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Click HERE for an introductory YouTube video for Apologetics – Is the Bible Contradictory? (Part 3). I will not smell because I just took a shower.
Click HERE for Part 1 of this blog series.
Click HERE for Part 2 of this blog series.
We’ve been talking about internal contradictions in scripture. Essentially I’ve been contending for a particular answer to the question of whether or not there are contradictions in scripture. I’m suggesting that we stop giving an unmovable no and say both yes and no. For those uncomfortable with this suggestion, I offer two main points for the beginning of this blog. First, don’t we do this on many occasions with the already but not yet theology around eschatology? We say the Kingdom is here but we pray for it to come. Secondly, I’ll give another genre example like the one on troop numbers in the previous blog as a means of picking up from our list in paragraph 3 in that same blog.
There are some who make claims of conceptual or logical contradictions. Once again, we can’t cover them all but we can give a popular example. Again, Grudem gives a good one. Scripture uses language about the sun by saying that it “rises” and “goes down.” He clarifies by saying that this is “ordinary descriptive or observational language” and not “twentieth-century scientific” terms so that they are “accurate from the speakers perspective.” What’s interesting is that we still use this kind of language today in our everyday conversations and people don’t generally call us liars when we do! However, we may not use this kind of language in, say, an oral science exam. So, it is both true to the conversational genre and contradictory to the scientific language genre. The key then becomes, setting, audience, and many other subtleties Carson has talked about. In fact, he goes on to say in Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon that we have to notice that there is a before and after, prophesy and fulfillment, that we must notice in the text along with type/anti-type and command.
Paul Helm deals with what I would call in this work a genre of logic. In his work he correctly says that two propositions can’t contradict one another. Both can’t be true, and I agree. However, this assumes we’re staying in the genre of logic. However, once we step out of that genre and step into another we have to add the disclaimer that we must use existing sound rules of hermeneutics to properly interpret. The premise of the sun rises, in the context of plain conversation, is not contradictory if what follows remains in the genre of plain conversation. If we incorrectly move it into a genre of scientific language it would then be contradictory to what we know about physical reality. The sun does not actually rise.
Much the same can also be said for terms. One text saying God parted the water does not contradict another that says the wind did so, by necessity. J.I. Packer shows that we use various tools, such as logic, history, semantics, and linguistics to better understand the text and the God behind the text. He reminds us that the immediate audience was first and foremost being communicated to, rather than us. Just like when we speak, we speak first to be understood by the immediate person or persons we’re speaking to. So the writers of the Bible wrote so that their contemporaries could understand them. There simply is no surefire way to write to an audience that is thousands of years away from existence with the same ease of writing to one’s own current community.
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