judgment fell in 332 B.C. with the arrival of Alexander the Great. In the seven-month siege, he fulfilled the remainder of the prophecies (Zechariah 9:4; Ezekiel 26:12) concerning the city at sea by completely destroying Tyre, killing 8,000 of its inhabitants and selling 30,000 of its population into slavery. To reach the island, he scraped up the dust and rubble of the old land city of Tyre, just like the Bible predicted, and cast them into the sea, building a 200-footwide causeway out to the island. Alexander’s death and the murder of his two sons was also foretold in the Scripture. Another startling prophecy was Jesus’ detailed prediction of Jerusalem’s destruction, and the further spreading of the Jewish diaspora throughout the world, which is recorded in Luke 21. In A.D. 70, not only was Jerusalem destroyed by Titus, the future emperor of Rome, but another prediction of Jesus Christ in Matthew 24:1,2 came to pass—the complete destruction of the temple of God.

Messianic Prophecies
In the Book of Daniel, the Bible prophesied the coming of the one and only Jewish Messiah prior to the temple’s demise. The Old Testament prophets declared He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) to a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12,13), die by crucifixion (Psalm 22), and be buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9). There was only one person who fits all of the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament who lived before A.D. 70: Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Mary. Yes, the Bible is an amazing book. (See also 1 Peter 1:25 footnote.)

Christian Responses: The Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls
“The greatest manuscript discovery of all times.”

By William F. Albright

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) at Qumran in 1949 had significant effects in corroborating evidence for the Scriptures. The ancient texts, found hidden in pots in cliff-top caves by a monastic religious community, confirm the reliability of the Old Testament text. These texts, which were copied and studied by the Essenes, include one complete Old Testament book (Isaiah) and thousands of fragments, representing every Old Testament book except Esther. The manuscripts date from the third century B.C. to the first century A.D. and give the earliest window found so far into the texts of the Old Testament books and their predictive prophecies. The Qumran texts have become an important witness for the divine origin of the Bible, providing further evidence against the criticism of such crucial books as Daniel and Isaiah.

Dating the Manuscripts
Carbon-14 dating is a reliable form of scientific dating when applied to uncontaminated material several thousand years old. Results indicated an age of 1917 years with a 200-year (10 percent) variant. Paleography (ancient writing forms) and orthography (spelling) indicated that some manuscripts were inscribed before 100 B.C. Albright set the date of the complete Isaiah scroll to around 100 B.C.—”there can happily not be the slightest doubt in the world about the genuineness of the manuscript.”

Archaeological Dating
Collaborative evidence for an early date came from archaeology. Pottery accompanying the manuscripts was late Hellenistic (c. 150– 3 B.C.) and Early Roman (c. 63 B.C. to A.D. 100). Coins found in the monastery ruins proved by their inscriptions to have been minted between 135 B.C. and A.D. 135. The weave and pattern of the cloth supported an early date. There is no reasonable doubt that the Qumran manuscripts came from the century before Christ and the first century A.D. Significance of the Dating.

Previous to the DSS, the earliest known manuscript of the Old Testament was the Masoretic Text (A.D. 900) and two others (dating about A.D. 1000) from which, for example, the King James version of the Old Testament derived its translation. Perhaps most would have considered the Masoretic text as a very late text and therefore questioned the reliability of the Old Testament wholesale. The Dead Sea Scrolls eclipse these texts by 1,000 years and provide little reason to question their reliability, and further, present only confidence for the text. The beauty of the Dead Sea Scrolls lies in the close match they have with the Masoretic text—demonstrable evidence of reliability and preservation of the authentic text through the centuries. So the discovery of the DSS provides evidence for the following:

1) Confirmation of the Hebrew Text
2) Support for the Masoretic Text
3) Support for the Greek translation of the Hebrew Text (the Septuagint).

Since the New Testament often quotes from the Greek Old Testament, the DSS furnish the reader with further confidence for the Masoretic texts in this area where it can be tested.

(Generated from Norman Geisler, “Dead Sea Scrolls,” Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics)

Christian Responses: “Missing Link” Still Missing

“Missing Link” Still Missing

Imaginations certainly took flight over Archaeoraptor Liaoningensis, a birdlike fossil with a meat-eater’s tail that was spirited out of northeastern China, ‘discovered’ at a Tucson, Arizona, gem and mineral show last year, and displayed at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. Some 110,000 visitors saw the exhibit, which closed January 17; millions more read about the find in November’s National Geographic. Now, paleontologists are eating crow. Instead of ‘a true missing link’ connecting dinosaurs to birds, the specimen appears to be a composite, its unusual appendage likely tacked on by a Chinese farmer, not evolution.

“Archaeoraptor is hardly the first ‘missing link’ to snap under scrutiny. In 1912, fossil remains of an ancient hominid were found in England’s Piltdown quarries and quickly dubbed man’s apelike ancestor. It took decades to reveal the hoax.” U.S. News & World Report, February 14, 2000

“Darwin admitted that millions of ‘missing links,’ transitional life forms, would have to be discovered in the fossil record to prove the accuracy of his theory that all species had gradually evolved by chance mutation into new species. Unfortunately for his theory, despite hundreds of millions spent on searching for fossils worldwide for more than a century, the scientists have failed to locate a single missing link out of the millions that must exist if their theory of evolution is to be vindicated.” Grant R. Jeffery, The Signature of God

“There are gaps in the fossil graveyard, places where there should be intermediate forms, but where there is nothing whatsoever instead. No paleontologist . . . denies that this is so. It is simply a fact. Darwin’s theory and the fossil record are in conflict.” David Berlinsky

“Scientists concede that their most cherished theories are based on embarrassingly few fossil fragments and that huge gaps exist in the fossil record.” Time magazine, Nov. 7, 1977

“The evolutionists seem to know everything about the missing link except the fact that it is missing.” G. K. Chesterton

Christian Responses: Questions for Evolutionists

Questions for Evolutionists
by Dr. Kent Hovind

The test of any theory is whether or not it provides answers to basic questions. Some well-meaning but misguided people think evolution is a reasonable theory to explain man’s questions about the universe. Evolution is not a good theory—it is just a pagan religion masquerading as science.

1. Where did the space for the universe come from?

2. Where did matter come from?

3. Where did the laws of the universe come from (gravity, inertia, etc.)?

4. How did matter get so perfectly organized?

5. Where did the energy come from to do all the organizing?

6. When, where, why, and how did life come from dead matter?

7. When, where, why, and how did life learn to reproduce itself?

8. With what did the first cell capable of sexual reproduction reproduce?

9. Why would any plant or animal want to reproduce more of its kind since this would only make more mouths to feed and decrease the chances of survival? (Does the individual have a drive to survive, or the species? How do you explain this?)

10. How can mutations (recombining of the genetic code) create any new, improved varieties? (Recombining English letters will never produce Chinese books.)

11. Is it possible that similarities in design between different animals prove a common Creator instead of a common ancestor?

12. Natural selection only works with the genetic information available and tends only to keep a species stable. How would you explain the increasing complexity in the genetic code that must have occurred if evolution were true?

13. When, where, why, and how did: a) Single-celled plants become multicelled? (Where are the two- and threecelled intermediates?) b) Single-celled animals evolve? c) Fish change to amphibians? d) Amphibians change to reptiles? e) Reptiles change to birds? (The lungs, bones, eyes, reproductive organs, heart, method of locomotion, body covering, etc., are all very different!) How did the intermediate forms live?

14. When, where, why, how, and from what did: a) Whales evolve? b) Sea horses evolve? c) Bats evolve? d) Eyes evolve? e) Ears evolve? f) Hair, skin, feathers, scales, nails, claws, etc., evolve?

15. Which evolved first (how, and how long, did it work without the others)? a) The digestive system, the food to be digested, the appetite, the ability to find and eat the food, the digestive juices, or the body’s resistance to its own digestive juice (stomach, intestines, etc.)? b) The drive to reproduce or the ability to reproduce? c) The lungs, the mucus lining to protect them, the throat, or the perfect mixture of gases to be breathed into the lungs? d) DNA or RNA to carry the DNA message to cell parts? e) The termite or the flagella in its intestines that actually digest the cellulose? f) The plants or the insects that live on and pollinate the plants? g) The bones, ligaments, tendons, blood supply, or muscles to move the bones? h) The nervous system, repair system, or hormone system? i) The immune system or the need for it?

Christian Responses: Scientific Facts in the Bible

Scientific Facts in the Bible

1. Only in recent years has science discovered that everything we see is composed of invisible atoms. Here, Scripture tells us that the “things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”

2. Medical science has only recently discovered that blood-clotting in a newborn reaches its peak on the eighth day, then drops. The Bible consistently says that a baby must be circumcised on the eighth day.

3. At a time when it was believed that the earth sat on a large animal or a giant (1500 B.C.), the Bible spoke of the earth’s free float in space: “He…hangs the earth upon nothing” (Job 26:7).

4. The prophet Isaiah also tells us that the earth is round: “It is he that sits upon the circle of the earth” (Isaiah 40:22). This is not a reference to a flat disk, as some skeptic maintain, but to a sphere. Secular man discovered this 2,400 years later. At a time when science believed that the earth was flat, is was the Scriptures that inspired Christopher Columbus to sail around the world (see Proverbs 3:6 footnote).

5. God told Job in 1500 B.C.: “Can you send lightnings, that they may go, and say to you, Here we are?” (Job 38:35). The Bible here is making what appears to be a scientifically ludicrous statement—that light can be sent, and then manifest itself in speech. But did you know that radio waves travel at the speed of light? This is why you can have instantaneous wireless communication with someone on the other side of the earth. Science didn’t discover this until 1864 when “British scientist James Clerk Maxwell suggested that electricity and light waves were two forms of the same thing” (Modern Century Illustrated Encyclopedia).

6. Job 38:19 asks, “Where is the way where light dwells?” Modern man has only recently discovered that light (electromagnetic radiation) has a “way,” traveling at 186,000 miles per second.

7. Science has discovered that stars emit radio waves, which are received on earth as a high pitch. God mentioned this in Job 38:7: “When the morning stars sang together…”

8. “Most cosmologists (scientists who study the structures and evolution of the universe) agree that the Genesis account of creation, in imagining an initial void, may be uncannily close to the truth” (Time, Dec. 1976).

9. Solomon described a “cycle” of air currents two thousand years before scientists “discovered” them. “The wind goes toward the south, and turns about unto the north; it whirls about continually, and the wind returns again according to his circuits” (Ecclesiastes 1:6).

10. Science expresses the universe in five terms: time, space, matter, power, and motion. Genesis 1:1,2 revealed such truths to the Hebrews in 1450 B.C.: “In the beginning [time] God created [power] the heaven [space] and the earth [matter] . . . And the Spirit of God moved [motion] upon the face of the waters.” The first thing God tells man is that He controls of all aspects of the universe.

11. The great biological truth concerning the importance of blood in our body’s mechanism has been fully comprehended only in recent years. Up until 120 years ago, sick people were “bled,” and many died because of the practice. If you lose your blood, you lose your life. Yet Leviticus 17:11, written 3,000 years ago, declared that blood is the source of life: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood.”

12. All things were made by Him (see John 1:3), including dinosaurs. Why then did the dinosaur disappear? The answer may be in Job 40:15–24. In this passage, God speaks about a great creature called “behemoth.” Some commentators think this was a hippopotamus. However, the hippo’s tail isn’t like a large tree, but a small twig. Following are the characteristics of this huge animal: It was the largest of all the creatures God made; was plant-eating (herbivorous); had its strength in its hips and a tail like a large tree. It had very strong bones, lived among the trees, drank massive amounts of water, and was not disturbed by a raging river. He appears impervious to attack because his nose could pierce through snares, but Scripture says, “He that made him can make his sword to approach unto him.” In other words, God caused this, the largest of all the creatures He had made, to become extinct.

13. Encyclopedia Britannica documents that in 1845, a young doctor in Vienna named Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis was horrified at the terrible death rate of women who gave birth in hospitals. As many as 30 percent died after giving birth. Semmelweis noted that doctors would examine the bodies of patients who died, then, without washing their hands, go straight to the next ward and examine expectant mothers. This was their normal practice, because the presence of microscopic diseases was unknown. Semmelweis insisted that doctors wash their hands before examinations, and the death rate immediately dropped to 2 percent. Look at the specific instructions God gave His people for when they encounter disease: “And when he that has an issue is cleansed of his issue; then he shall number to himself even days for his cleansing, and wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in running water, and shall be clean” (Leviticus 15:13). Until recent years, doctors washed their hands in a bowl of water, leaving invisible germs on their hands. However, the Bible says specifically to wash hands under “running water.”

14. Luke 17:34–36 says the Second Coming of Jesus Christ will occur while some are asleep at night and others are working at daytime activities in the field. This is a clear indication of a revolving earth, with day and night at the same time.

15. “During the devastating Black Death of the fourteenth century, patients who were sick or dead were kept in the same rooms as the rest of the family. People often wondered why the disease was affecting so many people at one time. They attributed these epidemics to ‘bad air’ or ‘evil spirits.’ However, careful attention to the medical commands of God as revealed in Leviticus would have saved untold millions of lives. Arturo Castiglione wrote about the overwhelming importance of this biblical medical law: ‘The laws against leprosyin Leviticus 13 may be regarded as the first model of sanitary legislation’ (A History of Medicine).” Grant R. Jeffery, The Signature of God With all these truths revealed in Scripture,how could a thinking person deny that the Bible is supernatural in origin? There is no other book in any of the world’s religions (Vedas, Bhagavad-Gita, Koran, Book of Mormon, etc.) that contains scientific truth. In fact, they contain statements that are clearly unscientific. Hank Hanegraaff said, “Faith in Christ is not some blind leap into a dark chasm, but a faith based on established evidence.” (11:3 continued)

Extinguishing the Fear of Hell

Taken from:

The other week, I received an excellent suggestion from a Daylight Atheism commenter via e-mail. He suggested I write a post on the following topic: How can a former believer overcome the vestigial fear of Hell?

I suspect this is a common problem. Many religions go to great effort to inculcate in their followers an instinctive terror of breaking the rules, and this irrational fear can often linger and continue to traumatize a person even after they have consciously and rationally decided that those religious beliefs are false. No blame attaches for this; it’s just an intrinsic part of human psychology. Cold fear, unfortunately, is often a more powerful force than dispassionate reasoning.

In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins quotes one victim of this psychological abuse who wrote to him seeking help:

I went to a Catholic school from the age of five, and was indoctrinated by nuns who wielded straps, sticks and canes. During my teens I read Darwin, and what he said about evolution made such a lot of sense to the logical part of my mind. However, I’ve gone through life suffering much conflict and a deep down fear of hell fire which gets triggered quite frequently. I’ve had some psychotherapy which has enabled me to work through some of my earlier problems but can’t seem to overcome this deep fear.

Dr. Dawkins suggested a therapist, Jill Mytton, who herself escaped a cult called the Exclusive Brethren and now counsels people in similar situations. Yet even she still bears the traces of her former indoctrination:

“If I think back to my childhood, it’s one dominated by fear. And it was the fear of disapproval while in the present, but also of eternal damnation. And for a child, images of hell-fire and gnashing of teeth are actually very real. They are not metaphorical at all.” I then asked her to spell out what she had actually been told about hell, as a child, and her eventual reply was as moving as her expressive face during the long hesitation before she answered: “It’s strange, isn’t it? After all this time it still has the power to… affect me… when you… when you ask me that question. Hell is a fearful place. It’s complete rejection by God. It’s complete judgement, there is real fire, there is real torment, real torture, and it goes on for ever so there is no respite from it.”

Reading about the horrible suffering that so many believers experience, anyone with a conscience would want to help. I’m well aware that there’s no quick fix for a psychological trauma like this, and not having had a cult upbringing to break away from, I don’t claim to be an expert on this. But I do have two suggestions, so I’ll give them out in the hopes that they may do some good. Anyone who has more experience than me and can improve on them is invited to do so.

First: Most religious groups, for understandable reasons, try to instill into their followers the belief that their particular teachings are the only ones that are real or worth caring about. To counteract this, I suggest it may help to put those teachings into their proper context in the pantheon of world mythology. What I’d recommend for a struggling ex-believer is to read about all the afterlives that have been proposed – Greek, Egyptian, Buddhist, Hindu, and everything else that’s out there. Once you can compare them side by side and are used to seeing them just as stories, it will be easier to do the same with the religion you were brought up in.

Second: The best way to conquer the phobia of Hell, as with any other phobia, is to induce extinction. Expose yourself to whatever idea or image triggers the fear – in small doses at first – and prove to yourself that no harmful consequences follow. Repeat this often enough, and the mental link between the stimulus and the fear is eventually broken. Of course, rationally speaking, this wouldn’t disprove a punishment that’s claimed to only arrive after death – but because we’re dealing with an irrational fear and not a reasoned belief, I think it may be effective.

So, readers, what do you say? Can anyone improve on these suggestions?