I recently got an earful of anti-Bible and anti-Christian vilification from an unbeliever.
It made me realize that the Bible and Christianity were being understood by the narrative of the secular anti-Christian culture. That narrative claims the Bible is anti-women, pro-slavery, and sends people to Hell lightly.
This evaluation is unfair. People should seek to understand any religion through the eyes of its strongest proponents. Only then can we fairly disagree. We have to show that we understand their point of view to their satisfaction. Such was my study of other religions at Wheaton College. After that, I studied liberal Christianity at a liberal seminary from strong proponents.
Actually, the Bible and Christianity should be evaluated in a very opposite way from how these critics do it.
It was actually the Bible that was a key to ending slavery
This began among Christians in the second century! Christians could not see enslaving brothers in the Lord nor other humans created in the image of God. Slavery at that time was not race-based slavery, but a matter of indenture due to economic situations.
The Bible lifted the status of women
The Bible brought a higher value to women – far beyond the Greeks and the Middle Eastern and Roman cultures and really more than all the major cultures of the world. Some point to the wife’s submission to the husband and are very negative to this. They also point out that the kings of Israel had multiple wives.
If the Bible is misogynistic (anti-women) then why was it Christianity that established monogamy in the Western World? All the kings of western nations were then required to be monogamous. What a contrast! What happened? Some governments began to reinforce the teaching of Jesus that God’s ideal was one man and one woman for a lifetime. This greatly transcended the culture and elevated women to a level of respect previously not entertained. For Plato, women only had value in connection to men. But in the Bible women are created equal in God’s image, deserving care and love to the level that Jesus loved his Church. (Ephesians 5). No one had ever heard before of such a level of respect for women. Read the history of India, China, or Japan and note the contrast. On the status of women compared to the Roman world, see Rodney Stark. The contrast is amazing!
The Bible has been the great lifter of humanity. The ideas of justice in the courts and clear evidence are from the Bible; the basic equal value of all people comes from the Bible. You won’t find it in other culture to this level. But you would not know this from the social media attack.
Only a few years back, Reuven Hammer, a Jewish Conservative rabbi, wrote The Torah Revolution on ten revolutionary matters of progress from the Torah, great advances in the world. But when people don’t understand the culture of the times and don’t treat the Bible fairly, then there is arrogant disrespect.
One example of cultural context is the trial by ordeal of the woman accused by her husband of adultery (Num. 5). She drinks the dust of the Temple mixed in water. If she does not get sick, she is innocent. This looks like a terrible thing for the poor woman. It is actually the opposite, a great gain for women. In that culture and today in parts of the Middle East, a woman has no equal justice in the courts. Two witnesses to adultery are not required. The husband could kill her from suspicion or false accusation. So, therefore, the women are given supernatural protection by God in the Temple and a way out of false accusation or unjust suspicion. She is protected by the test and God supernaturally acts for her. If innocent, her husband must receive her, not divorce her, and not again accuse her. All Western movements seeking greater equality only came about in nations influenced by Christianity. Can there be a fair discussion?
The emphasis on care for the poor and marginalized comes from the Bible. You will not find it in most other cultures. The underclasses were despised. The emphasis on mercy was the key to establish hospiresttals. Hospitals were a Christian invention.
One critic said the Bible was pre-science and its ideas antiquated. However, the scientific revolution arose due to Biblical emphases. Many have pointed this out: Stark, Whitehead of Harvard (Science and the Modern World), and the historian Herbert Butterfield. The Bible taught that nature was the creation of a God of order and that nature followed His laws. Such laws could be discovered. This understanding was a key to scientific discoveries. The Bible anticipated science and its accuracies, showing its amazing divine origins.
The quest for human rights only arose in cultures influenced by the Bible. Again and again, we see how advanced the Bible is.
Most of what I write here is not new to cultural apologists. However, due to the massive onslaught of anti-Bible sentiment today, we all would do well to become more versant in these points and join the “conversation” more effectively.
“…but treat the Messiah as holy, as Lord in your hearts; while remaining always ready to give a reasoned answer to anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you — yet with humility and fear” (I Peter 3:15 CJB)