Five Big Rocks (part two)

To help Christians understand why I left the Christian faith, I am writing a series of articles about the obstacles that dissuaded me from belief. I call them the Five Big Rocks:

1. The Problem of Evil & Suffering
2. The Problem of Communication.
3. The Problem of Scriptural Errancy
4. The Problem of Theological Incoherence
5. The Problem of Religious Toxicity

I dealt with the first rock here. Danger! Falling rocks ahead!

2. The Problem of Communication.

Jim Benton (aka Prup) is the first one I know of to name this argument in this way. I won’t attempt to articulate it as Jim would, because I probably won’t do it justice (he’s got some great insights to share, though, and I look forward to reading his comments a little later).

One Christian article I read recently asks, "Have you telephoned God today?" Would that it were that easy! The article continues, "Every endeavor on earth requires proper and clear lines of communication, otherwise, there would be chaos." And chaos there is. If there is a God, why does he have such a hard time communicating with his creation?

If God exists and if communication originated with him (as Genesis and John's Gospel imply), then he should be able to communicate far better than any communicator who has ever lived. According to communication experts, a good communicator:

• Knows his audience
• Knows his purpose
• Knows his topic
• Anticipates objections
• Achieves credibility with his audience through good argumentation
• Takes different learning styles into account
• Presents information in several ways, using multiple communication techniques
• Communicates as little or as much as it takes to be properly understood
• Follows through on what he says
• Develops practical, useful ways to obtain feedback

If God exists, it is imperative that he communicate with us in a way that encompasses all of these things. He should convey his will in a manner that anyone, anywhere, anytime can recognize, understand, and respond to without significant barriers. You might suppose God would have little trouble delivering a message to the human race. Yet, if Christianity is to believed, God chose one of the worst channels of communication possible: a 2,000+ year old book, full of factual & historical errors, antiquated cultural nuances, confusing & conflicting teachings, and translation difficulties. This, as it turns out, was a sure-fire way to be MISunderstood--just look at the myriads of Christian denominations today who can't agree on such basic Biblical issues as salvation, election, worship, baptism, etc.

Neither is evangelism (the one-person-at-a-time model of spreading the Word) the most efficient way of communicating God's will. Millions will die without ever hearing the Gospel; many millions more will hear the Gospel but not understand it because of cultural and intellectual problems inherent in the message itself. Christians, how often have you virtually beaten your head against the wall, frustrated because people don’t "get" the Gospel? You really shouldn't blame yourself. After all, isn’t it God's responsibility to make sure that his point of view is both apprehended and comprehended? As one Christian recently commented, "But in the end, it's really not my job to convince people of God's existence. If he can't provide proof himself, he's not much of a God." Amen to that.

Here's what might work better: God could initiate a personal conversation with every man, woman, and child, tailored to their unique needs and situations. As a Christian, I always wondered why it was that God spoke so very long ago, but didn’t bother speaking today. And why did the miracles come to a halt? If the purpose of the signs, wonders, and healings of Jesus and the apostles was to confirm the word of God (Hebrew 2:4), then surely miracles would do the same today. Think of the wonderful PR for God! Think of the victory against skepticism! God could speak through his actions--cleaning up the evil and corruption flooding the world at large.

Speaking of the apostles, why was there no succession of apostolic authority? The early church started departing from the teachings and traditions of the apostles shortly after they died (leading to the horrible monster of a church-state that was the Roman Catholic Church).

Bottom line: if God wants us to follow him so badly--and if there is an eternity of either heaven or hell at stake--there are innumerable ways that God could make himself known to us. We could all have a vision (like Saul of Tarsus) or a dream (like Joseph of old). God could commandeer all telecommunications ("Stay tuned for a special message from the Intergalactic President of the Universe"). He could stop all traffic and machinery (like the visitor from outer space in The Day the Earth Stood Still) so that we'll stop and listen. The possibilities are almost limitless for an omnipotent God. Instead, we are left with copies of copies of copies of a very old collection of religious writings (the originals were long ago lost to antiquity), with so many variants that the science of textual criticism has developed to try to piece together the "authentic" text of the Bible.

In the end, perhaps George Benard Shaw was right: “The problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred.”