Friday, May 16, 2008

Inconsistencies and Contradictions in the Bible?

Not so long ago...I was going to a church where both the Pastor and the assistant Pastor would occassionally fail to be able to handle certain difficult passages in the Bible successfully and would suggest then that this was due to certain contradictions and/or inconsistencies within the Bible. Yet those Pastors and that church's doctrinal statement both hold to the inerrancy of the Bible. How could there be contradictions or inconsistencies in the infallible Word of God? Surely to novices there are 'seeming' inconsistencies, but are there 'actual' inconsistencies? If there are then how can we claim it to be without error? The inconsistencies are not in the Bible but rather the individuals own theological understanding.

Let me use the following approach to try and make some sense out of how this is so.

Satan said to Jesus, " is written, `HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU'; and `ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.' " Jesus said to him, "On the other hand, it is written, `YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.' "

Jesus agrees with satan and says yes, 'such and such', is indeed written. But then He goes on to respond that, even though "it is written", there is a larger principle yet at work here. Therefore you have to take the whole of God's word into account before you make a bold proclamation using just one single verse. Both statements of scripture mentioned above by Christ and satan are correct within their own context but one of them does not contain the whole Truth.

And this is perhaps partly how the leaders of this other church I attended at one time became confused to the point of believing that there are inconsistencies and contradictions in the Word. They would get hung up on certain seemingly contradictory passages after not isolating each passage and looking at it's own unique context in order to get it's meaning; which would have then possibly allowed them to see each passage's unique truth come into harmony with the unique truth of each and every other passage of the Bible.

Here's the root of the problem. This just dawned on me out of the blue this afternoon. The problem is not that there are inconsistencies and contradictions between the passages of the Bible, but rather, between the bible as a whole and their own theological system. Their personal theological system makes it impossible to reconcile the Truth of the Bible to itself. The problem is their flawed theological method.

Well...this idea sure is underdeveloped. It's late at night after an exhausting week. But I've been pondering where this sort of thinking comes from for a long time. I think I may have hit on a partial explanation here. This explanation, which I'm sure has dawned on many others as well, should be useful as a foundation for helping folks like these handle those potentially deceptive passages that would mislead them into believing that there are doctrinal errors, inconsistencies or contradictions in something so True.

I'll probably rework this post a little bit more in the near future. This demands a little more thought than I can give it tonight.

Hearty thanksgiving with you to the Lord.


Anonymous said...

You hit it right on the head Todd. I have heard this point from many trusted men of God I have heard over my lifetime of sitting in various churches. I like how you put it though. As tired as you are your mind is still able to put out great thoughts. Thanks for this, Alice :)

Unknown said...

The discrepancies in the telling of the gospels are not inconsistencies - two different people will never record an event the same way - and the final meaning is not effected.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely Todd, I don't know how God did it but He wrote His Word for us through fellow sinful men. He is an awesome God! Alice

Unknown said...

A big amen Alice.

Unknown said...

I suppose the suspicion that there are meaningful inconsistencies and/or contradictions in the Bible would help comfort some that there can therefore be disagreement and controversy within the body of believers when actually that is disallowed by scripture itself.

Paul G said...

A challenging thought, Todd!
Can you name one of the so called inconsistencies and contradictions of the Bible?

I think that doctrinal errors are not in the Scripture, but they are in all of us, because of the teachings which come from men and not from the Lord.

Unknown said...

Count yourself lucky if you've never heard a pastor talk of "inconsistencies and contradictions" in the bible. No thank you anyway.

Are there doctrinal errors in all of us Paul? I would say that ultimately "simplicity of devotion to Jesus Christ" would be error free. It's my observation that few men can come to rest in that simplicity.

But it seems to me that you're on the right track when you mention "the teachings which come from men".

Thanks for letting me think out loud back at you Paul.

Paul G said...

Yes Todd; I have been around a long time and heard of the so called inconsistencies and many times I had to shake my head.

How true it is as you said, "the simplicity of devotion to Jesus Christ would be error free."
But sad it is that only few come to rest in that simplicity.

Good on you, I hope you never stop to think out loud!

Unknown said...

Thanks Paul..and this whole post does ring hollow without any good examples doesn't it?

Better yet, it's an opportunity to compile a few just for future reference.

Here's one I came across from a Pastor one time.

On the one hand we have this one...

Proverbs 31,...6 Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to him whose life is bitter. 7 Let him drink and forget his poverty and remember his trouble no more.

...which certainly does seem to sanction tieing on a good "drunk", as they say, given the right circumstance.

And then on the other hand we have this...

Ga 5:21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

...which says "drunkenness" will get in your way when trying to enter the Kingdom.

This was cited as an inconsistency in a sermon I once heard.

But it is not. I probably don't have to explain why.

I think more will come to my mind as time goes on.

Anonymous said...

Hey Todd, inconsistencies only are in the minds who are trying to justify their personal beliefs. They usually are taking scripture out of context to prove their personal point. I have always been taught when studying the Bible to read the verses surrounding the passage one is studying to get the holistic concept of what God is trying to say. That way there is less of a chance of getting the concept wrong. Keep on pointing out the truth, Alice