10 Questions Your Pastor Can’t Answer – Answered

Recently, Stewart from Insulted proposed a list of what he called 10 Questions Your Pastor Can’t Answer. I’m not sure how difficult these questions would be for my pastor, but they were rather difficult for me. That being said, I do have answers to each of Stewart’s questions.* (I am also in the process of preparing my own “10 Questions Your Local Atheist/Agnostic/Skeptic Can’t Answer”)

You can find the complete questions and context at the above link. I have shortened the questions for the sake of brevity.

1) How could an all-knowing God be all-loving, since He would create people that He knows for a fact would be damned?

The first thing we have to understand is that God does not “know” the future in terms that we can really understand. God exists outside of time (He created it), so there is no future to God only present. Secondly, there are two different ways to answer this question. Calvinists would use Romans 9 and say that God predestines people to heaven or hell. He is God and He can do that.

The flip side is that God does know (although he doesn’t establish) who will accept Him and who will not, but His will for them is that they come to know him (2 Peter 3:9). God has offered them a way to escape the punishment that lies ahead for them. They simply choose to take the punishment.

But to answer the question specifically, He created them the same reason He created humans in general. He wants companionship and fellowship. He wants to be worshiped and loved (He deserves it as well). But if He forced Himself on us or He only created those who would follow Him, He would be violating the free will of man. He would be removing us from the decision making process. How loving is that. Also, forced love and worship is no love and worship at all. For anything to be genuine it has to be chosen.

But looking at some human analogies can help us to understand even if they are not totally applicable. We choose to love people even though that means we will get hurt. We choose to have children even though they will disobey us and hurt us. Just like for us in those situations, God weighs the benefits versus the risks and finds that it is better to have “love and lost than to have never loved at all.”

2) What about all the people who have never heard about Jesus or haven’t heard anything beyond the existence of a religion called Chrisitianity? Why would God randomly (by virture of their birthplace and time) and cruelly deny people access to salvation? Or does he give them a “free pass’ undermining the requirement of Jesus?

The presupposition of this question is in direct contrast with the first question. The question assumes that God can do anything randomly. God knows who will seek Him and I am sure He places people accordingly. Matthew 7:7-8 and Jeremiah 29:13-14 tell us that God is found by those who seek Him.

Not only does not put people their randomly, condemning them by their birthplace, He allows those in areas not open to the Gospel to experience Him in supernatural ways. There have been many stories of Muslims who come to Christ through visions and dreams of Jesus. Missionaries go into supposedly unreached people groups to find them already worshiping Jesus. He has revealed Himself to them.

Also, Romans 1:18-20 says that people can see God if they only open their eyes and look. Even if God in God’s justice, He gives them a “free pass” that free pass does not undermine Jesus because the pass would be available only because of Jesus and His sacrifice.

In general as far as heaven and hell, love and judgment, God is love, but God is also holy and sinless. Sin cannot enter his presence. So what else could a holy, just God do but punish the sin? But what else could a loving God do but take the punishment Himself and offer people a way out?

Ultimately, we have to know that God is just and no one will be able to say that they were not treated fairly. God loves justice (Isaiah 30:18, 61:8), so He will treat everyone justly.

3) How was Lot more Godly than the homosexual men in Sodom and Gomorrah, when he offered up his virgin daughters to be raped?

This story is found in Genesis 19. There is a big misconception that simply because the Bible reports an action that it condones and approves that action. I don’t believe the action was a very Godly action. It merely showed his fear and reverence for people he say as being from God (something that the men of the city did not have).

Regardless of what televangelists say, Sodom and Gomorrah were not destroyed strictly because of the homosexual nature of the people. The cities were destroyed because the people there had no fear of God and they were evil in every way.

4) How did two of the hundreds of thousands of species fit on the ark, not to mention all the food and supplies, especially when we know the size of the ark?

They didn’t and they couldn’t. In fact the Bible says that there were more than two of some of the animals (taking in to account Noah’s food). You can find this in Genesis 6 and 7. You subsituted your own word for the word that is in the Bible. Genesis does not say two or every species, it says two of every kind (which is similar to the current organizational term of genus). Instead of two horses, two zebras, two donkeys, you would have two from the equine kind. Instead of two dogs, two wolves, two coyotes, you would have two from the canine kind.

It has been calculated that Noah would have needed to take approximately 16,000 animals (not counting insects, since the Bible doesn’t say Noah must take them). If you calculated the volume of the ark it would be around 1.54 million cubic feet, the equivalent of 522 railroad cars. If the calculations of 16,000 are correct and you allowed for an average pen size of 4,800 cubic inches that would give you only 42,000 cubic feet or 14.4 railroad cars. Leaving plenty of room for Noah, his family, all the food and supplies and even the insects if they were on board.

5) How did all the animals get to Noah’s ark since they would have been thousands of miles away and seperated by large impassable oceans?

It would be virtually, if not actually, impossible for this to be accomplished today. But, many believe that the pre-flood earth contained one land mass (Genesis 1:9). This would have made it significantly easier. Also it becomes easier when you consider only having to bring two of each kind instead of two of each species. It gets even easier when you believe, as many do, that the climate for the earth was very even across much of the world, so most animals lived in every portion of the world.

6) Where did all the water come from, where did it go, where is the evidence and why didn’t it horribly disrupt every single ecosystem on the planet?

Genesis 7:11 tells us that the water came from “the fountains of the deep” and the “windows of heaven.” The implies both torrential rain and oceans and subterranean water sources. The Bible talks about a “breaking up” which implies fissures on the ground and the ocean floor. A plate tectonics model for the flood indicates that the ocean’s floor would rise rapidly at the onset of the flood up to 6,500 feet, due to an increase in temperature in horizontal movement of the tectonic plates accelerated.

According to Alfred Russel Wallace (the co-discoverer of Darwin’s theory) if the earth was flattened the water on the earth would cover the land over 1.7 miles. Many believe that before the flood, the earth was basically flat with only rolling hills. The violent volcanic eruptions and earthquakes so impacted the earth’s topography that the one flat land mass because broken apart and filled with mountains and vallies. (This is talked about in Pslam 104:6-9)

As to the evidence, numerous things appear to be created by erosion. Evolutionists attribute it to having been created over millions of years. Creationists believe they happened in a short period of time due to the flood.

On the ecosystems, they are surprisingly resilent. The ecosystem at Mt. Saint Helens was supposed to be barren for decades. Within three years 90% of all the original plant species were growing in the formerly “barren” blast zone.

7) What about the evidence of linguistics? And why do Christians believe in the Tower of Babel story when civilizations were already all across the globe when the story says they were scattered?

Again, this question presupposes the Bible to be wrong and is a very leading question.

This is from the end of Genesis 10 and Genesis 11. Today we see several language familes that seem to be related within the familes, but seemingly no (or very small) connection between the families (such as the Indo-European and the Sino-Asiatic languages).

Could these distinct language familes be from the original languages of the Tower of Babel? It is not impossible to believe that within a few thousand years, hundreds of languages could spring up from an original three or four. It has been said many times, the only reason why we currently don’t break down into hundreds of different distinct versions of English is because of our communication abilities. Even then we see marked differences between Southern American English, Northern American English, England English and Australian English. We see in the Great Vowel Shift of English that language sounds can be completely transformed within 200 years.

8) How can the Bible be original and inerrant when it is filled with stories from older cultures?

Once again, this presupposes the Bible is false. It is hard to argue my points from this questions when it does not allow me the answer that I want to give, like “have you stopped beating your wife yet?”

If the Bible is true, original and inerrant, then there are no older cultures. Stories such as the flood actually happened, the Bible records them correctly and numerous other cultures around the world record similar stories that have very close to the story of the Bible, but not exactly right because they are not the inspired word of God.

9) How can Creationist say there is not enough evidence for evolution, but they believe miracles of the Bible?

This is comparing apples to oranges. Evolution by it’s definition does not allow for supernatural explanation, so it has to be explained purely by scientific and natural means.

Miracles of the Bible are just that – miracles. They are supernatural and cannot by definition be explained by natural means.

But as to evidence (not proof) of evolution or creation. Much of the evidence can be interpreted in favor of either evolution or Intelligent Design. It depends totally upon the way you look at things (ex. similarity in animals, Grand Canyon, fossil layers).

10) Jesus claimed that the world would come to an end before those gathered before Him passed away. How do you explain this passage, knowing that if you allow it to be a metaphor or not taken literally you open the entire New Testament up to that type of reasoning?

I do take his claim literal, but I don’t take your interpretation as accurate. You find the claim in Matthew 24. You have to take the verse (34) in context with the rest of the chapter. Jesus spends the entire chapter speaking of all these specific signs that are to take place before the end. One of those signs was the fact that the Gospel would be preached through out the entire world, clearly this leaves out those in attendance. His claim was that those who saw all of the signs fulfilled would not pass away until the end. (Some narrow the claim down further and say it is speaking specifically about verse 32 and the fig tree is a parable of Israel and posession of their land. But regardless there other explanations outside those you gave.

*Some questions were loaded and asked from a presupposition that I was not willing to accept, so I acknowledged each of those. Some questions were asked in a way that Stewart was looking for answers from the perspective of a young earth creationist. While currently, I hold to that view, I do not treat it as dogmatically as something like the deity of Christ. I believe there are numerous Christians who hold to an old earth and would have vastly different answers to the questions. But the main point would be that there are answers to the questions regardless of which side you take.

This article has 11 comments

  1. I fundamentally disagree with you on all of these issues, but I wouldn't have bothered composing the list if I didn't already know that.
    Still, I appreciate the time you spend composing your answers, and I'd happily return the favor by responded to a list of "Ten Questions An Athiest Can't Answer".
    Thanks,

  2. Hmmm. Ten questions an atheist can't answer? I will have to think, but here's an off the cuff start? I suspect you *will* have answers, but as with those above, they may not be satisfying to some readers.
    There are the basic world view questions:
    1. Origins: Where did life and humanity originate?
    2. The Problem: Why is there suffering, sickness, and death?
    3. The Solution: What is the cure for man's suffering, esp. his existential lonliness?
    Questions of Meaning and Value:
    4. How does an atheist assign meaning to human activity? Is all meaning subjective, or do some activities have self-evident and objective worth and meaning. If so, what are these activities, and how to you arrive at their value?
    5. Are humans of more intrinsic value than animals? Why or why not?
    6. How does an atheist determine what is moral or immoral, right or wrong. Is there any objective standard or principles?
    Questions of Worldview:
    7. What type of government does atheistic philosophy translate into? How does it understand the relationship between man and government? What type of government structures flow from an atheistic world view? Does it merely rely on someone else's system of thought, like the assumptions of naturalistic science?
    8. How does atheism view religions and religious faith? What about metaphysics? Is atheism purely materialistic and naturalistic?
    9. Who are the authoritative writers/books of atheism? What are the central tenets of atheism, and if they have a "greatest commandment," what is it? For example, arguably, Christianity's is "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself."
    Questions of Revelation:
    10. What happens after we die?

  3. Yeah, the "Can't Answer" is not true. I just decided to carry the meme that Stewart started. I don't think that he thought no one could answer the questions, only that they may be difficult and require thought and time to answer.
    Stewart, I am aware that we disagree on most things, but I hope at least you found the answers to be real and not simply skirting the issues. If not please tell me and I will continue to work on it.
    Thanks in advance for doing the 10 Atheist questions. We may have to let others from our sites join the fun, as Seeker already has here.

  4. I wish the questions were broken out, one per post. I would like to comment and expand upon each of Aaron's original answers.

  5. Of course, there's the age old question of
    How many atheists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
    But that one, it seems, has been answered.

  6. I agree 10 at one time made it difficult to go in to much detail. If you would like to expand (or disagree) by all means use this is a starting point and post specifically on the one (or ever how many) topics you want to discuss.

  7. What I'd like to do is create a new category called "Series" and put just the Series Index kind of page there, while putting all the posts in the Series into whatever category they belong. How's that?

  8. If you *read* Genesis, and you somehow manage to take such blatant moral homily literally, then you've *missed the point of Genesis* completely.
    These *aren't* stories about what actually happened. They aren't literal histories. They are *blatant* mythologizing, and *blatant* moral homilies.
    The mistake is akin to people 2000 years down the line reading Aesop's fables and going, "Woah, animals TALKED back then?"
    Let me just restate the beginning of the story starting Genesis 2. Except for once, you're going to hear the names *translated into English.* You decide on whether this narrative sounds like a literal history or a set of moral homilies.
    Look at the first human in the second creation story. His name is Adam. That is to say, his name is, quite literally, Dirt. And what does Dirt do? Well first, Dirt grandly shows his authority over the animals. Then Dirt shows himself to be really a lonely person at heart, and so he pines away, sad because he needs companionship. God makes him a wife. And he's happy. That's why we seek companionship — we're lonely from the start — and that's why the traditional companionship is man-woman –'cause we're made for each other.
    Subsequently, the unnamed wife listens to a snake and brings Dirt to defy a rule that God set down for Dirt. And God gets pissed. So they subsequently both fall; and after the fall is completed, Dirt names his wife Khavah, that is to say, her name is, quite literally, Lifebreath.
    God expels Dirt and Lifebreath from the Garden *because God is very afraid*. That is God's cited reason — "oh no, now they might become immortal, and then they'd be like Me! That wouldn't be right! Send them out! And put an angel with a fiery sword at the gates of my garden!"
    So, now, Dirt and Lifebreath give birth to a boy, and they name him Qayin — literally, "Gotten." And Dirt and Lifebreath then also gave birth to Hebel — literally, Aura. And Dirt and Lifebreath and Gotten and Aura lived on Earth.
    In time, God pays no attention to Gotten, and Gotten becomes very jealous of Aura, killing him. In return, he's driven out to loneliness away from the others. Gotten begat Dedicated, and named his town after Dedicated. Dedicated begat Fleet, and Fleet begat God-smitten, and God-smitten begat Powerful.
    Powerful had two wives, Ornament and Shadow. Ornament begat Stream; he was the ancestor of those who live in tents and have livestock. Stream also had a brother, named River, who was the ancestor of the poets and bards.
    Shadow gave birth to Gotten-from-Gotten, who was the ancestor of the smiths of the world, and Gotten-from-Gotten had a sister, whose name was Loveliness.
    - – - – -
    Even if you completely missed the fact that the names are words from the rest of everyday life, doesn't the underlying story seem weird? It's a story of moral lessons. It's not a literal history. And if you take it as a literal history, you've missed the point of Genesis.

  9. “But if He forced Himself on us or He only created those who would follow Him, He would be violating the free will of man. He would be removing us from the decision making process. How loving is that. Also, forced love and worship is no love and worship at all. For anything to be genuine it has to be chosen.”

    That would be very nice, caring and considerate if it were true. But the fact is nothing could be further from the truth. We are threatened with the roasting pits of hell and torture for all of eternity, if we choose not to worship God. How can it be said that God offers a free choice, when the alternative is so dispicable and disgusting?

    Why are you so insistant on basing your Christian faith on such dogged adhearance to ancient scripts, written in unenlightened times? Surely the Christian faith is based on living our lives by Jesus’ example. Showing and sharing kindness, compassion and understanding to all. Not on dogmatically insisting on following ancient rituals and superstitions.

  10. No answer to that one?

  11. Jon, as you noticed, my title ended in the qualifier “well.” I appreciate your taking the time to provide the typical answers, but these are hard questions, and atheism is limited, even though some who claim to be atheists also claim to have definitive answers. Of course, I also wrote 10 Questions Your Pastor Can’t Answer and provided what some might consider just as incomplete answers ;)

    1) Where did life and humanity originate?
    A) Over the last three billion years, man has evolved from a protein acid.

    Quite honestly, natural selection and random mutation just do not produce those results in the labs or in observation. It’s a nice theory, but those who claim it to be gospel truth are believers, not scientists, imo.

    2)Why is there suffering, sickness, and death?
    A) Because humans are greedy.

    Yes, that’s one reason – we would call it ‘sinful’ or ‘broken’ or ‘fallen.’

    B) As for death, it is because of the telomeres at the end of the Chromosomes which hardwired a set limit of time that any human is capable of living. This is also known as the Hayflick Phenomenon.

    This is an interesting conjecture, but also very limited. We may lengthen our age to even 1000 years (like the Old Testament patriarchs are reported to have lived), but death still comes – the question is, why are we MORTAL?

    Unfortunately, aging research had two recent setbacks this past month, one by the author of the original seminal paper on sirtuin proteins, see Anti-Aging Research Faces Setback and Too Good To Be True? Anti-Aging Proteins Not So Potent After All

    3)What is the cure for man’s suffering?
    A) Two different answers. The extinction of man, or man caring about their fellow man.

    Those are pleasant enough solutions, but caring alone won’t eradicate suffering, esp. the existential kind.

    4)How does an atheist assign meaning to human activity?
    A) In the same manner that a Theist would. Baseball is fun, so people want to play it. Murder hurts people so people don’t like it.

    Something isn’t meaningful just because it is desirable – you may be answering a different question here, which is how do we know what is moral, to which some atheists respond with ‘Desirism’.

    By meaning, I mean, worth doing. I know that may be splitting hairs, but desire and pain are not a complete solution to moral or ethical epistemology. While I agree that we can use the Golden Rule or some other moral principle, but unfortunately, that won’t, for instance, tell us if it’s wrong to eat animals, or MORE wrong to eat our children.

    In an atheistic world view, you have no real independent manner in which to establish moral absolutes, and a very limited epistemic tools in which to determine what those absolutes might be. In the end, it comes down to popular opinion, or subjectivism. If Hitler thinks that racial purity will lead to peace, and has the might and convinces other, there is not really a good retort from the atheist – at least, it seems without authority (“says who?”).

    5) Are humans of more intrinsic value than animals?
    A) It depends on the humans and the animals. I would put Steven Hawking over any Chimp. I would put any Chimp over Marlalyn Manson.

    That’s interesting. So you have some criteria for valuing Hawking over Manson? And your criteria could devalue Manson so much that Manson could. for instance, be used for food or experiments like chimps, or if he was, you could only be as inscensed as you are at chimp research?

    6) How does an Atheist determine what is moral or immoral, right or wrong?
    A) Through observation of the world around him or her. Does this action cause pain or suffering to another? Is it going to cause this person grief if I do such and such action?

    Simple heuristics like that are used by everyone, but what about, for existence, the value of the fetus? Capital punishment? Any kind of just punishment?

    7) What type of government does Atheistic Philosophy translate into?
    A) There is no specific government for Atheistic Philosophy akin to a Theocracy for Theists. Each Atheist has his or her own views on the world and as such have different views on politics and governments. There is no right or wrong answer for this. Everyone is different.

    So, for instance, atheistic communism is ok, but Islamic theocracy is not? At the very least, atheism must deny some forms of government, and prefer others, like Libertarianism – yet I wonder how many atheists are European socialists, which to me seems to go against human dignity and freedom.

    8) How does Atheism view religions and religious faith?
    A) Again, different Atheists view religions differently. Some feel that Religion can be a positive force in the world, whereas others feel that religions are a poison and should be taken out of the world post haste.

    True that. The real issue is, doesn’t atheism pretty much view faith as a LIE? I don’t see how you can justify any stronger position than agnosticism without making a faith statement about what you BELIEVE based on the incomplete evidence (in both directions).

    9) Who are the authoritative writers/books of atheism? What are the central tenets of atheism, and if they have a “greatest commandment”, what is it?
    A) There is no authoritative writers or books for Atheism. Nor is there any tenet or commandment for Atheism.

    I think this is true, but also disingenous. True, there is no official ‘atheist bible’ or authoritative handbook, and there is a spectrum of belief on secondary issues. However, on the primary positive statement “God does NOT exist” most atheists (except for agnostics, aka “weak atheists”) agree. And there are, of course, representative luminaries from atheist thought that are at least defacto prophets who articulate the central dogmas of atheism, right? Nietzsche, Russel, Hume (I wouldn’t put Harris, Hitchens, Dennett, or Dawkins in the same intellectual class as them – these modern guys are more polemicists than philosophers).

    10) What happens after we die?

    A) We begin to decompose, our carbon based bodies releasing the nutrients that we have taken in over the decades of life, so that flora and fauna may dine upon our remains. As for any “Soul”, the only thing that could be classified as a “Soul” is the brain, and once that stops working, there is nothing left of us, aside from the memories of us in our friends and families.

    Lack of evidence in this regard is not evidence. And some experiments seem to prove the existence of independent mind. But all claims as to the existence or non of the afterlife are conjectures, statements of faith, and to be chosen based on inference, I think.

    Thanks again for the conversation.