Agnosticism, Atheism, Christianity, Culture, Faith, God, Religion, Truth

Contradictions Part 1: Introduction

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.

36 thoughts on “Contradictions Part 1: Introduction”

  1. Just wanted you to know that I’m still reading these and check your blog frequently for new posts!! I’m a bit sad that you’re not getting any comments, but maybe that’s a good sign! Keep em coming!!

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  2. Thanks man! I appreciate that. I’ve wondered a little at the comments too, but I do know it’s getting read. I still get several hits/day. So I’ll just keep it up, and if someone has something to add I’m sure they’ll jump in!

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  3. Hey Nate, I also check you blog from time to time. I think you have a talent for clearly expressing what’s involved in issues that raise doubt about the literal truth of Christianity. I check back from time to time in eager anticipation to see what new observations you made. Although i have read many, many, many debates between skeptics and believers i think you have a unique and special clarity that adds something to the usual stale-mate of biased charge and counter charge. People can have strong beliefs on both sides but i hope you don’t mind if i say I find you hold up the skeptical side quite well. What bothers me is when people come across as if reasons for doubt are a minor manner for which there is a clear answer if you just refer to the Christian handbook, the Bible. There are indeed reasonable, rational, and heart felt reasons to doubt and if it were only a minor matter people like yourself would not experience the struggle of trying to make sense of the issues that arise and make one wonder how an absolute all knowing and all powerful God would create a world where our souls often desperately struggle in a murky uncertainty . The entire universe is only a speck to an infinite being such as God, yet he allowed a Bible and his message to be as much cause for doubt as anything else we might consider when trying to find the truth about God or our existence. You wrote in an article about hell something to the effect that if our eternal future depends on our belief about Christianity then it behooves God to make sure we are not stymied by such uncertainties if it will result in eternal damnation. Does anyone doubt that an infinite being could have done an amazing job of speaking to prophets which such amazing clarity that there would never be any question that was not answered in profound clarity. You seem to be a genuine person honestly and intelligently raising questions and I am sorry to hear your former Church and relatives have responded with what amounts to self righteous spiritual snobbery. John Lennon was right, “what the world needs is love”. Christianity has done much good in the world and it’s fair share of harm so religous belief is fine until it starts to hurt people mentally, emotionally, or physically. I wonder how much emotional pain has been dispensed as a result of contradictory or ambigous Bible passages, or anything found in the Bibles pages that make people question it’s rationality or how it could possibly be the thoughts of God. It is mind boggling to imagine the God of the OT who orders the slaughter of the Canaanites and others not to mention other things whether or not the ancient Hewbrews had a primitive worldview which was just the way things were in the ancient near east. Enuff said. I look forward to following your blog.

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  4. Thanks, Tony. I really appreciate your comments; they’re very encouraging. My goal with this blog has always been two-fold: to help me think through issues in order to find truth, and to be able to express my thoughts in a coherent way. It means a lot to me that you think I’ve done well at that so far. I do hope you’ll continue to check in from time to time, and I look forward to any other comments you might have.

    Take care!

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  5. I am reading as much as time allows. I’d comment on all of them, but you already know my standpoint and having little Ark icons all over the show makes me look like a perishing troll.
    But I DO read.

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  6. @ Nate

    “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.” Unquote

    Will you kinldy quote the reference from Quran where it is mentioned? Please

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  7. @ Nate

    if one wants to have a clear picture of Islam then one should base one’s opinion on what is written in Quran as it is the first and the foremost source of guidance of Muslims whatever the denomination; else one’s opinion is wrong and carries little weightage.

    Other sources of any authenticity simply never existed in the time of Muhammad.

    Hadith was written about 250/300 years after Muhammad. All tenets and practices of Islam are amply mentioned in Quran. If there had been no Hadith even then Quran was sufficient for guidance of the Muslims.

    So there is no inconsistency in Islam; for an inconsistency a scholar like you should have base his thoughts on Quran instead of Hadith.

    Please correct yourself in this connection.

    Regards

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  8. Thanks for pointing this out, paarsurrey. I know very little about Islam, so I’ll take your advice and investigate it a bit more.

    Thanks

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  9. I recently read a comment by a Christiian that said the Bible is a meta-physical jigsaw puzzle and quoted Isaiah 28:10 which supposedly refers to interpretiting scripture though a complex logic of relating Bible verses to each other and resoning out what to believe or think about any particular theological viewpoint or meaning of any particular verses in the Bible. Many of us like puzzles and mysteries but with all the different interpretations that Christians have come up with for various things, it seems that God has not been crystal clear on many things, nor does he appear to the world at large or otherwise prevent doubt from being a part of the human experience. I agree, the Bible is often treated by apologists as a meta-physical jigsaw puzzle and i think they very often go way beyond the bounds of reason and make things up for the sake of making things work out. To me, most of it is no better than the method of elaborate conspiracy theorists who are often quite skilled at making the pieces fit, even sound believable except for having at least one fatal flaw in the theory.

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  10. @paarsurrey, “So there is no inconsistency in Islam”

    So did all of Noah’s Sons survive the Great Flood or not ?

    11:42-43
    Noah cried unto his son and he was standing aloof – O my son! Come ride with us, and be not with the disbelievers. He said: I shall betake me to some mountain that will save me from the water. (Noah) said: This day there is none that saveth from the commandment of Allah save him on whom He hath had mercy. And the wave came in between them, so he was among the drowned.
    21:76
    And Noah, when he cried of old, We heard his prayer and saved him and his household from the great affliction.
    37:75-77
    And Noah verily prayed unto Us, and gracious was the Hearer of his prayer. And We saved him and his household from the great distress, And made his seed the survivors.

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  11. Even if there were no inconsistency, that isn’t the same as “divinely inspired,” it’s just a sign of good editing.

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