50 Bible “contradictions” answered

There are many reasons people abandon the idea of Christianity and slip into the world of atheism, with things like hypocrisy in the church, gay marriage and the often supposed gap between “real” science and religion being the most popular. The problem of contradictions in the Bible is probably more common than the rest however, and it’s of intense interest to both believers and atheists alike, for which Christians spend an unnatural amount of time both debunking and explaining away the appearance of discrepancies within the many ancient books of the Bible. Still before people begin explaining these often bogus contradictions, they ought to remind themselves that the great contradiction debate doesn’t prove or disprove the existence of God, nor is it of any bearing to the core of the gospel message, about which both secular and religious scholars agree. In fact, the differences from Bible writers only adds to their trustworthiness. Lee Strobel in his The Case for Christ book put it like so:

Sometimes while covering criminal trials, I’ve seen two witnesses give the exact same testimony, down to the nitty-gritty details, only to find themselves ripped apart by the defense attorney for having colluded before the trial….I suppose if all four gospels were identical in all their minutiae, that would have raised the suspicion of plagiarism.

Nevertheless, to this day believers and atheists still confuse Biblical inerrancy with other issues like the fact of the empty tomb or the existence of God, they believe by undermining material which seemingly differs between the texts of the Bible they may then dismiss the entire body of literary evidence. It’s certainly a strange conclusion for the atheist to come to, since if only one of the gospels were correct at their core narrative, not even including their secondary details, the story of Jesus would be confirmed! Which would simply mean their fight was with the cannon, so their problem would end up being with what we called holy, not that there really was something holy out there. With that written however, it’s time to show how much of what the secular world call contradiction is simply built on their misunderstanding of the text, and all it takes to clear their issues up is some clear instruction. This doesn’t mean the explanation need be extravagant or complected, they’re actually the worst of the explanations, rather a good explanation of the text is based within the text itself, thus explaining and repairing what appears a contradiction normally involves reading the surrounding material and gaining a better grasp of what the writer intended. Let’s see this done therefore with fifty contradictions answered, as it was originally written by Andrew Tong, Michael J. Bumbulis, Mary Anna White, Russ Smith, and I imagine many many others.

 

― T. C. M


 

Answers to Biblical Contradictions, 1-10

1. God is satisfied with his works

“God saw all that he made, and it was very good.” [Gen 1:31]

God is dissatisfied with his works.

“The Lord was grieved that he had made man on earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” [Gen 6:6]

This is an obvious case of both/and, for something occurred after Gen 1:31 and before Gen 6:6, namely, the Fall. Evil entered creation as a result of man’s volition. One can argue the theological implications elsewhere, as the only relevant point is that this is not an obvious contradiction. When God created, all was good. After man rebelled, God grieved.

2. God dwells in chosen temples

“the LORD appeared to him at night and said: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple of sacrifices…..I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.” [2 Chr 7:12,16]

God dwells not in temples

“However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men.” [Acts 7:48]

I fail to see the contradiction here. The claim that “my eyes and heart will always be there” appears to mean nothing more to me than the fact that the LORD would pay special attention to the temple and have a special affinity for it; the LORD would reveal Himself to His people through the temple. Stephen’s speech in Acts merely highlights the transcendence of God. Put simply, if you put these together you arrive at the following truth – God is transcendent, yet He reveals Himself where He will.

3. God dwells in light

“who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light whom no one has seen or can see.” [1 Tim 6:16]

God dwells in darkness

“Then spake Solomon. The Lord said that he would dwell in the thick darkness” [1 Kings 8:12]

“He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.” [Ps 18:11]

“Clouds and darkness are round about him.” [Ps 97:2]

The first thing I would point out is these are likely to be metaphors and it would seem unwise to take such language too literally when describing God. But what could such seemingly contradictory metaphors convey? Note that in both cases there is the theme of the unsearchableness of God. That is, the light is unapproachable and the darkness is thick and covers a secret place. Thus, these verses could actually be teaching the same thing – simply that God is unapproachable.

One could also note that Paul’s account is quite optimistic following from a consideration of Christ. Prior to the Incarnation, there was indeed a certain darkness associated with the hidden God. But the eyes of the blind have been opened!

Or it could be said that the verses in 1 Kings and Psalms need be nothing more than a description of God perceived through the memory of His interation with His people described in Exodus19:9.

4. God is seen and heard [Ex 33:23 / Ex 33:11 / Gen 3:9,10 / Gen 32:30 / Is 6:1 / Ex 24:9-11]

God is invisible and cannot be heard [John 1:18 / John 5:37 / Ex 33:20 / 1 Tim 6:16]

These “contradictions” are easily resolved if one accepts the Trinitarian view of God. Allow me to repost a reply which addressed a similar point, and in doing so, resolves this contradiction….

In a previous post, someone attempts to discredit the deity of Christ by appealing to John 1:18:

“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” (KJV)

He notes:

“If no man has seen God, then logically Jesus was not God, since there is no secular record of an outbreak of sightlessness in Judea in Jesus’ time”.

How shall the Christian respond? Well, let’s consider the statement that “No man hath seen God.” Consider the following verses from the Old Testament (OT):

Sarai says “You are the God who sees me,” for she said,
“I have now seen the One who sees me” (Gen 16:13)

“So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” (Gen 32:30)

“Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel.” (Ex 24: 9-10)

“they saw God” (Ex 24:11)

“We have seen God!” (Judges 13:22) Now while this person’s logic seems to rule out that Jesus was God, it also means that the Bible contains a very significant contradiction. If no one has seen God, how is it that Sarai, Jacob, Moses et al, and Monoah and his wife are said to have seen God?

Actually, this is a problem only for those who deny the deity of Christ while claiming to follow the teachings of the Bible. Let’s look again at John 1:18:

“No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only (or Only Begotten), who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”

I think it is clear that John is speaking of the Father as the one who has not been seen. To paraphrase it, “No one has ever seen God, but the Son, who is at His side, has made Him known”. This interpretation not only seems to follow naturally from this verse, but is also quite consistent with the Logos doctrine taught in John 1. Recall, it is the Logos who mediates between God and man, and who reveals God to man. Jesus would later say, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Prior to the Incarnation of the Son, no one had seen the Father, for it is through the Son that the Father is revealed.

So for the Trinitarian, there is no Bible contradiction. No one ever saw God the Father, and what Sarai, Jacob, Moses, etc saw was God the Son. This can be seen from many perspectives, but let’s simply consider one from Isaiah 6. Isaiah “saw the Lord” (v 1). Seraphs were praising the “Lord Almighty” (v 3). Isaiah is overwhelmed and responds, “Woe to me, I am ruined. For I am a man of unclean lips [this rules him out as the servant in Isaiah 53], and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (v 5). Later, we read:

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (vs. 8).

Again, the plurality of God is implied. Isaiah asks God to send him, and then God gave him a message to preach.

Now it’s time to jump to John 12:37-41. John claims that the peoples failure to believe in Jesus was a fulfillment of these teachings Isaiah received from the Lord in Isaiah 6. Then note verse 41.

“Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him”.

Here is a clear example where John equates Jesus with the Lord Almighty seen by Isaiah! This all fits together beautifully. Isaiah sees the Lord Almighty, yet he sees Jesus’ glory. Jesus speaks as a plural being (who will go for US). It is the Son who is seen, not the Father.

Thus, John 1:18 does not mean that Jesus was not God, it only means He is not the Father. This verse presents no problems for the Trinitarian, and in fact, when studied, serves as a great launching point for finding Christ in the OT. Prior to the Logos dwelling amongst us and revealing the Father to us, no one had seen the Father. But because of the Incarnation, we can now cry, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15) and “Our Father who art in heaven”! Those who see the Son can see the Father.

5. God is tired and rests

“In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.” [Ex 31:17]

God is never tired and never rests

“The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary.” [Is 40:28]

According to Haley, and many others, the term “rested and was refreshed’ is simply a vivid Oriental way of saying that God ceased from the work of creation and took delight in surveying the work.

6. God is everywhere present, sees and knows all things [Prov 15:3 / Ps 139:7-10 / Job 34:22,21]

God is not everywhere present, neither sees nor knows all things

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” [Gen 3:8]

“But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that men were building.” [Gen 11:5]

“The the LORD said, ‘The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sins so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” [Gen 18:20-21] I accept the teaching that God is everywhere present and sees and knows all things. So let’s consider the instances in Genesis that are cited:

Gen 3:8 – “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”

Let’s also add the next verse to strengthen the critics case: “But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

How could one hide from God? Why does God need to ask this question?

First, what Adam and Eve could have hid from is merely the visible and special manifestation of the Lord. As for God’s seeming ignorance, anyone with children can recognize the utility of such questions. If a child is known to have broken a lamp, it is better to question the child than to simply accuse her. The former approach enables the child to take an active role in her wrong-doing, and allows for her to apologize. Note that God asked several questions:

“Where are you?….Who told you that you were naked?….Have you eaten of the fruit of the tree?”

Note the response. Instead of begging for mercy and confessing their sins, both the man and woman justified themselves and sought to put the blame on another. So typically human! By asking these questions, God enabled the man and woman to either freely repent or to firmly establish their sinfulness. Thus, while the critic thinks these are questions demonstrating ignorance, such an interpretation can be easily dismissed in light of the above considerations. What of the others?

“But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that men were building.” [Gen 11:5]

“The the LORD said, ‘The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sins so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” [Gen 18:20-21] These look like common human notions of someone coming down to check out what is going on. And perhaps, that’s how the writer of these accounts understood God. But perhaps there is also another layer to the account. Obviously, it teaches God’s transcendence. But it also demonstrates God’s interest. He is not an aloof sky-god. And he doesn’t watch from afar. He gets right down into human history.

But there is more. Maimonides once noted that just as the word ‘ascend’, when applied to the mind, implies noble and elevated objects, the word ‘descend’ implies turning one’s mind to things of lowly and unworthy character. Thus, God is not “coming down” in a physical sense, but in a “mental” sense, where he turns his attention to the sinful activity of men and invokes judgment. Of course, it is hard to describe God in human language, but I think the above account is not unreasonable.

Since these supposed contradictions depend on a particular interpretation which is (or at the very least may be) in error, no contradiction has been established.

7. God knows the hearts of men [Acts 1:24 / Ps 139:2,3]

God tries men to find out what is in their heart

“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God.” [Gen 22:12]

“Remember how the LORD your God lead you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and test you in order to know what was in your hearts.” [Deut 8:2]

“The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.” [Deut 13:3] We’ll assume that God knows the hearts of men, so let us determine if the above three verses are necessarily contradictions.

Could it be that these three instances simply serve to reveal and verify to man that which is already known by God? Anyone who has ever had a college chemistry course can probably relate to the following. A chemistry professor comes into class, and says, “I will now add acetic acid to this compound to see what happens.” The professor already knows what will happen! After the experiment, he might even add, “I now know that such and such results will occur after adding the acid.” Here he is simply putting himself in the place of the class, and speaking for them.

What the three verses could be showing is that once again, God is not some aloof sky-god who merely dictates. Instead, he relates. By asking questions, by claiming to have found something, he relates and allows man to play an active, not passive, role in the relationship. For example, Abraham now knew that God knew his heart. And he also knew God’s knowledge was true in light of the ‘test’ that he just went through.

In this supposed contradiction, along with the one immediately prior, the critic perceives ignorance on the part of God because of a belief that an omniscient God ought to dictate. Why can’t an omniscient God refrain from dictating, and simply relate in a way which intimately involves humanity?

8. God is all powerful [Jer 32:27 / Matt 19:26]

God is not all powerful

“The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots.” [Judg 1:19]

This is obviously not a contradiction. John Baskette notes that the critic is “reading the verse as saying that the LORD … he … could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley.” He adds: “This is an egregiously bad misreading of the text. The ‘he’ is Judah! not the LORD. That should be obvious to even the most obtuse objector.”

9. God is unchangeable [James 1:17 / Mal 3:6 / Ezek 24:14 / Num 23:19]

God is changeable [Gen 6:6 / Jonah 3:10 / 1 Sam 2:30,31 / 2 Kings 20:1,4,5,6 / Ex 33:1,3,17,14]

Once again, these purported contradictions all presuppose some platonic-type sky god. Christianity has always believed that God is a God who relates and who is personal. And whenever there is a personal relationship, there is a dynamic. And dynamics can involve both immutability and change. Whenever you have a personal dynamic, when one person changes, the other responds in a way which reflects this change. But all is not relative. If God’s essence is immutable, then He is the standard by which such change is understood.

For example, imagine you are in a field standing next to a tree. As you walk around the tree, you may end up north of the tree (and the tree is south of you). If you continue walking, such a relative relationship changes, so that you might find yourself south of the tree (and the tree is north of you). In the same way, our behavior towards God is like walking around the tree. Depending upon what we do, God is in a different relationship with us.

Let’s consider a better analogy. A man and a wife are in a happy marriage. The man commits adultery, and the wife becomes unhappy. Has the wife changed in a significant manner? Not really. Her change is a function of what her husband did, and reflects the immutability of her belief that infidelity is wrong.

In the purported contradictions, we have a set of Scriptures which speak of God’s essence – it is unchangeable. The other set deal with God’s relationships with men (they don’t abstractly speak of God’s essence). Thus, as the above analogies show, there need be no contradiction.

10. God is just and impartial

“To declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock and there is no unrighteousness in him.” [Ps 92:15]

“Far be it from Thee to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from Thee! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” [Gen 18:25]

“The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.” [Deut 32:4]

“Yet you say, “The way of the LORD is not right.” Here now, O house of Israel! Is My way not right? Is it not your ways that are not right?” [Ezek 18:25]

“For there is no partiality with God.” [Rom 2:11]

God is unjust and partial

“So he said, Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants He shall be to his brothers.” [Gen 9:25]

“You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers in the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me.” [Ex 20:5]

“for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” [Rom 9:11-13]

“For whoever has, to him shall more be given, and he shall have in abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken from him.” [Mt 13:12] The first set is as follows:

“To declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock and there is no unrighteousness in him.” [Ps 92:15] = Basic Teaching (BT) — God is righteous

“Far be it from Thee to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from Thee! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” [Gen 18:25] = (BT) — God does not condemn the righteous with the wicked.

“The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.” [Deut 32:4] = (BT) — God is righteous

“Yet you say, “The way of the LORD is not right.” Here now, O house of Israel! Is My way not right? Is it not your ways that are not right?” [Ezek 18:25] = (BT) — God’s ways are right, the ways of Israel, when the prophet spoke, were not.

“For there is no partiality with God.” [Rom 2:11] = (BT) — God is impartial. However, it seems clear from the context that we are talking about God being impartial when it comes salvation being offered to both Jew and Gentile. Thus, the verses cited below could only be contradictory if they teach that Christ’s atonement was only for the Jews or Gentiles. Since they don’t, we need only consider if God is unrighteous in any of them.

The second set is as follows:

“So he said, Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants He shall be to his brothers.” [Gen 9:25] Here, one must read a contradiction into the teachings as it is unclear whether Noah’s curse would make God “unrighteous.”

“You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers in the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me.” [Ex 20:5] The following verse notes that loving-kindness extends to thousands of generations of those who love God. This leads me to believe this verse is hyperbolic and thus difficult to make into a contradiction. For example, is God really unrighteous for bestowing blessings for a thousand generations, yet visiting iniquity for ONLY three or four generations? The thrust seems to run in the other direction. Whether or not one views this as “unrighteous” is a function of their ethics, and thus the “contradiction” is read into the scripture. (BTW, I would note, however, that sinful behavior is often transmitted in families. For example, the son of an alcoholic is often an alcoholic himself.)

Mary Anna responds to another related “contradiction” which is also relevant here:

Are children punished for the sins of the parents?

Exo. 20:5 tells us that God is to be feared, as He has the ability to visit the sins of the fathers on the children.

Ezek. 18:20 tells us this will not happen if the children repent and turn away from the ways of their fathers. Not a contradiction.

“for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” [Rom 9:11-13] Again, I view that “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” as a hyperbole which indicates that God simply favored Esau. This is not a clear case of unrighteousness.

“For whoever has, to him shall more be given, and he shall have in abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken from him.” [Mt 13:12] I view this as a proverbial way of saying that he who improves upon the gifts that he receives will receive more, but he who does not improve upon them (i.e., neglects or takes them for granted) shall have them removed. I find this the very opposite of unrighteousness.

Answers to Biblical Contradictions, 11-20

11. God is the author of evil

“Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?” [Lam 3:38]

“Now therefore say to the people of Judah that those living in Jerusalem, ‘This is what the LORD says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan for against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and actions.” [Jer 18:11]

“I form light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I the LORD, do all these things.” [Is 45:7]

“I also gave them over to statues that were not good and laws they could not live by.” [Ez 20:25]

“When a trumpet sounds in a city, do not people tremble? When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it? [Amos 3:6]

God is not the author of evil [1 Cor 14:33 / Deut 32:4 / James 1:13]

Now, in Deut 32:4, we read that God is just. None of the above verses teach that God is unjust. Paul is speaking about God in the context of Church gatherings – that in such gatherings, God is a God of peace, not confusion. None of the above verses speak of such Church gatherings. James teaches that God does not tempt anyone with evil. None of the above verses teach that God tempts with evil. (I think Ez 20:25 is best understood in light of Romans 1). Thus, no obvious contradictions in this set.

12. God gives freely to those who ask [James 1:5 / Luke 11:10]

God withholds his blessings and prevents men from receiving them [John 12:40 / Josh 11:20 / Is 63:17]

Joshua 11:20 says nothing about some asking, and God refusing to give. Is 63:17 says nothing about someone asking, and God refusing to give. John 12:40 says nothing about someone asking, and God refusing to give. In these three verses, it is mentioned that God “hardened the hearts” of someone. If someone never asked, and will never truly ask, it is not a contradiction to harden one’s heart, yet give to those who DO ask.

13. God is to be found by those who seek him [Matt 7:8 / Prov 8:17]

God is not to be found by those who seek him [Prov 1:28]

“Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but they shall not find me.” [Pr 1:28]

Here, the context has been ignored. First of all, it is wisdom which is speaking. Those who laugh, scoff, and refuse wisdom are not going to magically find it when calamity strikes. If one wishes to identify wisdom with God, the same principle holds – those who scoff, reject, and laugh at God are not going to find God when calamity strikes. After all, if they look, they look through the filters of selfishness (i.e., “save my butt”). Instead of calling on God or looking for God, they should be repenting. But those who live a life of scorning God are not those who repent when disaster strikes. Thus, no contradiction.

14. God is warlike [Ex 15:3 / Is 51:15]

God is peaceful [Rom 15:33 / 1 Cor 14:33]

“The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name.” [Ex 15:3]

(Is 51:15 has nothing to do with war)

“The God of peace be with you all. Amen” [Rom 15:33]

“For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace.” [1 Cor 14:33]

It seems clear that God reveals Himself as a God of Battles in much of the OT. So what of these NT teachings? This “contradiction” is premised on equivocation, where the NT references to peace are interpreted to be the antonym of war, when this is obviously not the case. In Romans, Paul seems to be speaking of peace in a subjective, existential sense — a relationship with God brings a sense of peace. In Corinthians, Paul is speaking about the activity of Church congregations — they should be orderly and peaceful, not full of confusion and contention. No obvious contradiction here.

15. God is cruel, unmerciful, destructive, and ferocious [Jer 13:14 / Deut 7:16 / 1 Sam 15:2,3 / 1 Sam 6:19]

God is kind, merciful, and good [James 5:11 / Lam 3:33 / 1 Chron 16:34 / Ezek 18:32 / Ps 145:9 / 1 Tim 2:4 / 1 John 4:16 / Ps 25:8]

The first set of scriptures say nothing about God being cruel (this is a subjective call). They deal simply and bluntly with God’s judgment. Thus, we have a both/and situation here. Yes, God is merciful and full of compassion. Yet, those who reject his mercy and compassion will find that His judgment in unrelenting and ferocious — that is His nature.

16. God’s anger is fierce and endures long [Num 32:13 / Num 25:4 / Jer 17:4]

God’s anger is slow and endures but for a minute [Ps 103:8 / Ps 30:5]

The verse in Numbers and Jeremiah do not teach some general truth that “God’s anger is fierce and endures long.” This is the critic’s personal interpretation. In Jeremiah, in RESPONSE to Judah’s great sin, God’s anger is kindled (which itself, implies that it is slow to occur) and will “burn forever.” I view this as a hyperbole (like “walking a thousand miles”). Put simply, God’s anger against Judah would endure long. In Num 32, God’s anger burned against Israel because of their sin and he made them wander in the desert 40 years. In Num 25, we read that God had Moses slay those who sought to contaminate the Jews with pagan ideals in order that his fierce anger may turn away from Israel. Since there is no contradiction between a fierce anger, and an anger slow to rise, this is an irrelevant verse.

So let’s focus on duration. Above, we saw that God’s anger lasted long (in human terms) in SPECIFIC cases as the RESULT of sinful behavior. What of the Psalms? First, let’s keep in mind that we have now entered the territory of another genre – poetry. As such, it’s going to be hard to make an unequivocal contradiction. Anyway, in Ps 103, we simply note that God is slow to anger. Nothing in Jer or Num contradicts this. In Ps 30:5, it appears as if David is speaking from his personal experience with God in saying that God’s anger lasts only a moment. And what is a ‘moment’ in poetical terms anyway? And could this teaching be yet one more proverbial way of saying that God is far more gracious than angry? That is, when all is said and done, what is revealed is a God who is slow to anger, quick to forgive, yet who can indeed demonstrate a fierce anger when provoked by great or ubiquitous sin. I see no obvious contradiction here.

17. God commands, approves of, and delights in burnt offerings, sacrifices, and holy days [Ex 29:36 / Lev 23:27 / Ex 29:18 / Lev 1:9]

God disapproves of and has no pleasure in burnt offerings, sacrifices, and holy days [Jer 7:22 / Jer 6:20 / Ps 50:13,4 / Is 1:13,11,12]

The first set of Scriptures explains where God institutes sacrifices, etc., among Israel. Nothing in the second set contradicts this. In Jer 7:22, we read, “I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices,” The author of this supposed contradiction conveniently left out the next verse: ” but I gave them this command: “Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people.” This is obviously not a disapproval of burnt offerings, but a disapproval on emphasizing such offerings to the exclusion of obedience in all areas. Jer 6:20 speaks of the incense in Sheba, hardly contradicting the first set. The verse in Psalms is lifted out of context, as the LORD clearly says, “I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices.” (Ps 50:8). The verses in Isaiah are also lifted out of context. God rebukes the people for the sacrifices because they represent religious hypocrisy. Is 1:15-17 clearly demonstrate this.

18. God accepts human sacrifices [2 Sam 21:8,9,14 / Gen 22:2 / Judg 11:30-32,34,38,39]

God forbids human sacrifice [Deut 12:30,31]

The account in Gen 22:2 has been the subject of a great wealth of religious speculation, but the fact remains that Isaac was not sacrificed. The account in 2 Sam is misnamed as a “human sacrifice.” It looks far more like an execution carried out by the Gibeonites because Saul had previously persecuted them. The verses in Judges do not obviously indicate that Jephthah offered his daughter as a “human sacrifice” and if He did, there is no indication that God “accepted it.” No contradictions here.

19. God tempts men [Gen 22:1 / 2 Sam 24:1 / Jer 20:7 / Matt 6:13]

God tempts no man [James 1:13]

Gen 22 refers to testing; 2 Sam says nothing about God tempting; In Jer 20, the prophet Jeremiah is simply complaining. Just because in a moment of desperation, he accuses God of deceiving him, does not mean that God DID deceive him. Mt 6:13 is part of the Lord’s prayer, “lead us not into temptation.” The prayer simply inquires of God that helps us keep our distance from temptation (hardly an example of God tempting men!). The only possible hope of a contradiction in this set is to equate testing with temptation. But is testing identical to tempting? For example, let’s say God wants to test someone’s honesty and puts them in a room with a lost wallet. Is this tempting? I think not. To truly tempt, God would have to whisper, “Pick it up, keep it, no one will know, etc.” No clear contradictions here.

20. God cannot lie [Heb 6:18]

God lies by proxy; he sends forth lying spirits to deceive [2 Thes 2:11 / 1 Kings 22:23 / Ezek 14:9]

In this case, we need not even consider the scriptures. As “sending forth lying spirits” is not the same as actually lying yourself.

But, Mary Anna White notes:

1 Kings 22:21-22 Lying spirit — Here, of course, God does not lie directly nor approve of nor sanction man’s lying. One could argue that all that happens on earth is permitted by God — He could stop it if He saw fit. He even permitted Satan to cause Job to suffer — a much more interesting case. But that does not mean that He is the source of all such things. They just afford Him opportunities, as here, to accomplish what He is after. As they are useful to Him, He permits them to continue for a season. Like Judas. Eventually, those instruments no longer useful, all such spirits and men will be judged by being cast into the eternal lake of fire. That is neither approval nor sanction, but merely proof of God’s sovereignty. –MAW

The basic point is that by allowing the spirit to lie, God is not Himself lying. After all, God allows us all to lie, but He is not a liar for allowing us to lie.

Answers to Biblical Contradictions, 21-30

21. Because of man’s wickedness God destroys him [Gen 6:5,7]

Because of man’s wickedness God will not destroy him [Gen 8:21]

This is only a contradiction because the critic interprets it as so. Does Genesis 8:21 say that God will not destroy man because he is wicked? Not really. For God says that he will never again curse the ground, even though man’s heart is evil (NIV). Furthermore, cursing the ground does not necessarily mean the same thing as destroying man, now does it?

22. God’s attributes are revealed in his works [Rom 1:20]

God’s attributes cannot be discovered [Job 11:7 / Is 40:28]

Romans 1:20 simply notes that Creation points to the Creator – a divine being of great power. Job 11:7 points out that we can never fully grasp the divine, it does NOT say that God cannot be inferred from nature. Is 40:28 notes that we can never hope to fully scrutinize the understanding of God. None of this is contradictory.

23. There is but one God [Deut 6:4]

There is a plurality of gods [Gen 1:26 / Gen 3:22 / Gen 18:1-3 / 1 John 5:7]

This, of course, would lead us to a discussion of the Trinity, something that is beyond the scope of this article. Trinitarian theology is a classic example of “both/and” thinking. Besides, what of Deut 6:4?

Deut. 6:4 reads, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”

Now it is important to note that the Hebrew word used for ‘one’ is NOT yahid, which denotes absolute singularity elsewhere in the OT. Instead, Moses chose the Hebrew word ehad, which signifies unity and oneness in plurality. This word is used in Gen 2:24 where Adam and Eve are instructed to become “one flesh”. It’s also found in Numbers 13:23, where the Hebrew spies returned with a “single cluster” of grapes. So Deut 6:4 actually supports the concept of the Trinity, by noting that God is “oneness in plurality” (composite unity). The same word which describes the oneness of a marriage relationship is also used to describe God’s essence!

24. Robbery commanded [Ex 3:21,22 / Ex 12:35,36]

Robbery forbidden [Lev 19:13 / Ex 20:15]

It’s not at all obvious that you can refer to the instances in Ex 3, 12 as “robbery.” When African-Americans demand recompensation for their history of slavery, are they demanding to rob white people? Thus, these are not obvious examples of God commanding robbery. Besides, in Ex. 3 and 12, the Israelites asked the Egyptians for goods.

25. Lying approved and sanctioned [Josh 2:4-6 / James 2:25 / Ex 1:18-20 / 1 Kings 22:21,22]

Lying forbidden [Ex 20:16 / Prov 12:22 / Rev 21:8]

Rev speaks of all liars being cast into the lake of fire. Since the first set of scriptures do not say otherwise, we can dismiss this one. Proverbs speaks of lying as an abomination. Since the first set of scriptures do not say lying is not an abomination, we can dismiss this one. The verse in Ex is one of the Ten Commandments.

It’s not obvious to me that lying is approved of in the above situations. Concerning Rahab (Josh 2:4-6), James says, “the harlot was justified by works, when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way” (James 2:25). Her act of saving the lives of these men is what is approved of. The same goes for Ex 1, where the midwives refuse to kill the male infants which were birthed. As for 1 King 22:21-22, once again it is unclear if lying is truly approved of. According to one Bible scholar:

“The whole declaration of Micaiah…is a figurative and poetical description of a vision that he had seen. Putting aside its rhetorical drapery, the gist of the whole passage is that God for judicial purposes suffered Ahab to be fatally deceived.”

Another scholar says:

“Because Ahab had abandoned the Lord his God and hardened his own heart, God allowed his ruin by the very instrument Ahab had sought to prostitute for his own purposes, namely, prophecy. God used the false declarations of the false prophets that Ahab was so enamored with as his instruments of judgment.”

Since it is unclear that God truly approves of lying in this case, the contradiction is not established.

26. Hatred to the Edomite sanctioned [2 Kings 14:7,3]

Hatred to the Edomite forbidden [Deut 23:7]

The account in Deut indeed forbids hatred against the Edomite. Does the account in 2 Kings sanction it? Not at all. It merely mentions that Amaziah slew many Edomites. And while hatred can be part of warfare, it need not be. And since the account in 2 Kings doesn’t even mention hatred of the Edomites, this is obviously a concocted contradiction.

27. Killing commanded [Ex 32:27]

Killing forbidden [Ex 20:13]

Ex 20:13 reads, “You shall not murder.” Not all killing is murder.

28. The blood-shedder must die [Gen 9:5,6]

The blood-shedder must not die [Gen 4:15]

Gen 4:15 makes no such generalization. It is specific to Cain. This is an example where the critic takes an incident and transforms it into an absolute principle. Besides, the covenant in Gen 9 was made with Noah, who existed much later than did Cain.

29. The making of images forbidden [Ex 20:4]

The making of images commanded [Ex 25:18,20]

Ex 20:4 states than one should not make idols and bow down and worship them. The cherubims in Ex 25 are not idols, nor were they worshipped.

30. Slavery and oppression ordained [Gen 9:25 / Lev 25:45,46 / Joel 3:8]

Slavery and oppression forbidden [Is 58:6 / Ex 22:21 / Ex 21:16 / Matt 23:10]

Slavery and oppression (two different things in the Bible)

Gen. 9:25 Canaan is punished, sentenced to be a bondsman. (slave) This is a punishment by God upon Ham through the mouth of his father Noah for his rebellious insubordination and disregard for God’s authority on earth at that time – his father. He could have been killed for this, but instead he was merely told that some of his descendents would be slaves. This is not a condoning of oppression, but a prophecy that such a judgment would indeed be carried out. (Ones who died for rebellion include Korah and Absalom; Miriam was judged with a case of leprosy for a few days.) This verse says nothing to those who would be the slave owners as to whether their action is condoned or not.

Lev. 25:45 It’s ok to buy a stranger for a bondsman/woman if someone sells him/her to you, as long as it’s not a fellow Israelite.

Joel 3:8 God punishes Tyre (?) by selling the people to the Israelites as slaves and then selling them to the Sabeans.

Still no mention of condoning oppression.

Isa. 58:6 mentions a particular fast to Jehovah as a breaking of every yoke. Surely that cannot refer to (include) the yoke on the oxen, so there is some limitation to which yokes are broken. Some yokes are forbidden – i.e. yoking a fellow Israelite- and are undoubtedly included. The case of a foreign slave could be argued either way and hence this verse is not a clear contradiction of any of the above.

Exod. 22:21 Not permitted to vex or oppress strangers. Does not say, not permitted to buy them.

Exod. 21:16 Not permitted to steal and sell people. Does not say, not permitted to buy and sell them.

Matt. 23:10 is irrelevant. It says, “Neither be called instructors, because One is your Instructor, the Christ.” (RV). Footnote: “Or, guides, teachers, directors.” This section is talking about how we address fellow believers. It earlier says to call no one “father.” Obviously it is talking here about differentiating among believers by bestowing titles of honor. These titles should be reserved for God alone, not bestowed on men. But our physical father is still our father, our school teachers are still our teachers, and our masters, if we are slaves, are still our masters and are to be called such if they so demand. The President is still the President, etc. We are admonished in the Bible to show honor to those in authority over us in our families, in the government, etc. –MAW

Gen 9:25 has Noah stating that Canaan will be the servant of Japheth. This does not necessarily read as the ordination of “slavery and oppression” by God. The verses in Lev refer to a mild form of servitude. Joel simply threatens captivity as a punishment for sin. None of these verses unequivocally ordain “slavery and oppression.”

On the other hand, the verses in Isaiah and Exodus do forbid truly oppressive behavior. The verse in Mt. is irrelevant to this subject.

Answers to Biblical Contradictions, 31-40

31. Improvidence enjoyed [Matt 6:28,31,34 / Luke 6:30,35 / Luke 12:3]

Improvidence condemned [1 Tim 5:8 / Prov 13:22]

I believe that this is a case of both/and, as neither extreme is good. These teachings serve to balance each other.

Mary Anna observes:

“Improvidence enjoyed”

Matt. 6:28, 31, 34 — these verses tell us not to be anxious. They don’t tell us not to work for our living.

Luke 6:31-35 tell us to give to those that ask, and to lend without expecting any return. This again is not telling us not to provide for our own needs. If we didn’t have it in the first place we wouldn’t be able to give or lend it. And it doesn’t say that the borrowers or askers are approved by God. The reward mentioned here goes to the givers, not to the takers. This is made obvious by verse 29, which says to turn the cheek to those who smite it. Clearly the Bible is not meaning that we are supposed to go around slapping people in the face.

Luke 12:3 says “Therefore what you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in the private rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.” What this has to do with improvidence, I have no idea, unless it is meant as an example of condoning of eavesdropping and gossip. That would be a really strange inter- pretation of this verse, looking at the context.

“Improvidence condemned”

1 Tim. 5:8 says we must provide for our own. (Doesn’t say we need to be full of anxiety, just do it.)

Proverbs 13:22 – a good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children…. Yup. –MAW

32. Anger approved

“In your anger do not sin: do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” [Eph 4:26]

Anger disapproved [Eccl 7:9 / Prov 22:24 / James 1:20]

I do not view Paul’s admonitions as being approving of anger. In fact, the advice about not allowing the day to end while you are angry is anything but an approval of anger. P adds: the context of Eph 4:31 says explicitly to “let all….anger…be put away from you…” Also there is a difference between the KJV and NIV in Matthew 5:22.

The KJV reads “whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” (Matt 5:22)

The NIV (NU-text) is missing the phrase “without a cause.” So when the NIV says Christ was “angry” (Mark 3:5) some (e.g. KJV only folks) say Christ would be sinning.

Let’s see if this makes sense. Please read the rest of Matthew 5:22 in the KJV — “whosoever shall say, Thou FOOL, shall be in danger of hell fire.” Notice the phrase “without a cause” is missing here. IOW, it doesn’t say “whosoever shall say, Thou fool, without a cause….” it simply reads “thou FOOL.” Next we look at what Christ said to the Pharisees — “Ye FOOLS….” (Matt 23:17,19 KJV). Does this mean Christ is sinning and in danger of hell fire? Of course not.

The answer to the “anger” passage is simple. There are different types of anger — righteous and unrighteous — just as there are different senses to the use of “FOOL” (atheists are called “fools” for denying God by the Psalmist 14:1). The apostle Paul quotes the Psalmist who says “be ye angry, and sin not” (Eph 4:26 KJV). There is “anger” that is not necessarily sinful.

Jesus, who is said to be “without sin” throughout the Bible (2 Cor 5:21; Heb 4:15; 7:26; 1 Pet 1:19; 1 John 3:5) was “angry” in the sense of “righteous anger” — He was “grieved” (Gr sunlupeo) because of the hardness of the hearts of those who criticised His healing on the Sabbath day (see the context Mark 3:1-6). Jesus also was “angry” at the death of Lazarus — he “groaned in the spirit” (John 11:33,38) and saw death as the “last enemy” (1 Cor 15:26). Since I’m a Catholic, I’ll quote from our universal Catechism of the Catholic Church —

2302. Anger is a desire for revenge. “To desire vengeance in order to do evil to someone who should be punished is illicit,” but it is praiseworthy to impose restitution “to correct vices and maintain justice” [quoting St. Thomas Aquinas]. If anger reaches the point of a deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor, it is gravely against charity; it is a mortal sin. The Lord says, “Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment” [Matt 5:22].

It is this kind of “anger” that is forbidden. As Paul writes — “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph 4:31-32 KJV). –P

33. Good works to be seen of men [Matt 5:16]

Good works not to be seen of men [Matt 6:1]

Here is a case where context matters. In Mt 5, Jesus is speaking in the context of being the salt of the earth. It is by allowing Christ to work through us that people will be drawn to Him. That is, one does good works to glorify God. In Mt 6, Jesus is talking about doing good works in a self-righteous sense, where one draws attention to self. Consider a very practical example — a Christian who serves by feeding the poor ought to do so humbly and quietly. They will eventually be noticed, if only by those they serve. The same Christian shouldn’t be bragging about his work among acquaintances, where a “holier-than-thou” sense is evident. The former approach draws people to God, the latter repels them.

34. Judging of others forbidden [Matt 7:1,2]

Judging of others approved [1 Cor 6:2-4 / 1 Cor 5:12]

This is a commonly employed ‘contradiction’ which also ignores context. Mt 7 is not dealing with judging in of itself, rather, it speaks of hypocrisy — judging others by standards that one does not live by.

35. Christ taught nonresistance [Matt 5:39 / Matt 26:52]

Christ taught and practiced physical resistance [Luke 22:36 / John 2:15]

Since using a scourge to drive out the animals and overturn the tables is not as case of “physical resistance,” the verse in John is irrelevant. In Luke, it appears as if Jesus is teaching the disciples that in their changed circumstances, self-defense and self-provision might be necessary. The very fact that two swords was “enough” indicates a restrained theme to this teaching. Mt 5 is where Jesus teaches that one ought to “turn the other cheek.” This is a hyperbole used to teach a moral lesson – do not set yourself against those who have injured you (does anyone really think that Jesus would have us expose our chests and invite the mugger the shoot us?). In Mt 26, someone with Jesus struck out at the legal authorities. Here the context is different from that of Lk 22. I read this as saying that those who raise the sword against the legal authorities can expect to die by the sword (and of course, this in of itself is not necessarily a moral principle). Then again, in light of vs 53,54, one cannot establish that this teaching goes beyond the immediate circumstances. That is, if the disciples had fought, they would have been killed, and Jesus had better things in mind. That’s why he told them He could summon supernatural aid if need be.

36. Christ warned his followers not to fear being killed [Luke 12:4]

Christ himself avoided the Jews for fear of being killed [John 7:1]

Luke 12 is a generalized teaching which states that one ought to fear God more so than men (read vs. 5). John 7:1 says nothing about Jesus being afraid that the Jews would kill him. It simply mentions that He avoided them since they wanted to kill Him. It wasn’t His time to die yet.

37. Public prayer sanctioned [1 Kings 8:22,54 / 9:3]

Public prayer disapproved [Matt 5:5,6]

Mt 6 (not 5) does not as much focus on public prayer as it does on hyocritical prayer — “And when you pray, you are not to pray as hypocrites.” Jesus condemns the prayers designed to gather favor in the eyes of men. Nothing contradictory here.

38. Importunity in prayer commended [Luke 18:5,7]

Importunity in prayer condemned [Matt 6:7,8]

The vain repetitions (“as the heathen do”) Jesus speaks of in Mt hardly seem to me to be the fervant supplications that Luke relays. Put simply, there’s a difference between fervant, real prayer and repetitive chanting or mouthing words over and over in order to twist God’s arm (so to speak).

39. The wearing of long hair by men sanctioned [Judg 13:5 / Num 6:5]

The wearing of long hair by men condemned [1 Cor 11:14]

Judg 13:5 the Nazarite is not permitted to cut his hair. Num 6:5 teaches the same thing. 1 Cor 11:14 teaches that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him.

Yes, true. The Nazarites kept long hair even though it was a dishonor to them. 1 Cor 11:10 tells us that long hair is a sign of submission. So the Nazarites submitted to God even though it meant suffering some shame, for the duration of their vow. They also stayed away from dead things and any product of the grape, I think. –MAW

One could also note that national customs furnish an explanation here. 1 Cor was addressed to a Greek audience, where long hair on men often indicated effeminacy and indulgences in unnatural vices.

40. Circumcision instituted [Gen 17:10]

Circumcision condemned [Gal 5:2]

Gen 17:10 God institutes circumcision to set His people apart. This is in the Old Testament where God would use a special people through which His Messiah could be brought forth.

Gal 5:2 Spoken to ones who already believe in Christ but were not circumcised – if they go to be circumcised, they are going back to the law. This means they are denying the effectiveness of Christ’s death… so they lose out on the benefits of being a believer.

This is not the only such verse. Paul says elsewhere that we should beware those of the circumcision, also calling them the concision and even dogs. This is referring to the Judaizers who were trying to get the believers to be circumcised as a condition of their salvation.. among other things. They were trying to bring the believers under the law, even though these believers had been previously Gentiles and not Jews.

Paul tells us – it is not that all who have been circumcised are condemned, but rather that circumcision is no longer necessary in the New Testament because it has been replaced by the cross of Christ. –MAW

Indeed, here is another case (like #1) where the critic ignores the intervening events between the Scriptures cited. He/she may as well argue that the existence of a OLD and NEW covenant is a contradiction. And that exercise would be futile.

Answers to Biblical Contradictions, 41-50

41. The Sabbath instituted [Ex 20:8]

The Sabbath repudiated [Is 1:13 / Rom 14:5 / Col 2:16]

The Sabbath is a topic a lot of Christians disagree on (e.g. Seventh-day Adventists).

Exod 20:8 teaches that the Sabbath was instituted. But it was also practiced by God Himself even as early as day seven.

Isaiah 1:13 God says the wicked people are displeasing to God, and He no longer delights in anything they do, including keeping the Sabbath and making offerings to Him. No surprise there.

Romans 14:5 and Col. 2:16 are New Testament verses.

Romans 14:5 neither supports the Sabbath nor repudiates it, though. It just says some keep and some don’t and both are to be accepted as genuine believers. No problem there. (See verse 10).

Colossians 2:16 is the same story. “Let no one judge you with regards to the Sabbath” sounds like a far cry from “You are forbidden to keep the Sabbath” or “The Sabbath is bunk.”

This matter would really do better dealt with on the larger scale of “Should New Testament believers be required to keep the entire Old Testament law?” Then one could bring in Eph. 2:15 and so on to show that on the one hand the moral aspects of the law are uplifted in the New Testament (Matt. 5-7), yet on the other hand the rituals are abolished (Sabbath, circumcision, feasts) and the offerings are replaced by Christ as the one unique Sacrifice. The middle wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles has been torn down by Christ on the cross and there is no longer any difference (among Christians). See discussion with James in Acts regarding this matter. –MAW

The teaching in Isaiah does not repudiate the Sabbath. If we read further, the LORD says:

“Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!” [Is 1:15-17] Obviously, God is condemning the religious hypocrisy in this instance.

Nevertheless, even if we take the above claims as truth, namely, that God instituted the Sabbath in Exodus, and repealed it through Paul (and we need not debate if this is the true interpretation), as it stands, this is not contradictory. It is not contradictory to institute X and then repeal it much later.

42. The Sabbath instituted because God rested on the seventh day [Ex 20:11]

The Sabbath instituted because God brought the Israelites out of Egypt [Deut 5:15]

In this case, I see no reason why both explanations cannot be true. As such, the Sabbath could have been rooted in the order of things and in the historical intervention of the Creator.

Why was the Sabbath instituted?

Exod 22:11 tells us the Israelites should rest because God rested on the seventh day.

Deut 5:15 tells the Israelites that God commanded them to keep the Sabbath because of their deliverance from Egypt.

The wording is different between the two statements. Deut. tells us the reason for the commandment to keep the Sabbath. Exo does not, but merely tells us a good reason why they should keep it. Anyway, it is not uncommon to do something for more than one reason. Especially good reasons. –MAW

43. No work to be done on the Sabbath under penalty of death [Ex 31:15 / Num 15:32,36]

Jesus Christ broke the Sabbath and justified his disciples in the same [John 5:16 / Matt 12:1-3,5]

First of all, Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, not subject of the Sabbath. As for his disciples, they were charged with breaking the Sabbath because they picked some heads of grain and ate them. Jesus corrected the Jewish leaders on their legalism (read the entire discussion in Mt 12). Jesus did not condone working on the Sabbath, he just pointed out the folly of taking this law to the extreme were people could not eat or help others on the Sabbath.

No work could be done on Sabbath but Jesus worked on Sabbath and justified His disciples in doing the same. Yup. In the Old Testament no work could be done on the Sabbath, although it was ok to pull an ox out of the ditch.

The Lord Jesus in the New Testament is the Lord of the Sabbath and perfectly free to break it and even abolish it, since He is the one who set it up in the first place. Also, He is the reality of the shadows. The Old Testament Sabbath was a rest for God’s people, but in the New Testament our real Sabbath is the One who said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-ladened, and I will give you rest.” Also, Hebrews tells us that there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. This is not talking about an outward ritual of sitting around all day once a week reading the Torah, but about resting in Christ as our real inward peace and rest and sanctuary in this age and in full in the age to come.

Like I said earlier, this can be a pretty controversial issue, but at least grant me that it’s a possible explanation which removes the validity of 43 as a contradiction in the Bible. Others may explain it differently. –MAW

44. Baptism commanded [Matt 28:19]

Baptism not commanded [1 Cor 1:17,14]

This is not a contradiction. Paul simply responded to the favoritism which sprang up along the lines of who baptized whom. Furthermore, Paul notes that his particular calling was not as a baptizer, but as a preacher.

45. Every kind of animal allowed for food [Gen 9:3 / 1 Cor 10:25 / Rom 14:14]

Certain kinds of animals prohibited for food [Deut 14:7,8]

The NT references stem from the New Covenant. The Genesis reference indicates that God sanctioned non-vegetarian diets. The Deut references are particular to the Jews and the Old Covenant that was made with them.

46. Taking of oaths sanctioned [Num 30:2 / Gen 21:23-24,31 / Gen 31:53 / Heb 6:13]

Taking of oaths forbidden [Matt 5:34]

Jesus is trying to get beyond human conventions and the frivolous oaths which were common and was calling for simple and pure honesty. Hebrews refers specifically to God and indicates His commitment/covenant.

Does the Bible sanction or forbid oaths? In the Old Testament they are not commanded, but permitted. Num. 30 explains when they can be annulled.

God Himself made an oath as recorded in Heb. 13:4. In Matt. 5:34 we New Testament believers are told not to swear by anything but to just say yes and no. The explanation given is that we are powerless to change our hair color. (Natural color.) But surely God is not similarly powerless, so if He wants to swear something, He is perfectly able to carry it out and nothing can come up to stop Him. No contradiction there.

So OT permits swearing (doesn’t command it) and sets limits on it. The uplifted NT law abolishes it altogether on the grounds that we are powerless to guarantee the outcome. But God is not powerless, so He can swear as He likes. –MAW

47. Marriage approved [Gen 2:18 / Gen 1:28 / Matt 19:5 / Heb 13:4]

Marriage disapproved [1 Cor 7:1 / 1 Cor 7:7,8]

Paul is not disapproving marriage! He is simply saying that it is good to be unmarried. Saying it is good to not marry is not saying it is bad to marry. Being unmarried is good in the sense that particular blessings can stem from it (in fact, Paul even describes celibacy as a “gift”). However, another set of blessings can stem from being married.

Does God approve of marriage? Let’s just look at the verses cited as saying that God disapproves of marriage, since obviously He approves.

1 Cor. 7:1, 8, 26

Verse 26 tells us why Paul says this. It is because of the present necessity. Well, these three verses do not tell us that God disapproves of marriage, but only that there is nothing wrong with staying single. “Good for them.” A man who is content to refrain from touching any woman must really be full of the enjoyment of God, as Paul was. This is surely a good thing, although most people are not like that. As verse 7 says, each has his own gift from God, and for most people it is not the gift of staying single forever, although Matt. 19:10-12 tells us (not cited) that there is a blessing for those that are able to keep it. Other verses not quoted tell us that the married person cares for how to please his/her mate, whereas the single one is free to concentrate on pleasing the Lord.

Anyway, none of these verses say that God disapproves of marriage. To teach others not to marry is to spread the doctrines of demons. (1 Tim. 4:1-5).

“What God has joined together.” If God disapproved of marriage, He would disapprove of almost all humans that ever were. He Himself intends to be married.

In 1 Tim. 5:14 Paul speaks of this matter again and makes it clear that his position is neither disapproval nor forbidding of marriage.

Genesis 2:18 It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a help suitable for him. –MAW

48. Freedom of divorce permitted [Deut 24:1 / Deut 21:10,11,14]

Divorce restricted [Matt 5:32]

Yes, Jesus issues a new commandment and even explains the permission 1500 years earlier. He now issues a higher calling.

49. Adultery forbidden [Ex 20:14 / Heb 13:4]

Adultery allowed [Num 31:18 / Hos 1:2; 2:1-3]

One has to read adultery INTO Num 31:18 — it is not obvious that this verse is talking about adultery. As for Hosea, OT scholar Walter Kaiser believes that when God told Hosea to marry Gomer, she was not yet a harlot. (Besides, the exception doesn’t prove the rule). Does the Bible permit adultery? No.

Numbers 31:18 doesn’t say that the “yourselves” were already married. Obviously it doesn’t refer to the females among the Israelites, and so it can just as easily also exclude all the married and under-age males.

Hosea 1:2 God commands Hosea to marry a prostitute. The very idea of using this as a justification of adultery is absurd. The point here is to expose the nation of Israel at that time for her unfaithful and treacherous treatment of her Husband, God. Israel was a prostitute in the eyes of God, because she was going after idols, yet He still would marry her and even take her back after she ran after idols again. This is an example of an incredible level of forgiveness, not of a condoning of the evil that she had done.

Hosea 2:1-3 God commands Hosea to go back and reclaim his unfaithful wife back from the man she was messing around with. (See above.) The point is that this is an extremely difficult thing for a man to do, to take back his wife even from the house of her lover and to have to pay a price to get her back. Yet this is what God did for the children of Israel and also did for us. What an incredible heart He has for us, even though we were spiritually harlots in His eyes; He still loved us enough to pay the price to redeem us. –MAW

50. Marriage or cohabitation with a sister denounced [Deut 27:22 / Lev 20:17]

Abraham married his sister and God blessed the union [Gen 20:11,12 / Gen 17:16]

Gen 17:16 says nothing about Sarah being Abrams sister. Gen 20:11 ignores Gen 12:11-13. Abraham had people believing that Sarah was his sister out of fear — it was a lie.

Is it ok to marry or cohabit with one’s sister? Well, in the early generations man didn’t have a choice. Cain for example married someone, and the only gals around were his siblings. Abraham also lived long before Moses, who wrote Deuteronomy and Leviticus. After Moses, nope, not a good idea to marry your sister. –MAW

Read the full list.

 

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18 thoughts on “50 Bible “contradictions” answered

  1. Interesting article. I didn’t read the whole list of 50 contradictions, but I agree the first seven or eight that I read don’t seem terribly contradictory. In any case, as you say, the presence or absence of contradictions in the Bible does not prove or disprove the existence of God. But it does say something about the veracity of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy.

    The one contradiction I’ve seen that I care much about isn’t so much a contradiction between one part of the Bible and another, but between ideas. I really cannot see any way to reoncile the idea of a good, loving god with the god of the Old Testament who commanded his followers to wipe out entire cities, sometimes down to the last child and infant, and even including livestock. The best way I can think of to reconcile these things would involve redefining the word “good”.

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    • I appreciate the considered way you must have approached these hard questions, Skies. And I must write having read through a little of what you’ve written I’m excited, tempted even to write you a sprawling wall of text delving into all the nuances and small wonders that I’m certain interest us both, nevertheless I shall restrain myself!

      Firstly, I agree with your understanding of belief, as found in your post on double standards in the world of believers, furthermore to claim “complete certainty” isn’t a helpful thing without first entering into the field of mathematics or properly basic beliefs, where you may know something more certain. What both you and I would believe (I imagine) would be that we can know certain things beyond a reasonable doubt, and it’s that reasonableness that automatically attracts us to a certain world-view. René Descartes in his Meditations has a lot to say on the subject of knowledge, he’s also very readable if you find yourself with a little free reading time. Now, to get into the gritty details of the things I disagree with, for which I will briefly quote you on the subject of knowledge, because in order to tackle your point (whether or not we can know or need to redefine the good) we must first define knowledge or how we’re allowing things into that category. You wrote: “it is impossible to prove the non-existence of anything with absolute certainty, whether that is gods, leprechauns, Santa Claus, or a teapot orbiting the Sun somewhere between the Earth and Mars.”

      Now, about this point, Descartes found we had what Alvin Plantinga later called “properly basic beliefs.” For example, you can safely say you exist, because you may doubt many things, you may doubt that other people are real, you may doubt that there is a country called Ireland, you may even doubt yourself…..but wait! Descartes happily reminds us, if you doubt yourself, that is to say you doubt your own existence, then who’s doing the doubting?! So you can disprove a thing, since if I supposed you didn’t exist in our universe, meaning I supposed there is a universe in which you aren’t a feature, you could immediately know I wasn’t getting it right, at least not right with regards to our universe. So surely some beliefs can be proven, at least proven to yourself. Similarly I can’t prove that you are real, but I can prove that I am. There are, despite disagreements, really some things that we can know, and thus things that can be disproved with certainty, so by the use of properly basic beliefs, we too can disprove various things. We can prove there are no tyrannosaurus rex on the isle of wight, or whether or not dry water, square circles or married bachelors exist, these things disprove themselves so they’re already disproved. I too believe the evil God would be one of these things, as we find in the scripture when it reads God cannot lie (Titus 1:2).

      My reply is already running away with itself! Still I hope you’re enjoying the material. I’m going to quickly turn to page 104 of Craig Keener’s Miracles book, which contains an interesting tale about the king of Siam: ‘Other scholars have also pointed out how cultural or other experiential limitations sometimes compromise the usefulness of the analogy argument for historiography, since history is full of apparent anomalies. some scholars develop a story, long bantered about as an illustration for competing epistemologies, about a king of Siam. Hearing from Dutch visitors about riding horses on top of rivers that became so cold that they became hard like stone, this ruler “knew that the men were liars.” The king’s inference was a logical one based on the reality with which he was familiar; it was his expectation of a rigid uniformity in the human experience of nature that proved inaccurate.’

      The king “knew” (as the illustration put it) what he knew, and clearly there would be no convincing the king if they were a tyrant or a particularly stubborn man, they would simply dismiss any ideas to the contrary. Similarly Tolstoy, a skilled writer, though one I wouldn’t recommend on religious matters, explained in his “The Kingdom of God is within You” book: ‘The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him.’

      Our situation with God would certainly come into play here, since God has expectations for our behavior, yet we too (funnily enough) hold God to faulty standards of our own. We are the king of Siam in the above text, and when God behaves in such a way that disappoints our expectations, we then turn away or go sour on repairing our relationship with Him. An example of this would be a recent interview with Stephen Fry which gained much attention, in which (to sum up) his entire argument was “How dare you?!” How dare God not make the sort of world Mr Fry expected Him to make, how dare He disappoint Stephen Fry. Think about the situation however, the question put to Fry was along the lines of “What would you say if when you die you are stood before God, the all good, all loving, wonderfully perfect God?” In the set up to the question Fry is already proven sinful, inadequate and guilty before a perfect God, he lived an objectively mistaken life according to the set up of the question, he’s caught red handed so to speak, he’s before a God who loves him and died to protect him. Yet still, the only thing this man can think to do is attack the perfectly good God on moral grounds, how absurd! We as people are simply confused when we try and out good God or assume He should be matching our standards of goodness (how good are we the murders of all murders after all?) Furthermore, I am in this boat as much as you or someone else. Moreover, not only does God disappoint our desires, but people do as well, they’re thoughtless, disloyal and weak in keeping their promises, for which we must grow and learn to understand what sort of heart they had when they did these things. When a family member breaks a promise, was it done with a mind to hurt us, or was it done by mistake, or with our best interests at heart, when we know that person’s character we will know the overall reason they’re doing the things they do. But that means, if God’s character is good, truly and unmistakably good, then His commands are good given the context and our own free will to choose evil, He is commanding good, we simply aren’t seeing it.

      Lewis wrote it like so: “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?” Yet such quotes are abstract, ethereal even. For which I’m also tempted to quote a little from Alvin Plantinga in his Knowledge and Christian belief book, which I think will interact with your interests directly, he writes about how we develop our loves and hates, our idea of the good and evil: ‘There is a deep and obvious social side of sin. We human beings are deeply communal; we learn from parents, teachers, peers, and others, both by imitation and by precept. We acquire beliefs in this way, but just as important (and perhaps less self-consciously), we acquire attitudes and affections, loves and hates. Because of our social nature, sin and its effects can be like a contagion that spreads from one to another, eventually corrupting an entire society or segment of it.’

      If the above is true, it’s us who are quick to jump to conclusions and condemn our loving God, a God who wants only the best for us, we then seek comfort in each other, though we as selfish, broken and confused people can’t truly heal our wounds/sicknesses in the arms of lovers, family and friends, we need a real healer. So briefly I would say this, in our search for the good we can trust that God in His commands is doing what’s best for us, He has sufficient reasons for the pain we experience or the seemingly cruel actions He demands of us. Sometimes the good result of these things could only be observed decades later in another part of the world (ask more about that). Nonetheless, with that in mind we need turn no further than to Jesus of Nazareth. He is the answer. Though this may seem too neat, too tidy to someone living a life of hardship, saying “Jesus loves you” as you have written could be felt as a deep, cutting insult (especially so depending on who says it). Still, I truly believe He is the healer our lives need, He is the good, so to define it we need to start with Him. In closing, I’d like to recommend two challenges to you, the first being to listen to Paul Copan vs. Norman Bacrac on the topic “Is God a Moral Monster”, which you can find on YouTube. Probably more so than anything I have written today he speaks directly to your interests. Secondly, I’d recommend you read a post of mine which you can find on the blog, it’s titled “OSC’s Atheists in denial.” (not that I consider you in denial!) I recommend the first because it directly tackles your point about entire cities being wiped out in what I find a satisfying and in-depth way. And my second challenge would simply be to get your feedback on the material, it covers the ideas of good, evil and whether or not we are justified in holding to these things at all. Enjoy the material, and I hope this message finds you well!

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  2. Hello. Thank you for your considered response. I’m glad to hear you took a look at my blog. I take that as an indication that you are willing to consider what I say, which has not always been my experience on religious blogs (I usually only comment on religious blogs which have brought up the topic of atheism–some of these are more interested in discrediting atheism or converting atheists than in having a fair, civil conversation).

    It’s been a few years since I read Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy, but I remember being disappointed with it. I don’t remember the specifics of why. I still have a copy on hand, though. I might give it another shot.

    In my post about double standards, I was much less specific than I might have been about the concept of proving that a thing does not exist. We can, of course, show that a specific thing does not exist in a specific location and time.

    Given the responses I have received from some theists (“have you searched every corner of the universe?!?”), this is not the sort of proof of non-existence they are asking for, but rather they want a standard of proof to accept non-existence that is quite unreasonable, if not outright impossible. Regardless, in every-day conversation we rarely use absolute certainty in the philosophical sense as a metric for accepting something as belief or fact.

    Likewise (and more relevant to your post), something which is a logical contradiction can be shown not to exist. I do not see the idea of an evil god existing as contradictory, merely that it would be inaccurate or misleading to call such a god “good”. Indeed, I do not see potential contradictions in the Bible in general as problematic for belief in God (although it’s highly problematic for the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy). Contradictions in the Bible would say more about the people who wrote it than about a potentially existing god.

    On the story of the king in Siam and Tolstoy, certainly it is impossible (or at least extremely difficult) to convince a person who has already made up their mind and is unwilling to even consider other possibilties. I like to think that I am always willing to consider viewpoints which contradict my own, and that if I am shown to be wrong, I will be happy to have been corrected on a matter of fact. I’m not perfect, certainly, but I do my best.

    I haven’t got any particular expectations of what a god might be like if they exist. I’m open to the idea of any sort of god for which credible evidence exists (I have yet to see any credible evidence of any gods). But if the god described in the Old Testament exists, he is not a god that I would consider “good”, unless he has changed significantly since ancient times (people can change, I won’t rule out the possibility that a god might likewise be able to change).

    As for a relationship with God, I don’t understand how it is possible to have a relationship with someone you cannot see or hear or touch or receive mail from or chat on an instant messenger with, or otherwise receive any sort of concrete, tangible, dynamic communication from. People talk about “feeling” that God is saying something, or having a prophetic dream, or the like, but how do they know it is from God, and not their imagination or an impostor?

    I don’t see someone saying “Jesus loves you” as insulting (unless it is clear from context that it is meant that way), but the person saying it is asserting their beliefs as facts. Using this as an example in my post about double standards was meant to show how differently atheists are treated when they assert their viewpoint as fact.

    In closing, a question for you. It seems to me that you are saying that the things God does are all good, even if it may appear otherwise to us at the time. Is there anything at all, then, that God could do or say that would convince you that God was evil?

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    • Good day to you, Skies! Feel free to comment on “Another 50 Bible contradictions answered”, both I and a poster named kaptonok are discussing the subject of ethics, in addition to objective moral values and duties, which would certainly overlap with our conversation here. Firstly however, let me interact with a little of what you’ve written, beginning first with a challenge fired back: “In closing, a question for you. It seems to me that you are saying that the things God does are all good, even if it may appear otherwise to us at the time. Is there anything at all, then, that God could do or say that would convince you that God was evil?”

      To answer that (which I shall do plainly), would be a sort of autobiographical statement which would answer where I’m at in terms of spiritual development, sadly I doubt it would be an advancement in our knowledge of God, His nature or attributes, nonetheless. By way of 1 John 4 we read: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,” Meaning we’re not to be driven into the wilderness or into high skyscrapers based upon whims or fancies, instead we’re to test ourselves and every “spirit” against the evidence, with which we’re constraint to define what we’re allowing as evidence, what exactly constitutes knowledge. So, in answering your question, I certainly could be convinced that God was evil, but that would involve a radical redefinition of what God was (insofar that they would be a sort of demi-god like Zeus). Moreover, unpacking the subject of God having justifiable cause for the way in which history plays out is Dr William Lane Craig, who every atheist interested in interacting with Christians should be familiar with:

      “I promised to give two illustrations of this point, one from science and then one from popular culture. The first illustration comes from the field of science called “chaos theory.” Scientists have found that certain large scale systems exhibit chaotic behaviour. That is to say, they are sensitive to the tiniest disturbances that will upset the entire system. For example, weather systems are this way. Insect populations are also chaotic in this way. A little butterfly fluttering its wings on a twig in South Africa can set up a chain of events that will eventually ensue in a hurricane over the Atlantic Ocean. And yet no one looking at that little butterfly fluttering on the branch would ever, in principle, be able to predict such an outcome. We have no way of knowing how even a trivial alteration in the events of the world might have an impact that is utterly unexpected.”

      Furthermore: “The second illustration comes from popular culture – the movie Sliding Doors, starring Gwyneth Paltrow. This is a fascinating film which tells the story of a young woman who is rushing down the stairs to catch a subway train. As she approaches the train, the doors begin to slide shut. At that point, the movie splits into two separate tracks. In one track, it shows how her life would go if she manages to get through the sliding doors into the train. In the other track, it shows how her life would go if the doors slide shut before she manages to reach the train. What you discover is that, in these two lives, the trajectory of these lives take increasingly divergent paths. Based on this seemingly trivial incident of the sliding doors, the one life goes into a trajectory that is filled with happiness, success, material prosperity – everything she does succeeds! The other life is filled with disappointment, failure, suffering, and misery. All because of this seemingly insignificant incident of making it through the sliding doors or not! Moreover, whether or not she makes it through the sliding doors depends upon whether or not a little girl playing with her dolly on the stairwell railing is pulled back by her father as the young woman rushes down the stairs to catch the train. And you can’t help but wonder as you watch this film what other trivial, seemingly inconsequential, events went into preparing that event. Maybe the father and the daughter were delayed that morning because the little girl didn’t like the breakfast cereal that her mother poured for her that morning.1 Or maybe the father was distracted from watching his daughter because of something he read in the morning newspaper, and so on and so forth. Just utterly seemingly trivial events could have resulted in that momentary difference of the little girl’s playing with her dolly on the stairwell railing that resulted in the incredible impact on this young woman’s life!”

      “The most interesting part of the movie, however, is the film’s ending. What happens is that in the life that is filled with happiness and success the young woman is suddenly killed in an accident. In the other life, the seemingly miserable life, she learns from her experiences, and that life turns around, and it turns out in the end that the life with the suffering and the misery was really the better life after all!”

      “Now, don’t misunderstand me. My point here is not that everything is going to turn out for the best in this life and that we will see that it was all for a reason. No, no! The point I am trying to make here is much more modest. It is simply this: given the dizzying complexity of life, and the incomprehensible way in which events are intertwined with one another, it is simply beyond our capacity, when some incident of suffering enters our life, to say with any confidence that it is improbable that God has a morally sufficient reason for allowing that to occur. Every event which occurs sends a ripple effect through history so that God’s morally sufficient reasons for permitting it might not emerge until hundreds of years from now or maybe in another country. Only an all-knowing God could comprehend the infinite complexities of directing a world of free people toward His ultimate ends for human history.”

      Lastly, I’ve brushed off my copy of On Guard (again by WLC), in which they wrote something truly interesting when first read. “It’s precisely in countries that have endured severe hardship that Christianity is growing at its fastest rates, while growth curves in the indulgent West are nearly flat. Consider, for example, the following reports:

      “China: It is estimated that 20 million Chinese lost their lives during Mao’s cultural Revolution. Christians stood firm in what was most probably the most widespread and harsh persecution the Church has ever experienced. The persecution purified and indigenized the Church. Since 1977 the growth of the Church in China has no parallels in history. Researchers estimate that there were 30-75 million Christians by 1990. Mao Zedong unwittingly became the greatest evangelist in history.”

      “El Salvador: The 12-year civil war, earthquakes, and the collapse of the price of coffee, the nation’s main export, impoverished the nation. Over 80% live in dire poverty. An astonishing spiritual harvest has been gathered from all strata of society in the midst of hate and bitterness of war. In 1960 evangelicals were 2.3% of the population, but today are around 20%”

      “Ethiopia: Ethiopia is in a state of shock. Her population struggles with the trauma of millions of deaths through repression, famine, and war. Two great waves of violent persecution refined and purified the Church, but there were many martyrs. There have been millions coming to Christ. Protestants were fewer than 0.8% of the population in 1960, but by 1990 this may have become 13% of the population.”

      Imagine this in light of the Christian narrative, we’re a people in rebellion against God, for which the God who loves us tasks Himself with putting humanity right again, yet to right our wrongs isn’t done by way of pleasure, in fact, pleasures, happiness, comfort and perpetual joy in our sinful state wouldn’t motivate anybody to change their heart (thus dooming humanity). Who has ever heard of safety and prosperity causing people to leave their country, or love and commitment endangering a pair of newly-weds. Yet, the above would mean a Christian perspective isn’t so otherworldly or unlikely as an unbelieving community might expect, rather it’s being lived out in the now.

      About another interesting point you’ve made: “I don’t see someone saying “Jesus loves you” as insulting (unless it is clear from context that it is meant that way), but the person saying it is asserting their beliefs as facts.” But surely even to hold the belief is to assume you’re right and your opposite number isn’t, merely by holding to my views, even if I don’t explicitly assert “such and such is wrong because I am right”, my mind and behavior would nevertheless insist upon my view, which is entailed merely by virtue of the fact that I believe it. Moreover, as interesting a read as your post about double standards was, in my mind it plays into the divide between believers and the self-styled infidel community, a divide I believe you find as distasteful as I do. For example, believers conveniently hold other beliefs to a standard which they wouldn’t apply to their own religious beliefs, however, to suppose in writing some sort of lopsidedness in favor of either believers or atheists simply isn’t accurate, rather the problem is a human one. In your experience with believers you have (in general) came across double standards, bigotry and hatred, whereas in my experience while interacting with atheists I have came across double standards, bigotry and hatred! It’s not that either side happens to be more or less human, rather it’s that we’re all too human. An example I have found in the infidel community: Atheists lose any ability to read when somebody lays a Bible before their eyes, yet add any modern piece of literature and their ability to understand nuances and literary style miraculously springs into life.

      The Bible says Jesus will come like a thief in the night, atheists quote “Thou shalt not steal” from the ten commandment. Psalm 91:4 says God will cover under His wings, atheists mock God for having feathers. Jesus says “I am the door”, to which atheists ask “Then where’s your door frame?!” From this I can only gather that either atheists are incredibility dense (which I don’t for one second believe), or that they intentionally suspend their reading comprehension because they’re uncomfortable or unhappy with the material. Yet they’re happy to employ such abilities around other literary works of antiquity. Surely both mine and your examples are illustrative of how it is humankind, not exactly any group within it, who’re so guilty of double standards.

      Lastly, and something I find important to the notion of conversion, which you have briefly touched upon: Beliefs breed behavior. They truly do, meaning, in the mind of any sincere believer I have met (barring arrogance or prejudice), are various beliefs, beliefs like “We’re estranged from God”, or “Jesus died for humanity’s sake.” I hope that whenever you’re approached by believers with a mind to share their faith, it is done so that you too may share in their joy, not merely to defeat or shame “the other.” This to me is paramount, for if you had come across a person slowly (very slowly) being pulled into quicksand, you wouldn’t ignore them merely because they were 99 years of age, sinking slowly and had ample rations to survive until a natural passing, rather you would attempt saving them. Similarly if you came across who some atheists would consider “an enemy”, you wouldn’t abandon their life merely because of disagreements between you both, instead you’d rescue them.

      To clarify, if you believed the things that believers do, that we’re lost and in need of Christ, wouldn’t you too try to rescue people from the slow acting poison of sin, meaning you’d have to share Christ with them. Wouldn’t you risk being thought of as a fool, bigot or hatemonger for the chance to help your family, friends and even enemies, that way you wouldn’t be enemies, in eternity you would be friends. This totally turns the debate on its head. Another challenge in closing, it appears to me you believe in the objectivity of good and evil (as do I), if not do clarify, if you do however, where would you ground such a thing as The Good if not in God?

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  3. I don’t believe in objective morality, actually. I rarely even use the word “evil” because I don’t usually find it useful. I used it in my question to you because it seemed like a concept that you find useful.

    Of course the problem of double standards is a human problem. I don’t think it’s equal between Christians and atheists, though. Christians dominate the culture, where I live. I think the most insidious thing about it is that I don’t think most people (Christians or even atheists) realize the double standards are there at all. I certainly never noticed these double standards when I was a Christian, and it took years after I became an atheist to actually notice them.

    I don’t really find the chaos theory explanation very satisfying. Is it a moral good to kill an innocent baby as the metaphorical flapping of butterfly wings in order to bring about many good things in the future? If that baby will, in the future, become a mass murderer, is it justifiable to kill that child for something that they haven’t done, yet? And if the innocent children of an entire city are to be slaughtered, certainly they cannot all have such a reprehensible future as, say, baby Hitler?

    I’m finding it a bit difficult to respond to such long comments. My apologies if I’ve failed to respond to any important points.

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    • “I’m finding it a bit difficult to respond to such long comments. My apologies if I’ve failed to respond to any important points.”

      No need to apologize, I find people reply in general to points they feel they’re fully equipped to write and contribute to. Meaning if there’s something you’re more attracted to in my post, do task yourself with explaining it more clearly. In addition, like I said in a post just sent to another user visiting the blog, if ever I’m posting something it’s because I found the material compelling, for which I’m tempted to share it with others. Now, getting into the meat of your reply:

      “Is it a moral good to kill an innocent baby as the metaphorical flapping of butterfly wings in order to bring about many good things in the future?”

      Well, the question isn’t is it moral in a general way, rather the question should be like so: Is it moral for God to kill so to bring about good in the future. But that is to say God is held to some moral standard like you and I are, that couldn’t be right if our definition of God as the maximally great being is correct. Laws are for criminals, prisons for criminals, judges for supposed criminals to discover whether or not they’re in violation of the law, meaning God being morally impeccable wouldn’t violate such a law as one which was defined by their own nature, nay, it would be a logically impossibility for a God as so defined to do the immoral! Since the immoral is directly contrary to their character.

      Rather, and the distinction I next mention is highlighted in the ten commandments, to kill isn’t a moral sin, it’s to murder that’s a sinful behavior. Rightly or wrongly even we have this distinction in our nations today, for example:

      Soldiers going to war aren’t considered murderers.
      A person who kills in self defense isn’t a murderer.
      Abortionists (even late term abortionists) aren’t considered murderers.
      State executioners aren’t considered murderers.

      The list could go on, nevertheless I’m trying to constrain my message length!

      “And if the innocent children of an entire city are to be slaughtered, certainly they cannot all have such a reprehensible future as, say, baby Hitler?”

      I wonder if you have availed yourself of Paul Copan vs. Norman Bacrac as of yet, because doing so would help explain how often the Bible account employs hyperbole when describing the destruction or even command for destruction of such peoples. Moreover, this sort of writing was “standard” in the ancient middle east. The fact also isn’t a modern invention used by wily Christian apologists, instead it’s found directly in the Bible!

      Joshua 11:21:
      “At that time Joshua went and destroyed the Anakites from the hill country: from Hebron, Debir and Anab, from all the hill country of Judah, and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua totally destroyed them and their towns.”

      Totally destroyed. Yet later (within three chapters) Keleb is asking permission to drive out the Anakites from the hill country! Meaning we’re discussing a wholesale slaughter that simply didn’t happen, it’s merely hyperbole. Nevertheless, as explained above, moral duties being defined by God’s perfect moral character would inevitably mean they’re incapable of doing evil, nor would they desire to do so are we might. This plays into atheists (and Christians mind you) misunderstanding the material.

      “I don’t think it’s equal between Christians and atheists, though. Christians dominate the culture, where I live.”

      Are these truly Christian cultures though, people may identify as Christian, just as you and I may identify as teapots, nevertheless, unless there’s some criteria whereby to measure who is holding to Christian values and duties then it’s far from safe to say we belong within a Christian culture. In my mind to know if someone is indeed a Christian, by which I mean changed at their very core by Christ, we need look no further than the short command in 1 John 4:8. Nevertheless, an example of how we can misjudge our culture from Richard Dawkins’ best seller The God Delusion hereafter, in the book Richard bemoaned that the American people, although having a supposed separation of church and state, yet grew more zealous in their religious faith. Whereas England, officially a Christian nation, has been becoming more and more atheistic in their culture. Dawkins praised the soft, weak church of England, a church who were (in truth) a congregation built up of unbelievers, he praised their efforts for what he called “inoculating” the English from the disease of religious belief. What different fortunes these nations have! In the UK, especially so here in London, there’s a sort of thinly veiled hatred for Christianity, and a violent backlash against people who would dare to speak in support of it in anything more than a flippant way. Imagine a sort of “nobody share their views” view, conveniently the view which says nobody is allowed to share their view is except from the no views rule. Dare I write, people are actually scared to speak about faith here. Talk of sexual promiscuity (more so than the rest), drink and drugs is commonly enjoyed in the public space, yet to say a prayer before a meal is looked upon with disgust. An interesting contrast.

      A question I’ve had in mind but been unable to get to, why not merely call yourself an agnostic? It appears to be the best bet given your material, since if it’s truly impossible to prove that such and such (barring self contradictory things) do not exist, then surely everyone should abandon their atheism since the belief isn’t provable. Simply to be an agnostic would include both a lack of belief in God, while not committing one’s self to the statement “God does not exist.”

      UPDATE: To clarify, it appears to be that you’re holding to two positions, the first being “No Gods exist, no not one.”, yet you’re also writing “I can’t show any Gods don’t exist, no not one.” So, this line of reasoning is saying you can’t discount any god, yet you’ve discounted every god!

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  4. It seems like you are saying that we cannot judge God by the same moral standards we use to judge humans. That is, if you lit your neighbor’s house on fire, you would be rightly called an arsonist, but if God lit your neighbor’s house on fire, that would be… God’s righteous judgement? God helping your neighbor in a really roundabout way? God doing whatever God does to make the world a better place? It seems as though you just assume that God must have a good, moral reason for doing whatever he does, no matter what it is. I’m really not seeing how it would be possible to differentiate a good god from an evil god, if every act of God is assumed to be right and moral? Unless you have some other set of standards to use for judging God’s actions, different than the set of standards used to judge humans? Or am I even understanding you right?

    I’m not really interested in which parts of the Bible were meant to be metaphor or allegory or whatever. I know different people disagree about which parts these are, and some people hold that the Bible is inerrant, while others don’t. My original idea rests on the idea that these things happened literally–if that god exists, then I do not see a way to reconcile that god with the idea of a good, loving god. If not, then the point is moot, but I think it’s spawned an interesting discussion regardless.

    I’m really not interested in discussing who is a true Christian. I can certainly see why that is important to Christians, and I don’t want to discount that, but I’m not one. I don’t have any stake in that argument, nor do I have any sort of qualification to be able to make such judgements. I don’t really have a better word for “people who call themselves Christians” than “Christians”, though.

    As for culture, it certainly does help to understand your thoughts on my post about double standards better to know that attitudes towards speaking about religion/atheism are quite different where you live than where I live. I can only speak to my own experiences, of course, which are limited to the internet and the Christian dominated area where I live.

    As to why I don’t call myself an agnostic, I’ve gotten that question a number of times, so I figured I would link to one of my posts that explains it… except then I couldn’t find one. I guess I’ll have to write it. Short version, though: an atheist is a person who doesn’t believe in any gods. I don’t believe in any gods, therefore I am an atheist. I am open to changing my mind if I see convincing evidence, but that doesn’t negate the fact that I do not currently believe in any gods. If you want the longer version, I can give you a link once I’ve written it.

    When I say “no gods exist”, I mean it in the same way that I mean “no unicorns exist”. Which is to say, I see no convincing evidence for either unicorns or gods existing. However, it cannot be proven that no unicorns exist anywhere in the universe, anymore than it can be proven that no gods exist anywhere in the universe. Basically, I don’t see a problem with discounting an idea that is unfalsifiable, and acting as if that thing does not exist (including saying it does not exist) until given a reason to think otherwise. Though I will add a caveat: if certain attributes are attributed to a god (or unicorns), such as “has a large, visible, corporeal form and currently lives on the Isle of Wight”, then that specific conception of a god (or unicorns) becomes falsifiable and can potentially be disproven.

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    • The long refusal to rightly define atheism appears to me a position atheists must surrender, their redefinition of words simply isn’t achieving anything. Let’s see if you feel convinced with regards to that hereafter. By way of reply you first wrote “As to why I don’t call myself an agnostic,” there’s then a reason provided: “an atheist is a person who doesn’t believe in any gods. I don’t believe in any gods, therefore I am an atheist.” Now, your popular definition simply doesn’t include atheism, an atheist believes in and affirms the statement “God doesn’t exist.” (something no agnostic person would do). Believers in atheism make a knowledge claim, that being that no gods exist. Therefore your definition, which reads “an atheist is a person who doesn’t believe in any gods.” could be applied to an agnostic person, yet doesn’t properly explain atheism.

      Theist = Has belief in a God. Holds to the statement “God exists.”

      Agnostic = Lacks belief in a God. Holds to the statement “I don’t know whether or not God exists.”

      Atheist = Lacks belief in a God. Holds to the statement “No God exists.”

      Merely because atheists lack belief doesn’t mean they’re agnostic, similarly an agnostic person due to their lack of belief doesn’t automatically qualify as an atheist. Atheists affirm the statement “No gods exist. (Fact!)” Well, fact according to atheists. The problem here is that many atheists can’t accept the fact that to disbelieve in something is in fact a belief! Don’t atheists believe in the position “God doesn’t exist”? Of course they do.

      “It seems like you are saying that we cannot judge God by the same moral standards we use to judge humans.”

      Wouldn’t that be true by virtue of God being utterly unlike humankind. True merely by correct definition. An issue as to their position and sovereignty would only arise when a creature refused to accept their creator God. God as so defined in the Judeo-Christian tradition would be omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresence, infinitely good and necessary. Whereas you and I being finite, ignorant, unnecessary and even cruel would be without recourse to make demands or render judgement against an impeccable God. We’d rightly correct a patient for lecturing their surgeon on how to perform a successful triple heart bypass, yet far worse an absurdity would be going on if indeed God as described in Scripture is actual. Again the above is covered within the Bible:

      “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (The book of Numbers).

      Nonetheless, I’m beginning to think your actual problem isn’t whether or not the above is true, because by all appearances it would follow logically and inescapably if the God in question is true. Rather your discomfort appears to be twofold, firstly, you may be finding something arbitrary about God’s commands, and (more certain) you’re of the mind there’s no method if such a God did exist to discern whether or not their commandments have in truth been made in our best interests.

      However, a view as the above describes, a sort of God who’s God for the sake of being God, and thus issues arbitrary commands, isn’t a Christian position, it’s instead a lesser defended views known as “Voluntarism.” Voluntarism imagines our duties and the source of moral values solely based in the sovereignty of God’s will, now again, by definition, if God as described in either the Torah, New Testament or even Koran is real then they’re sovereign. Meaning, there’s no sense in you or I doing a Stephen Fry and saying we hold this perfect God in contempt for failing to lower their standards so to better appeal to our crude tastes.

      Voluntarism however, while rightly supposing God’s authority, applies none of its findings and supposition in a study of God’s essential virtues. Due to which many critics of Christianity are pleased to assume God possessing a variety of attributes (omni attributes), however, they’re then reluctant to admit to essential virtues (love, fairness, impartiality, compassion). The goodness of God was once explained like so: “These are as essential to God as having three angles is to a triangle.” You don’t get God as defined in Christianity without also getting the good.

      Now, and again by definition, whenever such a being as described acted within the confines of their creation (or even when they withheld activity), they’d as a matter of fact be doing so in humanity’s best interest. In addition, your previous message rightly explained if God doesn’t exist, or if atrocities didn’t necessarily happen in such a fashion as you have read, then any moral argument against God wouldn’t be valid, after all who gets irate at a god who doesn’t exist about a command they never issued. Although, reread and imagine God as described above forming a command which they’d reveal by various means to humankind, without fail their commands would be formed in light of their love, fairness, impartiality and foreknowledge of every possible occurrence.

      The end result of our two outcomes may surprise you: For if there’s no such God so to command what appears various atrocities your previous point would be moot (how you explained), however, if there’s such a God as is included in Scripture, that being a wholly good, morally perfect just judge, then once again your previous criticism would be rendered moot! No matter the direction the blade cuts in it’ll void your previous objection.

      “I’m not really interested in which parts of the Bible were meant to be metaphor or allegory or whatever.”

      Hyperbole. Both metaphor and allegory would mean the events in question didn’t happen, which wasn’t in any fashion the original author’s intent if we’re judging by their material. Rather by hyperbole they had used a common writing style so to express how thorough their victory appeared or to raise in the reader a certain understanding of how important or dire their situation appeared. If a friend and yourself were hiking your way across Europe, and they thought to remark “My backpack weighs a ton!” you wouldn’t reply “Impossible! You’d never have traveled so far while encumbered by a heavy load such as that!”

      Nevertheless, “I’m not interested” is the one thing you and I cannot write, not if our desire is to avoid the commonplace double standards which are to us so unattractive when noticed in others. Why notice the speck in our brother’s eye while ignoring the log in our own. Understandably when a certain subject arises you might write “I’m not interested” as if to say “My curiosity isn’t instantly set ablaze by the topic”, though to write that isn’t controversial, it’s something everybody can experience. If however someone were to say because the topic didn’t instantly ignite their affections or excitement they then would sooner have nothing to do with it, that to me betrays a deep immaturity.

      Moreover, it’s the interpretation which takes into account use of hyperbole which can most accurately restate early Jewish belief about their early conquests, so to ignore a subject carrying such importance as how to rightly read the material in question, that would be no better than allowing ourselves to slip into hypocrisy. The end result would in truth be no better than atheists who renounce Christian because Jesus called Himself water or bread, which would be intellectually irresponsible in the extreme. An example of such tactics from C.S Lewis’ Mere Christianity:

      There is no need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the Christian hope of “Heaven” ridiculous by saying they do not want “to spend eternity playing harps.” The answer to such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them. All the scriptural imagery (harps, crowns, gold, etc.) is, of course, a merely symbolical attempt to express the inexpressible.

      Musical instruments are mentioned because for many people (not all) music is the thing known in the present life which most strongly suggests ecstasy and infinity.
      Crowns are mentioned to suggest the fact that those who are united with God in eternity share His splendour and power and joy.

      Gold is mentioned to suggest the timelessness of Heaven (gold does not rust) and the preciousness of it.
      People who take the symbols literally might as well think that when Christ told us to be like doves, He meant that we were to lay eggs.

      “I’m really not interested in discussing who is a true Christian.”

      Now, let’s imagine, as it would appear the above shows, you’ve wrongly defined both atheism and Christianity, wouldn’t this lead to a warped understanding of both beliefs (atheism being indeed a belief in a state of our supposedly godless universe)? Again, Lewis wrote in an insightful fashion with regards to the topic:

      “It is no good asking for a simple religion. After all, real things are not simple. They look simple, but they are not. The table I am sitting at looks simple: but ask a scientist to tell you what it is really made of-all about the atoms and how the light waves rebound from them and hit my eye and what they do to the optic nerve and what it does to my brain-and, of course, you find that what we call “seeing a table” lands you in mysteries and complications which you can hardly get to the end of. A child saying a child’s prayer looks simple. And if you are content to stop there, well and good. But if you are not-and the modern world usually is not-if you want to go on and ask what is really happening- then you must be prepared for something difficult. If we ask for something more than simplicity, it is silly then to complain that the something more is not simple.

      Very often, however, this silly procedure is adopted by people who are not silly, but who, consciously or unconsciously, want to destroy Christianity. Such people put up a version of Christianity suitable for a child of six and make that the object of their attack. When you try to explain the Christian doctrine as it is really held by an instructed adult, they then complain that you are making their heads turn round and that it is all too complicated and that if there really were a God they are sure He would have made “religion” simple, because simplicity is so beautiful, etc. You must be on your guard against these people for they will change their ground every minute and only waste your tune. Notice, too, their idea of God “making religion simple”: as if “religion” were something God invented, and not His statement to us of certain quite unalterable facts about His own nature.”

      ‘I don’t really have a better word for “people who call themselves Christians” than “Christians”, though.’

      You’re disinterested in defining who is and isn’t a Christian, yet you’ve also already adopted an indiscriminate form of defining in which you’re compelled to dub everybody who self identifies as a Christian Christian. Therefore, you’d be content to call a society of violent thugs a society of pacifists, and a tribe of savages who ate each other raw you would name vegetarians, just as long as they believed they were indeed vegetarian enough.

      To close by the overall theme of your replies: Truly if indeed a person desired to reconcile the God of love as found in Christianity with God as so described in the Torah they need look no further than the use of hyperbole in the text, furthermore Torah material itself explains why various battles had to have taken place. Writers who believe they’re incapable of believing in both God as described in the Torah and Jesus as God in the New Testament appear to forget that Jesus Himself was a faithful Jew! Ideas that He taught were certainly radical with regards to Himself, however their teaching of God as loving and merciful is pure Torah. In fact, Jesus confirmed the entire Torah as we have it today when he taught: “And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.” (Thus confirming the first and last books of the Torah in their ancient chronology).

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  5. Language changes all the time. The meanings of words are not determined by dictionaries, but by the way they are used. Once a usage of a word has become common, then it makes it into a dictionary. There is no “right” way to define any word. There is only the way it is used. And by far the most common definition I see atheists use for “atheist” is “one who does not believe in any gods”. So, it would make sense to assume that someone who self-identifies as an atheist lacks belief in any gods, and then ask them questions if you want to know more specifics about their position.

    Generally, I care a lot more about arguing with the positions people actually hold rather than arguing over definitions of words, but I frequently see non-atheists trying to redefine atheism in a way that makes the position easier to argue against. This can range from the assertion that an atheist is “one who believes in the non-existence of gods” (implies that faith is involved) to “one who denies the existence of God” (implies that atheists are wrong, and know they are wrong, deep down) to “one who has searched every nook and cranny of the universe in order to be able to know there isn’t a god” (implies that there is no such thing as an atheist by demanding a completely unreasonable burden of proof before accepting that someone is truly an atheist). Relatedly, there are people who flat out deny that atheists exist, frequently by citing Romans 1:18-21.

    It seems like we are arguing in circles about the goodness of the Christian god. It seems like you are defining him to be good, while I am looking at various things attributed to God and thinking “How is this good?”

    I’m not interested in discussing which parts of the Bible are literal and which are hyperbole or whatever because different people say different parts are literal, and there isn’t any consensus. To me, the whole thing looks like fiction, and people picking a part and saying “this bit here is hyperbole while this other bit here is literal” sounds like cherry-picking to me. I don’t have any stake in saying which bits are meant to be literal or not. It doesn’t matter to me one way or the other, since I don’t believe in any of it anyway (to compare, would you be interested in discussing which bits of Qur’an are meant to be literal? or the Gospel of the Flying Spagetti Monster?). The only use I see in discussing the matter is listening to which bits a particular individual thinks are literal or not, so that I can talk to that person while keeping their actual position in mind. And since you don’t believe that your god literally ordered his followers to murder children, my original objection of “How can a god who orders his followers to murder children be good?” becomes moot.

    Perhaps “people who are commonly called Christians” would be a better category than “people who call themselves Christians”. Regardless, that’s a different concept from who is a “true” Christian. I literally have no metric by which to tell who is a “true” Christian from who is a “fake” Christian. From the outside looking in, I see people from different denominations all holding different positions about who is a “true” Christian, from those that say Catholics aren’t “true” Christians to those that say only Catholics are “true” Christians to those that say only those belonging to some specific, small denomination (e.g. Jehovah’s Witnesses) are “true” Christians, or those who say only those who follow a specific set of teachings are “true” Christians. There are literally thousands of different denominations of Christianity. To me, they all look like different ways of people believing in different things that aren’t real, and there’s no consensus on who is a “true” Christian, so I have absolutely no base from which to say that one person is a “true” Christian while another is not.

    But I do still sometimes find it necessary to refer to people who are commonly called Christians as a group.

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    • There’s so much to interact with with regards to definition that I’m going to have to dismantle this to your satisfaction and mine before continuing into a thoroughly, definitive definition of God’s goodness. In addition to defining the good itself. So, let’s begin first by way of your reply: “Language changes all the time. The meanings of words are not determined by dictionaries, but by the way they are used. Once a usage of a word has become common, then it makes it into a dictionary.”

      Indubitably! Moreover, Christians, Jews, Muslims, agnostic people and everybody else you might find commonly define atheism as to deny the existence of God. Even classical atheists defined themselves as the above, so when you write that non-atheists are “redefining” atheism, they’re simply correcting a modern movement who themselves can’t (or won’t) preserve clear definitions which we do have. For what reason are modern unbelievers so hung up on rocking the boat however, why’s the long standing definition of atheism suddenly so hot a potato?

      Sophisticated skeptics, people like Bertrand Russell (whose History of Western Philosophy yet sits upon my bookshelf), affirmed how there wasn’t any evidence of God’s absence, only people who said their expectations weren’t met sufficiently, thus it follows there’s no evidence for atheism outside of the subjective. This leads to many atheists writing “You can’t prove a negative” (as you believe), or more specifically, “You can’t prove a universal negative”, yet as already stated and agreed upon by both you and I, you can certainly prove a universal negative, nonetheless, atheists usually insist you can’t prove a universal negative, yet, if it’s indeed true that you cannot prove universal negatives, and atheism is itself a claim supposing to prove some universal negative, then there’s no saving atheism from itself! (Herein lies a problem).

      How do people solve the above problem, because atheism historically hasn’t had an ambiguous meaning, everybody knows the long standing definition is as I’ve already described (belief in the reality of our universe without any god/gods). Well, the idea is to revise the definition of atheism, with which it’s no longer the viewpoint “God does not exist”, rather it’s merely an absence of belief in God (how you claimed and thus far believe). Therefore, anybody who lacks belief in a God automatically becomes an atheist by the above definition, for which we must than enter into your careful investigation into where upon the spectrum of unbelief they’ve landed. Now, nobody (at least not myself) rejects your redefinition because they’d sooner trap atheists or make atheism less attractive, they’re dismissing the redefinition because it’s hopelessly muddled.

      The redefinition is attempting to change atheism from a viewpoint into a description of someone’s psychological state, “namely, the state of lacking belief in God.” Let’s imagine who else is an atheist if your definition of absence of belief is being used: Worms are atheists, babies are atheists, bacteria are atheists, soft agnostic people are atheists! etc etc. Wouldn’t people rightly decide the infidel community’s attempted redefinition being both indiscriminate and totally unworkable.

      ‘There is no “right” way to define any word.’

      Which means you can’t possibly be right in the definition you’re arguing for. 😛

      “Generally, I care a lot more about arguing with the positions people actually hold rather than arguing over definitions of words,”

      You can’t argue a position without first understanding the actual definition of the position you’re arguing about. The above reminds me of a humorous banner found at the daily atheist quotations site, which read: “Beliefs don’t make good people, actions do.” But actions are directly informed and prompted by beliefs! So, if a person believed whites were superior by virtue of their color and nothing more, then they’re very likely to behave in a racist way.

      “I frequently see non-atheists trying to redefine atheism in a way that makes the position easier to argue against.”

      I frequently see atheists trying to redefine atheism out of its long held traditional meaning in a way that makes the position not a position but a psychological state, and therefore easier to defend against criticism (How you and I can read above!). Even atheists.org explained: “Older dictionaries define atheism as a belief that there is no God.” Meaning, neither you nor I can be in any doubt as to which community is playing the redefinition game. Although you could complain that believers were redefining your redefinition back into its original definition (Oh my!).

      Now, you wouldn’t blame a person for thinking you naive, would you, Alex? In your estimation there’s a horde of marauding believers out there trying to undermine your broad brush use and redefinition of the word atheism, and you’re dissatisfied with these people for not passively allowing a section of unbelievers to have their way when they try and move the goal posts of what words commonly mean (which they’re doing for totally pure reasons of course). Surely our skepticism isn’t switched from on to off just because it’s atheists/unbelievers who want to befoul the waters of their own belief. You continued wrestling through definitions nevertheless:

      ‘And by far the most common definition I see atheists use for “atheist” is “one who does not believe in any gods”.’ Adding furthermore: “So, it would make sense to assume that someone who self-identifies as an atheist lacks belief in any gods.”

      Having expanded your notions, there’s this idea that atheists, rather than merely being able to self-identify in a certain way, ought to also define words which pertain to themselves. Yet as you’d readily agree you’ve had your fingers burnt by imagining everybody is how they self-identify or define themselves to be in our previous exchange of ideas:

      You’re disinterested in defining who is and isn’t a Christian, yet you’ve also already adopted an indiscriminate form of defining in which you’re compelled to dub everybody who self identifies as a Christian Christian. Therefore, you’d be content to call a society of violent thugs a society of pacifists, and a tribe of savages who ate each other raw you would name vegetarians, just as long as they believed they were indeed vegetarian enough.

      As assuredly as it’s a cold January here in London, you wouldn’t be content to call a society of violent thugs a society of pacifists, nor would you believe a tribe of savages who ate each other raw deserved being named vegetarians (who would?!). So, in an effort to clarify your position or avoid the above criticism, a criticism you must imagine to be of value, you’ve amended the original method whereby you judged an actual Christian person from a nominal Christian:

      ‘Perhaps “people who are commonly called Christians” would be a better category than “people who call themselves Christians”.’ Meaning, you don’t have a better method by which to discern who to describe as Christian then who people commonly name as Christian. Allow for me to unpack your idea:

      (1) Atheism (the belief that there are no gods) should be redefined by people who don’t necessarily qualify to be atheists by the definition of the word so that they may then change the definition of the word into “people who lack belief in gods.” (Thus becoming atheists by their redefinition).

      Whereas:

      (2) Who’s Christian is to be defined not by “people who call themselves Christians” (meaning no self-identity, because allowing for such would lead you into affirming absurdities like cannibal vegetarians), but rather Christians are to be defined by an uninvited group of non-Christian people, although we have yet to design a working definition to know who’s indeed a non-Christian, who “commonly called” (rightly or wrongly) other people Christian (So yourself?!).

      To write plainly, without being able (or interested) in defining who is and isn’t a Christian you imagine to hand the burden of deciding who is Christian to a popular culture you assume aren’t Christian (because to allow people to self-identify as Christian would land you in a wealth of absurdities). However, then you deny allowing for the culture at large to define atheism or defend its long standing definition of what it means to be an atheist because a select group of unbelieving people, people who may or may not be atheists, want to redefine the word for reasons that are surely less than savory.

      Firstly, you’re clearly a very sophisticated and studied atheist whose points deserve care and deliberation (hence my careful reply), however, you yourself should be able to read the above material you’ve presented as a master class in double standards.

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  6. What most atheists fail to realize is that all these “reasons for doubting the Bible” they present are nothing new to us Christians, cause we have brains and have asked ourselves about them too! Historically and linguistically though anyone with an open mind and no personal quarrel against Christianity will be blown away. Thanks for the post!

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    • Christians having brains and asking questions? Impossible, exopti! It’s almost as if Christian believers are commanded to love the Lord with all their soul, and with all of their strength, and with all of their mind (Luke 10:27), or that they’re supposed to be as wise as serpents (Matthew 10:16). Christians have of course always loved the Lord with their minds, as shown by Yale, Harvard and Princeton university, all of which were began to explicitly train Christians and spread the message of God. Thanks for the excellent contribution, my friend.

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