Some believe that the Bible is full of contradictions. Christians, I mean. Not the rest of the world. On one hand, I understand. Our enemy has done a great job sowing seeds of doubt and skepticism. On the other hand, I’m confused. If you can’t trust one part of the Bible, how do you know which parts are trustworthy?
Rather than discussing any of the passages various people point to, I thought it would be good if we pause the discussion and look more closely at what a contradiction actually is. Because true understanding only happens if you agree on what you are talking about in the first place.
Difference does not mean contradiction. ~R.C. Sproul
What is a contradiction? Dictionary.com says
- a statement or proposition that contradicts or denies another or itself and is logically incongruous.
- direct opposition between things compared; inconsistency.
The first definition mentions “logically incongruous,” so let’s take this one step further and see what the discipline of logic says.
The Law of Noncontradiction
Okay, let me start by saying that I’m going to keep this very simple. You can read up on this and all its arguments for yourself. The Law of Noncontradiction states: Contradictory propositions cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time.
Pay particular attention to in the same sense (some will say relationship) and at the same time.
What does that mean? Well, I am both a mother and a daughter at the same time—which seems contradictory. But I am a mother in one sense/relationship and a daughter in a different sense/relationship. That means my statement is not a true contradiction.
What about Paradox?
Is paradox just a synonym for contradiction? Great question! And the answer is no. They are closely related, but not the same thing. For paradox, Dictionary.com says, “a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.”
In the Bible, Jesus uses this concept in many of His statements. For example, Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it (Matthew 10:39).
A quick note about antinomy.
That may be a new word for you. It was for me when I first started listening to R.C. Sproul teach. Dictionary.com defines this word as “opposition between one law, principle, rule, etc., and another.” In classical philosophy, antinomy is a contradiction, however, its application has changed slightly over the years and many today use it as a synonym for paradox. Be cautious when you see this word.
One More: Mystery
Oh, lots of people don’t like this one, but the truth is that some things—even things outside of the Bible—are a mystery to us. And some passages are labeled bibical contradiction when they are, in fact, biblical mystery.
Stepping outside of the Bible, I think of the medical world and all we do not know. Sure, what may be a mystery to us today may be common knowledge to us fifty years from now. But just as we know more today than we did in the early nineteen hundreds, we continue to have new questions, new unexplained diseases.
God is no different. He is infinite and eternal, and we cannot comprehend that. I’ve heard first-hand testimony of miracle healings that doctors could not explain. I myself have experienced God’s intervention in a painful situation while a friend going through similar circumstances continued on in her suffering. Why me and not her? I don’t know.
Anyone who is really seeking the truth will find not only the contradictions but the many answers to them. Rather, it is better, I think, to point people to what is true. Point people to the Bible’s claims of truth—what it claims about us, as humans, and what it claims about God. Point people to the gospel and ask God to do His work in them. ~Tim Challies
I’ll freely admit that some biblical passages are more difficult than others. Frequently, when you remove the mysteries and the paradoxes, many of the problems are resolved with the basic differences in storytelling techniques and focuses. This is good, as in the legal world, identical eyewitness accounts almost always prove to be contrived. As R.C. Sproul wrote, “No two people write in exactly the same way, and no two human beings report their perspectives on the same event identically.”
Do the points above resolve every single alleged contradiction in the Bible? I’m sure they don’t, particularly for the person who is more concerned with finding contradictions than finding God.
But instead of debating this, I tend to veer toward the bigger issue. If Jesus is who He said He is, what will you do with that?
Are you a new believer and wondering what you should do next? Did a friend or family member recently put their trust in Christ and you want to help them build a solid foundation. Consider my book, I’ve Got Jesus … Now What?
The moment you accepted Jesus as your Savior, you became a member of God’s family. The apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians chapter 1 that through our faith in Jesus, we were adopted as sons and daughters. That means you now have a huge family cheering you on, including me!
Perhaps that’s a bit overwhelming. Maybe family hasn’t been something good in your life, or you fear the expectations other Christians will place upon you.
Take a moment and breathe.
One of the key pieces of information God wants to give you is this: Only His opinion matters. Yes, God will use other people and circumstances to help you along the way, but they should never take precedence over what God says.
That is why hearing God clearly is critical, and that is why I wrote this book.
Join me in learning more about what it means to be part of God’s family. Don’t worry. You don’t have to do this perfectly or know the answer to every question. Just take a step forward and turn the page.
We’ll get through these first steps together.
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