Really? This is Your Argument?
John W. Loftus and company occasionally have excellent arguments against Christianity. They put up nuts that are tough to crack individually, and other nuts that are tough to crack cumulatively. I want to start by giving them props for those excellent arguments.
And then, other times, they put out completely stupid arguments. Loftus more than the other guys. Case in point:
Yahweh did not exist. He is much too tribal of a god, created the world in conflict with the sea God Rahab, married to Asherah, accepted child sacrifice, commanded genocide, forbid worship of all other gods (didn’t deny their existence), and chose Israel like the others gods did to other nations.
All of this crap has been answered before. Let’s break it down:
- Created the world in conflict with the sea god Rahab: Water was present at the moment of creation (see Gen 1:2), and Rahab was a sea goddess described in period literature. Personifying the waters with a pagan goddess in this way would emphasize God’s power over the elements and his superiority to other gods. Since the Bible elsewhere makes it clear that God is the only god in existence (see below, and check the apocryphal book Wisdom 13:1-19), this isn’t a stamp of approval on the existence of Rahab, just strong poetic language.
- Married Asherah: Asherah was a popular goddess among ancient Israel, but there is no biblical evidence to indicate that she ever married Yahweh. The fact that she is worshiped is no surprise; there is much in the texts that indicate Israel repeatedly worshiped other deities. As I mentioned above, the writers of Psalms and Job even worked the sea goddess Rahab into their imagery of the creation of the world. There is nothing significant in calling attention to a specific deity that they worshiped in spite of God’s command not to.
- Accepted child sacrifice: What? Have you read Genesis 22:1-19, where God stops Abraham from doing the deed? If that isn’t enough for you, try Leviticus 18:21, 20:1-5 and Ezekiel 20:31. That Solomon re-instated child sacrifice is considered by the Bible writers to be a major downfall in his kingdom. And before you bring up Judges 11:29-40, show me where in the text (a) she was actually killed, and (b) God accepted and approved the sacrifice. Even though the language is unclear (probably intentionally), I can grant that (a) could be true, but I’ve searched very carefully and know for a fact that (b) is not in the text.
- Commanded genocide: No, he pronounced judgment on a sinful people worthy of his wrath. Big difference. Murder, by the way, is wrong. But, if taking a life is justified (sin = death, see Gen 2:16-17, 3:17-19; cf. Rom 5:12, 14, 6:16, 23, 7:5, 13; 1 Cor 15:56; Jms 1:15), then it isn’t murder, is it?
- Didn’t deny the existence of other deities: Really? Are you reading a different Bible than the one I have in my hand? The biblical authors say God is the only deity in Deuteronomy 4:39 and 1 Kings 8:20; God himself declares it so in Isaiah 44:8, 45:5-6, 14, 18, 22, 46:9 and Joel 2:27; and an Israelite lauds Jesus for teaching that God is the one and only in agreement with Scripture in Mark 12:32 (and Jesus tells him that heaven is close for him).
- Predestination: It’s God’s perogotive to do what God will (Rom 9:18), choosing to save people at his will and pleasure to bring him glory. Unfortunately, apart from that drawing, no one can know God (Jn 6:44). So the wonder isn’t that only a few are saved, the wonder is that any are saved.
Thom Stark (a Christian, I believe) claims in the comment section of the post that all of these claims about Yahweh are true. I haven’t read his book–though now I want to–but I’ll bet his sources for this information didn’t come from the Bible. The authors may have, as Stark claimed, believed some of the things that appear above, but they are not present in Scripture. It’s a moot point–Scripture is our measure for truth about God, not what the authors of it believe.
The actual point of the post is to say that if Yahweh doesn’t exist, then God doesn’t exist. That’s bad logic. The God that Christians worship is the Creative force of the Universe, and is identified with the ancient name YHWH (or “Yahweh”). That is Hebrew for “I AM,” which is taken to mean, since names in ancient literature are allegorical, that God simply is, that he exists necessarily outside of nature, time, and space, and through him (and for him) the universe was created.
Showing that the ancient Israelite deity YHWH never existed isn’t tantamount to showing that a divine being, held to exist by any theistic religion, never existed. It means that YHWH may never have existed, but since Jesus did exist and claimed to be descended from, co-existent, and co-eternal with the One, True God–so you still have to do something with Jesus.
Sorry, this kind of fails.