Bible difficulties are something that have always seemed to trouble me–The reasons may be many, but I would like to offer some things I have been musing about on how to deal with these difficulties. These comments will be mostly from the Introduction of The Big Book of Bible Difficulties by Norman L. Geisler and Thomas Howe, pp. 11-27.
- There are two foundational issues that should be accepted in defense of the Bible’s inspiration:
- It is proper to expect that humans can verify the historical elements of the Bible and that this provides a basis for trust in the spiritual elements that men can’t verify. Ref: John 3:12, pg. 14.
- In a Biblical perspective of the human condition, it cannot be ignored that there is a Satanic method of inducing doubt (e.g. Gen. 3:1ff). This may put in proper perspective any kind of questions or apparent errors in the Bible, pg. 15.
- Because humans are fallible, then it is possible that things that are alleged as errors are simply a mistaken conclusion and in fact such a conclusion could be itself an error.
- We cannot expect an explanation for every Bible difficulty, and we should not approach Bible difficulties with the perspective that such a difficulty is an error unless proven to be true. (see list in the section “Bible Difficulties: Yes”, mistakes 1 and 2). The book cites that a scientist studying a system as large and complex must permit unexplained phenomena, and we accept systems frequently without having all explanations. True, a point could be reached where the system is overturned, and rejected, but that is not an easy point to reach.
- An underlying premise supporting this is point 2 above (our own fallibility).
- Also, perhaps the idea of reasonable doubt can give the underlying basis for this (see discussion of rational evidentialism by H. Wayne House and Dennis Jowers Reasons for Our Hope, pp. 81-89). The idea is that one’s justification for the inspiration of the Bible cannot be overthrown entirely by unresolved difficulties, though one can reach a point where the justification is overthrown.
- At this juncture, the role of the Spirit is important in that He can use various means to convict us of the truthfulness of the truth, and the means may differ from person to person (see B. B. Warfield on Faith). I need to better fit in a theology of the Holy Spirit on this manner, and I plan to be reading An Absolute Sort of Certainty: The Holy Spirit and the Apologetics of Jonathan Edwards by Stephen J. Nichols. This may not be an entirely helpful book given its Reformed and presuppositional orientation, but I hope to glean something useful from it.
- Sometimes, especially in OT I would add, there are words that may be hapaxlegomena (words that occur only once in the Bible with little to none attestation in other literature) or words consisting of letters that are unclear that make it more likely for misunderstanding or for discrepancies in names. (mistake 6, pp 18-19 and Appendix 2)
- Issues concerning narratives, such as partial reports or divergent accounts, can be justified on the idea of the Bible’s humanness. It is not humanness in the sense of humans being prone to error, but humanness in the sense of a single person’s understanding/perspective. (mistake 7 is being viewed as a basis for mistakes 8 and 10). These kinds of things may require some creative analysis that remains faithful to the contextual meaning of the passages in question. A contextual hermeneutic can successfully synthesize the accounts in a way that woodenly literal can’t.
- I need to still read a chapter in Forged From Reformation that discusses the woodenly literal issue from a dispensational perspective. My temptation is to be woodenly literal, and perhaps that has caused me a lot of trouble over the years.
- Non-technical language (mistake 12) and round numbers (mistake 13) are examples of imprecision, but not error. This too is answered by a proper contextual, but non-woodenly literal, hermeneutic.
In conclusion, these are important ideas for me to build a framework to justify the inspiration of the Bible in view of Bible difficulties. I may not know everything or have an answer for every Bible difficulty, but these will help build the framework to justify inspiration in spite of that. May I learn to be more humble in dealing with this and to not be woodenly literal in my dealing with Scripture. May the Lord work in my heart in these matters to better trust His Word.