When contradiction is admitted, we no longer read the Bible as a book that makes sense. Contradictory statements are "believed" [or so we think] and discussion of the meaning of the Bible simply becomes a sanctified game of "high card." You quote your texts and I quote mine, and I discount yours by affirming that there is something wrong with you; you discount mine by the same process and discussion ceases. I know that you would not think such things if you were not sinful and rebellious. Discussion becomes ad hominem argument, which is o.k. in a non-logical world.
There is a vast difference between saying that there is mystery in the Bible, and that there are contradictions in the Bible. The first has been the position of the church since the days of the apostles, for the apostles speak of mysteries. The second, however, eventually leads to an assault upon the very nature of God and the very nature of man as the image of God.
For instance: Peter affirmed the basic proposition of the Bible: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). Related to that is Deuteronomy 32:40: "For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever." True contradictions to these proposition are: "You are not the Christ, the Son of the living God," and "I do not live forever." If we admit that both of these under some circumstances might be true in the deep recesses of the mystery of God's essence, then we have destroyed the very possibility of thinking. What can possibly be true if it is uncertain that God lives, or that Jesus is the Christ, His Son? Theology would be irrelevant, for contradictory paths to God might be all equally true. The resolution of contradictions in Divine Unity is at the heart of all Eastern religions. God is the Father of all. Yes, Jesus said He was the only way to God, but that is an anthropomorphism that is probably contradicted in God's dealings with his other sheep, in the folds of Mormonism, Hinduism, and even Atheism (For God might also be non-God).
It will not even do to read the Bible, if our minds have drunken deeply of the Hegelian dialectic. If Jesus is both the Christ and not the Christ, then maybe Barth was right in affirming that Christ died for both the elect and the non-elect. Now there's something to rest your soul on! Read your Bible and console yourself that you are both Jacob and Esau, and Darth Vadar is your father. There is salvation for Judas Iscariot and even Satan in the fields of irrationalism.
The sin of the natural man in Romans 1:28 is inexcusable simply because he refuses the testimony of his own reason. He is without excuse because the invisible things of God have been made visible (Romans 1:20). The things which can be known of God are plain because God has made them plain (Romans 1:19). Furthermore, these things are apprehended by the reason because of the witness of the things that are made. This is the reason (!) that men are without excuse. They see it, because creation witnesses and their minds understand the truth of God's eternal power and Godhead. These are not mental constructs or anthropomorphisms, but revelation to created beings.
Romans 1:28 "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting." "Like to retain" means that they consider the evidence as an assayer tries the gold, to see if it is genuine. But even though they knew it was genuine, they did not approve. They did this against the evidence, knowing that their conclusions were not supported. They held the truth in unrighteousness (1:18). They knew their conclusions were unreasonable, but the truth was unacceptable to them.
The heathen were condemned simply because they refused to retain God in their knowledge. God created man's mind so that it could contain accurate knowledge of God. Hegel's idea that contradictions are ultimately reconciled in synthesis is extremely attractive to the natural man, for now he can abandon thought without recourse to drugs, alcohol, or suicide. Was this the way Eve reconciled the words of God with the words of the Devil? Could both be true: "Ye shall surely die," and "Ye shall not surely die'?
The natural man loves to think (?) that his thinking is not dependable. He loves that idea, for it gives him a wonderful excuse. He can reject the plain testimony of his own conscience and pretend that the conclusion he rejects is just one of many possible ones.. "Who can trust the conclusions of a monkey's mind?" was Darwin's question, when pressed with the truth that man's thinking leads to the truth of God's existence.
There is a play on words in Romans 1:28: They did not approve of God in their knowledge. They pretend a different conclusion from the real one of their reason; their pretended conclusion is against the evidence, and they know it. They hold the truth in unrighteousness. Because they did not receive God in their knowledge on the basis of the evidence, God does not approve of their minds. They approve of their pretended conclusions, but God does not. God does not pretend a different conclusion from His understanding, which disapproves of them. His judgment is devastating and they are no longer able to choose the good they know to be good. This has devastating results for ethics, and the results are seen in the last part of Romans 1.
But even though man is sunken in the mire of wickedness and moral rot, he yet knows that those that do such things are worthy of death (vs. 32). Darkened though his mind is, he yet retains the ability to know the difference, but he has no capacity to choose the good, but chooses the evil and rejoices in those that do evil. He hates his own rationality and seeks to drown it in drugs, alcohol, pleasure, and Hegelian dialectics, which are as old as the Garden of Eden. The judgment of God does not entirely take away man's ability to reason, for then he would be as the beasts of the field, but God's judgment is the darkening of the mind, and the removal of the ability to choose the good.
Once we pretend that man is not responsible as a rational, thinking being; pretending that God is some kind of self-contradictory Being that resolves all true contradictions in His Being (may Mary Baker Eddy rest in peace!), all that is left is to "feel the text" of Scripture. Careful analysis, logic, labor to resolve apparent contradictions, rational arguments, are counted as "cold and logical," and we find that the part of the Bible we understand becomes smaller and smaller.
What is even more devastating is the effect for morals. Because God's will is impervious to a reasonable study of the Bible (Who can "understand" the requirement to hate your own life, but to love your neighbor as yourself?), we simply fold our reason neatly into a napkin, hide it in a hole in the ground, and follow commandments. We become blind leaders of the blind. If it isn't forbidden, it is ok, no matter how stupid it is. We do not want to intrude our fallen reason into the ethical situation, now, do we? We certainly do not want our morals to make sense to anyone. We do not want to be considered rationalists, and we prove it by straining at gnats and swallowing camels. But what did Jesus mean when he said that our light should so shine before men that they might see our good works and glorify our Father which is in heaven? Do we light the world by our stupidity? Shouldn't our morals connect with something in the image of God, even that remnant of His image in fallen man?
Is there an alternative to irrationalism? We might remember the words of our Lord Jesus: "What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Matthew 16:26) We are called to make a rational decision on the basis of propositions that are set forth in the Scriptures: propositions about eternity, man's soul, value systems, and God, who certainly doesn't teach that Heaven and Hell are resolved in a vain dream of unity.
“Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Romans 12:1,1) True worship is in terms of living sacrifices, a service that is "reasonable," rational, from the inside, of the word: not just ritual, compulsion, blind commandment-keeping, or emotional hoopla. The renewed mind is able to "prove" [same word as in Romans 1:28] that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. To reject the rational unity of the Bible is to become moralistic with a vengeance, blind leaders of the blind, blindly following the letter of the law, no matter how much it contradicts the rest of the Bible or good sense. We no longer prophesy according to the proportion [analogy] of faith, for there is no such thing. The Bible is wholly an anthropomorphic document with no real heavenly connection, for God has no Word [rational, ordered, self-consistent Wisdom]. The Bible therefore is no real revelation of God, but simply an approximation, no better than man himself, who is the image of God, an anthropomorphic representation of God. Barth has won the day, we read a wholly human book in order to gain some insights into an essentially unknowable God.
"Order my steps in thy word," the Psalmist said (Psalm 119:133). The word is a word of order, and we are to do things decently and in order. There is a system of morality in the Bible. The Pharisees didn't understand this and just blindly followed commandments. Keeping the ceremonies of Sabbath was equal to making a man whole. They just judged according to appearance, and were incapable of righteous judgment. They strained at gnats and swallowed camels. But what order can there be if truth is ultimately a synthesis of opposites?
They were blind, not because they did not have eyes, nor because they were totally incapable of seeing, but because they didn't like what they saw. "If ye were blind," Jesus said, "Ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth." (John 9:41) But why try to make sense of such sayings of Christ? If they are contradictory, they are like a Buddhist koan that only serves to reveal the ultimate absurdity of our lives. We read them to get flashes of Christian satori, not meaning that is connected to the world of sense or to the nature of the true God.
"Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord."
Forsake my ways for what? Forsake my thoughts for what? For contradictory ways and for contradictory thoughts? A poor sinner like me has enough of contradictory ways and contradictory thoughts. What I need is renewal, so that I can walk in the straight and narrow way, and think with a single mind. God's ways and God's thoughts are not an infinity of contradiction, but the unity of wisdom and truth. "Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name." Psalm 86:11 Return to menu