A short study in biblical dissuasion
In 1979, Ruth Hurmence Green (January 12, 1915 – July 7, 1981) published a book titled, The Born Again Skeptic's Guide to the Bible. This publication has over the years become a best-selling work and touted as a “modern free-thought classic” as viewed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Ruth Green was raised by Methodist parents who she describes as “half-hearted” (regarding their faith) who made her attend church regularly when she was a child. In her adult life she continued with her church affiliation. After being a member of a local church congregation for 50 years and after a bout of illness, Green was challenged by a family member to read the Bible in its entirety. To Green’s surprise she found the Bible to be something different than she had been led to believe. Her consternation at the contents of the Bible prompted her to write her book in order to explain her opinions of what she considers to be the Bible’s faults. Green’s overall impression of the Bible can be summed by her statement, “There wasn't a page of the Bible that didn't offend me in some way. There is no other book between whose covers life is so cheap." Ruth clearly found the Bible to be worth warning others about.
Not surprisingly, Ruth Green’s book incorporates all four of the mentioned persuasion tactics used by dissuaders. For the sake of brevity, let’s consider just one of her statements and how misleading her views are.
“I studied every page of this book [Bible] , and I didn't find enough love to fill a salt shaker. God is not love in the Bible; God is vengeance, from Alpha to Omega.”-- Ruth Hurmence Green
Needless to say, the illusion of the salt shaker is not to be taken literally, but is intended to express her interpretation of the Bible (and God) as being void of love. But is this actually the case or is this another example of tactics used by dissuaders?
Not enough love?
Green says when she read the entire Bible she found so little discussion on the subject of love within its pages that the Bible was for all intents and purposes, void of love. Naturally, anyone who has read the Bible might raise an eyebrow to such a statement. In reality, the Bible mentions love or a cognate of the word repeatedly. In fact, in the English Standard Version, love is used some 552 times. So, the Bible is not without at least discussing love. Maybe we should take a look at the Bible and see for ourselves if the text contains enough love to fill a salt shaker. Actually, there are so many references to love in the Bible that I listed just a few on a separate page. Click here to have a look.
As any reader can see, the Scriptures have much to say about love. The Bible describes God as love, the Bible states God loves people, the Bible indicates God encourages people to love other people, and on and on. In fact, the New Testament makes clear that God’s greatest demonstration of love was sending his son to save the world from its sins (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; Ephesians 4:24). Well, Green must have simply failed to see the enormous references and discussions on the topic of love in the Bible. Or, maybe not. Maybe it is best to describe Ruth Hurmence Green as misleading people and attempting to persuade others to regard the Bible in the same light as she does.
Ruth Green does not stop with misleading statements. She goes on to the tactic of shallow critical remarks.
Consider the following aspect of her mentioned quote. Green includes the phrase “…from Alpha to Omega” to communicate "from beginning to end." The phrase is actually taken from the book of Revelation where in three different passages Christ is quoted by the apostle John as referring to himself: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8; Rev. 21:6, Rev. 22:13). Green uses the quote to indicate that from beginning to end, the Bible is void of love. Green does this in a manner that mocks the text and uses the words disparagingly and communicates to her readers a certain disdain which she hopes they will pick up on as a well-placed pun.
Ruth Green appears to intentionally exclude the proceeding sentences that lead into to the "alpha and omega" reference. In so doing she misrepresents the Bible and misleads her readers. Here is the sentence in Revelation 1:5 which she fails to include: “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Revelation 1:5 KJV emphasis added). In other words, Green intentionally chose to use the passage misleadingly—while she claims there is no love in the Bible, the very passage she bases her usage of grammatical pun includes a statement of Christ’s love.
Examining Green’s views How should we view Ruth Green’s comments about the Bible? In this example statement Green is not attempting to report what the Bible actually says, but rather make a statement of her negative opinion of what the text says. Her statement is without question an attempt to dissuade her readers against the Bible. There is much more that we could be said about Green and her misleading opinions on the Bible, let me offer just a couple more.
First, is Ruth Green a qualified guide as a skeptic of the Bible? No, she is not. By her own admission she was a church member for fifty years and never read the Bible! Let me say that once again—she claimed to be a Christian for fifty years and did not read the Bible. A person who claims to have been a Christian for fifty years without reading the Bible is tantamount to a person claiming to be a football fan and never having watched a football game. Or a person claiming to be a painter and yet never having painted. The idea that someone would claim a certain degree of credibility without the required requisites of knowledge about a subject is remarkable and telling. Maybe it is better to believe that Ruth expects those she attempts to dissuade to have not read the Bible any more than she. In any case, everyone should be cautious of taking advice from such a person.
Secondly, what of the accusation that “God is vengeance?”Green makes the same accusation that other dissuaders make when describing God as vengeful and quick to hand out retribution. Such people accuse God and portray him as a despot who demands obedience and possesses a virulent disposition. Nothing could be further from the truth and the Bible portrays God in a completely different light: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 ESV).
In truth, the Scriptures express God’s love for us in almost blushing words and terms. Take for example, Romans 8:37-38:
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
As to Green’s accusations about vengeance, Paul provides a response to such opinions, saying, “But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man) God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?” (Romans 3:5-6 KJV). In other words, is God to be viewed as evil for judging the wrong that people do? Maybe an illustration would be helpful.
Imagine if a lawbreaker appeared before a courtroom judge and was accused of breaking the law. Shortly afterwards the charges are reviewed, the evidence produced, and the case is heard. At some point in the preceedings the judge is bound by his oath and duty to pass sentence on the individual according to the law. Think of the resulting anger of people if the judge fails to issue punishment when the person is guilty. No one views the judge as being vengeful if he or she issues just punishment to fit the crime. Anger and complaint comes if the judge fails to issue punishment to fit the crime. So it is with God. People such as Ruth Green accuse God of being vengeful when God rewards according to people's deeds. But even that does not accurately portray the truth about God. Maybe we should turn to the Bible to best describe how human beings should view God. Is he a vengeful despot or a compassionate Savior? You be the judge.
The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him (Psalm 103:9-17 ESV).
Let's conclude our discussion by considering why biblical dissuasion appears to work with people.To next section Homepage