August 09, 2011
Helping an atheist make sense of the Bible
By Father Rocky Hoffman *

By Father Rocky Hoffman *

How can I answer the statement below that an atheist sent me?

“So what does the Bible tell us? Who should we kill?  Homosexuals (Lev. 20:13, Rom.1:26-32); Adulterers (Lev.20:10, Deut.22:22); Disobedient children (Deut.21:20-21, Lev.20:9, Exod.21:15); Women who are not virgins on their wedding night (Deut.22:13-21); All non-Christians (parable told by Christ, Luke.19:27); Those accused of wickedness by at least two people (Deut.17:2-7); Anyone who works on the Sabbath (Exod.35:2-3, Num.15:32-6, not even to kindle a fire, and no exclusion for ambulance drivers). The Bible is not supposed to contradict itself, is it?”

Whoever said the Bible can not contradict itself?  (The Bible itself does not say that.)  Yes, we hold that the Bible is both inerrant and historical, but we understand those terms with a bit of nuance.  The Bible is not God, but it is the Word of God.  God can not contradict himself, but there are passages in the Bible that may seem contradictory to our limited understanding.  They beg for a deeper understanding, and that is the work for humble, pious, brilliant, and diligent exegetes.

 As for your friend the atheist, please tell him that we should not kill anyone.  That’s the fifth commandment:  Thou shalt not kill.  Encourage him also to look to the example of Jesus who was put on the spot with that same question when confronted with a woman caught in adultery.  His response that day?  “Let him who is without sin be the first to cast a stone.” (cf. John 8:7)

Another day, another time, we can review in more depth the theories of just war, self-defense and capital punishment.  But for the present, self-defense is the only justification for killing another person.  So please tell your atheist friend not to kill homosexuals, adulterers, disobedient children and the like.

Rev. Francis J. Hoffman, JCD (Fr. Rocky) is Executive Director of Relevant Radio.  Ordained as a priest for Opus Dei in 1992 by Blessed John Paul II, he holds a doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, an MBA from the University of Notre Dame, and a BA in History from Northwestern University.  His Question and Answer column appears in several Catholic newspapers and magazines across the country.

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