Does the Bible demeans Women?

During a discussion on sexism in Islam on a Facebook forum, I rebutted the claims of a Muslim who claimed Islam respected women. To soothe his bruised ego, he sent a list of Bible verses into my box to “prove” that the Bible also demeans women. They were, of course, copied from an atheist website.

Now, I’m very much familiar with how insecure Muslims desperately run to atheists for their anti-Bible arguments the same way their prophet ran home to his wife screaming “Cover me! Cover me!!” I guess it’s a part and parcel of being a good Muslim too. Here, I will be responding to some of those passages as the atheist wrote them.

1. Burn the daughter!

“And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father; she shall be burnt with fire” (Lev. 21:9)

A biased, ignorant reader would think this was a punishment reserved only for women but an informed person sees a different picture. Just 22 verses earlier, it says “If a man marries both a woman and her mother, it is wicked. Both he and they must be burned in the fire, so that no wickedness will be among you” (Lev. 20:14).

In Joshua 7:15, when Achan stole some of the plunder from Jericho, the penalty was destruction by fire, along with all his belongings. This punishment applied to both men and women. Ironically, the only burning taking place in modern secular societies are the scalding to death of preborn babies (mostly females) by saline abortion with full consent of the law. But atheists would rather talk selectively about ancient punishments.

2. Cut off her hand!

“When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand and taketh him by the secrets; then thou shall cut off her hand, thine eyes shall not pity her” (Dt. 25:11-12).

The atheist writer says this was done to amputate “the hand that fondled the genitals!” That is a silly remark considering that it was actually a penalty on anyone who injured a man’s reproductive organ. Dake’s Reference Bible comments: “This shows how serious it was for one to be denied the power of reproduction and suggests that God was not in sympathy with the making of eunuchs which was so common in the East.”

3. Female births get penalty

“Speak to the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child; then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean” (Lev. 12:2).

Verse 5 says if she gave birth to a female, she would be unclean for 14 days. Under the OT, there were certain things that could make people “unclean” e.g eating unclean foods (Lev. 11:43), touching carcasses of dead animals (Lev. 11:26), infectious skin diseases (Lev. 13:3), bodily discharge (Lev. 15:1-3) and menstrual discharge (Lev. 15:19). These ceremonial laws were given only to the nation of Israel, not to any other nation either then or now.

The differences in the period of “uncleanness” with regards to male and female infants was either because Jewish culture required that females be taken care of longer than males or the males were circumcised on the 8th day (Gen. 17:12). This purification didn’t have to do with physical impurity and the rituals prescribed for both males and females were the same.

4. Female inferiority

“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3)

The word “head” (Gr: kephale) here doesn’t mean inequality but differences in roles and responsibility. Jesus Christ was subject to God the Father (He is the Head) yet He is equal to God since they have the same essence. It must also be noted that Jesus was subject to Joseph and Mary as a child, they were creatures and He was Deity. So there’s no justification for the conclusion that being the head means domination or implies inferiority. The husband is the head of the wife who is mandated to love, nourish and cherish his wife (Eph. 5:28-29). It patterned after Christ’s love for the church, His body. Thus, a Christian man who mistreats his wife is mistreating his own body.

5. Jesus will kill the children

“Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he who searches the reins and hearts; and I will give unto everyone of you according to your works” (Rev. 2:22-23)

Where is the oppression of women here? This was a warning to the church in Thyatira and the passage is metaphorical. Jezebel had been dead for centuries, but her name was used here because the Jews understood her sin. The text indicates that the stated judgement applies to both men and women as Jesus says: “I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” A person who uses this as a “proof text” of male chauvinism ought to be laughed out of an elementary class debate.

6. Kill the Witches!

“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Whoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death. He that sacrificeth to any god, save to the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed” (Ex. 22:18-20).

Just four verses later, death penalty is applied to men only (vs 22-24). Leviticus 20:27 says “A man or a woman who is a medium or spiritist” must be stoned to death. Every Bible student knows that under the OT, death or severe penalty applied to both males and females involved in divination, false prophecies, sorcery, necromancy, wizardry and idolatry (Dt. 18:10-12, Rev. 21:8).

7. Rape my daughter

“Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you; but unto this man do not do so vile a thing” (Judges 19:24).

The Bible records people’s sins and many evils which it also condemns e.g incest, rape or murder. We don’t reject even historical accounts on such basis. Therefore, that something “is in the Bible” doesn’t always mean it’s good. One must always interpret each verse in the light of its context. But this is something the atheist or Muslim won’t dare do because it doesn’t fit with their playbook. A Bible scholar succintly explains this incident:

“The second incident deals with the moral corruption of Israel at the time. In terms which paralled the account of Lot’s visit to Sodom (Ge. 19:5), local Israelites of the tribe of Benjamin attempt to homosexually rape a traveller in the town of Gibeah, before raping a woman instead, who dies from the shock of the attack. The woman in question was the concubine of a Levite” (Alister McGrath, NIV Bible Commentary, Hodder and Stroughton, 1996, 95).

8. Stone the woman

“If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her. Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die…” (Dt. 22:22, 24).

Notice that the heading didn’t match the Bible verses given. How on earth is this “against women,” since both the man and woman were to be stoned for the sin of adultery? Under the Law, a married woman was expected to scream for help during such assault or it was ruled as consent. If the Bible was all about men doing whatever they wished while punishing women for the same, as radical feminists claim, then why were most of the laws in the pentateuch directed at men who wanted to have sex with everyone except their wives (see Leviticus 18)?

9. Virgin’s worth

“If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silvers, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days” (Deut. 22:28-29).

Just three verses earlier, the law stated that if a man raped a betrothed lady, he alone is to be killed (v 25). On the other hand, if she wasn’t betrothed, the man would pay her dowry and marry her. In ancient cultures, a violated woman is considered unfit for marriage. The atheist writer seems to have a problem with the idea of  dowry to be paid to the father, probably because he expects ancient Jewish culture to follow the norms of the West in the 21st century where “liberated” women are seen as sexual playthings men can use and discard like garbage if deemed undesirable.

10. Wives, submit yourselves!

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church; and he is the saviour of the body” (Eph. 5:22-23).

Verse 25 says “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” A Christian husband must love his wife to the point of laying down his life for her, caring for her by making her presentable (vs 26-27). Alister McGrath noted that:

“The word ‘submit’ is used several times in this section (5:21-6:9), not with the sense of ‘obeying an earthly superior,’ but rather with the meaning of ‘discovering and accepting God’s intentions’ … The mutual relationship between a man and woman in marriage is defined in terms of love and submission that is, the same quality of self-giving love which took Christ to the cross for his church and the same committed willingness to be faithful to the demands of a relationship” (NIV Commentary, p 352)

The Old Testament shows the respect women are given. Elizabeth Achtemeier, a Professor of Bible and Homiletics wrote that: “Women are found serving as prophets (Exod. 15.20; 2Kings 22.14-20), judges (Judg.4-5) and queens (1 Kings 19; 2Kings 11) in preexilic Israel. They are never excluded from the worship of God (Deut. 16.13-14; 1 Sam. 1-2). They are sometimes honored as models of wisdom (2Sam. 14: 20.19-22). The honor of mothers ranks with that of fathers in Israel’s basic laws, the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20.12; Deut. 5.16). The family rights of wives and mothers are protected by law (Ge. 16.5-6; 38)” (The Oxford Companion to the Bible, eds. Bruce Metzger and Michael Coogan, Oxford University Press, 1993, 806).

In the New Testament, we see Jesus set aside a long racial barrier by speaking with a foreign woman in public (Jn. 4:27). He ignored all structures of ritual impurity attached to women (Mk. 5:25-34, 35-43). He taught women and even gave them an equal rank with men as daughters of Abraham (Lk. 10:38-42; 13:10-17). In John 8, He saved a woman from being stoned for adultery. Women belonged to the inner circle of His disciples (Lk. 8:1-3). Women with great courage were present at His crucifixion, while most of the male disciples had fled in terror. Women were the first witnesses of the resurrection and were at the forefront of that event while the men were slow to believe.

The fourth Gospel account begins and ends with the testimony of a woman to Jesus (Jn. 4:29; 20:18). Women were not excluded from the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17; 5:14). When persecution broke out against the early church women too suffered imprisonment (Acts 8:3; 9:1-2). We read about Priscilla teaching along with her husband, Aquilla (18:26) and Philip the evangelist whose 4 unmarried daughters prophesied (21:9). In Romans 16:1-7, apostle Paul listed women who were ministers in the church. If they weren’t honoured, why include them in his letters? This same apostle taught that there is no male or female in Christ (Gal. 3:28).

But hostile critics prefer throwing around “1000 evil verses in the Bible” leaving all these passages out because they don’t go with the grand plan and… they may make Christianity a bit reasonable to their readers. May it not be! So damn the contexts, goodbye exegesis and farewell rudimentary hermeneutics. When I sent my responses to the Muslim, he just reply was like “Good, keep on.” That’s it folks, his mind is already made up, don’t confuse him with the facts.

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How Rational are Atheist Arguments?

The atheist’s mind works in a peculiar way. Virtually every atheist boasts of being a rationalist or a freethinker, that his worldview is the most logical one. In fact, most are neither “free” in thinking nor rational in their thoughts. They reject whatever doesn’t square with their dogma. A true rationalist doesn’t dismiss what he does not understand or sounds outlandish as “fairy tales” or “hallucinations.” That is what a dogmatist does.

The dictionary defines dogma as a religious belief that is accepted without proof or a code of belief accepted as authoritative. A dogmatist is therefore, someone who accepts a belief without evidence or who despite the evidence, rejects an idea because it contradicts his notion of reality and truth. Many atheists live out this second definition. Richard Lewontin, an evolutionary biologist, in one of his textbooks warns his students: “You must be careful, as you examine the orders of living tissue in all of the world around us, that you don’t fall back on the explanation of a creative designer-intelligence for it all because, frankly, everything does seem to have the appearance of an intelligent designer behind it, but that is plainly wrong.”

Rather than letting these “wannabe” scientists follow the evidence where it leads, they are already told what they mustn’t conclude. That is dogmatism. Many atheists reject some Christian beliefs (e.g creationism, resurrection of Christ, virgin birth etc) as contrary to logic and science. In fact, they transcend logic and science but that doesn’t disprove their veracity. There is true rationality (and humility) when we admit there are some things we cannot explain by logic or science. A consistent rationalist does not dismiss what sounds illogical. A “rationalist” who toes that line is upholding a dogma just like any fanatical believer.

Atheists have made science their dogma. They worship at its altars and await its “high priests” to explain everything in the universe to them. Whatever claim or experience that can’t be put in its box is dismissed as “hear says.” But science does not have an answer to many of man’s questions. Science (as a variant of philosophy) starts with unproven axioms and therefore, cannot be the sole determinant of all truths. Science is constantly evolving and growing, and that’s why some feats which seemed “impossible” in the past are now accepted as possible today. The science of 100 years ago is not the same science of today. Granted, every belief or experience doesn’t have to be explained by science to be real.

Christian-atheist dialogues often take a well-predictable path: the atheist demands that the Christian presents “an objective evidence” for God’s existence. The demand may vary in subject, but the underlying basis boils down to the burden of proof on the theist to prove his beliefs. I was in a forum where an atheist challenged a Christian, “Prove to me that heaven exists. I want an objective proof, don’t quote any religious text to me.” I think the best response to this is to bring the discussion back to the underlying issue – theistic arguments about God (since there has to be God before we talk about heaven).

When an atheist throws the “show-me-the-evidence-or-shut-up” argument at you, what you are dealing with is empiricism. In Philosophy, this is the theory that the origin of all knowledge is sense experience. It emphasises the role of experience and evidence, and argues that the only knowledge humans can have is a posteriori (i.e based on experience). The cosmological and telelogical arguments for the existence of God present the empirical “evidences” atheists clamour for all the time, but I need to point these out:

1. Like good dogmatists, many atheists derisively dismiss and ignore these evidence when presented even though they are empirical (observable and experientially tested). Therefore, the atheist will first have to tell us what he considers a good and compelling evidence, how he defines the terms, what his epistemology is and if his application of it is consistent (which is hardly the case). When an atheist carps, “Prove to me that God exists,” a good answer is to ask, “How many evidence do you need? A thousand? A million? A billion? Will a trillion be sufficient to convince you?”

2. Many atheists demanding “empirical evidence” for God’s existence want Him to do something so compelling that everyone will see, like turning the Aso Rock building upside down, twirling it around 360 degrees 20 times, bouncing it up and down at 20ft and changing it into a bright pink cloud in the shape of Kim Kardashian with a plaque on it saying “I am God. I exist. I came to earth as Jesus Christ, so bow!” Then the atheist, satisfied in his irrational and arbitrary demands will gladly kneel

3. Let’s assume that X = God; if atheists don’t believe in X, yet spend tons of time debating people who believe in X and seeking to demolish their X-system of belief, are they indirectly seeking X or they are seeking to be persuaded of it? Or does it mean that they are justifying their non-belief in X or they just want to feel better by attacking the believers in X?

It doesn’t make any sense if atheism is “non-belief in an imaginary being,” yet atheists spend the bulk of their time talking to Christians about X. What purpose does this serve? Is it to win us to their view of not-something-else or they are striving to convince themselves of being intellectually superior by bashing Christianity and the Bible? Atheists need to sincerely answer these.

4. To insist that there must be empirical evidence for God’s existence is an illogical, irrational and arbitrary framework made up by the atheist. Who says a thing has to empirical for it to be real or true? Mathematics is a non-empirical and non-scientific field of knowledge, yet its reality in our daily life is not disputed. No thinking person will dismiss mathematics as myth because there is no empirical evidence for it, so why do atheists demand we present empirical evidences for God as if that is the all and all of philosophical inquiry? Its a viciously circular argument to assume empiricism presents us all true knowledge and that unless God first proves Himself by empirical He is non-existent.

5. Another fallacy in the atheist’s obsession with “empirical evidence” is this: since they believe human thoughts are determined by outside forces of randomness and mere chance linked with the physical brain, every time the atheist demands for empirical proofs as the only means of knowing God, he is dogmatically imposing his own idea on others. If our thoughts are the results of random collisions of atoms in our brain, such random occurrences cannot apply to everyone else let alone to God. The atheists is irrationally trying to make everything bow to his arbitrary rule.

6. Although atheists have made science the final determinant of all knowledge and existence, science itself starts with unproven axioms which have to be accepted by belief. In the same vein, Christians start with unproven axioms and faith in various things – a faith that transcends reason but is not contrary to it. Thus, both theism and atheism involve faith, even though the atheist desperately wants to believe that he doesn’t have any faith or axiomatic beliefs.

Regardless of the science flag atheists wave around, neither atheism nor theism rests purely on science. Atheism is faith in purposeless blind chance while theism is faith in an Intelligent First Cause, so the real question is which faith stands up to scrutiny. Indeed, Christianity is based on a faith that is “the evident demonstration of realities not beheld” (Heb. 11:1).

Many atheists ask, “Why is your God true and not the other 4000 gods worshipped on earth?” This is because of Jesus Christ, God revealed in the flesh who performed miracles including His resurrection from the dead and was ascended to heaven. No other “God” has spoken, no religious founder measures up to Jesus and no religious book has passed the tests the Bible has. Counterfeit religions have arisen because people followed false religious books, false religious leaders and false understandings of the Bible.

This is why we search, examine and scrutinise beliefs to arrive at truth. Many atheists have not done this to any degree and are impervious to evidence presented which they derisively dismiss, yet would say, “We have seen zero evidence in all religions.” This is dogmatism and the pinnacle of irrationality.