This post is in answer to a question a good blogging friend asked me.
The question was, how is the mystery of the contradictions in the bible solved for me by the One who knows?
That question came as a response to something I said about not solving the contradictions in the bible by my own doing, but that it is done for me by One who knows.
This has all come about through a seemingly ongoing discussion regarding the errancy or inerrancy of scripture. Please be informed that I am not setting out to prove the inerrancy of scripture, I am only proving the trustworthiness of the modern bible, all of it. And I do not do this to sacrifice anyone on the altar of right. This was requested of me, and so I decided to answer.
So, how does God solve the mystery of the contradictions in the Bible for me? To answer that, I have to tell a bit of a story. Please bear with me. I do not believe my stories are worthwhile for you to read, but in this case, it is necessary.
I did not come to know Jesus through an “Evangelical” gospel. I pretty much came to know Him in a very lonely manner. Even before I knew Him, I started reading the Bible, the entire Bible, taking an intellectual approach to it. I wanted to know as much as I could about this thing we call the bible, you might say I was drawn to it. Since the first day I began reading it some seven years ago, I have not stopped reading it. It is always one of the books I read daily, even though the other stuff I read may change daily, the Bible maintains its place in my life.
Reading this book we call the bible isn’t a discipline, to me. As I said, I am drawn to it, and to not read it leaves me feeling empty. But don’t take that one sentence, and make that the thrust of this essay. Reading the Bible isn’t a necessary thing for me to do. It’s just what I do, and I can’t imagine not reading it. But I no longer read it intellectually. I no longer read it to learn of stories and psalms and prophecies, even though I certainly still learn from it. By now, I have read the thing so many times, there isn’t a story, a psalm, or a prophecy I haven’t seen many, many times, and most of the them I can photographically place on the page in my mind. But that’s neither here nor there. It just gives you a bit of background into my experience with this book.
As I said, when I first began to read this book, I didn’t really know Jesus. But I knew of Him. So I read the Bible, starting with Genesis, but also simultaneously reading the four gospels, because to me, the story of the bible is summed up in the gospel. I remembered that much from my learning as a young Catholic. It would have seemed like drudgery to me, to read the beginning of the Bible, and not get to the gospel for a long time. That is why I decided to read it the way I did.
Someone once mentioned to me that “No one comes to the Father except through me”. Upon hearing that, I remembered where I had read that, and was struck by how I could have missed the implications of that. Still not believing, I continued in my pursuit to read this Bible cover to cover, intellectually. However, something was happening. I began remembering things I had read for the first time, and how they seemed to fit with things I had read before in this book. I began reading faster, not wanting to stop, not wanting to miss out on the wholeness of this book I was engaged in. Prior to this, every attempt at reading the Bible had been drudgery, to say the least. It bored me stiff.
But now, I began to understand the things Jesus was saying. I began to see the truth He was preaching, and this mysterious Kingdom He kept talking about intrigued me to no end. So on I read, into Acts, into Romans, and into the rest of the letters of the New Testament, right alongside the books of Deuteronomy, Leviticus, psalms, proverbs, and the prophets. And I saw even further how it all tied together, not as individual pieces of literature, which is how I had always viewed this bible in the past, but as a whole, a one piece puzzle.
My life, at that time, was getting more complicated. It seemed Jesus was everywhere, I could not escape Him. Even as I was intrigued by Him, I was bent on rejecting Him, believing I was sufficient, that somehow, I would figure out just how good I had to be to “earn” salvation. But He wouldn’t leave me alone. What I read during the day stayed with me at night, and what I read during the night stayed with me during the day. And everywhere, Jesus! At work, He was there, at home, in my car, outside, on signs by the road, on the medias, wherever I was, He was telling me something. I ran from it as best I could, but somehow, I couldn’t stop reading this Bible.
Having the blessing of hindsight, I now know that I was becoming a witness to my own salvation. Regardless of what I did to try and reject Jesus, I couldn’t complete the task. I thought the idea of one man dying for my sins, and thus saving me was ridiculous. But I just couldn’t put the Bible down, I couldn’t reject the truth I found, and no matter how hard I tried, I could no longer justify that Jesus wasn’t the only way to the Father. Nothing I did toward the end of rejecting Jesus ever worked, and I found myself steadily drawn toward Him.
I am a witness to my own salvation, not a participant in it. Having said that, maybe now you can understand that I am also a witness to the truth of the modern bible, not a judge against it.
I was asked how God solves the mystery of these contradictions for me.
I gave up.
Jesus drew me, I couldn’t fight it, and so I gave up. I didn’t choose Jesus, to say that would be a lie. I just stopped fighting the truth, it was wearing me out. But once I gave up, my eyes began to see more truth. I began to see that an intellectual approach to this Bible was only one way to read it, and that there were other ways.
I began to re-read the bible, not as an intellectual tool, but for enjoyment. And it has been this way ever since. Certainly, there are times I read this book to learn something, times when I want to know what a certain man said, or what a certain psalm says. But for the most part, I now read the bible for enjoyment.
And through that enjoyment, answers to the questions I have always come. "Contradictions" such as Jesus being God and man are not contradictions anymore,and lets face it, that’s the biggest contradiction in the bible. If you get past that, you can get past anything.
But let’s take this more to the physical aspects. When I tried to approach the Bible intellectually, all it did was blow me away intellectually. I couldn’t “figure it out”. I tried to make sense of places where I thought things didn’t seem to add up, and the harder I tried, the more confusing it became. I am not saying the book itself does this, I think instead, it is God who does this, because possibly He desires that any endeavor we undertake to know Him should include enjoyment, not fact gathering. If you attempt to put your hand on God, He will elude you. It is our heart that is the only place that can hold God. How strange this is, since the heart is such a small place, or so it seems.
So to approach the Bible with the mind of a man is not wrong, but it won’t solve any mysteries, either. If you want to know how to solve these mysteries, you are going to have to surrender your mind to God, and let Him flow within it. You won’t solve anything by taking an intellectual approach to the words written in that book. You may learn something, you may gather facts, but you will not solve any contradictions.
The word of God speaks as loudly to our heart as it does to our eyes and ears. I am living proof of that, this man who had one, maybe two people even mention what Jesus did on the cross. I am a witness to the power of that written word, which before it was written, was spoken to many before me. I think part of the problem with claiming that certain parts of the Bible are not scripture, while others are, is that we tend to intellectualize our approach to this book, and when we do that, our heart disengages, for whatever reason.
There are errors in the Bible. Let’s face facts. But these errors have not lessened the impact, or the truth of the message, as a whole. And if we can trust God, and what He says, those errors might just enhance the message. After all, isn’t He God who says that through weakness and imperfection, He makes perfect?
Trust that, but don’t trust your mind more than that. Trust God, and trust this one final thing, for it is the seat, the foundation of what I have come to know about the New Testament letters, which have been the basis for the ongoing discussion regarding inerrancy and what is, or is not, scripture. On the night before He died, Jesus made a promise to His disciples. He promised them that the Holy Spirit would remind them of EVERYTHING He said, and would teach them ALL things. This is a promise you can trust was fulfilled.
So, when the disciples wrote their letters, they didn’t write it with their best understanding. Rather, they wrote their letters with Jesus’ best understanding of what the gospel was about, because He had fulfilled the promise He made to them. There isn’t even a chance that this is not true. That’s how I start reading these letters, with trust, not suspicion.
If you have been looking for a “method”, I am sorry to have disappointed you. I don’t know of any method that will solve this problem for you. But I also don’t have to worry about contradictions anymore, the Bible truly does verify itself, for the one who is willing to accept it. Maybe that isn’t enough for you. I can’t help that. I know what my experience is, and it cannot be shaken. No amount of evidence can disprove what I know, because I did not come to know what I know through fact gathering, and intellectual exercises. I came to know them through the mind of Christ, just as His disciples did. So that's how God solves it for me, through the mind of Christ.
Don’t read this modern bible trying to prove something. Read it for enjoyment, enjoy the wholeness of it, how it interweaves within itself, and most of all, enjoy God within it. He is not bound by the words, but He will meet you within them, because He loves to talk with us. The Bible is just one of His tools for doing so.
And it is, in its complete, modern form, trustworthy. I know this like I know I have to breath to live. There is no doubt, and that kind of trust cannot be built through intellect. It takes something else, or should I say, Someone else? You can rely on your intellect if you want, but it won't get you very far when it comes to this modern bible. For the word of God is far deeper than the shallowness of our minds.