When a hard question is asked in a public forum like Facebook, most Christians will refuse to answer. They often make excuses like “this is too complex an issue to discuss on Facebook”, or “we should talk about this in person some time”, or even “you wouldn’t accept the answer because you’re too closed-minded”.
But if there really are answers to the difficult questions, why would you keep them to yourself? Why keep them from me? And why keep them from the other curious folk who are watching from the sidelines? If you do know the answer, but don’t share it, wouldn’t this just make it look like there aren’t answers after all? Is this the impression you’d want to give?
The truth is, if there were satisfactory answers, Christians would give them. How do I know this? Simple. Whenever you ask a question for which there is a satisfactory answer, Christians will run from everywhere to provide you with one. Post a link to an article about a gay apostle Paul, or a married Jesus, and they will start refuting them left, right and centre, quoting 1st and 2nd century sources to back their arguments up.
But my all time favourite religious discussion on Facebook involved unicorns. Simply point out that the King James Bible has numerous references to these mythological beasts, and Christians who remain silent during discussions of biblical contradictions or the problem of evil will come out of the woodwork with some helpful information to help set you straight. Here is the verse I playfully posted as my status some time last year:
“And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness.” (Isaiah 34:7)
Several of my Christian friends responded, with a minister and a few theological students and graduates among them. They pulled out the big guns: the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, Wikipedia, Answers In Genesis (apparently humans did live alongside unicorns). Different translations were examined: the KJV, the NIV, the Good News version, even the Greek Septuagint (LXX). Possible interpretations of the troublesome word Re’em (Hebrew רֶאֵם, which apparently occurs just 9 times in the Old Testament, and has few if any parallels in other ancient semitic languages) were considered: wild ox or bull, rhinoceros, oryx, white antelope, ram, unicorn (which just means single horn, by the way, not necessarily a mythical creature), but most likely the aurochs, a well known large and now extinct type of ox. According to the Wikipedia article, Ctesias (early 4th century BCE) was the first Greek to describe unicorns, saying they were found in India; it seems Strabo and Pliny the elder also thought they existed.
Eventually, the conversation rambled into obscurity, with a few ubiquitous Monty Python references, and an adaptation of the Ontological Argument for the existence of Charlie, the Maximally Great Unicorn, before the situation was summed up nicely by a wise friend:
Haha, oh man, how do I only see these things when they’ve already petered out towards apologies & declarations of irony? The image of people scrambling to their bibles & wikipedia – the 2 most reliable sources known to man – to explain away unicorns was priceless! A great example of how some people will believe anything, or perhaps that once someone has commited to believing something nothing can interfere with that belief. Smiley face, apology, ironic hugs & kisses!
To conclude, I should be fair and say that some of my Christian friends have been very generous with their time, and have been willing to discuss some of the hard questions, and we have all learnt and grown through these conversations, even if the “answers” do not satisfy. I appreciate these people a lot.