THE ANGEL POSSENTI:
It happens eventually while arguing with atheists….you tell them about the Bible and all the valuable teachings in it, but then the atheist chimes in with a phrase like this:
"The Bible says slavery is okay. I don't want anything to do with a book like that."
While the atheist will act smug in their declaration, every Christian will hear that and say "Huh?", never knowing what the atheist is talking about. Of course the atheist will then bombard the Christian with verses that they think prove their point and often the Christian is at a loss for words. I myself have come across atheists that claim this and recently argued with a few who say rape is okay according to the Bible.
Let's ignore for a moment that the atheist doesn't have anything in atheism that says slavery (or rape) is wrong other than their own opinion (which is all atheists have for their objections---JUST their opinion) and let's instead focus on why there's such a disconnect that prevents atheists form understanding the truth.
As I said before, I've argued with atheists on this and like many apologists, I thought the best method was to point out the verses being used to justify slavery were all under the OT covenant and we're not under that covenant anymore. However, this backfired every time I tried it because the atheist either:
a) misinterpreted what I was saying, believed I was picking and choosing what verses I wanted to follow, and therefore I shouldn't have problems with them picking and choosing whether to believe in God or
b) pointed out the NT mentions slavery and doesn't condemn it.
Being humble enough to admit my tactics weren't working, I tried to come up with a different approach. Then while studying verses one night, I came across two particular verses that I have used ever since whenever an atheist tries this and they work every single time.
What are these two verses?
But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (1 Tim. 3:15)
As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:16)
So how do they work? Simple: I point out to the atheist these two verses show you are not free to interpret verses by yourself; only the Church founded by Christ has that authority. So, therefore, if your interpretation is different from the Church's, then you are wrong. Plain and simple.
Quick side note: when trying this yourself, be ready for the following objection:
"So you mean to tell me your church put the Bible together, they decided what books should go in, they said no more could be added and they alone have the authority to say what a verse means? And you don't find this the least bit suspicious?"
A common rebuttal I use goes something like this:
"It's no different than the state saying they alone will print money, they will set the standards of authenticity, and they will set the conversion rates between dollars and coins. You don't seem to have a problem with that."
Notice how they want us to pay attention to the fact this is just our interpretation but want us to ignore them saying it's our interpretation is in and of itself their interpretation, and where would that get us?
So, now let's put this together into a simple, easy-to-remember three step process:
1. Point out to the atheist they are not free to interpret the Bible for themselves.
If they still insist they should be, point out to them even a eunuch was humble enough to admit they needed help understanding a verse.
2. Point out only the Catholic Church has the authority to say what a verse means.
This will not only give you the edge in saying what the Church does teach about a verse but it will also make it clear to the atheist you don't care about the opinion of non-Catholic churches in case they try the "two pastors of different denominations can't agree. Why should I trust you?"
This in no way means the Church doesn't use outside sources for their stand..it's just that they have the final word on what something means.
3. Ask the atheist what Bible translation they're using.
I know this sounds like a moot point but it matters how you phrase something and what words you use, as not all words have the same meaning or connotation. In fact, not all Bible versions have the same number of verses per chapter.
So the atheist claims a verse says one thing but your version says something else, that's most likely the reason why. Personally, unless they flat out state what version they're using, I'd stick with either the D-R or the Vulgate.
Remember: atheists must never be given any wiggle room to let their poison in…who would want poison from idiots like atheists?