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Does the Bible Contradict Itself?

This week we asked the question: What about the Bible? 
If you missed the sermon, you can watch it back here.

"You must not murder" (Exodus 20:13) is one of the 10 commandments, understood to be given directly to Moses from God. Three books later, we see another command understood to be given directly to Moses from God, “Do to him what you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon” (Deuteronomy 3:2). Systematically the troops of Israel destroyed every city in Bashan and killed every man woman and child. We also read about the conquest of Joshua in the next book, starting with Jericho where "they completely destroyed everything in it with their swords—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, goats, and donkeys" (Joshua 6:21), because of God's instructions to Moses and Joshua.

So the obvious question(s) so many people ask is, Is God bipolar, or does He like to contradict Himself, or do people just do what they want and claim it to be God's work? Others see passages like these as blatant contradictions in attempt to discredit it as a reliable source. So what do we do with passages like these? Do they "break" our faith, or is there perhaps another perspective. I've heard the argument that God foreknew that the children of the other countries would grow up to be a problem for Israel, so He knew to go ahead and eliminate them. (By the way, that's a terrible argument, because God became flesh and bone and laid down His own life for people who are problems for Israel and/or the church today. Humanity is and has always been the object of God's love.) I've heard another argument that God does what He wants, and who are we to question Him? (The issue with this argument is that God is no longer unchanging, eternal Truth, because He says one thing and does another; therefore, God has disqualified Himself from being God. Not a good argument.)

I have another perspective I'd like to offer, and no, I'm not dogmatic about it (or anything, really). What if God is letting His people tell their story? What if how they interacted with God and who they understood God to be is how and why they recorded their cultural history. Their culture was theocentric (God-centered), but Israel was also a warring nation; so their lens of God's involvement in their nation was centered around two things: law and war. In America, we live in a politically-centered culture where many Christians view God's involvement in our nation through the lens of politics: when things are good, God is blessing; when things are bad, God is punishing America. Every person puts God into their own context, and I think God allows us to experience Him within our context, regardless of that context. We read about Israel's experience with God through the lens of the law in Genesis through Deuteronomy, and we read about their experience with God through the lens of war throughout the rest of the Old Testament. It's interesting that when we read about God becoming human, Jesus shows us a totally different and compassionate God who is head-over-heels in love with humanity. It's difficult for us to reconcile these seemingly conflicted representations of Who God is, but that's why we read things like Peter's sermon in Acts 2, and understand that the disciples' and apostles' sermons were largely looking at the Old Testament through the lens of Who Jesus was, what Jesus taught, His death and resurrection.

I know I made this reading a little lengthy, so let me get to the main point. If you're looking for God in the pages of the Old Testament (like in the sermons of the disciples), you'll find Him. If you're looking for God in the pages of the New Testament, you'll find Him. And if God allowed His people to tell their story through their lens, and we can find Him on every page, can people find God in the pages of your story? Does who you are reflect who He is? It's one thing to debate the things in the Bible; it's a totally different thing to be an apprentice of Jesus. Is your life a reflection of Who He is? Challenging isn't it?

When people experience the moments in my story, may they find You at the heart of who I am.

I recommended two resources this weekend to help you in learning more about the topic of the Bible. Here they are for your convenience.

How the Bible Actually Works* by Pete Enns
View the Book

Making Sense of the Bible by Adam Hamilton
View the Book