Hi, friends! We're moving right along through Natasha Crain's Keeping Your Kids on God's Side. In Chapter 29, Natasha asks, "Does the Bible have errors and contradictions?" With skeptics claiming that the Bible is filled with contradictions and errors, Christian parents need to prepare their children for these potential challenges, teaching them how to properly evaluate scripture. Oh, boy. Does it really need to be this hard? Imagine the poor child that's being subjected to this apologetic torture.
Natasha begins by examining two types of supposed errors:
1) Alleged Errors That Aren't Truly Errors: For example, in Matthew 13:31-32, Jesus called the mustard seed the "smallest of all seeds," when, in fact, it is not. I'm hoping that skeptics aren't wasting too much time on this one.
2)True Errors: Now, don't think for a second that Natasha is going to concede true biblical errors. These are simply copyist errors, nothing more. Natasha reminds her Christian audience "that Christians only affirm that the Bible’s original manuscripts are inerrant (which can be ascertained from the copies with great, if not perfect, accuracy; again, see chapter 28)." How convenient! Given that we have none of the original texts, I'm curious as to how it was ascertained that they are inerrant--another affirmation resting upon a completely unfalsifiable foundation.
Okay, so the Bible has no true errors, but what about those pesky contradictions? "When skeptics allege that the Bible is filled with such contradictions, they're not properly interpreting the passages in questions." She suggests three ways to evaluate these alleged contradictions:
1) Context: It's all about context, interpreting passages in relation to other surrounding verses within that chapter, that particular book, and the Bible itself. Oh, I know this one well. I used it on my husband more than once while I was attempting to rationalize some of the atrocities in the Bible. NonStampCollector perfectly sums up this argument from the skeptic's perspective.
2) Interpret Difficult Passages in Light of Clearer Passages
3) Don't Confuse Descriptive and Prescriptive Passages: In other words, when God says, "You shall not murder," he's being prescriptive; but when he says, "Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey" (1 Samuel 15:3), God is...well, he's being prescriptive. Oh, come on, skeptics! Obviously, this was a different time and a different culture. And God only knows what those little children and infants would have grown up to be, probably sinners just like their parents. Better to smite them all.
The last section of this chapter is devoted to addressing alleged Gospel contradictions. Natasha offers three considerations when analyzing these books:
1) Authors sometimes present events in thematic rather than chronological order.
2) Partial accounts are not (necessarily) contradictory.
3) Different perspectives are not (necessarily) contradictions.
Natasha provides examples throughout the Gospels to support her points. Without going into too much detail on a topic that I feel has been adequately covered in my last three posts, I'll just reiterate a previous point. The Gospels look just like what one would expect to see if its authors were actively guided by their unique perception of Jesus rather than guided by divine inspiration.
So, let's just go ahead and address the elephant in the room, the irreconcilably contradictory nature of God. Is God good? What is good, and could we look at scripture and the examples of God's nature in the Bible to determine what good is? Christians, if you're reading this, I know the god in your head is good. He is beyond all measure! The god in my head was, too. Yet, if you imagined that some of the atrocious verses that we have in our Bible (Numbers 31) were actually straight out of the Quran, would you be so lenient? If Allah commanded his followers to wage war on the Midianites, killing all of the men and stealing all of their worthy possessions, would you be okay with that? What if Vishnu had sat back while his earthly ruler decreed the killing of all the males among the young children and every woman who had laid with a man? How would you feel if Buddha remained passive as his leader dictated the keeping of all the young girls who had not known man by lying with him? Would you need to evaluate the context of such debauchery? Of course not! You would be repulsed and rightfully so. You'd be so thankful that you don't worship a god like that. Yet, that is exactly the god that you claim to worship and will defend to the ends of the Earth.
No, that was definitely not the god that I worshiped, the one that resided in my head; and unless you have certain macabre fascinations, it's probably not your god either. When the mental gymnastics grow wearisome, it's time to walk away. When the cognitive dissonance is too much, get out before you thoroughly humiliate yourself (as I did) trying to justify your beliefs. When it takes this much time and effort to defend your holy book, close that chapter of your life.