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I’m writing this article in response to one posted by my new friend Chuck McKnight. In his article he explains his journey from believing the Bible to be inerrant to believing that it not only does have errors and contradictions but also that God wanted it to.
After seeing his post I considered if I should even respond. Often I have found that simply ignoring these kinds of things and just continuing to teach what I believe to be true is best. This is because it is not often that you find someone who wants to listen in order to understand. Too often we listen just enough so that we can respond…with or without understanding.
But as I was about to move on I felt a prompting to respond. So I asked my friend Chuck if he would be willing to change his mind if I could answer the objections he lists in his article. I was pleased to see that he did not take this as a “challenge” or an attack as many tend to do. And I would understand if he did since we all tend to become defensive when someone tells us that our belief may not be true.
Instead, Chuck said he would love to see a post in response, though he felt skeptical that I could bring an argument to him that he had not considered. This is a very mature way to go about this and I applaud him for that.
I have gone through his entire article and took note of each argument made. In all there are a lot of points he makes. Each one is like another step along the road to get to the point where he is now. So I would like to go to the beginning of this road and see if I can show Chuck a path that he may have missed which would have led him in a different direction.
I will be quoting his article to explain his point and then I will give my answer one by one. These quotes may skip a sentence or two in them (so they are not direct quotes without leaving some sentences off) but they will give the point that he makes. If you would like to read his article you can do so here: Chucks Article.
I would also like to say that this is a LONG post. I didn’t even answer every objection because there are so many. But I believe my task is not to answer each objection but rather show that perhaps there ARE answers that Chuck may have missed.
Point #1: “After graduating, I went to work full time for Answers in Genesis (the ministry of Ken Ham), having interned there for the previous two summers. They also hold in common the belief that we should separate from so-called “Christians” who do not share this conviction.”
While this may not be an argument he makes to support his view that the Bible is not inerrant I felt it was worth bringing up. The truth is that while those of us who “share this conviction” that the Bible IS inerrant we should not separate from other Christians who do not share this belief. At least not at first.
Instead we should consider that they may just need us to hold them up and provide support through meekness, gentleness, and solid discipleship. Just as a tree who’s roots are weak we should try to strengthen the roots before simply cutting down and removing the tree. If the time comes when they simply refuse to listen then, and only then, should we separate from them.
To sum up the answer to point #1: The proper way to handle this is in love, compassion, and considering ourselves lest we should also fall to the same temptations.
Point #2: “They teach that the scriptures are entirely free from error or contradiction. So what the Bible says is to be accepted without question.”
Chuck may find me to be a little bit different right from the start here. I believe everything should be tested INCLUDING the Bible itself. Like Chuck believed at one time, I also believe you should, “Never blindly accept what someone teaches you, not even if he’s a pastor, and not even if it’s me. Test everything by the Word of God.” But I take that a step further and say we should also test the Bible.
Now how are we going to test it? We find out if it has errors in facts or contradictions that can not be reconciled through properly handling the scriptures. What is properly handling the scriptures, you may ask? It is taking them at their word. The Bible itself will tell you when it speaks literally or figuratively. It will also be able to bridge 2 seemingly different thoughts or concepts together.
For example, take James 2:24 and Galatians 2:16. At first glance (and maybe even 2 or three glances for some people) it may seem like a blatant contradiction. James says “by works a man is justified” while Paul says, “By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
Does the Bible bridge these two together? Yes, it bridges them together in James 2:21-22. It tells us that faith is made perfect in works. Now we see how faith and works are connected. You begin with a belief and then you act on it. This is the very definition of faith.
Hebrews 11:1 tells us “Faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen.” This means faith is not just a belief. It is the tangible, solid, visible evidence of something. Reading on in the chapter we see many examples of those who believed something which resulted in them taking a solid visible action. With those actions their faith became complete.
Does this mean then that it is by their works alone that they were justified? No. Does this mean that they were justified by belief alone? No. But first comes belief followed by action and the result is justification through faith.
But the point I am making here is that in order to understand some of the things that may at first seem contradictory, or just plain wrong, we have to know how to properly examine them. I would also encourage an examination of the history of the Bible and its translations through the unit 1 study on this website. But those things are another topic for another time. Please note however that I use the KJV. I have my reasons for this based on more than just preference.
To sum up the answer to point #2: It is good and right to test the Bible, but you must know how to properly do so or you run the risk of “leaning to your own understanding.”
Point #3: “But I had started to question the nature of hell. Not the existence of hell, mind you! Nor the matter of who was going there. I was still quite convinced that a person’s fate was sealed at death, and that all who died without accepting Jesus were headed for eternal hell. But what was this eternal hell like? Was it eternal torment or eternal destruction? The Bible didn’t seem to be as clear on this question as I would have preferred, but I was starting to lean toward the belief that hell was a place of irreversible destruction, a view commonly known as Annihilationism.”
I am so glad that I have already been working on building our “Christianity 101” courses. These exact topics have been covered in detail at http://onthelineministries.com/what-the-bible-says-about-sin/ which is unit 2. So if you would like to read more about this please see that course. In fact I would recommend starting at the beginning and working your way through.
But for the purpose of responding to these objections I will cover this very briefly here.
Mark 9:43, Matthew 13:42, 2 Peter 2:4, 2 Thessalonians 1:9, and Matthew 8:12 all describe this place called hell. It is a place of darkness, fire, and everlasting destruction. There is no reason given by the Bible for these things to be taken as anything other than literal.
Death is NOT annihilation. It is destruction. The difference in the two words is that annihilation means that which existed now no longer exists in any form. Anyone who has studied science will tell you that nothing is ever annihilated because it just changes form. Such as matter to energy.
Destruction basically means decay. Hell is called a place of everlasting destruction, or “continual decay.” To learn more about this please see http://onthelineministries.com/what-the-bible-says-about-death/ where this topic is also covered in greater detail. Including some answers to the obvious questions this raises such as why do the people in hell not decay into nothing and how can the fire continually consume them.
Revelation also makes the statement that the “smoke of their torment” goes up forever. Yes, those in hell are BOTH eternally tormented and eternally destroyed, though never annihilated.
Luke 8:30-31, 2 Peter 2:4, Revelation 20:1-3, Revelation 9:1, and Isaiah 14:9 all point to the fact that this place called hell is in a literal location. This again shows that it is not figurative. One more thing I would like to point out is that in the story Jesus tells of the rich man and Lazarus He uses words such as “There was a certain man” which indicates He is not speaking of fiction.
For even more detail I once again want to suggest reading through the second course on this site. Pay close attention to this page especially: http://onthelineministries.com/is-there-a-literal-hell/
In fact, many answers to the “25 questions about hell” that Chuck raises can be answered in that course including why an everlasting punishment is not only true but is also fitting for the crime.
I would also like to point out that I read the 25 questions about hell and found many errors in understanding as well. Once again these errors were related to properly handling the scriptures. If Chuck would like me to address each one for him I am willing to do so but I would ask him to read through the Christianity 101 courses on my site first because a lot of ground work needs to be set in place.
To sum up the answer to point #3: When properly handling the scriptures and letting them define when they speak of literal or figurative things we can come to understand what hell is like, that it is both eternal torment and eternal destruction, and that the Bible is much more clear than Chuck may have thought.
Point #4: “As I continued testing my beliefs against the Bible, my earlier questions regarding the use of violence became a firm conviction: Jesus and the Apostles taught complete non-violence, even in matters of self-defense. I saw it throughout the New Testament, but it really came down to that pesky command to love one’s enemies. How could killing someone ever be compatible with loving them?
“If the New Testament is so full of non-violent teaching, what about all the violence in the Old Testament? If the Old Testament is to be taken literally, God actually commanded much of the violence that occurred. And that would mean that God has a violent streak.
“But I was also coming to understand that Jesus perfectly reveals God. But Jesus taught and modeled non-violent enemy love. And he taught that our love of enemies should be based on God’s love of everyone. Such non-violent enemy love is, according to Jesus, what it means to be sons of our Father and to be perfect as he is perfect (Matthew 5:43–48). This is a matter of two diametrically opposed views about the very nature of God. How does one “solve” this contradiction?”
First of all I would like to point out that there seems to be a basic lack of understanding the trinity here. Jesus doesn’t just reveal God. He is God. He is the Son of God, He is also the Holy Spirit, and the Father. This means the God you see in the Old Testament IS JESUS.
Again, for more detail on that please see another one of our studies: http://onthelineministries.com/the-trinity-explained/
But another thing I want to ask is did they really teach complete non-violence? Remember earlier that I said when there are 2 seemingly contradictory verses or thoughts we need to find the bridge? This is such a case.
Contradictions are normally “found” through proof texting. Which basically causes you to see one scripture say one thing and another scripture which says something else and since you believe they are opposed to each other you feel that you must throw one of them (if not both) out the window. But instead of that you should really be looking for how they connect. Again I have a study on this as well: http://onthelineministries.com/proof-texting-the-bible/
But lets tackle this particular issue. The problem here is the understanding of the word love. I’m not talking about the translation or meaning of the word. I’m talking about the actual way love works. If your view of love means love isn’t willing to cause suffering then there is a fundamental misunderstanding of love itself.
Let me illustrate this. The question is how can you love someone while also killing or harming them? Imagine your child was reaching for an electrical socket. You quickly and instinctively slap their hand away from it. The child starts to cry because you caused them pain. Are you unloving?
Of course not! That suffering you inflicted on the child kept them from getting killed! Love protects.
Now I know that illustration was very small. So lets get heavier. Your child has grown up and has now become a serial killer. You know they will not stop. One day you find another one of your sons in the corner of the house with his serial killer brother standing over him with an ax. You pick up a gun and shoot your serial killer son. Are you unloving?
No, you may have taken his life but you didn’t want to. You had to do it because it was the only way to protect the innocent. Yet you cry bitter tears every night because of what he had become and what he forced you to do. You still love him even though you had to kill him.
Love is not afraid to hurt or harm someone. In fact, there are times when it demands it!
Now lets go back to Jesus and His teachings about violence. Did you know that Jesus used a whip and literally beat people? It’s found in John 2:14-15 and Matthew 21:12 (note also that He CAST them out…He literally laid His hands on them and threw them out the door!).
Yes, even Jesus has a violent streak. Considering He and the Father are one (trinity doctrinal issue there) this shouldn’t be a surprise. But the reality isn’t that He taught complete non-violence. He actually taught PROPER USE OF VIOLENCE.
There are times to use violence and there are times not to. So lets go through a few things Jesus said that may have been misunderstood as being a teaching of complete non-violence.
Actually…lets go through ONE passage of scripture. This is the only passage of scripture pointed out by Chuck as proof that Jesus “taught complete non-violence.” There is good reason for this, I believe. It’s probably because it is the strongest passage that could be used.
Sure, there are many other passages that speak of following after peace, loving your neighbor, doing good to those who wrong you…but when you understand how to bridge this peace and love with justice and punishment then the argument that these all teach “complete” non-violence falls apart.
So lets look at the scripture used here:
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Sounds fairly straight forward doesn’t it? Love your enemy, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you. Not much room in that for violence is there?
But wait…there is more. Lets back this chapter in Matthew up a few verses. We need to find out why Jesus said this and how it applies to each situation.
Going back to verse 20:
20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
What was the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees? Self righteousness. They tried to follow that law to the letter…even though they would try to find loop holes in it to make something seem lawful which really wasn’t.
Now Jesus tells us not to be like that. We should not be looking for ways to get away with being cruel and unmerciful. But He was NOT saying we should never be cruel or unmerciful. We should know when the proper time to use violence is and when it would be better to be patient and merciful.
21 Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: 22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. 25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. 26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
Was Jesus saying we should not kill, be angry, or call our brother a fool at any time? No…take note that He said “without cause.”
This set of verses actually argues the case FOR judgment. Because Jesus says that if you are at odds with someone for no good reason and they bring you before the judge then you WILL be punished.
So no…nothing here showing “complete” non-violence.
27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. 29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
Just for good measure I will throw this bonus lesson in here. Did Jesus say it was a sin to notice someone for their beauty? Did He say it was wrong to admire the work God made? No…He said if you look on a woman TO LUST. In other words, for the express purpose of causing yourself to want what doesn’t belong to you.
Again here He also makes the case that violence would be better than being cast into hell.
And skipping ahead we come back to 43-48.
Did Jesus say there is never a time for violence? No he did not. But what did He say? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
You know what God does? It’s the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. He desires mercy and not sacrifice. He does not want anyone to perish. So He withholds His wrath.
But does that mean He will never carry out justice and show His wrath? Will He never harm the wicked? He has said “vengeance is mine” and “I will repay.”
There is a time for mercy and goodness. There is a time to do good for your enemy. But there is also a time for justice. How does God sometimes choose to carry out His vengeance? There are times He orders His people to become the executioner.
So…what are the connecting verses that bridge the two trains of thought between mercy, kindness, and justice and wrath?
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, John 7:51, Acts 17:31, Romans 2:3-5, Romans 13:1-5 are a few. Consider the city of Sodom as well. Did God destroy them without attempting to save them first? No, God was very patient with them. That city could have been destroyed long before it was. But mercy went before God’s justice and wrath. When mercy doesn’t cause repentance though wrath is not far behind.
Now lets talk about another thing Jesus said. If someone strikes you on one cheek you should turn to them the other as well. He says don’t resist evil. This should remind us of something else. Peter once asked “How many times shall I forgive my brother when he comes to me and says he repents?” Jesus basically told him to keep forgiving without resisting the evil that may come as a result.
Jesus and Peter both knew that when someone strikes your cheek 7 times and each time they ask for forgiveness that they are likely to strike your other cheek. But Jesus said to turn it to them anyway. There is one catch though. Did they ask forgiveness? Our perfect Father requires repentance for forgiveness.
What did Jesus tell the disciples to do when the city would be turned against them? Let the people kill them? No…He said flee into another city. Again, is this a contradiction? No, not if you understand that there is a time and place for everything. The time to turn your other cheek is when your brother has asked forgiveness.
Well…this has become a much longer response than I wanted it to be. The basic point of my response comes down to one thing though. I believe Chuck was far too quick to throw out scripture because it “didn’t make sense” to him.
When I was a child I didn’t understand how the magician could pull a rabbit out of his hat. So I assumed it was magic. That was my understanding. But as I grew up I discovered there were things I didn’t see. The trap door, or the mirrors.
There are far too many “magic tricks” to explain. God is so much wiser than us. He uses the base things to confound the wise. This is why we are told not to lean to our own understanding. If we have to understand something before we can accept it then we would be in a world of trouble! How many of us would drop dead because we would hold our breath since we don’t fully understand oxygen? Or what about gravity? It’s a theory. We still don’t fully understand it. But we don’t jump off the roof.
I would like to encourage Chuck to go back and remember why he believed the Bible was inerrant and the word of God in the first place. Did he understand it all? What happened between that faith and now? Where did he decide that if he couldn’t “make it work in his mind” that it was false? When did he begin to think he was the judge of what the Bible says? Testing it is one thing, but try to remember that humans can sometimes get false results because we may not be testing things properly.
How many of us understand all of God’s ways and words? None of us. So we take a verse here and try to make it fit there. It sometimes looks right, but then we get to the end of the puzzle and find that it doesn’t look right. Well the puzzle must be defective! Right? Or maybe the way that we thought was right 100 pieces ago really wasn’t? Maybe we have a few pieces in the wrong spots?
Well…who could tell us if we have already decided the fault is in the puzzle?
April 6, 2016 at 6:17 pm | | No comment