Earlier today Ken Ham decided to grace Facebook with his presence to defend the inerrancy of the Bible. And for whatever reason it appeared on my Facebook page. I should probably just follow him and get it over with, but something about being “friends” with Ken Ham makes my skin crawl.
As usual the thing that really annoys me is Ken Ham claims that secularists start off with the assumption that the bible has errors. This ignores the fact that many secularists were once adamant believers who only became secularists when they could no longer ignore the gross contradictions within the Bible.
The truth is apologists, pastors and priests love all of the contradictions and ambiguities in the Bible, and the same is true the further up the church hierarchy you go. If the Bible wasn’t full of contradictions, they would all be out of a job. Imagine being able to open a Bible and being able to easily and clearly ascertain the author’s meaning. No need for someone like Ken Ham to teach you how to “correctly” read the Bible. Because of course if someone comes to a different conclusion about the Bible, they obviously are just not reading it correctly.
Think about it, the Catholic Church didn’t stop conducting mass in Latin until 1965. That keeps those who are unlearned, the common folk, if you will, dependent on the church hierarchy for their connection to God. Ken Ham is making the same power play today. Everyone can examine the text for themselves but for some reason it is still necessary for people like Ken Ham to help all the common folk navigate and explain away all of these “supposed” contradictions. No “True Christian” ever wants to read the bible incorrectly obviously.
Google “biblical contradictions” and you will find lists that will continue for what seems like an impossibly long time. My personal favorite is when God brags about freeing the Hebrews from Egyptian slavery in Exodus 20, and then in Exodus 21 God lays down laws for slave ownership (apparently slavery is only bad when it happens to Jews). Even if there are satisfactory answers for every contradiction (I am not very satisfied with this Jewish slavery exception), the sheer amount of ambiguity should be proof against any sort of divine inspiration. It is the editor’s job to make sure that contradictions and ambiguity don’t make it to the final print, so the author’s message isn’t muddled. If the Bible were written today God would be fired as the editor. The Bible is a perfect example of why it is always good practice to have a second set of eyes to review a text before publication (I don’t do this, which is why days later after I post a blog I’m still finding typos).
The ultimate goal of the God/the Bible is to save as many souls as possible (unless of course it isn’t). How many people have left the faith at least partially due to the contradictions found in the Bible? God, the most perfect editor, had an opportunity to create the most perfect text and without question he failed. For proof look at John 17:20-21, which depicts Jesus praying that all those who read the Bible (who come to believe through the word of the apostles) “be one.” Consider there are over 40 denominations of Christianity today. Some differences between denominations are minor, other denominations handle rattlesnakes. In terms of results this is an example of one of the worst prayers in the Bible. And if God can’t even get a “yes” to his own prayer, about his own church, what hope does anybody else have?
*Edit– I meant to use the above paragraph to highlight that the 40 different denominations all have different views on how to “correctly” interpret the bible. This is an unacceptable outcome for an editor who clearly wanted to produce a clear, unified message as John 17:20-21 states.–Edit*
Do you want more proof? Let’s play a game. Who was at the tomb when Jesus’s body was discovered missing?
Was it a young man sitting in the tomb dressed in a white robe as it is in Mark?
Was it an angel who descended from heaven and rolled the stone back in the presence of the women then sitting on the stone as it is in Matthew?
Was it two men standing inside the tomb in dazzling apparel after the tomb had been discovered empty as it is in Luke?
Was it two angels in white sitting inside the tomb after they had already discovered the tomb empty, left, and came back again with more witnesses, and then after those witnesses left as it is in John?
Perhaps some of the confusion comes from in Mark, Mary Magdalene, Jesus’s mother, and Salome discover the tomb empty, while in Matthew it is just Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary.” In Luke it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and “other women.” And finally in John it was Mary Magdalene on her own.
I personally think the confusion comes from Mark 16:8 “And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
Even supposing the details got muddled in the 40 years before they were written down, any moderately competent human editor compiling this anthology would be able to get the number of angels consistent from story to story, let alone the recurring characters, and they would know that the author couldn’t report information that hadn’t actually been told to anybody.
In terms of consistency and clarity, by any standard of writing, the Bible is far from perfect. But perhaps we should give God some slack, at least in terms of the resurrection story. After all, the whole point is he wasn’t there.