I’ve made it clear in previous articles that I do not require a strict, literal interpretation of the Bible to be true in order to maintain my faith in the supernatural God described by the Christian Bible. The Bible is an anthology of books written by human beings like me.
Therefore, the Bible is not God. Nor is my God confined or limited to exist within the pages of the Bible. As a result, I do not worship the Bible, but the God I believe it describes.
In my debate this Saturday, I have no intention of spending two hours of my life arguing that the Bible must be believed as literally interpreted. In fact, I plan to suggest we leave the inerrant Bible arguments out in the narthex, to be conducted before or after the debate. First, we must establish that any reason to suppose any supernatural God exists before we decide which specific version of God to worship.
We’ve been through the exercise of cherry-picking Bible verses and the argument that failure to produce a singular perspective of God culled from many different books in the Bible. I’ve already taken Dan Barker’s open Bible test, and lacking Dan’s help or participation, I also worked out self-grading my efforts.
The title of my debate with Ed Buckner is To Believe or Not Believe: a debate on the question of God – not specifically to defend my belief in Jesus or the triune Christian God. Instead, I have deliberately set the stage for arguing a different threshold than strictly belief in the God of the Bible. The reason for this is simple: I don’t want to waste this opportunity arguing about a book or book collection. I want to debate the existence of the God described by these books.
The Bible is not a binary proposition that must be literally true or else it is worthless, in my opinion. In fact, even though I do not believe every word is literally true, I would have to rank my Bible as the most important book that I own. However, it is not the only book that I read.
I have repeatedly said that the most important words found in the Bible are those attributed to the Christ, and the least trustworthy references to God are found in the Old Testament. By extrapolation, one might conclude that for my faith in God to remain valid, it is not essential that the literal stories of the Old Testament be proved true.
When scientists on a program called Bible Mysteries Explained on the Planet Green channel claimed to present real evidence of a historical Sodom and Gomorrah, it naturally piqued my curiosity. I previously wrote about a similar type of effort to scientifically explain the ten plagues of Egypt, so it wasn’t difficult for this program to also capture my full attention.
I discovered that the evidence for a historical Sodom and Gomorrah was quite compelling.
In 2005, scientists decoded a Sumerian artifact called the Planisphere that contained specific astronomic data. They now believe this ancient tablet depicts an asteroid strike destined for Kofels, Austria. Geographic and cosmologic data both indicate that the biblical location of Sodom and Gomorrah would have been in its path.
Late in the 19th century, archaeologists in Madaba, Jordan, discovered an ancient map in the form of a mosaic under the floor of the church of St. George, only thirty miles from Jerusalem. The map contains a specific reference to the ancient city of Zoar, the destination of Lot when he fled the destruction of Sodom. The map offers powerful evidence the city once existed.
Excavation of gravesites at a location suspected to be one of the two cities found mass graves containing as many as twenty thousand people. Scientific research of ice cores performed at the Ohio State University indicate a worldwide cataclysmic event took place in 3123 BC that could well have been the result of an air burst asteroid strike as suspected occurred in Kofels.
Does this mean the story of God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is unquestionably true beyond any shadow of a doubt?
No. It means there is some intriguing evidence found outside of the Bible that lend credibility to the idea there once were cities called Sodom and Gomorrah, and apparently something terrible happened to them.
Ultimately, belief in God remains a matter of faith.