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A Clear Lens
There is no shortage of atheist or agnostic blogs championing what they believe to be hundreds of contradictions contained within the Bible. It would seem as though Christians are either ignorant of the quantity and validity of these claims, or they’re just turning a blind eye in faith. But are these legitimate claims? Does the Bible really contain hundreds of legitimate contradictions? With this series; Dismantling Alleged Discrepancies, I hope to tackle some of the most commonly cited contradictions and, well, dismantle them.
Three months ago fellow Clear Lens writer Logan Judy posted his thoughts about a particular set of bad arguments against Christianity; Bible contradictions. Logan explained the general complaint that Christianity cannot be true because the Bible is full of contradictions. But then he postulated that the truth of Christianity does not rely on the Bible being free of contradictions. As Logan goes on to describe, this is indeed the case. But, we only arrive at that conclusion if we concede the point that the Bible is full of contradictions. But is that true? Were the original authors not inspired by the Holy Spirit and incapable of producing one cohesive work? Were the scribes copying the original letters so flippant in their work that anything past the original documents is untrustworthy? Are all of the complaints we hear from nonbelievers today about the accuracy of the Bible really grounded in sound reason? In the following months, those are the questions I would like to begin tackling on a case by case basis. But first…
Laying the Groundwork
Moving forward, we’ll need to be sure we aren’t talking past each other in some regards. So it’s helpful to define our terms and lay some groundwork. Let’s start with a word featured in this series.
Discrepancy: A discrepancy is a difference between things that should be the same. An important note here is that a discrepancy is not necessarily the same as a contradiction. Often when people claim the Bible is full of contradictions, the specific things they’re referring to are actually just discrepancies. And even then only allegedly so. When things like context, type of language, and audience are taken into account the alleged discrepancies often go away.
Paradox: A paradox is when something consists of two opposite things which seem impossible, but are actually true or at least possible. This also often gets confused with legitimate contradictions. For example, computers can be a paradox in that they are meant to save people time, but they require a lot of maintenance.
Contradiction: Finally we come to this oft-used word. The easiest way to understand this word is to look at its formulation as one of the most basic laws of logic; the law of non-contradiction. This law states that a thing cannot be both true and not true at the same time and in the same way. So if I told you I am married, then moments later in the same conversation I said I am a bachelor, then I contradict myself since being a bachelor means I am not married. However, if I told you I had a girlfriend, then said I was a bachelor, there is no contradiction because being a bachelor is specific to marriage, not relationship status.
Along with settling on some basic definitions I think it good to also move forward reasonably and fairly. This means of course that the Christian should have a reasonable answer to these allegations, but it also means that the skeptic needs to be fair in their characterization of the alleged discrepancies and stay away from playing “gotcha”. In dealing with people in everyday life we don’t assume that everyone is lying to us. We try to understand what they’re saying and make sense of it, then after some time we can judge their reliability. The same treatment is extended to analyzing ancient texts, including the Bible. Even if you don’t believe it to be God-breathed and inerrant, you’re still faced with the intent and context under which the author was writing…
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