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Um Yeah, only not

June 21, 2010

I was sent this link in an email:

If I may paraphrase what this dude is saying, his main point is that we normal folk need to just not worry about any apparent contradictions we might happen across in our Bible reading every day, just accept the critter as true and move on with our lives! There are people way smarter than us sitting in ivory towers hashing out the details, and when they figure out what were supposed to believe they will let us know so we can accept it.

And that is SOO TRUE! … um yeah only not.

There are no contradictions in the Bible, only passages we aren’t understanding properly and those we are. Our challenge as believers is to wrestle with the scripture and seek the bloody truth until we can lay our paws on it! Force your theology to conform to the Bible, if your wrong be a man and admit it! Rely on context, and the context’s context! Dig and dig until YOU find the truth, if someone says “here is the truth” take what they say, honestly compare it to scripture and see if it is! Don’t let other people tell you what to believe, its not their business, you are accountable for what you believe end of story.

OK rant over here is how I responded to the guy:

With respect sir, I heartily disagree with your premise and with your advice to folks.

When we encounter an apparent contradiction in the text of our Bible it simply means that there is something we read and understood incorrectly and we need to analyze the problem and find out what the truth is not just dismiss the “contradiction” as too hard to understand.

Take for example your first example of Eph 2:8-9 and James 2:14-26, first we have to decide which one were reading and understanding correctly. Eph says we are saved through faith not by works, John 3:16 says that we simply believe and you have eternal life, Acts 16:31 says the same and those are just a couple of examples.

If we read James to say eternal life is by works then it does indeed contradict the weight of scripture. However to dismiss, ignore or accept this apparent contradiction surely is not a good option for us as teachers conveying truth nor is it by any means a good thing for us to tell those we teach either! Yes James 2:14-26 is probably the most debated passage in the New Testament, but that doesn’t mean that we as just normal folk, or slightly more informed teachers, understand it and allow it to fit properly into the rest of the New Testament’s theology.

Rather than go into an extensive eschatological dissertation on each verse I will simply point out that if we notice that in the whole of the rest of James the word ‘save’ is never used to describe the redemption from eternal damnation, but instead is used throughout as deliverance from physical death! So why would it be different in 14-26? Next we can notice that in 14 -17 John is giving us an example of faith replacing work in our life and how that doesn’t really work out temporally, our faith literally will not bring someone without clothing and food these things without our actions to back it, ergo our faith is dead to that person. And we can go on and notice that in the rest of the passage, the faith in question needs works not for God, but for man, just as Paul points out over in Rom 4:2 that Abraham’s faith and work combined gave him his righteous standing, not before God (his faith alone did that) but before man, which is the whole point of James 2.

I do not think it is too much to ask of ourselves or others to read or to think a little deeper and in greater context than the immediate passage in question.

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