Monday, October 17, 2016

The Contradiction

(Introduction. Dan T. didn't like my post on The Fear of God. He assured me that Jesus casts out all fear and that to think otherwise was irrational and unbiblical. Good for him. And good for me. It inspired today's post. Note: This is not in response to anything he said.)

One of the primary conflicts of our day among Christians is the integrity of the Bible. Some say it is bunk. Others say it "contains the Word of God", meaning that some of it is good and some is not and you have to figure out which. On the other end of the spectrum is the view that the Bible is God's Word, breathed by Him to writers so as to be inerrant and infallible. (I think I've made my view clear.) If we could solve this dilemma, we could answer a lot of questions ... either way. I mean, if we could prove that the Bible is God's Word, inerrant and infallible, once and for all, well, then, Christians would need to submit themselves to it. On the other hand, if we could demonstrate that it is not reliable, well, then, all bets would be off. At best we could have a potentially useful religion in some aspects, but mostly we could sumply push it into the dustbin of religions as just another man-made effort. Nice try. No cigar. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.

Well, I've got the answer. I've found it. I know what the final verdict is. I have found the genuine, clear, unequivocal contradiction. If God's Word contradicts itself -- no "paradox" or "conundrum" or the like, but an actual contradiction -- then it is not God's Word and we're done. Christianity can take its ball and go home. Last one out turn off the lights. And it clearly does. Because Christians embrace both "fear God" and "no fear in Christ". There you have it! And it's biblical!

First, we read clear passages like these.
Is not your fear of God your confidence, And the integrity of your ways your hope? (Job 4:6)

Transgression speaks to the ungodly within his heart; There is no fear of God before his eyes. (Psa 36:1; Rom 3:18)

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Cor 7:1)
Solomon's conclusion to Ecclesiastes was this: "fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person." (Ecc 12:13) Paul declared to the Jews in Pisidian Antioch, "Brethren, sons of Abraham's family, and those among you who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent." (Acts 13:26) Peter commanded, "Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king." (1 Peter 2:17) The angel in the Revelation declares "with a loud voice, 'Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.'" (Rev 14:7) Repeatedly, over and over again, Scripture plainly and clearly commends us to the fear of God and condemns the lack of it.

Beyond the "fear of God", Jude writes about "certain persons", false teachers in our midst, of whom he says, "These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever." (Jude 1:12-13) To true believers he says to "have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. (Jude 1:22-23) Biblically, then, certain fear is good, necessary, godly, right.

Or is it? Doesn't Scripture also say the opposite? Don't we read, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love." (1 John 4:18) Now, you poor foolish Bible-believer, which is it? Are we to fear or aren't we? You see, if perfect love casts out fear and God's love is perfect, then there ought to be no fear. That means that no one should fear God and no one should fear anyone or anything else.

There, now, didn't I tell you I had the answer? A clear and present contradiction. Better than that, it is warmly and fully embraced by Christians who both urge the fear of God and embrace the belief that Jesus Christ casts out all fear. It's a beautiful thing, this clutching of contradiction. Just shows how silly Christians are.

Or ... it could be that someone is failing to comprehend some Scripture here. You decide.

19 comments:

Bob said...

fear of the lord is the beginning of wisdom. work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for is it the lord that is at work in you to will and do his good work.
irrational fear causes paralysis. irrational fear causes us to run away from that which is good. the fear that comes from sin, is irrational because it causes us to run from judgment.
healthy fear causes us to run toward the Lord for forgiveness. when face our irrational fear of the Lord, we are encouraged to live. when ever Jesus would appear to the believers He would always say do not be afraid. why? because they were covered by the blood. but to the un-forgiven they should be very afraid indeed.

Stan said...

There you go getting all bibley on us.

The question, though, is how you will interpret 1 John 4:18 ("Perfect love casts out fear") in light of all that other stuff without producing an actual contradiction.

Danny Wright said...

You can always just pick the side of the "contradiction" you like, and run with that one. That seems to be the most popular tact to me.

Danny Wright said...

And, if it's popular it's got to be right. Right?

Danny Wright said...

And, after all, if the democrat party agrees or says so, then that settles it. Doesn't it?

Craig said...

I guess one would have to ask if the "casts out fear..." folks take the entirety of 1John 4 as literally as v 18. In many cases people like to take one verse out of a larger passage in a very literal way while ignoring the rest of the passage. Or trying to ignore the implications of taking the whole passage as literally.

Stan said...

Yes, Danny, I do believe you're right. "What do you mean, no contradictions? I'm fine with contradictions."

And I think I've seen the bumper sticker. "The Democrats said it, I believe it, that settles it." Or something like that.

Stan said...

You're asking a bit much, Craig, if you're asking for folks to take the Bible in context. (I do believe the context of 1 John 4:18 specifically explains what it means ... and it is NOT "There is no need to fear God.")

Bob said...

in this world we have fear, in this world we have sin and judgement. in the world to come there will be no fear, because there will be no sin and no judgement. today we worship and walk with the lord in fallen bodies. in these bodies must cohabitate both flesh and the Spirit.
Perfect love does cast out all fear, because great love and great fear cannot coexist in a healthy relationship.
it is human to presume no need to fear, it is divine to have all fear cast out by His love.

Craig said...

I'm going a bit further I believe. I'm saying that if you're going to take18 literally, then you need to take the entire passage literally.

David said...

I think I remember this one. The perfect love isn't taking any God's love for us but our love for Him. If our love is perfect, then we have nothing to fear, but since our love isn't perfect, then should work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Yeah, verse 16 is about God's love but verse 17 transitions to our love.

Stan said...

Yes, indeed, Craig. I find it interesting when folks stand boldly and defiantly on, say, 1 John 4:18 -- "Perfect love casts out fear!" -- while shaking their heads skeptically at 1 John 4:1, 4:6, or 4:19 (as examples). We need to take it for what it says and means ... all of it.

Yes, David. The text goes back and forth between God's love for us as perfect and a motivating force to ours which is imperfect and needs to be corrected. When we arrive at perfect love for God, we will indeed at sinlessness and have no fear of punishment (which is what verse 18 says is the reason that perfect love casts out fear).

Craig said...

The sermon on the mount is another example where there is a fair amount of arbitrary switching between literal and figurative when the text doesn't support the switching.

Stan said...

Yes, to mention another of an apparently long list of "I read it like I like it" places.

Craig said...

Yes, I've noticed that they treat parts of the OT the same way, where things jump from literal to figurative as often as from one sentence to the next.

I'd really like to know how to make those kinds of distinctions and what basis to make them on.

Stan said...

We live in the Age of Empathy, where "I feel" defines reality.

David said...

Revelation 20 is another of those that people interpret as swapping from figurative to literal and back, and have created an entire eschatology around it.

Stan said...

This from a book of signs and symbols. However, it certainly is NOT limited to chapter 20. Down to the "those lion-headed, scorpion-tailed, flying locust are John's version of a modern helicopter" kind of thinking. It must be actual, not symbolic!

David said...

I wonder how people are able to maintain contradictions, especially when they are brought to light. I understand thinking of two things separately and not realizing the contradiction, but maintaining it after its explained is mind boggling.