A Study in Contradictions

A friend recently challenged me to prove that the Bible does not contradict itself. This has actually already been done by scholars far more intelligent than myself, but I consider the idea an interesting guide for my own personal studies and hope that having a list of “contradictions” to disprove will help motivate me to study God’s word on a regular basis.

And a list I have. A list of 500, in fact, conveniently provided by Steve Wells, the author and curator of The Skeptics Annotated Bible. Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that I’ll write about every single one of them, because that’s a list that will take me years to finish. But I have been working through the first few and thought I might share some of my findings with you occasionally as I go. It will also help keep me going if I need to have something to post for my readers, so this is a good thing in both directions. (This will be a periodic, not necessarily a weekly thing.)

If there is one thing I’ve learned in my years as a literature major, it’s that anything, ANYTHING, can be taken out of context and made to mean wheatever you want it to mean. One word or one sentence, disconnected from the sentences around it, is not a support for anything. You have to take the surrounding context, both grammatical and historical, into account before trying to make any argument stand on a single statement. This is not only true of the Bible, but also of Shakespeare, Twain, Darwin, myself and any other writer that ever existed.

So, to that end, I’ve added a complete list of my sources in a “References” section under the “About the Couple” tab at the top for your use. I’ll be using these same sources for all my studies, and if something additional is needed for a particular topic I’ll just add that reference to that particular entry. I’ll reference the Bible by book, chapter and verse; Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary and Strong’s Concordance by their authors’ names as appropriate; and the reference notes in my English Standard version study bible as Crossways note on whatever. The supplement materials are to help me understand and connect ideas in historical context and are not meant to serve as a replacement for God’d words in any way.

I will also reference The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible from time to time to quote their perceptions on the passages, so that will appear as SAB. The list of points I am studying can be found here: The Skeptics Annotated Bible list of contradictions.

I also plan to create a new tab across the top so that the entire “Lessons in Contradictions” series can be found easily in one place.

I pray this series might be useful to you as well as to me, and that you will chime in with thoughts and further questions when you have them. I don’t by any means claim to know everything, but there is someone out there that can answer your question and we will all work together to try and find answers to better understand what God wants us to know.

I’ll post my first series discussion later today, and I hope you will follow along.

Love,

The Missus

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Part 2…

I’m not going to post a link every time he updates (at least I’m not planning to at this point), but because of the interest I wanted to let you all know that this blogger is creating additional parts for his original post, which I linked to yesterday. Follow him on wordpress or scroll to the bottom of his blog and follow him via email if you’re interested in his additional thoughts in the coming weeks. 🙂

How I Know My Wife Married the Wrong Person (Part 2).

Be Careful What You Complain About

So my second “moment of clarity” is actually a series of moments from last Sunday (May 5th). The Mister and I were able to attend church services for the first time here on the island, and I was struck by several things over the course of the morning and evening services.

1. I, as an American Christian, am spoiled beyond belief.

Our taxi drops us off in front of the building and the first thing I notice is that the doors and windows are all wide open. We quickly discovered this is because the building has no air conditioning, which should not have been surprising, since electricity is an incredibly expensive luxury here on the island. The building is stifling hot, despite the ceiling fans and brief breezes from the coast, yet all the attendees are still modestly and respectfully dressed to worship the Lord. The evening service was slightly cooler, but mosquitos buzzed around our heads, a small lizard climbed the wall behind the pulpit and at one point a bat flew in the open door and hunted moths over our heads for several minutes. When was the last time that happened at home?

I won’t say it was all I could think about, because I did enjoy and appreciate the sermon and the worship service, but a prominent thought in my mind throughout was, “What would the little old ladies say about this?” Every congregation has those individuals who want to complain about how hot or cold the building is or how uncomfortable the seating is; we all know who they are. I would just like to remind them, and you, if you are one of those people, to say a prayer of thanksgiving every time someone goes to adjust the thermostat for you. Be thankful you have a thermostat to be adjusted, because so many of our brethren don’t.

2. We, as American Christians, often keep ourselves too secluded.

The doors and windows of this church building are wide open throughout the services. The minister, Brother Prentiss (they all use “brother” and “sister” here), speaks through a microphone, not caring that his words are booming out over Five Points (an outskirt section of Basseterre, the capitol) and might be disturbing someone in a house nearby. Our singing drifts out over the streets and housetops, not caring that someone might be trying to sleep or study. The gospel is for all; the gospel should be shouted from the rooftops; the gospel should not be shut inside a building and only available to those who venture inside.

3. The gospel is everywhere. Christians are everywhere. Christ will not be stamped out and conquered.

The Mister and I were surprised to learn of two St. Kitts congregations and one on nearby Nevis while we were still in the U.S. We go to worship on Sunday morning believing this to be true. There are two other new Ross students there, and two more regularly attending students expected back from break next week. Sunday night, on our way out to the main road to meet our ride to evening services, we are approached by a Ross security guard asking where we are headed. It turns out he is a Christian as well and worships with a third congregation just south of Basseterre. On a piece of land in the middle of the ocean, where we thought there would be few Christians, there is a Sunday school teacher guarding our dormitories.

It turns out there are three congregations on St. Kitts and two on Nevis. The largest, the one we’ve visited, has about 75 people on a good Sunday morning. The others range in size from about 35-50. They are just like our congregations at home. They worship three times a week, have a similar order of services and sing the same songs in the same ways. They have visiting preachers and singing services, and they have social gatherings and enjoy each other’s company (albeit they have potlucks on the beach, whereas we go to SportsCom). They greeted us like family and welcomed us into their arms. We are all connected. God is everywhere.

4. The gospel is still relevant, no matter where you are.

Sunday morning the Mister and I sat in the sweltering heat of the church building and swatted away the constant flies. We listened to the scripture reading and struggled to understand the heavy island accent reading in the King’s English. I thought of the beautiful (air conditioned) buildings of home and missed the beautiful singing. I thought about how coming to all three services might interfere with the Mister’s study and exam schedule, about how much it would cost per week to take a taxi to worship, about how it is hard to concentrate in such heat. I thought these might be good reasons to only worship on Sunday mornings and perhaps study alone in our apartment on the other nights.

Then the sermon was on excuses.

I have been struck on several occasions in my life with the feeling that a sermon was delivered especially for me. This time, the irony slapped me in the face. Satan wants to see if we will use our new surroundings as an easy excuse to drift away from God. If we take these excuses now, what’s to keep us from someday using crying children, hectic work schedules or unwashed dishes as reasons to avoid worship services? Life will always have mountains to climb, but as long as we keep our priorities in order the rest will work out. The Mister may have a lot to study, but if God is first, his schooling will work out. Our money belongs to the Lord first anyway, but if getting to service is the first priority, our finances will work out as well. (And already have, since we’re now on the pick-up list for the various members that run around the island picking people up each week.)

The gospel is the same, no matter where you go. Truth is always truth, sin is always sin, and God is always listening. You just have to be paying attention when He sends His answer.

The Bare Minimum

Our last week article was about my confessions as an over-achiever and how I really only do the bare minimum to get by. This is true in more than just my academic life.

Unfortunately, this is also true in my spiritual life. I am more of a “Sunday-Wednesday Christian” than I care to admit, and I know that is something I need to work on soon and fast.

On that note, something was said in our Sunday morning adult bible class this week that really made me stop and think: “If you don’t enjoy doing the things a Christian should be doing – if you don’t enjoy fellowshipping with the saints, spending time in song and worship or finding new things in God’s word – then, assuming you can make it into Heaven on the bare minimum (which you can’t), you’re going to be miserable for eternity because those things are what the people in Heaven will be doing.”

This is true. Revelations 7:15 says that those before the throne in Heaven “serve Him [God] day and night in His temple” (NASV). If you’re just a Sunday-Wednesday Christian now, but really enjoy the people and activities of the world during the week, then assuming you can get into Heaven (which, again, you can’t) you’ll have to spend eternity worshipping, singing and listening to the words of the Lord – something you won’t enjoy any more then than you do now.

On the flip side, just because you may enjoy the sinful people and things of this world does not mean Hell is a place you would have fun. Even in the most evil places in the world, there is somewhere a glint of goodness, because there is goodness deep inside all men.

In Hell, however, those last flashes of goodness will have been wiped out. It is a place of complete and total depravity; a place filled with the most terrible companions imaginable. That’s not really the type of evil you enjoy, is it? It’s not a type of evil we can comprehend, because something that completely and totally wicked does not exist here in this world.

What does the bare minimum get you? Well, in the story of the servant who buried his one talent (Matthew 25:13-30; Luke 19:12-28), it got him cast “into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (v.30). He didn’t use the talent (a unit of money) wickedly. He didn’t order a hooker or hire a hit man or even waste it on booze and cigarettes. He buried it and kept it safe until his master returned.

But that wasn’t the point. The point was to use the money profitably and bring home an increase, just as God wants us to take our talents and blessings and go out into the world and bring home other souls. In this, the servant failed. In this, many of us are failing. Am I? Are you? Let’s think on these things.

 

“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) . . .  but “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. . .’” (Acts 2:38).

I Don’t Know Much, but I Do Know Some

“Nut House” has had 70 visits on its busiest day. Most weeks I spike around 50-60 visitors on Monday with new posts and trickle down throughout the week.

            But I’ve become increasingly aware lately that my readership is much larger than that – including grandparents, coworkers of my in-laws and church members who read printed rather than online versions.

            And I hope those 50-60+ visitors continue to read regardless of content, because this week I’m going to take a short break from the newlywed theme and address a few things I don’t know and a few things that I do.

            I don’t know why the Lord permits bad things happen to good people. I don’t know why a young mother in the prime of her life, with two young boys and a fabulous husband, has stage four colon cancer and has called in hospice. I don’t know why someone who has never smoked a day in his/her life can suffer long years with emphysema. I don’t know why deserving couples can’t have children and crack addicts can have multiples.

            Now for what I do know.

            I do know that the Lord loves us all and that nothing can separate us from that (Romans 8:35, 38-39). I do know he wants everyone to spend eternity with Him in heaven (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

            BUT, I also know that we must play by the rules. We can’t just pick and choose which areas we like and throw out the ones we don’t. We can’t say, “I think God would like this because. . . .” If the Lord had wanted full-fledged concerts in His worship He would have added “electric guitars” to Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 when he commands us to worship Him with “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” He didn’t need to wait for electric guitars to be invented – He knew they were coming.

            So many people want to turn the situation around and say that those who “judge others” for being homosexual are the ones who anger God because of their intolerance. No, we should not judge people from our own hearts because we are not perfect ourselves and must avoid hypocrisy. Yes, we must reach out to all people because all souls are worth the same. But when I tell you that homosexuality is a sin, it’s not me that judges you – it’s God. It’s the many instances when He specifically lists homosexuality as an “abomination.” I didn’t write that. He did.

            Christians must belong to Christ – to the church that belongs to Him. He bought it with His own pain and suffering and does not deserve to be pushed aside in favor of any man. The church of the Lord was not founded by Joseph Smith (Galatians 1:6-9). It was not established by the Nicene Creed in the 4th century. It did not include a catalog of special prayers or a crowd of men wearing tall white hats deciding what sin is and is not. If we needed extra books or extra creeds the Lord would have provided them.

            When the Lord sends a soul to Hell for disobedience that does not mean He does not love you. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. But parents punish their children – who they love – when they are disobedient and unruly. Thus will the Lord, our Father, punish those who disobey. None of us will be able to stand before Him on judgment day and say “Well I thought. . .” and reason our way out of the punishment we have earned. Not just been given – but earned. All those who end up in Hell will have earned that position. Scary thought, huh?

            Now for something else I know.

            I know this is not a religious column. But I also know that while that may not be the main focus of this blog, it should not be something I purposely avoid. I know that “political correctness” is a tool of Satan to silence those who carry the truth. I have the greatest of friends, the finest of coworkers and the most beloved of family members who would be lost if the world ended today. I know that and it eats at my heart that I have not done more to show them their separation from God.

            Why are certain topics taboo at family gatherings? Why do we not tell those we love that they are wrong? It’s because we are afraid to lose them. I don’t want to lose them. But at the same time, if I see them in Heaven one day it will make up for never speaking to them again in this life. This is hard to accept, but it must be accepted.

            I expect comments and controversy. I expect to be told that I am wrong and hateful. But I also expect each and every person who responds to provide me with scripture to back up your “I think” or “Well we believe.” Prove me wrong. Show me it’s ok to walk your own path. Show me an example where the Lord has ever accepted someone into Heaven who was “a good person” but not an obedient, baptized Christian. Only the Lord knows the heart of a man, and only the Lord can judge us. But He also provides us with instructions. He knows when we willfully decide to lay them aside and we will be held accountable for them all, even those we do not choose to acknowledge.

I struggle with my own demons and I fail my Lord in countless ways each and every day. I am just as much in danger of falling as anyone else. I am not claiming to be beyond the influence of sin; to make such a claim would not only be a lie but would make God a liar as well, since he has said that “every man has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

            One day we will ALL have to face the music. We will ALL kneel before the Lord, whether you believe in Him or not. Those who do not live in obedience will be lost. So I ask you now, why should you be the exception?