When people talk about contradictions in the bible, they usually fall into one of two camps:
- Those who dismiss the bible because contradictions make it false;
- Those who try to explain those contradictions and, let's be honest, make themselves look dumb.
I'm starting a third camp for people who know there are contradictions in the bible and think they are good to have.
For those of you who don't know about said contradictions, here are a couple examples.
- In the first chapter of Genesis, God made animals first. In the second chapter, he made humans first. So, which is it?
- Depending on which gospel you read, there could be an angel, two angels, a man, or two men waiting in the empty tomb after Jesus is resurrected.
- In the book of Exodus, God is called a man of war. In the book of Romans, he is the God of peace.
It's no surprise that a bunch of pastors are secretly having existential meltdowns. Reading scripture closely and constantly brings you to a point where you're just like, "What the heck am I reading? None of this goes together." God sends an evil spirit into Saul to kill David. God and Satan make a bet about whether or not Job is truly faithful. Paul's convinced early on in his apostleship that Jesus is coming back within his lifetime, but by his last letter to the Christians in Rome, he realizes that might not be the case. The list goes on and on and on.
But it's not just about the contradictions. What about all of us who have completely different ideas about what makes you a Christian? Some of us think you've got to speak in tongues if you're saved. Others think you have to believe that Jesus died on the cross and rose again. Some of us think that all that talk about sexual immorality in the New Testament is about homosexuals. Others think it's about temple prostitution. In my last post, I talked about the wrath of God being a lie, but today I was reading in Romans about Paul's views on the wrath of God toward those who sin.
Who is right?
Who is wrong?
I've talked about the gospel being relative based upon the many different exchanges that Jesus had with individual people. I'm wondering if it's the same thing with the bible. Before you freak out, I'm not saying use the bible to justify anything and everything. I think there's some fundamental truths we can all agree with. But I think the stuff that sticks out to each of us has a lot to do with our personal histories and experiences. My friend was talking to me about the fear of the Lord and how that's been so good for her to reflect on, but for someone like me who grew up being terrified of God, I need God to be my friend and my wingman.
So, the gospel writer who said there was a man in the empty tomb, and the other who said there were angels - instead of us worrying about why the accounts are different, maybe we should focus on why those differences are important. Maybe the author of the first chapter of Genesis wanted to convey that humans are the final masterpiece of God's creation, whereas the author of the second chapter wanted us to know that all things are made for us.
Try not to get hung up on the contradictions. They're not there for us to debate. They're not there to make us doubt God's existence, and they're certainly not there for you to put together some apologetic artillery.
They're there so that each of us can say,
"That's my book. It speaks to me, and it tells my story."