Consider these two statements or questions for just a moment. Problems can’t be solved by countering statement against statements. Therefore, are there actually any contradictions in God’s Word? And do we just ignore the perplexities and hide behind blind faith?
I must be honest with you all, I grew up hearing and learning about a God that sought for and looked for revenge to handle the sin problem. Coupled with this was the idea that works, saved me, but only if I was good enough for otherwise God sought to destroy me. Where did this idea come from? I have carefully thought back to my childhood, wondering if it was my father that originally gave me this idea. I have looked back at my early association with Christian Education and wondered if this is where the concept came from. I have even thought about those that taught Sabbath School class and wondered if this is where my idea of God came from. I have also wondered if my pastor as a child instilled upon me this idea.
It was probably a combination of all these factors that fixed my thinking that God is a vengeful God. Yet as I think back to my father, I see him more of a moderate in this area than others.
The vast majority of Christians are strongly convinced that necessity had demanded a punishing, destroying God since the rebellion began. In fact, the whole world lives under some form of belief in systems of reward and punishment. Although I have need, I am saved only if I am good enough.
There are at least two reasons for this thinking. First, the human mind has long been educated to believe that the only way to overcome rebellion is by force. We see this all around us. To oversimplify this, the American Revolution and American Civil war are two examples. The second reason is the mind has been trained to read Scripture references according to a certain method of interpretation. When read according to that system, there are many Scriptures that will be understood as saying that God punishes, destroys, and liquidates.
Let’s consider for a moment the following examples:
- So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them (Genesis 6:7).
- And, behold, I Myself am bringing a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die (Genesis 6:17).
- Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of heavens. So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground (Genesis 19:24, 25).
- And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt (Exodus 7:3).
- And He hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said (Exodus 7:13).
- And he said to them, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel; “Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor (Exodus 32:27).
- It was to be impressed upon Israel that in conquest of Canaan they were not to fight from themselves, but simply as instruments to execute the will of God; not to seek for riches or self-exaltation, but the glory of Jehovah their KingLike the men before the Flood, the Canaanites lived only to blaspheme Heaven and defile the earth. And both love and justice demanded the prompt execution of these rebels against God and foes to man.
- But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murders, and burned up their city (Matthew 22:7).
A careful reading of the whole parable of which this last verse is part of will show that the king is God, the armies were those of Roman, the murderers were the Jews, and the city was Jerusalem and what Christ is referring to or predicting is the destruction of Jerusalem in CE (AD) 70.
Therefore the text is really saying, “And when God heard thereof, he was wroth: and God sent forth His armies, the Romans, and God destroyed the Jews, and God burned up Jerusalem.”
They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them (Revelation 20:9).
This is by no means a comprehensive list of statement of this nature. There is no special point in assembling every such quotation here. However, these are more than sufficient to provide the examples needed to show that there are many such Scriptures that, when interpreted according to the way our minds have been accustomed to interpret them, leave one with no option but to believe that God does not use force to liquidate those who have rebelled against Him.
There are many people today who read these texts, interpret them according to long accustomed methods, and are quite satisfied to believe that God behaves as an executioner to those who refuse to obey His laws. But in doing so they are ignoring several things. First. There are quite a number of statements that say the opposite from what these statements are interpreted to mean. Second, there are the great principles that are embodied in the constitution of God’s government. Third, there are the terrible implications of holding such beliefs about God.
As we continue our study, we will consider these in turn, but first let a list be made of what some would call counterstatements. In reality they are not and cannot be counterstatements for there is no contradiction in God’s Word.
The LORD is righteous in all His ways, Gracious (holy, KJV) in all His works (Psalm 145:17).
Your testimonies (Commandments or laws), which You have commanded, are righteous and very faithful (Psalm 119:138).
The Lord is righteous and the law is righteous. Therefore, God is what the law is. It is the transcript of His own character” and the law declares that “thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13 KJV). Therefore, if it is not in the law to kill, it is not in the character of God to kill. Let’s examine a number of other quotations.
- God destroys no man. everyone who is destroyed will have destroyed himself (Christ’s Object Lessons p. 84).
- God destroys no one
- God does not stand toward the sinner as an executioner of the sentence against transgression; but He leaves the rejecters of His mercy to themselves, to reap that which they have sown. Every ray of light rejected, every warning despised or unheeded, every passion indulged, every transgression of the law of God, is a seed sown which yields its unfailing harvest. The spirit of God, persistently resisted, is at last withdrawn from the sinner, and then there is left no power to control the evil passions of the soul, and no protection from the malice and enmity of Satan.
- Satan is the destroyer. God cannot bless those who refuse to be faithful stewards. All He can do is permit Satan to accomplish his destroying work. We see calamities of every kind and in every degree coming upon the earth, and why? The Lord’s restraining power is not exercised. The world has disregarded the word of God. They live as though there were no God. Like the inhabitants of the Noachic world, they refuse to have any thought of God. Wickedness prevails to an alarming extent, and the earth is ripe for the harvest (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, pp. 388, 389).
- This earth has almost reached the place where God will permit the destroyer to work his will upon it (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, p.141).
- In this age a more than common contempt is shown God. Men have reached a point in insolence and disobedience which shows that their cup of iniquity is almost full. Many have well-nigh passed the boundary of mercy. Soon God . . . will say to the angels, “No longer combat Satan in his efforts to destroy. Let him work out his malignity upon the children of disobedience; for the cup of their iniquity is full. They have advanced from one degree of wickedness to another, adding daily to their lawlessness. I will no longer interfere to prevent the destroyer from doing his work.
When Jesus was asked to destroy the Samaritans who had rejected him, He replied to His disciples, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.
It has taken a long time for me to retrain, rethink my concept of God. There can be no more conclusive evidence that we possess the spirit of Satan than the disposition to hurt and destroy those who do not appreciate our work, or who act contrary to our ideas.
Rebellion was not to be overcome by force. Compelling power is found only under Satan’s government. The Lord’s principles are not of this order. His authority rests upon goodness, mercy, and love; and the presentation of these principles is the means to be used. God’s government is moral, and truth and love are to be the prevailing power. For the exercise of force is contrary to the principles of God’s government; He desires only the service of love; and love cannot be commanded; it cannot be won by force or authority, therefore God cannot and will not use these methods.
We know that God does nothing that is contrary to the principles of His government. Therefore, He does not use force. This principle is stated with certainty throughout Holy Scripture. “Sickness, suffering, and death are work of an antagonistic power. Satan is the destroyer; God is the restorer.
In this second compilation of statements, we have an emphatic and clear assertion that God is not an executioner, punisher, or destroyer. When these and the first set are viewed side by side, there does not appear to be any way of reconciling the two.
These apparent contradictions present the Bible student with a problem. For some, it is “solved” by simply discarding faith in the Word of God, changing it and its Author with simplicity and inconsistency. Others simply ignore the words that they are unable to understand or do not really desire to accept. While they carefully collect the opposite set, building their faith accordingly.
True students of God’s Word will not make this mistake. They will ignore no statement, no matter how they may seem to contradict others. They will candidly acknowledge that so far as their understanding has developed, these statements remain for them a flat contradiction of each other, though by faith, they know that in God’s Word there is no real contradiction.
Undisturbed by the clamor of voices around, they will move forward in quiet faith, patiently studying God’s Word, knowing that, under God’s tutelage, such revelations of the mysteries will come to them and will remove all contradictions, providing a perfect harmony where previously only confusion existed.
There will always be those who will charge these careful students with twisting the Scriptures. They will accuse them of making the Word of God say things that it does not. They will argue emphatically that the Bible says, “God destroyed them.” Then they will ask, “What could be written more plainly than that?”
One might counter by saying, “It also says, ‘God destroys no man.’” This will have no effect. Their minds have been programmed to accept only that which they have chosen to believe. No impression can be made by quoting contrary statements. They merely entrench themselves more firmly behind their list while, in growing indignation, they level the charge that the plainly written words of God are being rejected.
I want to caution us if we feel we can change the minds of people on our own. There are also two things we must establish at this point. One is that this problem cannot be solved by simply countering statements with other statements. Second, it cannot be resolve by twisting or changing the statement to conform to our preferred ideas. In this study great care will be taken not to do this. Even so, we still expect that the opponents of this position will level accusations against us. We believe it will be found that only interpretations given to the Scriptures will be those found in the Scriptures themselves, with no private interpretation being offered.
There has been the careful and frank quoting of the two different and seemingly contradictory complications in order to demonstrate that there is a problem which needs solving. How can this problem be solved so as to bring the thoughtful, responsible student to an accurate knowledge of What the Word of God is teaching? That is the important question which we must study, hopefully each of us diligently studying.
Faith is a steadying factor in the problem. Faith says that there is no contradictions in God’s Word. Faith says that we must take both of these statements as they read. Faith says that in due time the God of heaven Himself will provide the answer if we trust Him and continue our careful, objective study.
Then we come to the flood, the implications of the standard view of what God did in the obliteration of the human race in Noah’s day are very serious indeed. The commonly accepted view of what God did suggest that He was forced to admit that righteousness was not able to withstand the crushing tide of evil, so God and Christ were obligated to step in exercising Their own superior physical power to reverse the ride, erase the entire company of Satan’s followers, and preserve alive only Their own.
It would be as if there was a conversation between the Father and the Son along these lines: “In the beginning We determined to fight this great controversy on the basis that righteousness could stand on its own merits. But now it is clear that sin has reached such proportions that it is on the verge of a world wide takeover. At the moment We only have eight subjects remaining, and in a short time, these, too, will die or join Satan’s camp, thus making him the total victor in this struggle. So we must act now by coming to the rescue of righteousness. Let us step in with our limitless, infinite power and obliterate the entire side standing for Satan. We will preserve only our own people and thus make a complete, fresh start. Therefore, we will maintain the use of force in appropriate places to ensure that Satan never again brings the world to this same crisis point.”
To think and believe the above paragraph would imply that God had to revise His method of dealing with the sin problem. It reveals Him as beginning in one way but finding Himself later obligated to introduce measures not contemplated in the beginning. This makes God less than infinite, omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. It means that He is not really God because God has perfect foreknowledge, needing no revisions, compromises, or changes as time goes by.
In this way we find a serious problem on our hands. Nothing can deny the clarity of the principles underlining God’s government or of His way of dealing with the sin problem. Yet, at the same time, the story of the flood seems to show a God who was later forced to introduce an element of compulsion and destruction.
Our attitude must be one of faith. We must believe implicitly that in the Word of God there is no contradictions. Those contradictions that appear as such are there only because of an inadequate understanding on our part. God will give light and understanding to those who humbly and sincerely seek it. There is a perfect reconciliation between God’s stated attitude to the sin problem and the story of the flood, as well as many other account of what God appears to have done in history.
This post more than any other has been devoted to the recognition that there is a very real problem to be solved because of the existence of apparent contradictions in the Word of God. At the same time, we encourage each believer to realize that there are no real contradictions in God’s Word, that the bible is written for man’s understanding, that these problems are therefore solvable, and that simple trusting faith in God will bring clear understanding in this connection. If we are prepared to adopt this attitude, then we are ready to proceed on to the study of the way in which the problem may be solved.
Our next post will be “Statements and Principles”
We will attempt to answer the questions and come to an understanding that No scripture is to be of private interpretation. So, what does this really mean?
How can we know when we are not applying erroneous methods of interpretation?
Can we be satisfied in our beliefs when we find that it is possible to just decide that we like one over the other and build out faith upon the one we like?
If you have not had the opportunity to read the other posts on this subject, I invite you to click on the links below. Please, as you ready stop and pray that God will open your heart to a new understanding of Scripture.
01 He Wanted to Teach Respect 05 Approaching the Study of God
02 Why a Tree To Teach Respect 06 The Constitution of the Government of God
03 The End of the Great Controversy 07 A Perfect Law
04 Isaiah’s Wonderful Prophecy 08 God’s Principles Tested
09 A summary of God’s Constitution
10 Contrasting Statements
11 Statements and Principles
12 Does God Destroy – But How?