One common concern that skeptics have about the Bible is that it doesn’t line up. That it’s full of disagreements, which they say proves that it’s a man-made document, not inspired by God.
This question can lead to very murky conversations; however, because people mean different things when they discuss “disagreements” in the Bible. In fact, there are at least four different ways in which the Bible is accused of sharing disagreement!
4 Different Ways the Bible is Accused of Sharing Disagreement
- Some say the Bible disagrees in its textual witnesses.
- Some say the Bible disagrees over its own content across different authors.
- Some say the Bible disagrees over factual data of this world.
- Some say the Bible disagrees over its own theological issues.
For the sake of brevity, I have supplied the above links that cover the first three types of disagreements. Let’s briefly discuss the fourth reason in this post.
Some people believe that the Bible has theological disagreements because they observe Christians disagreeing over theological issues — and using the Bible to support their stance. But these disagreements aren’t really because of clear-cut theological disagreements in the Bible, but because of these three reasons:
1. The authors of Scripture emphasize different events and subjects because of their natural mode of thinking and the audience they are trying to address. This, however, doesn’t mean that what they’re talking about contradicts itself. As readers of the Bible, we can’t take one passage in isolation without considering how it is informed by the rest of biblical theology.
2. Christians often take what is unclear in the Bible and convince themselves that they clearly understand its meaning. But Scripture itself recognizes that the meaning is not always apparent. Peter explicitly says that there are some things in Paul’s letters that are difficult to understand (2 Peter 3:15-16). And in Romans 14, Paul says that there are disagreements that we, as the Church, should learn to live with.
3. Even where the Bible is clear on issues, such as salvation and the deity of Jesus, the Bible is interpreted by people (including you and me!) who are flawed by sin. This isn’t to say that the theological task of interpreting Scripture is futile, but we have to be mindful of our own limitations. We inevitably bring subjective, personal views which, left unchecked, could twist its text to mean what we want it to say.
With all this in mind, we need not be discouraged. Yes, there are many disagreements. This is expected when we are talking about the infinite God of this universe! But there is also remarkable agreement over the fundamental doctrines of Scripture. Most Christians, for example, believe in salvation by grace. Most believe in the Trinity. Most believe in love and justice. Most believe in the second coming of Christ. In the midst of diversity, we have profound unity through the Holy Spirit.
Want to dive into this further? Watch this short video I created titled, “Why do Christians disagree about stuff?“
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- To grow your knowledge of the Bible, read 77 FAQs about God and the Bible by Josh and Sean McDowell.
- Also read Josh and Sean’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict.