For years thousands upon thousands of people have waited with baited breath, on the edge of their seats, for the competent, genius, academic, scholarly employees at GQ magazine to share their unbiased, objective, and sophisticated thoughts on the Bible. Thousands of years of biblical scholarship be damned, we need those over at a men’s fashion magazine to share their insight on God’s Book.
Thankfully, our prayers have been answered. This article was at least contributed by an actual literary author, Jesse Ball, a writer few have ever heard of, who has written a handful of unimportant novels and poems. Thus, it wasn’t a fashionista who contributed this portion, to GQ’s credit.
Ironically the author owes the Bible quite a bit. Were it not for the Bible, this article would have received close to no attention at all. The popularity of the Bible has made him so popular, which is an ironic way for the Bible to separate and distinguish itself from the other books on Ball’s list. Ball owes the Bible quite a bit.
What are the reasons Ball thinks the Bible is overrated?
The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it.
Ball is clearly under the impression that all professing Christians are hypocrites who don’t actually take the Bible seriously. This critique I have tried to go a little easy on as certainly nominal Christianity, or cultural Christianity, is prevalent in this nation. However, there are still many complaints to be had about the language of this criticism.
First, many of those so-called Christians would not in fact rate the Bible that highly. The progressive view of Scripture (as espoused by men such as Brian Zahnd, Rob Bell, Greg Boyd) is a growing movement among liberal and nominal self-ascribing Christians. Many would agree that the Bible is self-contradictory and foolish. Thus, his criticism of nominal Christianity is misapplied when it is attributed to people who actually take the Bible seriously.
Second, this is the kind of broad brush generalization that only an anti-Christian can get away with publicly. Were a Christian to try and group millions of people into a category like this (especially such a negative one), there would be public outcry. Even among those who have “read” the Bible, Ball continues his hasty generalization.
Those who have read it know there are some good parts, but overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced.
Certainly many who have read the Bible agree with his assessment. But millions for the last two thousand have read it and not come to his conclusion.
It is repetitive
Being repetitive is hardly a proper criticism of Scripture. It’s hard to find a book that is like another among the Biblical Canon. They are all unique in many ways. Authors, themes, laws, genres, and writing styles all vary among the Canon of Scripture. It is hard to find how one could possibly come to this conclusion. The only aspects of repetitiveness that can be properly ascribed to Scripture actually serve to justify its unique nature.
There are many repeated themes throughout Scripture, primarily, the redemptive plan of God set forth in Christ Jesus. Every letter, every book, focuses and returns to this crucial issue in some way: it’s all about Jesus.
And the fact that multiple authors, from a variety of cultures, writing over the span of 1500 years, without ever consulting one another, would all be writing about the God revealed to us in the person of Christ Jesus is mesmerizing, and is certainly the quality of a work with far more than a human element behind its content.
The Bible is not repetitive from any literary perspective, and themes and types which are repetitive demonstrates the supernatural quality of Scripture.
It appears the often refuted claims to contradictions in Scripture will not go away until Christ returns. The Bible is not self-contradictory, but I suppose some have made a hobby out of beating dead horses.
The real issue underneath the alleged Biblical contradictions is actually one of worldview. Those who wish to see contradictions will. Those who wish not to will find their harmonization. One has to wonder if Ball (and all the others who throw out this claim) have actually studied these contradictions and could articulate why the scholarly harmonizations are not convincing. Many who make this claim could not even, off of the top of their head recite any alleged contradiction. Many will then do a simple Google search and call it a day.
Jason Lisle, just as an example, recently released his Keeping Faith in an Age of Reason. This book is an incredibly profound scholarly work. He addresses nearly every alleged contradiction of Scripture and provides its convincing harmonization. Along with that, he categorically systematizes these challenges by the type of logical fallacy taking place in order to force the texts at hand into an artificial contradiction. Thus, the few alleged contradictions not mentioned in the book could still be easily answered because the book helps see the logical fallacies behind the claims.
In other words, many alleged contradictions in Scripture are all essentially the same claim about different texts. Therefore, to refute one of them is to refute all of them. I highly recommend Lisle’s work.
But Lisle’s recent book is not the first scholastic attempt to answer these claims. For hundreds of years literature has been produced on this issue, and one just has to wonder if Ball has interacted with any of these apologetic works in any meaningful way.
If he has not, it seems a bit hypocritical to dismiss Christians for actually knowing the contents of the book they claim to believe when he doesn’t actually know the contents of the arguments he is espousing.
The real question would have to be why contradictory information is a problem for Ball. If Ball rejects the Word of God, and by doing so, God Himself, how does he account for the law of non-contradiction in the first place? Why must the Bible be consistent according to his worldview?
The law of non-contradiction is an immaterial, universal, immutable law. Yet, if Ball rejects the Bible, he cannot account for anything being immaterial, universal, and immutable. Thus, the law of logic he is using to discredit the Bible he actually stole from the Bible.
For those like me who had never heard of the word sententious before, the dictionary definition is:
Given to moralizing in a pompous or affected manner.
Color me surprised. A rebel sinner, who hates God, who wants to live his life however he pleases, is upset by the fact that the Bible has moral component to it. This is exactly what the apostle John meant when he said:
“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”
– John 3: 19
This criticism was by far the most revealing and the most important for the Christian to examine. Certainly, Ball does see the Bible as foolish, and the Bible itself tells us why.
“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”
– 1 Corinthians 1: 18-29
The Bible teaches that all those who reject Christ, those who are perishing, will always see the Biblical message as foolish. It is not unless the Spirit of God opens hearts and reveals truth that a person sees the Bible for what it truly is: wisdom from God. When someone finds the Bible irrelevant, contradictory, or anything else aside from inspired by God, the issue is with the person’s heart, not the Bible.
“[T]hese things [the truth of Christ and the Gospel] God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
– 2 Corinthians 2: 10-14
These criticisms then cannot be seen as the objectively unbiased observations of raw literary material. Ball is not an unbiased, objective, observer. He is blinded from possibly seeing the truth. This is a clash of worldview, not literary preferences.
Along these lines, Christians should never attempt to study the Bible “purely from a literary perspective.” Often times Christians will attempt to study the Bible, pretending it is not inspired. I even took a college class titled “The Bible as Literature” which sought to do just that. But the Bible never calls us to do that, and in fact, as the verses above indicate, do not suggest that is even possible. We will always be interpreting the Bible through a believing lens or a hostile lens. There are no neutral glasses through which to perceive the Bible.
and even at times ill-intentioned.
It must be easy for Ball to reject the God of the Bible when he himself has made himself God. After all, being able to discern hearts and know a person’s intentions, especially people who have been dead for thousands of years, is certainly a supernatural ability.
Ball’s criticism of the most popular book in world history is a simple demonstrate of how bankrupt his worldview is.