Today I thought I would talk to you about my struggle with the inconsistency of the Bible. Philip Gulley who has written several books on this topic is a well know Christian author of the Quaker persuasion. He is one of my favorite authors of any genre. Let’s start this topic with a quote from one of his books.
For what good is grace—this unconditional love of God—if it is not extended to those who deserve it the least but need it the most? God is love. Holiness and justice are not competing commitments. God has not chosen to turn his back on us or to punish us as our sins deserve. God has chosen to redeem us. Nothing requires God to condemn us, so God has not. Rather, in his sovereign freedom, he waits patiently for the day of our redemption.
Gulley, Philip; Mulholland, James (2009-03-17). If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person (Plus) (pp. 87-88). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
The above quote comes at the end of a chapter entitled “The Character of God” in Philip Gulley’s book “If Grace Is True”. I must admit that I have had many of the same painful questions about the character of God as Mr. Gulley. When I was told to believe that absolutely everything in the Bible is literally and in absolutely true I simply could not reconcile much of the god of the Old Testament to the person of Jesus. Until I was willing to weigh scripture the dichotomy of a vengeful God vs. Jesus of “love your enemy” I was racked with doubt about all things the church pronounced. Could any of it really be true?
I must admit that the God of the Old Testament scares me. When he supposedly in the tenth chapter of Joshua told the Israelites to kill every man, woman and child in the town of Libnash this horrified me. This simply didn’t sound like the God of Jesus I had come to know in the New Testament. I heard various rationalizations trying to reconcile the two gods. One was that God was trying to protect the Israelites from the corrupting influence that intermarriage would have caused. That sounds much like what Hitler used for destroying the Jews. That couldn’t be the answer…
Here is another quote from Mr. Gulley relative to weighing scripture, that is deciding that some parts are just more important than others, much more important.
Weighing Scripture allows for the possibility that some descriptions of God and his behavior are inaccurate. It is not merely counting how many Scriptures say “this” about God and how many Scriptures say “that” about God and believing whichever one receives the highest score. Weighing Scripture is what Jesus taught when he was asked, “What is the greatest commandment in the law?” If Jesus had believed that all Scriptures were of equal worth, he would have answered, “All the commandments are equally important.” Instead, he replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37–39). Then Jesus added a pivotal footnote. He said, “All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:40). In other words, these two verses exalting love are as heavy as the rest of the Bible. Jesus tipped the scales irrevocably in favor of love.
When we finally reject the idea of every word in the ancient and pretty much unverifiable text is absolutely true and applicable for eternity then this contradiction between two gods goes away. I, as Mr. Gulley quotes above, believe Jesus showed us that all scripture is not equal or inerrant. There are just too many places where he taught us a much different way than was recorded in the Old Testament.