The Bible Is Full Of Contradictions…

Or so says the skeptic.  The argument that the Bible is replete with inconsistencies and contradictions is not a new one (See: Please Pass The White-out).  But a seemingly innocuous discussion with my wife made me think back to all the arguments with skeptics on inerrancy I’ve had.  Every discussion on this topic has one thing in common: skeptics argue away any explanation of a perceived contradiction.  And this seems only to be true in this context.

In nearly every other context in life when we experience what we consider to be a contradiction we attempt to reconcile the discrepancy.  We try to figure out why we are seeing this contradiction.  For example, my wife said the other day she was going to work and when she got home tells me she bought some things while shopping.  I immediately start trying to figure out what’s going on.  Rather than jumping to conclusions about conflicting stories about where my wife was today, I am trying to reconcile the two reports.  Turns out, she went shopping on her lunch hour.

This kind of situation isn’t unique, I think it just doesn’t register.  We all find ourselves reading something or talking to someone and we encounter something which doesn’t seem to jive.  That’s why we ask clarifying questions.  However, regarding the Bible, skeptics seem to want their to be contradictions.  They regularly insist on an understanding which creates a contradiction or inconsistency (See: That’s Just Your Interpretation), rather than investigating whether it might be our flawed interpretation or false testimony.

Of course when an explanation is offered to clear up an inconsistency, it is dubbed an excuse.  It’s almost as if the skeptic wants to remain a skeptic.  Given the lack of reason for their rejection of God (See: Atheism as a lack of belief (and reason), Emotional Problems, The Price Of Tea In China), I find the skeptic’s claim to be the voice of reason to be less credible every time I hear it.  If every attempt to reconcile a perceived inconsistency or defense of an objection is classified as an excuse, how can the skeptic believably say they are “honestly seeking” the truth about whether God…?  Especially when they jump through linguistic hoops to avoid the issue all together (See: I Don’t Not Believe It, Not At All Lacking, Prove It!, Never Quite Enough, Objection Overruled, The Impossibility Of Miracles).

Comments

  1. Spot on! It’s almost like you and I have been talking to some of the same skeptics…

  2. Does your wife claim to be an inerrant, infallible represented of ultimate power? If not, then yes, it would make sense for you to expect and reconcile difficulties.
    When fundamentalists put forth the Bible as the inerrant, infallible representative of ultimate power and – by that justification – try to force their morality and truth on the rest of the world (homosexuality, monogamy, geology, biology, etc) then it makes perfect sense to say that the presence of contradictions contradicts the presence of infallibility.

    If you would like to agree that the Bible is not an inerrant and infallible source of truth and morality, then I would be perfectly happy to discuss your interpretation of scripture. The ability to pick out the good from the bad in the Bible is, for me, what distinguishes a good Christian from a bad Christian.

    And, for the record, I chide my fellow atheists when they discourage Christians from reconciling contradictions and choosing Mark 12:31 over Deut 13:6-10 or 2 Cor 6:14-17. Some say ‘there are contradictions so you have to reject the whole thing’ and I think that’s too severe. People need not necessarily reject the entire Bible due to the factual contradictions. Jefferson chose to pick out the ethical and credible pieces to make a Bible he could accept. That was an effort to be applauded. But there should at least be an admission that the Bible is in no way internally consistent and it’s certainly not consistent with the real world.

    • Jason

      My wife does claim to not lie to me. But that is beside the point. My point is that in life, nearly without exception, everyone tries to figure out why there seems to be a conflic in information. The only exception seems to be with Atheists and the Bible (other religious texts). It seems as though they make every effort to read the text so that there is a contradiction. Rather than attempt to reconcile, the attempt is to obfuscate

      Actually Jefferson didnt edit out parts of the bible, it was condensed for purposes of distribution. What was removed was multiple tellings of the same events. Have you read either of Jefferson’s Bibles?

  3. For many, atheism/secularism is nothing more than a fad, a chance to demonize an ‘other’.

    • I think I agree with that Oscar. Many of the atheist blogs I get banned from do so because I refuse to “get it”. They are not unlike Christians who refuse to interact with outsiders. They prefer the safety of an echo-chamber.

  4. Marshall Art says:

    Jason,

    Trying to use the argument that an infallible, inerrant Bible must be free of perceived contradictions is weak. You have shown by your own example no desire or effort to resolve the conflict you insist is present between them. But it isn’t all that hard to do. I would point to the notion that it isn’t contradictory to love an enemy but still being the right thing to do to kill them in war. This isn’t a contradiction as the action of the enemy puts one in the position of kill or be killed. Another is a parent’s love for his child that requires some corporal discipline now and then. The question is how much can a parent love a child if the parent is willing to hit the child.

    With the Deuteronomy passage, we’re looking at the Chosen People being instructed in what they must do to purge their numbers of the evil that existed within them. The passage doesn’t suggest a flip suggestion, but an obviously more likely understanding is that there is a serious attempt to lure a believer toward false gods. The consequences for the lured party are dire, so this is no small thing.

    Later, in 2 Corinthians, Paul is also speaking of those who would refuse to live a righteous life. It would be akin to you hanging with gang-bangers who murder, deal drugs and rape (I concede this is an extreme example, but necessary to make the point). Even here, despite avoiding wicked people, there is no conflict with the command to love one’s neighbor.

    So your issue with these three is hanging on what is meant by loving one’s neighbor and how that love is manifested. I must assume you have a more generalized notion of what it means to do so in order to force contradiction upon the passages. Furthermore, contradiction must be looked at in a more comprehensive manner, taking the entire arc of the Bible into account rather than looking for what appears to be contradictions in individual verses.

    Finally, the following cannot be allowed to stand without response:

    “…try to force their morality and truth on the rest of the world…”

    This does not happen in any organized manner as does the reverse, that is, the demand that the world accept the immorality of certain groups of people on the majority of the world. In Christianity, there is no mandate to force anything on anyone, but simply to preach the Word and let people make their own decisions. Not true of the secular side of life, particularly the homosexual lobby, who demands acceptance and will seek to enact legislation to insure it takes place everywhere. Kind of contradictory, if not completely ironic.

  5. “Why do you try to take the sawdust out of your neighbor’s eye, and ignore the log in your own?” This was not addressed to ‘skeptics’ (though I agree it could do them good!) but to his followers (No one else would take it seriously, would they?)

    But it’s extremely hard to follow. “I can’t see the log in my own eye (because there’s this log in my eye) — but that skeptic over there; he’s got a log in his eye — so me-&-my-friends are going to goof on him.”

    If it’s compassion that makes you want to take that sawdust out… How can you see better, to do so?

    I knew a psychologist who agreed to be a court-ordered counselor for men convicted of assaulting their wives. Most of them just assumed that they’d been doing the right thing and the law was unwarranted interference with ‘the way things ort to be’! Having no technique (& not wanting one!) for breaking open a closed mind, he took to praying for them (by himself, not ‘praying at them’!) and did see positive changes…

  6. Marshall – so in your view of the Bible, it’s ok to murder me (or more specifically those who worship other gods) because I believe differently. I just want to make clear your logic. Because ‘in war’ is a bit of a vague set of circumstances. In a war to protect yourself from other ideas is not exactly a humanitarian purpose. It servers to advance dogma and ignorance through murder. On the other hand, the Biblical prohibition against murder is basically, ‘unless you/God/Bible justifies murder’. So there’s that.

    But I certainly support your effort to reconcile conflicting and overlapping ideas. The problem only comes when you contend that the Bible is a clear and literal and unerring revelation. There are 2000 different denominations just of Christianity that can prove you wrong, and at least Catholic, Mormon, Baptist, Methodist, Jehovah’s Witness, and others who couldn’t agree about the Bible for 5 minutes before getting into fundamental conflicts over doctrine.

    Your projecting about homosexuality is exactly the point. Christians very commonly hold the Bible up as supportive of all people, gay or straight. No scientific institution presents homosexuality as anything but a normal and healthy sexual orientation and there are no studies showing damage other than the damage created by hateful homophobes. On that point you can’t even agree. But more importantly, Christians are the ones trying to legislate against the rights of people to get married, simply on the basis of plumbing. The ‘sanctity’ of marriage is trashed most when you make it about sex. Don’t want a gay marriage, don’t get one. When you legislate against it, then you are forcing exclusively religious beliefs through policy. You are terribly dishonest when you claim that Christians aren’t evangelizing and litigating their way to a Christian nation and a Christian world. I don’t even know why you would want to claim otherwise.

    • Jason

      Your first paragraph illustrates perfectly my point. I guarantee that objection has been offered by you in the past AND has been addressed. But yet you still offer it showing how committed you are to caricature the bible. And how committed you are to avoid a correct understanding.

  7. JB – Jefferson did edit out much of the supernatural aspects of the Bible. That’s why it’s called the ‘life and morals of Jesus’. He isn’t Risen in the Jeffersonian Bible. It ends with the tomb closing. Jefferson sure didn’t consider the Bible to be all-divine literal truth.

    And I am perfectly happy to read the Bible and recognize good stuff, like some of the Sermon on the Mount, and certainly there was a historical Israeli people. It’s hard though since there’s no extra-biblical/archeological evidence for the Exodus or the census practices that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem or of Bethlehem for that matter. And there’s so much in terms of bad ethics that it falls to us to expose the contradictions. It’s a dirty job, but the Christians don’t seem to be doing it.

    The real issue is that Christians oversell the Bible, placing a divine standard that the Bible can’t really live up to. I’ll pose to you a question I’ve posed to many pastors over the years – what are the good ethical teachings that an atheist should focus on? I feel bad that I present Jesus as a charlatan and bully. I think there must be some good stuff in there. Pastors almost invariably respond with miracles rather than ethics. I have had a few Great Commandment and Sermon on the Mount responses and even one ‘turn the other cheek’. At least if we can understand the ethics the Bible puts forth (again, interpretations vary), we can at least get on the same page about what you support. Hopefully it doesn’t involve slaughtering counter-evangelists in your midst.

    • Jefferson had two bibles he decided to “edit”. The life and morals version was intended only to be the parts of the gospels which records his teachings, so why are you surprised the miracles were redacted? His two bibles had specific purposes and neither was to remove miracles for the purpose of removing them.

  8. The problem isn’t w/the unbeliever, but w/the Christian. The unbeliever is merely doing what unbelievers do by nature.
    After all the love, feeding, and care & nurture, why would one be surprised when their pet rattlesnake bit them? That’s insanity!
    The problem is with ones soteriology, a lack of understanding of sin and its affects on man, and, apoplogetic method.

    Here’s the difference. Watch it throught to the end, as they will explain why they never dealt w/the supposed contradictions during the debate:

Any Thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: