Friday, February 24, 2006

"Biblical contradictions? Surely, you jest."


From dim memory, I recall the story of a writing instructor who, more frequently than he would have imagined, had to explain to his students the concept of continuity and contradiction. On numerous occasions, he would sit down with a student and have to explain how that student had totally contradicted himself (or herself) in the space of a short essay.

"See," the instructor would say, "back here, early on, you said this, but now, you're saying this, which is the complete opposite."

"But," the student would invariably respond, utterly confused about what the problem was, "that was back then and this is now."

In other words, it's not that the student was being obstinate about it -- that student truly didn't understand the concept of defending some fundamental principle in their work, and not simply abandoning it later when it became convenient. Or something like that.

Sadly, you'll find the same principle at work when you try to discuss Biblical "contradictions" with the unthinkingly devout since, in their minds, such things just do not exist. Contradictions in the Bible? Laughable. Unthinkable. Preposterous.

Not surprisingly, Scriptural contradictions abound, as you can see in this small sampling here. Some of the contradictions have deep philosophical implications. Are we allowed to kill or not? What's the Scriptural position on stealing or lying? What about idolatry? Slavery? Rape?

Other contradictions are far more amusingly obvious. How old was Ahazian when he began to reign? How many animals were taken onto the Ark? How many stalls for horses did Solomon have? And so on.

With respect to the first category, if you present any of them to the devout, you're almost certainly letting yourself in for a long, tedious, mind-numbing presentation of Christian apologetics, in which perfectly normal words are twisted and re-defined out of recognition so that, for example, abortion is unacceptable murder while capital punishment is, like, totally all right and everything.

With contradictions of the second form, though, weird things start to happen as the devout, quite simply, will frequently just not understand what your point is. "Look," you say, "here it says Solomon had four thousand stalls, and here it says forty thousand stalls. Isn't that a contradiction?"

"No," they'll say, "it isn't. I don't know what your problem is." It's not that they're being deliberately obtuse -- it's that, believe it or not, they really don't see the discrepancy.

What's happening here is that, for these believers, the Bible is defined -- at its core -- as the literal and innerant word of God. Put another way, by definition, the Bible cannot contain any contradictions. What this means is that, regardless of how blatant and obvious a discrepancy you find in Scripture, it will be explained away, not so much by dodging, weaving and redefinition, but by simply saying, "That's not possible, the Bible does not contain contradictions."

These people will follow your finger to the verses and they will read the words, but they literally do not see the problem because Biblical contradictions are just not possible in their universe. It really is that simple, and it's why arguing with these people is about as productive as trying to nail Jell-O to a wall. It's just not worth the trouble.

Not surprisingly, the denial of Biblical contradictions can be ever so embarrassing at times, like at this blog, which advertises the Biblical verse:

The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left. -- Ecc. 10:2

Apparently, poor Jinx never read far enough to run into this passage:

Matthew 5:22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause[a] shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.

No big deal, though. I'm sure Jinx would be happy to explain that apparent discrepancy away. On his own blog, of course.

AFTERSNARK: One of my favourite examples of the overwhelming hypocrisy of Christians is their annoying insistence on public prayer, despite the fact that public displays of worship were clearly discouraged by Jesus.

So, first you point those believers at the relevant passages from Scripture. Then you tell them to shut the fuck up. The order here is important.

3 comments:

Jason said...

CC, you are IGNORANT of what inerrancy means. It's painfully obvious that you are proud of your ignorance and don't wish to leave the comfortable spot it leaves you it. Unsurprising. Critics of the Bible tend to be a cowardly lot. You are no exception. Delete away! And enjoy your foolish, closed-minded hypocrisy.

Mike said...

jason/jinx/general christain asshat

Innerent means without errors. The Bible is chalk full of factual errors and contradictions

Are you to tell me now that inerrant means something else? Another example of moving the goal posts. If it doesn's suit you redifine the English language itself.

Sorry the only close-minded hypocrite here is you, fool.

Canucklehead said...

Ermm...Jason?

Howsabout you SHOW us that the Bible is inerrant.
Explain the contradictions, and explain what parts we follow and which we don't.

I admit, I've never read the thing, but it's starting to look like God's Second Draft or something.