Foolish questions by skeptics

"There are no foolish questions, and no man becomes a fool until he has stopped asking questions." ~Charles Proteus Steinmetz quoted at Quote Garden

With all due respect to Charles Steinmetz (and the thousands of teachers who say there are no foolish questions), there are such things as foolish questions. Some are pretty obvious, like the salesman who sees the dog inside the house barking at him and asks, "Is that your dog?" Or when someone says "I'm going to Aunt Jennie's funeral," and the other person foolishly asks, "Oh, did she die?" My own kids regale me with foolish questions every day. They ask questions like, "What are we having for dinner?" when they are watching me grill hot dogs on the barbecue.

These questions are foolish because the person asking the question would, with a little bit of thought or awareness (or, perhaps, research), recognize that the answer to the question is extremely obvious. If a question isn't obvious, then I think that the question isn't foolish. Thus, when someone asks "how can a God of love exist when there is so much evil and suffering in the world?", I don't consider that a foolish question but a very profound one that takes a bit of time and thought to fully resolve.

But there are some questions that skeptics ask that are foolish. For example, Triablogue makes note of the fact that a skeptical blogger (who claims to have studied under Dr. William Lane Craig) posts a series of questions that pastors hate to answer in a post titled "Your Post Stunk When The Christian You Tried to Debunk With Your Awful Junk ". While some of the questions are decent questions and deserve some thought, many of the ten questions are completely foolish. Among the questions are the following:

(5) "Why does the Apostle Paul, who writes most of the New Testament, NEVER quote Jesus, tell a story of his life or death, discuss a miracle or teaching?"

(6) "Why does neither Mark nor John know anything about Jesus birth, while Matthew and Luke do but tell contradictory stories?"

(7) "Why does Paul only say Jesus was born of a woman like everyone else?"

(8) "Did Paul ever spend five minutes with the real human Jesus?"

(9) "Isn't it strange the man who writes most of the New Testament and tells us all how to live, think and believe about Jesus, never met him, while the Twelve who did, vanish into thin air and write nothing?"

Paul Manata, one of the writers for Triablogue and the author of this piece, does a fine job of answering these foolish questions (even though I think that he was a bit hard on the poor questioner). He says:

(5) Paul "NEVER" quotes Jesus? Paul quotes Jesus many times in Acts 20:35; 22:7-18; 26:14-18; and in I Corinthians 11:24-25. Wow! A Masters from a Seminary. A former pastor. A former apologist. With pastors and apologists like Loftus, who needs atheists! He "NEVER" tells a story of Jesus' death? What is Paul doing in I Corinthians 15 then! He "NEVER" discusses a miracle? What do you call his discussions of Christ's miracle in his life on the road to Damascus? What do you call his discussion of Christ's miracle of resurrecting Himself in I Corinthians 15? He "NEVER" discusses a teaching by Jesus? What do you call his teaching on the Lord's supper? What do you call his mentioning Jesus' teaching that it is more blessed to give than receive (Acts 20:35). Wow! Loftus boasts about his knowledge of the Bible and uses it to try and act as if he can speak with authority. If Loftus thought this way as a Christian he was an embarrassment to Christian theologians and apologists. Now, as an atheologian, he is surely an embarrassment to atheologians. Anyway, ANSWER: Paul does, you nit wit.

(6) Hmmm, how do Mark and John not "know anything" about Jesus birth. I'd love to see the argument for that one. Does it go like this: "Mark never mentioned Jesus' birth, therefore he doesn't know anything about it!" Indeed, Mark 6:3 tells us that Jesus was Mary's "son" which would imply that, at least, Mark knew something about Jesus' birth -- that he was born to Mary! So, you can't say that he knew "nothing."

Same with John.

With regards to Matthew and Luke, where are the *contradictions?* Show me A and ~A in the same sense and relationship. And, if there are some, who cares. Remember, logic may be a myth, according to Loftus. ANSWER: The did "know" of his birth. What, do you think that they thought he just "popped" into existence? Silly.

(7) Huh? Jesus was born of a women like everyone else. Show me a person after Adam and Eve who did not come out of their mommy's tummy. Does Loftus think some people are born from wolves? ANSWER: Because he was.

(8) Well, so far he's spent a couple thousand years with the real human Jesus. I also assume that the road to Damascus experience lasted longer than 5 minutes. What, does Loftus not think Jesus was "human" anymore after He resurrected? Sounds like it. And he was a trained Pastor? ANSWER: Probably, but if it was 4 and 1/2 minutes, who cares?

(9) Is this guy for real? Who did Paul meet on the road to Damascus then? Oh, he must be presupposing that that story is myth. How convenient! Also, what do you mean the other twelve never wrote ANYTHING??? What do you call Matthew, Mark, and John? Did the Bible Loftus used as a pastor not have those books in it? Did he ditch school on the days that they taught and read from the Gospels? ANSWER: Is this guy for real?

As Paul Manata's answers point out, each of these questions is ultimately quite foolish. Question 5 is an example of simply not knowing what Paul says and making assumptions by what is written on "Jesus Myth" websites. Question 6 is an example of an argument from silence, i.e., because Mark didn't talk about the birth of Jesus he knew nothing about it argues that Mark's silence is the same as ignorance. Question 7 is an example of someone trying to argue a point based upon a stilted reading of the language used by the Bible. Question 8 is an equivocation because the writer probably means the pre-resurrected Jesus, because I am sure that Paul spent quite a bit of time with Jesus in prayer, in person and through the Holy Spirit. Finally, question 9 demonstrates a precommitment to the idea that the Gospels were written a long time after Jesus' life -- a viewpoint that is, at best, suspect.

Please note that the questions I am not saying every objection raised to the existence of God or the divinity of Jesus is foolish. I don't think that, and I don't think that we should approach witnessing in that way. It should be noted that I started my review of the questions posed by the skeptic with question 5. I did so because the first four questions are much more legitimate and much less foolish than these last five. But occasionally questions arise which we, as Christian apologists, should identify as foolish. Let's heed the advice of Titus 3:9 and not become involved in foolish controversies -- give straight answers to these questions and move onto the real issues over the truth of God.


SteveiT1D said…

The problem is that questions like these are not meant to be answered; they are there to disparage what the Bible says. I’m seeing a lot of this type of imprudent slanders toward Christianity in the blogsphere. When do we answer a fool according to his follies, and when do we refuse to answer a fool according to his follies?
BK said…
In my opinion, those are excellent points.

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