Beliefs, Practices, History
Remarks on "The Age of Reason" (S. King: 1831), pp. 74-5.
The Bible, like many of the works of nature, appears to the greatest disadvantage to the most superficial beholder. But, when we exclude such secular principles as are apt to bewilder and deceive; when we examine its essential doctrines; the proportion of all its parts; the pleasing harmony arising from the whole; and the general benefit resulting therefrom; there is such a coincidence with human reason, abstracted from all its grossness, that nothing can justify even you, from withholding your admiration and assent, but your ignorance of those doctrines, which are, at present, the objects of your contempt and scorn. So benign are its precepts, so disinterested its offers, and so extensive its benefits, that, even in the arcana of Deism, there is not a virtue or moral duty, which Christianity does not recommend and enforce. Instead of discarding reason, as you insinuate, it encourages its operations; and it appeals to reason, as the arbiter of its fate. It is by reason that we discover, where reason is incompetent to the task assigned; and it is by reason that we understand, when it must be suspended, and when called into action.
Remarks on "The Age of Reason" (S. King: 1831), p. 29-31.
You [Thomas Paine] say, "It is curious to observe, how the theory of what is called the Christian church, sprang out of the tail of the Heathen mythology." That your curiosity should be excited, when you think a favourable opportunity presents itself, of bringing the Bible into disrepute, is not a matter that excites much surprise; but evidence, that would connect your allegations with truth, would prove more satisfactory than an expression of curiosity. But so contrary to fact is this assertion, that we find no more than two or three quotations, from any Heathen author, in all the New Testament, and these are merely moral sentences; while the Old Testament is quoted and alluded to about five hundred times. ... Nor does it appear, that either the Stoics, or the Epicureans, in the days of the Apostles, were acquainted with the discovery which you have made. By these, Paul was accused, with being "a setter forth of strange Gods," when he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. And for this offence, he was taken and brought unto the Areopagus, and charged with bringing strange things to their ears. ... It will be vain to reply, that this is hearsay evidence. If Bible evidence be hearsay, I would ask, from what source did you derive your information, respecting Christ and his Apostles? You quote, without hesitation, from the Bible, whatever you conceive will militate against the characters of those whom you condemn, and invalidate the authenticity of the Book itself; you cannot, therefore, in common justice, refuse and appeal to the same authority, even when an opposite purpose is to be served. And, when this is granted, unless I am much deceived, the head of prejudice will be more conspicuous than the tail of the Heathen mythology.
Remarks on "The Age of Reason" (S. King: 1831), pp. 64,66.
Let us suppose the case of a man who was born blind. He can have nothing but oral testimony of such things as are visible to others. Does it therefore follow, that, to him, the luminaries of heaven do not exist, and, consequently, demonstrate nothing of the power and wisdom of God? No: the demonstration still exists, by an intellectual communication from others; and this, to him, is a revelation. What is history, but a revelation of facts, though man is the recorder, the witness, the auditor, and oftentimes the cause? View your premises however I may, they are demonstrably false; and, consequently, what you draw from them must fall to the ground. ... You further tell us, that "the whole account is traditionary." The truth of this assertion, will depend, in no small degree, upon the definition of the term. But, if what you assert, were granted, I cannot perceive, how this would falsify the account. If the supposed facts contained in the Bible, be traditionary, and are, therefore, false, there is no historical account in existence, that will not be implicated in the common charge; and, if this be admitted, all moral and historical certainty, must, at one stroke, be banished from the world.
Samuel Drew on Justice and Mercy said...
Remarks on "The Age of Reason" (S. King: 1831), pp. 81-6.
You say, "Moral justice cannot take the innocent for the guilty, even if the innocent were to offer itself; to suppose justice to do this, is to destroy the principle of its existence, which is the thing itself; it is then no longer justice, it is indiscriminate revenge." Before this question can be decided, we must inquire, What is moral justice, as it applies to God? That it must be something different with him, from what it is with us, will appear from this consideration: God can, when, how, or where he pleases, deprive men of their lives, without any visible cause for such actions; yet God, notwithstanding this, is morally just in all his ways. Apply this to man; we cannot, consistently with moral justice, deprive men of their lives, without a previous forfeiture of the same to moral justice. Unless the cause of death, with us, be equal to the death inflicted, the act is injustice, and the death assassination and murder; but God cannot commit murder; therefore the deprivation of life, of any of his creatures, by him, must not only be reconcilable with justice, but founded on its very principles and nature. Neither can God be guided by the same laws, nor actuated by the same motives, with which we are. To talk of laws, and apply them both to God and man, is derogatory to his nature, for the reasons assigned above; and that, which derogates from God, cannot be applied to him. The rules, which regulate his ways and conduct in the economy of things, are such as we know little of; and what is justice with God, will in many cases, be injustice with us. It is a principle, which must be admitted, that the same power, which has a right to establish a law, must have a right to repeal that law; but God had a morally just right to establish, both the laws of nature, and the laws of his word; therefore, he has the same morally just right to suspend, or finally repeal either.
Remarks on "The Age of Reason" (S. King: 1831), pp. 66-68.
In the same page you say, "Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent, that we called it the word of a dæmon, than the word of God: it is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest every thing that is cruel." As you give no example, of the above description, I may justly doubt the truth of your allegation; however, I will venture to assert, that every story of obscenity and wickedness, recorded in the Bible, is exhibited there, not to induce imitation, but abhorrence. ¶ I believe, the maddest enthusiast that ever lived, never thought of calling every word in the Bible, the word of God. Many parts of the sacred writings record the speeches and actions of wicked men and dæmons; and they are handed down to us, to excite our disapprobation, and to instruct us to take warning by the awful examples they present. Acts of debauchery and obscenity are objects of Bible detestation, as well as yours; and what you call "torturous executions" are frequently inflicted, as punishments for those deeds of criminality, with which you most unjustly reproach the Bible.
Remarks on "The Age of Reason" (S. King: 1831), pp. 56-7.
You [Thomas Paine] inform us, with much aflected liberality, that "credulity is not a crime." Now, admitting your observation to be founded on fact, you cannot but allow, even on your own principles, that there is nothing criminal in believing the Bible to be the word of God; and it also follows, from your own concessions, that our adoption of the principles of infidelity is not essential to our future happiness. I am far, however, from granting, that it is a matter of indifference, whether we believe truth or error; for, if faith in a Saviour be necessary to salvation, then those who reject it must have embraced a theory, which will be attended with the most awful consequences. That this is your situation, and that you view the sacrifice of Christ with abhorrence and contempt, we cannot but perceive, from the following passage: "Can our gross feelings be excited by no other subject, than tragedy or suicide? or is the gloomy pride of man become so intolerable that nothing can flatter it, but the sacrifice of the "Creator?" You must be sensible, that this passage contains no argument; and, therefore, it may be repelled in a strain similar to that in which it is delivered. Is, then, I would ask, the arrogance and presumption of man become so intolerable, that even the conduct of Omnipotence shall be arraigned for every action, that will not furnish him with all the evidence that pride requires? Shall man despise overtures of mercy, even while conscious of his guilt, because he happens to dislike the principles upon which they are presented to him, and the medium through which they are communicated? Or, finally shall, the benevolence of God be defeated of its purposes because man is too ungrateful to acknowledge his obligations, and too blind to perceive the benefits, which heaven, out of compassion, confers? The dictates of conscience wilt give to these questions an unsophisticated answer.
Remarks on "The Age of Reason" (S. King: 1831), pp. 58.
You pass on to an examination of "the books, called the Old and New Testament;" but, pausing on the margin of your inquiry, you ask, "who told us they were the word of God?" to which you answer, "Nobody can tell;" and hence you conclude, that "they must be false." That this is a legitimate inference, very few, I presume, will have the hardihood to assert. If I were to ask, Who told us, that the History of Josephus, the Epistles of Pliny, the Orations of Cicero, and the Elements of Euclid, were all written by the authors whose names they bear? and should be answered, "Nobody can tell," would this falsify the testimony of facts, which these books respectively contained? No one, I think, would presume to make such an assertion...
R.C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley in Classical Apologetics (Zondervan: 1984), p. 4.
The church is safe from vicious persecution at the hand of the secularist, as educated people have finished with stake-burning circuses and torture racks. No martyr's blood is shed in the secular west. So long as the church knows her place and remains quietly at peace on her modern reservation. Let the babes pray and sin and read their Bibles, continuing steadfastly in their intellectual retardation; the church's extinction will not come by sword or pillory, but by the quiet death of irrelevance. But let the church step off the reservation, let her penetrate once more the culture of the day and the... face of secularism will change from a benign smile to a savage snarl.