Growing up, I had always thought that the Bible had no contradictions whatsoever. And to me, this was one of the biggest reasons to believe the Bible was truly inspired by God. After all, in a work this size, mere men would have made some mistakes along the way. So the Bible being without error gave it amazing credibility.
Ironically, this was a belief I was convinced of without ever examining its veracity. I also tended to dismiss people when they would claim the Bible had contradictions. It was obvious to me that God wouldn’t write a book with contradictions, and since he had written the Bible, there could be no contradictions within it. I can now see that this was circular reasoning at its best. And I’m ashamed to say that most of my conviction in that regard was based on what others had told me, not on investigations I had made myself.
Sometimes people mistakenly believe that being confident in a position means that one should never consider the possibility that they’re wrong. This is actually just a sure way of blinding oneself to truth. It’s okay to feel confident about the things we believe – but we should always be willing to consider another point of view. The Bible portrays the Pharisees as being unwilling to question their beliefs, and they are painted as villains because of it.
We should always test our beliefs in order to see if they’re true. Once I realized that, I didn’t ignore the claims of contradictions that I ran across. Instead, I began to examine them with the belief that truth had nothing to fear. In other words, if the Bible was truly inerrant, then no claims to the contrary would be able to stand against it. But as I studied the issues more deeply, I began to see passages that bothered me. There were areas that seemed contradictory, and I didn’t know how to answer them. Often, the explanations I found at places like ApologeticsPress.org seemed far-fetched. There is a difference between explaining something and explaining it away, and most of the “answers” I found seemed to be the latter.
During this time, I was also reminded of an inconsistency in Islam that I had run across. In Islam, it’s taught that when a child is conceived, if the mother’s reproductive fluids are dominant the child will be female, and if the father’s reproductive fluids are dominant the child will be male [src]. Biologically, this is not true. We know that gender is always determined by the father.
That obvious inconsistency was enough for me to decide that the teachings of Islam were not inspired. However, I’m certain that most Muslims are familiar with this teaching and have no problem with it. In fact, I think I could come up with ways to explain it too. I could say that it really means that when female characteristics are dominant the child will be female, and when male characteristics are dominant the child will be male. This is not what the passage says, but it is probably believable to someone who wants to believe Islam. Many of the “answers” I was finding to biblical problems seemed to be believable only to those who wanted to believe in Christianity.
But isn’t this a problem? The gospel is for all (Mark 16:15). Obviously, people who come from different religious backgrounds aren’t going to have enough emotional connection to the gospel to want it to be true – if it’s true, it needs to be obvious. In other words, we should be able to approach the gospel believing that it may or may not be true and still come away convinced. Therefore, even a seeming contradiction should make us wary. And an outright contradiction should convince us that the Bible is not inspired.
In the next post, we’ll begin looking at some of these contradictions.