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Why Did God Put Contradictions in the Bible?

James McGrath, professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University, has a link to a video by creationist and serial tax cheat Kent Hovind, dealing with discrepancies between Acts 9 and Acts 22. Both passages relate the story of Paul's conversion to Christianity on the road to Damascus. Paul is blinded by a bright light, hears the voice of Jesus, and becomes a Christian. In the earlier account, Paul's traveling companions heard the voice but didn't see anything unusual. In the later account, Paul's companions saw the light, but didn't hear the voice.

So what are we to make of this discrepancy? In the video, Hovind opines:

If I was God, I would write the book in such a way that those who don't believe in me would think they've found something, aha, here's why I don't believe.…I would put things in there that would appear without digging to be contradictions. I don't think that's deceptive; I think that's wise for the heavenly father to weed out those who are really serious.

I made a decision years ago; I'm going to believe the Bible until it's proven wrong.

Dr. McGrath has a different perspective on the discrepancies.

I’d like to suggest that it is more likely that God put them in there (if indeed God is to blame) in order to see which Christians would be honest enough to acknowledge them, and which would become dogmatic and dishonest charlatans like Hovind and lie about them.

There are two main problems with Hovind's approach. The first is that he doesn't see any hint of deception in the idea that God might have intentionally planted false information in the Bible itself, the very book fundamentalists like Hovind claim must be without error.

Hovind's second problem is that, in saying he's going to "believe the Bible until it's proven wrong," he undermines the first part of his answer. The question is not whether we believe that Paul's traveling companions saw a light or heard a voice, or both or neither. The question is, how can we understand either passage to be fully factual when they disagree about what the facts are?

And yet, on a deeper level, that's not the question at all.

The point of the New Testament is not to give us a list of inexplicable things we must believe happened a long time ago. Neither is it meant to give us an infallible guide to govern our actions. The point is to tell us about Jesus, his life and teachings, his death, and his ongoing relationship with humanity.

Within the telling of that story, many other stories are brought in as illustrations. Sometimes the same illustration is used twice, and the details don't always match. Paul's conversion is just one example of that. But Christianity at its best is not about getting all the nitpicky details right. It's about understanding the bigger story—and becoming part of it.

Hovind and other fundamentalists spend so much time worrying about explaining the minor details of the story, they miss the overall point.

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