“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
A Facebook friend had written something about Scripture and people were leaving comments. One person in particular was giving her a hard time.
I suppose the critic was her friend, because after his unkind and cutting remarks, she patiently responded with kindness and reason.
But nothing worked. This guy was determined to be mean-spirited.
When one is determined not to believe, no amount of truth or reason or logic can penetrate the protective armor of alibis, arguments, excuses, and slander in which he clothes himself.
He had found a contradiction in Scripture, he said, that convinced him the whole business of Christianity was nothing but a con.
What was his “contradiction”?
“In one place the Bible says an eye for an eye and another place it says turn the other cheek. What do you say about such a contradiction?”
Is this guy serious, I wondered? My grandchild could answer that.
Now, we may be wasting our time even responding. After all, even if the Lord had such an unthinking fellow on His team, He wouldn’t have much. HIs ignorance is shallow and I suspect his faith would be just as worthless.
Before talking about contradictions in the Word, let me respond to that guy, just in case anyone needs to know how those two scriptures line up.
“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” was given to Israel as a principle for assessing punishment for crimes (Leviticus 24:20). This formula was light-years more lenient and merciful than the standard used in pagan countries–and to this day, in some backward nations–that demanded a life for an eye; a limb for a tooth.
The punishment should fit the crime, God told Israel. Whatever the bad guy did to his victim, do that to him. Nothing could be fairer.
But here’s the thing…
Our Lord Jesus addressed this matter in Matthew 5:38-39. “You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, turn the other cheek….”
So, instead of our critic having made a great discovery about the contradictory standards of Scripture, He never noticed that Jesus answered him 2,000 years ago. We call this laziness. Ignorance. Meanness.
But then again, expecting a willfully ignorant person to have read his Bible is asking a little much.
Our friend deserves the appellation which Proverbs gives to the willfully ignorant. They are called “stupid” in Proverbs 12:1, “fool” in 12:15, and “scoffer” in 13:1. I didn’t say it. God’s Word did.
(Those who search God’s Word and come up with “honest questions” about what appears to be contradictions are welcome. But not those who are just killing time and looking for excuses for their own wickedness.)
A few thoughts about contradictions in the Christian life or the Bible itself….
1. Everyone says and does contradictory things from time to time. It’s real life.
I loved my parents dearly. But they had contradictions in their lives. We all do.
Take me, for instance. I preach about caring for the body as God’s Temple, and yet I eat more Blue Bell ice cream than is wise. I urge people to spend time in God’s Word daily, and yet I’m lazy some days and do not open the Bible.
2. Scientists often come upon contradictory realities in their studies.
When astronomers discover a planet or a star not conforming to the known laws, they do not automatically dismiss it. They do not say, “Well, I’ve found a contradiction in the physical laws, so I’m out of here. Look for me at the UPS employment office.”
Instead, they wisely decide “something is going on here which we do not understand” and “there is much more to the universe than what we know.” They keep digging, because they know they’re about to learn something valuable. It’s how great discoveries are made.
3. God does not hesitate in placing before His children two seemingly opposite commands.
“Love your neighbor as yourself” and “deny yourself.” “Let your light shine before men” and “do not do your works before men to be seen of them.” “For God so loved the world” and “love not the world nor the things in it.” “Each person shall bear his own burden” and “bear ye one another’s burdens.”
We could do this all day.
Jesus said, “He that loses his life shall find it.” He came into the world, He said, so that “those who see may be made blind.” He told the Pharisees that if they were blind, they would have no sin. “But now you say, ‘we see,’ therefore your sin remains.” (That’s John 9.)
Only the willfully ignorant, those who think a “hard saying” in the Word (see John 6:60) automatically means God is contradicting Himself, packs up and leaves when they encounter such a paradoxical statement.
4. God wants us to think!!
“…upon that law (the Word) does he meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2).
“Come now and let us reason together” He said in Isaiah 1:18.
5. Some Scripture is indeed deep. Well, duh!
If Scripture is the message of the Creator of the Universe–we’re talking about the One responsible for the galaxies we now observe in the far reaches of Hubble’s telescopic sights and everything else out there!–doesn’t it make sense some of it might be profound and even hard to understand?
Where did the idea arise that if my tiny little mind finds an unsolvable conflict in Scripture then God’s existence is automatically disproved? What kind of nitwits are we to believe that, and to walk away from the living God for such a flimsy reason.
No wonder those internet scams continue. No wonder the cults still pack ’em in.
People are lazy and want everything made easy. If God does not do things their way, answer their prayers just the way they intended, they are out of there!
No wonder our Lord said, “When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8). Anyone serving Him by faith, going forward in obedience without all the answers, with nagging doubts but trusting Him anyway?
6. The real question for any of us is this: Do we really want to know the Truth?
Not everyone does. If we found that God is alive and this Word is authentic and Jesus Christ is Lord, it would require serious alterations in our lives. And most people do not want that.
7. It takes courage to admit to our foolishness and to humble ourselves before the Living God. That’s why so few do it.
Scripture says the “cowardly” and “timid” will lead the sad parade into hell (see Revelation 21:8). For my money, another group right in there with them will be the lazy, the unthinking. The willfully ignorant.
The Ralph Waldo Emerson quote with which we began this article reads as follows…
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do…. Is it so bad then to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton…. To be great is to be misunderstood.
After some would-be disciples abandoned Jesus because of His “hard sayings” (John 6:60), the Lord turned to the disciples and said, “Well, how about you? Will you go away too?”
Simon Peter, he who often spoke before thinking, said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:67-68). Great answer.
We do not follow Jesus because He is easy. We do not believe the Bible because it is simple. We do not remain faithful because it’s always enjoyable. We believe God’s word and follow the Lord Jesus because this is the only way. “Neither is there salvation in any other.” (Acts 4:12).
There is no other Savior. It’s Jesus Christ or we’re on our own, and in a lot of trouble.