Christian Apologetics Free Course 12, Lesson 03
Analyzing Bible Difficulties 03
10–Difficulties Arising Out Of Fallacies Of Logic: Logic is the foundation of all clear thinking, reasoning and communication. But when a large number of interdependent subjects are discussed, people tend to make errors of logic in their deductions and interpretations. This behaviour becomes very prominent with those people who are preoccupied with their own biases and subjectivity. They hear what was not said, deduce what was not intended, and make conclusions which are not warranted in the normal course. For an example let us look at the following statements:
(A)–All dogs have four legs
(B)–All tables have four legs
Though both the statements above are true in themselves, it is wrong to conclude that since both objects have the same number of legs, all dogs are tables. In the same way, it is wrong to put two statements from the Bible together to arrive at conclusions that are not intended by the writer/speaker.
11–Difficulties Which Arise When The Precise Nature Of A Statement Is Not Understood: Every language contains several types of statements. Some are very general in nature, while others are highly restrictive. Some are affirmative, subjunctive, speculative or figurative. Sometimes it is difficult to translate the precise sense of the original into other languages, while at other times even experienced translators overlook this peculiarity. At still other times one statement in the original language might admit or contain more than one sense while the translator is restricted to conveying one single sense. While this type of difficulty usually does not hinder seekers from discerning the possible meaning, which is sufficient for their edification, persons who read the Bible with the express intent of discrediting it will surely find a problem here. Also, most expositors point out these possibilities during the course of their expository messages and therefore people who are given to serious study usually overcome these difficulties in the course of their Bible study. To clarify the matter, let us consider the common English word “can”.
It is a word which most of us use commonly in our everyday conversation. Interestingly, this common and simple word can be used in a number of different ways. Depending on the construction of the sentence and the mood and tone of the speaker it can express potential, permission, or even a stern order! Hence it is the nature of the sentence which dictates the precise meaning that is to be attached to this word. If this word under consideration has been used by someone to express a possibility, but someone else interprets it as permission, then strange interpretations may come out of it which will be completely opposite in meaning to what the speaker intended. Consider the following : “You can sin”. When it is used to express a possibility, it might mean “You can (fall into) sin (if you are careless)”. But a careless interpretation can distort it to mean “(You have permission so that now) you can sin”! This is enough to demonstrate why one should be careful to discern the nature of a sentence before it is labelled as a problem passage.
12–Difficulties Of Numbers: Numbers have been used throughout the Bible in connection with money, measurement, age, the number of people in a group, or the number of things, etc. Sometimes the reckoning is approximate while at other times it is exact. Today also we see similar practices in connection with quoting of numerical figures. Where only the approximate value is required people round off the figure while where precision is required people quote numbers with sufficient accuracy, even up to several decimal places. It is the same in the Bible. A good example of this kind of statement is found in Numbers 14:30. On a cursory reading of this verse it might seem that only two persons, Caleb and Joshua, from the original number, entered Canaan. However, the speaker (God) fully knew that the actual number of people who entered Canaan was tens of thousands. Yet He quoted the small figure of two because He had qualified (in the previous verses) the number that He is quoting, so that this figure no longer represents the total.
On the other hand, when measurements related to buildings and vessels are given, most of the figures tend to be exact specifications. The best example is the specification given for the huge tank built for the temple of Solomon. The figures given in the Bible (I Kings 7:23-26) are so exact that they can be used to calculate the value of ‘pi’ (circumference/diameter) accurately up to two decimal places (i.e.3.14). Critics have raised many problems related to numbers. Many of these look like problems because the way in which these numbers have been used had not been determined by the translators/interpreters.
13–Problems Related To The Dullness Of Our Spiritual Perception: Even spiritually mature people have not reached the final knowledge or understanding that is necessary in spiritual matters. Even in mature people, spiritual perception still remains so dull that it can be compared to seeing an image in smoked or ground glass or mirror. Also, answers to many classes of problems can be understood only by spiritually discerning people, and they will remain problematic issues for immature persons who have only a very dull spiritual perception. Concerning doctrinal issues, they cannot be understood by unregenerate people because such subjects can be understood only with the help of the Holy Spirit, and this help is available only to believers in Christ.
Problems dealing with God’s justice, the presence of evil, injustice, and suffering in God’s creation, and the untold miseries suffered by the innocent are some of the difficult problems in this category. If unregenerate persons, or believers who have not grown significantly, have difficulty with these problems it is only natural. They are trying to understand matters for which they do not have any mental or spiritual preparation or background. Even spiritual maturity is not a guarantee that we will comprehend all the answers. Many times believers obtain a better view of the whole matter only after passing through a personal crisis or misery. After the crisis is over, they might reflect and find that God allowed it all only for their spiritual good.
CONCLUSION: There are many people all around us who would like to discredit the Bible somehow or other. One standard tactic of such people is to raise many ‘difficulties’ in the Bible. They argue that if the Bible is the Word of God then there should not be any difficulties. The first thing that we should note about these people is that they are being naive! In fact, in any person-to-person communication of substantial length, difficulties are bound to arise. This is more so when finite humans try to understand the infinite God. The second thing to understand is that most of the difficulties advanced by the critics fall into certain definite categories. Knowing these categories of difficulties will help us to understand the reason for the difficulty and to solve it. We face difficulties even in simple books written by human beings. Therefore it is to be understood that the Book that has been written by God, and which tries to capture that acts of the infinite God in the finite languages of humans, will cause its readers some difficulties. These difficulties do not discredit the Bible in any way, and they do not hinder the communication of the main message of the Bible. Rather, if such difficulties were absent then one would have wondered whether it is God’s word, or a carefully written and edited book produced by mere humans.