The Case for Faith: Coping with Contradictions
by Lee Strobel
Editor’s Note: In this excerpt of The Case for Faith, Lee Strobel is having a theological debate with Norman Geisler, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. What a fantastic discussion to share with a friend who is seeking to know the truth today!
When I asked about alleged contradictions in the Bible, Geisler leaned back in his chair and smiled. It was an issue he had spent a lifetime studying.
“I’ve made a hobby of collecting alleged discrepancies, inaccuracies, and conflicting statements in the Bible,” he said. “I have a list of about eight hundred of them. A few years ago I coauthored a book called When Critics Ask, which devotes nearly six hundred pages to setting the record straight.1 All I can tell you is that in my experience when critics raise these objections, they invariably violate one of seventeen principles for interpreting Scripture.”
“What are those?” I asked.
“For example, assuming the unexplained is unexplainable. I’m sure some sharp critic could say to me, ‘What about this issue?’ and even though I’ve done a forty-year study of these things, I wouldn’t be able to answer him. What does that prove — that the Bible has an error or Geisler is ignorant? I’d give the benefit of the doubt to the Bible, because of the eight hundred allegations I’ve studied, I haven’t found one single error in the Bible, but I’ve found a lot of errors by the critics.”
I cocked my head. “Is that really reasonable, though, to give the Bible the benefit of the doubt?”
“Yes, it is,” he insisted. “When a scientist comes upon an anomaly in nature, does he give up science? When our space probe found braided rings around Jupiter, this was contrary to all scientific explanations. So do you remember when all the NASA scientists resigned because they couldn’t explain it?”
I laughed. “of course not,” I said.
“Exactly. they didn’t give up. they said, ‘Ah, there must be an explanation,’ and they continued to study. I approach the Bible the same way. It has proven over and over to be accurate, even when I initially thought it wasn’t. Why shouldn’t I give it the benefit of the doubt now? We need to approach the Bible the way an American is treated in court: presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“Critics do the opposite. they denied the Hittites of the Old Testament ever existed. Now archaeologists have found the Hittite library. Critics say, ‘Well, I guess the Bible was right in that verse, but I don’t accept the rest.’ Wait a minute — when it has been proven to be accurate over and over again in hundreds of details, the burden of proof is on the critic, not on the Bible.”
I asked Geisler to briefly describe some of the other principles for resolving apparent conflicts in Scripture…