The Skeptic and the Old Testament
It is a common tactic among skeptics today to point to certain verses in the Bible, and then demand that said verses contradict each other. For many years, Dan Barker, a denominational preacher-turned-atheist, has insisted that the Bible contains hundreds of such contradictions. As proof of this assertion, he gives a list of these alleged contradictions in chapter 23 of his most famous work, Losing Faith in Faith. A brief look at that list gives the reader a keen insight into the many weaknesses of these supposed contradictions. One of those glaring weaknesses is the failure to understand that the Old Testament laws no longer are binding upon men today unless they are reiterated in the new law of Christ (i.e., the New Testament).
For example, on page 166, Barker poses the question, “Shall we keep the Sabbath?” He then cites Exodus 20:8 (among other Old Testament passages), which reads: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” In supposed contradiction to this verse, he quotes Colossians 2:16: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy-day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days.” According to Barker’s logic, the Bible says in one place that people should keep the Sabbath, but it says in another place that the Sabbath does not necessarily have to be kept, therefore the Bible contradicts itself.
It is easy to see, however, that Barker refuses to recognize one of the central tenants of the New Testament: The Old Law (Old Testament) was specifically for the Jewish nation, it was done away with at the death of Christ, and the New Law (The New Testament) replaced it. The New Testament books of Hebrews and Galatians were written specifically to confirm that very fact. Hebrews 8:13 explains that the Old Testament laws had become obsolete at the time of the writing of the book of Hebrews. If Dan Barker would have read just a few verses before Colossians 2:16, he would have encountered the fact that the Old Law had been “nailed” to the cross (2:14). Ephesians 2:14-17 explains that in His death, Jesus Christ abolished the Old Law and brought in a New Law. Under that New Law, people no longer are required to keep the Sabbath, offer bulls and goats for sin sacrifices, or make yearly trips to the temple.
Any person who accuses the Bible of a contradiction in this instance (and others similar to it) is guilty of misunderstanding two crucial issues: (1) the difference between the Old Testament and New Testament in the Bible; and (2) the law of contradiction. The law of contradiction states that two opposing statements cannot be both true and not true in the same respect at the same time. Barker’s supposed contradiction about the Sabbath does not take into account that the statements were written nearly 1,500 years apart, that the Old Law had been abolished, and that the New Law contains no commandment to keep the Sabbath.
In order for a person to make such an obviously mistaken allegation, one of the following options must be the case: (1) he has done very little Bible study; (2) he has misunderstood large sections of the New Testament; or (3) he has intentionally misled his readers, all the while knowing that the law of contradiction was not violated. Which of these three situations applies to the current discussion, I do not know. But it is abundantly evident that no legitimate Bible contradiction exists.
Barker, Dan (1992), Losing Faith in Faith—From Preacher to Atheist (Madison, WI: Freedom from Religion Foundation).
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