“All Scripture is inspired.” 2 Timothy 3:16a But if so, why are there so many contradictions in the Bible? Is the Bible God’s Word or does it just contain God’s Word?
Whether you are a skeptic or believer, everybody has questions about the Bible. Some are easy, but some are much tougher to answer. Superficial answers are not enough in relation to the challenges we face today. We need thoughtful responses to our sometimes controversial Bible questions.
God does not discount the questions. No one in the Bible who had a question was turned away. When our doubts meet the truth of God, our faith is built on solid rock. We can be confident about our claims. Our hearts can truly believe. It’s not about head knowledge. It’s about heart transformations.
Dr Michael Rydelnik is actively encouraging people to send in their questions through Moody Radio’s Open Line program. In fact, the Professor of Jewish Studies and Bible at the Moody Bible Institute in the United States wants deep questions. The author of ‘The 50 Most Important Bible Questions’ has answered questions on radio programs in over 200 stations across the United States of America for ten years. “Who is God?”; “How to know God better?”; “How do I apply the Bible?”; “How to walk closer to God?” are the type of questions Michael gladly answers.
He’s included some of the most common ones in his book. Often, they are around some really serious issues that people face, and they want to know what the Bible says about things like abortion and suicide. People come with very significant questions about interpreting the scriptures.
“I want people to understand what the Bible says and how to apply it to their questions about God,” says Michael. “I want them to try and understand what God is like. One thing people really struggle with is how can a good God allow bad things to happen? Every time you see another issue come up in the world, whether it’s a tsunami or a terrorist act, those questions come up again and again.”
Five Common Questions
1. Why are there so many errors and contradictions in the Bible, especially when it is supposed to be the Word of God?
These are not necessary errors and contradictions. The Bible was written over a timespan of 1,500 years, by authors who did not compare notes but wrote about the same things. There are differences in details, but the context and content is the same. The differences don’t actually point to the fact that the truth is flawed. In fact, it’s the other way round. In criminal investigations, if witnesses were saying exactly the same thing, word for word, then the testimony is possibly scripted. But true witnesses accounts will always differ in details, by virtue that the accounts are from different people.
There are also many historical evidences to support the Bible’s content.
2. Is the Bible the Word of God or does it contain the Word of God?
One of the most basic Bible verses about Biblical inspiration is found in 2 Timothy, where Paul writes that all scripture is inspired and is God breathed. All scripture is inspired and profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training and righteousness. It isn’t just his opinion that all scripture contains inspired writings. It’s that all scripture is inspired. When you look at what the scripture says over and over, even in the Old Testament, it says ‘thus says the Lord’. That’s what the prophets say, the Word of the Lord came to me. And then these books were written.
“It wasn’t of their own mind that they had were writing,” Michael says. “They were led by God in doing so. No prophecy of scripture comes from one person’s interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the will of man. Men spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. It seems to me that this is saying that the Holy Spirit is the One that moved the author.”
Michael believes that’s why the Lord Jesus said in his prayer in John 17, ‘sanctify them in the truth’. He says that of the disciples. And then He says, your word is truth. That’s what he says to his Father.
“I think we can take the Bible as God-breathed in its entirety. Men were moved by the spirit to produce the word of God. And that’s why the Lord Jesus says Your word is true,” Michael says.
3. What about the canons of the Bible? Are they not put together by man?
Inspiration is the test of canonization. When the authors wrote the Scripture, these were immediately taken up by the people as bearing the Word of God. Paul actually wrote another epistle between 1st and 2nd Corinthians. But it was not inspired writing so it was not included.
4. God will/pre-destination or our free will/human responsibility?
The Bible teaches both. J R Packer wrote about antinomy. Antinomy are contradictions in our way of thinking, but in the mind of God, these are harmonized. This is apparent in particularly in the issue of salvation.
Scripture says He chose us before time (Ephesians 1:4), He predestined us (Ephesians 1:5), He foreknew (Romans 8:29). It says over and over that God is sovereign in salvation. But there is also emphasis on responsibility. In Deuteronomy 30, through Moses, God says what He commanded is not out of reach. People can do it. Then in the New Testament, Paul says that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13). This sounds like it’s our responsibility. When the Philippian jailor asked Paul what must he do to be saved, Paul did not answer for him to determine if he is one of the elect. Paul simply told the jailor to believe.
So how do we resolve this? Both God’s sovereignty and human responsibility are true. Even within the same verse we see this taught. “The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” (Luke 22:22 NIV). Acts 4:27 says “Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.”
We may not understand how can this be so. We can just trust and accept this. Scientists also face the same issue. They recognize that light is both a wave and yet a particle. But it can’t really be both at the same time. But yet it is. It can’t be explained. Just accepted.
5. Stories in the Bible are metaphors, not factual.
Stories in the Bible were never presented as metaphors. They are presented as historical narratives that are factual. Often the authors will write phrases such as “these things are still so today”. Many archeological sites prove the Bible to be factually true. The exception would be Jesus’ parables. These are true to life but they are not non-fiction.
If the Bible is factual, then Adam and Eve really existed. They are also not metaphors.
Michael believes that Christians don’t have to have the answers to every question about the Bible. Jesus is the answer. He tells people that the overall message and truth of the Bible is to point us to the Lord Jesus Christ. He paid an infinite price to redeem us and rose again. We can trust Him. We don’t have to have every question answered immediately. Sometimes it takes time.
“My book ‘50 Most Important Bible Questions’ may answer some of your questions,” says Michael. “Perhaps that could help you as you listen to other people’s questions answered. Or you can just go and talk to someone who knows the Word. But inevitably, sooner or later, you’re going to have to say I trust God and He’ll make this clear over time.”
Reflect + Respond
- Have you had questions about the Bible but not dared to ask? How do you feel about asking your questions now?
- Knowing that the Bible is factual and is the Word of God, how will you read it now?
- How does knowing that apart from God’s sovereignty, we have a responsibility impact your decisions and actions? How does that affect the way you view evangelism?
To listen to the rest of Michael’s conversation with Neil about answering our tough questions of the Bible, click below.
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