Point: Having answered some Bible contradictions lately, it amazes me how some people could try to force a contradiction to exists when really there is no contradiction. Biblical interpretation and seeing how various passages connect logically requires us to think of the bigger picture and at times patience and looking at things from various angles and if at first we don’t see how they “fit,” we shouldn’t right away dismiss the whole Bible as a problem but we should question more of ourselves seeing things rightly. Is there a fitting illustration for this process?
Picture: The other day I was playing with my kids and they needed help with some puzzles and it occurred to me that playing with puzzles (jigsaw or others) might be a good example of the process of resolving Bible contradictions. My kids kept on thinking there is no answer of which pieces would fit together since there were many and I had to keep assuring them to keep on looking. They would be frustrated when one piece don’t fit together with another no matter how hard they try to “force” them together. I was trying to teach them that they needed patience and realize we don’t see the whole picture right away, and if or when we do see the bigger picture it would help. And sometimes fitting them together requires us to think a little bit creatively and we must be ready to be challenged against our assumption of how we at first think the pieces would fit together. But then a moving around here and there and consulting other pieces we see things come together. Sometimes we need to begin with the clearer pieces and move to the ones we are not that sure about. All along the way doubting the puzzle being coherent isn’t necessarily irrational; actually assuming right away that they don’t fit together might be easy but I must say it’s also lazy which is not an intellectual virtue. No, instead those who perserve are the ones who are stretched in their minds and sometimes that require hard work of the mind! But the pieces fitting together isn’t just something arbitrarily forced; if we do it right, they do objectively fit and we also see a bigger picture than the picture found in one piece.
POSSIBLE SCENARIO FOR EMPLOYING THIS ILLUSTRATION DURING APOLOGETIC EVANGELISM
OPPONENT: The Bible has contradictions that’s why I can’t believe it.
CHRISTIAN: Really? Give me one example.
OPPONENT: Well, did or did not the Samaritans receive Jesus? John 4:39-40 contradicts with Luke 9:52-53.
CHRISTIAN: I would have to look at that passage. I would also have to look at it’s context.
OPPONENT: Look at it. It’s very obvious John 4:39-40 contradicts with Luke 9:52-53. You would be irrational to question an obvious contradiction.
CHRISTIAN: I don’t think it is irrational to question what you called an “obvious” contradiction. Again context is important and we must look at every passage contextually.
OPPONENT: You and your context.
CHRISTIAN: It matters. Let me give the following illustration. Look, if a child were to play with a jigsaw puzzle and cries to the parents that the puzzle pieces don’t fit together with an “obvious” example, would we say it’s rational? Sometimes what people call “obvious” really means surface and superficial. Like the child crying with”obvious” examples of puzzle pieces that doesn’t fit, I would say a parent would teach that child patience and challenge the child to reconsider the possibility that the puzzle pieces might still all fit together as a coherent whole but perhaps in a way that’s different than how the child presents it. That’s rational of the parent. What’s not rational is to say there’s a contradiction, that is, two puzzle pieces not fitting together, when one hasn’t consider the other surrounding puzzle pieces. Those surrounding puzzle pieces help shape our understanding of how the other pieces fit together. Does that make sense?
OPPONENT: Sure it does. But you still haven’t resolve the contradiction.
CHRISTIAN: Sure. We’re just starting. My point to begin with is to challenge your rather naive assumption that it’s irrational to question what you called an obvious contradiction without you taking the burden of proof to demonstrate it from the context. Can you please argue contextually why you see there’s a contradiction? By the way assuming that there isn’t a contradiction can also be intellectually virtuous as it acknowledge a need for humility of admitting our finite intellectual ability and also patience to study something more fully. But back to the question: Can you argue contextually why you see a contradiction?
OPPONENT: Let’s look at the passages.
OPPONENT: How would you answer that?
CHRISTIAN: Here’s my take on this contradiction.