The Bible Contradicts Itself…

…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.

 

“I Want My Voice To Be Special”

IMG_2408A couple of weeks ago changed my life…forever. Allison gave birth to our first son, Ezra Max Condrey. I love him so, so, so much and he has never done one thing for me. For the last 4-5 months of Allison’s pregnancy, she kept telling me to talk to Ezra while he was in the womb. She informed me that research shows that not only could Ezra hear me, but that he is able to start learning and eventually recognizing my voice. This way, when the child is born, he would be able to recognize my voice, bond with me quicker, and know that I am not just “another” person in his life. By talking with him for months pre-birth, I would be preparing him to recognize my special role in his life. This meant the world to me, so I took advantage of this and began, especially in the 2nd and 3rd trimester, to talk to him all the time.

So here we are a tad bit over two weeks since Ezra entered the world. It would take too much time to express all of the wonderful things I feel toward my son. That being said, I found myself feeling something a little odd the other day. I discovered the other day that out of nowhere, I was afraid that he wasn’t recognizing my voice. I was afraid that my voice was not that much different to him than other people who had said something to him. I have no doubt that he is bonding with Allison for two reasons: (1) She carried him for 9 months, and (2) She is breastfeeding. But here I am. What can I do right now to bond? How can I make sure that I am someone just as special in his life right now? I may be too early for me to expect him to recognize the God-given role of daddy I have been given to him. Yet, I thought it interesting that out of my love for my son, I have at moments come face to face with a quiet little fear that he might not yet be recognizing my voice. I think he is to some degree which is absolutely amazing. But my point is that, as his dad, I want my voice (along with Allison’s of course) to be absolutely set apart, distinct, and like no other in his life. I want that special place in his heart. I want him to feel love, peace, strength, courage, security, and a host of other wonderful emotions when he hears that I am somewhere near. And, if I am honest, I don’t want anybody else’s voice to do that for him quiet as much as mine. I am his dad. I want to be that special in his life. I am jealous for him to see that nobody will love and fight for and protect him more than me.

Then, my thoughts shifted to my/our heavenly Dad. There is NO DOUBT in my mind that He must feel the exact same. Matter of fact, He probably experiences this jealous love to a degree that my psychological inner circuitry will not even allow. He wants that special place of trust in my heart. He wants, as my Dad, to be able to do in me and for me with His voice what no one else can. He is jealous to fill my/your life with his voice. Psalms 29 is a wonderful meditation upon the power and comfort that comes to us through God’s speaking.

God wants to speak.

God wants His voice to be to me/you what no one else’s voice can be.

He is our Dad, and though we might not understand everything as Christians, He is hoping that when He walks into the room, our head turns to find Him even if we don’t know everything about Him.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

(Jesus – John 10:27)

And your ears will hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left.”

(Isaiah 30:21)

Jesus Really Meant It

The Bible is clear: God wants to speak to people in a very personal way. Christianity was never meant to be a monologue. He loves us, and when you turned your life over to Christ, at that moment you became His Son. John wrote, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). A good dad loves to speak to his child.

Sometimes God speaks an encouraging word. It is sad that many Christians have never experienced this because their only filter for God’s voice is one of harshness. The only time they believe God is speaking is when He is beating them up. I know a man once who literally said, “If I do not leave church feeling a little condemned, I don’t feel like I have gone to church.”

Sometimes God delivers a convicting word.

And then, there are times God comes with a simple word to take you to another level. He wants to deposit something in you. He wants you to wrestle with something. He wants you to call out to the Holy Spirit to teach you and form you into the revelation he is sharing. This is what has been happening to me this week. For about 4 days now, I cannot escape the New Testament idea that as a follower of Christ, I am to put other people’s needs before my own.

Matthew 22:39 – The 2nd Greatest Commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Philippians 2:3-4 “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

Romans 12:10 “…in honor giving preference to one another.”

More specifically, God has been showing me this in the context of my marriage. Jesus, who without doubt modeled this for us, calls us to a life of putting other people’s needs first. This does not mean that you are a doormat for an abusive person to take advantage of you. This does not mean that you are being selfish when you allow someone to serve you and put you first. This does not mean that you are only to give and never receive. This does not mean that you can’t ever say, “No.”

What it does mean is that, as an overall attitude and daily practice, I am to put other people’s needs first. This is easy to say and easy to preach, but let’s be honest, how many of us are genuine enough in our faith that we have taken this aspect of Christ to heart? The Lord has been telling me this week that He wants me to embrace, with all my heart, this preferring-others-first mentality toward my wife. I have a long ways to go. It is even more convicting that my wife so often models this toward me. I can’t do it alone. I need the Holy Spirit to supernaturally work from the inside-out as I play my heart. My job is to ask for this kind of heart and then step out and live like I have it until it becomes me. The Holy Spirit will take the mask I am stepping into and work it into the fabric of my being. That is what I want. I want this first and foremost as a person that follows Christ, not as a pastor. The Lord wants me to model Christ first in my home, not last.

So this is what Jesus has been messing with me about this week. I love the Lord and I want to please Him. I have always loved the simplicity of Paul’s statement in Colossians 1:10: “…that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him…” Fully pleasing him. Yes.

So, are you a Christian? Then the Scripture is speaking to you. Does everyone have to cater to you or do you cater to others? I am not talking about being a people-pleaser. I am talking about laying down your life to meet other people’s needs in the name of Jesus. It may be something that takes 5 seconds or 5 minutes. Matter of fact, if you will start small, it will grow on you. It is in the small things that values take root and grow in our hearts. Put others first. If you are married, put him/her first. I’m serious. Really put them first. You might even ask your spouse what that would look like. Let your spouse help by telling you how you can better serve him/her.

When you are tired, put others first.

When you are frustrated, put others first.

When you want to shoot off your mouth, put others first.

When someone needs food, put others first.

When you do not want to give up time to serve in some capacity in the local church, put others first.

When you do not want to stop by the grocery store but your spouse needs something, put others first.

When you want to quietly manipulate someone once again because you know you can get your way, put others first.

When you think you are right and want to stand your ground, put others first.

Will you and I follow Christ with ALL our hearts? I want to. It is easy to raise hands to a worship song or even read your Bible. But will you put others first? Especially those closest to you? This is where the rubber meets the road.

My Two Books

In case you are new to this blog, if you click on the three bars in the upper right hand corner of the page a drop box will appear. You will see a place to click that will take you to the Amazon website where you can buy one or both of my two books. They are both available in eBook and print format. Each book is about something I am passionately pursuing in my own life. I want to be about God’s business (Book #1) as well as experience Him deeply through His word (Book #2). The second book in particular is one of my life messages. I believe they have the potential to help, challenge, equip, teach, and grow every Christ-follower no matter where you are at in your journey. If you purchase, please please please leave feedback on the Amazon store.

1. “Where Does God Go?” – This book is primarily for Christians. God has always been a place we can go, but how many of us have returned the favor? It is time for Christians everywhere to grant God the freedom to come and break our hearts with the things that break His. A reorientation is in order. If you want God’s heart to beat in your chest, then this book is for you.

2. “The Word As a Vehicle” – The Scriptures (i.e. the Bible) can be read historically, for pleasure, for literary purposes, for wisdom, and/or for pure knowledge. There is a place and time for each of these. But above all, God intended His Word to be a vehicle. You get in a vehicle to go somewhere. It is no different with the Bible. The Lord has given His Word to us so that we can more easily access His Presence. Reading the Bible is about you and Him experiencing each other.

The Big Bang Theory is Not Anti-Christian

ImageYou don’t have to commit intellectual suicide to be a Christian.

You do not have to reject all of science to follow Christ.

Faith does not mean that you have to be stupid, naive, uninformed, insecure, or afraid of knowledge.

In my humble estimation, I believe that many people, especially young people, walk away from Christ because they are presented with a false option. It looks something like this: Either you have faith in Christ and reject science, or, you embrace the empirical conclusions of science and reject faith. This is particularly the truth when it comes to the origins of our universe.

The Big Bang Theory is widely accepted in the scientific community (yes, even among Christian scientists) as being an accurate description of what probably happened to kick-start our universe. The basic ideas is “that some 10 billion to 20 billion years ago, a massive blast allowed all the universe’s known matter and energy—even space and time themselves—to spring from some ancient and unknown type of energy” (http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/space/universe/origins-universe-article/). But once you step outside of academic circles, especially here in the southern United States, you are quickly labeled a heretic if you claim to be a Christian who believes that the earth is not young (approx. 6,000 years old) and that the Big Bang Theory does indeed seem to be a great explanation for our cosmological origins.

Why this fear?

If a piece of science can be shown to be compatible with the Scriptures, then why are we so afraid to hold Science’s hand?

If God created the world, should not science testify of His handiwork as opposed to demonstrating that He does not exist?

Genesis 1:1-2 reads, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”

What can we conclude from these two verses alone?

  1. God created the earth. It was, as Aristotle described, the “first cause.” This implies that there is not an infinite regresses of causes. Everything stops with God. He is infinite and and the original cause of all things. He is not caused or else He would not be God. If something was prior to Him, He could not be rightly labeled, God. This is the basis of the modern-day, Kalam-Cosmological Argument.
  2. Matter and water existed prior to the intentional six days of creation. This tells us that there are some things that the Bible leaves out. In these cases, using our imagination to fill in the blanks is acceptable so long as we are not embracing ideas that are clearly anti-Biblical.
  3. The Bible does not specify how much time might have passed between God creating the “without form, and void” earth and all that happened during the six days we as Christians originally refer to as Creation. In other words, the universe could easily be 13 billion years old as the majority of scientists accept (both atheists and Christians).

So, Genesis 1:1-2 does not rule out the possibility that matter and energy could have been floating around (not sure where the energy came from at first glance) completely unorganized for 13 billion years. Then, God steps in during the six “days” of creation and with His word, brings order out of the chaotic, formless void. Hebrews 11:3 reads, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” Whether this be the original formless matter  or not, at some point God had to bring everything out of nothing. If the original matter is what God brought out of nothing, then the six days in large part was Him injecting order and principle into what already chaotically was.

I now want to share something with you that has blown my mind as a Christian. Heraclitus was a Greek philosopher that lived in Ephesus during the 6th century B.C. He was a not a Jew or Christian. He theorized that underneath the surface of all that we see and experience, there was Logos. Though this translates as “word,” he used this term in a different manner. For Heraclitus, this term represented a “universal, underlying principle” that under-girded and provided organization to all of reality. The Stoics later would speak of this same Logos as “the Seminal Reason, though which all things came to be, by which all things were ordered, and to which all things returned” (web.engr.oregonstate.edu). In other words, the Logos was the ultimate source of all that is, the ordering principle of all reality, the reason for all things.

Bear with me as I connect the dots. John wrote of Jesus Christ, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:1-3). Paul wrote, “All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16-17). Christ, as the second member of the Trinity, co-equal with God, played a major part in creating all that is. John wrote that all was made “through Him.” Paul wrote the same exact thing. I have always pictured the Father speaking everything into existence (Genesis 1, “Let there be…”), and as things came into existence, they literally passed through Christ himself as they were released into being.

Now to connect all of the dots. The Bible is clear that all things created passed through Christ. Upon closer examination of John 1, the term used for Christ was “Word of God.” This term “word” is actually the Greek word, Logos. In other words, “All things were made through Logos…” (John 1:1-3). John was identifying the person of Jesus as the Divine Logos that the Greeks knew to be the underlying, ordering principle of all reality. This supports the thought I was tossing out earlier, that maybe the earth is 13 billion years old as scientists say, and that what God did was bring order into the formless void through the Logos identified as Jesus Christ.  This is no less spectacular than any other creation account. God could have used the Big Bang to introduce various kinds of matter and extra sources of energy and then later brought order into it through the Logos, Christ. In this view, Christ would therefore be the ultimate, unifying reality that gave/gives life, order, and unity to all that exists. Sounds pretty Biblical, right? The only thing Heraclitus lacked was the revelation that the Logos was something more than an abstract principle and/or force. Rather, it was personal (i.e. the person of Christ). In other words, Christ himself and His word is ontologically prior to all else that exists. Sounds pretty Biblical again, huh?

What does all of this mean? The Big Bang Theory is not anti-Christian. The earth/universe may be 13 billion years old. An ancient explosion and scattering of matter and energy does necessarily imply that God was not behind it. Once you realize this, the pressure to choose God or science dissipates. An either/or false dilemma pushes thinkers into a corner where they feel as if one must commit intellectual suicide in order to be a Christian. This is both tragic and sad.

Let’s look deeper. Let’s not be afraid or insecure. Let’s look at how science, which studies what we claim to be created by God, might actually mesh with Biblical accounts. So take a deep breathe. If you want to follow Christ but feel like you have to sacrifice your intellect in order to do so, think again. We need intelligent Christians. We need Christians who can, when possible, sync all facets of inquiry into a unified, consistent worldview. Whether it be the Big Bang or some other area of science, look a little deeper. The Scriptures leave much unsaid. We must be careful to not make it say what it does not say. When we do, we set up intellectual idols that cause more immature minds to feel as if they must abandon Christ altogether because they do not believe something we make the Bible say when in fact it doesn’t. There is much that we know and much that we don’t. Let’s not confuse the two.