Religion Magazine

Is It a Safe Bet to Rely on the Bible?

By Albert Wagner @albertwagner4
"The Bible can't be true.  It contradicts itself too much."
Have you ever heard someone say something like this?
It is a recurring accusation against the Bible that should have a legitimate response.  The assumption is if two things contradict each other one of them must not be true. 
Furthermore, if the Bible contradicts itself it is viewed as less credible.  This poses a potential problem of whether to take the Bible at its' word.  It is implied to be something not worth reading.
This post examines some common alleged discrepancies and tries to explain how it can all be true.  It just depends on how you view it.
Here are some common topics usually brought up in a conversation about the Bible contradicting itself.
1. Salvation by faith or works?
"For we have been saved by grace through faith and this is not your own doing it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
 "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only."  (James 2:24)
It seems on the surface that one of these must be right and one must be wrong.  But, in thinking about it, don't you think the sages noticed this a long time ago?
You can synthesize the seemingly conflicting statements in a way proposed by some great minds.  That way is to ask,
Are your works done with faith or not? 
2. Love the world or separate yourself from it?
"Love your neighbor as yourself." (Mark 12:31)
"Do not love the world or anything in the world." (Epistle of John 1:2:15)
So, should you love what is in this world or not?  Here again, the ancient writers must have noticed something like this.  When you get to the nitty gritty these statements seem to express liking the other person, but not the evil acts they do.
In other words, do not put other things before God.
The Bible's Different Paths Of Thought
For a more simple response to the accusation here are 3 ways things that seemingly contradict each other in the Bible could all be true.
1. The Old vs. The New Testament
There are different ways of thought in the 2 parts of the Bible in regards to the way of salvation.  The violent statements in the Old Testament and the forgiving God in the New Testament have been pitted against each other by some people.  One way to look at this is the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. 
A person can follow the spirit of the law without directly following the letter of the law.
2. Parables
Parables are interpreted differently by different people.  In fact, one proposed theory is they were meant to be hard to understand so people ask others questions and learn.  Who knows?  There might be more than one way to interpret something symbolic in nature.
What you view as a seed, for example,  might not be the same as how someone else views it.
3. Stage of development
How someone like St. Paul (or you) view a concept can change with age.  The same subject can have a different "angle" after years of life experience.  A reader might think ideas contradict each other when they are merely ideas at different stages of development.
The gist of this post is that just because things look contradictory on the surface, it does not mean there is no rational, consistent answer.
Perhaps some people think YOU contradict yourself.
Do you think of things the same in middle age as you did twenty years ago?
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You might also be interested in:
There Are No Contradictions In The Bible
Why Should You Read The Bible?

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