Mysteries are not real. Contradictions are real.
The Bible (and ultimately any sacred text) is filled with logical contradictions and imperfections, as it was shown by a wondrous visualisation, unfortunately no longer available on the original page, but still can be seen on various sites, like here. Contradictions can be simple (like different order of the same events according to the different books of the Bible, or the number of children of certain protagonists), and more substantial or even crucial (like contradictions between the two different creation stories, between the verses about free will and determinism, or the way to salvation: by works or by faith, or the nature of hell, God’s attributes, and so on).
There are at least three possible reactions to the existence of contradictions, I have a fourth.
The first is to count them, list them and argue with them from an atheist point of view, like here. Atheists say this is one of the reasons why Christianity makes unsustainable and unjustified claims. These are good initiatives since they make believers think and be more self-critical. The second is to deny them, or to work around them, based on biblical inerrancy, as the Chicago Statement did or here. To make it happen a vast array of systematic theologies and sophisticated philosophies have been written in the last 2000 years. Some of these are precious stones and guardians of global culture and civilisation, like Thomism or Calvinism. The third one is a step to the right direction, denying it on rational grounds, as Pete Enns did it, which I like. It says that most ideas in the Bible evolve over time or that people who wrote it have different points of view. He states that “but if inspiration means that God is all about corralling these different voices because <God wrote the Bible> then he did a pretty bad job of it.”
I have a different approach. Let me bring it in a new perspective. My view is that
contradiction is a basic, necessary pattern of life. I see it everywhere, as I see numbers, change, relations, and competition everywhere. The simplest contradictions can be easily eliminated, if we really want, by investigation, but more complex ones – never.
I can see the contradiction in the very basic structure of nature – like that of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. If I have a look at my free will – it’s a contradiction, given all the inputs and clay I got from my genes, my parents, my friends, my environment, and the reality I live. Has the free will problem been solved by philosophy in the last 5000 years? No. Will it be? Maybe. The existence of the good and evil and the nature of God? A contradiction. Creation from nothing or from chaos? Big Bang from nothing? A contradiction. Have any theological or physics books convinced me? Not yet. The books of Stephen Hawking? Not yet. They still exist. Macrophysics work. Free will exists. Nature exists. Nothingness exists.
Loving someone who hates you? A contradiction. Do you think that the sensation and utility of love were created by the blind evolutionary process that developed love into a blind force to make us more successful individuals, groups or species? Ok. Think it through again. So, a blind force created love which is just an illusion and a genetically driven internal feeling to help the survival of humankind. Look at your family, your internal motives, your passion, your wishes, your pains, your desires. Look at your life.
So sometimes you cannot make anything valuable out of your life, but a blind force created it from nowhere and did it for you while you were daydreaming 24 hours a day? Is this blind force immeasurably more powerful and influential than you’ll ever be? Is nothingness immeasurably more powerful than anything?
You think you don’t care, because you don’t believe in conscious, divine forces either. Think it through again. Being blind makes no sense unless there are beings who can see. Can divine force exist if there are no blind forces, to make a difference? Blind, statistically investigable force and conscious, divine force are two sides of the same coin? Oh my. Too many contradictions. I need to look up my notes and textbooks from the university where I studied philosophy.
If I have a look at the Scriptures, they are full of contradictions. Hundreds of them. Some can be solved by context, others by using Enns’ principles, but the basic story is a contradiction. People of different eternities, writers of the Bible witnessed the same unbelievable story that has changed my life ever since:
a divine being draws plans again and again through the ages and through the darkness to draw people towards Himself for a better life.
Why? Who knows it with certainty? Those who resist continuously will be blotted out from the book of Life and will vanish forever, but those who accept the only way out of the cage of a blind, worthless life may gain insight to His divine being and presence for the better. Does it contradict human logic and common sense? Yes, it does. It is a paradox. A conflict. We are in a deep, deep, deep quagmire.
But, contradiction is not good or bad. Not sacred. Not desirable. It does not carry any positive or negative charges. I don’t need to like it. Or hate it. No. What is bad are our sins, our sinful nature, our willingness to sin and our unwillingness to accept that we are soulless and faceless sand grains in the human desert, who passively and actively destroy the creation every single day and make it a worse place for our children and for God Himself. And the worst is that we realize it, we understand it, we are given the power of change and we still say no.
Mysteries are not real. Contradictions are real.
Contradiction is a pattern of Life. A necessary, but not sufficient condition. Saying that the Bible is perfect and there are no contradictions equals to saying the Bible is a dead, lifeless stone. There is no life within. Contradiction is what breathes life into me. We don't need to get rid of the contradictions. We need to uncover them and find what takes us in them closer to God. Without contradictions, there is no life and there is no love. There is no you and there is no me.