A Little Something Called Context

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Howm’I supposed to defend the faith against these swamis of reason when they keep making me wheeze like they do?

Sam Harris, aspiring scientist and indignation impresario, is promoting this project, in order to advance the sweet voice of reason. You can look at a really cool graphic they have put together here. The base line represents all the verses of the Bible, and the red lines all arch, like so many mortar shots, to the location of another verse, with which it is supposed to collide. You can then tell at a glance that the Bible is just full of contradictions. The night sky is lit up with them. A really cool graphic is necessary to illustrate this because today’s street smart youth know that iPhone apps have dispensed with the need for actual arguments and textual study, you know, the kind with books.

I took a random sampling of just a couple of their contradictions, and addressed them below. I will perhaps be forgiven if I don’t work through them all. You don’t need to drink the whole bottle to tell that it’s vinegar. So, here are a couple drops from their bottle, in all their glory, and I don’t think I am risking contradiction when I say we need to look elsewhere if we are looking for Pinot Noir that goes with the tenderloin.

#208 If a husband believes, is his wife saved also? 1 Cor. 7:14, Acts 16:31 ≠ 1 Cor. 7:16

Can you feel your faith teetering? Well, you oughter, you superstitious rube, because here are the verses themselves, actually quoted.

“For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy” (1 Cor. 7:14).

“And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31).

Which are said to contradict . . .

“For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?” (1 Cor. 7:16)

Let’s see. The name of this venture in high intellectual attainment is Project Reason. I am thinking that maybe they should rename it as Project Literacy, for that is where (it seems to me) the issue may lie.

Scripture tells us that a believing spouse ought not to leave an unbeliever simply because of that unbelief. You don’t need to worry that having an unbelieving spouse will pollute any resultant children, for the unbelieving spouse is sanctified with the result that the children are holy (1 Cor. 7:14). So, go ahead, stay married to that unbeliever if the unbeliever is content to remain married. And then, to throw us off completely, we have an account of salvation coming to the entire household of the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:31). Apparently, nobody has taught Sam Harris how doctrine ought to be derived from narrative, along with the corollary of how it ought not to be.

Now, all this is set up as a contradiction to the question posed in 1 Cor. 7:16, which encourages a believing spouse whose unbelieving spouse decides to leave them. We know about this because of an intervening verse, verse 15, a little something that we biblical expositors like to call “context.”

“But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace” (1 Cor. 7:15).

So when you look at that poster, with all those red arches proving that the Bible is a tissue of contradictions, just remember that #208 was one of those red lines. Tell yourself that Sam Harris thinks the Bible is unreliable because it tells Christian spouses to stay married to the non-Christian if the non-Christian wants to, and not to worry about it if they don’t. Most of us would call this different counsel for different circumstances, but for Sam Harris, it is a contradiction. This, under the banner of Project Reason?

“Put your money in the slot, and push B17 if you want the Fritos. Push D9 if you want the Snickers bar.”

“O ho! Can you Christians not see the contradictions?”

“Um, no, actually . . .”

“Let us graph it for you. Let us draw a red line from the Fritos to the Snickers. Now do you see?”


“Did you go to one of those Christian schools? Did they even have science classes?”

Okay, so maybe that one was a fluke. Let’s look at one more before my patience runs out.

#211 Is it OK to make images? Ex. 20:4, Deut. 5:8, Deut. 4:16-18, Dt. 4:23, Deut. 27:15 ≠  Ex. 25:18, 20, Num. 21:8

Now here are the verse, in toto, with a little surplus added. The little surplus is more of that context business.

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them” (Ex. 20:3-5a).

“Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: Dt. 5:8-9a)

“Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female, The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air, The likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth: And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath dividedc unto all nations under the whole heaven” (Dt 4:16-19).

“Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee” (Dt. 4:23).

“And the Levites shall speak, and say unto all the men of Israel with a loud voice, Cursed be the man that maketh any graven or molten image, an abomination unto the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and putteth it in a secret place. And all the people shall answer and say, Amen” (Deut. 27:14-15).

All of which is said to contradict . . .

“And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat” (Ex 25:18).

“And the cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubims be” (Ex 25:20).

“And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live” (Num. 21:8).

Follow that? God told the sons of Israel not to make images that they would bow down to or worship, and this is said to contradict the making of images that they did not bow down to or worship. Heh. Let us illustrate this Accomplishment of High Reason with a parallel argument. It is against the rules of soccer to touch the ball with your hands. Does it follow that it is a contradiction to allow the players to kick the ball with their feet? I don’t think so, but of course I am not an aspiring scientist like Sam Harris.



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