45. Is the Bible inerrant? Does it matter?

Bible ContradictionsI’d like to explore a few alleged Biblical errors and contradictions under future questions, but before I do, I have to wonder: does it even matter if the Bible contains a few mistakes?

A brief history of Biblical Inerrancy

The claim that the Bible is inerrant has been around for a long time:

Of [the canonical books of Scripture] alone do I most firmly believe that their authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the manuscript is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it.
Saint Augustine (354-430 AD)

The Scriptures have never erred… The Scriptures cannot err… It is certain that Scripture would not contradict itself; it only appears so to the senseless and obdurate hypocrites.
~ Martin Luther (1483-1546 AD), Werke, Weimar edition (WA), vol. 34.1, p. 356

The Bible as we now have it, in its various translations and revisions, when freed from all errors and mistakes of translators, copyists and printers, IS THE VERY WORD OF GOD and consequently without error.
1893 the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America

We affirm that canonical Scripture should always be interpreted on the basis that it is infallible and inerrant.
~The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, 1978

The Bible is divinely inspired and inerrant throughout.
AnswersInGenesis.org, Statement of Faith, 2013

Belief in inerrancy still remains popular in America. According to a 2013 poll conducted by The Barna Group, 81% of practicing Protestants, and 71% of practicing Catholics, currently believe that the Bible is inerrant.

Why are so many Christians inerrantists?

Most Christians believe the Bible is inerrant because the Bible says so:

Every word of God is flawless;
~Proverbs 30:5

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…
~ 2 Timothy 3:16

…prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
~ 2 Peter 1:20-21

“For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”
~ Matthew 5:18

But letting Scripture testify to its own inerrancy sounds a bit like circular reasoning. Brian Edwards at Answers in Genesis explains the logic this way:

Napkin ReligionTo say the Bible is the Word of God and is therefore without error because the Bible itself makes this claim is seen by many as circular reasoning. It is rather like saying, “That prisoner must be innocent because he says he is.” … If people were reliable, witness to oneself would always be enough… Because Jesus is God and therefore guiltless… His words can be trusted. In a similar manner, since the Bible is God’s Word, we must listen to its own claims about itself.

So… we can trust the Bible because God wrote it. But how can we be sure God wrote it? The Christian website GotQuestions.org explains:

Because the Scriptures are the inspired Word of God, we can conclude that they are also inerrant and authoritative… Because God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and completely perfect, His Word will by its very nature have the same characteristics. The same verses that establish the inspiration of the Scriptures also establish that it is both inerrant and authoritative.

But which verses prove the divine inspiration of the Scriptures? If they exist, I still have yet to find them. But if you’ve already concluded such verses exist, then it’s probably not a very big leap to accept whatever else the Bible may have to say about itself.

Defending inerrancy

You would think that pointing out an error in the Bible would be a simple matter — it’s not. For better or worse, Christians have been working for millennia to put a positive spin on every alleged error and contradiction. While some of these explanations may be correct, even apologists can’t seem to agree on which ones.

For the skeptic, it may prove impossible to explore and disprove every possible explanation, because there are so many ways in which an apologist can defend an alleged error. The apologist can claim it was poorly copied, poorly translated, is being misinterpreted by the reader, that the verse carried a different meaning in a different culture, or it has a spiritual meaning; even miraculous explanations aren’t out of the question. For contradictions, the apologist can claim that both of the alleged contradictions are true when considered from different points of view, or that the contradictions are describing unrelated events, or that one description is literal and the other spiritual.

Some inerrantists claim that the original manuscripts (or “autographs”) were perfectly inerrant, and that only the copies contain errors. Unfortunately, no original manuscripts exist today, so this claim must be accepted on faith. But even if this is true, if God didn’t take His words seriously enough to protect them, how can we take them seriously? If God has not protected the Bible from errors, what else is included in the Bible that we shouldn’t believe?

If the error can’t be easily dispelled, the apologist can also suggest we just assume an explanation exists, even if we never know what it is.

In short, if an apologist can’t find a way to explain an error, he can turn it into a claim that can never be disproved, thereby forever protecting the belief in inerrancy.

Can Christianity survive the existence of errors in Scripture?

If an error ever could be proven, apologists are split on what that would mean for Christianity. Some insist that all errors relate only to “secondary details,” and it would not be detrimental to the core doctrines of Christianity:

At the center of our web of beliefs ought to be some core belief like the belief that God exists, with the deity and resurrection of Christ somewhere near the center… If inerrancy goes, the web will feel the reverberations of that loss, as we adjust our doctrine of inspiration accordingly, but the web will not collapse because belief in God and Christ and his resurrection and so on don’t depend upon the doctrine of biblical inerrancy.
~ William Lane Craig

Apologist Greg Koukl claims that “inerrancy is neither necessary for salvation nor necessary to prove the truthfulness of Christianity.” Still, he strongly cautions against even entertaining the idea that the Bible might contain errors:

If you don’t believe in inerrancy — and I’ve just seen it happen time and time again — when the authority of the Word of God is undermined, then the genuinely necessary doctrines of Christianity begin to topple. Because let’s face it, the doctrines of Christianity are odd.


Other apologists claim that even a single error would be devastating to Christianity:

Saint MatthewThe question of ultimate authority is of tremendous importance for the Christian. If the Scripture is unreliable, can we offer the world a reliable gospel? How can we be sure of truth on any issue if we are suspicious of errors anywhere in the Bible? A pilot will ground his aircraft even on suspicion of the most minor fault, because he is aware that one fault destroys confidence in the complete machine. If the history contained in the Bible is wrong, how can we be sure the doctrine or moral teaching is correct?
Brian Edwards for Answers in Genesis

The Christian “Errantists”

But at least one quarter of practicing Christians don’t believe in inerrancy, and haven’t lost their faith. These Christians freely admit that the Bible contains errors:

The doctrine of Biblical inerrancy seems inherently improbable… the Scriptures contain what seem to be evident errors and contradictions (although great ingenuity has been applied to explain these away).”
~Anglican Bishop Hugh Montefiore, Credible Christianity

I could not believe that anyone who has read this book would be so foolish as to proclaim that the Bible in every literal word was the divinely inspired, inerrant word of God. Have these people simply not read the text? Are they hopelessly misinformed? Is there a different Bible? Are they blinded by a combination of ego needs and naivete?
~John Shelby Spong, Retired American Bishop of the Episcopal Church

Even the famous Christian author C.S. Lewis once admitted that the inconsistencies found in Scripture should lead us to “rule out the view that every statement in Scripture must be historical truth.”

While these believers acknowledge the existence of errors, they do not see them as undermining God’s message, which was expressed by imperfect men in various ways.

But not everyone’s faith survives this realization. New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman first became troubled by Biblical inerrancy while still in seminary, and eventually concluded that the Scriptures contain hundreds of thousands of inexcusable errors. This discovery, along with others (primarily the problem of evil), prompted Ehrman to begin speaking out against Christianity.

The Nonbelievers 

Unlike believers, nonbelievers have long argued that the Bible contains errors. Even apologist William Lane Craig admits that a nonbeliever reading the Bible “would likely conclude that the Bible, like almost every other book, has some errors in it.” But why is this? Are facts not facts? 

If the Bible said “1+1=2,” both believers and nonbelievers should be able to agree that this fact is correct. But if the Bible says “1+1=3,” the nonbeliever labels it an error, while the inerrantist labels it “a difficult verse” and then spends the next 2,000 years trying to explain it.

Not surprisingly, I was unable to find any secular scholars willing to defend Biblical inerrancy. You don’t find them defending inerrancy for the same reasons you don’t find them defending creationism or global floods; these ideas are more a matter of faith than a matter of fact. It’s readily apparent that belief in inerrancy is dependent upon first having a belief in Christianity. 

So are these errors and contradictions even worth investigating?

If believers can maintain their faith despite having acknowledged the existence of errors, is there any point in examining them? I think so, because if the Bible appears to contain errors, it certainly does cast doubt on the claim that it was divinely inspired.

If the only way we can see the Bible as inerrant is to become a Christian, then it’s pretty clear that the only reason claims of inerrancy exists at all is because Christians feel obligated to defend the claims of their religion, not because there’s any observable truth to it.


Table legAuthor, motivational speaker, and self-help guru Anthony Robbins used to say that a belief was like a tabletop, and the legs that support the tabletop were like the various pieces of evidence we use to support that belief. The more legs, the stronger the belief. For many Christians, Biblical inerrancy still remains one of the legs propping up their belief in Christianity. Granted, it’s not the strongest leg, in fact, it probably doesn’t even reach all the way to the ground, and even needs a piece of paper folded up and tucked underneath it to keep the entire table from wobbling, but it is a leg, nonetheless, and so it should probably be evaluated (especially since three-quarters of Christians believe it). If it turns out there’s some truth to it, then it would certainly lend some credibility to Christianity.

But I don’t believe that Biblical inerrancy can ever be fully proven, because it’s impossible to prove every historical statement. And even if it could be proven, it wouldn’t prove that it was divinely inspired, no more than an inerrant phone book can claim to be divinely inspired. Errors and contradictions can only tell us if the Bible is imperfect, which is in potential conflict with the perfect nature of God and with His Word that claims to be “flawless.” But if the Bible was written by mere men, we should expect to see a few errors and contradictions.

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30 Responses to 45. Is the Bible inerrant? Does it matter?

  1. The trouble is that the bible is not evidence for god, but confirmation of confirmation bias – people want to believe and here is this book telling them what to believe… and the circle begins.

    When any part of a self claimed inerrant book is wrong, all of it is useless if not wrong AND useless. If your government said “Hey, we just enacted 700 new laws and they all apply to you except the ones that don’t”… see how much we care about you?

    And when you ask which ones do not apply they answer “Well, most of them, but some of them are not quite right so they don’t count. No, we can’t tell you which ones”

    What exactly would you think of such a government? Incompetent at best. Malicious for certain. Most probably evil by nature.

    The holy texts are either 100% right or they are useless. Worse, if they are not 100% right, they are probably stopping people from living in an actual beneficial way. Problems of errancy do ruin any possible value the holy texts can have because anything universally seen as morally good in them can be sourced from other places.

    So what if some of the 700 new laws are borrowed from a country with great government. It does not justify the other laws which are not morally good…. especially when you can move.

    • Daniel H says:

      Just because not every statement is true doesn’t make the whole thing useless. If we found a list with supposed cures for various diseases which we currently can’t cure, and half of them worked, it would still be unimaginably useful. There’s only a problem if you insist the entire list is correct or if figuring out what on the list is correct would be harder than doing medical research the normal way.

      • Your analogy is not good. If we use it, we have other lists to work from that don’t have obvious problems and which are not said to be entirely true or that to ignore these other lists will cause eternal torment. Your analogy pretends that there is only one list… wrong.

      • Anonymous says:

        If we had a list with supposed cures, and half of them worked, and the other half killed people, well, enjoy your little list.

        • MyAvatarIsAPygmyAtheistAlien says:

          Not to mention, if it was 50% cures & 50% fatal poisons, but it doesn’t say which is which, AND neither the cures nor poisons were effective 100% of the time, then the list analogy would be comparable (example: some people were given a cure for one ailment, but were misdiagnosed, or some people were given poison but were just more resilient and didn’t die)

  2. Alpha says:

    Great job again 500Q! I’d been getting slightly worried when I saw no new post for a while, but I’m not disappointed 🙂 This has been one of the oldest, most discussed questions regarding Christianity.

    The Bible’s self proclaimed inerrancy is actually reminds me of the way they classify which prophets are ‘true’ prophets of God. Something along the lines of (sorry I can’t remember the exact wording of this…) if the prophecy comes true then it comes from God and if it doesn’t then its fake. Always confused me.

    One thing I truly don’t understand is how Christians can both a) believe that the Bible is inerrant and then b) be perfectly happy with the wrathful God that they read about in this inerrant book, while also proclaiming that God IS love?! O.o As Terry Pratchett said – yes I am a sort of fan of his 😉 – “I was inoculated against the Judaic-Christian religion by reading the whole of the Old Testament through in one go… and I thought ‘if this is true, we are in the hands of a *maniac*!’ … thou shalt not kill, but it’s okay to go and kill the guys God tells you to kill.” Couldn’t agree more there. The thing is, I actually think in some ways it wouldn’t be too much of a bad thing if Christians believed the Bible did have errors in it. It’d be much easier to explain away the Old Testament for one. Except the whole religion would probably come crashing down if they admitted the Bible had errors. After all, the whole religion is based around it.

    Christians often argue that the Bible teaches morals. I used to think that morals was the centre of all religions. And then I found out that the whole point of Christianity (and other theistic religions in general) was believing that humans are useless sinners unable to do good unless God decides to “act through them”, and the only way to go to heaven was by spending your life thanking God for whatever is given to you, good or bad. And then I found out that half of the Ten Commandments wasn’t about doing ethical, moral things. It was about putting God before anything in your life. Since then I’ve been unable to convince myself that religion doesn’t divide people. It does.

    Sometimes I’m quite jealous of my Christian friend. It’d be nice to believe so easily and just get a free pass into heaven. But then I guess I’m glad that I can think about these things and not just blindly accept things that make no sense. I think if God does exist, and is as loving as people say, He won’t be anything like he’s described in the Old Testament. If He isn’t that loving… well, I’ll go to hell with my morality intact. Because I think if He is as described in the Old Testament, humans would do a good job of being “his moral superior” (Terry Pratchett again ;)) At least I’ll have some company in hell 😛

    • I believe the verse you were referring to is Deuteronomy 18:22:

      “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.”

      Which makes about as much sense as saying:

      “If you flip a coin, and correctly predict which side it will land on, this is a prediction that the Lord has spoken through you. But if you guess incorrectly, you have spoken presumptuously, and this is a message the Lord has not spoken.”

      • Anonymous says:

        Wow, I was a Christian my whole life and missed that one. What an incredibly ridiculous statement.

      • cromagnostic says:

        (No “gotcha” or “smoking-gun” type condescendence intended here- this is solely a friendly observation!)

        [From Above]
        The Bible as we now have it, in its various translations and revisions, when freed from all errors and mistakes of translators, copyists and printers, IS THE VERY WORD OF GOD and consequently without error.
        ~ 1893 the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America

        (Alright, it is THE VERY WORD OF GOD. Let’s kindly examine further…)

        [From THE VERY WORD OF GOD]

        So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.”
        ~ Genesis 6:7

        Every word of God is flawless;
        ~Proverbs 30:5

        [From Me]

        With utmost and profound respect:
        God can make errors (expressly implied by regret -Gen 6:7) yet 1) his delivery of such regret (i.e. the Word of God) can neither contain such aforementioned err in transmitting his message nor 2) can his Word similarly contain the reflective property of him describing his own err (i.e. Himself)?

        In plain English, God can make errors but his Word, which is inherently reflective of him, (because- well hey, it is him speaking it… right?) cannot also contain said error?

        I wholeheartedly concede #2 in advance to the counter-argument that his omnipotence is not in question here with regards to the Fundamentalist view that God would simply be regretting the fact that he bestowed “freewill” to humans, and therefore he would not know the outcome of the freewill he gave us and he was simply “regretful now that he could see what we did with freewill” after-the-fact and thus wished to destroy most with a flood.

        Then again, this redefines Omnipotence…As well as “guilt” and “regret” having the prerequisite of “responsibility.”

        As to #1, a counter argument could be ‘Well, you can be without error in describing the fact that you messed up!”… No contradiction here! Move along!

        Then again, this respectfully concedes (redefines) that God makes errors…

        Literally or allegorically…

        Take your pick.

  3. JackJack says:

    That napkin photo had me almost busting a gut laughing! But it is sort of a serious matter, isn’t it? I take your statistics to mean the vast majority of religious Americans are deluded and have the IQ of doorknobs.
    I used to wonder whether God would smite me down for just questioning his existence. Nice job, Christians! You made even a nonbeliever afraid to question your silly religion. But now that I have done my own research into the origins of the bible and its stories, I feel a different kind of God in my own soul. One not limited by the absurdities in their “holy” bible. I’ve got new for everybody: The bible does contain valuable teachings, but a whole lot of it is total manure. It has people fighting science and the real truth. Want to really appreciate God? Let go of that silly scripture and LOOK at the universe. Study its amazement. God didn’t create people out of clay on some sort of celestial potter’s wheel. God (whatever that is) “created” a universe which was able to create itself and its own life! Sh*t people, you don’t realize what you’re missing by burying your head in a book of ancient myths and fables. For heaven’s sake–use your head for something other than a place to hang your hat!
    Did Jesus actually exist? Who cares? Did he perform miracles–NO! Did he walk on water–NO! Did he even die on a cross–NO! Look it up for yourself in your precious bible! There is no mention of a cross in the original texts—that was added later you ignorant fools! The cross is one of the oldest symbols on Earth, so the church incorporated it to try to sway pagans to join their “Christian” religion, just like they did with Christmas and Easter. The cross is actually an ancient phallic symbol folks. It’s true! Consider THAT the next time you hang a cross around your neck or hold it in your hand!!!
    So is the bible inerrant? DUDE! It’s almost totally fiction from cover to cover!!! Now quit worshiping that thing (you’re not supposed to worship idols, remember?!!) and go out and LEARN what is really out there. It’s absolutely amazing! An entire universe which is self creating and propagating!!! HOLY SH*T! Now THERE is a TRUE miracle!!!

    • Alpha says:

      Whoa! Wait. I’ve heard about Christmas and Easter, but was the cross seriously added afterwards? I’ve never heard that before… Please clarify/enlighten… has anyone else heard this before?

      • DanD says:

        I have not, ever. All of the gospel stories I’m aware of include it, and I’ve never heard that it wasn’t included in the earliest extant texts.

  4. Umm….which “bible” are we referring to here!?

    For now, this is my initial (intended) comment/question because I already know about several variations of bibles within Christianity and Judaism; which is my point. I’ll comment later on the philosophy (faith?) of biblical inerrancy.

    • Does inerrancy or errancy matter?

      It doesn’t from a single individual’s standpoint. In a truly free society an individual can believe completely in their own self-evident self-perceived reality; from basic common sense to psychiatrically diagnosed forms of schizophrenia and delusions. The human brain’s complexity and power is only recently being understood by medical science. However, when said faith-follower/religion-follower crosses and violates others’ basic human rights, that certainly matters.

      From a socio-political standpoint for a large group of citizens it also very much matters! Christian or Jewish fundamentalists directly or indirectly, conscientiously or not, support theocracy or a form of theocracy. And the traditionally accepted Judean and Greco-Roman Christian bibles teach their followers to be “in the world, but not of the world.” This is incidentally the exact same implications that Muslims are taught by the Koran, and unfortunately for all infidels (non-Jihadists) this is (but not exclusive to militant Muslims) tragically demonstrated upon others. What makes all three of these major religions oppressive/semi-oppressive or potentially lethal are their basic assumptions that they possess the one and only true inerrant words of their God. And the forms of conformity can be subtle over time, or they can be intolerant and/or violent and everything in between…. all simply justified upon the presupposition of biblical inerrancy and “original miracles of supportive evidence.”

      So again, why does it matter? Because from a theological context all three teach ‘exclusion’ from an evil going-to-hell world and mankind is depraved of any means of salvation from its doom without the proxy of the religion’s “founder” and mimicked lifestyle; which the latter will always and inevitably flow over into, interrupt, and/or sometimes violate other non-believer laws and lifestyles. It is a subtle form of religious elitism that all throughout history has killed and murdered and/or oppressed millions upon millions of souls…. all of it justified by inerrant words of God.

      • Alpha says:

        It’s ironic that Christians always spread the word of their all-loving God, with great conviction, and if this doesn’t convert people, threaten with just as much – if not more – conviction that you will be sent to hell for *eternity*.

        • Alpha, agreed. But that projected guilt or conviction is not limited to simply evangelical “full of the Holy Spirit” Christians. The elitist mentality is just as present in Judaism, Islam and in minor forms of other religions too. Which to me indicates a ‘fistula’ from within the non-luck-warm (hot & filled with the spirit) follower(s) and NOT necessarily the institution’s orthodoxy. However, it is unequivocally impossible to misinterpret John 14:6….

          “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

          And there are several other passages in the canonical New Testament and Old Testaments too, but it is this specific verse that leaves not even a microscopic chance for a non-Christian to enter the Christian kingdom of heaven. Talk about hardcore elitism; this verse is perhaps the ultimate.

        • Apologies. That should read “non-luke-warm” follower(s).

  5. alphabj says:

    The statement about Bart Ehrman is not entirely true. Bart has made it clear that he left Christianity because of the the problem of evil. He remained a Christian for some time after finding errors in the Bible. But I don’t think it can be denied that errancy and fallibility played a bigger role in his deconversion than even he thought.

    • Thanks Alphabj. I’ll try to clarify that in the post. My understanding (from the video below) is that inerrancy was his first stumbling block. But I agree that it was ultimately the problem of evil that was the final nail in the coffin.

      • alphabj says:

        I am really enjoying your blog by the way. Please keep it up! I am currently a Christian struggling with these same issues. This issue in particular has led me out of Christian fundamentalism. The first question of yours I read was the one about starlight. Very well done! It really gave a great argument for the idea that if there is a God who has created everything, it is not helpful to believe that he is continually deceiving people by showing them contradictory realities.

        • Thanks Alphabj, I’ll try to keep it up, still lots of interesting questions to explore. And continue to challenge me wherever you think I’m wrong; unlike the Bible, I don’t claim to be inerrant. 🙂

          • alphabj says:

            With respect to the Bible claiming to be inerrant, I don’t think it really does:

            Every word of God is flawless;
            ~Proverbs 30:5

            Does this mean the Bible as we have it today? No. Are God’s actual words flawless? Yes.

            All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…
            ~ 2 Timothy 3:16

            Is God-Breathed really the right interpretation? Or does it really refer to the Holy Spirit inspiring the words to us today? Even if it does mean God-Breathed, Paul could have been wrong.

            …prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
            ~ 2 Peter 1:20-21

            Prophecy. Not the Bible.

            “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”
            ~ Matthew 5:18

            The Law. Not the Bible.

            I realize that you are merely showing how evangelicals would use these arguments. Unfortunately, we must assume what we are trying to prove to argue this way, unfortunately.

        • I hate to go off-topic, but speaking of Bart Ehrman, the problem of evil, and God creating deceptive realities, I really love this short clip of his:

          I can see why this led Bart, and so many other ex-pastors, to doubt God’s goodness or existence.

          There are just so many different ways in which God could’ve created a world where people didn’t need to suffer from apparently gratuitous and unnecessary evil. Certainly we can experience free will and do evil to each other without natural evil making things worse.

          If God’s creation testifies to His nature (Romans 1:20), and we can logically deduce that this nature is more evil than it needs to be, then either God is evil, or His creation bares false witness against Him (or He doesn’t really exist). How can one choose to love God in this life, when the nature of this life infers that God is evil? It’s a difficult problem. :-/

          • alphabj says:

            Good clip. I do agree that the problem of evil is actually a problem, and I believe in spite of it right now. I recently read Bart’s book “God’s Problem” and he was talking about how he had to stop thanking God for his meals because he realized that by doing so, he must also recognize that God is responsible for all those who do not get the meals they need. It was a really jarring point.

            Another key issue that comes into play is the idea of Heaven (which I think the Bible is very ambiguous about) and free will. If you believe that you will go to a place after death that is perfect and nothing bad ever happens, then you must conclude that you will lose your free will and become like a robot. Otherwise, if you do somehow still have free will, then this begs the question of why God couldn’t create this situation in the first place.

            • Alpha says:

              Good video clip! I would imagine that a very devoted Christian would argue that God works in mysterious ways, and the instances of suffering are actually serving a higher purpose. Which, of course, humans are not entitled to know about, even though *we* are the ones suffering for this mysterious purpose. And alphabj, thumbs up for your point on free will! Although now that I think about it, you probably could have free will even when you are in heaven, because the whole deal with Satan was that he decided not to follow God anymore? It completely nullifies the argument that evil is necessary for free will (as many Christians do say) because apparently there *was* no free will before Satan decided to rebel.

              Speaking of which… I’m not too informed about the Bible… was there actually a real reason Satan rebelled apart from getting “too big for his boots” as people put it all the time? Because I find it hard to believe that anyone would rebel without a legitimate reason, and I don’t think pride is one. Rebellion only happens because of repression/tyranny or if one feels they have been slighted of their rightful position. Unless he was just power hungry. But if Satan was created by God and he was that perfect, in such a perfect world, I see no reason he would be power hungry. Did I just back myself into a corner of sorts?

              Bringing this back to the Bible, I find there is a contradiction in their description of God. It emphasises “the wroth of God”, God is angry that you’ve sinned etc. He also seems to enjoy sending people to hell way too much. At the same time, God apparently never gives up on humans, and loves us all. It’s only because we insist on choosing the bad side that God, *because he loves us so much*, sends us to hell. Forever.

              • Alpha says:

                oops sorry! I kind of made a mistake, I meant – there was no evil before Satan decided to rebel, and he still had free will. sorry people… I know double posts are annoying! 😦

              • alphabj says:

                I remember hearing an explanation in class once. The teacher said that all the angels had free will up until a certain point when they became “locked in” to whichever side they chose. So now, all demons are stuck headed toward the lake of fire, while all the good angels will serve God till kingdom come (and even after that ;). I don’t think this is backed by any specific Biblical references though.

                Yeah IIRC, Satan was just power hungry (Ezekiel 28). I don’t think there is actually any solid Biblical evidence that a real character officially named “Satan” or “Lucifer” even existed in the OT. Satan (“the adversary”) is a concept that developed over thousands of years alongside the apocalyptic mindset, and it wasn’t really until NT times that they start talking about the Devil and Demons. The Bible starts with the idea that if God’s people do what He says, things will go well for them. Once they started doing what God commanded, they noticed that bad things still happened, so they came up with Satan to take the responsibility away from God. This brings up another question I’ve always had that you could add to the list. Why does it seem like demons actually referred to medical ailments that we know about today (like epilepsy), and why isn’t there any hard evidence that any spiritual realm exists at all. How would you go about testing the hypothesis that there is a spiritual realm?

              • cromagnostic says:

                Alpha & alphabj,

                Excellent posts on heaven and Satan. I respectfully wish to add three more things to this:
                1) What if indeed there was no free will in heaven? If not, I feel this would actually solidify the entire Bible. God is a jealous god, assists us in war and killing if he deems fit, will work with the devil to test us if he sees fit (Story of Job) and because we are beneath him we have the choice of worshipping him forever in Heaven (much like the scripture depicts) or we can burn in hell and be tortured for eternity. Sadly, worshipping a God forever as a ” puppet” without free-will in Heaven is still better than going to hell because, aside from the fact you aren’t in pain, you would be a puppet and you wouldn’t know anything else therefore it would be blissful to you to worship God and God would be pleased by your worship in Heaven as he is of your worship on earth.
                Of course, if there is free-will in Heaven this is a very slippery slope because the Bible clearly depicts what some of those who used to be in Heaven did with their freewill. Not trying to scare anyone here but maybe theoretical Satan rejected God because he saw Gods plan for us to be robots after death. Totally not advocating for the devil here, but this would still be Biblically accurate given that what we have to go off of the Devil is that he was “prideful” in his fall from grace. Point being: it would be prideful of Satan to question God’s plan of making us robots in Heaven so God said “Go to hell.”
                2) If there is indeed freewill in Heaven, again this is such a slippery slope. The bible clearly states we were made as one tiny “rung” below the angels in the order of Heaven. This would indicate that our souls at best will get the same knowledge as the angels- some of which using that knowledge and freewill- still decided to reject God in Heaven. Even if you reject what I just said and say- “no, God will reveal more to us than he did the angels” or ” God will reveal the vastness of his Wisdom”… You’re still left with the fact that your whole argument assumes that with whatever level of wisdom you do get in Heaven it is decided ALREADY before you even get to Heaven that with your wisdom you will AUTOMATICALLY continue to worship God with it. Respectfully, this is NOT the gift of free-will either if it is pre-destined. There are much more implications to this but I want to hear what others have to say first to build the conversation.
                3) No where do we hear what the devil has to say. Personally, I think a Christian would say that if we did hear what the Devil had to say Orally like we did that of God, the Christian would tear right through it. After all, isn’t the Bible -the word of the most powerful entity in existence- about thwarting the Devil each day as he tries to make you sin subconsciously? It is medical fact your subconscious is vastly more powerful. Point here is that God would know that by allowing the Devil a forum to speak Orally or even write scripture that his followers would not buy into it because often it is referred to that “the greatest trick the devil ever played was to make you think he doesn’t exist.” Why not out him? You are a jealous God why not get him off his ” home court” of being able to mess with our subconscious and bring him to the damn forefront of our conscious where he is less powerful? I know, I know… For some of you a little voice just perked up and said “It is all intended to be a ” test” in a jealous God’s eyes and the test isn’t supposed to be “easy”….” OK well While I 100 percent respect that, In truth I proposed the ” not hearing what the devil has to say” argument solely so that those may ponder the contradiction of a God making one heck of a hubbabaloo out of vanquishing the Devil contrasted with writing a Bible (read: a book on how to vanquish the devil) in a way that is not even remotely efficient and reflective of someone who even cared about the “vanquish” part in the first place? (This in a roundabout way makes point 1 make more sense)
                3) If the angels who “fell from Grace” and went to hell went there due to what they did with their free-will, does this mean there is free-will in Hell? Or did they magically give it up when they went? If so, if there is no freewill in Hell this makes it even more likely there is no freewill in Heaven (at least to those of us who we’re created as “beneath” the angels as the Bible depicts).

                Peace be with you all and have a good weekend!

  6. Not sure if my own “Reply” to my initial question/comment is flagged or not, but nonetheless, I’ve finished my two-part Reply up above and after my first comment. Thank you 500Q for another excellent question and topic!

  7. Don says:

    Michael Patton at Parchment and Pen states it doesn’t matter if the bible contains errors the essential doctrines of the resurrection of Christ is all that is important.

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