I'm in many ways indebted to my friend and apologetics mentor for my atheism. A guy named Jim. It's a fact. Without his sharp and logical mind I really don't know if I'd have changed my view. He may not want to know that, but it's true.
We often debated theological points, especially controversial ones, and I used that to develop my critical thinking skills. One time I confronted him with an apparent problem in the Bible. At Mt 23:35 Jesus is claimed to have said that Zechariah son of Barachiah was murdered at the temple. But if we look it up we find that the Zechariah killed at the temple wasn't the son of Barachiah. That was a different Zechariah. The one killed at the temple was the son of Jehoiada.
I combed the net to find a plausible answer and discovered JP Holding. I admitted that Holding's answer was possible. But is it plausible? A reasonable person could conclude it was wrong anyway. And I really think it looks wrong. Can the Bible be wrong? I was genuinely on the verge here. Bible contradictions were killing me.
Jim tried to make Holding's answer seem more plausible, but it was tough. Then a light bulb went off in his head. It's gotta be right. Here's why. Jesus rose from the dead, right? So if he did then whatever he would say would have to be right, right? There's no question Jesus believed at least the OT was perfect and without error. So any difficulties I have with that must be dismissed. Likewise for the NT. Jesus promised further revelation, and if this NT isn't that revelation, what is? It's gotta be. And so it must be right.
But if the NT authors mistakenly recorded Jesus words at Mt 23:35 maybe they mistakenly recorded his words when he treated the OT as if it was perfect. That's what I suggested. Well, that's a dead end. Jesus' treatment of the OT as perfect is pretty consistent throughout the gospels. If these authors can't even get that right, then they can't get even basic stuff right. Might as well just throw the NT out and not even be a Christian. We know nothing about Jesus anyway. The NT is completely unreliable.
I was convinced. However implausible an explanation may sound with regards to an OT contradiction, that explanation must be accepted. Otherwise Jesus is wrong. And Jesus can't be wrong. He's raised from the dead.
That argument literally retained me in the Christian fold for another year. Without it I might have stayed, but I would have rejected inerrancy. But the logic was sound. The OT had to be right because Jesus was raised. And if we know anything about his teachings we know he regarded the OT as the word of God and true.
I hated that the Bible looked contradictory and mistaken sometimes and so I sort of avoided studying it after that discussion. But after about a year I realized that I couldn't allow myself to be afraid of it. Since Jesus is raised the Bible must be true. So I need to get in there and read it and just figure out how it must be true.
And so I did. And you can guess what I realized. It was definitely not true. Now, I'd have loved to continue to believe that Jesus was raised and simultaneously believe that the Bible wasn't always right. But thanks to Jim I knew right away I couldn't do that. Everything that Jesus said must be true because he was raised. Given that some of the things he said weren't true, what does that mean? Either he wasn't raised or the NT is not a reliable record of what he said and did. Either option ends my Christianity.
So here I am with this realization. I can't reject inerrancy and accept the resurrection. So I put this to Jim. You know what he said? Suddenly it was possible to reject inerrancy and accept the resurrection.
How is this possible. I said "Jim, this is your argument, not mine. You are the one that convinced me that I cannot reject inerrancy and accept the resurrection. How can you say this?"
Nope. You don't need to believe inerrancy and accept the resurrection.
I was totally blown away. And I pressured him with his own logic. But he wouldn't budge. It was surprising. And unusual for him. Usually when we disagreed with each other we would discuss it and reach agreement. He valued the logical process as I did. We both knew that the conclusions follow from the logic. So if the logic is there the conclusions must follow. It was the first time that I really believed he would no longer subscribe to that. The conclusions would come first. The logic now follows.
I felt a strong need to fix these sorts of things back in the day. I pressured him constantly. It bothered me that people believed the wrong things.
But these days I don't think that. I think that mindset was a product of my religious upbringing. Jesus is Truth, so believing Truth was important. Looking back though I know that religious belief is very important for Jim's level of happiness. At least his present happiness. Rejecting it disrupts his entire familial situation. Why bother?
I'm afraid that Jim perceived me as a threat to both his own happiness and that of his wife. So to some degree a wall went up at that point. I believe Jim has abandoned apologetic study. We used to also enjoy debating various issues, but that's out the window also. I think he feels like I used to feel. Looking into this stuff is dangerous. It risks your entire marriage.
And I know this sounds arrogant, but it takes a certain level of delusion and certain willingness to accept sophistry to retain an inerrantist worldview and to Jim's credit I think he lacks that. There are some people that could study these issues and genuinely feel comfortable with J.P. Holding's answers. Jim may not be able to do that if he looked at these things in more depth.
To fill that intellectual void it looks to me like he's turned to sports. He knows all about the college football recruiting situation, which head coach is ideal, etc. I think humans have a need to keep their mind active. Sports is a ready means of retaining mental activity without thinking on something that would rock the boat. Which is why I pay almost no attention to sports any more.