A very common objection people give to believing the Bible is that it is “full of contradictions.” This logic is saying we can’t believe the Bible, because if it were actually God’s Word, it wouldn’t have any contradictions.
What these people aren’t telling you, however, is that contradictions are the foundation of how human beings ever learn anything! Without things we perceive as contradictions, the Bible would be useless to us.
Contradictions Are the Most Powerful Learning Tool
Here’s how it works: When I was in elementary school, I remember how excited I was about mastering multiplication. “I get it!”, I thought. “You take the number on the left, and you add it together the same number of times, as the number on the right!”
I was proud of myself.
Even further, when I learned multiplication tables, I felt like a rockstar! Sure multiplication worked differently than addition, but I had mastered it.
But then our teacher introduced us to exponents, and my whole world came crashing down. Okay, maybe not my whole world, but exponents definitely made me feel dumb.
See, because I had multiplication down, when I saw: 2 x 2, I could immediately give the answer: 4. Child’s play.
Then our teacher introduced us to exponents, and I saw this: 22 = 4. Based on my previous mastery of multiplication, seeing this made me really excited! This one example proved that I was also a master of exponents! You simply multiply the big number times the little number! There was no stopping my mathematical brilliance. I could pretty much taste the Fields Medal I was destined to win.
It was the next exponent that really messed things up for me. You see, when our teacher showed us this: 23, I immediately knew the answer had to be 6. There was no other possibility. So I was very disheartened when I learned the answer was 8.
Confusion, denial, anger, frustration… those were only some of the emotions I felt when I learned 23 = 8. I tried to explain to the teacher she was wrong, I tried to convince the other students this couldn’t be true, I denied the reliability of our textbook, I probably even cried! No matter what I did, though, 23 was still equal to 8. I was devastated.
Contradictions Push Us to Find Answers
You see, based on everything I knew about the world at the time, 23 = 8 was a contradiction. It went against previous things I had learned about math, and it made me frustrated. However, it was this frustration that forced me to ask questions, and look at more examples, until I had an understanding of exponents. If I had never seen this contradiction, I would have gone on believing, you simply multiply the big number, by the little number!
As students, when we encounter frustrating contradictions like this, we get upset, and we might feel dumb, but no one says, “I deny the existence of math!” or “Math is frustrating, so I’m simply not gonna do it anymore.” Yet that’s exactly what so many of us do with God’s Word.
Here’s an example from the Bible:
Romans 10:9 says this:
9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Then, in Matthew 7:21, we find this:
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
What?! If they say “Lord, Lord,” are they not confessing with their mouth the Lord Jesus? So why aren’t they saved? This is a contradiction, right?
Sadly, unlike in math, when most people encounter this or many other seeming contradictions in the Bible, instead of digging deeper, and asking questions, they simply get frustrated and kind of “move on.” When they could be getting a deeper understanding of how to serve God, they simply throw out the part they don’t like, and chalk it up to a translation error, or a cultural issue, or some kind of convoluted explanation that requires knowing greek to understand.
Jesus is in fact teaching us here in Matthew 7:21, that it isn’t enough to simply say that Jesus is Lord. You have to demonstrate Jesus is Lord with your life, as well. What seems like a contradiction, is teaching us a powerful principle about living for God.
God’s Word is full of principles that can only be understood through seeming contradictions.
Keep Seeking Answers (the Bible’s Full of Them)
The Bible promises us this in Luke 11:9:
9 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
The only way we can find is by seeking. We all start life in this world as a blank slate. We learn only the things we seek to learn. Any of us could live our whole lives, and miss so many answers and understanding, by never seeking them.
If you’ve encountered a seeming contradiction between life, and God’s Word, does it really make sense to throw out God’s Word? The reality is, you simply don’t have all the answers yet. You’re trying to apply the rules of multiplication (what you already know), to exponents (the next bigger thing God has for you, that you haven’t learned yet).
Are you praying and not seeing answers? Are you unable to win against temptation? Are you struggling in your marriage, or with your parents, or kids, even though it seems like you shouldn’t be?
Just like in math class, the problem is not God or His Word, the problem is our limited understanding. However it is a guarantee from God, that you will find if you seek. The contradiction you’re seeing in life, or in the Bible, is God alerting you to something bigger that you need to learn. Is God trying to alert you that you might not be as strong of a Christian as you thought? Is your attitude about sin, causing you problems?
Ask questions. Get your pastor involved. Get your fellow believers involved. Listen to anointed preaching and teaching. Read Godly books. And most importantly, keep putting God’s Word in your head! Listen to it, read it, memorize it. Doesn’t God’s Word, and the mysteries of the Eternal, deserve at least as much dedication, as you would give to school?
The only way you won’t grow in your understanding, is to stop seeking, and move on. Please don’t give up.
God bless you on your journey to succeed at living for God!