I was thinking of what the topic of my next post should be when I had an idea. Why not make an offer, on my personal Facebook page, for anyone who knows me to ask any question they would like regarding Christianity or God? If you know me personally, or have read my post you know I am not a biblical scholar of any kind; however, I do have a passion for deepening my relationship with God through better understanding of my Christian trust. I figured worst case scenario I would have to do a tremendous amount of research to answer something deeply complex… which is a good thing really! Well, one of my high school buddies obliged. I have posted each of his questions below, in his words, along with my response. So begins “Ask a Christian Part 1”:
“OK, why does the bible contradict itself?”
James Warner Wallace (a cold-case homicide detective, former atheist, and current Christian Apologist) has a great article about perceived biblical contradictions on his site pleaseconvinceme.com. While I have provided the link to the article in this post I will summarize here as well. Wallace offers 10 principles that are helpful in understanding that perceived contradictions are not actual contradictions:
- Approach the scripture with a fair (i.e. open) attitude. While we (believers and non believers alike) are all biased in one form or another we should read the Bible with as much objectivity as possible.
- Find out what the original said. Wallace explains that while we obviously do not have the original manuscripts, we have very accurate translations. We should check out the various translations to get a full understanding of the intent of a passage.
- Find out what a particular verse or piece of scripture means by understanding the context, and additional biblical references. We get a lot of twisted scripture (scripture taken out of context, and its meaning altered) by folks unwilling to go the extra mile on this.
- Imprecise does not equal wrong. Yes, the Bible rounds some numbers… just like nobody actually waited in line at Wal-Mart for like a million years!
- Quotes are not meant to be verbatim. Oftentimes the author is just indicating that someone referenced a specific part of the Old Testament.
- Multiple perspectives do not equal contradiction. The various books of the bible were written by a variety of individuals respectively. Perspectives may vary slightly, but the facts remain the same.
- Though divinely inspired, the Bible was written by earthly people, so common language is used.
- Just because the Bible describes something, it doesn’t meant that God approves it. the Bible is actually quite clear about the types of human behavior God commands.
- Don’t sweat the copyist errors. Wallace explains his point by explaining 2 Samuel 8:3-4 states David took 700 horsemen, while 1 Chronicles 18:3-4 states David took 7,000 horsemen. Really though, how important is this piece?
- God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and perfectly good. Only He is in a position to make decisions such as those described in the Old Testament.
I would be happy to address any specific perceived contradictions to the best of my ability, but I thought J. Wallace’s (thank you to J. Warner Wallace for doing all of the heavy lifting on this one) article gave a nice summary of why the Bible is non-contradictory.
“Why are the people who live by the bible the ones quickest to judge. Isn’t that a sin?”
OK, we have a two part-er here. I am going to start with the second part first.
2 Timothy 4:1-2 states:
1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
As Christians we are called to judge… especially fellow Christians! However, we are also warned not to criticize the sins of others when we are committing the very same sins, or worse! This is why Jesus said:
You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:5 ESV)
With that said, I would assume my friend is referring to those who are calling themselves “Christians”, but not actually living the life of a Christian. Thus, we have one of the top “reasons” (i.e. excuses) why people do not go to church. The truth of the matter is we are all imperfect sinners. Regardless of your worldview you will be able to find folks who fail to see the proverbial log in their own eye. You will see this in a far lesser degree from true Christians.
“What’s with the fish? What is that a symbol for?”
Elesha Coffman wrote a decent article on this topic at christianitytoday.com. Coffman explains the fish symbol has theological overtones, such as when Jesus fed the 5,000 with 2 fish and five loaves of bread. Coffman goes on to further explain the following (which I believe is the reason the fish symbol took off like it did):
Greeks, Romans, and many other pagans used the fish symbol before Christians. Hence the fish, unlike, say, the cross, attracted little suspicion, making it a perfect secret symbol for persecuted believers. When threatened by Romans in the first centuries after Christ, Christians used the fish mark meeting places and tombs, or to distinguish friends from foes. According to one ancient story, when a Christian met a stranger in the road, the Christian sometimes drew one arc of the simple fish outline in the dirt. If the stranger drew the other arc, both believers knew they were in good company. Current bumper-sticker and business-card uses of the fish hearken back to this practice.
Pretty interesting really.
That is all of the questions my buddy had for me. Hopefully this shed some light on the questions he posed. As always, I am up for further discussion on any of the above topics. I hope that others will follow suit, and post some additional questions for me. If so, I look forward to writing Ask a Christian Part 2! Until then I remain…