My wife and I were at dinner with another couple the other night and at one point the conversation turned to a number of culturally moral movements that are at odds with Christianity. Although the couple professed to be believers, when I brought up what the Bible says on the subjects, one of them laughed and the discussion then turned in this direction:
“The Bible talks about a lot of stuff that’s just ridiculous!”
“Like polygamy, incest, you know, crazy stuff.”
Me: “Yep. So?”
“Uh… how can you align yourself with something that speaks about things like that?”
Me: “Well, for starters, because the Bible doesn’t approve of everything it records.”
Their reaction was priceless; it was like I hit them in the face with a cast iron skillet.
I went on to explain that the Bible isn’t unique from other writings in that it is an aggregated piece of literature containing many different genres. Because of that, a reader needs to be careful to distinguish between what is descriptive vs prescriptive; what is historical narrative vs. didactic teaching. Not doing so can lead a person to think Scripture is advocating something it’s not.
This is just one mistake made by those who make a habit out of bashing the Bible, but there are a few others worth discussing.
One of the most common charges against the Bible is that it’s full of contradictory statements, when in reality the person making the claim is usually committing one of two errors. The first is, assuming a partial report is a false report.
For example, the book of John records that, upon hearing of Jesus’ resurrection, both John and Peter ran to the tomb. However, Luke only highlights Peter going to the tomb. A contradiction? Not at all. All historians slice and dice their narratives, including some things while excluding others, and the Bible authors are no different.
The second, similar error, is thinking a divergent account is an incorrect account. An example is the dust kicked up by Bible critics over what time of day it was when the women went to the tomb that first Easter morning, since one account says it was still dark while another says the sun was rising. Depending on the perspective on when and how they set out, it could certainly be both.
Then there is the inevitable question from Bible censors, which is: “You don’t take the Bible literally, do you?!?” This is a mistake (usually deliberately made) over failing to realize that the Bible uses everyday language to describe things and is full of literary devices such as metaphors, symbolism, anthropomorphisms, and more that fit well within the various genres found in the text.
And seriously, only people with an axe to grind feign obliviousness to what Jesus means when He says things like, “I am the door” (John 10:9).
A last critique thrown out by Bible bashers is aimed at inerrancy, where the charge centers on it being impossible that the Bible has no errors, i.e., it’s unfeasible to think that a bunch of fallible people could produce an infallible book.
I always first ask these people, what’s the big deal about a book being inerrant? A phone book can be error free, can’t it? Plus, God is exceptionally good at drawing straight lines with crooked sticks so the fact that flawed people authored a completely accurate book doesn’t trouble me in the slightest.
Now that said, and even though I’m convinced of biblical inerrancy, I’ll then grant their argument and ask the question of whether the Bible can contain errors and still be true in the major claims that it makes. The answer is, of course.
The Bible doesn’t need to be inerrant to accurately tell the Gospel story, report on the historical death and resurrection of Jesus, and more. If history books needed to get every tiny detail right to be trusted, we’d never believe any of them.
Moreover, no doctrine of the Christian faith — not one — is in jeopardy from the, “there’s an error” crowd. You’ll never find Jesus rising from the dead in one of His biographies and Him staying dead in another.
In the end, I find that Bible bashers rarely carry out their attacks because of supposed contradictions or anything similar. They know what the Bible says, what it means in general, and how it applies to them in particular where the recognition of God is concerned and the moral implications of that.
And, truth be told, that’s usually the real problem.
Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.