Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Apologetic strategy of the day

Someone gently asks: 'How do you explain all of the contradictions in the bible?'

  1. Say incredulously 'What contradictions?' and hope they fall for your bluff. If they actually list any contradictions go to step 2.
  2. Waffle about how 'contradiction' is a difficult word to define. However, if they offer a reasonable definition and apply it to a certain set of biblical texts, go to step 3
  3. Mention their thoughts are wicked and that they must really hate all things righteous (roll your 'r'). If their face starts to harden, go to step 4.
  4. Suddenly and forcefully grab a hold of their head with both hands, and rebuke demons of stupidity (and add generational rebellion, lust, greed and paedophilia for good measure). Then take of your anointed 'mantle' (i.e. your jacket), and thwack them round the abdomen as hard as is righteous.
  5. Walk away from yet another ministry success.

Or, say something like 'Real life is full of contradictions and paradoxes. If the Bible is not merely a collection of abstract philosophical propositions but a collection of books written from the context of and about real life in all its grit and joys, grim and rapture, why, then, should there be no contradictions? Perhaps we should start judging the Bible according to what it is, not what it never was or never claimed to be'



At 11/06/2008 2:32 AM, Anonymous Jim said...

this is fantastic. you're a genius.

At 11/06/2008 4:20 AM, Anonymous Angie Van De Merwe said...

Are you sure that the jacket wasn't like Elijah's mantle?

At 11/06/2008 5:48 AM, Anonymous Sivin Kit said...

This is good stuff before lunch!

At 11/06/2008 7:03 AM, Anonymous Edward T. Babinski said...

Hi Cris, I'm relieved to know that the Bible is "a collection of books written from the context of and about real life." But what about all those "other" books people have written since writing was invented? If the Bible is a book of "real life" then what are all those other books about? "False life?" Or why do you think the Bible is "inspired" more than all the rest? And what percentage of inspiration would you assign to different parts of the Bible itself? Which parts or sections or verses of it appear most inspired to you and least inspired, and can you assign percentage points to those inbetween?

Can we do that with other books as well, agreeing on which sections of a book or paragraphs or sentences appear most and least "inspired?"

At what point has moderate-to-liberal theologizing turned into literary criticism?


But leaving aside moderate and liberal views, what I find most amusing about the inerrantists is their claim that the "original autographs" were without error. This is incredibly convenient for them to assert isn't it, since no one has even seen an original autograph. So I guess we can never disprove the "error free" status of them. And how do you know which ancient books were error free? Whichever ones made into the Biblical canon of course!

At 11/06/2008 5:44 PM, Anonymous Josh McManaway said...

My favorite tactic is to carry a very large, heavy Bible where ever I go. If someone brings up the "contradictions", I pull it out as if I'm going to look it up, and when they look at the book too, I smack them over the head yelling, "Contradict this!"

It has proven really successful.

At 11/06/2008 5:58 PM, Anonymous mike devries said...

Conviction by concussion...

At 11/06/2008 9:23 PM, Anonymous Douglas Dobbins said...

I am of one spirit with your motivations, i.e to be true to reality. Yet, as a historian, I disagree with your exegetical conclusions (regarding contradictions). In the end, there are some who doubt the so-called contradictions, not because a philosophical apriori, but because of exegesis.

At 11/06/2008 11:43 PM, Anonymous steph said...

"Real life is full of contradictions..." No it's not. Name them!! :-)

At 11/07/2008 3:08 AM, Anonymous E said...

Life would be so much easier if we only had one Gospel instead of four. Then we could say, with absolute asssurance, e.g.:

"The Last Supper was a Passover Seder and occurred on Passover eve."

"The disciples saw the fig tree wither immediately, and didn't have to wait until the next day to notice it."

"We know exactly what Jesus said while He was on the cross."

"We know with certainty who first came to the tomb and what they saw."


I.e., one Gospel = no contradictions. Voila!

At 11/07/2008 4:09 AM, Anonymous Weekend Fisher said...

Yah, but with one gospel we'd only have one witness: not enough to establish anything with any credibility to anyone.

Of course as they say the first three gospels copied each other, except where they contradict each other. ;)

Take care & God bless

At 11/08/2008 1:32 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Douglas,
Thanks for your comment.

"In the end, there are some who doubt the so-called contradictions, not because a philosophical apriori, but because of exegesis"

My problem with this is that such exegesis is i) motivated by an often crude theological agenda, and ii) produces some results that are sometimes, in my view, extremely dubious!

At 11/08/2008 5:28 PM, Anonymous Weekend Fisher said...

I've seen "contradiction" of both sorts -- kinds where I couldn't really see a reasonable resolution, and kinds where just a closer look really does clear up things. I don't think it takes a warped agenda to double-check the facts; I'd think double-checking the facts is a legitimate agenda. I spent a few years on message boards debating atheists, and some of their favorite "gotcha" lines were a little silly.

For example: the part where Jesus gets a donkey and a foal, puts coats or blankets or something over them, then sits on "them" has been called a silly stunt-ride of two donkeys by some contradiction-hunters. The "them" that Jesus sat on is the cloths, not the two donkeys simultaneously.

I think we have to appreciate that fundamentalists are not the only ones with questionable agendas, and that some of the atheists and mockers also have questionable agendas quite capable of distorting the facts. Not everything called a "contradiction" is actually so, just like not everything called a "resolution" is actually so.

Take care & God bless

At 11/09/2008 9:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For me, the fact that those responsible for compiling the canon never thought to iron out any apparent inconsistencies (as would an individual who was intent on constructing a totalising discourse of history, religion or philosophy) is part and parcel of the christian commitment to the truth. If all the books of the bible represented a single, unified view (as does virtually every philosophy that I know of, and the koran) it would show itself up as being a man-made construct. No one writer in the bible has the monopoly on truth, and they know it. Get four people - a civil servant, an alcoholic, a bank manager and a Somalian refugee (for example) to write an accurate history of your life and then tell me that truth carries no contradictions and paradoxes (not to mention emphasis and blanks)!

At 11/14/2008 11:30 PM, Anonymous Scott F said...

Ah, the contradictions prove that they are true! Unfortunately that leaves us no way of knowing which versions of the contradictory episodes are the truth and no way of discerning which unique aspects in each story may be as false as (at least) 3 versions of the contradictory bits.

Not exactly a way forward yet good enough for Lee Strobel, I guess.

At 11/16/2008 1:03 PM, Anonymous beholdtheman said...

All scripture is inerrant, especially the God-breathed OT apocrypha that they managed to leave out of the Canon whence guided by the Spirit. God bless Mohammed for receiving the dictation from God and giving us the KJV, whose innerancy has never been questioned in later translations.


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