Imagine you are dialoging with someone of a religion not your own. You point out claims in their holy book that seem to you to be clearly incoherent. But for every apparent incoherency or inconsistency you point out, they respond that, though they may not have a good response, the mind of their God is far above the minds of humans, and that it would be wrong for us to take apparent incoherencies in their holy book seriously. Would you not suggest that they have dangerously and irrationally believed in their God before they have assessed the coherency of their God?
Christian leaders often acknowledge they do not have an answer to every apparent contradiction or incoherency in the Bible. And apparent incoherencies may, in fact, be only apparent. However, when we examine the apparent contradictions and incoherencies pointed out, do we honestly allow these to count as possible arguments against the God of the Bible. Or is there no possible degree of contradiction or incoherency that would move us towards a less certain degree of belief in the God of the Bible? If someone of another religion refuses to question their religion in the light of contradictions within their holy book and to modify their degree of belief whenever apparent contradictions can not be resolved, wouldn’t we conclude they are not being honest in their search for truth? Could we not confidently say that they have inappropriately accepted an inscrutable God without first assessing the coherency of that God and accompanying scriptures? Would honest seekers claim their God to be so far above human understanding that this God can not be seriously criticized?
Any God can be marketed as so wise and mysterious that fallible human minds do not have the right to honestly question that God. But any actual God knows there are many Gods marketed in such a way, and that the choice to accept and to never subsequently question such a God would result in a world in which children are locked into the God of their parents at an age before they can rationally weigh the claims of various Gods. Isn’t this reflected in the distribution of religions across cultures in which the local God is promoted to young children? Once the child is locked in, this notion that the chosen God can no longer be question prevents any honest future reassessment. Do you think an actual God would himself endorse this irrational notion?
The honest and rational seeker is never beyond reexamining their beliefs. Apparent incoherencies should remain incoherencies in spite of any promise that the God in question has hidden answers to those apparent incoherencies. The promise that it makes sense if God’s mind does not justify dismissing apparent incoherencies from our own minds.
When we are introduced to potential threats to the coherency of our ideology, do we allow the arguments and evidence to modify our thinking? Or have we locked ourselves into an ideology based on the acceptance of an inscrutable God prior to a proper assessment of this God?
Many of the contributors to this book believe that many alleged contradictions or incoherencies in the Bible are not actual contradictions or incoherencies. Yet many are. You have been introduced to many alleged biblical incoherencies in earlier chapters of this book. It is hoped that the reader honestly consider the arguments.
The following is a very brief list of biblical accounts and notions that the reader is encouraged to re-examine for coherency. For most of the alleged incoherencies, Christian leaders can offer some form of explanation that might restore coherency. It will be up to the reader to assess these (often convoluted) explanations against their own honest rational assessments of their likelihoods.
- The Noetic flood account (Genesis Chapters 6 & 7)
- Can children be punished for the sins of their fathers? (Ezekiel 18:20 vs Exodus 20:5)
- Who was the eye-witness who documented the private encounter Jesus had with Satan? (Matthew 4:5-8 & Luke 4:5-9)
- The visiting of Jesus’ tomb. (Cross-examine the accounts. Who was there? Was the stone rolled away? Who was subsequently told?)
- How did Judas die? (Matthew 27:3-8 vs Acts 1:16-19)
- Have others beside Jesus ascended into Heaven? (John 3:13 vs 2 Kings 2:11 & Genesis 5:24)
- The appropriateness of revenge (Psalms 58:10-11 vs Proverbs 24:17-18)
These are only possible incoherencies. If you feel you can eventually resolve all of the apparent contradiction, a secondary purpose of this exercise in re-examining possible incoherencies is to consider whether the Bible may be too vague and muddled to be the product of an actual God who would presumably wish to make his identity and will clearly known. (See #03.) And the actual primary purpose of this exercise is to heighten self-reflection. The reader is encouraged to self-assess whether they are truly willing to honestly examine alleged incoherencies that they encounter, or whether they are determined to irrationally hold to their beliefs in the face of contradictory evidence.
Recently many Christians have abandoned the notions of biblical inerrancy and infallibility. Their beliefs center, not on the possibly metaphoric stories of the Bible, but more on the person of Jesus and the notion of redemption. Chapters #30-#37 of this book deal specifically with these core tenets.