…or does it?
I want to be careful not to treat this issue superficially. Let me state up front that this is a far cry from an exhaustive treatment of the issue. Matter of fact, in this particular blog, I will address only one in particular.
Early on in my undergraduate Philosophy work in Kansas City, I heard someone say something in one of my classes that I did not have a response for. That bothered me. I have attempted to live my life in accordance with the following rule (not my only rule, but indeed one of them): When someone mentions or references something I do not know or understand, go immediately that same day and look it up, read about it, and study it until I possess a solid command over material. This rule has served me well.
In my class, a girl spoke up and said, “I am a Christian, but don’t get me wrong, the Bible does in fact contradict itself. For example, the Bible says, ‘Do not judge,’ while it also says, ‘Judge all things.'” This bothered me to the core. If I am honest, I immediately became angry. I could tell my her comment that this was not something she had really wrestled with. It was a flippant remark. And even worse, she did not seem to sense the weight of her remark. Essentially, she was telling everyone that this book that serves as a foundation for all that a Christian believes and professes, is full of nonsense (what else could “contradiction” really imply?). I wanted to respond so bad. However, I could not. I knew my response would be emotional in nature. Truth was, I did not know how to respond. I had never looked into this purported “contradiction.” Does the Bible really contradict itself? Unlike this girl, I knew in my deep heart, that if it did, this is no small matter. So I went home and looked up this particular contradiction.
In Matthew 7:1, Jesus says, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (NKJV).
In 1 Corinthians 2:15, Paul writes, “But he who is spiritual judges all things…” (NKJV).
Jesus tells his followers not to judge, while Paul, a follower of Christ, tells Jesus people to judge all things. What gives?
That afternoon, I looked up the original Greek for the word “judge” in each passage. I was so relieved to find out that, unbeknownst to the young lady in my class, there is no contradiction at all.
When Jesus uses the word judge, it is the Greek word ‘krino‘. Strong’s reports that this word means, “to distinguish, that is, decide…by implication to try, condemn, punish.”
When Paul uses the word judge, it is the Greek word ‘anakrino‘. Strong’s reports that this word means, “to scrutinize, by implication, to investigate, interrogate, determine…to discern.”
WHAT A DIFFERENCE! Jesus is essentially telling his followers not to go around beating people up, condemning them, acting as if they are God rather than mere agents called to communicate the message of reconciliation. Are people in sin? Absolutely. But we are to witness to them as a fellow members of the human race who are saved by grace. In other words, I am not someone else’s judge. This does mean that I can’t call something sin or have a difficult conversation with someone, it just means, at the end of the day, Jesus does not want me to pick up the judge’s responsibility to acquit or condemn. I am to love.
Paul, on the other hand, is using the word as a way of encouraging Christians to be able to exercise a wise and mature discernment. As Christians, we must seek wisdom, made tough decisions, and sometimes have honest conversations with people about the sin in their lives. However, even in the midst of this, there is no condemnation residing in us or flowing through us. That is what Jesus was condemning.
I can sum up both statements in the following formula: krino+anakrino = Be a mature Christian who discerns without condemning.
The “contradiction” that that girl spoke of was superficial. It was not real. It only resided in her mind because she had never taken the time to investigate on a deeper level. The world is CRAVING Christians who have put thought into their faith (Tommy Clark and I were talking about this the other night). You don’t have to have all the answers, but you do need to show that you have looked into, wrestled with, and grappled with the Scriptures as well as relevant issues. This type of Christian will be attractive to unbelievers.
There are many other apparent contradictions, and I can’t take them one by one right now. But this example suffices to say that we as Christians are RESPONSIBLE to present and discuss a faith that shows the world that we done more than just accept the “party line” (what Tommy called it). Our mind is a part of our faith, and though the mind has it’s limits, we have not discarded. We are employing our faculty of reason in order to put sinews and flesh upon the bones of our beliefs.
After all, is not our faculty of reason from God? Did he not say to love Him with all of our heart, soul, and MIND (Matthew 22:36-40)? So next time someone challenges you with a contradiction or some other argument against the Christian faith, relax! Love that person, pray for that person, and go on a journey with that person to figure out what is occurring under the surface.