Challenge Response: A Real God Would Have Protected the Original Gospel Manuscripts

Here's my response to this week's challenge:

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Wouldn't a real God have protected the original Gospel manuscripts? That's the challenge that I’m going to be addressing today, and it comes from a webpage called 862 Reasons Christianity Is False. It used to be called 463 Reasons Christianity Is False, but it has been growing. These guys are overachievers.

Let's take a look at specific content of the challenge. Here's what they say: “Christians claim that God directly inspired the authors of the Gospel books, even to the point of dictating each word so as to make the text inerrant, or without error. But if God was so concerned about getting the historical record of Jesus' ministry correct, why would He have allowed those original, and supposedly inerrant, manuscripts to be lost for generations of Christians to come? Why would He not have protected these documents to ensure that there be no ambiguity as to the ultimate truths He was trying to convey? The loss of the original manuscripts is entirely consistent with a human inspired product, not one overseen by an unlimited deity.”

Before I address the major thrust of the challenge, I have a minor quibble about their idea of the doctrine of inspiration. The doctrine of inspiration of the Bible does not mean that God dictated the words – as the challenge suggests – to the Gospel writers or to the biblical authors. In fact, that's what Islam teaches. Islam claims that Allah had the angel Gabriel dictate the words of the Qur’an to Muhammad over a twenty-two year period, but that's different than what we say about the doctrine of inspiration of the Bible. The doctrine of inspiration teaches that God had the Holy Spirit inspire human authors to write down text using their own personalities and their own style such that what was written down was exactly what God intended to be written down. That's the doctrine of inspiration.

The more significant part of this challenge is that since we've lost the original documents, the autographs, then this proves that therefore, God really didn't inspire them, and this is not God's book. After all, a real God would have protected His original documents, the autographs.

It turns out, though, that it doesn't matter one bit that we don't have the original manuscripts, or the autographs, for two reasons. Number one is that it's a non sequitur, meaning it doesn't logically follow that just because we don't have the original manuscripts that God didn't inspire them. It could be that God did inspire the original manuscripts, the documents, but that they were lost. Maybe they got damaged for whatever reason. We just don't have them anymore, but what's the big deal? That doesn't prove that somehow God didn't actually inspire them in the first place. 

Take, for example, the Ten Commandments. In this case, God did dictate the Ten Commandments, but then what happened? Moses came down from the mountain, he saw the Israelites worshiping a golden idol, and he takes the Ten Commandments, throws them, breaks them, they’re damaged, and then now they're lost. Does that mean that God did not write those Ten Commandments? No, of course not. It's certainly possible that God did inspire the Gospel writers to write and that it is God's word, but for whatever reason, those documents have been lost.

The second point is that even though the actual papyrus and ink that comprised the original autograph has been lost, the content, the text, the actual message itself, we still have. After all, that's what counts. God was not trying to protect a document; He was trying to communicate a message to humanity. That message has been faithfully preserved, communicated, and transmitted in the thousands and thousands of manuscripts that we have that allow us to be able to reconstruct the original text to virtually %100 certainty as to what was originally written down. 

It's kind of like with Albert Einstein. Years ago, he wrote down what we call the mass energy equivalence equation, E=mc^2. He wrote it down on a chalkboard, maybe he wrote it down on paper, or in his notes somewhere, but we don't have the autograph or original document where Einstein wrote that down. Does that mean that we're not certain as to what the equation is? Is it E=mc^3

or E=mc^10? No, There's no uncertainty as to what it is. It’s E=mc^2 because the content of the equation, which is what matters, has been faithfully passed down, and we're certain of that. 

In the same way, that's what happened with the Gospel documents. All of the Bible, even though we may not have the original documents or the autographs, we still have the content, the message that God wanted to communicate to humanity, and that's what matters.

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Alan Shlemon

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