Mike asked:

God really doesn’t sound all loving some parts of the bible. There’s a story where God sends bears to kill these kids.

Jimmy Akin replied:

"You’re thinking of a story in the life of Elisha where Elisha was going up to a particular city and some men taunted him because he was older and he was bald ... And then afterwards bears came up and attacked the young men and gave them the what for. This mode of thinking is something that’s very common in the Old Testament of attributing everything directly to God’s agency. As if God was personally causing everything. It’s generally understood though theologically today that we have to understand such passages with a degree of nuance.

Because the Old Testament in particular tends to focus, or at least use language about God directly causing everything. And we understand today from further revelation including scripture that sometimes God just permits things to happen. Sure, you had some young people taunt Elisha and God allowed bears to attack them. That being something bears might well do because bears do attack people sometimes. We have to be a little more careful about whether God directly caused that to happen or not."

Mike asked:

What about Job?

Jimmy Akin replied:

"Job is generally understood as one of those books in scripture that is an extended parable. In fact it’s written in poetry in Hebrew. The vast bulk of the book is. It’s also placed in a way that is kind of historically unidentifiable so it comes across as if it is a kind of extended parable and it’s basically, typically understood as a meditation on human suffering and why it happens and what are some possible explanations for it that aren’t adequate that we ought to reject. Like the idea that all suffering is punishment for your own sins. That’s something that Job’s friends propose to him during the course of the speeches in the book. But it’s something that is ultimately rejected as an insufficient answer to the problem of evil."

Mike replied:

It’s kind of difficult to be convinced. I’m leaning towards atheism.

Jimmy Akin replied:

"There’s a starting point then. Why do you feel drawn to atheism? What evidence do you have for the non-existence of God?"

Mike replied:

The big bang theory. The prehistoric times fossils that were found.

Jimmy Akin replied:

"The Catholic church doesn’t have a problem with either one of those. Those are both perfectly compatible with the Catholic faith. We acknowledge that God is the ultimate explanation for the universe. So, if we have evidence as we seem to, that there was a big bang, God was the cause of it. Similarly we acknowledge that God may have used evolution to bring about the rise of modern life forms.

As long as you acknowledge that God is in control of all that, that’s compatible with the Christian faith. In fact you may even find it interesting to know that the Big Bang theory was actually proposed by a Catholic priest. He was from Belgium. His name was Father Georges Lemaître. So that’s an illustration of the fact that these scientific discoveries like the Big Bang or the long age of the universe, they’re actually quite compatible with the Catholic faith and the Catechism of the Catholic Church ... so I wouldn’t say that should point you towards atheism because those points are perfectly compatible with faith as well."

Source material:

2 Kings 2
"23 He went up from there to Bethel; and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” 24 And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys."


Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1965, 1966 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Catholic Answers, "Why are you an atheist?" (San Diego: Catholic Answers, 2013)

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Show air date: September 25, 2013

Name of show: Why are you an atheist?

Guest comments by: Jimmy Akin

Question appeared in show: 44:00

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