dealing with certain contradictions in the Bible

bad time interpretation
Simple question: to whom does the Earth belong? This question is not as easy as it appears.

In Genesis, man is given dominion:

Gen 1:28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

In Psalms 115, God has given the Earth to man:

Psa 115:16 The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’s; But the earth He has given to the children of men.

In Psalms 24, the world belongs to God:

Psa 24:1 A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein.

In Psalms 47, God is King over the Earth:

Psa 47:2 For the LORD Most High is awesome; He is a great King over all the earth.

In John, God is not in control but forces of evil prevail:

Joh 12:31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.

In Luke, Jesus prays that the Earth will experience God’s will as God’s will is being experienced in heaven:

Luk 11:2 So He said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.

These represent only a small spattering of verses on the topic. So, who owns the world? God, Satan, man?

Someone who wants to take each verse as hard and absolute will have to invent a complicated narrative. Maybe God gives the Earth to man, then revokes the Earth from man, then gives it back to man in another context, and then Satan gains control. This narrative is not explicit in the Bible and must be assumed onto the text.

A better narrative is that each phrase has meaning only to its specific context. To God (in Genesis), man is to rule to the Earth. To King David, God is powerful and active, exerting His will wherever He sees fit. To an unnamed Psalmist, God has planted man on Earth and gives them general discretion on how to live their own lives. To Luke, God’s will is being thwarted on Earth and he prays for God to take control. To John, God will soon come to Earth and take control.

None of these phrases are total and absolute. In some senses God is King of the Earth. In other senses, God is not in control of the Earth. In some senses, man controls the Earth. In other senses, man does not control the Earth. In some senses, God is being thwarted by the forces of evil. In other senses, God is not being thwarted by the forces of evil. None of the phrases are meant to be a hard and fast rule (to the exclusion of all else). Each is specific to its own context and cannot be blindly exported to the rest of the Bible.

When people wish to pull phrases out of context and then apply those phrases over all the texts of the Bible in every context, they do injustice to the text. This methodology ignores how languages generally function and this reverses the meaning of some specific texts. A better method of reading the Bible is to use reading comprehension. Individuals often speak in generalities and often cater their word choice to the context of their meaning. No phrase, in itself, should be taken as a hard and absolute meaning.

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
This entry was posted in Bible, critical thinking, Figures of Speech. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to dealing with certain contradictions in the Bible

  1. Tom Torbeyns says:

    I like this post but the title should be different.
    Something like: “Thou shalt not apply certain verses to all contexts like Calvinists do”

    Greetings :-)

    • The problem is not unique to Calvinists. Arminians and Open Theists also fall prey to this logic. The problem is primarily one of reading comprehension, not ideology. Calling them “contradictions” in the title both shows that a Christian does not have to be afraid of “contradictions”, but also serves to draw the reader’s curiosity to the article. Also, which title would be more likely to be searched and clicked on in Google search results?

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