In Your Face!

Dear Midnightvenus2,

Thanks a million for your question. I love apparent "Bible contradictions!" Before we can dive into these type of issues, there are many things that we have to keep in mind.

We have to remember that matters can look apparently contradictory, yet only be paradoxical without clear answers. In one of the previous questions, I mentioned the Ko'ans of Buddhism that try to get adherents to enjoy the tensions to questions without answers, such as "what is the sound of one hand clapping?" I'm convinced that the Bible has many of these also, and that shouldn't be surprising since the biblical books originated from the ancient middle east. The various biblical authors had more in common with Oriental thinking than they would have with Western modern scientific thinking that demands perfect harmony and total consistency with statements. It is only the modern mindset preoccupied with mathematical precision that is obsessed in forcing biblical texts to "agree" with themselves, notwithstanding the problem that the Bible wasn't written in a modernist scientific worldview that was concerned with exact precision.

This is not to say that biblical authors were totally unconcerned with consistent statements, but they did not have a problem with allowing great paradox. For example, the Old Testament is filled with laments about the righteous who wrongfully suffer, and await God's wrath on the perpetrators. Psalm 13:1,2 "How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?"

However, we see in another place, Psalm 37:25 "I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread."

Ostensibly, one verse acknowledges that a righteous person suffers, while another verse acknowledges that God doesn't forsake the righteous.

The Jewish tradition for millenia have struggled with this. On the one hand, how can God ignore the obvious plight of His children? On the other hand, when His children prosper, this is a sign of His provision.

One good answer to this "glaring contradiction" is actually very simple: The Bible is a story of human struggle, questioning, triumph, failure, and deliverance. To be a human means to spend life among extreme conditions that we often hate. This is precisely why I believe the Bible is truly relevant for today, because its characters were real people who faced the same injustices and reacted the same as people do today. All humans from all traditions want perfect harmony and a life of noncontradiction or inconsistencies, but alas, this is elusive. Life is about dealing with the times when "things don't work!" Horrible things happen to good people, while wicked people never suffer and seem rewarded for their cruelty. This isn't lost on the biblical authors at all. They, too, wanted the ideal: "The righteous flourish like the palm tree"! Frequently, this didn't always match reality: "The righteous PERISH"!

Too many of us *sell* the Bible or Christianity as a solution to all of life's problems, when in reality the Bible and Christian faith present those brave enough to face up to it that life IS a bunch of problems without easy solutions. I find solace in one of the Bible's greatest contradictions: "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us," Romans 5:8.


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