A staple for skeptics of religion on social media is the use of memes: pictures with captions that quickly elucidate an argument or display a contradiction in doctrine or Scripture.
Most arguments against Christianity can be articulated in a sentence or two, but it takes a 1,000 word article to unpack. That isn’t universal, however. To wit, I have selected three memes I have seen floating around Facebook and Twitter, and answered them quickly in about 200 words each.
First, this one:
The first thing that we have to understand about God is that he is all three branches of our American government combined — he’s the original theocracy. He is, in fact, referred to by titles that reflect that:
- Lawgiver — Isaiah 33:22, James 4:12 [Congress]
- King of kings — 1 Timothy 6:15, Revelation 17:14 and 19:16 [President]
- Judge — Genesis 18:25, Psalm 7:11, 2 Timothy 4:8 [Courts]
When God enacts a law as Lawgiver, he has the right to be both Judge and Executioner when enforcing said law. God, like the State, can impose the death penalty for people who transgress the law.
The commandment referenced refers to cold-blooded murder. Acts like self-defense or capital punishment imposed by the State are not in view and are not forbidden. So God is not transgressing his own law by imposing the death penalty on a guilty party. God isn’t murdering anyone, he is acting as Judge and Executioner.
The next one speaks of seeing God:
No one has seen God in the sense of the divine glory, or the sense of God the Father (first person of the Trinity). However, people have seen Jesus, the Incarnate Son (second Person of the Trinity), or any number of theophanies.
A theophany is a manifestation of God, but not the full glory of God. Reading the entire passage of Genesis, we see that Jacob wrestles with a man (probably an angel, vv. 24-28). The stranger is identified as God for the first time in verse 28, then Jacob proclaims he met God face to face and survived (v. 30).
But he didn’t meet God; only a representative. And that is clear from the passage. This is a theophany; a representation of God, but not God in his full glory.
Finally, we have this one:
What if each passage is making a different point to a different audience? In that case, we’d have no contradiction at all.
In Matthew, Jesus speaks of persecution by authorities. He tells his disciples not to worry about humans persecuting or killing them for the sake of the kingdom. Don’t fear them, because they can only hurt the body. Instead, fear the one who can destroy the soul — the real you.
However, Jesus assures them that God takes care of his own. Therefore, we (in reality) have nothing to fear because God will take care of us — especially if we acknowledge the Son before our tormentors. God is the one you should fear, not humans; but you don’t have to fear God because he takes care of his own.
In 1 John, the context is God’s abiding love. God loved us so perfectly, that he sent his Son to an atoning death for our sins. There is no fear in God’s love because God’s perfect love is saving the believers from hell; therefore, we ought to love one another as God first loved us. The perfect love drives out the fear because we are spared of the final judgement, and the fear comes from its punishment. So we need not fear it — much in harmony with what Jesus said in the rest of the passage in Matthew.
Two passages: different contexts, different messages. They are thematically related only in explaining why we should not fear final judgement — the perfect love of God abiding in us.
In conclusion, the Bible might have some difficulties but those only remain if one fails to diligently examine the passage.