“God is imaginary”? Really, Part 16: Consider the contradictions

Proof number sixteen of the website “God is imaginary” is titled, “Contemplate the contradictions”. Now, I’ve seen several websites that supposedly list biblical contradictions, such as this one, but no one actually take the time to define exactly what a contradiction is, especially what a biblical contradiction would entail. So before delving into the meat of this “proof”, let’s define exactly what a contradiction is, in principle.

One definition, found here, is,

“a proposition, statement, or phrase that asserts or implies both the truth and falsity of something;…”

Okay, so if we look at that definition, a contradiction would consist of two statements, one of which would make a positive statement, and another that would negate it. For example, if I were to say, “I have $50,” then my son came along and asked me if I had any money, and I told him, “I don’t have any money,” those statements, superficially would contradict. I say “superficially” because that $50 could have a specific designation, like money for his mother’s birthday present, and that I could not give him any of it for anything else. While the linguistic principle is an overt contradiction, the underlying reasons would not be contradictory to the claim. Now, to say, “The sky is blue,” and then say, “The sky is green,” these two statements necessarily contradict because the sky cannot be both blue and green at the same time and in the same way, i.e. the law of non-contradiction. So, the question is, are we merely superficial thinkers, or are we going to dive deep and find out exactly what is going on for a supposed contradiction to exist? Hopefully we are the latter.

One of my biggest pet-peeves with this response is simply the lack of referential documentation with this site, which is a tactic to prevent someone who comes across it from going to the original texts from which they are drawn to check to see if the argumentation being presented is either honest in its presentation or dishonest in its presentation of the evidence being considered. Sadly, this objection is based upon a dishonest representation of the evidence.

The writer quotes a passage a-contextually to set up his objection, a passage from Exodus 32:27-28, this time the passage is quoted somewhat accurately, though the source translation is not quoted:

    Then he [Moses] said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’ ” The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died.

Now, this is contrasted against the command from the Decalogue, Exodus 20:13:

Thou shalt not kill.

Now, here’s the problem, the author assumes that the words translated as “kill” or “killing” in these passages are the same word, but they’re not. As I have said elsewhere, “words have meanings”, and specifically we need, if we are going to be honest in our understanding of the text, to define those words as the Israelites, to whom they were originally written, would have understood them.

So, let’s place this text in context:

  1. Having left Egypt and seen a mighty miracle in their crossing of Red Sea, the Israelites come to Mount Sinai, where God speaks the initial laws, the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments, to the people from the mountain. In fear, the people plead with Moses to be their intermediary with God (Exodus 19-20).
  2. Moses delineates several sections of laws, under revelation, that establish operating principles for this newly formed nation, so that they can function while he goes onto the mountain to receive further instructions from God (Exodus 21-23).
  3. While on the mountain, the people of Israel persuade Moses brother, Aaron,who had been left in charge to build them an idol so that they could worship God, having been exposed to that style of worship in Egypt. Aaron, caves and does so, and the people descend into the utter chaos and debauchery that typified the religious rituals of that day (Exodus 32:1).
  4. Upon returning to the camp, Moses, realizing that he cannot regain positive control of the situation calls to himself, “Whoever is on the LORD’s side (Exodus 32:25)”, and orders them to execute the ones who were the ringleaders and their immediate followers of this idol worship, a number that came to roughly 3,000.

Now, our immediate reaction to this is, “Well, Moses didn’t give them a chance to stop.” My response: these people had already defied a clear prohibition delineated in Exodus 20:4-6 (ESV),

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

These people were caught, dead to rights. They knew the commands of God, they had stood there and heard that very command with the rest of the Israelites, and they rejected it and though that they could worship the LORD in just any old way, a way that He had already judged not just months before in Egypt.

Now, I would like to ask this writer, and give them the benefit of the doubt, even concede that it is wrong for us to take a life, at all, regardless of the circumstance: if God had descended from the mountain, personally and killed those people, would there be a problem? If the answer was “No”, my next question would be: okay, what if God decided to use His angels, would there be a problem? If not, what is the difference between God acting on His own or through an agent of His choosing, if it is His command that is being carried out? Logically, there is no difference. The problem then, simply, seems to be in the English rendering of two different Hebrew words as “kill”.

 

In Exodus 20:13, the Hebrew word rendered there, is the English equivalent of the word “murder”, which means, as defined here, “the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought.” The word rendered as “kill” in Exodus 32:27, is better rendered as “execute”, as defined, “to put to death especially in compliance with a legal sentence.” God, as judge of His creation, has deemed that for disobedience to His statutes, judgements and commands, the sentence is ultimately death (Genesis 2:17, Leviticus 26:14-17, Romans 1:32). Thus for the writer of this “proof”, he commits the fallacy of equivocation, by saying that those words mean the same thing, when in fact they don’t.

 

Something else, the writer just absolutely logically fails at, by the same fallacy is it this point here, that I’ve dealt with here,

When you look at slavery, you get the same feeling of total contradiction.

Notice that he makes the issue one of subjectivity: it has nothing to do with the facts of the matter or the facts of history, but with personal taste. Now, logically, as difficult as it may may be for some people to go there, if the writer lived in a culture that legally allowed involuntary servitude, would he make such an argument? I guarantee, according to the implicit worldview contained in that statement, it would never cross his mind. However, because of mine, I could consistently argue against the situation, using the sound principles of biblical exegesis.

 

One more point, then I’ll be through for this post, this quote, from a few paragraphs on the issue of torture, taken from a cover story of Christianity Today regarding the issue of torture that was reported from instances during the Iraq war:

If you think about it, you can see the contradiction here. What does God plan to do to people who do not accept Jesus Christ as their savior? According to the Christian faith, he plans to torture them for eternity in the fires of hell. Since we all know that torture is always wrong, we have a contradiction.

Let’s deal with the straw man here, that “[God] plans to torture [people who do not accept Jesus Christ as their savior] for eternity in the fires of hell.” God, being perfectly just, will punish sin, all sin committed by His creatures in their rebellion against Him, which is something we would expect a perfectly just being to do. In love, for those who have responded to His gracious offer of salvation through faith in Christ, God has placed the punishment of their sins on His Son; their penalty, their sin-debt, is paid in full through Christ’s free-will offering of Himself. But those who continue in their rebellion, who remain in their sin, refusing to repent, even though God has made publicly available and abundantly clear His means to escape punishment, will be punished. Punishment is exile from God’s presence: exile from His mercy and His grace, mercy and grace which has restrained them in the life from doing everything they could have done, but rather than accept the free gift that is offered, which is freedom from that in His presence, God will let them go into their never-ending depravity, forever.

 

There is one other straw man, involving the matter of pain of childbirth for women, saying that it’s “forever”; it’s not because the Christian belief is that God will, at some point in the future, put an end to this cycle of life that we currently live in.

 

It is just sad that the writer of these “proofs”has to  make and maintain logical fallacies to make them work.

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